Posted by Jace Johnson, Vice President of Global Government Affairs and Public Policy
Note: This op-ed first appeared in The Hill on February 14, 2018
While Congress has taken some critical steps to improve government IT systems by passing the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT Act), which makes it easier for agencies to make new investments in technology by establishing a $250 million Technology Modernization Fund, and the Connected Government Act that requires federal agencies to build websites that are mobile friendly – there is a lot more that they can do.
With trust in government at an all-time low – policymakers need to think of new ways to restore the public’s trust. Recently, Adobe and WPP released a study that benchmarks how governments in seven countries are currently performing in their online service delivery – in short, citizens want government to shift from a legacy mindset to a citizen-centric mindset. People want digital services tailored to them that facilitate a relationship and a dialogue with government – like the ones they receive from private sector companies.
Improving government services by moving them online was a good first step that has been many years in the making. It began the important move towards improving ease of use to citizens and reducing the cost of services for taxpayers. This has been born out by the data, which shows that the average in-person government transaction costs $16.90, while the average digital government transaction is $0.40, according to research from Deloitte.
Now, the research suggests that government needs to focus less on simply delivering a service online and more on experiences that are personal and relevant to the user. The current legacy approach thinks of digital experiences as completing a clunky transaction on a website or an app. The innovation mindset envisions seamless, fulfilling and citizen-centric online services that complement each other whether they occur online or at an agency’s field office. This mindset helps government generate a virtuous cycle of engagement and trust with citizens.
Well-designed digital services should focus on providing a delightful citizen journey that is mobile-optimized, so it is responsive across smartphones, tablets, and desktops with a design that is easy to navigate. Perhaps most importantly, the content should be relevant to the needs of each user and should reinforce the relationship between the citizen and the provider.
For example, approximately 1 million people live and work in San Francisco. For years, paying property taxes was a particularly complicated task in San Francisco, resulting in numerous delinquent payments—and a lengthy waiver process that was a burden for the public and the local government. To solve this problem, the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector for the City and County of San Francisco consolidated four legacy payment portals into a single system, making it easier for individuals and organizations to pay taxes. The office has nearly halved the time needed to create and send property tax bills while eliminating errors through automation. And by clarifying payments, taxpayers are filing fewer waivers and delivering more payments on time. Doing little things like providing pre-filled tailored information, instant online communication for help, and additional relevant information that is unique to users makes a big difference.
To make this a reality, Congress should take steps to designate and ensure every agency has a chief experience officer (CXO) or senior agency official who can work across departments and focus on making it easier for citizens to access the information and services they need. The federal government spends millions of dollars building websites, maintaining call centers and developing mobile apps that many citizens cannot navigate. In making these changes, the federal government can also make accessibility a priority so people of all abilities can access and obtain the government services they need online.
We’ve seen many governments go through digital transformations, making major investments in citizen services. Now it’s time for Congress and the federal government to prioritize citizen experience and the technology that enables it because research shows that providing better digital services reduces costs, improves citizen satisfaction and increases trust in government.
On January 31st, government and industry leaders gathered at the Newseum in Washington, DC for Government Executive’s 2018 Digital Citizen Summit, underwritten by Adobe. Attendees heard from leaders championing a new approach to designing and delivering digital services, based on citizens’ needs. Through presentations and panel discussions, participants from agencies including FEMA, CDC, GSA, the IRS and more discussed how they are transforming digital services to not only deliver better services for citizens but create efficiencies within their own organizations through user-centric design.
In the opening session on Driving ROI by Repairing Broken Experiences, Celika Caldwell and Michelle Musgrove of AARP discussed the high bar that consumers have set for digital experiences, based on everyday interactions with leading private sector organizations like Amazon and Apple. Companies that excel in providing digital experiences have established what trust, timeliness, personalization means for consumers, and other organizations need to keep up in order to maintain consumer engagement.
Sean Howard, Global Managing Director of WPP’s Government & Public Sector Practice, took the stage to discuss a recent report by Adobe and WPP: Delivering experiences that count. By surveying 7000+ citizens across seven countries, the study explored where governments are in their digital evolutions and how citizens view their own experiences with digital government communications. While governments are doing relatively well at delivering certain functional aspects of digital service, they have fallen behind in terms of citizens’ expectations for positive digital experiences, particularly in delivering relevant, personalized content and building relationships with citizens.
