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Making Government More Mobile

11 Feb 2016 by Christine Kern

There’s no denying the compelling benefits of mobile computing for government employees as devices and applications continue to multiply. Departments that haveembraced Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) report improved productivity, increased employee retention rates, enhanced mobility, a more flexible work environment, reduced operating costs and improved IT value.

Mobility dramatically improves productivity by allowing government employees to work on any screen — at any time and where they wish — to deliver services, engage with citizens, allocate IT resources, support staff and train. Agencies are already moving ahead with implementation of mobile technology to help them meet their community needs and serve their residents. But there are also inherent risks associated with security, manageability and productivity.

Government mobility challenges

IT managers need to take a balanced approach to the mobile trend that’s here to stay. They must meet the needs of their users while ensuring mobile platforms and BYOD programs are implemented in compliance with federal, state and local regulations.

However, the impact of mobility is no longer limited to the devices. It now also affects the wider computing infrastructure. As the Gartner “Predicts 2016: Mobile and Wireless” report, published Oct. 13, 2015, explains, “Mobility is becoming more invisible as it pushes its challenges into every traditional area of IT, forcing those areas to become more robust. It is important that IT continually use mobility as the ultimate test of the viability and completeness of all strategies that become part of any IT or vendor’s overall plans.”

David Bray, CIO of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), told FedScoopthat the most pressing mobility issue facing agencies today is protecting the personal identifiable information they handle daily.

Bray explained that technology itself is amoral. It’s how we use it that decides whether it is good or bad. We need to make sure as we inform mobility, he said, that we're as flexible as possible, and that "we’re also encouraging resilience in terms of how we actually protect the data.” The biggest challenge, according to Bray, is finding the balance between innovation and security risks. His advice? “Be bold. Be benevolent. Be brave,” and recognize that in today’s landscape we face “exponentially increasing challenges as well as opportunities.”

Government mobility to-dos

And CIOs and IT leaders at the MobileGov Summit emphasized agencies need to stress security data, not the network, to protect personal identifiable information.

"We need to get out of our bunker ... build things to last, not just to launch ... and embrace what makes us government," said Gwynne Kostin, director of the Digital Services Innovation Center at GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies/18F.

She urged that agencies capitalize on, rather than be distracted by, technology, explaining that the exponential convergence of computing power, storage and the cloud, which is driving the increased capabilities of mobile devices, is helping to create a new environment for innovation.

International Trade Administration CIO Joe Paiva put the future for mobile strategy in starker terms, stating: "Forget defending the network.” The focus instead needs to be "about protecting and encrypting my data."

As more data flows over public networks, it will be impossible keep up with network security breaches. Paiva added, “We have to accept ... it's never going to be secure. So I don’t trust [the devices].”

As the Gartner “Predicts 2016: Mobile and Wireless” report states, “As mobility moves into its maturity phase, its impact becomes less self-contained under the banner of mobility, and instead spreads across the computing infrastructure.” Security, manageability and productivity are the key presented.

This is particularly important for government agencies that must adhere closely tofederal, state or local regulations regarding the security of protected information to remain compliant.

To learn more about managing mobility in your government agency, get the Gartner “Predicts 2016: Mobile and Wireless” report.