After the executive order: Will IT devices prove their worth?
- By John S. Monroe
- Dec 02, 2011
When is a tablet computer not a waste of federal money? What about a smart phone? Or even a laptop?
President Barack Obama’s Nov. 9 executive order on reducing waste in government spending effectively directs federal IT managers to begin with the negative assumption.
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The order acknowledges that such devices can play a role in supporting telework and continuity-of-operations strategies and improving the efficiency of operations. But the express intent of one section of the order — let’s not mince words here — is to “limit the number of IT devices ... issued to employees.”
Experts will tell you that there’s an upside here: If IT managers are forced to justify spending money on these products, they might become smarter consumers, which could ultimately lead to even broader deployment as they discover new ways to use the technology to make their operations more efficient.
That might be the case. But it’s also likely that the Obama administration is betting that, in the end, smart consumers will decide that the products are not as useful as they originally thought.
It might be convenient for many feds to have laptops, smart phones or tablet PCs so they can stay productive even when they are on the road. But for how many feds is such connectivity essential? The current budget crisis is creating a larger and larger delta between notions of what's convenient and what's essential. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The danger is that the bottom-line focus of the executive order — and the way in which it associates IT devices with waste — will discourage federal IT managers from exploring the ways in which the technology could make agency employees more productive and improve the efficiency of their operations.
It might make sense to limit the number of IT devices, but let’s not limit the imagination.
John S. Monroe is the editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week.