For Federal Agencies, Website or Application Hosting Has a Different Regulatory Rulebook as New Laws Go Into Effect

By Elizabeth Clor

Building fast, reliable, secure and accessible websites and online services is a top priority for the government today. Agencies have been porting more citizen services online for several years, but COVID-19 has shifted what was once seen as long-term “nice-to-have” projects into necessities.

As the pandemic forces agencies to bring government services to the people (instead of vice-versa), citizens have increasingly high expectations for their online experiences. According to Ekata, 92% of people demand a fast, frictionless experience that is also secure—and citizens also expect interactions with government services to rival experiences from tech companies and retailers.

But for federal agencies, the checklist of laws, policies and regulation requirements for running websites and digital services is expansive. And while government IT resources continue to be limited, citizens’ expectations for digital services are higher than ever. However, despite improvements by many agencies over the past decade, satisfaction with federal services has dipped to a five-year low amid the pandemic.

In order to tackle some of the biggest and most distinct regulatory challenges and ease the burden of compliance, while also enhancing citizens’ digital experiences—more gov IT teams are turning to a trusted, third-party support partner. From FedRAMP security compliance to centralization and task management, the right hosting provider understands how to support the specific needs of government agencies to streamline operations and achieve digital transformation goals.

In doing so, gov IT teams can alleviate the number of hours spent day-to-day on administrative, infrastructure and data-related tasks—and focus more on long-term, strategic planning and adding greater value to digital services for citizens. This is crucial for development teams pushed to the brink to keep up with the sky-high demand for more online government services today, as well as emerging laws and regulations.

Keeping Pace with the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act

To bring federal websites and digital services up to par with similar experiences citizens might get from the private sector, last year the federal government issued a new set of website standards.

Called the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (or IDEA), this collection of standards for websites and online services focuses on ensuring digital services are accessible and user-friendly. In particular, the act pushes government agencies to modernize their websites and digitize services and forms, including the addition of e-signatures and the transition to centralized shared services. It also dictates that websites must be accessible to individuals with disabilities, contain a search function and be provided through a secure connection.

Section 3 of 21st Century IDEA mandates that federal agencies report their progress on website modernization, including the timelines for required updates. In addition to providing the framework to support modern upgrades to federal websites and applications, this is where a trusted hosting provider like Contegix can enable federal agencies to effectively implement workflow tools.

Migrating to Mobile with the Connected Government Act

Mobile-friendly websites and online services have been a huge focus for government agencies over the past couple of years, and for good reason. According to Pew Research, one in four U.S. adults does not own a laptop or desktop computer, but a whopping 96% do own smartphones. The majority of people search for a website first with their mobile device, and even more importantly, many lower-income adults depend on smartphones entirely for internet access.

To address the urgent need for more mobile services, the government signed into law the Connect Government Act. Passed in 2018, this legislation requires all new and redesigned agency websites to be mobile-friendly.

This is one reason more federal agencies are turning to a flexible, customizable website framework such as Drupal. By combining Drupal, the right cloud solution and the right hosting partner, gov IT teams can  create fast, secure and reliable mobile experiences.

Contegix’s BlackMesh Drupal Services provide a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution that can support gov IT teams with infrastructure, performance tuning, security and compliance they need to run and manage websites and online services—including mobile applications. By adding BlackMesh, gov IT teams working on websites can cut down on the added (and often unexpected) burden and costs associated with building their own applications on their CMS platform. Instead of creating infrastructure from scratch, or spending countless hours upgrading and maintaining it, BlackMesh provides the optimized, cost-effective platform developers need to build exceptional digital services and websites with more efficiency and speed. 

Security and Compliance: FedRAMP, HIPAA and more

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for government agencies hosting websites or applications is security and regulatory compliance. Today’s citizens expect to connect with government services in a safe, secure and reliable manner. In fact, security is citizens’ number one concern in dealing with government services online: 91% have concerns about submitting personal information to government websites.

At the heart of protecting citizens’ personal information is a wave of regulatory compliance. But adhering to major standards, such as FedRAMP and HIPAA, can be a time-consuming and burdensome task for gov IT teams. Most daunting for these teams, it can be even more difficult to find a hosting provider that can also support the application level.

Website Compliance and Security eBook

In addition, a trusted managed services partner can unlock a suite of other benefits for gov IT teams navigating the federal government’s regulatory rulebook. This includes 24/7 IT support ticketing to improve response times and ensure positive outcomes, and centralized identity management and log-in security solutions to improve security while enabling and streamlining remote work.

For gov IT teams aiming to create the future of online government services to better serve constituents, the right hosting and managed services partner can provide benefits for the long term to meet citizens’ demand for faster, more reliable and secure federal websites and online services. Please contact us for more information.