10x announces new projects chosen for FY21 Phase 1 funding

We are excited to reveal the latest cohort of projects chosen for Phase 1 investigations. We received and evaluated 250 new submissions — a record-high for our program — from employees at 34 agencies. Of those, we have selected the 22 ideas we feel have the most potential to deliver impact for the American public. A toast, hug, kudos, and thanks to all of our idea submitters. You make 10x work.

These are the ideas we selected for Phase 1:

Know Your Civil Rights

Through user research conducted on a recent civil rights project at the Department of Justice, we learned that the public doesn’t have a good understanding of their civil rights. The public’s experience finding such information and how to seek justice is fragmented across agency websites. The responsibility for investigating civil rights issues, such as sexual harassment in housing, disability discrimination in the workplace, and rights for the incarcerated are shared by multiple agencies, making it difficult for the public to find this critical information. What if there was a new, streamlined way for the government to communicate civil rights information to the public? 10x will investigate the opportunity to remove complex barriers the public faces when seeking justice by bringing this vast pool of information together.

Reimagining Access to Government Services

We have observed that circumstances of poverty can make it incredibly difficult for the people who need government benefits the most to apply for and receive these benefits. These circumstances include having phone numbers shared among multiple people or lacking a consistent phone number at all, and not having a reliable permanent address to receive mail. These are serious obstacles for many people trying to navigate the government’s benefits processes, because many of these are basic requirements when signing up for government services and communicating with agencies. What if we could design technical workarounds for folks in these difficult situations that would help them access benefits more easily? 10x will investigate these constraints and explore solutions to this problem using technology.

Resources for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

More than 650,000 people are released from prison every year, but studies show that the recidivism rate is at nearly 66 percent. While many government agencies offer guidance for the formerly incarcerated, we believe this issue is so high profile in society today that it warrants further exploration by 10x. For example, we have observed that there is no centralized, government-led resource for formerly incarcerated individuals to learn about reentry services, social safety net programs, or record expungement — services that help keep people out of the carceral system. 10x will explore current government offerings in this space and investigate the creation of a centralized resource to help support both individuals leaving prison and the network of local and national nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting their reentry.

Equity in Environmental Information

We have observed that the process for government water hazard alerts is not always delivered equitably across all affected populations. 10x will investigate the development of a framework tailored for federal agency communications teams that specifically elevates equity concerns, helping at-risk populations be better served, informed, and empowered to protect their communities.

Broadband for Underserved Populations

The U.S. government operates and maintains a high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network specifically dedicated to public safety communications. This network reaches 99 percent of Americans. At the same time, however, millions of American students, particularly minority students, lack internet access at home. This has been especially damaging during the COVID-19 pandemic when many schools rely on at-home learning. What if the public safety broadband network could help alleviate this digital divide in the U.S.? 10x will investigate the opportunity to monitor the network, identify down periods, and connect any underutilized bandwidth to education hubs near Native and other underserved or low-income communities.

Helping Small Disadvantaged Businesses Navigate Federal Procurement

We have observed that socioeconomically disadvantaged small business owners face high barriers to entry into the federal marketplace. While there are many resources to help these businesses learn about what's possible, there is very little available to show them how to navigate the experience of actually filling out a government solicitation in pursuit of a contract. Many are forced to spend thousands of dollars hiring consultants to prepare proposals. 10x will explore the creation of a self-service tool to help entrepreneurs navigate through the nuances of proposal development and help aid minority business-owners in the process of securing government contracts.

Improving Government Services en Español

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States, with millions of households speaking only Spanish at home. Today, Spanish language service in the government is handled by translation APIs, inconsistent translation services, or translated by Spanish-speakers inside the agencies. In addition, usability testing in Spanish is not conducted consistently across federal agencies, or even within individual agencies. This leads to products, services, and policies that don't meet the needs of Spanish speakers. 10x will investigate the feasibility of developing centralized resources and guidance that will help the government provide equitable service to Spanish-speaking communities.

Futures Toolkit

As creators of government technology, our work has long lasting implications. However, we have observed that government technology projects are usually designed to solve the problems of today, not the problems of tomorrow. For example, most legacy technology projects are focused on "bringing government technology into the modern era" but what about the future era? We believe that government technology needs to be designed with an eye towards tomorrow. Design Futures is a methodology that civil servants could adopt that would help them take into consideration multiple possible futures that could affect their work. This will be invaluable in helping civil servants consider the long-term consequences of our work and help ensure that we are creating an increasingly equitable tomorrow through the technology we are building and buying today. 10x will investigate the feasibility and value of incorporating Design Futures and other future-focused practices into our work as we imagine the future of technology-powered public service delivery.

