In the era of personalized, intuitive apps and digital services—think e-commerce and ridesharing—the government must shift their own digital service footprint.

Understanding IDEAct

In December 2018, President Trump signed the 21st Century IDEAct which aims to transform government websites, processes, and other digital properties so the customer experience is a foremost consideration of agencies’ digital properties.

21st century idea act

The legislation is scoped broadly to impact the citizen-to-government experience across each of these aspects:


Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. Section 508, an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act has long been part of governmental web content, and IDEAct reinforces this. Considering that one in five Americans identify as having a disability and use an assistive technology, it’s not just about following the law—it’s about creating an experience that every American can access and consume.

Human-centered and data-driven experience

While IDEAct mandates certain elements be part of the design and architecture of an experience (e.g., a search function, mobile responsiveness, secure connection), a larger portion of the act is less prescriptive, focusing on creating digital experiences that are built upon establishing a qualitative (human-centered) and quantitative (data-driven) understanding of customers. This means being empathetic—to what customers are trying to do, how they try to do it, how they think about it, why they do it—and ultimately understanding how customers consume.

It’s also important to acknowledge the experience is not confined to when customers are “doing something” that interfaces with the agency; many of the worst customer experiences are likely cases related to “doing nothing,” i.e., customers not receiving updates or noting being able to find the information they need. Once the what, how, and why of customer motivations and actions are built, this knowledge of the customer needs to be transformed into a series of small, low-risk experiments that the government can test and validate with prototype and usability testing, as well as through the application of site analytics. Focusing on iterative adjustments allows analysis of individual changes and their corresponding results, as well as keeping a pulse on customers' needs as they evolve.

Digitization of government services and forms

Perhaps the biggest thrust of IDEAct is built around transforming legacy, paper-based services into digital forms and services complete with the usage of electronic signatures. This portion is more of a fundamental, ground-up reimagining of how agencies and their constituencies interact. While it is an extension of the human-centered and data-driven experiences, these can be more complex to design and solve for, particularly because it involves understanding how these analog forms and services exist in the larger context of agencies’ missions and processes. It is not as simple as making forms available online; agencies must work to empathetically understand each step of their customers' journeys when engaging with their digital services. Understanding the technical constraints and dependencies that exist within agencies’ ecosystems can also improve site abandonment rates.

Timeline implications and how you can get started now

One of the most pressing pieces of IDEAct is the implementation timeline. By June 18, 2019, all new and redesigned public websites need to conform with the design tenets put forth in the act. Within two years of the enactment, any paper-based form that is related to serving the public needs to be available in a digital format.

idea act timeline

How Deloitte Digital can help your agency get started

Digital maturity relies on more than new technology; it also depends on how you organize, operate, and behave. But you don't have to take on digital transformation alone. Deloitte Digital is uniquely positioned to lead client workshop discussions that can help your agency jumpstart a well-planned response to IDEAct. Our prescriptive workplans can help design, activate, and accelerate your agency’s transformation through the following activities:

  • Audit digital channels and inventory non-digital services to provide a better picture of what needs to be done to deliver better value to citizens and meet the mandates of the act
  • Understand the short timelines set forth in the act by developing digital roadmaps to prioritize features, redesigns, retirements, and rollouts in a way that balances the needs and wants of citizens with the risks and realities of your agency’s transformation readiness
  • Build custom digital experiences, websites, platforms, and apps to modernize agencies and help improve customer experience using human-centered design

We can help your agency redefine business and make digital more than just talk.

Interested in learning more? Download our IDEAct whitepaper and fact sheet or contact one of the following team members: Gretchen Brainard or Warren Miller.