White House Hires Ex-Googler to Make Government Websites Suck Less (We Hope)
From the moment it was born late, HeathCare.gov desperately needed life support. It was practically DOA.
Just six people managed to sign up for health insurance on the site’s disastrous launch day last October. It was basically all downhill from there, as one technical hiccup after another further crippled the flawed federal health insurance exchange.
In the public eye, the president’s Obamacare baby pretty much flatlined. To bring it back to life, or at least to working order, the White House called in a man named Mikey.
His real name is Michael Dickerson, a.k.a. “the invisible man behind Obamacare’s tech surge.” He's an elite tech sniper, if you will. The former Google site reliability engineer and one-time video game programmer was the lead digital “wizard” on the five-person ad hoc “Trauma Team” that resuscitated HealthCare.gov behind the scenes.
Mikey and his dream team saved the day, even if it was too late for Obama to save face. And now our 44th commander-in-chief is hiring him back again, this time to head up his administration’s brand new U.S. Digital Service.
Dickerson’s tall task this time: to make sure a huge embarrassment like the HealthCare.gov debacle never goes down again, not on Obama’s watch. Technically, in close collaboration with 18F, a new “digital government” unit of the U.S. General Services Administration, he’ll be identifying, diagnosing and fixing Uncle Sam’s worst websites and computer services. The White House provides a detailed description of the massive find-and-fix undertaking here.
This isn’t the second time Dickerson will clock hours for Obama. Actually, it’s the third.
Before Dickerson’s near eight-year stint at Google’s Mountain View headquarters, he worked for Obama for America for five months back in 2012. He apparently prefers not to label the role he played in the reelection effort, entering “No Fancy Title, Thanks” on the section describing the experience on LinkedIn. He was part of a three-person team that designed and rolled out the president’s real-time Election Day monitoring and modeling system.
He also hatched fancy algorithms for “targeting national TV cable ads to party preference and behavior and the tool that was used to do it.”
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.