United States Department Of Health And Human Services

Machine Learning Paired with Skilled Data Scientists is the Future of Data-Driven Decision Making

Although the term Machine Learning (ML) was coined in 1959, it’s advancement and development has never been more critical than it is today, particularly within government agencies. As the amount of data being produced, manipulated, and stored exponentially increases, so does the very real threat of cyber-security breaches and fraud. Meanwhile, federal budgets and staff resources continue to decrease. ML can provide high-value services for federal agencies including data management and analytics, security threat detection, and process improvement—but the list does not stop there.

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Advice From Digital Thought Leaders

Many know that digital tools have become indispensable for connecting with many audiences—but we also know that what’s available in the digital realm is always changing. So how do you know what tools are best for your purpose? And how do you plan for your organization’s digital future when the pace of change is so rapid? Recently, we asked colleagues what advice they would give for developing a digital media strategy.

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Fostering Medical Innovation: A Plan for Digital Health Devices

It is incumbent upon FDA to ensure that we have the right policies in place to promote and encourage safe and effective innovation that can benefit consumers, and adopt regulatory approaches to enable the efficient development of these technologies. By taking an efficient, risk-based approach to our regulation, FDA can promote health through the creation of more new and beneficial medical technologies. We can also help reduce the development costs for these innovations by making sure that our own policies and tools are modern and efficient, giving entrepreneurs more opportunities to develop products that can benefit people’s lives.

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​Want to Expand Your Innovation Base? Dive In, Run a Challenge, and Listen to Your Customers

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) is a small agency in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) whose mission is to increase the interoperability and use of electronic health records and health IT. We don’t have the funding and personnel of larger agencies, and, for the most part, this is fine. The entrenched industry stakeholders know what’s happening at ONC, our policies, toolkits and initiatives. But to be truly innovative, we need input from more than just the big stakeholders, particularly in this age of smartphones and apps.

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HHS Offers Free Content Models and Drupal Features

Related Event: Create Once, Publish Everywhere Applied—HHS Content Models and Portability, Tuesday, April 18, 2017; register here. Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is sharing its content models and their related Drupal features for you to use on your sites. A content model is a representation of types of content and their inter-relationships. Content modeling takes content items and breaks them down into smaller structures, called content types.

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Are Chatbots the Next mHealth Frontier?

In April, Facebook made it possible for organizations to use chatbots to send and receive messages from users of Facebook Messenger. That’s a big deal. Facebook Messenger is now used by 900 million people every month. As the name implies, it’s a messaging platform that people use to send short messages to each other through the app. It’s the most popular messaging app in the U.S, and the second most popular of those apps worldwide, behind only WhatsApp (which Facebook also owns).

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Ideas on How to Keep Your Citizens Informed

As localities struggle with issues such as the Zika virus and the Opioid epidemic, gathering and disseminating trustworthy information can be daunting. But one group of Federal agencies and offices have come together to create a free and easy way to incorporate public health web content, images, video, microsites, data, and infographics into other sites, apps, and social media. Digital media syndication of science-based resources from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can be combined with your ongoing activities and can help coordinate health messaging for maximum impact and reach.

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Vendors and Government Strengthen Partnership at Technology Industry Day

On September 8th, the General Services Administration (GSA) held a Technology Industry Day to talk to industry leaders about the products and solutions developed by our agency and to hear feedback on how we can better engage industry. We’re thrilled that more than 300 members of the technology industry in person and via the live stream were able to join us for this first step towards a closer partnership and more open lines of communication about how we can work together to transform federal technology.

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The Content Corner: Recapping Content Marketing Trends in 2016—How Have We Stacked Up?

Earlier this year, it was predicted that content marketing would become even more important due to its ability to enhance not just visibility, but also increase engagement with customers—who could, in turn, become great promoters of your content. Needless to say, much of our time these days as communicators is spent on developing, distributing, maximizing, and repurposing content. In the recent blog post, 15 Content Marketing Trends for 2016, it is noted that the “average American spends nearly four hours a day bombarded with different types of content.

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GSA Hosts First-Ever Technology Industry Day in Washington, D.C.

Private industry and government came together to find best ways to deliver 21st century technology to federal agencies. On September 8, 2016 Administrator Denise Turner Roth of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) hosted the first-ever Technology Industry Day to provide a better understanding of GSA’s path to improve the government’s outdated technology systems. The event featured how GSA buys, builds and shares technology for the federal government. “The General Services Administration has a long history of being a strong leader in adopting technology in government,” said Administrator Roth when giving her opening remarks at GSA’s Technology Industry Day.

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Sign up for the Technology Industry Day

The General Services Administration (GSA) is known for managing federal real estate and leveraging the government’s buying power to get the best deal for taxpayers, but it also drives and leads technology and innovation within the federal government. The Technology Transformation Service (TTS) builds, buys and shares tech to help federal agencies achieve their mission. They create better services for citizens everyday. TTS works closely with the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) and the GSA CIO to be first movers in and apply agile technology in a meaningful way.

