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The White House launches a digital service team to improve agency websites

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The Obama administration announced on Monday that it is launching a new U.S. Digital Service that will identity and fix troubled government websites and computer systems. Mikey Dickerson, a former Google engineer, will be the first administrator of the service.

According to a blog post from chief officials, U.S, Digital Service (USDS) was impressed by the team of experts, including Dickerson, who turned around the disaster of Healthcare.gov last year. Healthcare.gov was criticized for its site crashes and the unfriendly user interface that made it difficult to sign up for health insurance.

"Last year, a group of digital and technology experts from the private sector helped us fix HealthCare.gov-- a turnaround that enabled millions of Americans to sign up for quality health insurance," Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel wrote. "Mikey was part of the team that helped fix HealthCare.gov last fall and will lead the Digital Service team on efforts to apply technology in smarter, more effective ways that improve the delivery of federal services, information, and benefits."

The former Google engineer's vital role in saving HealthCare,gov earned him the position as Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service and Deputy Federal Chief Information Officer. He will lead a small team that will be "charged with removing barriers to exceptional Government service delivery and remaking the digital experiences that citizens and businesses have with their Government."

The USDS will start with $7 million of funding from the existing 2014 budget. An increase in the budget for 2015 will allow VanRoekel to bring on a "modest" 25 new people for two to four year rotations. President Obama has asked for $20 million for USDS for 2015.

With the launch of USDS, there will also be accompanying guides including a Digital Service Playbook that features "13 key 'plays" for implementing digital government and understanding what people need, and a TechFAR Handbook to advise agencies on federal contracting and procurement approaches.

Dickerson and his team will be in charge of setting standards for the public sector that align with the private sector.

Interestingly, the new USDS very much mirrors the UK's Government Digital Service team.

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