One of the founding members of the White House’s IT SWAT team has joined the Department of Homeland Security to lead its new digital services team.
U.S. Digital Service’s Eric Hysen already had been working with DHS’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for the past year on improving how it processes immigration records, according to a blog he posted on Medium Thursday. He touted his team’s work on the newly redeveloped USCIS Electronic Immigration System, or ELIS, which allows people to renew a permanent resident card or pay immigrant visa fees online.
In his new job, which he began last month, Hysen said in the post he’d be continuing to work with USCIS “as well as taking on new challenges across DHS’s critical missions — everything from facilitating international trade to responding to disasters to improving the federal government’s information security practices.”
A DHS official said that the agency plans to hire several dozen engineers, product managers, designers and other digital experts on the team.
As digital services shops like USDS and the General Services Administration’s 18F have garnered attention, several agencies have made moves to start their own digital services shops. Indeed, Greg Godbout, the former executive director of 18F, released pilot plans for digital services at his new agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, this summer. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is also starting a digital services team.
On Medium, Hysen relates a story about a colleague who found on the floor of a Metro train a discarded list of every government form someone needed to fill out to bring a relative into the country — complete with timelines and costs.
“[S]eeing that crumpled up piece of paper reminded me once again that those numbers represent human beings,” he said. “And that behind every interaction online, there’s a human being making choices, calculations, and trade-offs in the hopes of a better life.”
Hysen, who was a product manager with Google’s civic innovation team before he came to government, ends the post calling for other technologists to help make government better.
“I’m asking you to come join me in building a government where no one is stuck mapping out complex form numbers while sitting on the train.”