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How to Make Your Facebook Content ‘Pop’ with Images

Facebook is a highly visual medium. Studies show that Facebook posts featuring photos are the most noticed, liked, and shared. Posts featuring an image stand out in the news feeds of people who like your page. While a great image can cut through the clutter, you don’t need to fill your feed. Think “representative” and high-quality images. Showcase a few great pictures that give a sense of an event–an AIDS walk, for example–and share the photos that bring to life an aspect of your work or your agency’s services.

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Grow Your Content Base with New Contributions to the HHS Syndication Storefront

We have written about syndication and its successes before. The content offerings of the HHS Syndication Storefront have recently grown. The National Institute of Heart Lung and Blood Diseases (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the latest to add content into the system. Now you can directly syndicate content items such as the “DASH Eating Plan,” a “Description of High Blood Pressure,” to an article outlining “Coronary Heart Disease.

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How to Create Portable Content with Structured Content Models

Structuring your content for portability across media platforms gives your agency the ability to not only place your message on other properties, but gives you the assurance that your information will always be up-to-date across multiple platforms. This ability is never more important than during an emergency, whether it is a natural disaster or a health crisis such as the Zika virus disease. Three members of the Open and Structured Content Working Group discussed all things structured content during the “Creating Portable Content with Structured Content Models” webinar earlier this year.

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The Challenge of Partnerships: ‘The Good, Bad and Ugly’ of Prize Collaborations

Well-executed partnerships can create better solutions and place them on a bigger platform. Poorly executed ones, on the other hand, can send federal agencies into a bureaucratic tailspin. To partner or not to partner: That is the question. “If you are going to do one, don’t do it because it seems like a good idea,” says Sandeep Patel, open innovation manager at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Idea Lab.

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The Data Briefing: Building an Open Government Data Ecosystem in the Federal Government

It has been over seven years since President Obama signed the executive order that launched the federal open data movement. Much progress has been made, and there is still more to do. Along with the United States, over 100 nations have started programs to provide open access to government data. From large metropolitan governments to small cities, governments are opening up their data to provide better transparency and better delivery of government services.

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Buying Power: New Labs Will Foster Innovation in Government Acquisition

The slow, tedious federal acquisition process has long been the butt of jokes in the private sector. If the government had wanted to buy the original Nintendo, one might say, it would have all the paperwork in place by the time the rest of the world had moved on to the XBox. But that culture is changing, thanks in no small part to many of the efforts first featured here on DigitalGov.

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My Data: Empowering All Americans with Personal Data Access

Summary: Consumers empowered with their own data are in the driver’s seat to make informed choices. In the 21st century economy, Americans rely on online services to access personal bank accounts, pay bills, and shop online, so why don’t we have similar interactions with Federal government through easy-to-use, online tools? The answer is we can—and increasingly we are—as we continue to build a 21st century government. Since first taking office, President Obama has been committed to building a more open and transparent government while, at the same time, protecting consumers and empowering them to make informed choices for themselves and their families.

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Using Code to Spur Innovation

This week, President Obama will travel to SxSW (South by Southwest) to talk about how we can use technology to tackle tough challenges. This underscores how important data—government data, in particular—is to improving and fueling our democracy forward. 2015 saw many open data milestones by agencies, including: New advancements in HHS’s syndication storefront New features to analytics.usa.gov dashboard (now with agency-specific dashboards USPTO’s PatentsView Education’s New College Scorecard FEMA’s new Data Visualization Tool APIs from FEC , Labor and NASA (to name a few) There is also more to come (and more that’s needed).

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Challenges & Prizes Webinar Series Concludes, but Training Still Available

It began with a history lesson and ended with an eye to the future. In between, the Expert Training Series: How to Design & Operate Prizes to Maximize Success covered nearly every aspect of what it takes to run successful incentivized competitions. Challenge.gov and DigitalGov University partnered with XPRIZE Foundation to bring together expert speakers from across the federal government and industry for seven webinars that began last summer and ran through January.

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The Data Briefing: Demand-Driven Open Data at Health and Human Services

For many agencies, what data to make open is left up to the agency’s judgment. This has worked well as agencies do a good job in understanding the public’s needs for specific datasets. Even so, as developers and citizens begin using the open datasets, there is increasing demand for specific agency datasets. The issue is how to best accommodate those requests given the constraints of agency budgets and open data support staff.

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With Collaboration Comes Great Things

We are pleased to announce the beginnings of a new Syndication.Net/Sharepoint module for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Syndication Storefront. The collaborative effort between HHS and National Institutes of Health’s (NIH), National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) teams will eventually enable .NET content management system users to publish content directly in the HHS digital media syndication storefront. How did they do it, and what’s next?

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Challenges, Crowdsourcing, Citizen Science: What’s the Dif?

There’s more than one way to harness the wisdom of the crowd. In honor of December’s monthly theme, we’re diving into and defining the various ways that federal agencies use public contributions to meet real needs and fulfill important objectives. Crowdsourcing Two’s company, three’s a crowd—and getting input from many is crowdsourcing. A White House blog post defined crowdsourcing as “a process in which individuals or organizations submit an open call for voluntary contributions from a large group of unknown individuals (“the crowd”) or, in some cases, a bounded group of trusted individuals or experts.

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The Data Briefing: Does the Federal Government Have an Obligation to Educate Open Data Users?

