March 14, 2019

Harris Introduces Legislation to Jumpstart Digital Innovation in Government

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday introduced the Digital Service Act, legislation to empower state and local governments to invest in “digital services,” small teams of technologists, designers, and civil servants who will update and rebuild government systems. The legislation will also bolster the United States Digital Service (USDS), which since 2014 has completed over 100 projects improving the federal government’s ability to serve the American people while saving taxpayers billions.

“Americans deserve a government that works for them and that just plain works,” said Harris. “We must do more to empower our state and local governments to tap into the power of technology to provide seamless, cost-effective services for the 21st century. The Digital Service Act will help harness top talent for the government, save taxpayer dollars, and put the power of technology to work on behalf of the American people.”

The Digital Service Act would:

  • Authorize $50 million annually for the United States Digital Service.
  • Authorize $15 million annually for state and local governments to receive two year seed grants to establish and strengthen digital services.
  • Require at least 50% of each grant to be used for talent rather than technology.
  • Require grantees to report on outcomes before the end of the two-year period.
  • Require the USDS to report to Congress on the impact of grants bi-annually.

Supporters of the Digital Service Act include Code for America and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

“For too long, we have neglected the machinery of government. The Digital Service Act represents an opportunity to help government move fully into the digital age — to get better outcomes that cost less and, ultimately, rebuild faith and trust in our public institutions. The Digital Service Act would be an important step towards making government truly work for all Americans,” said Jennifer Pahlka, Executive Director of Code for America and former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer.

“The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) is proud to support the Digital Service Act introduced by Senator Harris. It captures the spirit of American technological innovation together with the tested service delivery model of the United States Digital Service (USDS) in order to bring transformative solutions to the state and local level. Modeled after the USDS and its successful efforts to revamp how veterans and Medicare recipients engage with federal agencies, the bill provides cost-sharing grants to state and local governments to build teams of technologists, engineers, designers, and civil service workers to overcome a specific challenge with a focused digital solution,” said Chris Calabrese, Vice President for Policy at CDT.

For further background on the bill, click here.

For full bill text, click here.