COMMENTARY

After the executive order: Will IT devices prove their worth?

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.


Related coverage:

Swag: Who has it, what is it?

Order limits smart phones, tablets and swag for feds


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.

About the Author

John Monroe is Senior Events Editor for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, where he is responsible for overseeing the development of content for print and online content, as well as events. John has more than 20 years of experience covering the information technology field. Most recently he served as Editor-in-Chief of Federal Computer Week. Previously, he served as editor of three sister publications: civic.com, which covered the state and local government IT market, Government Health IT, and Defense Systems.

Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton

    SEC owns up to 2016 breach

    A key database of financial information was breached in 2016, possibly in support of insider trading, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DOD looks to get aggressive about cloud adoption

    Defense leaders and Congress are looking to encourage more aggressive cloud policies and prod reluctant agencies to embrace experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Shutterstock / Pictofigo

    The next big thing in IT procurement

    Steve Kelman talks to the agencies that have embraced tech demos in their acquisition efforts -- and urges others in government to give it a try.

  • broken lock

    DHS bans Kaspersky from federal systems

    The Department of Homeland Security banned the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from federal agencies in a new binding operational directive.

  • man planning layoffs

    USDA looks to cut CIOs as part of reorg

    The Department of Agriculture is looking to cut down on the number of agency CIOs in the name of efficiency and better communication across mission areas.

  • What's next for agency cyber efforts?

    Ninety days after the Trump administration's executive order, FCW sat down with agency cyber leaders to discuss what’s changing.

Reader comments

Mon, Dec 5, 2011 Skipp

John you opened with "For most of us Feds, tablets are not necessary." But the general tone of your message is that Tablets are Techie toys that are not necessary. I disagree. I am pushing for a pilot of tablets that will let my employees take tablets into an industrial environmet to increase productivity. They will be climbing ladders and will not has a desktop to work on. Therefore a tablet is ideal and they will have access to their desktop without having to trudge back to their desk repeatedly. Just another perspective.

Mon, Dec 5, 2011 John

For most of us Feds, tablets are not necessary. Techie types want them so they can be on the leading edge and they want the Government to provide them so they can officially use the tablets for work. Does this mean that the tablet is better than a laptop PC? Nope. It's just more convenient packaging but not really necessary.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group