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As governmental agencies around the world look to enhance their service offerings digitally, they are increasingly needing to consider Mobility.
Of course, mobility appears in two inter-connected ways: 1) The ease to access services virtually anywhere; and 2) The use of mobile devices and applications that enable those functions.
“We are seeing this trend toward mobile apps,” John Landwehr, a vice president of government solutions at Adobe, told CIO.com, “MOBILE FIRST IS NOW THE TREND.”
For government bodies, who have been traditionally slower to implement newer digital solutions, the ease of mobility is an important step to take.
A General Accountability Office report from 2014 points towards an increase in the use of American agency websites (not necessarily mobile) — from 57,428 in 2011 to 1,206,959 in 2013. It appears that more and more people are looking to access government services online instead of in-person.
The application of a mobile platform in order to offer services can affect a variety of governmental functions. Examples are in the health sector (medical records or insurance), finance (taxes) and even the emergence of electronic driver licences.
A report by GovLoop in 2015, titled “The Future of Digital Services: Five Trends Transforming Government”, three different case studies exist that show how American governmental agencies are engaging with mobile apps right now. An example of this is the PTSD Coach App by the Department of Veterans Affairs which offers digital resources for users who suffer from post-traumatic stress.
The immediate benefits are in cost and time savings. Completing critical documentation on a tablet or phone allows service agents and users to complete important paperwork away from a departmental office. It also saves paper and any re-keying.
The prevalence of mobility, though, does offer significant challenges.
The first is security. At a mobile level, there are a couple of concerns. Almost all smartphones – the dominant handheld device in the market today – have location tracking and require user information that is sometimes personal in order to access apps. Another concern is the misplacement of a device that has personal information stored on it.
In 2015, several American states began testing pilot programs for electronic driver’s licences including Iowa and Delaware. An electronic driver’s licence does allow for information to be updated seamlessly online from virtually anywhere and therefore means less trips to the DMV. It also utilizes pin and biometric scan technology that limits access to the virtual document.
There are some considerable pitfalls.
For instance, when handing over the electronic document to police – there is a risk that they will be able to see other sensitive information on the device, such as notifications. Potentially, these could lead to further searches or seizures. In certain cases, the source may have to physically touch the phone which may be considered a breach of privacy by some.
Compatibility is also a potential issue. Although a statewide technology may allow police to accept electronic identification, the same might not be true at a Federal or interstate level.
The other challenge to mobilizing government services is in consolidating complex data.
Lakshmi Grama, a senior digital content strategist at the National Cancer Institute, told CIO.com that in order for digital content strategies to work, agencies have to consolidate large portions of data into something useable that app developers can build on.
This may come, she suggests, by unifying all governmental mobile functions under one umbrella as opposed to having a variety of separate apps for different departments. This will help streamline processes and increase usability, she says.
Either way, it is not enough for government agencies to simply offer their services online anymore. More and more people are using mobile devices in order to access government sources from a variety of locations, around the world.
To summarize, let’s look at the reason why mobility will become such an important factor in the near future – not only for the government but for everyone.
Statista, a statistics portal, published a fact that as of 2015, worldwide mobile phone internet user penetration was 52.7 percent. In 2017, figures suggest that more than 63.4 percent of mobile phone users will access online content through their devices.
Source: eMarketer, AP, Statista 2015
Cisco, a leading telecom’s enterprise, released a report earlier this year that claims that users with mobile devices jumped by half a billion in 2015 to 7.9 billion from 7.3 billion in 2014. By 2020, Cisco forecasts that the number of mobile devices in human hands will exceed the human population at 11.6 mobile devices for a predicted population of 7.8 billion persons.
These reports suggest that mobile devices will continue to grow in terms of internet users so organizations will either need to cater to these devices or be left behind.