What is 21st Century IDEA?
The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, otherwise known as 21st Century IDEA, was a bipartisan act signed into law in December 2018.
In September 2023, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued M-23-22, Delivering a Digital-First Public Experience (PDF, 220 KB, 32 pages). In part, this memo provides further policy guidance to help agencies fully implement 21st Century IDEA. The law and policy guidance collectively establish a framework and the requirements for a digital-first public experience.
For the policy guidance, read more in the fact sheet, Building Digital Experiences for the American People.
Why is it important?
Each year, the federal government provides information and services to more than 400 million individuals, families, businesses, and organizations. And according to analytics.usa.gov, there are about 2 billion visits to federal websites each month, representing over 80 billion hours of interactions with the public. Over 50% of these visits occur on mobile devices.
Digitally is now the default way the public wants to interact with the government. More than ever, digital experiences are central to federal agencies' mission delivery. And of course, the public expects their digital interactions with the government to be on par with their favorite consumer websites and mobile apps.
Delivering a digital-first public experience is a significant opportunity to improve the lives of millions by making it easier to access the information and services they use and count on each and every day.
What’s in the law?
21st Century IDEA requires all executive branch agencies to:
- Modernize their websites
- Digitize services and forms
- Accelerate use of e-signatures
- Improve customer experience
- Standardize and transition to centralized shared services
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act or the 21st Century IDEA.
SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
- Director.–The term ‘Director’ means the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
- Executive agency.–The term ‘executive agency’ has the meaning given the term ‘Executive agency’ in section 105 of title 5, United States Code.
SEC. 3. WEBSITE MODERNIZATION.
A. Requirements for New Websites and Digital Services.–Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, an executive agency that creates a website or digital service that is intended for use by the public, or conducts a redesign of an existing legacy website or digital service that is intended for use by the public, shall ensure to the greatest extent practicable that any new or redesigned website, web-based form, web-based application, or digital service–
- is accessible to individuals with disabilities in accordance with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 794d);
- has a consistent appearance;
- does not overlap with or duplicate any legacy websites and, if applicable, ensure that legacy websites are regularly reviewed, eliminated, and consolidated;
- contains a search function that allows users to easily search content intended for public use;
- is provided through an industry standard secure connection;
- is designed around user needs with data-driven analysis influencing management and development decisions, using qualitative and quantitative data to determine user goals, needs, and behaviors, and continually test the website, web-based form, web-based application, or digital service to ensure that user needs are addressed;
- provides users of the new or redesigned website, web-based form, web-based application, or digital service with the option for a more customized digital experience that allows users to complete digital transactions in an efficient and accurate manner; and
- is fully functional and usable on common mobile devices.
B. Requirements for Existing Executive Agency Websites and Digital Services.–Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the head of each executive agency that maintains a website or digital service that is made available to the public shall–
review each website or digital service; and
submit to Congress a report that includes–
- (A.) a list of the websites and digital services maintained by the executive agency that are most viewed or utilized by the public or are otherwise important for public engagement;
- (B.) from among the websites and digital services listed under subparagraph (A), a prioritization of websites and digital services that require modernization to meet the requirements under subsection (a); and
- (C.) an estimation of the cost and schedule of modernizing the websites and digital services prioritized under subparagraph (B).
C. Internal Digital Services.–The head of each executive agency shall ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that any Intranet established after the date of enactment of this Act conforms to the requirements described in subsection (a).
D. Public Reporting.–Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act and every year thereafter for 4 years, the head of each executive agency shall–
- report annually to the Director on the progress of the executive agency in implementing the requirements described in this section for the previous year; and
- include the information described in paragraph (1) in a publicly available report that is required under another provision of law.
E. Compliance With United States Website Standards.–Any website of an executive agency that is made available to the public after the date of enactment of this Act shall be in compliance with the website standards of the Technology Transformation Services of the General Services Administration.
