State Wants to Expand Use of Mobile Devices

The State Department wants Foreign Service officers and other employees to be able to use iPhones, iPads and any other mobile technology they'd like for non-classified work, the department's chief information officer told Nextgov Friday.

"It's not going to be tomorrow," CIO Susan Swart said. "But [we're] moving toward this idea of device agnosticism, that if you like something and it can be run securely on our networks and you can have access to the things you need to have access to, then that's what we should be moving toward."

Swart joins other federal CIOs who say agencies need to expand beyond BlackBerry-only policies where mobile is concerned although she and others remain worried that iPads, iPhones and Google's Android phones aren't yet secure enough for government work.

Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker has launched a pilot program handing out iPads to select employees and hopes VA doctors will be able to use the devices to securely check patients' records in the near future.

The military has been looking at using an array of smartphones and other mobile devices in the field, but still has significant security concerns.

While being able to use the technology of their choice will undoubtedly make life easier for many State employees, it also will mean users must take responsibility for their devices, Swart said, including managing bugs and doing upkeep.

"There will be less handholding with the user," she said. "We have one device now, basically. BlackBerrys. We can understand them. People know how to use them and how to support the users down to a level of detail that we couldn't do if we had Droids and iPhones and whatever else."