With big bailouts come big responsibilities. The public wants to know: Where is nearly $800 billion going through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and how is it helping?
In order to give American taxpayers a peek at how their money is working, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has decided to revamp its bailout tracker, Recovery.gov, with the help of Smartronix, Inc. In July, the company won an initial $9.5 million contract to help the government redesign its site using the latest Web 2.0 tools and digital savvy to shed sunshine on the bailout.
Enacted by Congress in February, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act calls for massive federal investment across many industries in public and private sectors. It also requires an unprecedented level of transparency to keep companies that receive bailout dollars honest and offers a way for taxpayers to interact directly with the information tracking the funds. Recovery.gov was launched shortly after the bill passed, but the GSA recently called for a bigger, better, faster, and more-interactive site.
Smartronix, a global professional solutions provider specializing in network operations, cybersecurity, and enterprise software solutions, was one of many companies to answer the government’s call to redesign its site. Its contract was the first to be handed out under the multiple-award GSA Alliant grant. Smartronix will receive $9.5 million through January 2010. If the GSA exercises its full options with Smartronix through January 2014, Smartronix will score a grand total of $17.9 million.
“Smartronix is honored to have been selected to redesign the Recovery.gov 2.0 Web site,” Smartronix CEO John Parris said in a statement, though no one at Smartronix was available for an interview. “We have assembled the best team to meet the contract’s complex requirements and have immediately begun work to meet the Recovery.gov 2.0’s aggressive schedule.”
An ambitious Oct. 31 deadline has been set—no small feat, considering Recovery.gov will have to account for $787 billion in allocations for tax relief, healthcare, education, state bailouts, renewable energy industries, and more across public and private sectors. It will have to support millions of users, be clear and intuitive enough for a variety of people to navigate, and be secure enough to ensure vast amounts of sensitive information aren’t compromised.
In order to get started, the GSA awarded the contract ahead of schedule in July, after a whirlwind 31-day procurement process, with 59 companies eligible to compete. Smartronix, as the primary contractor, has already assembled a team to back it up in procuring, installing, configuring, securing, and launching the new Recovery.gov.
Audit and tax finance consultants KPMG, LLP will provide the financial savvy, as well as policy and fiscal reporting background, to formulate data management and coordination support strategies.
Synteractive Corp. will offer its input on how to use Web 2.0 portal and collaborative tools across the site. Rather than just a way to see information, Synteractive envisions Recovery.gov 2.0 as becoming a virtual platform for Americans to personally connect with the bailout dollars. This “Recovery community” will be able to share stories about the stimulus’ local impact through blogs and pictures and discuss the data with other citizen watchdogs across the country.
Digital agency TMP Government, which specializes in developing targeted communications programs for a variety of official agencies, will help with creative design and usability analysis. It will also make sure the site adheres to high accessibility standards, allowing users to access interactive tools through numerous platforms and ensuring compliance with strict industry regulations, including measures helping disabled Americans navigate the site.
Smartronix will coordinate the team, as well as design, install, configure, secure, operate, and maintain the entire site infrastructure. Unlike Recovery.gov, which is a straightforward presentation of bailout stats and figures, the 2.0 site will be much more interactive, with users able to build comparative graphs and charts on-the-fly, visualize information according to highly customizable specifications, collaborate, and coordinate.
Plus, the site must be secure and highly fault-tolerant, for users on both ends. Reporting will be piped in from hundreds of thousands of entities every day, from the highest levels of the U.S. government to local community businesses. Smartronix will also build a mirror continuity of operations environment in order to assure the site doesn’t get bogged down or delayed.
Recovery.gov 2.0 could provide a new blueprint for how American citizens are able to connect directly to the government on critical projects, such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. With everyone’s money at stake, Smartronix has a tall order under a short deadline—but it’s confident that its team will be able to shed some much-needed sunlight on the recovery efforts through the site.