President Joe Biden has signed an executive order that will kickoff modernization efforts at over a dozen different federal agencies, with the end goal being the creation of a more seamless “customer” experience for the average American.
The idea behind modernization is pretty simple. Generally speaking, we all know that dealing with the government sucks. Going to the DMV sucks, doing your taxes sucks, and corresponding with pretty much any kind of government office typically sucks. The government, meanwhile, is aware of this and, so the thinking goes, modernization is supposed to make navigating bureaucracy suck slightly less. In real-world terms, this means taking services that would have typically had to be fulfilled through the mail or via a trip to the local government office and digitizing them.
In fact, the ideal often held up is that of an Amazon-ification of government services, wherein people can quickly click through websites for service delivery rather than being forced to drive down to some cramped, dingy building and stand in an interminable line to do X, Y, and Z.
In this case, the Biden administration has identified a number of areas that will be targeted for modernization, including retirement services, student loans, tax filing and management, disaster relief, travel, and more. Among other things, the order aims to make it possible to renew your passport and claim retirements benefits online, as well as simplify student loan management through a single web portal.
“As part of this framework, the Administration will work to identify and define critical services that meet customers’ needs and expectations, assess performance delivery and report it publicly, incorporate customer feedback during each interaction, and ultimately ensure services deliver a better experience to the public,” the executive order proclaims.
The order has also identified a list of 35 “High Impact Service Providers,” federal agencies and sub-agencies, that must “commit to putting their customers at the center of everything they do.” The list includes the likes of the Social Security Administration, the General Services Administration, and the Department of Education, which, among other things, will be called upon to pilot “new online tools and technologies that can provide a simple, seamless, and secure customer experience.”
Protocol reports that this initiative will rely largely on already existing “technical resources within agencies and within the White House,” like the U.S. Digital Service—a modernization unit launched under the Obama administration.
For a full checklist of the companies which might be being focused for modernization, you may take a look at the White House announcement.