In a panel discussion moderated by Nextgov’s Frank Konkel, UX experts from GSA, USDA, NGA-GEOINT, and the IRS discussed their work to prioritize user experience and design within their agencies, and strategies for improving website functionality for seamless online and offline customer experiences. Michael Lin, Chief of User Experience & Design in the Office of Online Services at the IRS, revealed that on average it costs the IRS $41 per phone call and a shocking $67 per interaction to help a customer in-person at a tax assistance center. The IRS is looking to digital solutions like the Where’s My Refund tool to alleviate some of these expenses, and is a great example of the way both agencies and their customers can benefit from the efficiencies that come with improved digital experiences.
Next, a panel discussion led by Nextgov’s Aaron Boyd included digital engagement specialists from the CDC, FEMA, and State Department who discussed citizen engagement through channels like social media and mobile apps. Where these agencies missions depend on communicating information to citizens, engagement is critical and requires personalized, relevant content distributed thoughtfully across relevant channels. This includes careful assessment of what channels reach which audiences, and what content, cadence of interaction, and tone of voice those audiences may expect from an agency engaging on a certain channel.
Martha Dorris, founder of Dorris Consulting International and former Director of the Office of Strategic Programs for GSA, shared her expert perspective on where government customer experience stands today, and progress to expected in 2018. Martha discussed key legislative developments that will impact government CX including the Modernizing Government Technology Act, Connected Government Act and Federal Agency Customer Experience Act, as well as challenges like legacy systems and lack of funding for modernization projects. Amongst Martha’s predictions are a renewed focus on CX in the coming year, more emphasis on the full customer journey, and that contact centers will begin to get much-overdue attention now that the GSA Center of Excellence has been established.
The summit concluded with a fireside chat between Aaron Boyd and Kate Zwaard, Director of Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Kate discussed how the Library is using digital innovation to carry out its mission as an interactive resource for the public. Digital services like the “Ask a Librarian” tool have made the Library more accessible and engaging than ever, while technologies like machine learning and AI bring new opportunities for the library to modernize its cataloguing system and make resources more findable than ever.
The importance of designing citizen-centric digital government services is clear, and it is inspiring to hear from so many leaders dedicating themselves to implementing technology to enable government to better meet citizens’ needs.
If you weren’t able to join us for the Digital Citizen Summit, you can see videos of the sessions here.
Join the conversation on Twitter by tagging @AdobeGov and #DigitalCitizenSummit18.
Adobe’s Dana Rao, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Litigation, made the following statement on the confirmation ofAndrei Iancu as the next Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office:
“Adobe would like to congratulate Andrei Iancu for being confirmed as the next Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. As a technology company, innovation is one of the most critical components of our success, so we are thrilled that the PTO has a permanent director who will help lead the office at this critical time. Adobe is looking forward to working with Mr. Iancu to protect the nation’s inventors, secure trade secrets and promote a culture of innovation.
Adobe would also like to thank Acting PTO Director Joseph Matal for his work over the last six months as well as former director Michelle Lee for her work improving patent quality and transparency while reforming a number of processes at the PTO to make obtaining a patent fairer and more straightforward for innovators.”
By Matt Schrader,Director of Government Relations & Public Policy
As someone who has been involved with government relations in some shape, form or fashion his entire career, I have watched as cybersecurity has grown exponentially as an issue for public policymakers to address. Cybersecurity is no longer “just” an IT issue. It is an issue that impacts all business units of a company, all government organizations, and all U.S. citizens. It is now a priority at the CEO and board of directors’ level for companies, and without question, impacts the daily lives of almost every American with regards to the protection of their information online.
So it was with great interest that Adobe commissioned the first-ever survey of cybersecurity professionals to gauge their interest in and awareness of public policy developments, and the impact those developments have on their jobs. The study involved more than 500 private and public sector U.S.-based cybersecurity professionals, from manager-level all the way to C-level executives. You can access the results here and see an infographic of survey highlights here.
It didn’t take long for the survey to turn up what I thought were some interesting findings. Alarmingly, while nine out of ten agreed that public policy affects their jobs on a daily basis, only 48% said they followed cybersecurity policy issues very closely. Even worse, only 37% felt completely prepared for upcoming policy changes and only 28% thought that the cybersecurity industry as a whole was completely prepared to deal with future public policy developments.
Compliance was a major pain point. 86% agreed that regulations make organizations focus more on compliance than on security itself, and 64% agree that their organization spent too much of their time and budget on compliance. 92% of respondents said the information security industry needs more common security standards and frameworks, with participants pointing to the lack of uniformity and clarity in current standards as a source of frustration and inefficiency.
