Obama administration launches new “lean startup” cadre to fix government IT

The latest effort by the Obama administration to streamline government technologies and thus improve constituent services is 18F, a new unit within the General Services Administration.

The project presses 16 or so hotshot presidential innovation fellows into service to, I’m guessing, avoid the sort of embarrassing meltdowns that affected Healthcare.gov. (But there have been glitches already — as of 9:40 a.m. ET, the 18f web site, which went live on Wednesday night, was inaccessible for some time, and then returned as a place marker.)

18F’s job (in the words of the tumblr post announcing the effort) is to “hack bureaucracy to drive efficiency, transparency and savings for government agencies and the American people.”  And its work will be freely available for reuse — here’s the 18f github page.

The name itself apparently comes from the fact that the effort was hatched on 18th and F streets in D.C. (hat tip to @arowla).

In his blog, Alex Howard, a fellow with Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, characterized 18F as an attempt to replicate the success of the to the U.K.’s Digital Services effort.