As reported recently by Georgetown Public Policy Review (10 Years Later: Reviewing the Promise of a Tech-Forward U.S. Government), while the federal government has attempted various digital operations, the results have been mixed. The mixed results may be due to a lack of talent, foresight, or the difficulty of building in new digital realms
Over the last several years, there have been successes and failures in the federal government’s attempt to reorient its digital operations.
In late 2013, the federal government introduced the healthcare marketplace, healthcare.gov, as the primary tool to sign up for this healthcare option.
Almost immediately, the site experienced difficulties, crashing for many users. Healthcare.gov was a technology project overseen by the federal government and built by a team of contractors. This debacle – and the resulting public embarrassment – led to the realization that by outsourcing technological needs to contractors, the government had allowed itself to be lacking the expertise of technological innovation.
However, this incident offered the chance to absorb a critical realization: technical expertise could no longer be outsourced or be an accessory to achieving policy objectives.
The United States Digital Service (USDS) was officially launched in August 2014 and describes itself as a diverse group working across the federal government to improve essential services.
The successes of USDS (and other governmental entities) have changed the government’s technological abilities and operation. And they have learned a great deal from complicated projects like Healthcare.gov, as well as the very successful rollout in 2021 of COVIDTest.gov.
Indeed, the federal government has made noteworthy progress in 10 years. Still, more development is needed to continually increase skill sets, ensure long-term capabilities in new areas such as data science and AI, and safeguard that new initiatives and programs form a cohesive government-wide effort.