Faced with the politically devastating collapse of HealthCare.gov last year, President Obama’s White House staff lured Mikey Dickerson away from Google to save the day.
Mr. Dickerson will lead a new government team that is intended to identify and fix the government’s other failing computer systems and websites, officials said Monday.
The decision to hire Mr. Dickerson full time is a blunt acknowledgment that even Mr. Obama’s government — with a leadership that embraced technology to win two national elections — has yet to fully adopt a Silicon Valley mind-set when it comes to cutting-edge computer systems and consumer-friendly Internet portals.
It is also a calculated bet that Mr. Dickerson can do from inside the government what he did as an outsider: break through the bureaucratic rules about technology procurement and standardized practices to inject a bit of innovative thinking across agencies.
“It was a very life-changing experience,” Mr. Dickerson said Monday of his role in helping to save the health care website. Speaking in a conference call with reporters, he said that when he was asked to permanently leave his job at Google, “there was really not any way I could say no to that.”
White House officials said Mr. Dickerson would become the deputy chief information officer of the federal government and the administrator of the United States Digital Services Team, a small group of technology experts whose job will be to fix the government’s websites.
Initially, he will lead a small team that will try to help the information technology teams at various agencies produce better websites that people actually want to use. Steve VanRoekel, the federal chief information officer for electronic government, noted the happy experiences people often have when they spend their mornings on Facebook, Amazon or Expedia. “They may not have the same experience spending their afternoon on government websites,” he said in the conference call.
Mr. Dickerson said the goal of his new team was to change that. In addition to announcing his hiring, the White House also released a draft “playbook” that agency technology officers can use to bolster their websites and computer systems. The playbook is drawn in part from what he did at the Department of Health and Human Services last year.
Fixing what ails most government sites, Mr. Dickerson said, is not unlike the task that he faced in the winter of 2013 when he arrived in Columbia, Md., the nerve center of HealthCare.gov.
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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President