IDEA Act to Speed the Digital Transformation of the US Government
By Reggie Davis, DocuSign General Counsel, Chief Privacy Officer
Now that congress is on its annual August recess, it’s a good time to take stock of pending digital legislation as well as acknowledge advances that should help make government work better for its citizens.
Recently, a bipartisan group of representatives led by Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-TX) introduced H.R. 5759, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA Act). Companion legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). This legislation would accelerate the digital transformation of the federal government, improve the citizen experience, and save taxpayers a considerable amount of time, money, and hassle by requiring more customer-friendly digital experiences across federal websites and processes.
The IDEA Act comes right on the heels of the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT Act) and the Connected Government Act, both of which passed Congress unanimously in 2017. The MGT Act gets the ball rolling for the federal government to move to secure cloud software services and away from legacy systems. The Connected Government Act requires new and redesigned public-facing websites to be mobile-accessible. The IDEA Act would be the third leg of the modernization stool aimed at improving the digital customer experience (CX) across the federal government.
Specifically, the IDEA Act would:
- Require federal websites to have a modern, consistent look and feel and to be both searchable and accessible to individuals with disabilities.
- Require federal agencies to offer mobile-friendly digital options for all paper-based forms.
- Accelerate the use of electronic signatures by the federal government.
- Make customer experience a priority across the federal government’s IT strategy.
These actions would vastly improve the customer experience for millions of citizens interacting online with the federal government every year, and it would also save taxpayers a considerable amount of money. While this bill has not yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, recent data from the IRS shows that in-person or live assistance calls to the agency cost taxpayers between $40 and $60 on average, while digital transactions cost only $0.22 on average.
It is difficult to overstate the impact that accelerating the use of electronic signatures would have across the federal enterprise. In FY2018 alone, the federal government obligated over $660 billion in grants, of which nearly $600 billion went to state and local governments. According to USAspending.gov, this represents hundreds of thousands of grants, each of which much go thru a complicated signature routing, review, and reporting process. Accelerating electronic signatures in federal grants alone would save hundreds of millions of pages, and millions of dollars in print and postage costs every year. More importantly, it would save everyone weeks if not months in the contracting process, which would allow both grantees and federal agencies to spend more time on their core mission and less time in contracting.
In addition to thanking representatives Khanna and Ratcliffe, as well as Senator Portman, DocuSign would also like to thank the bipartisan cosponsors of the legislation, and our trade groups, the Business Software Alliance, and others, who are strongly advocating for this legislation.
With just 32 percent of federal IT managers reporting that they will be able to meet their agencies’ missions five years from now, modernization of federal IT has never been more urgent. DocuSign recognizes that modernization is deeper than simply migrating applications to the cloud; true modernization involves fundamentally changing business processes and technologies to improve the citizen experience. With that in mind, the 21st Century IDEA Act is a powerful step in the right direction of where agencies should be going. DocuSign wholeheartedly endorses this legislation and we are hopeful that the House and Senate will move swiftly to pass it this year.