USDA plans to share IT innovation lab

The lab, which would be established with a partner agency, would examine subjects like smart cities, IT best practices and government data.
USDA Headquarters (Cliff/Flickr)

The Department of Agriculture plans to stand up an IT innovation lab with an as yet-unnamed partner agency by the end of the year, according to USDA Deputy CIO Joyce Hunter.

Speaking to FedScoop at her office, Hunter said the lab would bring in IT specialists from USDA and house them at the partner department. Their research at the lab would focus on topics like smart cities, IT best practices and government data.

Hunter said the plan would provide opportunities for both agencies and streamline resources as they work toward a common goal.

“This is so cool because, this way, we’re saving the government money,” she said. “We’re not duplicating the other lab.”


Hunter would not name the partner department as it has not yet received final approval to go forward with the project.

[Read more: Maker movement at center of HHS’ innovative strategy]

USDA would supply experts under its Ag Opportunity program, which allows employees to donate 20 percent of their time to work on a special project. Hunter said three to five experts would be working at a time at the lab, serving rolling 60- to 90-day assignments.

“That can be spread out over a year … [based on] how ever many projects they need a subject matter expert to come over,” she said

Other agencies, like the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Personnel Management, have stood up their own innovation labs in recent years. And the White House released an innovation strategy in October that underscored the importance of these institutions.


Such labs can help “agency employees and members of the public to implement their promising ideas to more effectively serve the American people,” according to the plan.

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