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What’s New in Civic Tech: Meet the U.S. Digital Corps

Plus, the United States Digital Service has named Mina Hsiang to be its third-ever administrator, the Federal Communications Commission has met a new Emergency Broadband Benefit Program milestone, and more.

Washington, D.C.
The federal government has now added the U.S. Digital Corps, another program at the highest level that strives to enhance the government tech and innovation ecosystem.

The U.S. Digital Corps, which will be housed within the U.S. General Services Administration, is specifically a new two-year fellowship program for early career technologists. It will give these folks a chance to work on critical governmental issues with their skills, ranging from coronavirus response to cybersecurity to economic recovery to any of the other issues the federal government must tackle.

As the program notes on its website, “the U.S. government is in the midst of a digital transformation,” and it’s one that perhaps began in 2014 with the creation of the U.S. Digital Service (news about that agency further down) as well as 18F, both of which are also part of the General Services Administration. The work of all these groups — while slightly different from each other — is to modernize the government, using technology to help better serve the people. It is, essentially, the mission at the core of civic tech, held up as well by national nonprofit groups like Code for America.

This new program is similar to others that exist at the state and local level.

Hiring technologists has long been a challenge for government, which has to often compete with better salaries and longer lists of amenities. The idea behind programs such as this one is to give young technologists a chance to feel how rewarding and important government work can be. As the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of digital services has come to the forefront at all levels of government, including federally.

Specific details about what else this program will entail remain vague, but the program’s website promises more info to come in the fall. The Department of Veterans Affairs has separately announced that it will be housing some of the first U.S. Digital Corps members starting in 2022. Interested parties can sign up for email notifications by visiting this website. (Zack Quaintance)

U.S. DIGITAL SERVICE NAMES NEW ADMINISTRATOR


Mina Hsiang is the new administrator of the United States Digital Service (USDS), the group has announced. Hsiang is the third person to hold that position since the USDS was created in 2014. She is the first woman and Asian American to lead the group.

Hsiang brings to the role a mix of experience in the public and private sectors. In government, she served in the Obama administration as a vital member of the rescue team for healthcare.gov. As many in the civic tech space may remember, it was the technical failure of that site that ultimately led to the creation of the USDS and an increased focus on digitizing the federal government.

With the Obama administration, Hsiang went on to serve as the founding executive director of the digital service at the Department of Health and Human Services, where she led work that ranged from precision medicine to Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) implementation.

She was also part of the Biden-Harris transition, working on the COVID-19 Response Team, a role that led to being back in the USDS as senior adviser for delivery. In that position, Hsiang led the delivery team that rolled out vaccines.gov.

Her work in the private sector is also prestigious, focusing largely on health care. She was most recently the vice president of technology products and policy for Devoted Health, an integrated insurance and services startup for seniors. Prior to that, Hsiang led new product development for the analytics division of Optum, a $60 billion health-care tech and services company. (Zack Quaintance)

FCC’S EMERGENCY BROADBAND BENEFIT PROGRAM MEETS MILESTONE


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a milestone met in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, with 5 million households now enrolled. The FCC also announced it would be releasing more enrollment data to increase program transparency and awareness.

The new data will include demographic information on enrollees, including age, eligibility category, type of broadband service and enrollment numbers by ZIP code. This data can be accessed online.

“Information is power,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in the announcement. “We’re ready to put this new data to work.”

The FCC also recently released an advisory to warn people about a website imitating the program’s website. This website was run by “WiFi Freedom USA” and the FCC is working with law enforcement to address the issue.

To learn more about the broadband benefit program, the FCC advises customers to visit the official Emergency Broadband Benefit website. (Julia Edinger)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.