New Executive Order Could Improve Government Websites

by Gavin Baker, 5/18/2011

On April 27, President Obama signed Executive Order 13571, entitled "Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service." Building on a Clinton-era order, E.O. 13571 requires agencies to develop plans to make their customer service more efficient and effective. Agencies have to publish their plans online within 180 days.

In their plans, agencies are to detail the actions they will take to solicit customer feedback and to make better use of technology in delivering services, among other things. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will assist agencies in implementing the order, including "improving the design and management of agency websites providing services or information to the public."

Last week, OMB Watch sent a letter to OMB with our recommendations for its guidance on implementing the order. In particular, we note that customer service doesn't always look like filling out a form or receiving a payment. Providing information is a major government service, whether it's about government spending or toxic chemicals in their community. Agencies should keep that fact in consideration:

OMB's guidance on implementing the order should direct agencies to review their public information and outreach services, including but not limited to websites. The review should examine these services from a customer perspective, look for gaps in these services, and consider adopting best practices and innovative technologies to improve these services.

Well-functioning government information services are critical to our democracy, our economy, and our well-being. As they review their services, agencies should examine the information they provide to the public and look for ways to improve it.

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