Pop quiz on statistics and data science (answers at the end of the article): 1) I have some data on accidents at railroad crossings. One variable indicates the compass direction a railroad crossing faces (North, Northwest, Northeast, and so on). This variable is a/an: Ordinal Categorical Directional Interval 2) I have some ordinal data that I want to analyze for trends.

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The Data Briefing: Innovating Health Data at the HHS Idea Lab

By the time this is published, the United States, along with 160 other countries, will be celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 16th through November 22nd). November is also National Entrepreneurship Month with November 17th being National Entrepreneurs’ Day. As President Obama stated in his proclamation: “In keeping with our goal of fostering economic growth through private-sector collaboration, the federal government is accelerating the movement of new technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace, increasing access to research awards for small businesses, making more data open to the public [emphasis mine] and catalyzing new industry partnerships in critical fields such as advanced manufacturing and clean energy.

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The Content Corner: Structured Content and the Power of Syndication

A recent DigitalGov webinar on syndicated content and the recent achievements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped open my eyes even wider to the possibilities of open and structured content. By offering critical health information via syndication, CDC and other Department of Health and Human Services agencies are helping resource-strapped local agencies share critical Web content with very little effort. APIs and Syndication Structured content and APIs form the core of any open content platform, whether it be syndication or other types of data sharing.

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#NIHDigital Summit: Optimizing Digital to Reach Patients, Scientists, Clinicians and the Public

On October 19th, NIH brought together nearly 1,500 digital and health experts in person and via webcast. The event featured two keynote speakers and panels that showcased the unique perspectives of patients and caregivers, health communicators, health professionals and scientists. Susannah Fox, Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said we have entered the “third digital era.” First we connected documents, then we connected people.

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Understanding Your Customer

How well do you know your customers? There’s a new guide out from the Excellence In Government (EIG) Fellows Program to help you do just that. Led by the Partnership for Public Service, EIG is a federal government initiative to train future leaders. This year, three hundred federal employees took the EIG journey to learn about Values, Vision, Mission, Driving Results, Leading People, Leading Change, Building Partnership and Coalitions, Business Acumen, Synthesis and Celebration.

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Mission Possible: Experts Plot the Steps for Running Successful Prize Competitions

Long before the final prize is awarded, a successful challenge starts with a master plan. That’s the point experts drove home during Operational Best Practices and Lessons Learned, the third webinar in Challenge.gov’s ongoing series on running successful prize competitions. Sandeep Patel, open innovation manager for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Idea Lab, joined forces with Ben Bain and Dr. Jyotika Virmani, of XPRIZE, to offer strategies for agencies to plan and execute problem-solving events that deliver on their potential.

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Speed Matters: Optimizing Your Website For Maximum Performance

Every second counts, even those precious two or three seconds it takes your website to load. When it comes to mobile, users won’t wait. During a recent DigitalGov University webinar, Jeremy Vanderlan, Technical Deputy for AIDS.gov, explained how even fractions of a second can have a negative impact on a user’s impression of your website. Performance/load time for Web pages has become so important that Google now considers it one of three equal components to good user experience, along with design and functionality, he noted.

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Day 100: The Great Federal Mobile Product Hunt

A long time ago in a federal agency building far, far away on F Street… the Great Federal Mobile Product Hunt launched at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit in Washington, DC. The campaign goal has not waivered from the initial launch because the USA.gov Mobile Apps Directory remains incomplete. The Directory is the authoritative source for federal mobile Web products, and federal agencies that do not have their apps registered here are losing out on valuable promotional opportunities on USA.

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The Content Corner: Using Natural Language Processing to Improve Rulemaking

For the past several weeks, I have been inflicting you with my recent dive down the rabbit hole of natural language generation and the larger discipline of natural language algorithms. Most of the focus has been on the power of natural language generation and how it can help you rapidly produce content on a wide array of topics in an easy to read format with little effort on the part of a human.

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DigitalGov Summit Recap: Leveraging Open Analytics

Seven million dollars is a big price tag. That is the amount Forbes predicts organizations will spend on analytics-related initiatives in 2015, according to a recent report. While government agencies may not have big budgets for data analysis, we do have tons of data—survey data, usability data, campaign data—that should be leveraged to drive decisions. This idea was the subject of a panel discussion during the second annual DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit, held in May.

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Analytics Restoration: Improving on a Classic

Sometimes it is important to take a fresh look at a classic. As we digital analysts can attest, the array of software now available to our respective analytics programs has grown tremendously over the past few years. Even as we play catch-up to our private sector leaders, many digital analytics programs across the federal government can now boast an inventory far greater than lone Web traffic or quality assurance (QA) software.

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Content Syndication of NIH Grants Information Now Available

Content syndication is an easy and cost-free way for you to add credible NIH health research information directly to your website. When NIH updates its content, those updates display immediately on your website through syndication, providing timely information for your audiences. Content syndication allows you to maintain the look and feel of your website while supplementing your information with critical, relevant content from NIH. Now you can pull the latest NIH grant content directly into your site.

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Real Internationalization Isn’t Just Geographic: It’s Linguistic

Twenty years ago, the chances of watching an NBA game with commentary in a language other than English were small. Today, the NBA transmits games in 47 languages to 215 countries across the world. This is a perfect example of how organizations have evolved over time to meet the demands of their audiences. Evidence like this is the reason many government agencies have launched social media accounts and other digital content dedicated to a Spanish-speaking audience.

