Digital Strategy

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On May 23, 2012, President Obama issued a directive entitled “Building a 21st Century Digital Government”. It launched a comprehensive Digital Government Strategy aimed at delivering better digital services to the American people. This website, will be updated regularly to reflect EPA progress in implementing it's approach to the strategy. 

On May 9, 2013, the Administration issued Executive Order 13542 and associated Open Data Policy (M-13-13) that promotes the adoption of Open Data practices by agencies. EPA submitted the EPA Open Data Implementation Plan which summarizes EPA's approach to meet Open Data Goals.  (PDF 5pp 387KB)  Periodic updates are provided on EPA's Open Initiative Homepage.

Strategy Milestones
Part A: Information Centric


1. Make Open Data, Content, and Web APIs the New Default


1.2. Ensure all new IT systems follow the open data, content, and web API policy and operationalize agency.gov/developer pages

Overall Status: In Progress

1.2.1.  Document policy for architecting new IT systems for openness by default


Describe policy: The Enterprise Information Management Policy requires all new IT systems follow the open data, content and web API policy. 

1.2.2.  Publish Enterprise Information in Management Policy

Status: Complete

1.2.3. Governance Tools

EPA provides a range of tools and registry content (e.g. Reusable Component Services, Environmental Dataset Gateway, and Data Element Registry) through its System of Registries located at: www.epa.gov/sor. EPA is continuing efforts to document APIs through the development of an Agency-wide API Strategy.  The proposed strategy is based on 18F’s API standards.  The proposal encourages the use of api.data.gov’s API management platform. In addition, APIs produced by the EPA should be described using one of the common API definition formats (such as Swagger, API Blueprint and RAML).  The strategy is being finalized and an Agency-wide communication plan is being developed.  This communication plan will include Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that require API developers to register dataset APIs in the EPA’s Environmental Dataset Gateway, which will allow these APIs to become part of the EPA's EDI/PDL.  All other APIs will be registered in EPA's Reusable Components Services. 

Status: In progress

1.2.4. Develop Data Inventory Schedule
Summarize the Inventory Schedule: In 2005 the EPA developed a metadata catalog for Agency datasets known as the Environmental Dataset Gateway (EDG).  In response to Project Open Data requirements the EPA CIO issued an Agency-wide data call in Fall of 2013 asking all EPA organizations to register their datasets in EDG.  Since that time the Agency has been committed to increasing the percentage of EPA data cataloged within the EDG. The Office of Environmental Information works with the Agency’s Information Management Officers on an ongoing basis to encourage them to ensure that data within their program offices are registered in the EDG and has increased its network of stakeholders to ensure that any datasets not identified during the 2013 data call are registered in EDG.

1.2.5. Develop Data Inventory Schedule – Milestones

Title: Provide reports to programs to identify metadata holes. 
Description: EPA uses its registry of IT Systems, READ, to identify datasets that may not be cataloged in the EDG.  The EDG team works with the data stewardship network to identify and catalog the missing datasets. 
Milestone Date: Ongoing
Description of how this milestone expands the Inventory:  This milestone allows EPA to identify and catalog new datasets that were not identified in the original 2013 data call within the Agency’s Environmental Dataset Gateway, the metadata catalog which is used to create the Enterprise Data Inventory.   
Description of how this milestone enriches the Inventory: This milestone bring new and important datasets into EPA’s Enterprise Data Inventory. 
Description of how this milestones opens the Inventory: This milestones provides additional datasets that are publicly available through both the EDG and data.gov. 

1.2.6. Develop Customer Feedback Process
Describe the agency’s process to engage with customers: EPA interacts with the public on its data in numerous ways including public meetings/forums, feedback buttons on websites, webinars, mailboxes, FOIA Online and help desks.   Recently the Agency launched an online public data forum to communicate with the public about its data in a fully transparent manner: http://developer.epa.gov/forums/forum/dataset-qa/. This forum enables two-way, transparent feedback between the Agency and the public. It can be accessed through three different webpages: the Environmental Dataset Gateway (EDG) webpage, the Developer Central webpage, and EPA’s Digital Strategy webpage.  The forum shows both the public user’s question and the Agency’s answer and categorizes questions to increase discoverability about specific topics. Development work is underway to embed the forum into the Agency’s metadata stylesheet. This would allow people to ask questions about a specific dataset directly from a metadata record and have that question routed to the metadata owner for response.

