Want To Make Digital Government Work? Hire Your Own Coders

Joseph Marks | Nextgov | January 3, 2014

In late summer of 2012, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulators went to their technology office with an idea.

The standard way to put proposed new federal rules online is in large blocks of text, similar to how they’re presented on paper in the decades-old Federal Register. By using hypertext and modern Web design, they thought, regulators could make proposed rules more available and comprehensible to the general public and reduce busy work for industry attorneys and activists who spend hours parsing through regulations each day.

The technology team liked the idea and got to work, interviewing lawyers, bankers and other frequent regulations readers as well as regulation writers inside government. They also looked at private sector reading tools that manage large blocks of text.

By October 2013, the team had launched a pilot site, eRegulations, which allows users to navigate proposed regulations section by section and to pull up common definitions of regulatory terms alongside the regulation text itself. There’s one CFPB regulation up on the site now, related to electronic funds transfers, and the technology team is gathering feedback to figure out how they can improve the site before offering more regulations.