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Re-Imagining SBA.Gov & Government Digital Products for the 21st Century
By G. Nagesh Rao, Director of Business Technology Solutions, U.S. Small Business Administration and Maria Roat, CIO, U.S. Small Business Administration
Each year, SBA and our partners counsel over 1.4 million small businesses and entrepreneurs across America to keep them competitive and on the forefront of a globally connected economy. But how can SBA change the small business engagement experience? How can America’s premier agency for small business reach out and potentially counsel more than 30 million plus small business owners and entrepreneurs across the U.S.? Where can SBA deploy emerging technologies to make engaging with the government more dynamic and productive? It’s a herculean effort for the federal government, but it’s already happening via SBA.gov.
SBA embarked on a massive transformation of its flag-ship digital product - SBA.gov - over the last few years, evolving from a web-site into a one-stop-shop digital platform. SBA. gov took the lessons learned in Agile methodology and UI/ UX experience to put forth a more robust, easy to use, and engaging product for the masses.
More than 14 million unique annual visitors to the platform informed us that we are raising the “small business IQ” and helping entrepreneurs and small business owners find the right information quickly and robustly. We realized the need for quality digital products with SBIR.gov, when high tech driven entrepreneurs were looking for a one-stop-shop to engage with America’s Seed Fund from the participating 11 federal agency partners. Thereafter, SBA unleashed Lender Match, initiated the Certify project, and now we are revamping the SBA.gov experience.
We recognized that many people were discovering the resources of SBA via random “Google” searches so we needed to rethink the digital engagement experience -make SBA. gov a digital ambassador for the agency and not just a static website. We engaged with entrepreneurs, federal government partners, resources providers, and other stakeholders who use the platform, to find out how we could augment the visitor experience not only to enhance productivity, but also clarity and insight. Our team is exploring the incorporation of chat bots, voice assistance, and smarter micro-searches to help with the visitor experience.
Our team initiated a Small Business Hackathon in coordination with Visa and BeMyApp, earlier this year, looking to coders and developers in crowdsourcing smarter technology solutions that could be built off SBA products and resources. We are also exploring the concept of initiating a virtual counselor program so that people in remote areas of the U.S. can engage with SBA staff and professionals and receive a comparable experience of counseling and help.
Team SBA-OCIO is driving innovation by developing opportunities and deploying new ways to increase our agency’s foothold of assistance with the American entrepreneur. We realize that technology will help ensure transparency and democratization of information while building off the “human touch” of collaboration.