Scan 10,000 paper forms, save 10 billion hours

American companies lead the world in digital transformation technologies, but few of those innovations have made it to federal, state and local governments. The Chamber of Commerce wants to put this into practice with its recommendations; convened hundreds of public and private leaders for its inaugural Digital Transformation Summit. Lectures featured information leaders from the General Services Administration and the Office of Management and Budget; Senator Gary Peters, Representative Gary Kilmer and a dozen current and former federal and state information technology (IT) leaders. While the citizen satisfaction, cost efficiency and resiliency benefits of digitization are well known, the Summit showcased IT changemakers in government today, detailed the elements of successful public-private cooperation, and created strategies to overcome obstacles to change.

Panel “From dated to digitized” highlights transformational IT leaders in government

The pandemic proved to be a system shock to many federal agencies and initiated overnight process improvements. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) already had major IT projects under way, most notably the integration of health records with the Department of Defense (ensuring that a person serving in the US military has a single record across the USA for health and service). Paul Brubaker, Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Department of Veterans, explained how Covid has catalyzed digital healthcare for millions of U.S. veterans. In fact, VA hospitals have been called upon during the pandemic to serve the public. As of January, an additional 3.5 million can file substance exposure claims online as part of the PACT Act. The Law for the Maintenance of Internal Systems and Strengthening of Integrated External Networks, or MISSION Law, further expands access to health care and improves the quality of care.

Brubaker explained that a large IT requirement could hold back an organization, but instead, the VA seized every opportunity to accelerate its digital transformation journey, driving a higher and better level of activity and quality across the organization. VA staff worked remotely during the pandemic to ensure service to veterans, and today they augment those capabilities with automation and artificial intelligence. Digital transformation not only improves service to veterans, it also improves the relationship between the VA and other agencies.

More than half a billion people interact with the Department of the Interior (DOI) every year but don’t know it. DOI Chief Information Officer Darren Ash explained how the DOI manages the US’s national parks, national monuments and other natural, historic and recreational properties — and even manages schools on Native American reservations. The DOI is in the midst of IT transformation to not only manage the daily demands of visitors, but to preserve and make available a treasure trove of hundreds of years of paper documents relating to the founding of these properties. Ash detailed how agencies can learn from one another, describing his work at the USDA and Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where he implemented the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), designed to improve how the feds use IT assets.

Most Americans are familiar with the easy, seamless DocuSign experience that helps enable the Anywhere Economy. DocuSign’s 1 million customers have enabled over 1 billion electronic contracts and electronic signatures. Michael “MJ” Jackson, vice president and global head of industries at DocuSign, detailed the learning experience of federal agencies as they implement digital technologies, collaborating with partners to make government work better for citizens.

Zebra Technologies, known for its barcode and RFID solutions that power the supply chain at Wal-Mart and other global retailers, helps organizations sense, analyze and act in real time. John Wirthlin, Industry Director of Technologies for Manufacturing, Transportation and Logistics, detailed how Zebra’s technology drives safety, specificity and efficiency in the US government’s distribution of medical and pharmaceutical supplies.

The IRS and the Taxpayer Papercut

A groundbreaking report by the Chamber of Commerce noted that $143 billion annually is spent on government information collections alone. He highlighted the easier fruits of scanning passport renewals, tax returns, customs declarations and employee eligibility checks. It also documented the federal government’s financial burden on the public: $42 billion in hours and US Treasury forms; $32 billion from the Securities and Exchange Commission for forms and administration, among other agencies.

Remote online notarization, an ability to obtain legally authenticated documents completely online, is another important digitization trend. Recent federal legislation in the SECURE Notarization Act would provide the benefits and efficiencies of remote online authentication to Americans across the country. While the legislation could be re-introduced and passed in this Congress, some federal agencies are already embracing the technology. Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it is putting into action a plan to make a COVID policy permanent: relief to allow the use of remote authentications of spousal consents and other participant elections for withdrawals from retirement plans.

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