SEC. 4. DIGITIZATION OF GOVERNMENT SERVICES AND FORMS.
A. Non-Digital Services.–Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Director shall issue guidance to the head of each executive agency that establishes a process for the executive agency to–
identify public non-digital, paper-based, or in-person Government services; and
include in the budget request of the executive agency–
- (A.) a list of non-digital services with the greatest impact that could be made available to the public through an online, mobile-friendly, digital service option in a manner that decreases cost, increases digital conversion rates, and improves customer experience; and
- (B.) an estimation of the cost and schedule associated with carrying out the modernization described in subparagraph (A).
B. Services Required To Be Digital.–The head of each executive agency shall regularly review public-facing applications and services to ensure that those applications and services are, to the greatest extent practicable, made available to the public in a digital format.
C. Forms Required To Be Digital.–Not later than 2 years after the enactment of this Act, the head of each executive agency shall ensure that any paper based form that is related to serving the public is made available in a digital format that meets the requirements described in section 3(a).
D. Non-Digitizable Processes.–If the head of an executive agency cannot make available in a digital format under this section an in-person Government service, form, or paper-based process, the head of the executive agency shall document–
- the title of the in-person Government service, form, or paper-based process;
- a description of the in-person Government service, form, or paper-based process;
- each unit responsible for the in-person Government service, form, or paper-based process and the location of each unit in the organizational hierarchy of the executive agency;
- any reasons why the in-person Government service, form, or paper-based process cannot be made available under this section; and
- any potential solutions that could allow the in-person Government service, form, or paper-based process to be made available under this section, including the implementation of existing technologies, procedural changes, regulatory changes, and legislative changes.
E. Physical Availability.–Each executive agency shall maintain an accessible method of completing digital services through in-person, paper-based, or other means, such that individuals without the ability to use digital services are not deprived of or impeded in access to those digital services.
SEC. 5. ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES.
Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the head of each executive agency shall submit to the Director and the appropriate congressional committees a plan to accelerate the use of electronic signatures standards established under the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (15 U.S.C. 7001 et seq.).
SEC. 6. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE AND DIGITAL SERVICE DELIVERY.
The Chief Information Officer of each executive agency, or a designee, shall–
- coordinate and ensure alignment of the internal and external customer experience programs and strategy of the executive agency;
- coordinate with the management leaders of the executive agency, including the head of the executive agency, the Chief Financial Officer, and any program manager, to ensure proper funding to support the implementation of this Act;
- continually examine the digital service delivery strategy of the executive agency to the public and submit recommendations to the head of the executive agency providing guidance and best practices suitable to the mission of the executive agency;
- using qualitative and quantitative data obtained from across the executive agency relating to the experience and satisfaction of customers, identify areas of concern that need improvement and improve the delivery of customer service;
- coordinate and ensure, with the approval of the head of the executive agency, compliance by the executive agency with section 3559 of title 44, United States Code; and
- to the extent practicable, coordinate with other agencies and seek to maintain as much standardization and commonality with other agencies as practicable in implementing the requirements of this Act, to best enable future transitions to centralized shared services.
SEC. 7. STANDARDIZATION.
A. Design and Implementation.–Each executive agency shall, to the extent practicable, seek to maintain as much standardization and commonality with other executive agencies as practicable in implementing the requirements of this Act to best enable future transitions to centralized shared services.
B. Coordination.–The Chief Information Officer of each executive agency, or a designee, shall coordinate the implementation of the requirements of this Act, including the development of standards and commonalities.
C. Federal Supply Schedule.–
- In general.–The General Services Administration shall make available under a Federal Supply Schedule the systems and services necessary to fulfill the requirements of this Act.
- Requirements.–The Federal Supply Schedule described in paragraph (1) shall, to the extent practicable, ensure interoperability between executive agencies, compliance with industry standards, and adherence to best practices for design, accessibility, and information security.
What does it mean to modernize websites?
