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Public Service in the Age of Ubiquitous Internet

At most conferences, staring at your phone during a presentation is generally frowned upon. However, at ModevGov, pulling out your mobile device and firing up an app was often a requirement.

On Wednesday, February 26, representatives from government, private industry and the non-profit sector came together to learn from each other and discuss challenges in the government mobile application space. The conference brought together agency professionals, industry developers, user experience specialists and designers. It featured over 40 speakers from government and industry and included hands-on workshops and training sessions for both aspiring and established producers of mobile solutions.

“Technology is moving so fast, no one person – in fact no one organization – can keep up with it,” remarked Dr. David A. Bray, Chief Information Officer at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) during the opening keynote (entitled 'Public Service in the Age of Ubiquitous Internet'). “It is actually going to require a network of us to take this on, and is being led by what we are doing with mobile technology.”

Bray’s keynote encapsulated the cross-sector collaborative mood of the conference. Bray argued that the general public, government, and private industry should work together to form what he described as a 'triangle of disruption and innovation' -- a force that has the potential to radically alter public service.

“It is going to take a network to overcome legacy bureaucracy,” Bray said.

As most public sector professionals know, collaboration across industries and even across agencies is exceedingly difficult. But as Bray describes it, this perceived dysfunction is government working as it was designed. “We wanted turf between different agencies, because that would prevent any one person from having too much power,” he explained. However, this age of ubiquitous connectivity requires horizontal collaborations that are simply not possible in isolation. To circumvent these difficulties, Bray argued, we must leverage both the outside communities and technologies like mobile applications to close the gaps.

But the conference wasn’t just about public sector IT planners and mobile startups. A functioning ecosystem must touch all areas of civic life. For example, Bray noted that fluency in legal code is just as important as digital coding skills. “If we want to change how we do things, we have to recognize that we have a lot of laws that don’t have expiration dates and that have been on the books for 100 years,” he argued.

This ecosystem was perhaps best represented in the sponsor exposition hall, which spanned across all sectors. The tech firm Agilex had a booth across from the law firm Womble Carlyle Sanridge and Rice. Code for America, the tech non-profit, was just a stone’s throw away from DC Web Women and Fig Leaf Software.

Attendees spanned the DC tech universe, with about a fifty-fifty split between government and industry attendees. A sample of government participants included the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Census Bureau. Industry and non-profit participants included Cloudspyre, LogicNets, Modus Create, The National Defense University and the National Center of Women and IT.

This was the first ever ModevGov conference, brought together by Modev, a community of mobile development professionals. According to Modev founder Pete Erikson, next year’s conference will be an even larger, more interactive event. In the meantime, mobile development professionals can attend ModevUX, a mobile design and user experience conference taking place this May in McLean, VA.

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Additional Resources

For archived recordings of the day’s presentations, as well as presenter slides, visit: MoDevGov [Note: archived content coming soon.]

Follow the link for more information about Modev.

Follow the link for more information about ModevUX.

You can also learn more about the way mobile is changing government in our GovLoop guide, "Making Mobile Matter."

Additionally, you can learn about mobile security in our guide, "Agency of the Future: Guide to Mobile Security in Government."

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