In addition to the Forum, EPA has developed an error correction tool which allows the public to report errors that they find relating to data, especially in relation to the geographic locations of data points.  The errors are routed through a system that returns feedback to the person who has reported the error.

1.2.7. Describe the Agency’s Data Publication Process
Describe the agency’s data publication process:
EPA has a number of policies and procedures concerning the publication of Agency data.  The Enterprise Information Management Policy requires all EPA Organization officials, employees, and individuals or non-EPA organizations, if applicable, to ensure information is cataloged and or labeled with metadata.  This includes geographic references, as appropriate, in EPA and Federal-wide registries, repositories or other information systems.  The EPA GeoPlatform Publishing Workflow Standard Operating Procedure and the EPA Environmental Dataset Gateway (EDG) Governance Structure and Standard Operating Procedure outline the details of EPA data publishing. 

EPA provides a range of tools and registry content (e.g. Reusable Component Services, Environmental Dataset Gateway, and Data Element Registry) through its System of Registries located at: www.epa.gov/sor. EPA is continuing efforts to document APIs through the development of an Agency-wide API Strategy.  The proposed strategy is based on 18F’s API standards.  The proposal encourages the use of api.data.gov’s API management platform. In addition, APIs produced by the EPA should be described using one of the common API definition formats (such as Swagger, API Blueprint and RAML).  The strategy is being finalized and an Agency-wide communication plan is being developed.  This communication plan will include Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that require API developers to register dataset APIs in the EPA’s Environmental Dataset Gateway, which will allow these APIs to become part of the EPA's EDI/PDL.  All other APIs will be registered in EPA's Reusable Components Services (RCS).

2. Make Existing High-Value Data and Content Available through Web APIs

2.1. Engage with customers to identify at least two existing major customer-facing services that contain high-value data or content as first-move candidates to make compliant with new open data, content, and web API policy.

Overall status:  Complete

2.1.1. Paragraph on customer engagement approach
Paragraph on customer engagement approach:
EPA is encouraging engagement with external parties regarding its data holding through a number of mechanisms, one of which, is a two-way public feedback forum. The forum can be accessed directly at: http://developer.epa.gov/forums/forum/dataset-qa/. At this time the public forum is available through the “Post Questions and Comments” button on the Environmental Dataset Gateway (EDG) webpage, the Digital Strategy webpage and the Developer Central webpage. EPA is currently testing the possibility of integrating the forum into Agency metadata records as well. This functionality would allow public users to submit questions to the public forum through a link on a metadata record page. The question would then be routed directly to the point of contact for that particular metadata record. All questions and answers regarding a specific metadata record would be categorized together on the public forum page. 

2.1.2. Prioritized list of systems (datasets)
System Name: Facility Registry Service
System Description:  FRS is a master data management system that integrates data on nearly 4 million places of interest from over 90 different sources. It combines EPA data with federal, commercial, state, tribal and territorial sources, to provide a robust picture of regulatory interests at facilities.  FRS data are used internally to aid with integration, data warehousing and analysis.  These data serve as a key dataset supporting EnviroFacts (EPA’s data warehouse with data from 20 databases), Integrated Compliance Information System (ICIS), Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO), Cleanups In My Community and the EPA GeoPlatform.  In addition, FRS’s critical infrastructure and potential oil/hazardous materials sites information is used by EPA’s emergency response community. FRS is also widely used by the public and environmental justice communities for understanding information about community impacts posed by facilities, and is also used extensively in the real estate sector for evaluating risk in commercial real estate transactions. 
System Scope:  both
Main Customer:  Public and internal users
Unique Investment Identifier:  020-000016030 00-00-01-16-02-00 

2.2. Make high-value data and content in at least two existing, major customer – facing systems available through web APIs, apply metadata tagging and publish a plan to transition additional high-value systems

Overall status: Complete

2.2.1. Publish on future activity
Describe policy: The Enterprise Information Management Policy (March  2015)  requires all  EPA information follow the open data, content and web API policy. Secifically the policy  requires that all EPA data be:

  • Catalogued and/or labeled with metadata, including geographic references, as appropriate, in EPA and Federal-wide registries, repositories, or other information systems.
  • Developed, maintained, and preserved in open and machine readable formats using established standards that make information discoverable and accessible, where appropriate and feasible.
  • Made and maintained to be open and publically accessible, unless there is a documented National Security Information (NSI) or Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) requirement outlined within a statute/law, regulation, and/or government-wide policy, or unless otherwise protected from disclosure under federal law or EPA regulation. In these cases, internal, external, and associated safeguards must be instituted.

