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When Work Tech Can't Keep Up With Personal Tech

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Federal employees wish the technology they use at work could keep up with the technology they use at home, an issue that could play a major factor as agencies develop “bring your own device,” or BYOD strategies, according to a new study by MeriTalk.

The study, Consumer Crossover: Me, Myself and IT, which is based on a survey of more than 220 federal employees, found that 67 percent of federal employees wished the technology they use at work kept up with the technology they use in their personal lives. That number is even higher for feds 35 and under, with 80 percent wishing work tech kept pace with personal tech.

The new digital government strategy, released by the Obama administration last month, aims to ensure agencies manage mobile devices safely and affordably and give citizens mobile access to government websites and information. The plan also requires agencies to issue a BYOD plan by September, with a focus on allowing federal employees to access their work and agency-built mobile applications from any device.

The MeriTalk study suggests that feds don’t have a long way to go to adopt the digital government strategy, in part because most feds already use Web-based and mobile applications in their personal lives. For example, 99 percent of feds use email, 78 percent use social media, and 68 percent use smartphone apps, the study found.

Feds identified the lack of training (42 percent) as their greatest barriers to adopting new technology at work, the cost of purchasing equipment (40 percent), the features and functions of new tech not being great enough to make a change (29 percent), and security (28 percent). All of those issues except the cost of purchasing equipment were identified as barriers to adopting technology in their personal lives, the study found.

Meanwhile, age is no longer a primary variable in technology adoption, the study found. For example, more feds age 56 to 66 use video conferencing and chat than their peers age 35 to 55. At the same time, younger federal workers have been using these technologies longer than their older counterparts, the study found.

The study recommends that agencies embrace the two sides of federal employees: the professional and the consumer. It also recommends that agencies implement training programs to help make tech adoption at work more seamless, and that they identify and harness the early tech adopters at all age levels to make implementation easier.

“Federal employees are ready to deliver on the Digital Government Strategy,” said Dan Israel of Google Enterprise Federal. “Having experienced the value of a wide range of mobile devices and cloud-based apps and storage at home, they are looking for the best way to bring these technology tools to the workplace.”

Reporter Portrait for GovernmentExecutive.com

Brittany Ballenstedt writes Nextgov's Wired Workplace blog, which delves into the issues facing employees who work in the federal information technology sector. Before joining Nextgov, Brittany covered federal pay and benefits issues as a staff correspondent for Government Executive and served as an associate editor for National Journal's Technology Daily. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Mansfield University and originally hails from Pennsylvania. She currently lives near Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where her husband is stationed.

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