OMB’s policy guidance (M-23-22) requires that agencies ensure their websites, web applications, digital services, and mobile applications conform to the following requirements and principles:
- Accessible to people of diverse abilities
- Consistent visual design and agency brand identity
- Content that is authoritative and easy to understand
- Information and services that are discoverable and optimized for search
- Secure by design, secure by default
- User-centered and data-driven design
- Customized and dynamic user experiences
- Mobile-first design that scales across varying device sizes
What does it mean to digitize services and forms?
OMB’s policy guidance (M-23-22) requires to the greatest extent practicable that agencies:
- Make forms available to the public in a digital format
- Make services provided to the public available in a digital channel and in a manner that maximizes self-service task or transaction completion
- Not require a handwritten signature (“wet signature”) or other in-person identity proofing requirements as a requirement for completing a public-facing form or service without providing the public with an equivalent digital method
What are the implementation timelines?
Since the passage of the law, agencies have taken steps to improve and better integrate their digital experiences.
OMB’s policy guidance (M-23-22) further clarifies requirements and sets specific timelines and priorities for implementation
For new or redesigned websites, digital services, and forms: Within 180 days of issuance, any new or redesigned website, service, and form is expected to meet the requirements outlined in guidance
For existing websites, digital services, and forms: Agencies are expected to prioritize remediation and/or digitization based on the criteria outlined in Section IV of the guidance
What are the agency reporting requirements?
21st Century IDEA requires agencies to send an annual report to OMB on the progress of implementing the requirements of the law. This reporting requirement concludes after 2023 and will be replaced by the below actions.
OMB’s policy guidance (M-23-22) requires agencies to complete a series of reporting actions within one year of issuance. This section will continually be updated with additional instructions and resources to help agencies in completing the required actions.
For questions on reporting actions, please email the Office of the Federal CIO at email@example.com.
Action 1. Identify digital experience delivery lead
30 days of issuance
Purpose: Each agency must identify a single lead. This lead will be responsible for communicating information to the relevant stakeholders across the agency, providing requested information to OMB, engaging with other agencies to share best practices for implementation, and overseeing delivery of the requirements and recommendations of this memorandum. Once designated, leads from larger agencies may work with OMB to designate secondary points of contact for agency subcomponents, but the overall lead will remain responsible for the above.
Instructions: Submit name and contact information using the online form, Agency action #1: Identify digital experience delivery lead.
Action 2. Identify public-facing websites
90 days of issuance; additional details and instructions are forthcoming.
Action 3. Identify and assess top websites
180 days of issuance; additional details and instructions are forthcoming.
Action 4. Assess common questions and top content for deduplication and SEO
180 days of issuance; additional details and instructions are forthcoming.
Action 5. Assess top tasks for self-service optimization
180 days of issuance; additional details and instructions are forthcoming.
Action 6. Inventory public services
180 days of the launch of the Federal Services Index; additional details and instructions are forthcoming.
Action 7. Update internal controls and policies
365 days of issuance; additional details and instructions are forthcoming.
- Visit other 21st Century IDEA-related resources, news, and events
- Use the Go-Live Checklist for Federal Websites
- Learn more about the Digital Analytics Program
- Learn more about the Site Scanning Program
- Learn more about how to use the U.S. Web Design System
Connect with others interested in delivering a digital-first public experience
Join the Web Managers Community to learn about other related best practices and share your knowledge. We encourage everyone to join this community — whether you are already familiar with how to deliver a digital-first public experience or just getting started.
Also, reach out to your agency’s Federal Web Council representative and get involved in your agency’s digital services working group or guild. If one doesn’t exist, consider setting one up in your agency.
Digital.gov provides information and resources for federal agencies related to web and digital policies. However, we cannot interpret the statutes or specific requirements.
Contact OMB’s Office of the Federal CIO at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about interpretations of the law and guidance, which collectively establish a framework and the requirements for a digital-first public experience.