ITIF calls for watchdog to assess critical agencies’ progress on digital experience

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The Government Accountability Office should investigate why the 35 agencies providing vital services or with large customer bases haven’t all met 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act requirements, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation recommended in a report released Monday.

Known as high-impact service providers (HISPs), the agencies should have their website modernization, connection security, data analytics deployment, form digitization, service mobile friendliness, and electronic signature use evaluated against the 21st Century IDEA.

Signed into law in 2018, the 21st Century IDEA requires all agencies to modernize their websites, digitize services and forms, and transition to centralized shared services to improve customer experience (CX), which was also the focus of a December 2021 executive order. But ITIF found HISPs’ digital services adoption remained “too low” based on those requirements.

ITIF is a nonprofit that was founded in 2006 with the mission to formulate, evaluate and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation and boost productivity in government.

“Most HISPs have expressed lip service in employing digital services to enhance customer experience, but greater digital adoption requires more substantial commitment and greater accountability by HISPs — and, as the following conclusion suggests, greater access to funding — to turn these plans into reality,” reads ITIF’s report. “As it stands, many HISPs are not fully complying with executive guidance or laws such as 21st Century IDEA.”

ITIF found that only one-third of HISPs had websites compliant with government’s resource for accessible, mobile-friendly websites: the U.S. Web Design System.

No HISPs and only nine other agencies used the U.S. Digital Service’s compliant publishing platform, Federalist.

Government’s shared-service search engine, Search.gov, only supported half of HISP websites and 35% of all agencies’, and fewer used login.gov for identity and access management.

Among HISPs, two websites weren’t mobile-friendly, and only 10 had native mobile apps — generally rated worse than popular commercial apps.

“The low level of digital services adoption impacts customer satisfaction,” reads the report. “A GAO investigation and corresponding report would highlight these shortcomings and provide HISPs with greater incentive to accelerate adoption of digital services that have been proven to improve overall customer experience.”

Government ranks last in customer experience among 13 industries with most customers reporting “poor” or “very poor” experiences, according to Forrester’s U.S. 2022 Customer Experience Index.

ITIF recommends Congress help by removing regulatory hurdles like rules preventing data sharing between agencies and the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which should be automated to accelerate agencies’ cloud migrations. Passing the Advancing Government Innovation with Leading-Edge (AGILE) Procurement Act would also help.

The Office of Management and Budget can help by standing up a task force to evaluate HISP digital platforms’ CX, requiring more thorough reporting on digital services adoption from HISPs, and earmarking Technology Modernization Fund money explicitly for HISP CX, according to the report.

ITIF also advises HISPs integrate feedback surveys across digital channels to collect more CX, in addition to using existing data from the Federal Digital Analytics Program.

“Currently, OMB and HISPs aren’t collecting enough feedback on customer satisfaction with digital services, making it difficult to continuously improve websites and apps based on customer needs,” reads the report.

-In this Story-

21st Century IDEA, customer experience (CX), Government Accountability Office (GAO), high-impact service providers (HISPs), ITIF, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), U.S. Digital Service
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