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A Call to Action at the Consumer Electronics Show

Megan Smith and Tom Kalil highlight ways that the Administration is helping build an Innovation Nation.

We’re excited to be speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where, with American innovators in attendance, we will highlight several of the Administration’s initiatives to expand participation in America’s innovation economy. These “all-hands-on-deck” efforts are designed to foster making, support smart cities, accelerate digital government, ensure greater diversity and inclusion in startups and tech companies, and grow America’s tech and innovation workforce.  

Expanding participation in American innovation requires engagement from companies, cities, schools, non-profits, foundations, media organizations, and other institutions, along with experts in areas like design and tech who are willing and committed to serve our country. On stage, we’ll be joined by people who are playing a role in advancing the Administration’s innovation initiatives, including Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk; Albrey Brown, Co-Founder of Telegraph Academy; Tracy Chou, Software Engineer at Pinterest; Michael Mattmiller, CTO of the City of Seattle; and Marina Martin, CTO of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

To follow the conversation on Wednesday, January 6, follow us on Twitter at @WhiteHouseOSTP or watch the video of our panel, which CES plans to post online within an hour or two of completion. Read on for more information about the initiatives that we’ll be discussing. And if you or your organization are interested in helping support any of these initiatives, please follow the links below for further details and ways to get involved!

A Nation of Makers 

America has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs…think of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Banneker, George Washington Carver, Ida B. Wells, Henry Ford, Grace Hopper, and so many more. In recent years, more and more Americans have gained access to technologies that support making, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, easy-to-use design software, and desktop machine tools, along with freely available information about how to use, modify, and build upon these technologies. Such resources, in combination with growing networks of maker enthusiasts and crowdfunding platforms, are enabling more Americans to design and build almost anything. Having hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire in 2014, the White House remains interested in learning about efforts by companies, foundations, schools, and non-profits to expand the resources available for young makers and maker entrepreneurs, and foster the development of advanced manufacturing in the U.S. Share your new activities that are promoting a Nation of Makers here.

Maker Faire 2014
President Obama chats with Sandra Richter, while sitting on the solar-powered bench she designed that charges mobile phones. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


TechHire is a multi-sector initiative to empower Americans with the technological skills they need to be competitive in today’s workforce and global economy. Employers are in critical need of tech talent—there are over half a million job openings in information technology fields in the United States alone, and skilled applicants can succeed in many of these roles without a four-year degree. To help more Americans access these opportunities, TechHire provides needed preparation through universities and community colleges, as well as through nontraditional approaches like “coding boot camps” and high-quality online courses that can rapidly train workers for a well-paying tech job, often in just a few months. Since launching in March 2015, TechHire has expanded to reach 35 cities, networking with and engaging local ecosystems of employers, trainers, leaders in municipal workforce development ,and tech communities. For more information, see this White House fact sheet and this article. If you’d like to get involved with TechHire, let us know.

TechHire is a multi-sector initiative to empower Americans with the technological skills they need to be competitive in today’s workforce and global economy.

The Smart Cities Initiative

Over the past several years, the Administration has pursued a place-based approach to working with communities as they tackle a wide range of challenges, from investing in infrastructure and filling open technology jobs to bolstering community policing. Advances in science and technology have the potential to accelerate these efforts, and an emerging community of civic leaders, data scientists, technologists, and companies are joining forces to do so by building “Smart Cities.” “Smart Cities” are communities that are leveraging information-technology tools, including data analytics and urban sensors, to improve the lives of their citizens. The Administration’s Smart Cities Initiative invests in Federal research and leverages new technology collaborations to help local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services. Examples of work carried out under the Smart Cities Initiative include efforts like the MetroLabNetwork, which currently supports partnerships between universities and municipal leaders in  27 cities , and the Police Data Initiative, which currently reaches 24 cities and continues to expand. The White House invites you to participate in this “all-hands-on-deck” approach. We are eager to hear your ideas for promising activities and potential collaborations that are underway or under development that could help build smart cities.

Smart Cities
Fifteen year old Operation Spark student Grace Clark helps New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison write his first line of code: nopd.showRecords(1000) (Photo credit: Tyler Gamble/New Orleans Police Department)

Advancing Inclusive Entrepreneurship

For the United States to remain the best place on the planet to start and scale a great company, we must ensure that vibrant startup ecosystems emerge in every corner of America, and that all Americans, including those underrepresented in entrepreneurship like women and people of color, are both encouraged and able to fully contribute their talents to the innovation economy. The President has called on the private sector, foundations, investors, and universities to advance inclusive entrepreneurship, which has yielded significant new commitments (see White House Demo Day). With the next Global Entrepreneurship Summit coming up in Silicon Valley in 2016, you can share your new activities and ideas to promote inclusive entrepreneurship.

Inclusive Entrepreneurship
President Barack Obama hosts White House Demo Day, which celebrates the role entrepreneurship plays in America's economy, in the Red Room of the White House, Aug. 4, 2015. The President discusses the Student Loan Genius. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A “Tour of Duty” Hiring Model for Digital Government

In addition to working with outside collaborators, the Administration is committed to recruiting the best minds our Nation has to offer into government. In bringing executives, entrepreneurs, technologists, and other innovators into government service, we are able to effectively deploy proven private-sector strategies to deliver better, more-effective programs and policies across the Federal government, and to focus on some of the Nation’s biggest and most pressing challenges, like improving access to education, fueling job creation and the economy, and expanding the public’s ability to access their personal health data. The Administration’s efforts to achieve these objectives include:

  • The Presidential Innovation Fellows program: The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program brings the principles, values, and practices of the innovation economy into government through the most effective agents of change we know: our people. This highly competitive 12-month program, now in its fourth year, pairs talented, diverse technologists and entrepreneurs with top civil-servants and change-makers working at the highest levels of the Federal government to tackle some our Nation’s biggest challenges. These teams of government experts and Fellows take a user-centric approach to issues at the intersection of people, processes, products, and policy to achieve lasting impact. Learn more about the Presidential Innovation Fellows and join us:
  • The U.S. Digital Service: The U.S. Digital Service (USDS) builds teams of problem solvers who apply the best of product design and engineering practices to transform how government works for the American people. In every corner of government, talented tech professionals work with passionate civil servants to make critical services—like health care, student loans, and Veterans’ benefits—as simple as buying a book online. Learn about USDS and how to apply:
  • 18F: Built in the spirit of America’s top tech startups, 18F is a team of top-notch designers, developers, and product specialists inside the General Services Administration. 18F is a civic consultancy for the government, inside the government, and enables agencies to rapidly deploy tools and services that are easy to operate, cost efficient, and reusable. Learn more about 18F and join us:
The Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program brings the principles, values, and practices of the innovation economy into government through the most effective agents of change we know: our people.

All of these efforts are based on ecosystems of innovative people working together in their communities, including talent from government, the private sector, civil society, tech and innovation, academia, and more. Often, people like those who will join us onstage at CES already have extraordinary solutions-in-progress to our most compelling challenges. It’s important to find and support these people so that they can scale and adapt their approaches, and to help get the word out about innovative solutions so that others can adopt and expand them too. So whether by learning more about and participating in any of the efforts described above or by launching or joining a different effort in your community (or both!), we hope you’ll help us innovate to create a bright future for our Nation.