The last bill Barack Obama signed as president of the United States codifies the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which was put in place to bring tech innovators to the White House to help solve some of the country’s most pressing problems.
Today, the now-former commander-in-chief signed the Tested Ability to Leverage Exceptional National Talent Act of 2017, or TALENT Act, to ensure the President Innovations Fellows program remains under the influence of the General Service Administration, according to the Federal Times.
“My hope is this continues to encourage a culture of public service among our innovators and tech entrepreneurs so we can keep building a government that is as modern and innovative, and as engaging as our incredible tech sector is,” Obama said in a video about the program.
The 2012 Act was created to bring outside influence into the White House. The program chooses technologists, or fellows, and pairs them with “top civil-servants and change-makers,” to address domestic issues like access to healthcare benefits, lack of internet availability in classrooms, and poor online communication with the government.
“When I took office, one of my top priorities was to apply lessons we learned in our innovative high-tech campaign in 2008, to make the federal government smarter, more innovative, more transparent and more responsive to the American people we serve,” Obama said. “One of the ways we’ve been able to do that is by recruiting incredible talent from the private sector—engineers, start-up founders, and developers.”
The talent, which is chosen from a highly competitive pool of nominees, works with government officials for 12 months. Previous fellows include Alan Steremberg, co-founder of Weather Underground; Kara DeFrias, founder and executive producer of TEDxIntuit; and Shutterstock president and CFO Adam Riggs.
“I’m pleased that before leaving office President Obama was able to enshrine into law a program that has already helped us in the effort to create an efficient, innovative, and accessible government,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) via statement.
The White House website page for the program has been taken down since President Trump was sworn in to office.
Trump, who has already promised to undo a number of regulations and programs started by the Obama administration, has a strange relationship with technology. Roger Stone, his longtime friend, said he’s obsessed with Twitter, but won’t touch email.
If he’s going to bring permanent jobs back to the United States he will eventually need to address the automation elephant in the room, and choose a side for or against impending technologies.
The President Innovation Fellows’ standalone website is still operational.