August 8, 2016, marks the 18th anniversary of the amendment to the Section 508 Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which covers access to information technology in the federal sector. To recognize the importance of IT accessibility, we wanted to highlight some agency initiatives to improve accessibility across the federal landscape. As amended, the Act requires: …access to the federal government’s electronic and information technology. It applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use such technology.
In its seventh year as home to the U.S. Government’s open data, Data.gov continues to serve millions of people worldwide, from researchers and civic hackers, to businesses and citizens. These users have created apps, launched new products and services, and have improved transparency and openness, making the U.S. Government more accountable and responsive to the American people. Data USA, an online application developed by a team of data scientists at MIT Media Lab and Datawheel, backed by Deloitte is helping Americans visualize demographic and economic data using an open source platform.
Last week, I had a brush with a bona fide music legend — the great Stevie Wonder. Was I starstruck? Of course. I’ve long admired his musical accomplishments and advocacy for people with disabilities. His appearance at the Grammy Awards in February highlighted once again the need to improve accessible technology, particularly in the workplace. What brought me, Stevie Wonder and hundreds of other accessibility advocates together was the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.
Last spring I wrote about how we’ve been using more and better charts and maps to help you understand our statistics. Today I’m excited to tell you about a new set of graphical tools to make our news releases more illuminating at the moment of their posting. We want everyone to be able to “see” quickly what’s in the hundreds of news releases we publish every year—on price trends, pay and benefits, productivity, employment and unemployment, job openings and labor turnover, and other topics.
Employee engagement, evidenced by displays of dedication, persistence, effort and overall attachment to organization and mission, is a key factor in business success, but it can be a struggle for government organizations. Organizational leaders seeking to cultivate a culture of engagement need tangible examples of how to successfully move the needle in a positive direction. The annual Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) can provide agencies with a tangible way to measure employee engagement.
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.
It’s not new that agencies are inundated with data, but what data should you collect to improve your agency’s programs and enhance the customer experience? The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefit Security Administration’s (EBSA) has been perfecting their process to collect actionable data for the past 14 years. EBSA is a regulatory agency that develops and enforces private sector employee benefit plans, such as 401Ks, traditional pensions, and health care benefit plans.
DigitalGov’s theme this month is mobile moments, which explores the impact of mobile applications in the federal government. For this post, I am examining the more than 300 mobile apps created by the federal government. An updated list of federal mobile apps is on USA.gov. According to the list, 73 federal organizations have released mobile apps on a wide variety of topics. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has the most mobile apps with 31 releases.
At 18F Consulting, we experiment with ways to empower agencies to build cost-efficient, excellent digital solutions. Recently we partnered with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to run a two day “Design/Dev Agile Sprint.” Background: Investigators in Wage and Hour Division The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcing a wide variety of federal labor laws, including those requiring the minimum wage, overtime, child labor protections, and family and medical leave laws.
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.
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.
The new second draft of the U.S. Public Participation Playbook incorporates changes that were proposed from nearly 100 suggestions submitted after the first week of public comment, with more improvements to come. We still need your contributions for this groundbreaking new collaborative resource to measurably improve our participatory public services across government, and would like to take this opportunity to share what we have learned so far.
Sign up now to join fellow MobileGov Community of Practice members for Tech@State’s Mobile Diplomacy conference on Friday, October 3, 2014! Your attendance will let you participate in a variety of panels, ignite and breakout sessions about mobile development relevant to all digital government innovators. Members of the Mobile Gov Community of Practice from the U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Labor, Department of Defense and other agencies will be presenting on panels like “Mobile First: Design & User Experience” and “Best Practices in the U.
How do you find participants for your usability studies? I spoke recently with the User Experience Community of Practice about how we recruit participants for usability and cognitive studies at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hopefully I can give you some new ideas about recruiting volunteers to fuel your user research. At BLS, we need different types of participants for different studies. Very often, we are looking for members of the general public.
Imagine open source code, publicly available to share, that jump starts your agency’s mobile development efforts. Pretty neat idea, huh? Well last year it became a reality with the Mobile Code Catalog. This idea was the brainchild of Mike Pulsifer, who, as the Technical Manager for the Division of Enterprise Communications, Office of Public Affairs, at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), is responsible for developing and publishing the DOL website and mobile applications.
More than 100 digital engagement and open data managers from across government met with leaders in the private sector startup community August 7 at the White House for a summit on integrating our digital services with public participation to create more opportunities for innovation and tackle tougher challenges. The SocialGov Summit on Open Data Innovation was organized by the 700-member SocialGov Community and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, launching a new inter-community initiative to apply combined open data, digital engagement, and innovative technologies to fields ranging from the Internet of Things and emergency management to modernization of the regulatory process.
When it comes to Web and software design, the pen(cil) is often mightier than the Design Suite. What I mean is: Tech is cool, but don’t fall under its spell. It’s often when you remove the technological layers between you and your thoughts that the best ideas sprout. You’ve heard of great ideas that started on bar napkins, right? One way that low-tech beats high-tech is when it comes to conceptualizing early-stage design ideas.
You’ve just found a great open source fed agency app on the Mobile Code Sharing Catalog, and would love to use one of its cool functionalities for your own agency’s app. As federal agencies release more and more code to the open source community, this dilemma is becoming increasingly commonplace. Agencies who open-source their entire app’s code are taking an excellent first step; the next challenge is to get the really interesting and useful code reused more readily.
