Agencies, industry seek answers to mobile puzzle

Input sought on federal mobile strategies, budgets, platforms and implementations

People who want to offer ideas on federal use of mobile technologies have an opportunity to participate in two online crowdsourcing discussions this month, one sponsored by the General Services Administration and another by an industry group.

GSA started a 10-day discussion phase of its Making Mobile Gov outreach program to federal agencies and the public June 29, while the American Council for Technology Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC) started a separate online discussion on federal implementation of advanced mobility.

The GSA discussion has drawn more than two dozen comments to date on strategy, budget and mobile platform problems confronting federal agencies as they determine how and when to launch a mobile website or mobile application. Agencies have developed more than 50 mobile applications focused on reaching consumers and other target populations.

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“At what level will agencies develop strategies?” Gwynne Kostin, the GSA’s director of mobile at the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, wrote in a comment in the Mobile Strategy discussion at Making Mobile Gov. “At the program delivery level -- thereby spawning many strategies in an agency? At the department/agency level? ... Both are important. Strategies need to accommodate both.”

At the ACT-IAC session, the emphasis is more on issues related to support for a federal mobile applications at the enterprise level and supporting the federal workforce, said Tom Suder, co-chairman of ACT-IAC Advanced Mobility Working Group and strategic adviser to the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Simulation & Training.

The other working group co-chairman is Rick Holgate, CIO of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency at the Justice Department.

The “Issues with Federal Implementation of Advanced Mobility” discussion launched in late June and will continue until July 14, Suder said in an interview. The results will be presented to the GSA and to additional ACT-IAC working groups to develop further recommendations.

The ACT-IAC discussion involves four main topics for mobile applications — how to develop and operate a federal enterprise-level mobile application ecosystem, how to manage security, how to manage human capital and training, and how to manage issues of IT infrastructure and wireless connectivity. About 15 comments have been submitted to date. 

“Employee workforce is more our focus,” Suder said. “It is not so much the citizen services, but we are appealing more to the enterprise.”

Having a mobile application ecosystem for the government is probably going to be one of the significant issues, Suder said. “Where would the iPad be without the App Store? We need an enterprise app store for the government.”

Security is another major concern, as well as wireless access, Suder added. “If you are relying on an iPad to connect to the cloud, you have to have Wi-Fi inside federal buildings,” he said. “The IT infrastructure is pretty important, so we are trying to get some ideas on what to do to get to that point.”

In the ACT-IAC discussion, some vendors of mobile applications and products are providing information about their applications in the conversations.

“There is no such thing as a bad idea,” Suder said. “We will vet and present those. We are trying to get participation from people who would not normally participate.”

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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