2.2.2. Make 2+ systems (datasets) available via web APIs with metadata tags
Name of system: Regulations.gov
Description of system: Regulations.gov is the federal-wide online public docket and comment system that provides public access to, and the ability to comment on, Federal agency rulemakings. An API is currently available that allows government and non government sites to more efficiently and accurately repackage and incorporate regulatory data and services from regulations.gov into their sites. This API is located at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!developers.
Scope of system: both
Main customers: Public
Unique Investment Identifier: N/A
API Link: https://regulationsgov.github.io/developers/
Name of system: Envirofacts
Description of system: Envirofacts provides access to several EPA databases that provide information about environmental activities that may affect air, water, and land. While an API exists for all of the public data sources in Envirofacts, there is a need to develop dedicated APIs and Web services that combine specific data for the user. EPA is evaluating the creation of a dedicated API to support access to drinking water monitoring information from the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) based on a high rate of access from external users in its current form.

Scope of system:  external
Main customers: Public
Unique Investment Identifier: N/A
API Link: https://www.epa.gov/enviro/envirofacts-data-service-api
 

Part B: Shared Platform
4. Establish Intra-Agency Governance to Improve Delivery of Digital Services

4.2. Establish an agency-wide governance structure for developing and delivering digital services

Overall status: In progress

  • Paragraph on governance: EPA has a number of governance policies, procedures and standards that guide the development and delivery of digital services. System Life Cycle Management (SLCM) Policy (CIO 2121.1): The purpose of System Life Cycle Management (SLCM) policy is to establish a consistent framework across the Agency to ensure that EPA IT systems and applications are properly planned and managed, controllable, cost-effective and that they support the Agency’s mission and business goals. This policy and its supporting documents provide EPA Offices with direction for tailoring and implementing SLCM requirements to develop and manage effective and efficient IT solutions.
  • System Life Cycle Management (SLCM) Procedure (CIO 2121-P-03.0): The procedure defines the requirements and processes for implementation of EPA’s SLCM Policy. The SLCM Procedure establishes EPA’s (Agency) approach and practices in the pre-definition, definition, acquisition/development, implementation, operations and maintenance, and termination of EPA information technology (IT) systems and applications.
  • System Life Cycle Management (SLCM) Requirements Guidance (CIO 2121-G-01.0): The guidance defines documents that can be used by Project Managers and System Managers when they follow the SLCM Policy and the SLCM Procedure. The documents defined within the guidance are used in various phases of the SLCM procedure. These definitions will enable System Managers and Project Managers to use the most applicable documents for their system development and system operations efforts.
  • Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards (CIO 2130.0): The guidance defines standards for Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) in the agency to be compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act as amended (29 U.S.C. 794d). Section 508 mandates the development, procurement, maintenance and use of EIT that is accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Enterprise Information Management Policy (CIO 2135):  The policy establishes a standard approach for managing information produced by, funded by, or received by regulated reporting and/or federal- wide requirements and subsequently held or catalogued in information managment systems by EPA. 
  • EIMP Cataloguing  Information Procedure (2135-P-01.0): Requires cataloguing for advancing the discovery, access, and sharing of information produced by, funded by, or received by regulated reporting  and subsequently held or catalogued in information managment systems by EPA. 
  • EIMP Minimum Metadata Standards  (2135-S-01.0): Defines a consistent set of required and recommended metadata  elements for information  produced by, funded by, or received by regulated reporting  and subsequently held or catalogued in information managment systems by  EPA.
  • EPA GeoPlatform Publishing Workflow SOP: This SOP describes the procedures to prepare GIS data and applications for publishing to EPA’s geoplatform.  It also describes publishing options for both data and metadata. 
  • EPA Environmental Dataset Gateway (EDG) Governance Structure and SOP: This document identifies the oversight and authority organization of the EPA Environmental Dataset Gateway (EDG), provides an overview of roles and responsibilities for implementing the EDG, and details standard operating procedures for functions within the EDG including data and metadata publishing procedures. 
  • Data Standards Policy (CIO 2133.0): This policy establishes principles, responsibilities, and requirements for the development, maintenance, and implementation of data standards within the jurisdiction EPA. The policy supports the Agency’s Enterprise Architecture and Quality System for Environmental Data and Technology by underscoring EPA’s commitment to improve data quality and promote data interoperability, exchanges, sharing and the ability to effectively use the data in situations other than originally intended.
  • Data Related Registries: The System of Registries (SoR) is a resource for environmental system developers and enterprise architects. It provides environmental program managers and users of environmental information with automated services to enable better understanding of environmental terminology and data used by the Agency.
  • Web Governance and Management Policy (CIO 2180.0): This policy establishes that EPA will operate and maintain a public access Web site to assist in fulfilling the Agency’s mission - to protect the environment and public health – with the goal of a web site design and implementation that best facilitates the free flow of communications and information.
  • Social Media Policy (CIO 2184.0): This policy establishes the principles for the use of social media at EPA. For purposes of this policy, “social media” is a term for a wide-spectrum of user-driven content technologies.
  • URL to governance document: https://www.epa.gov/open/digital-strategy

