2012 might just be the year of mobility. LTE is coming on like a freight train and, in some instances, is even faster than your home internet. The sale of smart phones has out-paced that of traditional cell phones. Tablets are on the rise. The average Joe is beginning to engage the world—the real world—the same way they’re engaging content on a computer or TV. Everything is on demand, there are loads of supplemental interactive content to enhance your viewing, gaming or web searching experience and it’s at your fingertips 24/7, all in the real world. It might as well be powered by plutonium -I’d say 1.21 gigawatts oughta do it.
This brave new world has also changed the mindset and understanding of how the average citizen expects to engage and interact with their government and receive services as well. They want it anytime, anywhere. What does that mean for state and local government in 2012? There are 4 key trends in the world of mobility that will propel state and local government forward, trends that will support providing those services as well as create new challenges, nevertheless, they are coming.
1. Consumerization of IT or “BYOD”
The BYOD or “Bring Your Own Device” phenomenon is picking up steam in state and local governments. It is proving to be an effective cost containment measure that also shifts the burden of device management away from the administration and onto the end user. There is also a great pressure from both above and below on the IT support and provisioning parties. Policymakers are becoming more tech savvy, incorporating mobile devices into the legislative session. Employees, becoming more and more comfortable with their Operating System of choice can take advantage of the advanced functionality for the benefit of the public sector. Whether or not the IT agency is ready or willing, if they don’t find a way to support these devices legitimately, they will find many uncontrolled and vulnerable endpoints accessing their systems.
No doubt there are significant challenges associated with the BYOD movement. Agencies are contending with accessibility issues and integration as well as mobile device and data security. Every endpoint is a potential vulnerability, which will drive the #2 trend in government and mobility.
2. Mobile Security
Protecting data is key. Mobile devices are outside the traditional realm of the protected technology model and it’s necessary to rethink the take on mobile security. Mobile remote access services, or MRAS, can give end users in the field, the case worker on site or trooper on the highway a secure connection back into the system. MDM, mobile device management, can secure those proliferating endpoints in a number of ways. With remote lock and wipe, storage partitioning, remote policy setting or application lockdown, agencies have an array of controls available to effectively manage the onslaught of BYOD. Whatever the route of mobile security, it will be a key trend for truly enabling field workers and getting the most out of their efforts as well as getting folks off Capitol Hill.
3. Government Makes House Calls
The final extension of this mobility movement within the business processes of state and local government is two fold. The swell of the BYOD movement as well as the need to supplement that movement with mobile security is all underpinned by the increased ability to perform, meet expectations. I called this section Government Makes House Calls because it’s not a focus around a particular piece of technology. Rather, it’s the movement towards mobility as a whole that will manifest itself through various technological components and reimagine the cell phone and tablet device as instruments of mass production, like Batman’s utility belt. It’s a top down movement, as evidenced by Indiana’s trial of iPads in the legislature, seen here.
In 2012 we’ll see agencies go paperless (or paper reduced) by equipping personnel with mobile applications to complete customized forms and files directly from the mobile device. That information will be sent directly to back office systems. The incorporation of 4G HSPA+ and LTE technology can make those tasks as fast as or faster than a traditional internet connection. Geotagging photos, equipping vehicles with asset tracking devices, allowing workers to clock in and out remotely and arming those workers with secure access to the work they need from anywhere means an office without walls. It also means that government makes house calls, whether that’s checking on elderly citizens or children, wildlife biologists tagging species movement or agents inspecting gas pumps, the tools are there and you will see states get creative in their adoption.
4. Mobile Access to Citizen Services
App it up! The feds are already doing it. Seriously, can you believe it? Individual agencies of the Federal Government have over 80 apps available (find them all here). Now that doesn’t make them all useful, some are (Spanish translator or helpful guides to Smithsonian exhibits) and some aren’t (MEanderthal, really?). Even if the execution leaves something to be desired, the goal is noble.
This continuing trend of self service in government is going to be key going forward. Mobilizing citizen services is the next evolutionary leap from the brick-and-mortar mentality to the self-service online option. The drive to cut costs and more efficiently leverage resources had the hoped-for but unplanned side effect of increasing responsiveness of citizen services as well as creating a better perception of customer service. Imagine what having access to those same services from a mobile optimized website or a direct application on smart phones could do.
What makes this trend so compelling for state and local government, even more so than federal, is the old adage that the government closest to the people, governs best. When it comes to truly providing day-to-day service that burden, the strain on resources, personnel and execution, all falls back to the states and the locals.
In the end, that’s what it’s all about—providing better services to citizens. Driving to cut costs and improve the delivery of citizen services simultaneously is a tough proposition at best. BYOD and mobile security are means to an end. They don’t mean a lot without that significant end—better service. That’s where these next technological trends directly impact. The kinds of technology that reduce overall operating expenses, streamline operations, and make employees more productive, all for the sake of the citizen, that’s where state and local government are headed. It’s impossible to say for certain what the future holds but when this baby reaches 88 miles per hour, you’re going to see some serious stuff.