It was also interesting to note that 88% said monitoring to detect data breaches at the file level is important for their organization. Yet of the respondents who work in the public sector*, only 49% said they have tools in place to do so. Lastly, 96% of all respondents – in the public and private sectors — agreed that modernizing technology is critical to effective government cybersecurity, yet initiatives to support IT modernization haven’t seen a commensurate level of funding support from policymakers.
The survey also revealed a stark need – and lack – of automated system patching to ensure more effective cybersecurity. While 80% of respondents said that automated system patching was important, only 44% said it was a measure that was in place at their organization. Given the fact that in many cases the majority of damage inflicted by a cyber attack is due to organizations not having implemented the latest patches to update their networks, the survey reflects a key area of focus with regards to standards and public policy.
The results call out additional findings. First, a lot of work remains to be done to help cybersecurity professionals become more aware of and have a better understanding of the impacts of public policy on their industry. It would behoove cybersecurity professionals as individuals to be more proactive in taking advantage of the various options to keep up on developments, either via numerous trade organizations, non-profit associations or targeted media outlets. Internally, the legal department is a good source of information, and if an organization is large enough, so should their internal government relations teams. Lastly, social media outlets can be a tremendous resource for following public policy events if carefully selected.
The survey also identifies a gap between priorities outlined by security professionals and the additional steps government agencies need to take to adequately protect sensitive documents. Though initiatives like the Department of Homeland Security’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program are a promising step toward file/content-level data protection, Phase 4 (Protecting Data on the Network) of the program hasn’t yet been fully funded despite guidance from security experts. The data from Adobe’s survey drives home the need for agencies to prioritize deployment of more modern security tools, including digital rights management (DRM) and attribute-based access controls (ABAC), and update security standards to give organizations clearer paths to compliance.
The survey yielded a number of other interesting tidbits of information, and I encourage both cybersecurity professionals and public policy staffers to check out additional findings at the following link.
*Note: small sample size for government employees and contractors; n=76
U.S. Digital Service (USDS) Administrator Matt Cutts spoke to Adobe employees at the company’s Lehi campus at the end of October about how he and his colleagues are helping government agencies deliver better services to the American people through improved technology and design. Matt shared current projects, success stories, and explained how companies like Adobe are helping to transform government technology.
The USDS is a White House start-up, founded by President Barack Obama in August 2014 to bring together the best technology, design, and government talent. Originally, USDS planned to hire ten people to focus on the most pressing issues facing government, such as the Healthcare.gov rollout. In just a few short years, USDS has grown and is now tackling issues ranging from improving veterans benefits to finding bugs in Department of Defense programs.
With so many issues to solve, Cutts said USDS focuses on high impact projects and feasibility. One of those projects was fixing errors that were making it difficult to transfer veterans’ Service Treatment Records (STRs) — the documents that detail a veteran’s full medical history – from the Department of Defense to the Veterans Administration. More than 5% of veterans were not receiving benefits because their records were getting lost. To solve this problem, USDS improved the technical infrastructure supporting STRs and made it easier for doctors and other providers to share files using PDFs rather than a variety of file formats that were causing the issue.
Another project undertaken by USDS is “Hack the Pentagon” – a bug bounty program designed to identify and resolve bugs at the Department of Defense. In just 24 days, 138 bugs were identified and fixed, securing several major vulnerabilities.
He said the correct approach when working with government agencies is designing with them, not for them. It is critical to understand the problems that agencies and citizens face. Cutts said it is important to connect with citizens and place them at the heart of public services, and that requires governments to go beyond functional needs to focus on experience.
Cutts, a former Google employee, explained why he took a leave of absence from Google to do a stint with the USDS in December 2016 and why he decided to stay. While he misses the free lunches at Google, he said the work he does is deeply inspiring and engaging. Helping veterans access their benefits or improving Medicare for millions of seniors has a real impact that improves lives.
He also encouraged Adobe employees to consider spending a “short tour of service” with USDS much like he originally intended to learn more about how government thinks and improve government services. USDS brings on short-term talent in the areas of engineering, design, marketing, communications, project management, recruiting, security specialists, and consulting to solve the most difficult technology issues government faces.
The Adobe team enjoyed getting to know Matt and learning more ways that we can help government agencies provide better digital experiences for Americans.
