The 2021 Government Innovation Awards: Public Sector Innovations

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We have the government to thank for the internet, GPS and unmanned aerial systems. Much of the machine learning and advanced analytics powering the data-driven economy are made possible by government-funded research. And agencies themselves are being transformed by new technologies and innovative ways of weaving IT into critical missions.

Public-sector tech, in other words, is far cooler than the government often gets credit for. The 2021 Government Innovation Awards aim to give these Public Sector Innovations the credit they deserve.

These awards focus on transformative tech that is truly reinventing government -- at the federal, state and local levels. That potentially mission-critical impact can stem from a new technology itself or from the innovative ways established tech is being leveraged to make government function better. (Note that Industry Innovator firms and individual Rising Stars are also part of the Government Innovation Awards.)

Nominations for the 2021 awards are now being accepted, with a submission deadline of July 15.As you begin thinking about the transformative Public Sector Innovations you'd like to see recognized, please keep the following questions in mind:

What type of innovation is it?

Any tech-driven innovation in government is eligible, but the 2020 Public Sector Innovation nominations focus on six distinct areas of IT:

  • AI/Analytics/Automation
  • Cybersecurity
  • Cloud/Infrastructure
  • Digital Transformation
  • IoT & Smart Cities
  • Unmanned Systems

Nominations can be submitted in multiple categories, as appropriate, as convergence is often critical to the mission. And submissions stamped "other" are encouraged -- we recognize that some disruptive technologies are emerging so quickly they don't fit into existing categories!

Who is the government lead?

The private sector plays a critical role in many if not most government IT efforts, and truly transformative initiatives are almost always collaborations. However, all Public Sector Innovation nominations must specify the government agency where the work is taking place and include a government employee as the project lead.  These are not individual awards, but we do need a clear point of contact. 

Is this innovation having an impact?

Research projects and early-stage pilots are fully eligible for the Public Sector Innovation Awards; the technology or project need not be fully deployed. But whatever the stage of development, it's critical that the nomination explain the mission impact, whether proven or projected. 

Nominations are centered on two "essay questions" about the innovation in question:

  1. Describe the technology -- what is the IT involved and how it is being used or tested?
  2. Describe the impact -- how is this technology transforming government missions?  And why is it particularly worthy of recognition in 2021?

Each response can be up to 500 words, but longer is not necessarily better. Focus on telling the story of your project's innovations and impact, and be sure to stress why the effort is award-worthy this year

Who is vouching for this project?

Nominators matter.  Our judges want to see persuasive specifics in the write-ups, of course, but they also pay close attention to the slate of supporting nominators.  Has the innovation in question impressed key stakeholders in the agency or observers elsewhere in government?  Nominations that come solely from team members and their industry partners almost never carry the weight of those that include some additional outside validation. 

What projects have been picked in the past?

To get a better sense of what our judges have considered true examples of innovation in government IT, check out the 2020 winners

So please be thinking about efforts throughout government that you believe are worthy of a Government Innovation Award and be sure to submit your nominations.  

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