Bill Would Mandate Mobile-Friendly Federal Websites

Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill

Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill Flickr user Science Democrats

Federal agencies need to be able to reach Americans who only access the internet on their mobile devices, Rep. Robin Kelly said.

Legislation introduced into the House of Representatives last week would require all new and redesigned federal websites be mobile friendly.

Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, authored the Connect to Government Act.

Kelly said districts like hers, which includes parts of urban Chicago and rural Illinois farming communities, suffer from patchy broadband. They are severely impacted by the federal government’s poorly designed websites, 40 percent of which are not mobile friendly, according to a recent study by tech-focused think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

Citing research from Pew that states 10 percent of Americans are mobile-only internet users, Kelly said federal websites are woefully out of date and failing to connect with citizens in the same ways innovative private-sector companies do.

“In 2017, it’s unreasonable that one in 10 Americans cannot connect with their government because they only use mobile devices,” Kelly said in a statement. “This bill is a common-sense fix that brings government websites into the 21st century. No business or organization would build a website without mobile optimization, why should the government?”

Federal websites routinely come under scrutiny.

ITIF’s study sampled 300 federal websites and found 36 percent passed a speed test for loading websites on mobile devices. In total, more than 90 percent of websites failed at least one standard for mobile friendliness, loading time, security or ease of use for people with disabilities. 

If enacted, Kelly’s legislation would codify existing Office of Management and Budget policy developed by the Obama administration. Yet, most agencies have only been spurred to optimize their websites when a critical need arises. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for example, recently optimized its website for mobile users after the agency realized many potential immigrants were viewing website content from mobile devices and tablets, not desktop computers.

Kelly’s co-sponsor for the bill is Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and a spokesperson told Nextgov she’s hopeful the legislation will earn bipartisan support from tech-savvy Republicans. Kelly was one of many Democrats who supported IT modernization legislation authored by Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, that will soon come to the House floor.