State and Local Agencies Stumble on Mobile Readiness

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A fully equipped and enabled mobile work environment is still out of reach for many state and local government agencies, a new study that surveyed 150 IT managers across the nation indicates.

Alexandria, Virginia-based Mobile Work Exchange, a public-private partnership that promotes mobile platforms and telework, released its assessment of mobile readiness in state and local agencies in a report commissioned by the mobility management, networking and cloud services company Citrix.

The study found that 40 percent of state and local government employees use mobile devices for some work-related tasks. Sixty-five percent of IT managers at the state and local level indicated that they expect that number to grow in the next five years.

Overall, a majority of those surveyed — 58 percent — reported that their state or local government agency is not mobile ready and does not have the tools, plans or support for a mobile-enabled workforce. Security and budgetary concerns were cited as major obstacles.

Seventeen percent reported that employees in their state or local agency were eligible for telework. Only 40 percent reported that their agency could maintain operations during a disaster.

GovExec State & Local asked David Smith, director of state and local for Citrix, to discuss his major takeaways from the report to find out just how mobile ready state and local (S&L) agencies are.

What was the most surprising finding in this report?

Smith: We were surprised at the number of agencies that think they are mobile ready. At a high level, S&L agencies have moved towards mobility but many are still working to comprehend the different types of mobile solutions that they may need to support as well as the various applications individual workers might need to better provide citizen services. In addition, the adoption of work-from-home along with defined mobile and [bring your own device] policies are not available to the masses in many government organizations. As such, agencies still have work to do to truly be mobile ready.

What are the long-term risks to local government agencies that aren't proactive on mobile issues?

Smith: One long-term risk S&L government agencies face if they do not take a proactive approach to embracing mobility is the decreased ability to provide citizen services. Today, constituents expect to receive and access services through mobile and web technologies and agencies must work to meet this demand. Additionally, agencies must leverage mobility to improve recruitment and retention of the best and brightest employees by offering flexible and modern work styles.

According to the report, concerns over security top the list of mobile-adaptation obstacles for local agencies but budget and IT infrastructure also rank high. What do you think will remain the toughest challenge for local agencies to overcome?

Smith: Budget will always be an issue for agencies. Additionally, ensuring policy developments are keeping pace with modern technology advancements is another formidable challenge for state and local agencies as they work to achieve a mobile workforce.

Local agencies, whether they're at the state, county or city level, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and that can sometimes impact the way they deal with technical innovation including mobile. Is it more common for smaller jurisdictions to have mobility-adaptation issues or are larger jurisdictions just as likely to have problems, too?

Smith: Each size government — state or local — has its own challenges. Smaller jurisdictions may have an issue with the sheer breadth of things that they are trying to implement and the need for infrastructure and funds to support these projects. But, a positive element of smaller jurisdiction implementations is that they have more control of what they are doing as their IT footprint is much more manageable.

Larger jurisdiction agencies may have the budget and resources to support mobility initiatives, but they have a wider footprint to oversee and manage, which can cause complexities and challenges.

What we are seeing much of in the state and even local level is a central agency providing services to smaller jurisdictions to give them the capabilities of larger jurisdictions, without the burden of undertaking a taxing IT overhaul. Recently, for example, we saw this with the California Department of Justice.

One of the big takeaways from the study was how mobile adaptation can lead to increased productivity. That can be a big selling point for those trying to stress the benefits of mobile for their state or local agency. What are some of the other key benefits beyond productivity?

Smith: With the mobility effort, agencies are not only updating archaic IT infrastructure to support today’s technology, they are also embracing what we know today as new and innovative solutions. Agencies are future-proofing to enable them to prepare and accommodate for how technology may change in the future. Innovating for mobility now will help prevent agencies from having to change infrastructures each time cutting edge technology is released.

(Image via YanLev/Shutterstock.com)

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