U.S. CIO Unveils Mobile Strategy for Federal Government

Obama administration tech chief Steven VanRoekel looks to narrow mobile gap between feds and private sector, also cites consumerization of IT and the migration to the cloud as key areas.

By Kenneth Corbin
Thu, January 12, 2012

CIO — The Obama administration yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas unveiled an ambitious new initiative to remake the way the federal government approaches mobile technology, soliciting ideas from the public for how federal agencies can tap mobile devices and apps to operate more efficiently and better serve citizens.

U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel announced the program at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a symbolic setting that amplifies the theme of the federal government taking its cues on IT from the most innovative quarters of the private sector.

Pledging to "make this year the year of mobile," VanRoeckel acknowledged that federal agencies have lagged behind the private sector in wireless technology, owing to a constellation of factors including a glacial procurement and in-house development process and an IT culture that has been slow to warm up to many of the new technologies and computing models that private-sector CIOs have already embraced.

"We have a real opportunity I think to bring to bear mobile technology in the federal government in a way that really changes the paradigm," said VanRoeckel, a former Microsoft executive who is only the second person to serve as U.S. CIO, a position President Obama created in his first year in office.

The mobility effort comes with the same broad goals that have accompanied earlier tech initiatives the administration has advanced, seeking to break down IT silos among the various departments and agencies, foster public-private partnerships, lower costs and improve services and efficiencies.

Additionally, VanRoeckel emphasized that citizen engagement is a crucial part of the mobile agenda. Using the IdeaScale platform, the government is asking members of the public to submit ideas, which users can then vote up or down in a Digg-like model. Visitors are also encouraged to share use cases describing experiences within their own organization about how mobile technologies have effectively been used to cut costs or improve productivity.

VanRoeckel's team plans to close the IdeaScale submission page on Jan. 20, at which point officials will weigh the suggestions, along with the recommendations from the new Federal Mobility Strategy Task Force and other input as they develop the first draft of the mobile strategy.

Once the report is finalized, the officials overseeing the effort will set their sights on other goals, such as procurement overhaul and, farther down the road, crafting a policy for the federal approach to mobile apps and outreach to the developer community.

VanRoeckel emphasized that he is working to make the government more agile as federal IT managers grapple with the same prevailing trends that have been transforming the private sector, namely the consumerization of IT, the migration to the cloud and, of course, the increasing reliance on mobile devices.

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