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Making Government More Mobile

11 Feb 2016 by Christine Kern

There’s no denying the compelling benefits of mobile computing for government employees as devices and applications continue to multiply. Agencies that have embraced Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) report improved productivity, increased employee retention rates, enhanced mobility, a more flexible work environment, reduced operating costs and improved IT value.

Mobility dramatically improves productivity by allowing government employees to work on any screen — at any time and anywhere they wish — to deliver services, engage with citizens, allocate IT resources, support staff and train. Many agencies are already moving ahead with implementing mobile technology to help meet community needs and serve constituents more effectively. But there are also inherent risks associated with security, manageability and productivity.

Government mobility challenges

IT managers need to take a balanced approach to the mobile trend that’s here to stay. They must meet the needs of their users while ensuring mobile platforms and BYOD programs are implemented in compliance with federal, state and local regulations.

However, the impact of mobility is no longer limited to the devices. It now also affects the wider computing infrastructure. David Bray, CIO of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), told FedScoop that the most pressing mobility issue agencies currently face is protecting the personally identifiable information they handle every day.

Bray explains that technology itself is amoral. It’s how we use it that determines whether it is good or bad. We need to ensure, as we inform mobility, he says, that we're as flexible as possible and that "we’re also encouraging resilience in terms of how we actually protect the data.” The biggest challenge, according to Bray, is finding the balance between innovation and security risks.

His advice? “Be bold. Be benevolent. Be brave,” Bray says. And recognize that in today’s landscape we face “exponentially increasing challenges as well as opportunities.”

Government mobility to-dos

CIOs and IT leaders at the MobileGov Summit emphasized that agencies need to stress securing data, not the network, to protect personally identifiable information.

"We need to get out of our bunker ... build things to last, not just to launch ... and embrace what makes us government," says Gwynne Kostin, director of the Digital Services Innovation Center at GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies/18F.

She urges agencies to capitalize on technology rather than be distracted by it, explaining that the exponential convergence of computing power, storage and the cloud — which is driving the increased capabilities of mobile devices — is helping to create a new environment for innovation.

International Trade Administration CIO Joe Paiva puts the future for mobile strategy in starker terms. "Forget defending the network,” Paiva says. He also believes the focus needs to be about protecting and encrypting data.

As more data flows over public networks, it will be impossible keep up with network security breaches. Paiva added, “We have to accept ... it's never going to be secure. So I don’t trust [devices].”

This is a particularly important consideration for government agencies that must adhere closely to federal, state or local regulations regarding the security of protected information to remain compliant.

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