Mobility IT Infrastructure, “Can You Hear Me Now?” at FOSE 2012

Government Mobile IT Infrastructure will be a huge part of spending in the next few years

Mobile is the wave of the future, and it’s not just because the PC is dead. It is because we have to more work, more places, just to keep up with business. This is true of government as expectations rise (and dollars drop). This discussion featured Donald Kachman of the VA, Phil Klokis of GSA, and Sanjay Sardar of FERC. The inclusion of large agencies and small really showed off the broad strategy the federal government needs to adopt for mobile devices, because one-size fits all will not work.

Topics of interest were BYOD (one of my favorite topics of discussion), ensuring coverage of WiFi and cellular networks in buildings, and securing data as it is transmitted.

The GSA has 1500 buildings across the nation. They are find it difficult to provide both pervasive Wi-Fi and cellular connections to users. To combat this, they have been outleasing space on their rooftops to cellular and other providers. They are using videoconferencing to great success, and have 11 telework stations at regional offices that are available to all federal agencies. BYOD has been in process for a while at GSA, as they use GMail as their email service provider. Users can use the entire suite of Google Apps wherever they are.

The VA is one of the early government adopters of mobile technology. They have long had tablets in their hospitals, but are struggling with ensuring security (FIPS 140-2 and HIPAA compliance don’t come easy). They secure their WiFi with FIPS compliant settings and hardware, yet today’s mobile devices are not there there. To counter this, they have FIPS 140-2 applications which provide temporary access. As well, they use Citrix applications to ensure ephemeral data only on mobile devices. BYOD will be a struggle, as they have to minimize device interference with medical equipment.

FERC, on the other hand, have completely different issues. They are far smaller, and looking to partner with private firms to help them provide wireless services. They are challenged by budget, the large amount of sensitive data they possess and the legacy systems they must network. Critical infrastructure computing often has legacy hardware building blocks, which limits the opportunities that face FERC. FERC is increasingly hoping to get BYOD solutions to help them save money on purchasing.

It’s nice to see a commitment to the mobile from the federal government. While all three of these agencies are moving forward with mobile solutions, they are not yet mature (and can use help).

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