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Event Recap

January 20, 2021

Event recap | Government and tech improvements for the delivery of public services

By Ben Schatz

Find the full GeoTech Hour Series here.

Event description

This episode of the GeoTech Hour examines how the US government may quickly adopt new technology, foster innovation, and effectively deliver public services. Panelists offered novel solutions to create a modern, competitive, and nimble US government.  

In the immediate future, the new administration must address gaps in technology adoption and innovation. Neglected legacy systems remain the norm for government agencies. To address this accumulation of technical debt, decisionmakers should pursue two policy tracks: foster public-private partnerships and seek greater funding from Congress. Public-private partnerships offer a well-known path to technology adoption in government, but the government can and should demand more from its private partners (e.g., create a USPS for email, or Gmail for the public sector). Of course, these partnerships, along with updating outdated government systems, must be financed, so the administration must prioritize securing funding for technology adoption and innovation.  

New technology cannot streamline government services alone. Ultimately, it comes down to people and culture. Agencies must be realistic about their goals and capabilities and can no longer view technology as a silver bullet to their problems. Instead, leaders ought to create cultures where decision makers are encouraged to “fail fast” and quickly pivot to better policies. In the digital age, the road to effective governance starts with effective leadership.  

Most important, the United States must rekindle trust from its citizens in new technologies and government programs. Fruitless initiatives and a deluge of misinformation has eroded citizens’ trust in institutions and government. The panelists suggested, however, that this narrative can be reversed by first focusing on the end-users (ordinary citizens). Public services ought to be easy to use and meet expectations, and taxpayers are the ultimate stakeholder, after all. Delivering effective digital services has the secondary effect of improving the government’s public image. The US government’s bureaucracy has a messaging problem—it is synonymous with waste and unreliability. Securing policy wins at the local level will give citizens the impression that their government has changed, and with renewed faith in government, the new administration can use technology to implement policy and promote good governance with popular support.

Ben Schatz is a junior at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service where he studies Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA), concentrating on security. He also minors in Latin American Studies and Computer Science. His coursework focuses on the intersection of technology and international development, and he intends to continue learning about how new technologies can solve global issues.   


Byron Caswell
Vice President

Brittany Galli
Chief Success Officer

Derry Goberdhansingh
Harper Paige

Evanna Hu
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security 
Atlantic Council

Dustin Laun

Hosted by

David Bray
Director, GeoTech Center
Atlantic Council

Previous episode

Event Recap

Jan 13, 2021

Event recap | AI, China, and the global quest for digital sovereignty – Report launch

By GeoTech Center

In this episode of the GeoTech Hour, hosted January 13, 2021, we launch the report “Smart Partnerships amid Great Power Competition,” hold a conversation about AI, China, and the global quest for digital sovereignty, and gather experts to discuss regional specifics and the report authors’ alternative futures for global technology cooperation.

Africa Americas

Related Experts: David Bray, Derry Goberdhansingh, and Evanna Hu