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IT Veteran Launching Public Innovation Academy

Government technology veteran Abhi Nemani, who has experience both inside government as well as with prominent civic tech organizations such as Code for America, is leading the new startup company.

A veteran of gov tech work is launching an online training program called the Public Innovation Academy, which aims to go beyond the scope of programs that most often target C-level or executive participants.

The Public Innovation Academy is under development with a two-phase launch scheduled to start toward the end of the year. It’s led by Abhi Nemani, who helped build the nation’s pre-eminent civic tech group, Code for America, and has also served as chief data officer of Los Angeles, as well as the first CIO of Sacramento.

Nemani describes his new online training venture as being aimed at helping people who perform jobs that aren’t necessarily technical, yet are being asked to rapidly use more technology as our reliance on it accelerates.

Another hope for the new venture, Nemani said, is that the programming will be able to take the lessons and practices learned by large jurisdictions and share them with those who work within small or mid-sized cities, too. The idea would be to enroll attendees from smaller cities that might not have the resources for a position such as chief data officer but could benefit from basic lessons that CDOs in places like Los Angeles or New York bring to the table. The e-learning courses would even involve current or former CDOs from the larger places as something like guest lecturers. 

Where the Public Innovation Academy really seems likely to stand out, however, is in the way its courses are structured. Nemani explained that rather than taking a class that is billed as being about human-centered design, participants might take a course structured around creating an actual tool that makes government digital services more user-friendly.

Such a course would inherently use much of what one might learn from a class specifically about human-centered design; it would just do so in a way that generated a finished project at the end that each participant could bring back to their city or agency.

“Through that process,” Nemani said, “you end up helping them understand not only the bigger picture, but you are also giving them a very specific direction on what to do.”

As for where the program currently stands, there is a survey up on the main page of its website. The goal of the survey is to collect data on what sorts of classes and projects potential enrollees would find most helpful. Those who complete it now will be given exclusive early access to the academy’s first courses, possibly starting as soon as this winter.  

After the initial rollout, the academy will eventually move to a model with a cost associated with classes primarily in the interest of sustainability.

This story first appeared in Government Technology, Techwire’s sister publication.

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology magazine. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas.