Dustin Haisler recently joined e.Republic as the Chief Innovation Officer and directs the company’s new technologies development via its Labs initiative. Previously, he was the CIO for Manor, Texas, a city outside of Austin. While there, Haisler launched Manor Labs, a website that invites residents to submit ideas for civic improvement and vote on other peoples’ ideas. The most popular suggestions are sent to city officials for review and possible implementation. He was also a member of the steering committee for Code for America, a nonprofit that has been described as the technology world’s Peace Corp.

What led you to work in the public sector, and what are the benefits?

Public sector work has definitely been a calling for me; it has become a passion of mine. It provides you with the distinct honor of being a part of an institution that made our country what it is today, but also an institution that still touches millions of lives every day.

Many people claim government agencies are not capable of innovating or pushing the envelope. However, when the government unlocks the potential of its network or greater community, amazing things can and do happen. Collectively we put a man on the moon.

The biggest benefit of getting to work with the public sector is that I have an opportunity to work on and improve the foundation that was put in place over 200 years ago. That’s an incredible opportunity.

What’s the biggest challenge the public sector has in the area of technology and innovation?

I see two main challenges for the next few years: keeping up with the incredible pace of technological change and unlocking the potential of employees and citizens to do more to help government.

For the first challenge, we must actively prepare and educate public sector agencies and employees about new consumer technologies and disruptive trends. We cannot rely completely on the private sector to innovate on behalf of the public sector. Rather, we must encourage the public sector to operate more like a startup.

Second, we must find real ways to let our employees and citizens plug in to do real work. We have to create more meaningful ways for citizens to share their experience. If we don’t, I expect that voter turnout will continue to decline because citizens will not care or value their interaction with government.

We need to equip public sector employees with the right tools and autonomy so they can experiment and innovate in their own capacity. Google currently gives employees 20 percent of their time to work on ideas that are outside of their normal responsibilities. Imagine the possibilities if we gave public sector employees just 5 percent of their time to pursue new ideas.

As e.Republic’s new Chief Innovation Officer, what are you focusing on first and what do you have in mind for the future?

A large part of my time will be spent on facilitating the interaction among government agencies, startups, nonprofits, academia and developers in an initiative called e.Republic Labs. The goal of Labs is to serve as a market connector to diffuse and accelerate the innovation that is already happening in the GovTech/CivicTech space. The goal is to pioneer organizations such as Code for America, Knight Foundation, and many more. We are at an inflection point in the market, where startups have a unique opportunity to use technology to create massive amounts of change in their respective communities. My goal is to partner and collaborate with others to help make this a reality.

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