Federal Websites Can Score Better by Moving to Cloud

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Agencies whose websites ranked low in the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s study of government websites can improve by moving to the cloud, industry experts say.

ITIF released a report Wednesday that found that 92 percent of the most popular Federal websites fail in either security, mobility, accessibility, or speed standards.

John Landwehr, vice president and public sector chief technology officer at Adobe, said that he’d be interested to see which websites that were tested operated through a cloud service versus on-premises systems, because cloud services often help agencies meet these standards. Landwehr said that agencies have benefited in their transitions to cloud services by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), which authorizes cloud service providers for government use.

David Yoon, senior director of the public sector for Akamai Technologies, said that some companies have trouble meeting FedRAMP standards because they don’t have the resources to get certified or they don’t see the benefit of certification because some agencies still don’t enforce the program.

Despite these challenges, Federal agencies are still working to move to the cloud “just about every day,” according to Brett McMillen, general manager of civilian government for Amazon Web Services. McMillen said that cloud providers have to prove to agencies that they can increase the effectiveness of the agencies’ missions through their services.

“If a citizen has to come talk to us, IT has failed,” McMillen said.


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The industry leaders said that one of the biggest ways that the agencies can improve is by making their websites mobile friendly.

“Web traffic in general has increased over the last several years and a lot of that is triggered by mobile devices,” Landwehr said. “Everything you’re able to do on the Web, you should be able to do on your smartphone or tablet.”

Landwehr said that agencies should render their home pages and every function of the website to be able to work on a mobile device. Agencies should also research whether people are attempting to fill out forms on their phones and stopping halfway because the site doesn’t work in that format. This knowledge will tell chief information officers what specific functions need to be updated.

“If the government doesn’t support these processes we’re going to have a regression,” Landwehr said.

Chris Neff, vice president of marketing for NIC, said that he noticed that Federal websites tend to go through phases of big updates in a short period of time followed by no updates for a long period of time. Agencies should make one person in charge of the function of the website to improve accountability and make updates to the website constantly.

Agencies should “continue to focus on this as a business-critical, day-in and day-out priority,” Neff said.

McMillen said that the Office of Management and Budget often writes guidelines that require agencies to update their sites but don’t provide the resources for agencies to adhere to the new regulations.

“We need to enable the agencies to follow through” on security and mobility policies, Yoon said.

Yoon said that he doesn’t expect government websites to be particularly fast, because they don’t have the same responsibilities as the private sector to beat out competition; however, the websites should have high security standards. Yoon also said that agency standards should be updated constantly because technology gets updated constantly.

“No CIO wants their website on the Washington Post saying their site has been compromised,” Yoon said.

Neff said that the Trump administration should consider making another Federal push for website consolidation, which was a focus of the Obama administration in 2011.

Landwehr said that agencies fear that they’ll lose control if their websites are consolidated. However, new technology has enabled large websites to be managed just as quickly as smaller sites with many people in charge of different aspects of the site.

“We need to look at websites as a tool to help better serve the citizens,” McMillen said.

 

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