’SWAT team of technology’ modernizing federal government and recruiting Ohio workers

The U.S. Digital Service is a tech startup out of the White House.
Updated: May. 22, 2019 at 5:58 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It's been called the “swat team for technology"-- and you've probably never heard of it.

The United States Digital Service is a tech startup out of the White House, and some of the people behind the computer screens are from right here in Ohio.

They call themselves "bureaucracy busters."

The U.S. Digital Service is working behind the scenes to fix any problems that come up with federal services online.

The U.S. Digital Service works near the White House in Washington D.C.
The U.S. Digital Service works near the White House in Washington D.C.(U.S. Digital Service)

The rollout of Obamacare in 2014 didn’t go so smoothly online, and that led to the formation of the U.S. Digital Service, or USDS.

Top coders and tech workers are helping simplify the government for you.

19 News spoke with one of their engineers, from Northeast Ohio, on how their work can benefit us here.

“We look at services when things go wrong, services go down, when databases crash, when data gets lost. We come in and then we analyze that and try to figure out what happened, put it back up to right and take lessons from that,” said Chris Pimlott, a U.S. Digital Service engineer from Cleveland Heights.

USDS had a booth at Pycon, a tech programming conference held recently in downtown Cleveland.

“A service or software or anything, it doesn't work until it does what the people who use it need it to do,’ Pimlott said.

He says the government is learning from tech giants like Google and Facebook.

People like him come from the private sector, and work "tours of service" at USDS for a year or two.

They're modernizing federal services for veterans, the military, students, small business owners and Medicare patients.

“We want everyone to be able to access these services and be more productive, have a better economy, have a better standard of life,” Pimlott said.

Local and state governments are now learning from their model.

The city of Austin created the Office of Design and Delivery modeled after USDS.

They use a form system that USDS created to make online reporting of police complaints easier.

Local governments often don't have the money and resources the federal government has, so USDS is helping create tools and guides from them to follow if they need help.

“These are problems that, we can try to tackle them once and then share what we've learned and share our tools,” Pimlott said.

Right now the U.S. Digital Service is working on projects at the Department of Defense, the VA and FEMA.

They have about 180 people on their team. Five of them are from Ohio.

USDS is made up of 50 percent women and 50 percent men.

They’re recruiting too.

More than 10 people applied for jobs with USDS when they were here in Cleveland. You can read an overview on where in the country they have recruited from here.

If you’d like to get involved in a similar mission here in Ohio, check out Open Cleveland and the Columbus Digital Service. They are not affiliated with USDS, but work with local governments and nonprofits with their knowledge of the tech sector.

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