One question has driven Beth Simone Noveck’s polymathic career: “How can we ensure the well-being of democracy?” Noveck–a law professor (specializing in information law and systems design) and tech entrepreneur (she founded software developer Bodies Electric)–spearheads President Obama’s open-government effort, leading a “do tank, not a think tank,” that fosters the executive branch’s internal innovation and public outreach. One example: a Veterans Administration contest that led VA employees to generate 3,000 ideas for how to speed processing of benefits claims for injured vets. Her team also created apps.gov, a site that streamlines tech-tool procurement and publicizes public-sector demand for developers’ expertise. “Civic participation is vital to our democracy’s health,” Noveck, 38, says. “We’re trying to create many kinds of opportunities to participate.”
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