This was very different from twenty inches of snow that fell on Washington in 1987. An absent Mayor and a bumbling snow removal process lives large in Washingtonians' memories as a symbol of political incompetence.
It's also a reminder that people care about things that affect them personally. As Tip O'Neill famously said, "all politics is local." This translates into helping people and providing services that have an immediate and personal impact. Sure, it's great if it helps "everyone," but what about ME?
Last week, the President announced the winner of the SAVE Award, Nancy Fichtner. Fichtner's idea was to allow patients discharged from VA hospitals to take home leftover medications, rather than throwing them out. Often, patients turned around to get the same prescription filled at the local pharmacy--the government paying twice. Fichtner's is a great suggestion, not only because it saves money, but because it also touches people directly.
Tucked into the President's remarks on the Save Award were other plans to make government more efficient, including information about a tech forum,
That’s why we’re holding a forum at the White House next month to seek more ideas from the private sector, specifically about how we can better use technology to reform our government for the 21st century.--President ObamaThis is an opportunity to take another look at the services that government offers to citizens--especially the mundane transactions like filling out financial aid forms, paying taxes, getting passports, updating W-2 forms, signing up for health programs, disaster assistance, etc.--and making these transactions more efficient and friendly.
Treating people like valued customers--think Zappos or Amazon. Simplifying government transactions to save citizen time--think how easy it is to sign up for Netflix or build your network on Facebook. Helping people get to where they need to be--think Google.
Putting citizens first, making information easy to find, relevant, accurate and understandable; ensuring that common tasks can be easily completed online; being consistent across all channels, online and offline; opening up venues to receive and act on citizen feedback; and being accessible whether someone has a disability or isn't proficient in English--these are the opportunities to make technology work better. And, not just work better for government, but for the citizens, too. (These recommendations are from the Federal Web Managers white paper to the transition team from last year.)
Just a reminder to get down to brass tacks. We care about getting our snow removed. Like NOW!