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Imagining A Mobile-Friendly Government

Imagine a world in which you’re driving to work one day and get rear-ended. It’s completely the other person’s fault. You both pull over and you quickly get out your phone. You navigate to an online form, fill in your information, tag your GPS location, snap a picture of the damage, and hit submit. The other driver assures you that his insurance will cover everything. You get back in your car and pull away.

You’re not even late for work.

Government agencies are working hard towards making online citizen services mobile-friendly enough for such situations such to actually play out. Eugene Liderman, Director of Public Sector Strategy at Good Technology, spoke with Christopher Dorobek for the show DorobekINSIDER about the government’s efforts to work towards a fully mobile-friendly system for all federal agencies. Liderman and Good Technology have developed the Good Technology Mobility Index, which systematically evaluates the performance of mobile apps and platforms.

Are government agencies doing a good job of achieving mobile integration according to this evaluation?

In short, Liderman says that agencies are working towards it, but there is still tremendous progress to be made.

One reason? There is a lot of variance among government agencies in their efforts in mobile platforms and apps. Some agencies have already pushed the boundaries and created applications and mobile-friendly websites that are highly successful.

FEMA is one of the agencies that is at the forefront of mobile app development. It has developed an app that doesn’t just shrink its website to fit a mobile screen, but actually pulls and reorganizes the essential information, which is perfect for people in disaster situations.

The challenge for government agencies is creating a mobile application that is easy to use. It doesn’t take much to design a mobile website that is essentially the same as one available on a computer. But, the government must also take into account that when people want information from the agency on the go, it’s because they’re looking for something in particular.

“Most people don’t on a daily basis go to a government website and start browsing all the content available,” Liderman said. “They’re going to have something specific they want to find.” For instance, when was the last time you Internet-surfed on over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs website, just for fun?

Most government agencies aren’t yet at FEMA’s level, which is partially due to the fact that government agencies are always up against significant financial constraints. On the bright side, the private sector does not have the same financial constraints as the public sector, and many companies has done some work designing applications that use government data and format it so that it’s citizen- and mobile-friendly.

There also exists some concern about security issues. Risks to citizens and government employees alike include leaks of personally identifiable information, health records, finances, and other important sensitive data.

“There’s a real concern there about submitting any type of private information for fear of being exploited somehow,” said Liderman. The government usually errs on the side of caution in these security problems, which has its benefits, but it’s also probably slowing down the process towards further mobile development.

So, it looks like the dream of perfectly streamlined mobile government is still a long ways away. But let’s hope that some day soon it will make getting in a fender-bender just a little less painful.

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