Mobile government yields more dynamic public service

Government Security News Magazine

by T.L. Neff, executive vice president of global client services for Verivo Software

Somewhere along the way, mobility efforts by governments picked up the techie-sounding nickname “m-government.” However, at its core, the trend is more about transforming the way the public sector can serve citizens, rather than transforming the technology used by governments.

Today, state and local governments can meet the needs of their citizens through mobility, especially when using services such as public transportation, attending special events like festivals, or choosing tourism destinations. Mobile apps are perfect for these tasks because, when accessing these services, citizens are often on-the-go.

At the state and local level, many government entities are also responsible for critical services, such as roads, utilities and emergency response. Keeping these services running smoothly means the workforce needs to be out in the field, where their tasks can be made more efficient via mobility. Mobile apps provide an ideal way to give the larger public an easy, convenient way to report problems they spot with public infrastructure.

There are some technology priorities that governments should be concerned about while planning their mobile initiatives. First, it helps to use a smart mobility platform to natively build, deploy and manage apps for all major smart phone operating systems, without having to custom develop apps for individual devices. To make the information you serve up to the public in real-time, the platform should be able to link to various back-end systems, seamlessly.
Mobile security is also a major concern for any sector in today’s bring-your-own device (BYOD) era, including state and local governments. A recent survey on government mobility by Forrester Research found that just six percent of government employees said their organizations prohibit the use of personal devices, but a majority said their IT departments provide limited or no support for personal devices.

A survey conducted earlier this year by CDW-G found that there is room for agencies to improve security measures in order to protect sensitive data. For example, while 82 percent of IT professionals said their agency deploys encryption for mobile devices, far fewer said their agency protects mobile devices with multi-factor authentication (54 percent), remote lock and wipe (45 percent) and data loss prevention software (39 percent).

In reality, if organizations use a mobility platform with integrated security capabilities to centrally build and deploy apps, they can be sure that their data is well protected. Also, if a device is stolen or lost, the IT team can manage the situation using remote-wipe capability and remove the app from the system, without impacting any personal information

As an example, New York State’s Department of Transportation offers a real-time traffic and transit app for commuters on iPhone, Android or BlackBerry devices. This 511NY mobile app integrates with back-end data sources to give commuters a view of the latest conditions and garnered the Intelligent Transportation Society of New York (ITS-NY) Outstanding Project of the Year last year for traveler information applications.

In short, don’t think of mobility for government as a substitute for accessing paper-based records, or even Web-based access to static information, but as a way to deliver timely, dynamic information to a public that is constantly on-the-go, eager for help as they make decisions, or willing to give instant feedback or assistance via a mobile app.

The percentage of the U.S. public sector that has developed native apps for employees and local citizens continues to grow, as cities and states face increased pressure to provide real-time access to government information and services. The possibilities of developing additional mobile apps to service the public are tremendous, and they are the reason why our government holds such potential to be a global mobility leader.

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