On Tuesday, some of President Obama’s most sweeping reforms to how the government builds websites and other kinds of digital infrastructure moved much closer to becoming permanent.
It’s a big step for the White House, which since 2013 has erected several provisional institutions meant to avert another Healthcare.gov-style debacle. But it’s also a slightly wonky step, so before I get to the news itself, here’s why it’s important.
As far as day-to-day work of actually running a country goes, “government technology services” like Healthcare.gov are both critical and banal. Like going to the post office, they’re how the promise of government turns into lived experience. For many people, buying health insurance isn’t only one of the few interactions they’ll have with the government in a year. It’s also one of the biggest financial decisions they’ll make.
When President Obama was elected, he promised to update and modernize how the federal government approached technology. It was a vintage Obama pitch: optimistic, non-partisan, and focused on improving the quality of governance.
Since then, his team found success building some small, new projects, like the petition site We the People. But it also often failed with heftier projects, like the national health-insurance exchange or the digital infrastructure for Veterans Affairs.