by Kenneth Corbin

Security, Budgets Slow Mobility in Government

News Analysis
Aug 01, 20143 mins
Government ITMobile Device ManagementMobile Security

Officials at state and local agencies are slowly warming to a more mobile workforce, but telework remains the exception amid tight budgets and security concerns.

Even as the federal government warms to some of the benefits of mobile technologies in the workplace, movement has been slower at the state and local levels, where officials say security concerns and budget constraints, among other factors, keep them on the sidelines.

In a new survey of state and local IT directors, managers, CIOs and others, respondents indicate a strong level of interest in implementing policies to support mobility, but 58 percent say they are not yet ready to manage a fully mobile workforce.

“Things are moving in a mobile direction,” says David Smith, director of state and local government at Citrix Systems, which commissioned the survey. “I think [there are] elements of mobile in every agency, but I think being fully mobile-ready still lacks in a lot of customers I’ve seen.”

[ Related: ATF CIO Pushes for a More Mobile Government and Federal CIOs Grapple With BYOD, Mobile Workforce ]

The poll, conducted by the Mobile Work Exchange, canvased 150 IT officials from 39 states. While 40 percent of state and local employees use mobile devices for work, just 17 percent are eligible for telework. Sixty-five percent of respondents say that they anticipate the number of mobile workers to grow in the next five years, leaving a substantial minority who expect the status quo to hold.

Among the respondents who say that they are not mobile-ready – those who give their agency a letter grade of “C,” “D” or “F” – 56 percent say they worry about security issues associated with a more mobile workforce. Fifty-two percent cite budget constraints, with another 48 percent saying they lack the technology infrastructure to support mobile workers.

Without Mandate, State and Local CIOs Struggle to Go Mobile

Unlike their counterparts in the federal government, most state and local CIOs don’t have a mandate to mobilize their operations. The feds, both through administrative directives and the 2010 Telework Enhancement Act, have been developing policies to support mobile workers and devices, though those efforts have been slow to take shape and vary widely from one agency to another.

[ Analysis: Feds Pursue Mobile-First Strategy for Digital Content, Services ]

It’s perhaps no surprise then that many state and local officials say they’re still in the early stages of mobilizing their operations.

“The biggest mobile app that’s out there is email,” Smith says. “When you start getting into individual mission-critical applications … you see a lot less of those specific things being mobile.”

Similarly, at the state level Smith sees little enthusiasm for supporting BYOD, owing in part to the challenges of devising policies to manage and secure those devices as well as reluctance among workers to bring their personal phones and tablets into the workplace.

Citrix’s survey highlights some of those cultural challenges that have slowed the adoption of mobile technologies in the public sector. Twenty-nine percent of respondents say that managers in their agencies resist policies that would invite a more mobile workforce, while 23 percent say their employees aren’t interested in mobile work.

Many managers and workers say they don’t see how mobile technology can help “improve overall citizen service,” Smith says. “I think there’s still a big cultural shift that has to take place.”