Serving the Mobile Citizen

Last month I was privileged to participate in Government Computer News’ “Government Mobility Forum” on a panel discussion on serving the mobile citizen.

The conversation focused around the issues that many federal and local government agencies face in organizing data and delivering services to help their citizens successfully interact with their governments. A few interesting points from the discussion:

  • Philip Bertolini, the CIO from Oakland County, Mich., discussed the challenges of intergovernmental sharing that stem from differences in data standards – if two agencies keep their books a little differently, it can be hard to bring those data sets together or accurately compare them. Oakland County has worked around those challenges to create a robust, trusted and user-friendly website resulting in more than 2 million downloaded documents last year and millions of saved dollars. Philip also talked about how creating the new mobile version of the website allowed them to create true mobility by giving their citizens a variety of options for accessing government resources.
  • Cisco’s Gary Hall talked about how mobile technology can be used as an essential tool for U.S. Intelligence to collect knowledge from our citizens and deliver it in real time. In addition to providing services to our citizens through mobile, we can also utilize them as the eyes and ears of the intelligence community.
  • Gwynne Kostin of the GSA challenged the audience to not think about how government can serve the citizen, but instead to think about how we are using mobile ourselves. She outlined the top issues that we all face when looking to implement mobile services, ranging from low budgets for mobile services to issues of compliance and security with delivering mobile data. In an era where 83% of federal government workers use their personal computer for work activities, we know that ensuring data doesn’t get in the wrong hands is harder than ever.
  • Nancy Proctor from the Smithsonian told the audience how the organization avoided budget challenges by opening up data to allow citizens to build the apps they want and need to navigate through everything their museums have to offer.

Despite the challenges facing the mobile landscape in government, there are successful mobile projects that provide valuable services to citizens. Behind many of those successful projects is an investment in hardware and software technology that creates the necessary platform for delivery.

One major takeaway from our discussion was to encourage everyone to share their success stories to help avoid reinventing the wheel across agencies and instead draw on the ideas that have worked for others.

Within many of our state and local government agencies, HP is helping provide better service by equipping the agencies with HP Thin clients, which make it easier for employees and citizens to access applications online.

For instance, In Cook County, Ill., HP technology— including HP thin clients used by county employees and the public—is greasing those wheels to speed the work of government and improve service to citizens. In Cook County, litigants file some 2 million new cases annually. More than 400 judges conduct 6.5 million hearings each year, and the clerk’s office manages a staggeringly high billion court records per year. Thin clients were cheaper and allowed workers to access and store files online, which makes the records more accessible to government workers and the public.

I encourage you to listen in to our discussion in the link above and think about whether some of the ideas could be used in your agency or organization, and share other ideas here on GovLoop about successful ways you’ve used technology to serve the mobile citizen!

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Ramona Winkelbauer

While happy to see service/s to the “mobile” citizen, I hope it doesn’t come at the expense of the non-mobile citizen. E.g., seniors are still less aware/in touch with/have access to technology and I would like to see these “mobile” services have ways for the non-mobile citizen to retain access — office hours, telephone access, etc. I.e., the US Treasury has implemented e-Savings Bonds and removed all non-electronic Savings Bonds; mobile at the expense of the non-mobile. Suggest that the concept of *AND* is better for all concerned over the concept of *OR*.