Even the White House Needs IT Services

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A change is happening in the White House. Mikey Dickerson, a Google site reliability engineer, has just been appointed by the United States government as the deputy federal CIO, proving that even the big wigs need consulting from time-to-time.

One of Mikey Dickerson’s primary goals as the deputy federal CIO is to “help government IT function more like a private sector.” His services were requested following the launch of Healthcare.gov, President Barack Obama’s troubled golden healthcare initiative. To those who have been living under a rock, Healthcare.gov has practically been down more than it has been available since its October release date in 2013. The unfortunate truth is that the lack of technical attention paid to the $1billion+ website has put President Obama’s Affordable Care Act at greater risk than it already was.

Dickerson let his thoughts be known about the Healthcare.gov website in June at a healthcare conference, where according to Computerworld, “In 18 minutes [Dickerson] did more to explain what happened at Healthcare.gov than all of the government reports and congressional hearings combined.”

But, more importantly, beneath Dickerson’s critique of the government site, he also advised computer engineers to seek jobs within the government. The Healthcare.gov debacle was a great example of how bringing some of the United States’ top IT talent into the government can advise the higher-ups on best technical practices. Dickerson is also to run the “U.S. Digital Service,” which is supposed to improve the way that the federal government develops new IT endeavors.

Dickerson ultimately broke down the failure of the website into four primary issues:

  • Healthcare.gov depended on dozens of vendors and products. While they were supposed to be working together, their fragmented nature only drove each of them further apart.
  • Nobody was monitoring the site when it came time to launch it.
  • The companies that built Healthcare.gov were inexperienced and had never built that type of site before. They had no clue that the service provided by the website would be practically unavailable.
  • The government’s environment isn’t exactly technology engineer-friendly. That might sound strange, but according to Dickerson, “Some [engineers] are going to be willing to put on a shirt and tie in order to work on this mission, and some of them are not.”

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