This week, we will look at three different APIs that demonstrate how agencies use different technologies to serve out data. Presenting data in various formats encourages developers to build on federal APIs. As past columns have shown, the innovative apps created with federal data are quickly growing. The latest API news this week is how quickly the Department of Labor (DOL) built a Software Developer Kit (SDK) for Apple’s new programming language.
Are you having trouble getting training or professional development opportunities? Federal employees can gain access to a variety of professional development opportunities and work on digital projects across the government through the Open Opportunities program. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Mha-SnOfzo&w=600] Open Opportunities are tasks and projects that help you develop and strengthen skills, work with others across agencies to get stuff done and break down silos. Mike Pulsifer from the Department of Labor says Open Opportunities provided him the chance to do “really interesting work that cuts across the silos of government.
As government innovators, we work to improve public services every day. In essence we are already in a public private partnership. But how can your agency capitalize on existing public private partnerships to engage citizens and enhance services? Four panelists from across government shared their public private partnerships success stories at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday. The three other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and inter-agency work.
At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, Jacob Parcell, Manager, Mobile Programs at the General Services Administration led a panel on the challenges and benefits of Inter-Agency work. The other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and public private partnerships. “The challenges are real,” said Parcell, who quoted President Obama’s famous salmon quandary: “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater,” Obama said.
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?
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.
We won’t build the government of the 21st century by drawing within the lines. We don’t have to tell you the hard work of building a digital government doesn’t exist in a vacuum or a bubble. Show us social media without mobile, Web without data and user experience without APIs. You can’t? That’s right—in reality, digital government intersects and cuts across boundaries every day in order to deliver the digital goods.
Two years ago, federal agencies were set on a fast track to create a 21st century digital government. The Federal Digital Strategy served up a heaping set of deliverables on a tight timeline. Agencies opened data sets, built mobile apps and websites, published APIs, created and updated digital governance structures, and joined with other agencies in measuring digital services performance. Last May, as the final deadlines were met, some asked, “What’s next?
Smartphones, tablets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, not to mention your agency’s desktop website, are all clamoring for information, but sliced and diced in different ways. How can you make your content adaptive for efficient delivery to all of these mediums? Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. We’ve created two open and structured content models that we want you to use and adapt.
This week the SocialGov Community took the step of recruiting a Digital Engagement Knowledge Manager, and I am excited to join the team through the innovative new Open Opportunities Program. At this point, though, you may be asking—is there really so much information out there that it needs to be managed? Yes! The truth is that the same challenges pop up all across government, and the same questions are asked over and over.
In 25 years, imagine a world where anytime, anywhere, any device is just taken for granted. That’s the theme from the responses we got from our Mobile Gov Community of Practice members when we asked them to predict the effect mobile would have on the Web over the next 25 years. While no one claimed to have the exact answer, most members described a future state where the Web was pervasive, not just tied to your computer or smartphone, but interacting with anything and everything.
E-books are great for one thing: reading on mobile devices. Their reflowable text adjusts to fit the reader’s smartphone, tablet or e-reader in the type size the reader chooses. They are essential for reading on smartphones, and better than pdf’s for all but the biggest tablets. But e-books are not great for design. They’re generally single column, with images “anchored” within the text flow. Graphical enhancements are very limited, and are supported differently (if at all) on different devices.
How We Did It Last November, as part of revisiting the state of Mobile Gov, government mobile innovators identified a need for guidelines to help create amazing and engaging mobile user experiences. We convened a group to workshop around elements of mobile user experience with the goal to develop user experience practices for government. We then asked you to set priorities and help hone a set of useful, actionable user experience guidelines and recommendations that agencies could adopt.
The Department of Labor’s DOL Timesheet, OSHA Heat Index Tool and LaborStats apps are available anytime and anywhere for the public. Now their code is available for agencies to leverage for mobile development. All the apps’ code are available on the Mobile Code Sharing Catalog –a resource for developers that can help them find source code for native and web projects from a variety of sources. DOL Timesheet allows users to keep track of the amount of hours worked in a week and calculates an estimated income.
Hosted API Tools Labs.Data.gov is a repository of shared services to prototype and provide developer resources to government agencies. Each tool uses Web services and lightweight, open source code to provide powerful functionality. Agencies are encouraged to improve any project and submit pull requests in order to share the improvements with others. API Standards Template With the open source release of the White House’s API Standards template, agencies have a complete model for API design and best practices that includes the best practices and agreed–upon norms of the developer community.
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.
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.
What It Is The U.S. Department of Labor sought to go beyond merely making data available to developers and take ease of use of the data to the next level by giving developers tools that would make using DOL’s data easier. The target audience was not just experienced developers, but even those who may be just starting out with a how-to book and a great idea. The developer should not necessarily know what JSON or XML are.
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.
_ Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info._ This entry is a story shared by the Department of Labor. The Heat Safety Tool provides the heat index for your work site and precautions to prevent heat illness. Why We Did It OSHA developed the Heat Safety Tool smartphone app as part of a nationwide outreach campaign to raise awareness among workers and employers about the hazards of working outdoors in hot weather.
_ Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info._ The Labor Stats Application presents the most up-to-date numbers and news releases for top employment statistics published by Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Why We Did It The Labor Department created the app to better share important information using the fastest, simplest, most wide-reaching means available, and this app increases the accessibility of Labor’s statistical data.
When agency folks gather together to talk about mobile gov, the number one question asked is, “Should we do a mobile app or a mobile web site?” To help people with that question, we became fight promoters and sponsored THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY!! Mobile Web Vs. Mobile Apps Two champions debated this hot topic: Neil Bonner, from the Transportation Security Administration, is a proponent of mobile websites.