Digital Firm from UK Has Key Role in State Site Overhaul

The state Government Operations Agency and the California Department of Technology are working with Code for America and a UK-based digital transformation firm to redesign the state's online home, CA.gov. Once revamped, the site is scheduled for its public unveiling by the end of February.

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The company that’s helping to redesign state government’s online home is a British company that was chosen by Code for America as a subcontractor.

Code for America, a nonprofit, chose Public Digital, a UK-based firm that describes itself as "a digital transformation consultancy," as a subcontractor for the website overhaul. Code for America's contract with the state is for two years and up to $1,827,916. 

Working with Public Digital and a state IT team that's being assembled, the state Government Operations Agency (GovOps) and the California Department of Technology (CDT) are overseeing what they call the “re-imagining” of CA.gov, the state’s main online portal. The intent is to make the site clearer and easier for the public to use.

Angelica Quirarte, assistant secretary for Digital Engagement in GovOps, is the agency’s designated “product owner,” and she’s working on the project with CDT, as she explained last week in a commentary that was published on Medium.com and republished by Techwire.

The state chose Code for America as the contractor for the overhaul of the website, using the California Multiple Award Schedules (CMAS). 

“As the primary subcontractor, Public Digital’s work includes a diagnostic of CA.gov’s current state, developing a road map that puts into practice the open, iterative, agile, user-centered approach that’s the heart of the process, and real-time support for our team throughout,” explained J.P. Petrucione, director of communiations for GovOps' Office of Digital Innovation.

Public Digital has completed a number of high-profile projects for countries around the world, according to its website:

  • It helped in the digitization of Argentina's drivers' licenses within 65 days.
  • It advised New South Wales on building an Internet-compatible Finance Ministry.
  • It played a role in the setup of a new innovation and prototyping lab inside Peruvian conglomerate Intercorp.
  • It assisted the Canadian government in the setup of the Ontario Digital Service, a project similar to the one Public Digital is doing for California. 
The CA.gov undertaking is an ambitious one, Quirarte noted last week in a commentary.

“This vision is championed by the Governor’s Office and the leaders from the Government Operations Agency and the California Department of Technology,” Quirarte wrote. “This is not business as usual.”

GovOps also put out a call for participants — state workers and others who would like to work on the project for 12 to 14 weeks, essentially while on loan from their home agencies. The project timetable calls for work to start this month and to have a website ready for public traffic by the end of February. The agency posted an online form where those interested may find out more and apply.

“We’ve already identified a product owner, interaction designer, developer, technical architect and team success manager,” Quirarte wrote. “Over the coming months, these passionate, committed public servants, technologists and others will be working on an Alpha that prioritizes user needs and shows how government can better use digital to better serve Californians. Our multidisciplinary team will be composed of staff from state agencies and outside subject matter experts in user research and design. It will be empowered to try new things to reimagine how things are done in government. It will work in the open, documenting our progress (and, yes, failures) as we design our product.”

Michael Wilkening, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s special adviser on Innovation & Digital Services, touted Public Digital’s involvement in the project.

“We’re excited to be working with Public Digital on this,” Wilkening told Techwire last week through a spokesperson. “Public Digital’s partners were the founders of the UK Digital Service, which developed GOV.UK, and they work with governments around the world on projects like this.”

Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.