Will Government Agencies Embrace Innovation Driven by Mobile?


Creative ways of using mobile apps for government continue to multiply.

Lori Feller is partner and U.S. public sector Apple partnership leader at IBM.

Major trends in federal and public sector IT will continue to be heavily influenced by cloud, agile and security. But what about mobile?  

Beyond "bring your own device" policies and telecommuting, will public sector organizations embrace the innovation driven by mobile -- specifically enterprise class apps that can transform the nature of how jobs are performed and improve the way services are delivered to citizens?  

Apps are increasingly becoming an essential tool for government employees in their daily roles and for helping citizens interact with their government. According to Pew Research, 40 percent of smartphone users look up government services or information on their devices.

Government-created or supported mobile apps offer a wide range of opportunities for delivering services ranging from finding parking spaces and paying for them to engaging citizens in co-producing services, or reporting potholes and damaged streetlights. Creative ways of using mobile apps for government continue to multiply.

Consumer apps capitalize on our desire to make life easier using a piece of technology most of us already carry everywhere -- our mobile devices. When we apply this same thinking to enterprise apps, we work toward making the experience of citizens better, the role as employees more seamless, and our organizations more productive and successful at reaching our goals -- whatever those may be.

The transformational use of mobile devices is re-engineering how works gets done in the field, so there is a greater degree of integration between employees in the field and those in the back office.

Field case management, road and rail infrastructure maintenance, vehicular fleet management, inventory control and supply chain management are all areas that have potential efficiency gains with mobile use. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Posted and Bonded Road mobile app, for example, replaced manual paper-based reports, reducing the field workers’ administrative duties.

Inspectors working for many government agencies continue to depend on lengthy, cumbersome and inefficient paper-based processes to prepare for, perform and document results of field-based audits. Many times these can take more than nine months to complete with varied degrees of accuracy.

With something like an Inspection App, government inspectors can complete field inspections faster with access to historic inspection results, and contextual process guidance, and have the ability to capture and share data for future reference directly from inspection sites.

A new report from the IBM Center for the Business of Government outlines three recommendations when it comes to enhancing mobility in the public sector:

Optimize Online Services for Mobile Devices

Government agencies should strategically assess their online services for mobile optimization. Today, mobile devices are ubiquitous and are accessible to populations traditionally underserved. As a result, mobile devices offer additional opportunities for government agencies to provide better public services and interact with citizens.

Provide Open Data Based on Common Standards

Public agencies are treasure troves of public domain data they collect to fulfill their missions. Proactive open data policies make the data available and based on common standards. A proactive approach to open data enables the creation of a range of mobile apps socially useful.

Standardized Data Across and Within Agencies

The standardization of the structure of data enables different public agencies to provide their data in a consistent way. Mobile apps can then use the data from different agencies, with little or no customization across jurisdictions.

It’s an exciting time for citizen engagement in the public sector -- and mobile has proven to be an incredible tool for organizations trying to connect with the populations they serve. Mobile apps not only have the potential to provide the foundation for creative new sources of insight from citizens, but to change the way work gets done in the public sector.

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