Nearly five years after the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act was signed into law, the Office of Management and Budget late Friday issued guidance for agencies to deliver on implementation of the legislation.
The guidance, called “Delivering a Digital-First Public Experience” (M-23-22) and signed by OMB Director Shalanda Young, sets new standards and actions for agencies as they look to enhance and modernize the way they interact with the American public through digital services and websites — as required by the IDEA Act since 2018.
In a blog post announcing the policy guidance, Federal CIO Clare Martorana rattles off staggering stats about just how bad the federal government is at serving constituents in the digital age.
“Currently, only two percent of government forms are digitized, 45 percent of websites have not been designed to work on mobile devices, and 60 percent of websites are not fully usable by those who use assistive technologies. When people search online for information and services from our government, they get too many results with confusing answers and it’s not clear what they should do next. This is unacceptable. We can and must do better,” she wrote, adding that Americans want to interact with their government the same way they do with innovative commercial companies to order food or bank, “but we don’t consistently make it easy for you.”
The extensive guidance sets a range of requirements agency websites and digital services must adhere to, such as mobile-first design, accessibility standards, consistency of visual design and branding, streamlined and authoritative content written in plain language and optimized for search, and more. This section on web and digital requirements takes up more than two-thirds of the guidance.
In addition to that, the memo sets guidance for the digitization of forms and services, customer experience-driven digital service delivery and standardization from agency to agency.
The new policy, Martorana wrote, is meant to “ensure every interaction between our government and the public, whether it involves filing taxes, applying for a small business loan, or renewing a passport, delivers value, service, and efficiency. When we do that well, we build greater trust in government.”
Over the next 180 days, agencies will be required by this new policy to “address the requirements outlined in this memorandum to the fullest extent practicable when designing new or redesigning existing websites and digital services,” it says.
The guidance also sets in place a handful of other actions agencies must take in shorter time frames, such as identifying a digital experience delivery lead within the next 30 days and identifying any public-facing websites over the next 90 days.
The new guidance comes after in August, FedScoop reported that several current and former federal officials familiar with the matter said the “failure” of senior leaders to prioritize digital experience projects has caused severe delays to the implementation of the IDEA Act.