5. Shift to an Enterprise-Wide Asset Management and Procurement Model

5.2. Develop an enterprise-wide inventory of mobile devices and wireless service contracts
 

Overall status: Complete

5.2.1. Develop wireless and mobile inventory
Bureau/Component: OEI
Inventory Status: Complete

5.3. Evaluate the government-wide contract vehicles in the alternatives analysis for all new mobile-related procurements

Overall status:  Complete
Describe Implementation:   In response to OMB’s request for federal agencies to review all IT investments and EPA’s formal implementation of the Strategic Sourcing program in May 2013, the EPA extensively reviewed all mobile device and ancillary services procurements for opportunities for increased cost effectiveness and efficiency.  EPA’s efforts primarily focused on increased commodity management through streamlining the acquisition process to EPA’s Working Capital Fund, the entity that provisions IT services and hardware agency-wide.

The EPA evaluated the use of the GSA Multiple Awards Schedules (MAS) Program, NASA Solutions for Enterprise-Wide Procurement (SEWP) IV and the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI) Wireless Blanket Purchase Agreements (BPAs) in its assessment of potential contract solutions to support enterprise mobile device and services requirements.  The current EPA Cellular Services BPA was awarded under GSA Information Technology Schedule 70.  Since that award, the Agency has significantly lowered its average cost per user on devices and services, streamlined all mobile-device and service procurements to four (4) enterprise-wide BPAs with each of the major wireless carriers, standardized its mobility platform to iOS and optimized utilization surrounding mobile devices.  The EPA is currently re-procuring its Cellular Services BPA under the FSSI Wireless BPAs and continues to assess advancements in mobility for increased opportunity for efficiency.
 

Part C: Customer-Centric
6. Deliver Better Digital Services Using Modern Tools and Technologies

6.3. Ensure all new digital services follow digital services and customer experience improvement guidelines.
 

Overall Status: In progress
Describe Implementation: 
EPA, as part of the reorganization of the Office of Environment Information, is creating a new Digital Services Division under the newly created Office of Digital Services and Technical Architecture.  This newly created division is already working to bring new digital services to the Agency and is developing these services in conjunction with other leading digital service providers (for example, the 18F group at GSA).  As the portfolio expands emphasis will continue to be on following these guidelines.  The EPA Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is the head of  the Office of Digital Services and Technical Architecture; as such he is able to promote the use of  these guidelines through all the services.

7. Improve Priority Customer Facing Services for Mobile Use

7.1. Engage with customers to identify at least two existing priority customer-facing services to optimize for mobile use. 

Overall status: Complete

7.1.1. Paragraph on customer engagement approach: Citizen engagement is a hallmark of programs throughout the EPA.  EPA interacts with the public on its data in numerous ways including public meetings and forums, feedback buttons on websites, webinars, mailboxes, FOIA Online, help desks, hack-a-thons and apps challenges.   Recently the Agency launched an online public data forum to communicate with the public about its data in a fully transparent manner: http://developer.epa.gov/forums/forum/dataset-qa/. We also strive to include state, local and tribal governments in our engagement efforts through workgroups and exchange network governance groups where we are working out common standards, terminology and data collection methodology.  In addition, EPA uses Google analytics to determine datasets that are most frequently accessed and considered high-value by the public.  These datasets are then highlighted on our Developer Central website and targeted for quality improvement efforts. 

7.1.2. Prioritize your list of systems (datasets)
System Name: How’s My Waterway
System Description: The “How’s My Waterway?” application enables direct local access by mobile geolocation. It’s plain English tone and simple interfaces removes usage barriers and thus supports an increased understanding by users about how local water issues affect them. This also expands their awareness and support of efforts to protect and restore the nation’s waters under the Clean Water Act.

