In product development, we often use prototypes to understand user needs and reduce risk. Prototypes are a great way to test out ideas or approaches before you actually commit to building anything, but governments are not always set up to develop and use prototypes efficiently before building digital services.
A new way to track federal spending
The U.S. federal government spends $3.8 trillion every year, which is managed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. For most people, it’s difficult to know exactly where that money goes.
The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), which became law in 2014, requires that federal agencies adopt a common data standard so that agencies and the public can better understand how federal money is being spent. Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget are leading the implementation of the DATA Act, but they needed help developing the specifics of the new data standard and its technical implementation.
Stay flexible to stay ahead of schedule
18F helped build a prototype for the technical implementation of the law to get user feedback before all of the data standards had been finalized. Our iterative approach allowed Treasury to reduce risk, use actual data to make decisions, and speed up implementation of a very complex law.
After the initial prototype, Treasury was able to hire a vendor to build the new USAspending.gov, which will give the public powerful tools to examine federal spending. 18F has worked with Treasury and the private vendor to design the site and talk to users to make sure we’re building the best solution possible.
DATA Act implementation is one of the largest government-wide agile projects ever undertaken. As the multi-agency implementation team works to efficiently ingest information from across the government, 18F has been able to provide the development expertise, procurement strategy, and product management to ensure a successful project.
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In the course of our engagements, we’ve had many amazing partners who have been practicing similar innovative techniques long before 18F existed, but usually in isolation. Today, we’re highlighting one of those amazing partners: Renata Maziarz, at the Bureau of Fiscal Service in the Department of the Treasury.
The U.S. Open Government National Action Plans promote the Open Government Partnership’s principles of transparency, facilitating access to government services for the public, and citizen engagement. 18F has worked with several agencies to advance the these goals through projects like DATA Act, eRegulations, USEITI, College Scorecard, and the Public Participation Playbook.