Recently, the 2017 Adobe MAX conference brought together more than 10,000 designers, developers and business leaders to discuss the latest creative technologies, learn new skills, and get inspired by fellow creatives. Participants had the chance to get inspired by topics ranging from web and UX design, digital illustration, and creative imaging. Thousands of creative ideas were shared about these creative applications and evolving technologies. This year, MAX also featured a few special sessions focused on digital challenges and opportunities for creative professionals in government.
In a well-attended fireside chat, Teri Takai, executive director of the Center for Digital Government and former CIO for the Dept. of Defense and the States of California and Michigan, sat down with Adobe’s head of government industry strategy, Greg Reeder. Teri and Greg discussed how the government can keep pace with the public’s evolving digital experience expectations and the many ways in which creative tools enable innovation and enhance digital experiences for both citizens and government teams.
Greg outlined how Adobe is implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve digital tools for government. AI platforms, such as Adobe Sensei, help deliver personalized, efficient experiences that help construct better experiences for citizens and the government workforce. Working alongside human creativity and intelligence, Sensei uses the power of machine learning to amplify creativity and ultimately improve digital experiences across society.
Governments are making some great strides in creative technology and digital experiences. For example, Greg described how the state of Utah sought to deliver better online engagement for citizens, and saved $46M in taxpayer dollars by moving 9 services online. Greg also emphasized the value of analytics, encouraging governments to look beyond vanity metrics, toward mobile accessibility and digital signatures to improve digital experiences.
Teri and Greg were joined by Ashley Still, Adobe VP of enterprise offerings for digital media, who discussed Adobe’s vision for government solutions and announced the new Adobe Government Creativity Awards program. The Adobe Government Creativity Awards celebrate the talent and effort of creative, scientific and design professionals who are pushing the envelope of design in the Public Sector to serve and engage citizens, communities, and each other. With the opportunity to submit entries now available, potential winners will receive exposure to other industry professionals, expert feedback on their projects and the chance for certificates and awards to recognize their outstanding work.
In another government-focused session titled “Designing Government Services For Everyone: A United UX For America,” Erica Deahl, principal designer at Khan Academy and lead UX designer for the U.S. Web Design Standards in her former role at 18F, discussed how improving design of government services leads to real benefits for the people relying on those services. Erica discussed strategies for connecting and rebuilding trust with citizens and making platforms accessible and responsive to all. Erica discussed her work on the U.S. Web Design Standards project, where she helped create a library of design guidelines and code to help government developers and designers create trustworthy, accessible, and consistent digital government services. With unique abilities to understand and provide solutions for the challenges faced by government agencies and the people they serve, Erica emphasized the incredible opportunity for designers to make a difference in government.
Citizens’ expectations for effective, engaging digital experiences on every device are growing every day. Well-designed government services allow citizens and government employees to connect seamlessly with the digital experience they deserve. To learn more about how Adobe partners with government, please visit adobe.com/government.
Posted by John Jolliffe, European Government Relations Lead
Earlier this year we blogged about an exciting project we had kicked off with the Open Data Institute in London, to explore how PDF could be better used to help international policies on Open Data. The final ODI report on Best Practices for PDF and Data has just been published.
We’re particularly happy that the report confirms what we have known for some time, that PDF can already achieve at least 3 stars on the 5 Star Open Data scale, on a par with other well-used formats such as .csv. And it’s exciting to see a PDF with data published to Data Mill North, proving that PDF with data can be more valuable in some cases than just publishing the raw data itself.
We think the report will be welcome news for many in government and beyond who already work with PDF or who need to publish open data that is both human- and machine-readable.
The report highlights two use cases in particular: the first relating to the role of PDF in the English Planning system, which was conducted in collaboration with the Department for Communities and Local Government. The second relating to the complex needs of scientific publishers.
But the work is only just beginning. The ODI has kicked off a public process to capture additional use cases where PDF is essential, with a view to showing how PDF can address their open data needs too. Finding and developing these use cases will be a focus of the new W3C PDF Open Data Community Group, now chaired by the ODI, and will help provide clear guidance on the use of PDF for broader communities of open data users.
We’ll report back on the exciting progress being made in the future. In the meantime, the message to open data publishers is clear: not only do you no longer have to avoid PDF, but rather, you can embrace PDF knowing it has more capabilities than you previously thought while recognizing that it may not always be the most appropriate format to use for the type of data you want to publish.
* This blog post was revised on October 23, 2017 to clarify points brought to our attention by readers. If you would like to be part of this evolving conversation, please join the W3C Community Group on PDF and Open Data.
