The 21st Century IDEA Act Is Now Law. Here's What It Means.

On December 20, 2018, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (“21st Century IDEA”) was signed into law. As indicated in my previous post, Docusign applauds the congressional leaders – Representatives Ro Khanna and John Ratcliffe, Senators Rob Portman and Claire McCaskill, and the many co-sponsors – who championed this bipartisan, bicameral legislation and saw it through to completion.

This new law requires in part that federal agencies:

  • Offer mobile-friendly digital options for all paper-based forms.
  • Make customer experience a priority in the federal IT strategy.
  • Accelerate the use of electronic signatures.

Now that that the 21st Century IDEA Act is law, it’s worth taking a closer look not only at the advantages it will bring, but also at some of the time-sensitive requirements it places on federal agencies.

First off, the 21st Century IDEA Act is great news for the public.

This act will drive a digital transformation of federal government services by requiring modern, accessible websites, forms, and the use of electronic signatures. This will improve the experience for millions of citizens interacting with the federal government every year. It will also save taxpayer dollars with digital self-service processes that people prefer.

Saurabh Verma, managing director at Acumen Solutions, a leading provider of customer-centric experience solutions for the federal government, agrees:

“There is an incredible opportunity for government agencies to engage citizens and be responsive to their needs through a personalized citizen experience built on their prior government interactions. The government has been talking about doing this for years and the 21st Century IDEA Act gives them a nudge to move in this direction.”

The act includes some very short-term requirements for federal agencies.

In addition to a series of longer-term requirements (over a 1 to 2 year period), the act requires all executive agency heads to deliver a plan to Congress and the OMB within 180 days showing how they will accelerate the use of electronic signatures. These reports are due in June of 2019.

Federal agencies will improve how they deliver critical services to the public.

As but one example, Docusign works with a company called QTC that has helped the Veterans Administration by automating medical evaluations for veterans’ disability claims using electronic signatures. They’ve reduced a 32-hour document completion process to just 2 hours, to help American veterans get the services they need faster.

QTC CIO Nader Nemati adds:

“Based on our experience, accelerating electronic signatures and digital forms in servicing our government and commercial clients not only improves internal productivity, quality and timeliness in delivering services for the clients, but also improves the overall customer experience for those involved in servicing and interacting with the clients. Our stakeholders servicing government and commercial clients spend less time chasing paper and more time focusing on the core mission - and the people we serve."

Agencies will also see significant enhancements in their internal functions.

The City of Palo Alto described a “ripple effect” of efficiencies throughout their operations when they modernized their contracting process with the use of electronic signatures. Their transformation reduced contract turnaround time from up to 14 days to less than 5 days. Expanding these kinds of efficiencies across the federal government will have a dramatic effect.

Beyond operational efficiencies, the act will also trigger hard costs savings.

A single large state agency Docusign has worked with saved $4 million in one year by eliminating the printing of 10,000 documents a day. Across the federal government (which reportedly spends over $38 billion managing paperwork per year), these kinds of savings could scale well into the hundreds of millions, or even higher.

Docusign is uniquely qualified to help agencies meet their 180-day mandates.

Docusign offers eSignature—the world’s #1 way to sign electronically on practically any device, from almost anywhere, at any time. Our System of Agreement Platform is FedRAMP-certified, and our 15 years of experience with over 450,000 customers informs all we do.

We very much welcome the opportunity to consult with executive agency professionals to help them develop their plans to accelerate electronic signatures in accordance with the 21st Century IDEA Act.

To learn more about the 21st Century IDEA Act, go to