Bill Would Set 2-Year Deadline for Agencies to Get Digital

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif Reed Saxon/AP

The 21st Century IDEA would require agencies to have a digital option for all paper-based forms and in-person interactions.

Lawmakers want federal websites to serve citizens better and have introduced new legislation that would set minimum standards and look to lower costs through digitization.

Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, Thursday announced the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, or 21st Century IDEA, which would require agencies to modernize their websites, improve customer experience online and encourage citizens to use digital portals rather than relying on paper and in-person interactions.

“Our bill takes advantage of new and emerging technologies that can drastically improve the way our federal agencies provide critical services to folks across the country, including people with disabilities or those who live in rural areas with limited access to traditional, in-person assistance services,” Ratcliffe said.

If enacted as written, agencies would have one year to adopt the minimum requirements on their current sites. Those standards include:

  • Improving effective and efficient delivery of digital services.
  • Consolidating and personalizing web content.
  • Making information searchable and discoverable.
  • Ensuring secure connections.
  • Ensuring accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
  • Increasing use of web and data analytics to improve website operation and address user needs.
  • Compliance with website standards developed by the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service.

Any new websites that go live after the law passes would have to abide by the standards from day one. The language does not include any kind of grace period for websites currently in production that would go live after a vote.

The legislation also includes mandates to promote the use of digital processes over paper-based and in-person encounters. If passed, agencies would have one year to make sure every paper-based form has a digital, online counterpart and two years to provide a “digital option” for all in-person services.

The department chief information officer would be put in charge of these efforts, including managing processes, identifying funding sources in conjunction with the chief financial officer and conducting user experience testing to make sure the sites and services are meeting customer needs.

“Government exists to serve citizens, and this bill ensures government leverages available technology to provide the cohesive, user-friendly online service that people around this country expect and deserve,” Khanna said.

As of now, there is no companion bill filed in the Senate, according to Khanna's office.