White House Launches U.S. Digital Service and Digital Resources

By David Bruggeman
August 15, 2014

On Monday the White House announced the launch of the U.S. Digital Service.  According to the Administration, the Digital Service is a team of digital experts that will work with agencies to improve and simplify the digital experience for citizens and companies interacting with the government.  It will be led by Mikey Dickerson, who was an integral part of the team that helped revamp the HealthCare.gov website.  He will also serve as Deputy Federal Chief Information Officer.

The Digital Service is comparable to the 18F team at the General Services Administration.  Both are in-house innovation centers, something more commonly found outside of government, but rare in either location.  Formed in April of this year, 18F has a similar purpose to the Digital Service, but places an extra emphasis on open source development (you can peruse their open source repository on GitHub).  They encourage the reuse of government-derived code and reuse other open source code when practical.  To guide others in reuse of government code, 18F released a Contributor’s Guide earlier this week.

In addition to launching the Digital Service, the Administration released two documents intended to help agencies with that digital experience.  The Digital Services Playbook is a baker’s dozen of ‘plays’ derived from best practices in digital services from the private and public sectors.  The plays are sketches, with a checklist and set of questions to help guide the provision of digital services from a very high-level perspective.  The TechFAR Handbook is an iterative document that identifies parts of the Federal Acquisition Regulation that can be used to implement the plays in the Digital Services Playbook.  The current version focuses on agile software development, but subsequent editions will address other areas of IT.