Thanks to a United States Census Bureau initiative, a Baltimore-based digital services company is creating technology to help government agencies find infrastructure funding.
The Opportunity Project (HIGH) is a program that invites businesses to apply and volunteer to help solve problems facing the federal government. think about what Baltimore area code made for the individual trying to break into the tech industry, but for companies trying to make connections in the federal contract space.
TOP operates through the Census Bureau’s Census Open Innovation Labs and involves government agencies such as the Trade departments and Work with external technologists and companies. They then work in 12-week sprints to develop solutions to government challenges.
Cell Xparticipant in the civic technologies incubator Hutch, is working through TOP to create a digital tool that uses open data. The technology is designed to help state, local, tribal and territorial governments navigate potential grant opportunities made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act Investment of $550 billion in infrastructure.
“We want to make sure we leave a lasting impact in our larger and wider community,” Felix Gilbertfounder of XCell, said Technically on the company’s involvement in TOP. “We are involved because we want to lean. I have personally seen challenges, in terms of infrastructure, funding and technology.”
Gilbert sees the last project his late father worked on in 2021, with Project Moxie, in the work he does now. Her father built tiny communities of houses in Aurora, Colorado as affordable housing to address homelessness. The technology solution Gilbert is now creating could be used to secure funds for more cities like Aurora, which may not have the internal staff or the bandwidth to apply for those infrastructure funds.
Through the program, Gilbert also works directly with White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as subject matter experts like White House data scientists. Although the program is completely volunteer-based and unpaid, the connections are invaluable. It also allows companies to prove the impact of a product on a problem known to the agency or to develop a prototype with a primary client.
That said, the program does not guarantee a government contract. Gilbert says if you’re looking for a guaranteed government contract, this isn’t the program for you. From his perspective, it is best to enter the program with a mindset of wanting to give back to the community. For example, perhaps enter the program trying to determine if a software solution or product is viable in the market. The program can then help through the connection of industry mentors to help find funding for this future product.
“We are a small company that had no idea we would be connected to the White House when we first started growing,” Gilbert said. “Check [TOP] out. This is an opportunity for you to come in and flex your muscles. [You] might even be able to release a proof of concept. Show the federal government how we can solve some of their problems through technology and software development.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-