Visualizing the Federal Carbon Footprint

We have observed that the federal government emits huge amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) every year, including more than 37 million tons from federal facility operations in 2019 alone. The public lacks a window into how federal agencies are doing their part to reduce the effects of climate change. 10x will investigate how user-centered design and savvy data analysis could create a clear picture of the government’s efforts to kick its carbon habit, resulting in more transparency and accountability and ensuring that we, as civil servants, are doing our best to reduce the impact of climate change on our country.

Untangling Climate Resources

While many federal agencies provide climate change information to the public, this information is siloed and spread across many different agencies, meaning the public lacks a single, comprehensive view with government-published data into the effects of climate change. What if there was a single, canonical resource for the public to turn to for answers on how climate change is affecting the environment and their communities? 10x will investigate the opportunity to bring together both climate change data and existing research into a single, user-friendly resource for the public.

Improving Response and Tracking of Sewer Spills

Sewer systems are a hidden, but critical component of our country's infrastructure that transport domestic and industrial wastewater to treatment facilities. Occasionally, these sewer systems overflow and release sewage into the environment and into homes. Federal regulations require basic data reporting about these releases to their permitting authorities, but these reports are most often done on paper or in non-standard formats, which limits the availability and utility of these data on a national scale. Improvements to these datasets will provide transparency on the locations of frequent sewer overflows, including if they are in areas of environmental justice concerns, such as underserved communities. 10x will investigate how to use modern reporting tools, with open source software, to help the regulators better respond to emergencies by providing more effective and efficient oversight to prevent and minimize sewer overflows. In addition, 10x will gather and make sense of data relating to how these overflows may disproportionately affect underserved communities.

National Conservation Lands Map

The government has a wealth of geospatial data on Federal Lands, but this data is fragmented across multiple federal agencies. Recent legislation prioritizes the conservation and protection of public lands, but there is no single database that connects information on land ownership, authorized designation boundaries, or conservation status together. 10x will investigate the feasibility of a single interactive, geospatial, conservation database that will help the federal government prioritize and connect fragmented habitats, protect migration corridors, and enhance environmental quality.

Open Science Field Guide

Federal science communities are required to open their data (Evidence Act 2018) which increases accountability and trust for publicly-funded research. But opening data is complex and resource-intensive to operationalize. There are serious risks including privacy, national security, and misuse/misinterpretation. Agency expertise is inconsistent on this topic, and existing resources don’t support those getting started. Uncertainty has reduced agency open data compliance, increased the risk of redundant funding, and ultimately, risked public credibility. 10x validated these needs and prototyped and documented a solution: a facilitated workshop process in which agencies create a risk/benefit assessment framework tailored to their needs. 10x will investigate expanding on this prototype in collaboration with scientific data stewards and developing an open-source field guide for agencies to help ease the path towards open, publicly-funded science.

Government Technology Hiring Toolkit

Through 18F’s work with agency partners, we have observed that agencies understand the critical importance of bringing technology talent into government service, but struggle with hiring and outreach. We believe that if we assist agencies in crafting position descriptions and performing targeted outreach, we can successfully bring excited, competent technologists to the federal service. 10x will investigate the feasibility of helping agencies bring in diverse, highly-skilled technical talent into government service through developing a handbook or toolkit for hiring technology professionals.

U.S. Federal Election Dates and Deadlines

We have observed that there is no single authoritative source of information that aggregates key dates and deadlines for federal elections including, voter registration deadlines, mail-in ballot requests, and results certification deadlines. There are at least seven federal agencies that collect some of this information, but it is usually disconnected, non-comprehensive, and often ad hoc. These data are important for many uses, including reducing misinformation and increasing public trust. 10x will investigate the development of a comprehensive data collection instrument for election offices to report their data as well as an API to facilitate use of the data by the public and other agencies.

Plain Language for Data Tables

Through user testing, we have observed that people often struggle to read and interpret data tables provided by statistical agencies. For example, the frequently-used term, "tenure," found in Census tables, has a different internal meaning than its popular use. Additionally, someone looking for poverty information may not understand certain statistical terms such as, “below 50%, below 100%, below 150%, and below 200% of the poverty level" or "margin of error". There are also problems with the user interface of tables. With so many rows and columns, labels cut off or hidden, users struggle with understanding the content due to overly complicated table designs. 10x will explore how to make data tables on government websites more user-friendly and comprehendible for the public and other groups leveraging this available data, such as journalists and academia.

