Ever tried filling out an online form via your mobile phone and then suddenly became angry at the company for not having a mobile version of its website? If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. And federal agencies are recognizing this shift to mobile browsers and apps.
David Yang, Vice President of ICF Interactive, and Melissa Adamson, Vice President of Advanced Technologies at Agilex Technologies, spoke with Chris Dorobek of the DorobekINSIDER program to advocate for new mobile technologies as well as discuss the recent apps fair hosted by the Advanced Mobility Working Group promoting new federal mobile apps.
For a little background, ICF Interactive is a full-service, interactive agency focused on digitally advertising organization brands. Agilex is a contractor for federal agencies centered on developing more-responsive, innovative technologies and resources. The Advance Mobility Technology Group (AMWG) is part of the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC). Its mission is to promote communication and collaboration about mobile computing concerns pertinent to the federal government.
Last month, the AMWG hosted a “Mobility Application Fair” at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. The purpose of the fair was to bring together government agencies and IT industry experts to foster networking and showcase the various applications that have been developed and implemented throughout the federal government.
With the growing dependency on mobile devices, this goes beyond mobile frontend versions of websites.
“What you’re seeing [is] government and their partners provide more native capabilities to specific [operating systems] such as IOS, Android, and now Windows, to take advantage of some of those features, so you’ll have all the options, whether it just be coming in and accessing a mobile friendly website to downloading an app to your [mobile device] and being able to use some of the particular features to that platform,” explained Yang.
Adamson described some of the big takeaways from the app fair, emphasizing how government organizations are conducting their own mobile app development or pairing with industry partners. “A lot of these apps are becoming very mission focused, mission centric for execution of the mission,” she said. “Federal agencies that have a lot of field workers, we’re really starting to see [them] do things like inspection on mobile devices where it used to be a paper based process. I think the other thing we saw at the, at the app fair was very heavy government exhibitors.”
Yang added by stressing how government organizations are developing application internally as well as looking to the mobile app industry for assistance. Two examples he mentioned were the 18F developments at GSA and the United States Digital Service. “I think government is creating their own shops to handle some of this work because it’s of course just faster for them and they’re closer to the mission,” he explained. “And then offering some of their best practices to other agencies. “
Adamson discussed some of the agencies’ best practices regarding mobile app development, mentioning that the most successful mobile app development includes a comprehensive mobile strategy focused on the users. “It’s about a strategy to execute the mission more effectively through making information more mobile,” she said. “And it doesn’t just extend down to an application. It goes across their enterprise as to how they’re going to empower people to use these devices, how they’re going to manage these devices, what do they have to do to their infrastructure to make that happen. And then taking the last step, that’s about getting the information out onto whatever device somebody wants to consume it on, when they want consume it, and how they want consume it.
What about dealing with a variety of platforms?
Some agencies find the number of platforms daunting when dealing with Apple, Windows and Android. Devices are fluctuating all of the time, and the federal government is quickly realizing that it needs to adapt to the rapid changes. The focus is becoming more about the information rather than the device itself.
“More and more, you’re seeing organizations do development with HTML 5,” said Adamson. “HTML 5 has become, come a long way, and it allows you now to cash more information to the device. And by taking that approach, you, organizations can really be prepared for the device of tomorrow.”
The purpose of events like the “Mobile Application Fair” is to make mobile app development and mobile information easier by bringing together key members of the community.
“When we first started, we had different task groups assigned to some of the broader areas, for example, security, infrastructure, app development, and then something we call sectors, which was something specific to things like health or military, intel services,” said Yang. “And then, we got some feedback from our clients that was all well and good, and when mobility was first getting started, those were some of the first areas people had to get their minds wrapped around. But now as we sort of matured in those areas, the government is saying they have pretty tactical needs to address certain problems around some of their deployment.”
Yang continued by saying that we needed to respond to the needs of our agencies by reaching out to other agency partners. The event fosters communication between different agencies, and when one may be struggling with how to tackle a specific mobile app problem, it can look to other government organizations to learn what they are doing with mobile app development and share these best practices.
Mobile apps are helping government workers become more efficient at sharing information and making their jobs easier. Events like the “Mobility Application Fair” not only centered around mobile devices but about overall mobility of information and helping government employees do their work better, fostering the movement to mobile app adoption.
“It comes back to the mobility of your information and what you can do,” said Adamson. “Pretty soon, I could see a world where you lose your mobile device, no big deal, everything’s up in the cloud, just go pick up a new one, put your login in, and boom, there’s all your information again.”
Featured Image Attribution: Pixabay