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DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit: Reflections from Our Livestream Host, and Full Recording Now Available!

The second annual DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit was held at GSA headquarters in Washington, DC on May 21. This year’s Summit sold out early to in person attendees, attracted nearly 1,200 folks to sign up, and for the first time a live stream was offered for online viewers across the country. I was honored to serve as this year’s virtual livestream host for the Summit. We’ve kicked off the #DigitalGov15 Summit with @USCTO @jakegab @gwynnek @PSChrousos!

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How Governance Supports Your Agency’s Digital Government Strategy

It seems that everyone these days is talking about “governance.” But what is it, really, and how can you make good governance usable in your agency? The federal government developed the Digital Government Strategy to deliver better Web services to the American people. The strategy is based on the notion of focusing on customers—the American people—and their needs in terms of providing access to high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime, on any device.

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When Catastrophe Strikes, Provide Support: SAMHSA’s Disaster Response App

Disasters can strike at anytime, and responders now have another tool in their repertoire to aid survivors. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed the Behavioral Health Disaster Response Mobile App to assist mental health responders with pre-deployment and on-the ground information and resources. SAMHSA has placed their key resource materials in this handy to use app so that responders do not need to keep track of multiple pamphlets and fact sheets.

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#SocialGov Round Up 2015

The #SocialGov Community is coming up on three years of hard work and pushing the boundaries on using social tools across the federal government. I’d like to start this round up by taking a look at the event we hosted last year, State of the #SocialGov 2014: 2 Years of Smashing Silos + Elevating Citizen Services with Social Media. Justin Herman, #SocialGov Community Lead, moderated a talk looking at the work delivered by the SocialGov CoP over the past 2 years and looked ahead to the next year.

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Using Section 508 Guidance to Improve the Accessibility of Government Services

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to use accessible information and communication technology (ICT), whether procured, developed, or maintained. Since the U.S. Access Board issued regulations for the law in 2000, much implementation guidance has been prepared by various agencies. While the regulations are being refreshed to account for changes in ICT over the years, we can take advantage of existing guidance that applies accessibility guidelines in contemporary contexts.

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DigitalGov Summit: Live From the Comfort of Your Desk

The DigitalGov platform helps federal agencies meet 21st century digital expectations, and we’ve planned our second DigitalGov Summit with this mission and your needs in mind. The theme is open and the agenda is packed with presentations about how “opening” data, content, contracts and talent makes digital citizen services better, more effective and even cheaper. Attending Virtually For our Summit this Thursday, we have an amazing line up of speakers and YOU can still sign-up to attend.

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Empowerment, Innovation, and Improved Health Outcomes: the Blue Button Initiative

Finding and getting access to our own health information can be a complex process. And most of us don’t really think about having our health information readily accessible until we really need it – like in the event of an emergency, or when switching doctors or traveling. Combing through stacks of paperwork and contacting providers is daunting for even the most organized among us. However, this familiar scenario is being reimagined.

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Structured Content in Government: How HHS and NCI Are Getting Started

Metadata, tagging, content modeling … they’re not identical concepts, but they’re driven by the same basic principle: when you structure your digital information, it can be more easily searched, reused, connected, shared, and analyzed. If you’re new to structured content, where should you start? Ideally, your metadata strategy will be part of your overall content strategy. In practice, however, a lot depends on your agency’s culture, its technical resources, its existing practices, and the state of your content.

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DigitalGov Monthly Theme: How Data and Code Improve Government Services

Data and code are the foundation, building blocks, and cornerstone of government digital services. They are the keys that open the door to a better digital government future and are fundamental in making government more open. No matter who you are or where you work in the federal space, data and code enable your projects to meet real needs. This month we’re featuring articles around the theme of data and code.

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Getting to Yes: Working with Vendors to Secure Terms of Service and Federal Friendly Pricing

The federal government is one of the largest consumers of products and services in the United States. Yet, many agencies face tight budgets and firm guidelines that restrict the parameters under which agencies can use a product or service to complete projects. This presents an interesting opportunity and dilemma for agencies who want to procure new digital tools to complete their projects. Dilemmas There are strict guidelines that govern the contracts and legal agreements into which the federal government can enter in order to use a tool or service.

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Agency Perspectives on Personas (Use, Development and Challenges)

Personas are tools your agency can use to learn about your end users and drive decisions. Personas are so useful because they serve as a communication tool for your team. You can keep these personas in mind to guide any work that your agency performs. Let’s delve a bit deeper into personas and review two examples from the federal community. Below, we have personas from the Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

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How Government will Accelerate Anytime, Anywhere Services and Information in 2015

Innovative wearables, stronger wifi and more 3D printing have been among the many projections for the future of mobile in 2015. Whatever comes to pass, we can be certain that the anytime, anywhere user will develop new habits and desires based on new trends. Government must accelerate its customer service approach with anytime, anywhere efforts to keep up. Here’s what I see agencies will have to do to keep up and–just maybe get ahead–in 2015.

