What’s getting the government moving on mobility

Transport Canada says it has already created app versions of more than 300 software programs and is offering Wi-Fi. Expect more to come in the public sector, and soon

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The other day I was speaking to a friend in Edmonton about the recent municipal election there. He was telling me how few people actually turned up to vote — somewhere around 33 per cent of the population.

“Now, if there was an app on your phone for that, I bet the numbers would be way up there,” he said. “I had to go to a school and stand behind a cardboard box and check off a box with a pencil — that’s so old school.”

He does have a point. I have no proof of it, but if I were a betting woman, I’d bet that voter turnout during elections would increase dramatically if citizens could vote on their phone. And mobility has the potential to increase citizen engagement in all kinds of ways we haven’t even thought of yet.

Of course, it’s not that simple, but the potential is there.

At GTEC 2013 earlier this month (a conference for public sector professionals held in Ottawa), there was talk of making government more agile. And mobility was part of that conversation.

While there’s still a ways to go in government — and many challenges to overcome — there is at least an understanding of why mobility is important, as well as mobile undertakings by various governments, departments and agencies.

Transport Canada, for example, has recognized the shift toward mobile devices in clients’ personal and professional lives, according to Louise Séguin, director of production operations, service management technology and information management services with Transport Canada.

As a result, the department is embracing mobility — but that first required infrastructure integration and app mobilization.

Transport Canada — responsible for developing regulations, policies and services for transportation in Canada — discovered there were infrastructure changes required to support iOS devices, as well as the need to develop policies and procedures to govern those devices. So far, it’s mobilized more than 300 of its applications through thin clients and rolled out a Wi-Fi network.

This is all part of a grander government plan around mobilization. On April 1, the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Standard on Optimizing Websites and Applications for Mobile Devices took effect, with the purpose of ensuring online information and services are optimized for mobile devices.

But, like the private sector, government has its fair share of concerns around mobility. Security, obviously, is a concern for any organization, especially when confidential information is involved. And even in government there’s a trend toward bring-your-own-device, which means there’s a need to balance security with access.

Governments, departments and agencies also have to consider whether their wireless network can support an influx of mobile devices, as well as the cost of going wireless and providing support to remote workers. (In many cases, this will require more sophisticated kinds of network services.)

The challenge ahead for governments is to incorporate mobility into program development and service delivery, where it makes sense. And who knows — maybe one day we’ll be able to vote from the comfort of home, in our pajamas, right from our smartphone.

Learn more about the emerging mobile workforce by downloading ‘The Enterprise Collaboration eBook,’ from Allstream. 

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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