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Making Good on the Mistakes of Digital Government

Human-centered design can go a long way toward fixing some of society’s biggest problems, including missteps in trying to make things better by applying technology alone.

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Listen to this episode on the player below or subscribe for free on YouTube or the podcast app of your choice — Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotifyAudacy and Audible.

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Cover image of Power to the Public: The Promise of Public Interest Technology, co-authored by Tara Dawson McGuinness (Princeton University Press, 2021, re-released 2023)
Tara Dawson McGuinness, founder of the New Practice Lab at the New America Foundation and co-author of the newly re-released book, Power to the Public: The Promise of Public Interest Technology, joined Paul Taylor, Noelle Knell and new permanent co-host Ashley Silver for a discussion of the state of our digital union.

The discussion centers on the evolution of digital government, not merely as a technological shift but as a nuanced change in systems and problem-solving methodologies that prioritize citizens.

Show Notes

The episode provides eight essential takeaways:
  • Tara Dawson McGuinness discusses the future of digital government, emphasizing that it should be citizen-centered, rather than purely technological.
  • McGuinness has experience in the Obama White House and founded the New Practice Lab to foster cross-sector collaborations.
  • The pandemic highlighted the importance of implementation in government services, such as the vaccine rollout, making citizen experience a key focus.
  • McGuinness identifies a "renaissance" in local and state governments enabled by federal funding but notes challenges such as underinvestment and workforce retention.
  • Local governments are often more in touch with human-centered design due to their closeness to the communities they serve.
  • Technology alone is not a solution for complex social problems; it should be part of a broader, problem-solving approach.
  • Visibility is critical; a working policy or system is irrelevant if it's not easily accessible and experienced by citizens.
  • McGuinness' New Practice Lab provides "sprint teams" to government bodies to help them rapidly implement solutions, with the aim to inform and improve future policies.

Our editors used ChatGPT 4.0 to summarize the episode in bullet form to create the show notes.The main image for this story was created using DALL-E 3. Government Technology is a sister site to Governing. Both are divisions of e.Republic.


Paul W. Taylor is the Senior Editor for e.Republic Editorial and of its flagship titles - Governing and Government Technology. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @pwtaylor.
Ashley Silver is the co-host of The Future in Context podcast and a staff writer with Governing’s sister publication, Government Technology.
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