Innovation in government IT is imperative, as proven by the proliferation of chief innovation officers -- and the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council's (ACT-IAC) annual Excellence.gov awards program. And on Tuesday, March 5, the council announced the five winners of 2013.

The awards recognize federal, state and local government programs and projects that “fuel government efficiency, interagency collaboration, and the delivery of impactful citizen services through innovative technologies.” While typically award recipients go to programs for federal government, more state and local government programs were nominated and named as finalists this year than in years past.

The 2013 winners are as follows:

1. Excellence in Intergovernmental Collaboration and Overall Winner for 2013 | Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Website. This website allows financial institutions, creditors, landlords and the like to determine if their client is currently serving on federal active-duty service in one of the Uniformed Services. The SCRA protects service members on active duty from negative actions, such as foreclosures, excessive interest rates and evictions, and this website produces a certificate for the court stating the federal active duty status of the individual.

2. Excellence in Enhancing the Customer Experience | USDA's SuperTracker. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion has built an online diet and activity-tracking tool called SuperTracker that citizens can use for free to determine what and how much to eat; track foods, physical activities and weight; and personalize with goal setting, virtual coaching and journaling, according to a press release.

3. Excellence in Enterprise Efficiencies | IRS' Customer Account Data Engine 2. Initiated in 2009, the IRS' Customer Account Data Engine 2 Program (CADE 2) aimed to take advantage of new technology and modernize how the agency does business. In January 2012, CADE 2's Transition State 1 began to deliver daily versus weekly tax return processing. The IRS also began deployment of the CADE 2 database -- a central source of trusted data -- to improve service to taxpayers and enhance tax administration.

4. Excellence in Innovation: Digital Government | GSA's Drive to the Cloud Phase 2. The U.S. General Services Administration's Office of the CIO implemented a multi-year Drive-to-the-Cloud initiative that aims to save taxpayer money and improve operational efficiencies and innovation through the deployment of mobile and social applications in the cloud, according to the press release. In Phase 1, GSA transitioned to a cloud-based email platform, which has saved the agency $4 million to date. In Phase 2, GSA is implementing a cloud-based collaboration/application platform for 17,000+ users. 

5. Excellence in Innovation: Pilots and Start-up Projects | National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) YOURcloud. YOURcloud is a secure, multi-tenant hybrid community cloud powered by the Infrastructure on Demand (IoD) cloud service broker developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. YOURcloud lets sites retain their autonomy while using a common cloud computing platform to enable the Department of Energy and NNSA labs, plants and headquarters to deploy resources into individually managed, secure cloud enclaves.

To decide the winners, a panel of more than 40 judges selected from senior government and industry IT executives reviewed more than 130 nominations – a record number of nominations – which were then narrowed down to 25 finalists, said IAC Chair Liz Renninger. In years past, 90 to 100 nominations are made.

“In each instance, the finalists have inspired us all to seek new, innovative and collaborative ways to approach the most challenging areas of mission and business needs, and to achieve ever greater levels of service and efficiency.” Dale Luddeke, the IAC chair, said in a statement.

But how programs are chosen changes from year to year based on how the industry changes and how technology evolves, Renninger said.

Of this year’s 25 finalists, military and defense programs reigned strong, Arnold said.

“One of the things we saw in the 25 finalists that were selected by the judges as the top programs – there are about five or six of those (20 percent) are related to military personnel and services to military services,” he said. “So they are from the Defense Department and the Veterans [Affairs] and other agencies that are doing things to help soldiers and veterans.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.