Fixing the government is the only way to make progress

“The government is in a very strong position, as long as we don’t mess it up,” says Colin Richards, a friend of President Barack Obama. “You’ve got a golden opportunity to put big things on the internet, to create a program that works.”

Ten years ago, Mr. Richards made a name for himself as a technology adviser to Mr. Obama, helping the president craft policy around the intersection of technology and government. Now he’s doing the same in the private sector, at a time when Washington’s tech leaders are largely running out of avenues for making progress.

Welcome to your Fix-It job. Because the technology that undergirds government is stuck in the early 1990s.

Every IT agency in the federal government is managed by an official charged with overseeing and overseeing and overseeing. There isn’t even a technical person in charge — yet. For all the noise around the internet of things and the rest of the digital magic Mr. Obama put in place, it often takes years to build and develop large, complex systems in the public sector.

So, Mr. Richards decided that it might be time to try something new. He teamed up with one of his Obama aides to create a not-for-profit called OpenGov, and now it’s recruiting people for a new job, tech policy adviser to the head of the General Services Administration. This new “No. 2 person” on the ground for the government in Silicon Valley is apparently in the race.

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