Modernizing citizen feedback makes for a more united nation

Modernizing citizen feedback makes for a more united nation
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Despite the obvious dysfunction that has resulted in the latest federal shutdown, a quiet, but growing movement is making steady — and yes, even bipartisan — progress in service delivery.

Indeed, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE signed the OPEN Government Data Act and 21st Century IDEA Act in the recent weeks to formalize policies that began in the Obama administration.

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While Washington may be divided now more than ever on how and what national priorities to pursue, leaders from both political parties, across all levels of government are speaking with one voice on a very important issue: the integral need to modernize government.

Since the initial failure of Healthcare.gov, the U.S. government has been on an accelerated journey to improve the way citizens interact with their government.

In addition to modernizing its own digital services, the government is adding a digital front door to invite the private sector in to help build new products to help the American people access, understand and use those services. Here are just a few recent examples: 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) opened up a pathway for private firms like Stride to participate in a marketplace of digital services competing to help consumers find an insurance plan that works for them via a new and improved direct integration with Healthcare.gov.

A dozen federal agencies responsible for aggregating national park information via the re-launched Recreation.gov site also included a digital service that allows retailers like REI to present that information within its Camping Project so that shoppers could both find new gear and a bookable campsite all within the comforts of one integrated experience.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently updated its developer portal, making it easier for application developers to help veterans apply for benefits or support a caregiver seeking ways to improve a veteran’s health condition.

What these three cases demonstrate is that despite today’s polarizing political headlines, the Trump administration is building on the progress of the Obama administration in prioritizing enhanced citizen experiences through digital services and open data.

By embracing digital services, the government is in a better position to listen to the American people at internet speed and incorporate vital feedback to rapidly improve the digital customer experience in partnership with its open-data innovators.

The Small Business Administration (SBA), for example, discovered that its old website was difficult to navigate for users. The data was backed up by both website pages displaying 60-80 percent bounce rates and a user survey where people expressed direct frustration and confusion with the website.

In response, the agency updated its website to be in plain language, disability accessible, mobile-friendly with a built-in feedback mechanism available directly from the website.

In continuing the momentum for improved customer/citizen experience (CX), agencies will need to extend their ability to listen on "dot-gov" sites to the growing ecosystem of applications that serve citizens built upon those digital services.

Such feedback might accelerate the release of more data and services that can be further integrated to simplify citizen interactions. For example, how might pre-populating information from one government agency reduce the time it takes to apply for benefits from another one?

Would a service that recommends colleges that might be right for you based on your FAFSA application and information from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard be useful?

The emerging model for modernizing government is becoming clearer by the day — building more digital services, accessible directly on a government website or through a marketplace of private-sector applications, and hardwiring a culture of continuous feedback to surface opportunities for improvement.

It is a model that transcends party but requires excellence in execution to realize the promise. Now is the time to put our heads down and get to work. The American people deserve nothing less.

Aneesh Chopra was the chief technology officer during the Obama administration and in this role served as an assistant to the president and associate director for technology within the Office of Science & Technology Policy. He is president of CareJourney, which provides analytics and patient data warehousing, and sits on the Public Sector Advisory Board for Medallia