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Bipartisan lawmaker duo: It's time to modernize government websites

Bipartisan lawmaker duo: It's time to modernize government websites
© Greg Nash

A pair of bipartisan lawmakers says it is time to give federal government websites a facelift.

Reps. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Lawmakers reintroduce bill to invest billions to compete with China in tech Lawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' MORE (D-Calif.) and John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeTrump alumni launch America First Policy Institute Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Former Trump officials eye bids for political office MORE (R-Texas), in a Wired op-ed piece, argue that the federal government needs to redesign its public-facing websites and make them more functional.

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“It’s no secret that the federal government is way behind the private sector when it comes to modernization and technology,” the duo wrote. “Because of these outdated systems, many federal agencies rank staggeringly behind the private sector when it comes to customer service.”

Khanna and Ratcliffe cited studies saying that Healthcare.gov and USAJobs.gov were tied for the top spot as the worst government websites for customer service. The rankings came on the basis of several factors including the ability to get information, complete transactions and ease of appointment scheduling.

To the two lawmakers, government websites pale in comparison to their private sector equivalents as apps in areas like digital payment and digital booking get better and better.

“For years, the federal government has been playing catch-up with the private sector to adopt online services that become quickly outdated, leading to failures like the IRS’ website crash on Tax Day this year,” they wrote.

Besides being more helpful to consumers they said that they see another benefit: savings.

They cited IRS data showing that helping individuals on the phone costs more than $40 and more than $50 to help over mail. Helping customers via web-based interaction, though, costs just 22 cents though.

“The tools we need to restore the United States’ global leadership in technology and digital government are already at our fingertips,” they wrote. “Now it’s time to act.”