Authenticity, Accessibility Issues in Federal Digital Content: Justin Herman, Social Media Lead, General Services Administration

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The General Services Administration recently created a new resource called the U.S. Digital Registry to authenticate the social media accounts of government agencies and organizations.

Bloomberg BNA's Alexis Kramer posed questions to Justin Herman, social media lead for the GSA's DigitalGov program on the reasons behind the development of the registry, how it will benefit businesses and other issues related to federal websites and digital services.

Bloomberg BNA:

The GSA recently introduced the Digital Registry to verify government social media accounts. What spurred this new platform?

Justin Herman:

There’s two stories in the U.S. Digital Registry. The first is how can the federal government increase its accountability over nearly 10,000 accounts in dozens of languages and on dozens of platforms. The second is how can we open that information up for businesses and citizens and smash bureaucratic silos created not only by the hundreds of public service organizations, but the dozens of competing technology platforms themselves.

It’s these two distinct needs and opportunities that drove the development of the registry and will shape how it continues to grow in the coming weeks and months.

Bloomberg BNA:

What types of businesses will benefit from this registry?

Herman:

Any business that uses official public service information from the U.S. government can benefit from the U.S. Digital Registry as both consumers of the information, such as for signal intelligence, and as creators of new products and services that use that information. In the same way that people choose to check their weather on apps, the television and radio—and yet all those products rely on government weather data—we would like to open that experience up for all publicly shared programs.

Bloomberg BNA:

What are the most common issues related to federal websites and other digital content?

Herman:

Some of the biggest challenges we face in federal digital services that differ from the private sector is our standards for areas like accessibility and records management for the Freedom of Information Act. Most of the social media platforms we use are designed for the private sector, but when the government uses a platform we can’t even have advertisements on an official page. You can imagine the negotiations that follow.

Bloomberg BNA:

What actions have you taken to ensure government websites are accessible to disabled individuals?

Herman:

The potential of the U.S. Digital Registry to convert raw social data into more accessible services, like screen readers, is exciting. The federal government is one of the leading voices in the world for promoting better access to emerging technologies for persons with disabilities, the aging population, wounded warriors, users with limited Internet and other communities that need reliable access to public services.

We provide training and information to agencies as new techniques and tools become available, share collaborative resources like “Improving the Accessibility of Social Media in Government,” and work directly with private sector developers to help them learn the user experiences for those in the accessibility community.