It’s been nearly three weeks since I started my job as the Administrator of the new Digital Service team at OMB, and it’s been an exciting few weeks. For those who don’t know, the Digital Service is a unit comprised of some of the country’s best and brightest tech talent that was launched with one core mission in mind – to improve and simplify the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.
I had my first adventure in public service last fall, when I came on as part of the team to fix HealthCare.gov. The experience was life-changing. I’ve worked on a variety of major projects in my life, but nothing compares to having a direct, positive impact on countless lives. And when I got the call to be part of a team that would scale government-wide the same proven approach that ultimately enabled millions of Americans to sign up for quality health insurance, I couldn’t resist.
The amount of enthusiasm and support we’ve received – from our partners at the agencies, members of the tech community, and the American people (including a colleague’s grandmother and many others who advised me to iron my shirts) – is truly inspiring. Over the last few weeks we’ve been able to bring onboard great talent to help drive this work. Like Jennifer Anastasoff, who founded a social-sector startup that provided a pathway for some of the nation’s top minds in business and entrepreneurship to join state and local governments; Erie Meyer, who served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, helped launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s technology team, and was named to Forbes 2014 “30 under 30” list for technology; Brian Lefler, a software engineer with years of experience working in large and complex server-oriented architecture; Vivian Graubard, who led tech efforts on a Presidential Task Force that resulted in the launch of NotAlone.gov, and was named one of Time’s 30 People under 30 Who Are Changing the World; and Haley Van Dyck, who, as a technology advisor to the U.S. Chief Information Officer, was a driving force behind key Administration initiatives such as the Digital Government Strategy, U.S. Open Data Policy, and the President's Open Data Executive Order.
This is an exceptionally talented bunch, and we are fortunate to be joining an equally talented team already in place in OMB’s E-government office (or “E-gov” as it’s known). The strong foundation that E-gov has built has allowed the Digital Service team to get off to a great start. Their expertise and knowledge about IT delivery within Government has really helped us hit the ground running, and we’re excited to continue to work closely together as we stand up the Digital Service. We are continuing to build a team of tech experts that have mastered a variety of disciplines, including design, procurement, human resources, and finance. The Digital Service team and OMB will work in collaboration with agencies to improve and simplify government digital services.
The first step in making these fixes has just been taken; on my first day, we released for public comment the Digital Services Playbook and the TechFAR Handbook. These are two crucial components in our growing IT toolkit that will enable agencies to do their best work. We’ve been getting great feedback on everything from typos to major substantive edits, but we can always use more; we encourage you to take a look and we welcome the input.
Our work is driven by a fundamental belief in the skill and dedication of public servants. Government is filled with talented individuals who are uniformly dedicated to improving the lives of Americans. That’s why the Digital Service is not about doing IT work for agencies, but rather making sure that everyone is in a position to do their best possible work. In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to helping Government Information Technology evolve into the kind of force for good governance I know it can be.
Mikey Dickerson is the Administrator of the Digital Service.