White House makes Presidential Innovation Fellows program permanent


President Obama on extending the PIF program: “These fellows are helping us upgrade the way Americans interact with their government online.”
Great news for the world of civic tech: Last week, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that makes the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program a permanent staple of the federal government.

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Operating since 2012, the PIF program recruits engineers, designers, entrepreneurs and other innovators to team up with federal employees, with the goal of improving programs and agencies like a “lean startup.” Fellows spend 12 months as “embedded entrepreneurs-in-residence,” utilizing technology-driven strategies to make the government “more innovative, more transparent and more responsive.”

President Obama announced the news in the video above, saying, “My hope is this continues to encourage a culture of public service among our innovators, and tech entrepreneurs, so that we can keep building a government that’s as modern, as innovative, and as engaging as our incredible tech sector is.”

Presidential Innovation Fellows will continue to be housed within the General Services Administration, serving on projects throughout the executive branch. The order also mandates the creation of a director to manage the program and an advisory board to guide it. The director will be responsible for the “selection, hiring, and deployment of Fellows within government.”

Including the six fellows announced today, there has now been a total of 96 selected so far, including 35 that have stayed on inside government once their terms have ended.

“Fellows have already delivered extraordinary value for the American people in just the first three years,” wrote U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. “We can only imagine the kind of impact we will see year after year as the program supports this top American talent to collaborate and innovate with colleagues across government — providing great value, lowering costs, and together solving the many challenges we face as a nation.”

This value has been apparent in the plethora of beneficial projects, ideas and other efforts that have come out of the program. This includes the Police Data Initiative (of which Sunlight is a proud partner), which is making criminal justice data public online; building up 18F, a digital consultancy housed within government; developing FBOpen, a platform that helps small businesses more easily find opportunities to work with the federal government; creating a crowd-mapping tool for disaster response called MapGive; and countless others.

The full list of fellows can be found here, and more about some current PIF projects can be found here. And you can keep up with their work by following @InnovFellows on Twitter.