18F to help Wisconsin with UI tech

Many states have buckled under the pressure of delivering benefits to surges of claimants during the pandemic using antiquated technology. 18F is set to help Wisconsin modernize its unemployment insurance technology using agile procurement.

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Government digital services shop 18F is going to help guide Wisconsin through the procurement process to modernize the state's unemployment insurance system. The General Services Administration announced the partnership with the state's Department of Workforce Development on Thursday.

The goal is to issue at least one request for proposal and select a vendor team or teams within 10 weeks of starting the project. 18F will specifically be supporting with the state with user research, creating a procurement package, drafting a solicitation, picking qualified vendors and prototyping. The state workforce agency will do the final buys.

The pandemic and accompanying surge in unemployment claims has laid bare vulnerabilities in state unemployment technology as states try to implement policy changes and respond to waves of claimants simultaneously. Many states have decades-old IT systems for benefits delivery.

Last April, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and 15 Democratic colleagues urged congressional leaders to address these types of problems by supporting federal acquisition assistance to states via 18F and the U.S. Digital Service as part of a pandemic relief package.

The normal funding and acquisition processes of procuring massive technology updates up-front can hobble modernization projects that some say would be better served by iterative development and smaller updates over time.

18F says it plans on using a modular contracting and agile procurement strategy for this project.

"By bringing more agile methodologies to the establishment and delivery of contracts we can de-risk the acquisition process for both government and industry," said  Dave Zvenyach, director of the Technology Transformation Services at GSA, in a statement about the partnership.