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The digital services flash mob

moveForward(100); these 17 characters were the first line of code written by a sitting president. President Obama wrote this code last December during Computer Science Education Week. This code directed a virtual Elsa from the motion picture “Frozen” across the screen. Last week, U.S. tech innovation teams met to share how their projects are moving forward across the federal government.

Cheers and applause erupted as members of the growing federal digital family presented their work at the inaugural moveForward(100); event. This awe-inspiring session was held at the General Services Administration (GSA) headquarters.

The government-employee only event featured the entire digital services family including members of 18F, the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF), the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), the VA Digital Service, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The afternoon event filled with workshopping, lightning talks, and product demos was part pep rally and part brown bag.

“A sort of digital flash mob,” said Ryan Panchadsaram, the federal government’s deputy chief technology officer, as he pumped up the crowd. The objective of moveForward(100); is to regularly demo the awesome work of federal technologists, recently deployed or planned for release in the next 100 days.

“We’re together to revel in the stuff we shipped,” said Hillary Hartley, deputy executive director of 18F, as she greeted the crowd in the GSA conference center. The demonstration session was kicked off by U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. She recognized the tremendous work being done to increase efficiency and transparency across the federal government.

“Getting the techie people connected is one of the most astonishing things we can do to help the American people,” said Smith.

18F and PIF teams shared why certain projects were selected and the impact of the innovative project solutions. The presentations included a PIF project using data and technology to improve community policing; an 18F project resulting in an automated tool that provides better access to Federal Elections Commission data; a tool that streamlines the immigration application process; and a PIF crowd-sourced mapping effort for the U.S. Department of State, which streamlined aid delivery to Nepal’s earthquake-hit remote communities.

18F visual and UX designer Erica Deahl shared how her team is helping the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) redesign the user experience and the content for websites related to immigration and citizenship. USCIS’s website is one of the most visited government websites in the United States, second only to websites devoted to taxes and the weather. Deahl discussed her personal motivation to transform the immigration process.

“My husband and I just finished the green card process,” Deahl said. She elaborated on the complexity of the process and how the process can produce fear and uncertainty. Deahl noted that “we lost our trust in the process.” She expressed the honor to have the opportunity to improve the immigration and visa processes for other families, as well as streamline the workflow for USCIS employees.

Noah Manger, an 18F designer and web developer, discussed his team’s work with the Federal Election Commission. “They’ve been publishing open data since before it was cool,” Manger said. He explained the project and stated that the first order of business was to build an API for the data. The API enabled the FEC team to build applications with the needs of FEC’s users in mind. The team’s ultimate goal is to provide a tool that allows all members of the public — even those without deep knowledge of the election process — to quickly and easily access relevant data.


Leah Bannon, an 18F product manager, and Charles Worthington of USDS highlighted analytics.usa.gov (the public dashboard of government web traffic) as a great example of a collaboration between multiple agencies. The dashboard, built in about three weeks, was a collaborative process between 18F, USDS, OSTP, and GSA’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP).

GSA’s Acting Administrator Denise Turner Roth also greeted the crowd. She shared that a year ago, when she returned to D.C. from North Carolina, she did so with the hope of transforming government. As she cheered with the moveForward(100); group assembled, she said we represent “the government of the 21st century.” Then, Roth took a selfie with the group.

Former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park closed the evening, reminding the group assembled that moveForward(100); was designed “to let everyone know that you’re not alone,” but “a network of awesome.” He continued, “it’s building a better government, and it’s building a better country.”

“You’re restoring the core infrastructure of our civilization,” Park said. “As an American, I love you and salute you.”