Quantifying the Social Value of Data

The government spends billions of dollars annually collecting scientific, administrative, and survey data, but measuring the social value of the data is often difficult. For example, there is a ton of research performed using publicly available and controlled-access, restricted-use microdata, but tracking research outputs, such as working papers and journal articles that use government data, is challenging. 10x will explore tools such as web scraping and text mining to identify research outputs generated using government data, develop methods for collecting such information more efficiently, measure the value of that data in terms of outputs, and make the information transparent and easily accessible to the public and policymakers.

Reducing Duplicative Content on Agency Websites

The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act requires that any federal website or digital service “does not overlap with or duplicate any legacy websites and, if applicable, ensure that legacy websites are regularly reviewed, eliminated, and consolidated”. Addressing the proliferation of redundant information is critical to improving the digital experience for the public, yet agencies face many challenges in complying with the law. Most lack a proper foundation for the work as they own thousands of pieces of untagged and inconsistently organized content across dozens of sites, making providing duplicative content to subject matter experts extremely difficult or near impossible. 10x will investigate the creation of a supervised machine learning solution for agencies that both sorts content into manageable and logical groupings and builds a topic taxonomy for agencies to use to govern their websites and digital services into the future.

Data Passport

We have observed that the public does not have a good understanding of what happens to their data when they share it with the federal government, which results in low public trust, low sign up for optional services intended to benefit the public, and underreporting of civil rights and whistleblower complaints. We believe that by creating a “data passport” or personal file that would allow people to see who accessed the data that they shared with the government and when, or opt into sharing information to match for service eligibility or allow the government to prefill forms like taxes or enrollment forms, that it would result in a more transparent relationship between the public and government and increase public trust. In addition, 10x will explore the concept of a public data trust, which means involving the public not just in information sharing, but in the process of analyzing and making decisions based off that data as well.

Inclusion for Rulemaking in Early Stages

There is an opportunity to increase public participation in the early parts of the rulemaking process. Public commenting is a part of the federal rulemaking process under Section 553 of the Administrative Procedure Act but it often happens after the rule has been drafted. This puts the burden on the public to figure out what rules are being written and to navigate a public comment process that can be confusing, limited, and superficial. 10x will investigate ways to easily and inclusively involve the public in earlier stages of rulemaking, such as during the drafting and ideation of such rules, as well as identify tools, resources, or processes that can help increase early public engagement in ways that are substantive and generative. The earlier that the public’s input is incorporated in this process, the greater the opportunity for the public to impact regulations and have a voice in the rulemaking.

Finding Grant-Funded Results and Products

We have observed a few problems with the governmental grants process. First, many of the useful results and products generated by federal grants remain undiscovered (and thus unused) by those who could benefit from them. And second, grants may be unnecessarily duplicated with other grants because applicants are unaware this work has already been done. 10x will investigate developing an online means for applicants to easily discover shareable federal grant results and products for all agencies that will maximize the benefits of the original work, decrease unnecessary duplication of effort, expand communities of practice, and free up resources to fund new work that builds on previous accomplishments.

Software Development Vendor Management Guide

We have observed that custom software development projects in government are failure-prone, which can result in a massive hit to the federal budget, as well as frustration on behalf of the civil servants who use new systems to serve the public. We believe that improving software procurements could deliver massive impact not only in cost savings for the government but in human outcomes as well. Based on the positive attention received by another 10x investment — the 18F de-Risking Field Guides — 10x will invest in an additional resource that covers vendor maintenance writ large.

Of the 22 projects we selected, 21 aligned with our three investment themes: Public Trust & Civic Life, Public Lands & Environment, and Equity in Delivery. We anticipate kicking off these projects on a rolling basis over the next few months.

The best place to find information on these projects — and other active or completed 10x projects — as well as our process, is right here on our website. Some of our projects are currently profiled on Our Projects; more will be added over the coming months.

About 10x

10x is an investment program that takes ideas submitted by federal employees and turns them into technology projects that improve how the government delivers excellence for the public. 10x is a part of GSA’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS) division. TTS applies modern methodologies and technologies to improve the lives of the public and public servants.