Dec 02 2021

How the GSA Plans to Enhance Digital Citizen Services

The General Services Administration has identified 14 projects that will help improve citizen-facing digital government services.

Although it was just $150 million tucked inside the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act Congress passed in March, the Federal Citizen Services Fund (FCSF) was designed to enhance citizen-facing digital services.

Last month, the General Services Administration announced 14 projects that the FCSF would fund across a range of government functions. The GSA’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS) arm will carry out the projects, which are broadly sorted into three buckets: “recover,” “rebuild” and “reimagine.”

The project announcements come as senior government officials have focused on improving the citizen experience via technology. Federal CIO Clare Martorana said last month that she has three goals for how citizens should experience their interactions with the government: “simple, seamless and secure.”

“We’ve got to put customers, citizens and the American public at the center of everything we do,” she said at the Imagine Nation ELC 2021 conference. “We’ve got to deliver service in an exceptional way.”

The Biden administration is also working on an executive order to improve the customer experience across government, Federal News Network reports. In the meantime, the GSA is focused on the 14 projects, which, as FedScoop reports, are “in progress and in some cases have been completed already.” 

“These projects are a prime example of GSA’s commitment to using technology to make sure government can move at the speed of need and deliver for the people and communities we serve,” GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said in a statement. “From making it easier for families to access child care services to helping farmers access debt relief programs, these projects address some of the most pressing issues people face in their daily lives. Combined with efforts like the Technology Modernization Fund, we have an opportunity to make a truly transformative impact and reimagine how we deliver services to the public.”

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GSA Aims to Invest in a Secure, Seamless Digital Government 

A couple of the projects in the “recover” category — where projects are focused on recovery support to the public in the wake of the pandemic — were completed in September, including automating the debt relief processes for farmers and helping families eligible for the increased child tax credit, according to the GSA.

One technology-focused project in this bucket focuses on cloud adoption. “Agency demand for cloud services dramatically increased during the COVID-19 pandemic due to staff working remotely,” the GSA notes. “This increased demand made authorizing cloud services by FedRAMP critical to helping both agencies and the public recover from the pandemic,” referring to the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program.

The TTS is working with FedRAMP to accelerate its “review of new cloud service offerings to address the high demand of requests by agencies for new services and reuse of FedRAMP Authorized cloud offerings.”

Under the “rebuild” category — in which projects are aimed at “rebuilding existing government-wide citizen-facing services to yield a more secure and effective digital public experience with government” — The TTS is working on an identity verification project.

“Government agencies rely on third-party aggregators, like credit bureaus, for identity data validation,” the GSA notes. “This leads to risks around data breaches, monetization of citizen personal information without consent, and duplicative costs when government ends up paying for its own data.”

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As a result, the TTS is developing a shared service dubbed Identity Verification API that will enable identity verification with authoritative government sources, simplify processes and save the government money.

Other projects include building more accessible, mobile-friendly government websites and reimagining usa.gov and usa.gov/espanol as web destinations that centralize government services in one place.

Another is focused on building a talent pipeline for government technologists via the U.S. Digital Corps, which launched in August and is working to bring “skilled, diverse, and mission-driven early-career technologists to the federal government.” The funding will help recruit fellows for “two-year stints with pathways to career service, with the first fellows beginning work at agencies in 2022,” GSA notes.

Finally, the GSA is also going to use the existing 10x program to investigate and test “ideas with the potential to transform government digital service delivery.”

Matt Anderson

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