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Personas 101

Personas are a tool organizations can use to learn more about their users. They are used to learn as much as you can about end users in order to better the product or service you provide. If you are able to think as a user during the design and development of a product or service, this will help greatly in creating something that satiates the users’ needs. Personas are descriptions that give you an understanding of your users and how they use your product or service.

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Social Media and Accessibility: Resources to Know

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, there was no Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Since then, the number of social media channels, and their use for communication among all demographics, has grown exponentially. Unfortunately, however, despite newer ways to reach individuals living with disabilities, many individuals in this community face challenges in gaining full access to the content and conversation on social media platforms.

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Big in SocialGov in 2014: Services, Access and Participation

Social media for public service is a diverse field that uses platforms and data from both the private and public sectors to improve citizen services, make them easier to access and deliver them more cost effectively. It is not just public affairs or communications, but spreads into customer service, resource development and more. Many of the best examples of social media in government can’t be seen on the surface of a tweet or post, but in how these collaborative, engaging strategies improve the processes of public services themselves.

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Reaching Out To Deliver Within: Crowdsourcing Internal Agency Projects

Crowdsourcing has created new paths for public interaction with the government, as we’ve been highlighting on DigitalGov with this month’s theme. However, crowdsourcing can also be used to harness support for internal agency projects. The Department of State is using crowdsourcing to find talent within and outside of government to support agency activities. Through the Virtual Student Foreign Service and CrowdWork initiatives, State benefits from new wellsprings of skills and talent.

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10 Years of Digital Government—A Retrospective

In December of 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the first Policies for Federal Public Websites. Over the past decade, we’ve seen technology completely transform how government delivers information and services to the public. On this 10-year anniversary, we’re taking a walk down memory lane to recap some of the pivotal moments that have shaped today’s digital government landscape. Year Activity 2004 February—Facebook launches (for colleges; opens to the public 2007) March—Interagency Committee on Government Information (ICGI) convenes to draft Web recommendations June—ICGI issues Recommendations for Federal Web Policies July—ICGI becomes the Web Content Management Working Group (predecessor to Federal Web Managers Council) August—HHS publishes its seminal Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines (foundation for Usability.

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Defense Finance Accounting Services Use HHS Code to Make Mobile-Friendly Tables

Government mobile code developed to help make tables mobile-friendly in one agency has now been used in another agency’s mobile efforts. Last month, Clair Koroma told DigitalGov readers about code that the Department of Health and Human Services had developed to make website tables mobile-friendly and then HHS shared it on the Mobile Code Sharing Catalog. Debra Fiorrito from the Defense Financial Accounting Service and her developer, Todd Posius, have implemented the code on the DFAS.

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Crowdsourcing Month: An Overview

This month we’ll be highlighting articles about crowdsourcing. These are the programs that use a variety of online mechanisms to get ideas, services, solutions, and products by asking a large, diverse crowd to contribute their expertise, talents, and skills. Among the mechanisms are hackathons, data jams, code-a-thons, prize competitions, workplace surveys, open ideation, micro-tasks or microwork, citizen science, crowdfunding, and more. A brief look at history outlines a few notable prize competitions, crowdsourcing where solvers are given a task and winners are awarded a prize: The X-Prize and its many iterations from personal space flight to unlocking the secrets of the ocean, Charles Lindburgh’s flight across the Atlantic for the Orteig Prize, and the 300 year-old Longitude Prize, launched by an act of Parliament in Britain to determine a ship’s longitude with the goal of reducing shipwrecks.

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Trends on Tuesday: Speed Matters When Measuring Responsive Web Design Performance Load Times

In the mobile world, every second matters. Mobile users are a finicky bunch. They want their information anytime, anywhere and quickly. As members of the MobileGov Community of Practice have noted last year, mobile user experience is about emotion. If that emotion is not happy, you will lose the user. For this month’s DigitalGov user experience theme, we decided to talk about how speed can be a key to a user’s happiness.

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Get More Health Content for Your Websites, Apps, and Social Media

Several federal agencies and offices have worked together to create a free and easy way for public health partners to incorporate our Web content, images, video, data, and infographics into other sites, apps, and social media. Through digital media syndication, the science-based resources of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can be combined with your ongoing activities at the state and local levels, and can help coordinate health messaging for maximum impact and reach.

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HHS Conquers Tables in a Responsive Design

This year, we moved HHS.gov to a responsive template to ensure that users accessing our site in a mobile environment had the best possible experience. Our department faced several challenges in moving a site the size of HHS.gov into a responsive template and one of those challenges surrounded our need to make tables work in a responsive environment. Because of the nature of the information our department provides to the public, our use of tables is an integral part of how we communicate information.

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Open and Structured Content Models Workshop Recap

People consume government information in a variety of ways: through agency websites, of course, but increasingly through social media, search engines, and mobile apps, whether developed by agencies or third parties. To make sure the information is available seamlessly, accurately, and consistently from one setting to another, more and more agencies are exploring the use of content models. Content models create a structure to tag content in a standardized way and free it from any single format or destination, such as a Web page or PDF file.

