Our Mobile Feds

December 2012 marked the six-month milestone after the federal government released its mobility directive, “Building a 21st Century Digital Government.”

The strategic milestones set forth critical steps in establishing a firm foundation for the government’s longer-term vision for delivering digital services and supporting a mobile workforce. While there has been progress towards a mobile federal workforce, challenges remain.

In the progress column, cross-agency collaboration and information sharing by establishing the Digital Services Advisory Group to assist the federal CIO with implementation and the Digital Services Innovation Center, as a knowledge and service repository. The past six months have seen efforts to examine agency IT portfolios, and a push toward  a standardized, leaner position that more effectively supports mobility transformation.

Smartphones and tablets are more than just toys for early adopters, they’re essential tools for mission accomplishment. Various agencies within the federal workforce have either changed their standards and policies or they are in the process of adopting new standards and policies that support their employees ability to work securely from anywhere at any time.

Of the 28 federal agencies polled by Federal News Radio, 21 of them responded that they had policies in place or in progress. Some of the key learnings from early pilot projects are with regard to data security and dispersion, which devices to use and who should have them, and the development of government-wide standards and practices.

Most agencies are adopting mobile practices quickly, simply because their employees and citizens expect it. However, one of the questions to be resolved is the device mix. Does each worker truly need a smartphone, a laptop and a tablet to work efficiently? Determining what technology is distributed and to whom is critical to helping keep costs in check while maximizing productivity.

Its also important to determine which applications will be built for mobile operating systems. Will each agency adopt applications that are platform agnostic, or will they deploy devices built on a single mobile operating system? Standardizing can help with cost efficiency and deployment early on, but new platforms emerge quickly, which can lead to a one-off scenario that can snowball. Managing a huge diversity of devices can also complicate the number of applications required.

Sometimes, a Bring Your Own Device can be the most cost effective approach. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has adopted this model. A number of other agencies are exploring this option.

To be sure, there are far more important issues to consider than what smartphone to purchase.

ACT-IAC’s Advance Mobility Working Group has identified challenges to digital government that need to be addressed sooner rather than later: special concerns for field workers, like first responders, inspectors and law enforcement; BYOD best practices; regulatory reviews; new legislation requirements; developing a mobile community; and federal mobile strategy review.

 

Have you seen changes in the last six months in your workplace? Have they been a help or hindrance to you so far? Tell us in the comments below.

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