Federal agencies need to make more progress on digitizing forms, report says

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How to progress on digital forms and modern websites

As part of 21st Century IDEA, agencies are not required to provide information about their transition to web forms. Of the agencies that provided specific numbers on the number of forms they made available in compliant digital format – the Departments of Defense, Treasury and Veterans Affairs – “all report numbers significantly lower than the total number of forms that our assessment found associated with each agency, indicating that agencies use a narrow definition of which of their forms are ‘related to service to the public’,” the ITIF report found.

For example, while the ITIF assessment revealed a total of 1,159 DOD-related forms, the DOD “claimed in its latest 21st Century IDEA report that it had digitized all of its 139 related forms service to the public,” ITIF said in the report.

ITIF found that only 2% of government forms in its sample are “fully compliant as an online form” and “78% are partially compliant as a fillable PDF”.

“Most executive agencies have made significant progress in making their forms available as fillable PDFs,” the report says. “But, while users can complete and submit these forms without printing them, as long as the forms have electronic signatures enabled, which most do not, this format is not fully compliant with the 21st Century IDEA’s mobile friendliness requirement.”

The fault may not lie entirely with the agencies themselves, ITIF suggests, noting that the Office of Management and Budget has not produced guidelines for agencies to comply with the 21st IDEA. century, as required by law.

The law required the OMB to issue implementation guidelines by June 18, 2019, and members of Congress again on May 6, 2021 requested guidelines by June 20, 2021, according to ITIF.

“These two deadlines have now passed. It is likely that, without implementation guidance, agencies will continue to struggle to fully comply with 21st Century IDEA requirements,” the report states. “Furthermore, as agencies continue to create forms without guidance, they will likely create many that are not compliant with the law, creating more unnecessary work for them in the future to recreate these forms in a suitable format. mobile and accessible.”

ITIF recommended that the OMB issue guidelines for implementing the law and that Congress hold review hearings on agency compliance with 21st Century IDEA. ITIF also recommends that the Technology Modernization Council provide grants to incentivize agencies to use login.gov, and that the OMB order federal agencies to stop using fax machines.

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How Technology Can Help Agencies Digitize Forms

Various technologies can help agencies speed up the process of digitizing forms and making them accessible to government users and citizens.

Document management involves “the use of a computer system and software to store, manage, and track electronic documents and electronic images of paper-based information captured through the use of a document scanner” , according to the Association for Intelligent Information Management.

An electronic document management system allows agencies to store, access, index, search, retrieve, archive and delete documents. An EDMS is designed to allow agencies to convert physical documents into electronic forms that can be stored and accessed quickly.

Long-standing tools can also help agency IT teams transform paper forms and legacy processes into digital forms. As Adobe notes on its website, its Adobe Acrobat tool can help in this regard: “Whether it’s a scan of an existing manual document or a simple online form made with Microsoft Word, you You can use the Prepare Form tool to create digital forms from your existing documents. Acrobat automatically recognizes form fields for things like text entries, checkboxes, radio buttons, and signatures.

Adobe also highlights its Adobe Experience Manager Forms solution as a way to enable agencies to create “web- and mobile-friendly forms and documents through a single authoring, publishing-anywhere experience,” according to a 2018 report. from the company and research firm IDC.

Adobe notes that while AEM Forms can be used for simple transaction-based interactions, the solution can also be used “to simplify and streamline complex transactions seen in regulated industries and government departments,” with use cases typical such as customer registration and onboarding, employee onboarding, customer service, and customer communications.

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