For millions of Americans, federal student loans have made it possible to get a college education. For many, moving forward after college can become an overwhelming challenge. In 2014, the Department of Education had 41 million borrowers and a loan portfolio of $1.1 trillion. The stat alone speaks to the issue of loan repayment and its magnitude in our country. To make the repayment process easier, the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) runs campaigns that are meant to inform borrowers about the repayment options available to them.
39 participants. 17 agencies. 6 months. Earlier this year, the CIO Council launched the IT Solutions Challenge, an initiative to engage GS 9-13 level rising stars in the IT and IT acquisition community. Participants identify shared challenges, those challenges where you might say to yourself, “if only we could [x], life would be so much easier!” Working together over 6 months, the teams prototype and make recommendations for solutions.
The CIO Council recently published an IT Policy Library database in order to provide agency innovators with a searchable, comprehensive collection of IT reporting and action requirements for federal agencies. Craig Jennings, Senior Advisor at the Federal CIO Council, was instrumental in the implementation of the resource library. Craig believed that all of the policies concerning IT should be in one place to allow for the highest level of transparency and usability.
A Content Management System (CMS) allows people to easily publish, maintain and update information online. Choosing a CMS (or deciding whether you need one at all) is one that many agencies have faced. It’s not an easy choice because there are many solutions available to content managers. As government agencies, the majority of content we deliver is for a large audience, the public. Therefore, your CMS should be a tool that will allow you to quickly and easily share information with the public.
Summer is here, which means it is time for the biggest holiday of the summer—Fourth of July! Independence Day is a happy time of year: BBQs, picnics, pools, sunshine and fireworks. Of course, the foundation of our celebration is American history, and there are plenty of excellent federal apps focused on this area. The American Battle Monuments Commission maintains 25 overseas military cemeteries that honor the service and sacrifices of U.
When one thinks of social media, usually it is thought of as a tool to keep in touch with friends and family. Behind all the social networking lies vast amounts of data that can be used in a multitude of ways. This data is an opportunity for government agencies to improve the services they provide to the public. There are a number of agencies that are using social media data in order to improve services and cut costs.
With the release of a new dashboard to measure best Web practices in the federal government and the establishment of a government-wide HTTPS Only Standard, the time to make the switch to HTTPS has arrived. Agencies have until December 31, 2016, to make the switch. The move to HTTPS is not only happening in government; it is also becoming the standard in industry as well. Firefox and Chrome have begun taking actions to phase out HTTP to make browsing more secure.
Smartphones make up 75% of the mobile market—which makes mobile-friendliness a must for government agencies. With the recent update to Google’s search algorithm, or what some are calling Mobilegeddon, the case for building a mobile-friendly site becomes even stronger. For many government organizations, responsive Web design (RWD) has been the answer to their mobile question. While RWD is by no means a panacea, it can provide agencies with a way to reach their customers on many devices with one site.
SMS messages are an excellent way to reach audiences. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) saw SMS messages as an opportunity to reach the public for the implementation of their Mobile Health Behavioral Intervention Programs. NCI has 15 SMS based programs, including HealthyYouTxt, a program designed to help users live a healthier lifestyle, and SmokeFreeTxt, a program designed to help users quit smoking. In this piece, we will talk specifically about the domestic version of the SmokeFreeTxt program, one of their most popular programs.
Data. Security. Privacy. These are the cornerstones of many discussions concerning technology. The security of citizen information when interacting with the federal government will be increasingly important as we progress into the future. A few agencies have begun to use Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) in lieu of the standard HTTP. For these agencies, this transition to HTTPS is seen as a step in the right direction and is one way for the government to address the security of citizen information.
According to an article from Readwrite, the amount of money going to big data projects is steadily increasing despite widespread failure to achieve many results. For big data-related projects in global organizations, a total of $31 billion was spent in 2013 and that amount is expected to top $114 billion by 2018. The recognition that big data is important is present, but the results from big data projects have not illustrated this to the full extent.
As the use of smartphones continues to grow, it has become even more important for websites to be mobile-friendly. Google has been aware of this trend for quite some time. In response to this trend, Google made it a lot simpler for users to see mobile-friendly websites within search results by the use of a mobile-friendly tag back in November. In order to assist the anytime, anywhere user, Google will begin ranking mobile-friendly sites higher in search results in April.
Content is one of the most important things about your site. After all, it is what keeps your users engaged and keeps them coming back to your site. Depending on the type of website your agency manages, you should always think of ways to best deliver your content to your end users. If the content you provide is constantly changing or evolving, then you should present this content in a way that is as equally dynamic and allows for the end user to easily manipulate the data to find what they need.
The increasing presence of big data and all things digital will require the federal government to hire more techies. The skills brought by techies will help the federal government, but we also must consider that success in the federal government will require more than the skills they bring. The techies may be from the private sector and not completely understand the nuances of working in a federal agency.
Don’t forget, mobile first strategy can include text messaging and SMS, not just native apps and responsive Web design. Ninety percent of all SMS messages are read within three minutes of being received, according to a recent blog post on Gigaom. Paired with an average open rate of 98% (versus 22% for email) and the fact that any mobile device out there is able to read a text message, SMS is a great way to reach out to pretty much anyone.
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).
As we move into 2015, the amount of data available in the digital ecosystem will increase very rapidly because of the Internet of Things (IoT), social media and wearable tech. In the future, the problem lies not only with data collection, but with what one does with the data. Big Data, one of the main and recurring buzzwords of the digital century, will remain important, but will force us to answer the question of what we will do with the data.
For a seminar organized by DigitalGov University, Robert Read, the Managing Director at 18F, gave a presentation on agile methodologies in the federal government. Risk mitigation is a big advantage of using the agile methodology. The methodology deals with risk through the use of multiple iterations or “sprints” that ultimately lead to the development of a better product. “Sprints” involve the release of software that is functional and will allow for testing.
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.