What Is An "Innovation Procurement Sprint" and Can It Help Provide Better Public Service?
Updated: Jul 27, 2019
Back in January, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that instructed state agencies to develop a new technology procurement approach called an "Innovation Procurement Sprint." While the order specifically instructed agencies to "identify solutions to the State's wildfire crisis," some view this as a window of opportunity to rethink the way technology is procured in other programs across local and state government.
It's no secret that California - both at the state and local level - has had a checkered history in successfully adopting new technology programs. For decades, policy-makers and state regulators have struggled with how to successfully implement new technology-based systems that use taxpayer dollars wisely AND provide better and more responsive services to the public. While the executive order is no way intended to be wholesale procurement reform, it does start a conversation between government, legislators, labor organizations, and the tech industry on an alternative way to procure and deploy new technology in government.
How would an "Innovate Procurement Sprint" differ from the current state procurement process?
Traditionally, state agencies use a prescriptive approach where they ask vendors for a specific product to fill a technology need. Under the Innovate Procurement Sprint process, procuring new technology follows a two-phase collaborative process. In the first phase, the agency would work with industry experts to identify a specific problem it wants to address, but not a specific solution. Next, a problem statement is developed and then a "Request for Innovative Ideas" or RFI2 is released to solicit bids from vendors.
In phase two, the state works with proposed vendors to further define and understand what problem the agency is trying to solve. The vendor's job here is to develop prototypes and demonstrate how their proposed solution solves the state's technological problem. In theory, the vendor(s) with the best solution(s) receives the contract.
Outside of trying to solve wildfire-related problems, where else could this new innovative process be used?
The first Innovative Procurement Sprint was launched this spring by the State's Department of General Services, Department of Technology and CalFire ahead of the 2019 fire season. Outside of CalFire and wildfire response, there is no shortage of IT or other service related projects that could use a new approach to updating the State's technology. One area that could benefit from this new approach is in the way the state attorney general and local district attorney's offices process expungements related to the decriminalization of cannabis.
Recently, the San Francisco district attorney's office partnered with a non-profit organization Code for America to help them review all of their marijuana related convictions. This was the first time a DA's office had partnered with an organization to use technology to clear criminal records under Prop. 64 and the results have been impressive.
Code for America created an algorithm that helped the DA's office review their records and recommended over 9,300 cases for expungement in a matter of minutes with no action required on the part of the individual and with minimal staff time and resources from the DA’s office. Chicago, Los Angeles and several other cities are currently exploring a partnership with Code America to dramatically decrease the time and costs associated with reviewing marijuana related convictions. For the thousands of Californians that have marijuana-related convictions, quickly expunging their records could mean the difference between gainful employment, housing and a better life.
While tailored primarily to address the State's extreme wildfire challenges, the executive order represents the first step in reforming California's procurement process. At a press conference earlier this year, Governor Newsom made this comment in relation to the reforms outlined in his executive order, “If you like the status quo, you’re not going to like these reforms.” While there are always challenges when implementing change in government, taking a new approach as illustrated by the San Francisco DA's office may ultimately allow government to provide better service to its citizens through more responsive technology.
If you have any questions regarding the Governor's executive order or the public agency procurement process, contact Ashley Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org.