Reps. Ro Khana, D-Calif., and John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, introduced a bill May 10, 2018, that would require agencies to meet minimum standards for all public-facing websites.

The bill — called the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, or 21st Century IDEA — would give agencies one year to improve the delivery of digital services, consolidate and personalize web content, make information searchable, ensure secure connection, ensure accessibility, increase the use of web and data analytics and comply with web standards established by the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service.

Agencies would also have one year to ensure that paper-based forms are made available in a digital format, two years to provide a digital option for any in-person government service and 180 days to create a plan for increasing the use of electronic signatures on contracts and documents.

“The 21st Century IDEA enables accessible and efficient government resources, reduces production costs, and encourages continuous digital enhancement,” Khanna said in a news release on the bill’s introduction.

“Government exists to serve citizens, and this bill ensures government leverages available technology to provide the cohesive, user-friendly online service that people around this country expect and deserve.”

According to the news release, in-person live assistance calls to the IRS cost between $40 and $60 on average, but digital transactions only cost $0.22. The bill aims to create savings across the IRS and other agencies by capitalizing on the much cheaper cost of digital transactions.

“The federal government exists to serve American people, and the 21st Century IDEA will ensure we’re meeting our citizens’ needs in the most efficient, cost-effective way possible,” Ratcliffe said in the news release.

“Our bill takes advantage of new and emerging technologies that can drastically improve the way our federal agencies provide critical services to folks across the country, including people with disabilities or those who live in rural areas with limited access to traditional, in-person assistance services.”

The bill would make agency chief information officers responsible for enacting the requirements and coordinating with necessary agency officials and other legislative requirements.

The bill has both bipartisan support and the backing of industry experts.

“Citizens deserve access to secure and convenient government services online. Unfortunately, many federal agencies still use outdated, paper-based processes, instead of modern, digital ones. This legislation would steer federal agencies towards developing sites that make government services more efficient, more secure, and easier to use,” said Information Technology and Innovation Foundation Vice President Daniel Castro in the bill’s news release.

Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.

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