Obama Welcomes Second Class Of Silicon Valley Whiz Kids To Streamline Washington

A new class of Presidential Innovation Fellows comes to the White House amid fresh concerns about how the government leverages technology. Tweaks were made to the program after criticism that it didn’t recruit enough women the first time around. posted on

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WASHINGTON — On Monday, President Barack Obama will dip into the talent pool in Silicon Valley once again in the hopes of leveraging high tech to make government simpler and cheaper.

And this time around, a lot more of the people involved are women.

After a meeting of his cabinet in the morning, Obama will announce the second class of Presidential Innovation Fellows. The program, first launched last year, brings tech experts from the private sector into government for six-month to one-year “tours of duty” focused on harnessing innovation inside the government with new technologies and innovation outside the government by making federal data accessible to the private sector in new ways. A White House official who previewed Obama’s remarks Monday morning said Obama will tout a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mobile app used by Hurricane Sandy victims to get government assistance as an example of what the PIF program can produce.

The tech community has been among Obama’s strongest allies since he first ran for president. But the first time the White House launched the PIF program in 2012, it ran into criticism when only two of the 18 fellows chosen were women. The new class of 43 fellows includes 10 women.

The administration altered the program after the criticisms, tweaking the application process in response to outside advice. In a blog post for the Women 2.0 project — focused on helping women succeed in the tech world — earlier this year, senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park wrote that the administration had taken several specific steps to boost female participation in the fellowship program.

The White House says more than 2,000 people applied for the second round of Presidential Innovation Fellowships slots. The new class will be focused on 10 projects throughout government, such as making it easier for veterans to get Veterans Affairs benefits and building tools to help improve disaster relief.

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