Government agencies are beginning to experience the many benefits (and a few critical drawbacks) of mobile technology. This has been an evolutionary process that is still in its infancy.
Initially, agencies released apps that were focused primarily on providing information to the public. In most instances this repackaged information that was already available on the agency website.
The second phase was creating a two-way interaction with individuals and the agency. These apps have provided very useful services to the public. Examples include reporting potholes or searching to see if a professional is licensed and in good standing. Government is just putting its toe into the water with using mobile technology to communicate with citizens. All kinds of new services are possible using mobile technology. For example, an agency might ask for the public’s assistance in tracking the location of a beetle infestation that is killing trees. The app could use geo-location and the camera to help capture this information.
The third phase is government leveraging mobile technology for its own employees. Nearly every government employee who is out in the field can potentially leverage mobile technology to reduce paperwork, speed the processing of information, improve safety and increase efficiency. Today’s government employees, just like their private sector counterparts, have a desire to be able to access their work from home or on the road. With the understanding that there are employment rules as well as security concerns, government must adapt to these changing work dynamics.
The increasing demand for the many benefits of smart phones is demonstrated by the fact that many government employees are carrying two cell phones. The first is typically a government issued Blackberry (often with restricted functionality). The second is their own personal smartphone that is equipped with lots of apps as well as additional functionality including gps and camera.
I believe we are experiencing the very beginning of the many opportunities that mobile technology is going to create for government. Whether it’s tracking pollution or finding an abducted child, mobile devices offer tremendous potential for government to enlist the aid of citizens.
I look forward to discussing these topics and many more during my panel session, Using Mobile Technology to Engage the Public, at the upcoming FOSE conference.