Updated Mar 27, 2018

U.S. Digital Service sees progress under Trump administration

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The United States Digital Service was born during the Obama era, but the federal agency still managed to advance under President Trump and complete a long list of projects in 2017, including the release of software data tools for health care companies (Blue Button 2.0), according to its latest report.

Why it matters: "One big trend that I noticed is that the longer that the Digital Service is at a particular agency…we see more and more appetite from the agency for our services," Matt Cutts, acting administrator of U.S. Digital Service, tells Axios.

Background: The U.S. Digital Service debuted in 2014 as part of the Executive Office of the President, and helps various federal agencies with improving websites and implementing technology. It was created following the technical fiasco of Healthcare.gov.

Modernizing government technology and the methods of delivering services to Americans is a bipartisan priority — and crucially needed, according to Cutts, who joined the agency in June 2016.

  • "I have to admit, I was shocked — when I started, I worked for six months at the Pentagon, and I was shocked that no one had implemented bug bounties. And they've been around since the 90s," he says, adding that the first program was put in place just a couple of months prior to his arrival.

Cutts says his biggest challenge is recruiting, similar to the issues facing the tech industry in general. He says this is a constraint that's keeping the agency from taking on as many projects as it would like.

Go deeper

Pandemic forces startups to shift gears

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Spaces CEO Brad Herman had an early warning about COVID-19 because his startup supplies VR attractions to a number of theme parks in China. Realizing that the business he spent the last few years building was going to evaporate, Herman quickly found a new way to apply his team's know-how: helping companies host Zoom teleconferences in VR.

Why it matters: Many startups are rethinking the viability of their core businesses in the wake of the coronavirus. Spaces' move is one of many such pivots likely to crop up in the coming months.

International coronavirus treatment trial uses AI to speed results

Hydroxychloroquine is one of the drugs that will be included in the trial. Photo: John Philips/Getty Images

The first hospital network in the U.S. has joined an international clinical trial using artificial intelligence to help determine which treatments for patients with the novel coronavirus are most effective on an on-going basis.

Why it matters: In the midst of a pandemic, scientists face dueling needs: to find treatments quickly and to ensure they are safe and effective. By using this new type of adaptive platform, doctors hope to collect clinical data that will help more quickly determine what actually works.

We can't just flip the switch on the coronavirus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It feels like some big, terrible switch got flipped when the coronavirus upended our lives — so it’s natural to want to simply flip it back. But that is not how the return to normalcy will go.

The big picture: Even as the number of illnesses and deaths in the U.S. start to fall, and we start to think about leaving the house again, the way forward will likely be slow and uneven. This may feel like it all happened suddenly, but it won't end that way.