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Welcome to Mobile Gov Month on DigitalGov

What’s your mobile itch? A long time ago at a workshop not so far away…we asked the 40 federal government innovators who had released native apps this question. We wanted to know their biggest barriers, challenges, frustrations to building anytime, anywhere government. Their generosity in telling us those pain points informed 2011’s Making Mobile Gov Project, which identified 10 challenges to implementing mobile apps and responsive websites for public audiences in the federal government.

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Pillbox Google Hangout for Developers

Tuesday, October 7 at 2pm ET, the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health will host a Google Hangout to talk about developing with the API, data, and open source code from Pillbox. I (Pillbox project manager), Mark Silverberg of Social Health Insights (builder of super cool health apps), and Maya Uppaluru of ONC (leads their Innovation Engagement program) will go under the hood of Pillbox.

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Trends on Tuesday: Are only 11% of Websites Responsive?

Roughly 1 in 9 (11%) websites have adopted responsive Web design, according to research conducted by Guy Podjarny in January. While the number has risen in the last 7 months, I know you’re probably a little underwhelmed by that number. But if you are one of the agencies that have gone through the process of developing a responsive site, you are aware of the challenges that can often get in the way of progress.

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The API Briefing: Finding Help for the Elderly – The ElderCare Locator API

If you have ever been a caregiver for an elderly family member or friend, you know that there are many resources to help you in giving care. But finding these resources can be difficult and frustrating. The Administration on Aging in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been guiding people to local resources since 1991. Starting with a phone service, the Administration on Aging created its first website in 2001.

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Redesigning with Customer Feedback: Child Support Enforcement Usability Case Study

After an agency-wide redesign of program websites that targeted the public and prioritized a common “look and feel,” the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement at the Administration for Children and Families had a visually appealing website. The problem: Key stakeholders—state and tribal child support agencies, employers, and other partners who deliver program services and access the site daily—complained they could no longer easily find needed information. Their feedback prompted us to facilitate a UX-minded focus group to recommend improvements that met both users’ business needs and the redesign goals.

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The Power of Email Marketing

If you aren’t currently including email marketing in your digital outreach efforts, you’re missing out. Think about email marketing in the same way you think about tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and your website. It’s another digital platform that allows you to reach your customers and achieve your goals. Email marketing can be used in different ways, depending on your communications goals. You can build brand awareness. You can drive action from your subscribers to complete a task on your website.

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Parents Get a Head Start With New Mobile App

As it’s time to return to school, the Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families is helping parents and teachers prepare anytime, anywhere. Head Start Resources, an app available on iOS and Android, is a gateway to tools and resources for those associated with or interested in the program. With the app, users can access: The latest and greatest in Head Start News and updates, The nearest Head Start locations with a map feature that utilizes geolocation, Links to their website via a search function, with resources pertaining to Performance Standards and information about the Head Start Act, and Help by utilizing the “Contact Us” section, featuring a phone number, email, office hours, and an interactive form.

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The API Briefing: An API that Searches other APIs – HealthData.Gov’s Catalog API

As federal agencies release APIs on an almost daily basis, keeping track of the numerous datasets has become a vital service for developers. The Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) manages HealthData.Gov which currently lists 1,680 datasets in 36 categories such as “Public Health,” “Health Care Cost,” and “Health Statistics.” To help developers find relevant datasets and keep up with newly-added datasets, the HealthData.gov API was created. Developers can use the Catalog API to search the catalog and receive meta-information about a dataset in the JSON format.

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Why @congressedits Matters for Your Agency

If you haven’t heard about @congressedits yet, it’s a Twitter bot that was recently created to tweet out every anonymous edit made to Wikipedia from Congressional IP addresses. So, anyone editing articles on Wikipedia without logging in, and doing this while on Congressional Internet access, will have those changes tweeted (like this). Some of these have been productive and some embarrassing, but, in the past, some edits from Congress have been described on Wikipedia as politically motivated and even libelous.

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Customization is Key to Better Mobile User Experience

Resources like Theresa Neil’s Mobile Design Product Gallery book and Mobile-patterns.com describe, and provide examples of, common features mobile developers can implement and tailored further to satisfy their users. As mentioned in this week’s Trends on Tuesday, customizing apps to meet users’ needs is a crucial part in maximizing user experience. Today, we wanted to highlight how some agencies are implementing search, maps & geolocation and custom navigation to better their mobile product’s user experience.

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“Deconstructing” Public Prize Competitions Can Result in Better Solutions

When faced with a big, daunting problem to solve, it’s human nature to try to tackle it by breaking it down into smaller parts and taking it “one step at a time.” The message from a recent DigitalGov University webinar on public prize competitions (AKA ‘challenges’) was that the government can often receive better solutions by going through the exact same process, and giving awards at each step.

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Should Your Agency Be Offering Chat Service?

Live Web chat is an important component of good customer service. People like having the option of talking with an agent in real-time without having to pick up the phone. While live chat is not widespread, several agencies have shown great success in serving the public through this alternative channel. At a recent Government Contact Center Council meeting, colleagues from HHS (cancer.gov), Education (StudentAid.gov), and GSA (USA.gov) shared their challenges and successes in implementing and managing Web chat.

