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Obama Takes Steps to Build a 21st Century Digital Government

Franklin Delano Roosevelt brought the country closer by using radio to deliver his “fireside chats.

John F. Kennedy rose to fame thanks to the proliferation of televisions in American homes.

Now, Obama is pressing forward with the new technology of his time — the mobile app.

Earlier this week, The White House released a memo about this new push.

The memo states:

For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different Government programs in order to find the services they need. In addition, at a time when Americans increasingly pay bills and buy tickets on mobile devices, Government services often are not optimized for smartphones or tablets, assuming the services are even available online.

To solve the problem, Obama has put into effect a strategy with a very long name: “Digital Government: Building a 21st Century Platform to Better Serve the American People.

The document kicks off with this amazing fact:

When a 5.9 earthquake hit near Richmond, Virginia on August 23rd, 2011, residents in New York City read about the quake on Twitter feeds 30 seconds before they experienced the quake themselves.

Man, if you ever doubted the power and speed of social media, that pretty much says it, doesn’t it?

The strategy requires all government agencies build two, data-driven, customer-centric apps in the next 12 months. The document goes on to say that agencies should work together on a shared platform to avoid redundancies and to make the end result more user friendly. Imagine that.

The document also states that the new apps and websites be customer-centric, something government websites aren’t known for. But there’s no reason not to have an app that allows you to pay the IRS, check on unemployment benefits, renew your driver’s license even reroute your mail.

The government is on it:

Using modern tools and technologies such as responsive web design32 and search engine optimization33 is critical if the government is to adapt to an ever-changing digital landscape and deliver services to any device, anytime, anywhere. Similarly, optimizing content for modern platforms, rather than just translating content from paper-based documents to the Web, will help ensure the American people and employees can access content regardless of platform.

It’s a tall order, but it’s about time. Next to medicine and education, government is one of the worst offenders when it comes to outdated information technology. Looks like that’s about to change.

Here’s my favorite line from the document:

Ultimately, this strategy aims to be disruptive. It provides a platform to fundamentally shift how government connects with, and provides services to, the American people.

Disruptive! Fabulous. And it’s about time.