Citizens provide guidance for Commerce's digital government efforts

With 10 days to the deadline to adopt a minimum of two tools as outlined by the Digital Government Strategy, Commerce Department officials are getting a good idea of what the public considers should be the agency’s first priorities.

The road map to building a government for the digital era directs agencies to implement at least a couple of tools and technologies -- such as responsive web design and search engine optimization -- by Aug. 23, 2012.

In line with the governmentwide effort, Commerce officials identified two areas that needed improvement and several platforms within each that could use some revamping: application programming interfaces and mobile optimization. As FCW recently reported, officials then took to blogging to ask for input in deciding which two items they should opt to complete by the August deadline set by the Office of Management and Budget. Now responses are starting to come in.

Officials have identified five major customer-facing systems that will be unlocked through web APIs: News from the Office of the Secretary, NTIA News, American Community Survey, Export.gov and MBDA.gov. An additional four Commerce websites, along with the main one, will be optimized for mobile devices: BIS.doc.gov, Export.gov, MBDA.gov and ESA.gov.

Tips from the public have ranged from making an iPad-friendly Commerce homepage to including more financial data. “The more economic data you make available - like with the Census app - the better,” one tipster wrote on Aug. 9.

Another suggestion proposed Export.gov should be Commerce’s first priority, with the Economics and Statistics Administration providing market information through the website.

“In addition, the main homepage and other internal-type stuff should be last, as the main goal should work to help taxpayers -- which is directly seen in Export.gov,” the commenter wrote.

Those remarks were echoed by another observer who suggested Commerce pool all its efforts into Export.Gov because “growing businesses need to learn the mechanics of the global marketplace and find new customers.”

However, while the majority of the comments offered real advice, the occasional dissenter dismissed the agency’s focus on mobile APIs for its websites as “a complete waste of money.”

“Nobody needs instant feedback concerning trade policy or any other matter regarding commerce policy,” one anonymous skeptic wrote Aug. 13. “You have a complete misunderstanding of communications. Just because you call it digital doesn't mean it necessary. This sound like self-serving PR instead of something useful.”

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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