Digital government started with launching websites. This special report looks at how federal agencies are rethinking services to put citizens’ needs first.
Decades ago, the earliest digital government projects involved creating the first HTML-based websites for federal agencies so citizens could learn more about government services. Though the technology and platforms vary, modern efforts focus on thinking about citizens as customers first, and satisfying their expectations for government services. And today, more than ever before, agencies are racing to catch up to customers’ expectations from the private sector.
What is digital government? Some examples include the Internal Revenue Service’s e-filing system that lets citizens submit their tax documents online instead of manually; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Emma chatbot that answers simple questions about the immigration process in English and Spanish; and Recreation.gov, a website handles booking for the National Park Services’ outdoor campsites.
In coming years, experts predict voice-controlled virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa can walk a citizen through various application processes. Online forms may adapt to a citizen’s unique history and anticipated needs rather than searching through irrelevant information.
There’s a common theme across these projects: Some federal agencies are trying to reach citizens on the devices they already use to interact with each other and with businesses. These agencies hope citizens will share the same enthusiasm they have for the Domino Pizza mobile app—which summons dinner in a few taps—with the often bureaucratic, paper-intensive processes for government services.