What government thinks citizens want is not what they always want, according to Customs and Border Protection CIO Sonny Bhagowalia.  While government solutions may be well-intended, they don’t always solve the issues facing citizens who interact with the agency.  Bhagowalia’s comments were supported by FEMA CIO Charlie Armstrong and Deputy ICE CIO Heidi Myers who collectively made up a panel at a recent AFCEA Bethesda breakfast.  Armstrong referenced a recent FEMA exercise that showed that available crisis solutions favored those whose first language was English, were tech savvy, and who had their own transportation.  That doesn’t often fit the profile of actual users seeking FEMA assistance.  The challenge for contractors is to work with federal customers to provide solutions that do meet the needs of varying user communities.  Too often, both industry and government can get caught up in creating complex solutions that look good on paper but end up not meeting reality.  Keeping solutions simple, being able to provide information in multiple languages, showing shelters that are accessible by bus or other public transport, and keeping user interfaces simple are all examples of what usable systems could contain.  ICE’s Myers said that her agency is seeking vendor input not just on what technology these solutions can provide, but on how to best acquire them.  In order to best do that, though, contractors must first determine what given user groups want from citizen-facing solutions.  As Bhagwolia pointed out from his time at Interior, that’s often simpler than some may think.  He provided an example of one person who said that he just wanted one place where he could get a fishing and boating license quickly and easily.  There are good lessons here for contractors assisting agencies with their customer experience missions.  As one sage once said “Remember that part of the US that lies outside the Capital Beltway”.