Government websites and digital services got one in the win column late last year when the President signed The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) into law. A bipartisan, bicameral initiative spearheaded in the House, the 21stCentury IDEA requires federal agencies to provide better digital experiences for citizens by setting minimum standards for accessibility, user experience, and security of government websites.
The bill also sets aggressive timelines for agency compliance with modernization priorities, including:
- Ensuring website consolidation and adherence to web design standards
- Improving accessibility and 508 compliance
- Leveraging data analytics and human-centered design principles
- Digitizing government services, forms, and signatures
- Prioritizing customer experiences and mobile-first strategies
This legislation is human-centric at its core, and we couldn’t be more excited for what this means for our Federal customers’ ability to respond to constituent needs. U.Group, through its origins as CHIEF and ByteCubed, has been supporting government organizations in their modernization efforts for over 30 years. In fact, our coming together and launch of the U.Group brand was born out of a deep commitment to the principles laid out in the 21st Century IDEA—and that starts with designing to meet the demands of a digital-first world. With the mandates in place, our goal is to work with agencies, CIOs, and internal digital service and web teams to ensure compliance with our nation’s new digital strategy and keep them out ahead of future digitization efforts.
And agencies had better not blink—they will have 180 days to ensure compliance for any recently completed or ongoing government website redesigns and digital services. The 21st Century IDEA sets a tight deadline for agency heads, as well; within one year they must submit a report to Congress that details and prioritizes the existing digital services constituents use the most, and budget and schedule estimates for modernization. The bill also requires agencies to audit all in-person and paper-based services that could be digitized and detail a rollout plan and budget request within 180 days. We’re delighted that agencies’ efforts to improve digital services will present an opportunity to examine ways to enhance all their offerings—especially as service design is a capability we have unique expertise in.
How will the government manage this type of mandatory modernization? Each agency will be required to designate its CIO or a senior official whose primary responsibility is to ensure the implementation of 21st Century IDEA requirements. This includes coordinating and ensuring alignment of the agency’s customer experience programs, monitoring digital service delivery, and providing recommendations on digital service delivery and customer experience improvements.
CIOs in agencies without in-house digital services teams may find themselves under-resourced and unable to comply with the legislation. To keep senior government officials focused on mission-critical work, agencies are going to need strong, experienced implementation partners like U.Group who have deep technical and strategic planning expertise to ensure the requirements of the 21stCentury IDEA are carried out effectively.
U.Group’s capabilities in these areas come not only from years of working with government agencies—but also inside them. In addition to my work standing up 18F and bringing a similar model to the Canadian Government, U.Group team members in all areas of our business have spent time at federal agencies like the State Department, GSA, and USDA and we are passionate about providing modernized access to government websites and systems. We have a deep understanding of what our fed friends are up against and what it takes to get things done there.
And we’re not just up for the challenge—we’re energized by it. We’re thrilled that our nation’s legislators are committed to closing the gap between the demands of a digital population and our government’s current digital service delivery model. This is hugely important work that could fundamentally change the way people interact with government online—and it just so happens to be in our sweet spot. We’re proud to be a part of the movement to make government services more accessible, more powerful, and more responsive to citizen needs.
Do you have 21st IDEA or other digital service needs? Get in touch. We’d love to chat.