Applied Research Fellowship in Next Generation Procurement
Why a fellowship on procurement?
Government procurement, the process of contracting with and paying outside groups for goods and services, has become something of a holy grail for the government technology movement. As Jennifer Palka, founder of Code for America, insightfully stated:
“I discovered that I was probably the ten millionth person to have realized that procurement is messed up, and maybe the 100,000th person to have the audacity to think I actually could change it.”
The Department of Better Technology (“DOBT”) and Advanced Research in Government Operations (“ARGO”) have joined forces to launch an applied research project to develop next generation procurement protocols to benefit a coalition of California water utilities.
The information technology systems used to send customers their water bills too often are overpriced and utilize antiquated, expensive technology. This fellowship will help utilities procure those billing systems better, faster and cheaper.
A laser focused initial use case:
The California Data Collaborative (‘CaDC’) is a joint effort of fourteen California agencies to ensure water reliability by leveraging water-use data from the 23 million people the agencies serve. This new public data infrastructure powers an integrated suite of open source analytics that support participating agencies in adapting to whatever the future holds.
This project has been honored by the White House Water Summit in March 2016 and featured in Harper’s Magazine, the Associated Press and many water industry news outlets. These tools and analytics form the foundation for the future of water management. Water utility billing may seem arcane and esoteric, yet this basic public service is instrumental to human life.
Many local governments across the country have aging infrastructure and increased financial pressure. Meanwhile legacy information technology systems like water utility billing cost unnecessarily excessive amounts Moreover, the cost savings from modern software deployments in utility billing systems create new opportunities for better public service delivery like the open source analytics deployed for water utility partners.
What the fellow will do:
In particular, this research fellow will dig deep into water utility billing systems and work with technical point persons across the districts to develop a model water billing system RFP template hosted on GitHub.
That hyper-specific use case aligned with committed champions and a proven track record of delivery offers the opportunity to make procurement “a little bit easier” over the near term and develop a strategy for systemic transformation. A research timeline is outlined below:
Conduct industry research on water utility billing systems and user centered interviews with water utility partners. (2 weeks)
Develop a model water billing system RFP in collaboration with water utility and technology industry partners hosted on GitHub. (4 weeks)
Present water utility billing system model RFP to water utility partners. (1 week)
Work with water utility partners to implement the new RFP and socialize the template with the larger international water industry. (2 weeks)
Surface larger lessons learned for procurement and how model practices can be streamlined into the new normal for informational technology procurement. (2 weeks)
The ARGO and DOBT partnership commits to utilizing their unique networks to support this next generation procurement summer research fellow. Specifically they commit to weekly checkins hour long check ins with the research fellow to provide feedback on the latest research. The Fellowship includes a monthly stipend.
What we look for in a fellow:
This fellowship will be high profile and selective given its importance for California’s water future. In particular, we look for the following skills and attributes:
Demonstrated passion for and commitment to public service.
Interest in the civic technology and/or data for good movements.
Domain knowledge of water resources and sustainability issues.
Masters or PhD candidate in public administration, urban informatics, or public policy.
High energy and entrepreneurial personality who thrives in a self-directed environment.
Strong written and verbal interpersonal / communication skills.
Skills in data visualization and understanding of current civic data landscape a plus.
Knowledge of California water issues broadly and urban water use efficiency specifically a plus.
This is a full time summer position that will require great initiative, enthusiasm and capacity for self directed research with an applied goal in mind. The intern should be able to commit to working from the office in downtown LA in person at least 2-3 days a week and commit to approximately 40 hours per week. ARGO's California office is at the LA Clean Technology Incubator, just a few blocks from Union Station.
About the partnership:
Department of Better Technology is a technology company that helps governments deliver great software to the people they serve. ARGO is a 501(c)3 civic data science nonprofit whose flagship data infrastructure integrates data from disparate water billing systems to power open source analytics. Together they share a vision of pioneering digitally native government operations.
This partnership brings:
A network of fourteen water utilities serving 23 million Californians committed to investing in modern data tools.
Deep experience on both the inside and outside of government procurement including leading the development of RFP-EZ
Proven track record of collaborations with academic institutions such as NYU CUSP, Stanford Graduate School of Business and many others.
This partnership will jointly collaborate with an elite research fellow over the summer of 2017 to develop next generation protocols for governments to procure digital technologies.