Wednesday morning, the General Services Administration’s Emerging Citizen Technology Office opened its doors for a first-of-its-kind public roundtable. Led by office head Justin Herman, the two-hour session represented a way “open the door” to non-feds.
The Emerging Citizen Technology Office holds monthly interagency meetings focused on a variety of technologies — blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and more. Now, the office wants to hold more open meetings “as much” as possible.
The crux of Herman’s interest seemed to be awareness-building. He wants more of the public to appreciate emerging tech work already happening in government. Panel discussions after a project has wrapped, he said again and again, are not the best way to learn about what the federal government is doing. “We’re trying to open the seams and open up the DNA itself,” Herman said.
Which begs the question, what is the office working on?
A handful of federal attendees provided updates on ongoing projects — Kelly Pippin of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Services is working to create a better acquisition journey map for emerging tech companies. Dylan Yaga, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, talked about his blockchain overview research.
Herman stressed his interest in giving outside attendees an authentic sense for his office and the work they do. “This wasn’t a production or a big show. This was a normal meeting that we have every month and we’re going to open it up to more people as much as we can,” he said, expressing hope that the next meeting will draw more of a crowd.
“This isn’t going away, this isn’t a finite thing, this is the new norm,” he added.
In October the office debuted a new homepage for its endeavors, the U.S. Emerging Citizen Technology Atlas. In a blog post, the Atlas was described as “a new open source resource designed to demystify new technologies that have the potential to dramatically improve services for citizens, cut through the hype and get to the bottom of practical applications.”