As a brand new two-year federal fellowship for early-career technologists, the U.S. Digital Corps will give the next generation a chance to make an impact in important areas, like covid response, economic recovery, cybersecurity, and streamlining government services.
There are great opportunities for experienced tech talent to serve in term-limited roles in government, like the U.S. Digital Service, the Defense Digital Service, 18F, and Presidential Innovation Fellows. I had the privilege of helping start and scale the Presidential Innovation Fellows in the Obama White House — which was subsequently codified by bipartisan legislation — and we knew that the ingenuity of the American people is one of our nation’s greatest strengths. But there hasn’t been — until now — a focused program to get technologists into government at the start of their careers.
The need for the next generation of technologists to serve is clear: only 3% of the federal technology workforce is under 30 years of age, and 26% are women. According to the U.S. Digital Corps website:
“The U.S. government is in the midst of a digital transformation. We need skilled junior technologists with experiences and identities that reflect the diversity of America to join the public servants already at work modernizing and simplifying government services — reaching and improving the lives of all Americans.”
Today, tech delivers key government services to hundreds of millions of Americans, from stimulus checks to federal student loans. We’ve seen how crucial working government technology is during the pandemic — from unemployment insurance enrollment to vaccine registration to distributing rent assistance to prevent evictions. It’s simple: we need America’s best and brightest technologists — including those early in their career — working to make interacting with government as easy as ordering a package online.
Co-founded by Chris Kuang, Caitlin Gandhi, and Masha Danilova, the U.S. Digital Corps will have a program office in GSA, like the Presidential Innovation Fellows. Digital Corps fellows will be embedded in other federal agencies, partnered with dedicated civil servants and experienced technologists. According to the press release:
“The U.S. Digital Corps will recruit Americans with skill sets in software engineering, data science, design, cybersecurity, and other critical technology fields to kickstart their careers in federal service. The Digital Corps will launch this fall with 30 fellows expected to begin work in FY22 at more than five agencies across the federal government. Initial host agencies include GSA, Veterans Affairs, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.”
On a personal note, I’ve known Chris Kuang since he was a freshman at Harvard when he and classmates started Coding It Forward, a nonprofit by and for young people creating new opportunities in civic tech. It has been tremendously rewarding to be an advisor to him and the team, and to get to know so many of the Civic Digital Fellows over the years. The continued success of Coding It Forward under Rachel Dodell and Ariana Soto, placing over 100 student technologists this summer in federal and local government agencies, continues to show that the next generation wants to serve — and that it is possible to make a difference in only 10 weeks. Imagine, what is possible in two years?
From my experience teaching a field class about Technology and Innovation in Government, as well as advising students clubs like the Harvard Open Data Project and Harvard Computer Society’s Tech For Social Good, I’ve seen how passionately the next generation of tech talent wants to serve in government. We need to make it easier for them to do so.
We need the energy, skills, and diversity from across the country to make government work better. Whether you are coming out of college, graduate school, a bootcamp, or another training program, it’s simple: Uncle Sam needs you! I’m confident the U.S. Digital Corps will be a fantastic opportunity for early-career coders, designers, and hackers to serve their country.
Check out the U.S. Digital Corps website and sign up for their mailing list to get more information about the program and the application.