Citizen Engagement, Federal Government

The 21st Century IDEA Became Law … What Now?


It’s hard to overstate the significance of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA), which was passed by both chambers of Congress in December and signed into law by President Trump. In conjunction with last year’s Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT), the federal government has made a firm, tangible and bipartisan commitment to improving digital service delivery to the public.

The 21st Century IDEA focuses on five core areas related to the public’s online experience: website modernization, digitization of government services and forms, electronic signatures, customer experience, and standardization.21st Century IDEA Web Banner_NewBlog 300x300

Over time, the public should expect to see dramatic improvements in the way they interact with the government, as agencies implement the mandates laid out in the 21st Century IDEA legislation. The gap between their experience with private-sector companies and public institutions should narrow.

Here are just a few ways the 21st Century IDEA will have an impact:

Calls for a Customer-Driven Mindset

The 21st Century IDEA asks agencies to look holistically at their public-facing digital assets. In effect, they’re being directed to conduct an audit of existing websites and digital services. Specifically, they have a year from the legislation’s enactment to report back to Congress on which sites and services are most-used and/or critical for public engagement. Moreover, they’re required to prioritize the sites most in need of modernization, along with the costs necessary to accomplish modernization and, notably, a timeline for achieving modernization.

These are the first steps to a complete and total transformation of the customer experience. The 21st Century IDEA establishes a starting point and makes clear the emphasis on citizen-satisfaction. Moving forward, agencies will encounter tremendous opportunities to study and improve on private sector models. Ultimately, citizens will enjoy the benefits of their creative solutions.

Prioritizes Accessibility

With its focus on the customer experience, the 21st Century IDEA is a benefit for agencies eager to make services more accessible. Within two years from the legislation’s enactment, agencies must ensure that any form or process used to serve the public also be available as a digital option. This doesn’t signal the end of paper; it means that constituents will have more control over how and when they interact with agencies.

Makes Room for Leadership

Built into the 21st Century IDEA are several mandates designed to create accountability and transparency. For instance, it calls on the Chief Information Officer of each executive agency to ensure the funding and implementation of the Act. Yet, the details are left to individual agencies and their creative partners, in what amounts to a strong and explicit call for leadership.

For example, the 21st Century IDEA directs agencies to accelerate the use of electronic signatures and requires them to submit plans detailing how they’ll increase adoption. As agencies develop their roadmaps to implement that directive and others, there are opportunities for true innovation – technological, procedural, regulatory or legislative – that didn’t exist before.

It All Adds Up

The 21st Century IDEA is a truly aspirational and transformative piece of legislation. It gives agencies a firm statutory basis for putting the customer front-and-center, with an aim to transform digital experiences and positively impact the relationship between government and citizens.

Functional and accessible website designs, paired with seamless back-end workflows, aren’t an end in themselves. Rather, they’re part of an overall customer experience that will transform the way citizens interact with the government and build trust and confidence in the government’s ability to deliver services.

Moreover, by identifying specific areas of the customer experience to improve, the 21st Century IDEA arms agency executives with the means to advocate for more resources internally to meet these initiatives and drive their missions forward.

To learn more about how agencies are combining people, process, and technology to deliver exceptional digital experiences, join us at the 2019 Adobe Digital Government Symposium, May 9, in Washington, D.C.

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