Obama picks former Googler to head federal tech overhaul

To avoid another Healthcare.gov debacle, President Obama hires a team of techies to clean up government IT systems and websites.

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Mikey Dickerson Via LinkedIn

The White House has hired a team of digital experts to overhaul US government websites and infrastructure to avoid disasters similar to the launch of Healthcare.gov.

The federal government announced the creation of the team dubbed the "US Digital Service" on Monday, according to the Associated Press. The team, run by former Google engineer Mikey Dickerson, will focus on upgrading government sites and underlying IT infrastructure and making government sites more citizen friendly.

Dickerson stepped in last year after taking a break from Google and oversaw fixes to the disastrous Healthcare.gov site. The website was riddled with errors at launch that caused chaos as Americans attempted to sign up for Obamacare, leading to the system being branded as "unacceptable" by President Obama. A squad of tech experts were drafted to fix the underlying code of the health insurance enrollment portal. Dickerson, a former Google website reliability manager, was part of the solution.

"I'm excited for the opportunity to shift the focus of government IT delivery from compliance to greater impact and meeting the needs of real citizens," Dickerson said in a statement Monday. "We can make services a lot more effective and cost efficient with better use of technology."

The US Digital Service team will attempt to bring government systems in line with the private sector and will "collaborate with federal agencies to identify and address gaps in their capacity to design and operate customer-facing services," according to the AP.

US officials say the team will begin with a headcount of 25, and some of the hires will be outside the government sphere. According to the New York Times, the team's immediate focus will be on conducting quick triage and fixing up services used by the general public on a daily basis.

"We're also trying to get in front of these things more in the future to make the strike team less necessary in the future," Dickerson said.

However, the team's budget will be small as they must draw upon allocations already set for this year. Dickerson's team will have $3 million at its disposal, although it has requested $13 million to be allocated out of next year's budget.

On a related note, the White House has also released a draft playbook of best digital practices for US agencies to improve existing services.

This story was originally posted as "Obama taps ex Google engineer to head government tech overhaul" on ZDNet.

 

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