GSA helps agencies go mobile

GSA's Making Mobile Gov offers three-step assistance to agencies

The General Services Administration wants to help federal agencies go mobile with its new Making Mobile Gov project to raise awareness about using mobile devices to reach the public, a senior official announced.

As mobile technologies become more popular, agencies need to be prepared to provide what people now expect in terms of the availability of government data and services on iPhones, iPads, Androids and other mobile devices, Gwynne Kostin, director of mobile for GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, said at a panel discussion sponsored by AFCEA-Bethesda on June 23.

“Federal agencies are challenged to meet public expectations with regard to mobile,” Kostin said. Those include evolving expectations to communicate with the government, obtain information and services from the government and to examine and evaluate government data and programs, she said.

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The GSA’s Making Mobile Gov program offers three levels of assistance for developing a mobile strategy, first by providing market information such as how many people are using cell phones and mobile devices, and what other agencies are doing in mobile applications.

Some agencies are experimenting with mobile applications on their own;  more than 50 federal mobile applications have been released for iPhones, iPads and Androids. Also, saw a 200 percent increase in mobile traffic from 2010 to 2011, and the Agriculture Department launched a mobile food safety website which, in a week, was attracting a fifth of all Web traffic, according to Making Mobile Gov.

“Mobile is on government’s doorstep and it’s knocking. Government needs to get ready and welcome it in,” the Making Mobile Gov website states.

The next phase of the project will involve setting up discussions among federal executives about problems related to mobile applications and establishing a wiki of best practices. The third and final phase will involve seeking input on how to design mobile applications and architectures for the future.

“We are working to create an informative dialogue to talk about the challenges of mobile,” Kostin said. “There is a big opportunity now to have a strategic use of mobile technologies.”

The Environmental Protection Agency is providing up-to-date federal data to the public over mobile platforms while also maintaining the security of the EPA’s data and its internal networks, said Dalroy Ward, the EPA’s senior technology adviser at the Office of Information Analysis and Access.

The EPA has developed internal procedures to evaluate new mobile device applications and programs to determine if they are cost-effective, he added. The agency also is sponsoring an Apps for the Environment challenge to encourage developers to create new mobile applications with EPA and also Health and Human Services Department data.

The EPA, as part of its evaluation of mobile applications, considers whether the applications potentially are “disruptive in a good way” in creating jobs and boosting the economy, Ward added. For example, one possible application under development is making indoor air quality building regulations available on mobile devices, which saves time for construction companies on the job and avoids delays while work crews are being paid by the hour, he said.

“The companies will save money,” Ward said. “The construction managers will be able to look up information on-site, rather than needing to make a trip to the office.”

Also speaking at the event were Lt. Col Anmy Torres, director of Defense Knowledge Online and Secure Go Mobile, and Caterina Lasome, COO of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Biomedical Informatics and Information Technology.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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