System Scope: external
Main Customer: public
Unique Investment Identifier: NA
 

System Name: EPA.gov
System Description: EPA has replaced the limited mobile access currently available for home page content with a more fully featured page using responsive design. We are continuing to work on components of our EPA.gov site including deployment of several responsive sites included below. We will continue to convert popularly requested content in our new Drupal templates as part of our optimization efforts.
http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa
http://www2.epa.gov/learn-issues
http://www2.epa.gov/science-and-technology
http://www2.epa.gov/sfbay-delta/

System Scope: external
Main Customer: public
Unique Investment Identifier:  N/A
System Name: FRS Mobile Facility Data Collection

System Description: EPA has released a prototype application for field inspectors and emergency response personnel, which retrieves facility data and displays it with aerial photography and GIS base mapping, and which allows updates to be captured in the field via GPS and submitted back to EPA via Exchange Network web services. FRS tools are available at: http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/fii/RESTServices.htm.

System Scope: external
Main Customer: public
Unique Investment Identifier:  020-000016030 00-00-01-16-02-00

7.2. Optimize at least two existing priority customer-facing services for mobile use and publish a plan for improving additional existing services

Overall status: Complete
Describe Implementation:  The Digital Government Strategy repeated many of the same data access objectives as those expressed in the Open Government Directive. EPA addressed provided a plan for evaluating increased access to existing information assets in response to the Open Government Directive in its Strategic Data Action Plan (SDAP). The SDAP is available at: http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/epa_sdap_v1.0.pdf.

7.2.1. Report on services
System Name: How’s My Waterway
System Description: The direct local access by mobile geolocation, simplicity, and plain English tone of the “How’s My Waterway?” application aims to remove complexity barriers and better inform more people on how water issues affect them locally, thereby improving their awareness and support of efforts to protect and restore the nation’s waters under the Clean Water Act.  
System Scope: external
Primary customers: Public
Unique Investment Identifier: NA
URL of service: https://watersgeo.epa.gov/mywaterway/

System Name: FRS Mobile Facility Data Collection
System Description: EPA has released a prototype application for field inspectors and emergency response personnel, which retrieves facility data and displays it with aerial photography and GIS base mapping, and which allows updates to be captured in the field via GPS and submitted back to EPA via Exchange Network web services.
System Scope: external
Primary customers: Field inspectors
Unique Investment Identifier:020-000016030 00-00-01-16-02-00
URL: http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/fii/RESTServices.htm

7.2.2. The Digital Government Strategy repeated many of the same data access objectives as those expressed in the Open Government Directive.

EPA addressed provided a plan for evaluating increased access to existing information assets in response to the Open Government Directive in its Strategic Data Action Plan (SDAP). The SDAP is available at: http://www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/epa_sdap_v1.0.pdf.

Status: Complete

8. Measure Performance and Customer Satisfaction to Improve Service Delivery

8.2. Implement performance and customer satisfaction measuring tools on all .gov websites
 

Overall status: Complete

8.2.1. Implement performance measurement tool
Implemented Digital Analytics Program  Yes. 

The GSA tracking code does not include cross-domain tracking for sub- and alternate-domains, which is necessary in order to collect accurate visit-based metrics for websites that have more than one domain and/or sub-domains, as EPA does. For example, if a visitor to www.epa.gov clicks on a link to www.water.epa.gov or www.urbanwaters.gov, the Agency’s custom implementation allows that the session, or Visit, to continue, and visit-based metrics are not adversely affected. The GSA code considers sub- and alternate-domains to be separate websites, which would skew all visit-based metrics, including Bounce Rate, Visits, Visit Duration, Pages per Visit, etc, for the EPA website. For example, if someone visited www.epa.gov and immediately clicked on a link to www.water.epa.gov, the GSA code would record a Bounce (a Visit that includes only one Pageview) and a Visit of only a few seconds, when the Visit should actually include all EPA pages, regardless of the domain.

In order to preserve the integrity and effectiveness of EPA’s performance metrics, EPA is working with GSA to implement a custom modification to EPA’s existing Google Analytics implementation. 

If not, describe implementation: NA
Percent of websites covered:  NA
URL of performance data: NA

8.2.2. Implement customer satisfaction tool

Describe implementation: EPA uses the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ForeSee survey tool to measure customer satisfaction on its public websites. The Agency uses ACSI results to identify which elements have the greatest influence on satisfaction and future customer behavior. Annual and quarterly reports are published by Foresee as "Satisfaction Indexes."

URL of performance data: http://www.foresee.com/research-white-papers/research-by-industry.shtml#government