According to a 2014 Mobile Work Exchange study, 40 percent of state and local (S&L) government employees are using mobile devices, and 17 percent are able to work remotely. In addition, 65 percent of S&L IT managers have set expectations for the number of mobile workers to increase exponentially over the next five years. Like many other industries, the way our state and local government functions and operates both internally and with the public is fundamentally shifting as mobility becomes more widespread.
The same study reported that 62 percent of S&L agencies have adopted some sort of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure to support their efforts towards mobility. This shows that some government agencies are aware of the benefits mobility offers, such as increased efficiency, security and standardization, but that there is still a long way to go.
Beyond simply keeping up with the times, there are a variety of reasons that state government agencies need to consider going mobile and begin taking the steps to create a more digitally empowered workforce.
Security risks happen in every work environment, but when sensitive government data is mixed in, security concerns run even higher. As mobile consumerization continues, more and more employees shift to a Bring-Your-Own-Device policy, even if it is not a policy set forth by their workplace. Forrester reported that 53 percent of global employees use their own technology devices for work. BYOD is changing the work environment whether employers like it or not, and shifting to mobile for internal use will help keep secure information secure.
Without a mobile alternative that fits employee needs, whether its providing mobile devices or secure enterprise applications, state government agencies run the risk of employees using their own devices and spilling secure data. A centralized mobile solution will help mitigate this risk.
As mobile dependency increases with both employees and the general public, workforces must scramble to create a common channel of connection to avoid the use of untested, unsecured and untraceable products or applications. As the scope of how government affairs are handled via mobility changes, so, too, must the connectivity of employees. Continuously scaling these needs and integrating technologies into the habits of users is necessary to retaining order.
Ideally, state and local government agencies should adopt mobile technologies and devices that are easily scaled to fit changing teams, organizations, projects and software so that managing large groups is seamless and efficient. Critical communication is an important part of these agencies and the right mobile technology can help them get there.
While developing mobile technologies may initially cost a large sum, the efficiency and improved productivity mobile brings to the workplace largely outweighs this cost and creates a positive ROI. According to a recent article in Re/code, the federal government spent $82 billion on technology services in 2013, and that is not including what about 89,000 local communities spend on technology every year. Through the development of mobile applications and adopting uniform devices throughout state agencies, these costs could be cut dramatically.
In 2012, Forbes called the Missouri Department of Transportation “one of the most innovative organizations using social and mobile technologies in the country.” The agency decided to forego rebuilding two major interstates over eight years and instead developed a mobile app that allowed residents to maneuver around the closed roads. The change saved over $100 million in taxpayer funds.
A 2014 study from Cisco valued that the public sector could see Internet of Things-related savings up to $4.6 trillion worldwide in the next decade. Cisco named increased employee productivity, improved military connectivity, reduces operating costs, improved citizen experiences and increased revenue as potential benefits of the IoT shift. The study also suggested that governments taking advantage of the IoT have the potential to improve their ability to receive and review large amounts of data and displaying results on mobile devices, opening up their transparency.
There is a constant uproar amongst the public around government spending, and the best way for agencies to combat this confusion and request for information is, simply, to provide it via digital technologies. Citizen-friendly apps that engage users in government processes allow for open and accurate conversations on an aspect of government that many are unsure about. Financial transparency can also boost public participation in local government and improve a citizens perception of their government.
Pew reported in a survey that government transparency was often associated with a citizen’s feeling of empowerment. Open mobile products that provide this information could be an extremely useful tool for government agencies looking to be more involved and communicative with their residents.
Not all state governments are struggling to catch up, however- some have set the bar. Arkansas released the first government app that allowed users to make secure payments in 2010- a mobile app the allowed family members and friends of prison inmates to make deposits into their accounts. Soon after, 28 of 68 counties in the state developed apps that allowed residents to pay property taxes via their smartphones. The state found that many of its residents saved money by making payments and using services through their mobile devices, sparking their push towards greater mobility.
Utah was the very first state in the US to develop an iPhone app, and earlier this year launched OnTime, an application for Google Glass that tracks public transit. In an interview with GCN, state chief technology officer, David Fletcher, explained that Utah has implemented a BYOD policy for it’s state workers since 2009 and has been implementing a virtual desktop solution since their employees began using iPads when away from the office.
Texas’ state government offers a variety of applications for its citizens, including the CapMetro Mobile Ticketing App, which allows rail and bus riders to purchase and keep transit passes on their smart phones and was also recognized as a 2014 “Best of Texas” award winner at the Digital Government Summit in Austin. Most recently, the Texas Department of Public Safety released their own app, which allows citizens to get the most up-to-date information on wanted fugitives, human trafficking, and sex offenders in their area throughout the state. The DPS app also allows for anonymous tips to be sent in via a user’s smartphone.
As the widespread use of mobile devices continues to shift into the enterprise, even government agencies will need to adjust their procedures and policies to meet this transformation.
At Enola Labs, we’ve worked alongside government agencies to deliver user-friendly, functionally sound and sleek applications to improve the lives of citizens. Take a look at our recent work and reach out to us to talk more about how we can help you take the plunge into mobile.