Power to the Public

@tags:: #lit✍/📚book/highlights
@ref:: Power to the Public
@author:: Tara Dawson McGuinness and Hana Schank

2023-08-05 Tara Dawson McGuinness and Hana Schank - Power to the Public

Book cover of "Power to the Public"



Public Interest Technology and Why It Matters


We define public interest technology as the application of design, data, and delivery to advance the public interest and promote the public good in the digital age.
- Location 73


Close proximity, understanding, research, and constant program testing with the people you are trying to serve is essential to getting public policy and public programs right in the digital age. To improve how government works today we need to build a tighter feedback loop
- Location 90


The first half of this book, chapters 1 through 4, tells the story of a loose network of problem solvers who are using public interest technology to solve public problems in novel, effective, and impressive ways. We begin by painting a picture of the current state of problem solving, and why public interest technology is so very needed. Next, we break down the elements that make up the practice of public interest technology, giving real-world examples of how people are using each of the three tools to work on challenges like homelessness, foster care, and suicide prevention. The second half of the book outlines the evolving structure of public interest technology and points to the way in which all levels of government—city, state, and local—and nonprofits can help to operationalize the practice.
- Location 153

The Current State of Problem Solving


The development of gargantuan technical systems often takes much longer than anyone expects and involves multiple types of failure.
- Location 229


But after just a few days at USCIS, he discovered that a lack of quality code was not ELIS’s problem. The office was filled with software engineers who were more than capable of doing technical work. But the engineers were staffed through contracting agencies, so they were not USCIS employees and therefore didn’t have anyone on the government side who could push them on the technical details. The federal career staff at USCIS were used to overseeing a paper-based process, but most were not experienced technologists. Although they were intimately familiar with the business processes and the legal and policy requirements, they lacked the skills and knowledge required to directly manage the development of a complex technical system. Without seasoned technologists on the federal team, questions about how to allocate engineers to tasks, prioritization of those tasks, and how system features should be implemented were inexpertly answered. Contracted engineers who needed these questions answered to move forward found themselves stuck.
- Location 259


Also missing was an incentive structure for contractors that led to speedy, solid development practices. Instead, contractors were beholden to corporate practices that had evolved over years of government bringing in contractors to build systems instead of investing in the capacity to do this in-house. As a result, the vast majority of government projects that require technical expertise are handled by private companies. And many companies, eager to lock these lucrative contracts in place for as long as possible, try to build in naturally recurring needs for their skills.
- Location 266
- [note::Misaligned incentives!]

Design, Data, and Delivery

It’s Not Just about Technology

User-Centered Policy Design

How We Got Here and Where We’re Going

Public Interest Technology in Practice

Growing the Practice of Public Interest Technology