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The Trend is Diversity, in Challenge and Prize Competitions

The U.S. government has launched more than 45 challenge and prize competitions so far in Fiscal Year 2014. What trends are we seeing? Well, the trend is…diversity. That might sound like an oxymoron, but federal agencies are really putting themselves out there, asking the crowd to help tackle a wide array of problems. Until August 3rd, NASA is seeking ways to improve email for astronauts on the International Space Station.

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Mobile REMM App: New Physicians’ Aid

The Department of Health and Human Service’s Mobile REMM App provides physicians and emergency medical staff with the latest and greatest information concerning radioactive and nuclear emergencies. Available on iOS, Android, and Blackberry platforms, the native application showcases comprehensive information concerning dose estimators and resources to initiate a variety of triages on site without requiring mobile connectivity. After its April update to 2.0.1, users now have access to management algorithms that provide scenario-based flowcharts to help in treatment decision making.

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Case Studies in Thunderclap

Now that Thunderclap has been approved for government use for nearly a year, we checked in with two agencies that have successfully used the crowd-speaking tool to rally their supporters and amplify their messages. In case you missed it, you can replay the webinar. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuACkq02GVw&w=600] What Makes a Thunderclap? Nicholas Garlow, public affairs specialist with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) used Thunderclap to support Open Enrollment Season for Healthcare.

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CDC’s “Predict the Flu Season Challenge” Could Keep You Well in the Future

The results of an innovative government prize competition might help you avoid the flu next season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced the winner of the “Predict the Influenza Season Challenge”: Dr. Jeffrey Shaman of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and his team submitted an algorithm to predict peak flu season using Google Flu Trends and CDC’s Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) data. The challenge was unique in that it asked participants to use digital data to forecast the start, the peak week, and the intensity of the U.

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The Importance of Cross-Channel Customer Service—DigitalGov Summit Recap

During the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, customer service experts from across government came together on a panel to share what customer service means to them and their organization and specific ways they leverage it. The other panels were on performance analysis, public private partnerships, and inter-agency work. The panelists spoke about the strategies they use to integrate multi-channel customer service and the organizational barriers they’ve encountered. The panelists acknowledged that while the the government, as a whole, has room for improvement in providing truly integrated cross-channel customer service, leadership is beginning to recognize the importance and cost-savings, not to mention happy customers, it brings.

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CDC’s Digital Front Door Goes Responsive

Ask, and you shall receive. That was the strategy behind the new homepage from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new CDC.gov homepage debuted last month with a responsive design that offers a “one-site-fits-all” experience based on feedback from you, the public. Before setting out on their journey of Web redesign, the CDC team sorted through satisfaction survey and traffic data from more than 10,000 users who came to CDC.

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Evaluating Digital Communication: An International Incident

Are you measuring Twitter followers and press release downloads without any clue as to what people are doing with your agency’s products and information? Or do you not even know what to measure, never mind whether that measurement would be meaningful? Fear not, fair government communicator—there is hope! On May 15, top government communication measurement experts from the U.S., U.K., and Canada presented on Evaluating the Effectiveness of Government Digital Communications via DigitalGov University.

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Turning Data Into Action—DigitalGov Summit Recap

At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, more than 200 innovators across government and industry came together to share how digital services can improve citizen services and reduce cost. Four panels convened to share information on performance analysis, customer service across channels, public private partnerships and inter-agency work. We have a recap of the Performance Analysis Panel below. How do you show and track performance in 21st century digital government?

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openFDA and Drug Adverse Events

openFDA launched today and with it the first publicly available dataset—Drug Adverse Reaction and Medication Error Reports—that covers more than 4 million records from 2004 to 2013. The openFDA team compiled 10 things to help developers use this dataset more effectively, including: Interactive examples created by the openFDA team to give perspective to the data. The example scenarios with queries help teach how to perform different types of searches on the data.

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This Weekend: Event List for Civic Hacking

Our fabulous colleague Jeanne Holm is ready for the #hackforchange events this weekend and summarized some tips, notes and links to resources on Data.gov. Great things will happen this weekend! Remember, if you hear about great uses of government data, let everyone know by tweeting #hackforchange or mention @usdatagov. The Data.gov team is organizing a webinar in a week, showcasing some of the best outcomes and hosting lightning talks by the developers and designers.

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Inter-Agency Federal Social Media Promotes Women’s Health Campaign

Last week, we discussed National Women’s Health Week (NWHW) as an example of a coordinated campaign that used digital tools. Social media has made building campaigns easier by enabling us to quickly reach out to groups with similar missions as well as to engage with citizens. Here are the highlights from the webinar and some initial metrics, and in case you missed it, you can replay the webinar here.

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Defense Finance and Accounting Service Goes Responsive

Let’s face it: Some of us work to live. Some live to work. And all of us look forward to pay day. If you work for the Department of Defense, the Executive Office of the President, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, chances are that you are one of 6.

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The Federal List of #HackforChange Projects

You should be on this list—the current federal government participants in the National Day of Civic Hacking. There are 15 agencies participating in the event, primarily in and around the Washington, D.C., area. This is a fantastic compilation of what agencies are doing, but it is not enough. We need more widespread participation across the country. If your office has a regional presence and has data or ideas for technical and design projects they’d like to contribute, this is a prime opportunity to dip in and see what it is like to work with people outside of government.

