South by Southwest: One Year Later

By: Mikey Dickerson, Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service

Last year, I stood on stage at South by Southwest to share the story of the U.S. Digital Service and deliver a simple message: we need you to join us. The team was about 40 people and just getting started on using design and technology to deliver better digital services to the American people.

One year later, my boss bumped me from the podium, but I’m proud to share all the progress we’ve made. For starters, our team has grown to 140 strong, distributed across a network of teams throughout the federal government. In addition to the U.S Digital Service team at The White House, we’ve started teams at Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense, while also partnering with the Department of Education, Social Security Administration, Department of State, and Health and Human Services.

When we started the U.S. Digital Service, we promised to bring the speed and agility of Silicon Valley to the federal government, and I’m happy to say the team has accomplished quite a bit already. We have made it easier for veterans to access the benefits they need, improved the tools immigrants use to pursue their American dream, helped 20 million citizens get health care under the Affordable Care Act, released a new tool for comparing college performance with an open data API, developed a new curriculum to teach the first class of digital service acquisition specialists, and contributed to the nation’s data security.

Since I last took the podium, there’s been a lot of change, but my message remains the same: we still need you to join us. For every project we’ve tackled, there are five more waiting for talented people to take them on.

I know only too well that the thought of leaving behind what may be a very comfortable lifestyle even for a short tour of duty, is a lot to ask. And I’ll be honest: this can be the most frustrating and difficult work you’ll ever do.

But I also know many of you are looking for a real opportunity to have an impact on the world. If I have tried to recruit you before, you know I make very few promises, but I do promise one thing. When you work at the U.S. Digital Service, you change the lives of millions of Americans. Every day.

And you still don’t have to wear a suit.