Hug a Smartphone – Not a Tree

Has technology finally gotten to a point where it can help a government agency be environmentally friendly and more productive at the same time? I think it has and to that I say: “Woo-hoo and it’s about time.”

5  Challenging Areas For State/Local Governments and How Mobility Applications Can Help

1.       Stay in Touch with Workers in the Field

You can use a cell phone to call workers in the field, that’s nothing new. What is new is that mobility solutions available via smartphone allow agencies to dispatch field service workers while they’re in the field. Rather than require them to make a daily drive to a centralized location to pick up orders—and report back to the centralized location at the end of the day—workers receive their orders via smartphone. This saves time and money.

Mobility solutions also help in the event of an emergency. Dispatchers can contact workers in the field and provide the relevant information rather than require that they to return to the office. Mobility capabilities such as GPS increase effectiveness by enabling dispatchers to know which field service worker is nearest to the emergency location.  Efficient routing for emergency and non-emergency work reduces driving time and saves fuel. It’s using technology for good.

2.       Track Vehicles and Increase Driver Efficiency, Security and Policy Compliance

With Fleet Management applications, there are opportunities to reduce reliance on paper forms, save gas and increase driver safety. It’s the perfect trifecta.  Instead of filling out paper forms, which kills trees and wastes time, the technology takes care of that piece of the business. By monitoring a vehicle’s compliance with speed limits, gas savings can be achieved.  Via GPS, agencies can locate lost or stolen vehicles, potentially increasing driver safety. It’s using technology for good.

3.       Update Individual Case Files in the Field

My favorite application where mobility helps government beat a big challenge is the ability to update individual case files in the field.  For example, child welfare caseworkers can use their smartphones to update files wirelessly from the field as opposed to writing sensitive information in paper files and then entering data into the system back at the office. This saves money, simplifies the process and reduces transcription-type errors. Caseworkers can also use their smartphones to access agency data—preventing them from operating “blind” in the field or from carrying papers containing sensitive information. The phone’s GPS provides directions, and in the event the caseworker feels imminent danger, the devices come with an emergency alert.

Several states require social workers to visit each child in its foster system once every 30 days. Using the smartphone’s GPS and time-date stamp, social workers are able to take a picture of each child visited to ensure compliance to the state’s visitation schedule.  The smartphone helps social workers do their job more effectively; that, in turn, helps the children. It’s using technology for good.

4.       Increase the Safety of Citizens

Police officers on patrol in cars use laptop computers to connect with national crime databases and the state Department of Motor Vehicles.  Unfortunately, police officers that patrol using more environmentally-friendly methods such as on foot, on motorcycle or on horse aren’t able to carry laptops. They may have a two-way radio, but people often eavesdrop on those conversations.  Utilizing smartphone applications, these officers can access the same resources as if they were in a patrol car. It’s using technology for good.

5.       Improve Utilities’ Effectiveness

Via automated meter interfaces, municipal electric and water utilities wirelessly receive meter readings, eliminating the need to deploy workers in the field to collect such data.  Eventually the technology will give individual homeowners more control over their electricity and water usage by providing them with real-time data. They won’t have to wait until the end of the month to recognize that wearing a sweatshirt around the house would have been much more cost effective than cranking the heat. It’s using technology for good.

Technology For Good

State and local government agencies can use mobility to make dispatching and staying in contact with their field service workers more efficient, to manage their transportation fleets more effectively, to increase public safety and the safety of their workers and citizens, and to improve utilities’ effectiveness.  These actions reduce the reliance on paper forms, reduce the number of miles driven and serve as a deterrent for vehicle theft.

Hug a tree to save the environment? I think I’ll hug a smartphone instead.

What other ways have you used mobility to achieve Technology for Good?
The Networking Exchange Blog Team About NEB Team