June 15, 2015
After top tech talent from Silicon Valley helped rescue President Obama’s disastrous healthcare website launch, he decided that there was much more that the brightest in Silicon Valley could do for the federal government. According to an interview with Fast Company, the President has been personally recruiting top talent from the the likes of Google and Facebook to build next-generation government services.
President Obama explains that there are a lot of very wealthy techies who feel a civic calling:
“The [Healthcare.gov rescue] results there were so outstanding and because we discovered that there are folks at Google and Facebook and Twitter and all these amazing firms who really wanted to find some way to engage in public service — and many of them could afford to do so because they had done very well.”
So, he and his former Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park, began building an all-star team of technologists to act as a separate startup-like consultancy for the federal government, known as the United States Digital Service. Whenever a government agency needed a big project built (like healthcare.gov), they had the option to pay the USDS to build it, rather than the traditional process of paying a lumbering government contractor.
The USDS sort of sits outside the government bureaucracy: they get paid and recommended if they do a good job. The better the products they build, the more other agencies will want to use them and (presumably) the bigger their budget will be.
“We need both kinds: people who can hack the technology, as well as people who can hack the bureaucracy,” explained Park, about his recruitment strategy.
The USDS is still new, so we won’t know the ultimate impact of this novel government idea for a while. Either way, CEO recruitment of top tech talent isn’t new in the Valley. The heads of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple are known to personally court the scarce resource that is allstar coders. But, it’s hard to imagine that they are more compelling than a personal sit-down with the President of the United States.
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