The U.S. Digital Service has taken on the task of helping the federal government adapt to new technologies. I interviewed Matt Cutts, the head of the service, about what the organization does.
HF: So where did the U.S. Digital Service come from?
MC: The origin of the U.S. Digital Service was sparked by Healthcare.gov. Unfortunately, the initial website for enrollment did not live up to the task. A dedicated cadre of people came together and worked with people in the government to ensure that the website could handle the load and traffic. That experience sparked the insight that when important decisions were being made, you needed people in the room who can make sure that a technical viewpoint is represented.
We have seen the U.S. Digital Service help with all kinds of firefighting and emergencies. We have been honored and privileged to help with that. We’ve also seen the value of preventative work, when we can come in earlier on a project and give advice or consult with partners in the government about ways to organize the architecture or system and bring in industry best practices to ensure a project is likely to succeed.
HF: Where do people who work for the U.S. Digital Service come from?
MC: They come from across the country. The stereotype is that the U.S. Digital Service brings people from A-list technology companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook and Twitter. There is some truth to that — we have had people from all those companies. But we want to represent the entire American public, so we also recruit from across the country. We don’t just want to reflect the viewpoint of Silicon Valley, and we do better when we reflect a lot of viewpoints, including people who have come from contractors and government, who often have understanding of how to deal with barriers and obstacles. A brilliant designer can be paired with an engineer who understands how procurement or contracting works. Our ideal person has the technical skills but also the emotional intelligence to say, ‘Here is why the current system isn’t working, and here is how you can change or channel that to get to a better outcome.’
Read the full piece at The Washington Post.