Government prioritizes digital engagement

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Credit: Amanda Walker

The White House plans to “scale and institutionalize” the U.S. Digital Service. The idea is to create teams of digital experts at various agencies to help identify and fix IT problems with the customer facing public.

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A recent trend in government has been to build upon lessons learned in the private sector to enhance the quality and effectiveness of government service. One area receiving attention this past year has been in the government’s digital engagement with stakeholders and citizens.

Specifically, the fiscal 2016 budget request by the White House includes proposed spending of $105 million to “scale and institutionalize” the U.S. Digital Service. The idea is to create teams of digital experts at various agencies to help identify and fix IT problems with the customer facing public.  

The U.S. Digital Service was created to address problems (such as those that happened with the HealthCare.gov launch) with government engaging with citizens and to upgrade the IT structure to one that can scale and has innovation, transparency and accountability. 

The White House Fact Sheet, "Improving and Simplifying Digital Services" summarizes the need and justification for the budget request. The Fact Sheet states that, "the Team has one core mission; to improve and simplify the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government."

Some of the Federal agency projects likely to be impacted include immigration process modernization at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), benefits.gov at the Department of Labor (DOL), electronic services at the Social Security Administration (SSA), and veterans benefits management at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

These digital experts in the Digital Service will be skilled in working with flexible and agile governance structures, business process standardization, software engineering and digital product design. The demand for digital expertise is coming from the various agencies themselves who see the urgency in expanding digital offerings for their constituencies and at the same time evaluate cutting-edge technologies.

Mikey Dickerson, former Google Engineer, will serve as the administrator of the U.S. Digital Service and as the deputy federal chief information officer. He was chosen because of his experience in the private sector and expertise in IT and digital customer service.

The mission requirements and reach of the U.S. Digital Service will no doubt expand quickly in accordance with the overall digital transformation of both the public and private sectors. This will include expanding data analytics for gap analysis and increased use of social media for communication in the conduct of customer service. These digital experience trends are rapidly expanding in their need for implementation and signify that the new digital era for engagement has already arrived. Keeping up with the increased demands of stakeholders, training of new digital experts and assimilating of the next wave of innovative engagement technologies will be critical challenges for future government. Expanded planning and cooperation in digital services between the public and private sectors will be essential for success.

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