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Need Help Responding to Facebook & Twitter Questions? Use Your Contact Center Customer Service Experts

Government agencies are always looking for better ways to connect with their audiences while making more effective use of existing (or shrinking) resources. To that end, many agencies—including ours, the National Cancer Institute—have begun to use social media platforms to help serve the communications mission. As these tools have become more widely used, NCI’s Contact Center has become an essential partner in our social media efforts. For those who don’t know us, NCI is the largest of the 27 Institutes and Centers within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

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Storyboarding is Key to Successful Storytelling

Communication professionals pride themselves on coming up with big ideas and big messages. But moving a great idea from conceptualization to execution can be challenging, especially when you want to keep your budget in check. Storyboards can greatly assist in this process, a strategy I found to be critical to the success of a new animated video developed for StopBullying.gov. StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can prevent and respond to bullying.

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Measuring User Experience: A Few Tips

With a calculated process, the right tools, and a staff willing to make it work, you can measure user experience (UX) on your websites and implement usability changes that show results. In a recent DigitalGov University webinar entitled “Measuring User Experience”, UX supporters and practitioners heard from Achaia Walton, Senior Digital Analyst at the Department of Health and Human Services, about finding what critical things to measure to make websites more user-friendly.

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In the Beginning…of Web in Federal Government

[ ](https://s3.amazonaws.com/digitalgov/_legacy-img/2014/03/Birthday-Cake_Internet_World-Wide-Web_25-years-old_Featured_301x212.jpg) With the 25th anniversary of the Web, we wanted to share stories from the beginnings of Web in the federal government and how online government has evolved in the years since. The State Department may have been one of the first, in 1991, with a bulletin board presence launched thru the Government Printing Office, according to Janice Clark, Director in the Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs.

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Open Payments Apps Help Healthcare Professionals Track Reporting On The Go

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is bringing lots of change to the traditional healthcare landscape as practitioners and healthcare companies gear up for an influx of patient demand. There are also changes to the way healthcare companies and doctors will track and report reimbursements. And not only is the healthcare changing but also are the mobile habits of healthcare practitioners — especially doctors. According to InformationWeek, 86% of physicians and “mid-level” clinicians now use smartphones in their professional activities, up from 78% in 2012.

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Tumblr: A Flexible Social Media Platform

When HHS’s Katie Gorscak was looking for a way to share Stopbullying.gov’s information with teenagers, she looked at her options on social media. New reports seem to come out regularly talking about how teens are fleeing “traditional” social media sites, but Gorscak knew her target audience made up the power user base of the social-blogging platform Tumblr. Tumblr combines parts of traditional blogging with added social sharing features to help agencies meet their missions, drive engagement and increase brand recognition.

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With Measurable Usability Goals – We All Score

Setting measurable usability goals will help your team to assess the performance of your site throughout development. Whether your assessment is at the beginning of the process, throughout iterative wireframe testing, after release, or all of the above, bench marking and improving on task performance can only improve the usability of your site. Measuring Top Task Completion The most effective usability goals measure the ability for users to complete top tasks when visiting your site.

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Google Analytics and the New Healthcare.gov

The new Healthcare.gov will sort content according to user demand with a new plugin developed for the site. For a content-heavy site like healthcare.gov, this option will allow HHS to serve popular content to readers quickly. In April we told you about Jekyll. The new Healthcare.gov will use this free open-source solution to create flat webpages without the long load times associated with a traditional content management system (CMS). Developers created a new plugin to work with the system to make it possible for the Department to quickly and dynamically provide the site’s most popular information to visitors .

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The New Healthcare.gov Uses a Lightweight Open Source Tool

Last week, we told you about the upcoming relaunch of Healthcare.gov and its use of the Jekyll website generator. Jekyll allows users to build dynamic websites served by static pages. To help manage large websites using Jekyll, developers working on the new healthcare.gov published the ‘Prose.io’ editing interface last year. Content editors will use this lightweight editor to create and manage content across the site. Prose is an open source web application that allows users to manage web content stored on GitHub’s code sharing service.

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USAID, HHS & DOL Mobile Gov App Challenge Winners

One way federal agencies create Mobile Gov products is through third party development. Some agencies use platforms like Challenge.gov to get the word out to developers and there have been 3 mobile app challenge awards so far this year. Last week the mWomen Design Challenge announced winners. Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it asked developers to help redefine mobile user experiences for women in resource-poor settings.

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Mobile Gov Resources for 2013!

With mobile use growing exponentially and federal agencies implementing customer-facing mobile services for the Digital Government Strategy, we decided to put together a Mobile Gov resource “cheat sheet” with concepts and information we think will be helpful for agencies implementing Mobile Gov in 2013. Here’s what Mobile Gov implementers need to know! APIs Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have been called the “secret sauce” for digital services. They help open information (content and data) so it can be reused inside and outside of government.

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Agency Digital Strategy Pages

In his May 23rd, 2012 Presidential Memorandum, President Obama directed Executive Departments and Agencies to: Implement the requirements of the Digital Government Strategy, and Create a page at www.[agency].gov/digitalstrategy to publicly report progress of this implementation. Consistent with Milestone Actions #2.1 (open data) and #7.1 (mobile optimization), agencies will post candidate data sets and services to open up over the next several months on these pages.

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