US Digital Team Reaches Across Pond to Share Code, Best Practices

U.S. Digital Service Administrator Mikey Dickerson

U.S. Digital Service Administrator Mikey Dickerson Flickr user O'Reilly Conferences

The administration plans to send members of the U.S. Digital Service to meet with their British counterparts in the Government Digital Service.

The federal government’s in-house geek squad is strengthening ties with similar innovators overseas as part of an “ongoing digital partnership” between the U.S. and the U.K., Obama administration officials announced Friday.

“Both countries have made real progress in working to improve how our governments use digital services to better serve citizens and businesses and to build a stronger digital economy,” said Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan and Federal Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith in a White House blog post.

As part of the expanded effort, the administration plans to send members of the U.S. Digital Service, including Administrator Mikey Dickerson, to the U.K. to meet with their British counterparts in the Government Digital Service there.

The U.S. and U.K. digital teams are also now sharing open source code they develop as part of their digital projects, the officials said.

The teams “will continue to work together to share best practices and tackle shared challenges,” Smith and Donovan said in the blog post.

The announcement of the digital partnership came as U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron visited the White House to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss a range of issues, including cybersecurity policy.

The White House created USDS last summer in the wake of the debacle to help agencies more smoothly roll out digital projects -- and fix any glitches before they got out of hand.

The British tour could prove an opportune learning experience for the fledgling USDS, which has maintained a relatively low profile until now.

U.S. officials acknowledge the creation of USDS was “in many ways modeled” on the British office.

Prior to the 2011 creation of GDS, the British government found itself in a scenario not unfamiliar to public-sector tech officials stateside: spending on IT “like a drunken sailor” and a cluttered hodgepodge of more than 1,500 websites promising to connect citizens with government services.

GDS consolidated all government information and services into a single website -- GOV.UK --  and continues “disrupting the British public sector in an energetic, creative and effective way,” according to The Guardian.

The GDS workforce has also now grown to some 500 staffers -- nearly five times the size of USDS and the General Services Administration’s 18F innovation agency, combined.

In addition to the confab between the digital teams, the partnership announced Friday also includes a focus on open government initiatives and expanding high-tech training opportunities for the “next generation of digital experts.”