Is mobile first government the way forward in 2018?

In my previous blog I identified mobility as one of the key tech trends for government in 2018. The concept of a mobile first government IT strategy has been around for some years now but government agencies have been slow to adopt. Now, with the explosive growth of smartphones, the public sector must place much greater emphasis on mobility if it is to satisfy both citizens and staff. In this blog, I’ll look at what government agencies have to do to ensure they create an IT strategy that is ‘mobile friendly’.

The benefits of introducing a mobile first government IT infrastructure are well understood. You have the opportunity to increase citizen engagement, deliver better, more personalized services, empower key workers to increase productivity – all by deploying mobile technologies that can reduce costs and boost efficiency. US government CIOs told Accenture in 2013 that mobile devices and apps were either a high priority or essential to their strategic agenda. Today, however, government agencies are still far from realizing their mobile goals.

Without getting into the development of mobile apps or personalized mobile experiences for citizens, government agencies are struggling to simply ensure that their websites are ready for mobile access. Last year, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) benchmarked the accessibility of the top 297 US government websites and found that less than 60% were ‘mobile friendly’. These figures could, in fact, be a little optimistic. A random test conducted by tech. company DMI found that 7 out of 10 sites failed their mobile tests.

Why is this so important? Digitalgov.gov pointed out that, in December 2016, mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – accounted for 43% of traffic to all US government websites, up from 36% a year earlier. Breaking that down, tablets account for a small percentage of traffic and shrinking while smartphones grow rapidly. Today, around half of all US households are mobile-device only so the numbers above suggest that government agencies urgently need to rethink their mobility strategies – moving towards mobile first government – to ensure citizens can easily access services and sites from their chosen mobile device.

Why mobile first government?

As desktop is replaced by mobile – especially smartphone – as the major access tool for both citizen and employee, the concept of ‘mobile first’ has come of age. The key reasons that government agencies need to ensure mobility lies at the heart of their digital transformation strategies include:

Crossing the digital divide

One of the fears surrounding digital government was that it would widen the digital divide between the rich and the poor. Evidence suggests that a mobile first government strategy does the exact opposite. Today, 77% of US adults have smartphones and over half of younger adults say they live in a home with three smartphones or more.

Smartphones have gone far beyond voice, text and images. They represent a powerful computing platform that can serve an almost endless range of services. The average American has over 90 apps on their phone – of which they use 30 each month.

Most people are now happy to see the smartphone as their primary computing device. Importantly for government agencies, this is proportionately larger amongst low-income households. For homes that can’t afford a desktop computer or broadband services, the smartphone is the only device that allows them to get online. According to Pew Research, 20% of US adults whose annual household income falls below $30,000 in 2017 were smartphone-only Internet users, compared with less than 5% for households of $100,000 or more. This figure has doubled in only three years.

As an increasing number of citizens – especially those for which government services are designed – rely on smartphones as their primary device, it’s clear that service delivery should be optimized for this type of mobile platform.

Increasing customer engagement

Mobile technology has the potential to make services more flexible and citizens more informed, as they can access information anywhere at any time from their mobile device. Yet, government agencies are struggling to meet citizen expectations.

Research from the Government Business Council found that one in four of survey participants were only slightly or not at all satisfied with the IT services they received from their government agencies. More respondents identified ‘improved customer experience platforms’ as a higher priority for government than any other.

Mobility is core to these improvements. Mobile first government can reshape citizen engagement by helping people connect with government and access services in ways that are natural to them. For example, mobile apps offer extended self-service capabilities over online self-service. Smartphones can add new functionality such as GPS, video and context awareness to enhance elements such as location-based services in a way that online portals can’t.

In this way, Citizen-oriented apps on the smartphone boost engagement by delivering easy-to-navigate services as part of an omnichannel experience where the individual can select the devices they wish to use. Business-oriented apps enable self-service capabilities that reduce the amount of time and bureaucracy the business spends on paperwork and red tape.

By reaching citizens anytime and anywhere, mobile first government services can increase access to vital information without opening additional offices and staffing them with personnel. Services improve while government can streamline processes and reduce costs.

Increasing workforce productivity

One area where mobility can improve government performance is by empowering the workforce. I don’t intend to discuss what Millennials look for in a prospective employer but to point out that more than half of all government employees work away from the office on a regular basis. They need mobile access if they are to be productive.

Frost and Sullivan found that 45% of US government agencies provide smartphones to some or all of their employees and the other 55% allow employees to use their own devices for work purposes. Surprisingly, the survey suggested that wearable devices are used by 50% of employees in almost half of all government organizations.

It is clear that mobile first government can drive field service profitability. Providing personnel – building inspectors, maintenance workers – with the right tools can help boost their productivity and reduce the amount of administration involved in any task. It can also improve outcomes for citizens by arming staff with the information they need to make faster and more accurate decisions. These benefits also apply to back office where flexible and remote working increase efficiency and job satisfaction.

Towards mobile first government

The move to a mobile first government IT strategy is coming to all agencies. The challenge to implementing the strategy lies not in the technology itself. Mobile technologies are mature and creating apps has become an innovative and growing industry. Integrating and exploiting the data and content created within the mobile systems is the real challenge. The Government Business Council research identified that while 91% of federal government respondents felt compatibility with other systems and databases was important for service-focused IT, only 35% were satisfied with their agency’s ability to do it.

Increasing mobility in service delivery and government operations create vast volumes of new data from a wide range of sources. Delivering the consistent, personalized and omnichannel customer experience that citizens expect requires an effective platform that manages information flows, automates processes and enables advanced analytics to derive full insight and value from the data created.

As agencies move towards a mobile first’ government approach, the need for a central and secure Enterprise Information Management solution has never been greater.

If you’d like to know more about how OpenText can help, complete the contact form on this page and we’ll be delighted to start the conversation.

Carol Brock

Carol is the Industry Marketing Strategist for the Public Sector worldwide. An Information Governance Expert by education and training with 20+ years of experience in federal and state government, she is passionate about facilitating digital government to provide electronic services to citizens. With initiatives such as digital first, open data, and smart cities, there is much to talk about.

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