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New GSA Podcast Addresses Entry into Civic Tech Field

The U.S. General Services Administration has launched a podcast, and the first episode focuses on the agency’s civic tech work, highlighting the role of the Presidential Innovation Fellows program.

A microphone in the foreground with a laptop with headphones plugged in and resting on top of the keyboard in the blurred background on a table.
The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has launched a new agency-wide podcast with a first episode focused on civic tech.

The podcast, GSA Does That!?, was officially launched last week to give the agency a platform for sharing news and information related to the work that GSA does.

The podcast is slated to feature guests with expertise in areas like technology and acquisitions, including GSA leaders, partners, customers and others who work with the agency. Future episodes are set to come out about every two weeks and feature topics related to private-public partnerships, transitioning fleets to zero-emissions vehicles, community engagement and other subjects.

In the first episode, the podcast host Rob Trubia spoke with GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan and the executive director of the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program, Rebeca Lamadrid.

Carnaham noted that technology plays a significant part in the agency’s work to help government better deliver services, adding that technology enables government agencies to ensure secure communications, transfer of money or documentation and identity validation.

“And if you think about all of that, you shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel at every single agency and every single state,” she said, underlining that part of GSA’s role is offering shared services to government agencies. This includes platforms to quickly build websites that meet compliance standards.

Another piece of how the agency helps other agencies better use technology is in the buying process, achieved through the work of PIFs. These fellows work directly with federal agencies to help staff at those agencies understand how to better use data, improve security and improve the user experience.

The expertise of these fellows can range from data analysis to digital transformation to product design, according to Lamadrid.

“It’s truly like a very unscripted environment where the fellows are really set up to assist in solving for the public,” she said. “And that takes many different shapes and forms.”

The fellows partner with subject matter experts to tackle complex issues, from health to immigration to education and beyond.

The PIF application process is a competitive one, Lamadrid explained. Applications for the next cycle of PIFs opened May 15 to senior individuals across industries with a proven history of implementing innovative solutions. Applications for the PIF program are open until June 23, 2023.

“I think all of us want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and do something that has an impact — positively — for our community,” said Carnahan.

Notably, Lamadrid stated that more than 50 percent of the folks who start out as PIFs decide to stay in government.

And for those technologists who may be interested in participating in such a program, but they have a lower level of experience, Carnaham underlines the importance of the two-year fellowship program called the U.S. Digital Corps.

Trubia noted that the next podcast episode will offer a firsthand look into some examples of this work from participants in the PIF program.