Require HIR to prioritize certain technology projects, as soon as predictably possible, including video calls, e-signatures, VPN access, and the ability to upload casework and requests digitally.
In addition to a larger restructuring of HIR’s IT and website services, the Modernization Committee recommends that HIR immediately prioritize several specific projects. These four specific and simple changes will streamline everyday tasks for Member offices, particularly for constituent engagement and casework. Many of these reforms were identified in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that saw many Members and staff operating remotely for months.
First, the Committee recommends that HIR develop a reliable mechanism for video meetings. The House adopted WebEx in response to the sudden need for the entire Congress to telework amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Committee has urged HIR to continue to develop easier access to this and other products.
Second, the Committee recommends that in conjunction with the Clerk’s office, secure e-signatures should be allowed for letters, bills, and constituent consent forms. The need for this became even more apparent during the remote operating status, and the Committee passed additional recommendations to push for a permanent expansion of secure e-signatures. This would include working with the Clerk on the development of the platform for facilitating e-signatures, including changing the rules of the House to allow e-signatures on letters and legislation.
Third, the Committee recommends that HIR set up a VPN on all devices and develop relevant security guidelines. This recommendation should be familiar to any current staff member in Congress—but is essential to ensuring Members and staff are logging on to their official devices in a secure and safe way.
Lastly, the Committee recommends that HIR develop a way for constituents to upload casework and other service requests digitally through a Member’s website. Currently, constituents must submit forms through the mail, or via fax—a problem that was only exacerbated for staff and constituents alike during the COVID-19 pandemic. By making it easier for constituents to submit information, Congress will be able to address casework and constituent concerns more efficiently and effectively.