Interim Report on the Pilot Technology Access Program
RCED-94-75: Published: Mar 7, 1994. Publicly Released: Mar 7, 1994.
- Full Report:
Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO provided information on the Pilot Technology Access Program (TAPP), which provides small businesses with technical and business information and expertise that they may not be aware of or able to afford, focusing on the program's status, implementation, and evaluation.
GAO found that: (1) while the Small Business Administration (SBA) provides TAPP funding, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) manages and monitors the program; (2) NIST initially assumed a hands-off approach to allow the six small business development centers to tailor their programs to the specific needs of their states, but after the first year advised centers about balancing the amount of market and technical information they provided and analyzing clients and services provided; (3) NIST and SBA decided that centers needed to compete for third-year funding, since two programs were not yet operational and TAPP funding had been reduced; (4) TAPP recompetition caused the centers to be more responsive to NIST requests for information; (5) although the centers created diverse, unique programs, program operations were similar; (6) preliminary information from TAPP clients indicates that they view the program favorably; (7) centers reported that there is little client demand for technical expert searches; (8) centers provided training to counselors and created reference materials to encourage them to market TAPP to clients; and (9) the lack of an evaluation methodology and uniform data on clients and services, program diversity, and the difficulty in linking TAPP services to increased productivity will make it difficult to evaluate TAPP effectiveness.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Status: Closed - Not Implemented
Comments: Congress has already decided not to fund the TAP program after fiscal year 1995. Therefore, the recommendation to develop a systematic evaluation survey to support future funding decisions is no longer relevant. Further, program officials are planning to gather and analyze available data on client satisfaction while GAO's final required report will focus on "best practices" developed by the TAP centers.
Recommendation: Because an accurate determination of the effectiveness of TAPP will be critical to future decisions about the program, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Administrator of the Technology Administration to take steps to improve the precision and clarity of the questionnaires that managers use to collect client feedback on the program. The questionnaires should provide definitions where appropriate and ask direct questions that will determine client satisfaction and program impact.
Agency Affected: Department of Commerce