With liberty and laptops for all?
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Mar 05, 2000
The federal government should take a cue from the private sector and give
each federal employee a PC and Internet service, a top Army official said
Miriam Browning, the Army's director of information management, made
the comment at the Virtual Government 2000 conference in Washington, D.C.
"If Delta and Ford can do it, so should we," she said, adding that the Army
is considering giving its recruits laptops. Ford Motor Co. last month announced
plans to give its 350,000 employees home PCs and Internet access for a small
fee, and Delta Air Lines made a similar pledge.
"I see a lot of merit to that concept," said Helen Wood, director of
the Office of Satellite Data Processing and Distribution at the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "I think part of the goal is to
try and increase productivity. Plus, there's the realization that not all
the work is done in the offices on an 8:30-to-5 basis. So by providing the
portability, you're going to harness some energy that you [didn't] get otherwise."
Ira Hobbs, deputy chief information officer at the Agriculture Department
and co-chairman of the CIO Council's Federal Workforce Committee, agreed
that, at least in theory, the idea makes sense. "The government already
buys a lot of laptops [for] employees who are on travel, in the office or
in home work situations," he said. USDA meat inspectors, for example, use
laptops at remote sites and file reports via the Internet.
Still, obstacles including funding, infrastructure and worker support
must be addressed, but solutions exist. Laptops that attach to PCs via docking
stations at the office, for example, offer flexibility and portability for