Adobe Vice President & Public Sector Chief Technology Officer John Landwehr made the following statement today following the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s passage of the Connected Government Act (S. 1769):
Adobe commends the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for passing the Connected Government Act (S. 1769), which will help ensure government websites are mobile friendly. As more Americans turn to their mobile devices to access the internet and obtain government services, agencies need to ensure that their websites are easy to navigate and can be viewed on a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile devices.
The Connected Government Act represents a considerable step in the right direction, but more reforms are needed to modernize digital government services. Connecting with citizens and placing them at the heart of public services requires governments to go beyond functional needs to focus on the experience.
One area that government should focus greater attention on is the personalization of services. Agencies have the unique challenge of serving millions of diverse citizens who come to government for various reasons. That’s why personalization is critical for effectively communicating with each individual citizen.
Accessibility is also critical to improving government services. As a global leader in the software industry, Adobe believes that different abilities should never limit opportunities. That is why government should work with software companies to develop digital solutions that can be used by as many as possible so that people of all abilities are able to access and obtain the services they need.
Additionally, more attention should be focused on forms modernization. From filing taxes to enrolling in benefit programs, forms make up an integral part of the public sector’s interactions with citizens. Government organizations should modernize this key touchpoint with citizens by improving the online tools people use every day.
Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) as well as their House colleagues Representatives Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) should be commended for sponsoring this legislation and leading this initiative along with co-sponsors Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC). Now that the Connected Government Act has been reported out of committee in both the House and the Senate, Adobe encourages members in both chambers to support this legislation and jumpstart the modernization of digital government services.
Posted by John Jolliffe, European Government Relations Lead
In a world of fake news and the easy digital manipulation of content, knowing that an electronic document really is what it purports to be has never been more important.
It’s a subject Adobe has been working on for years, and we have covered many of those milestones in previous blog entries: we were the first major software provider to support the EU Trusted List, enabling Acrobat users to confirm whether a digital signature was backed by the most secure kind of digital certificate; and we have also been working with the Cloud Signature Consortium to develop industry-wide standards for the creation and validation of remote digital signatures, allowing people to securely and easily sign documents through mobile devices and cloud-based services.
A few days ago, Adobe reached another significant milestone: following an extensive external audit we were formally certified as a Qualified Timestamp Service provider under EU law. While this sounds like a technicality, a qualified time-stamp service provides legally-binding date and time references to prove the existence and integrity of an electronic document.
For many users, especially ones in regulated industries, that kind of assurance is business critical. With this announcement, Adobe Sign and Document Cloud users know that their signed documents will benefit from a secure time reference for all digital signature transactions, and proof of their Long Term Validity (LTV) where their preservation and archival is required by law.
The service is immediately available in the market leading Adobe Sign cloud-based electronic signature platform for all EU-based customers.
It’s just the latest sign of Adobe’s commitment to investing in eIDAS compliance to facilitate businesses in the EU and between the EU and other regions. We will continue to work with the EU and national governments to improve the security of digital documents and transactions and make technologies widely available to enhance trust and inclusion.
Posted by Mary Catherine Wirth, Associate General Counsel of Privacy, Trust and Safety
Adobe applauds Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), for introducing the ECPA Modernization Act of 2017, legislation that is essential to ensuring Fourth Amendment privacy and due process protections for communications and content stored online.
This much-needed reform to 1986’s Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) would give content and communications that users store online the same constitutional protections as content or communications stored at home in a desk drawer, as well as impose new protections for geolocation data and limits on metadata collection. Encouragingly, it would also reform gag order rules and make secrecy around government access to customer data the exception rather than the rule. This will allow companies like Adobe that store communications and content for their customers to be more transparent about government requests for customer information, and ensuring secrecy orders are issued only where, and for the duration, necessary. While we understand that there are times when government investigations need to remain secret for a particular period of time (such as while an investigation is ongoing), it has become all too common for search warrants to be accompanied by permanent gag orders that would forever bar us from telling our customers about them. Adobe currently challenges in court permanent gag orders like these as an unconstitutional prior restraint on our speech to our customer and, if passed, this legislation would free up court and company resources to be better used elsewhere.
Adobe, as a long-time member of the Digital Due Process Coalition, strongly supports this bipartisan legislation. Customer data stored online deserves the same protections as data stored at home or at work, and full Fourth Amendment protections are essential for consumers and businesses to trust that their information stored with cloud service providers is safe. We urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to take swift action and approve the bill so that the full chamber can vote on this important measure.