It’s a proverbial bane of the public sector — and one that causes it to lose millions in quantifiable outputs every single year.
It’s seen in the paperwork-saturated caseloads of social workers. It’s seen in the legacy computer systems that outfit police cars. It’s seen in the outdated approaches of citizen-to-government interactions that still primarily — if not exclusively — rely on telephone calls. It’s even seen in antiquated data centers storing local and state taxpayer’s information, lacking cutting-edge cloud-based or encryption measures needed to ensure its protection.
It’s mobile communications technology in the public sector — or rather, the lack of it. And it’s causing the country’s police and fire departments, utilities, transportation, education, infrastructure, telecommunications and network of local governments to vastly underperform.
Why Mobile Tools Are Needed for Mobile Municipalities, Today and Tomorrow
The past few years have seen these pockets of the public sector’s efficiency and productivity come under intense scrutiny. Directly stymied by underfunded and underskilled technological innovation, government-run entities need different mobile technologies to function in today’s increasingly wireless world.
Unlike their private-sector cousins, the public sector has historically neglected technological adaptions, from computer software to the development of civil-service apps. The case to revitalize these mobile solutions in the public sector is no longer one of convenience or cheaper, quicker automation. It’s about staying relevant.
As former United States Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel stated in a 2013 White House address:
For too long, the government has employed 20th-century tools to solve 21st-century problems…. To help close the productivity gap in government, we need a ‘future ready’ workforce equipped with the modern tools and technologies they need to serve the American people effectively.
With a little public sector strategic planning, resource allocation and a concerted effort to match civil problems with technological solutions, the public sector can see the kinds of productivity its constituents deserve.
Mobile Adoption Rates in the Public Sector
Outfitting the public sector’s various domains with mobile technology and equipment isn’t always a linear process. Different municipalities serve different communities, meaning their concerns, initiatives, challenges and goals are often developed internally rather than searching for external examples and answers.
However, this hasn’t stopped noticeable mobile adoption trends in the public sector. These can be observed in broader tools being utilized for government operations, as well as individual instances where technology has been adopted to make a certain public-sector domain more accessible and efficient.
Public Sector Mobile Trends: 2016-2018 Facts and Findings
In 2016 alone, nearly 80 percent of government website traffic derived from mobile devices such as smartphones. Those numbers are projected to rise in the coming years.
There is a growing trend of using mobile smartphones to access the Internet over traditional, desktop-based broadband, with a 2018 Pew Center survey finding 25 percent of respondents only use a smartphone while at home to get online.
Consider the inefficiencies and mismanagement that adds up when an agency cannot reach one out of every five of its target audience. This is a particularly discouraging reality for many public sector departments, such as social services.
The public sector mobile technology trends of the past few years are catalyzed by this emerging, mobile-first reality:
1. Social Media:
- Public service saw an uptick in social media page adoption between 2016 and 2018, with three particular strategies utilized — to reach younger constituents, to drive higher traffic to their website and to increase two-way citizen-to-government engagement.
- The most common use for public service social media accounts was to share local news and real-time information — a strategy some refer to as an “online events board.”
- A number of cities have adopted automated chatbot platforms on their official websites, piggybacking off the popular private sector customer service strategy. Individuals can directly message these artificial intelligence-driven “agents” and receive answers and updates on government-related processes.
- Cities like El Paso, Texas, and Los Angeles currently operate two of the country’s most successful municipal chatbots. In fact, El Paso’s Ask Laura saw a return on investment within the first year of operation alone, while Los Angeles’s CHIP was so popular, “he” was expanded beyond initial functions to answer public sector-recruitment related inquiries.
3. Mobile Apps
- City-developed mobile applications provide an array of uses, particularly for emergency or public-sector disaster response, civil alerts and city transportation.
- New York City’s NYC311 takes the traditional “311” non-emergency phonecall mobile. Users can report civic issues through the app, such as graffiti, potholes or damaged property, estimated to save the city $11.3 million a year when fully rolled out and receiving even half the city’s alerts.
- San Jose-initiated Pulse Point app uses contemporary GPS software to alert qualified, CPR-certified citizens if they’re in the area where a resuscitation emergency is occuring.
- Public-facing apps allow citizens to track bus routes, city rideshare programs and even public bicycles. Internal public sector performance apps can help cities tailor more efficient and well-ridden public transportation routes and coordinate future city grids.
4. Mobile Devices for Public Sector Employees
- Field force management equipping public sector employees to do their jobs while on the road benefit all and saw more emphasis from city managers in the past decade.
- A 2011 National Association of State Chief Information Officers-funded study found that 58 percent of government department managers believe mobile equipment and applications are “essential” for the operations of their agencies.
- Emergency responders, law enforcement officials and health and human services caseworkers report the highest need for mobile devices to perform their jobs efficiently.
- Mobile devices for these three public sector services have been shown to reduce paperwork, paper processing and data entry times while enhancing report and data sharing capabilities and improving documentation accuracy.
Hardware That’s Driving Mobile Efficiencies for the Public Sector
The examples above only begin to illustrate what mobile technology can do for the public sector. That’s because mobile implies technologies that allow for public service personnel to operate from anywhere — in a police cruiser or ambulance, at a desk, in a government office or even at their home.
While hyped-up technology like blockchain, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity encryption are poised to transform mobile capabilities even further in the near-future, these tools can’t get off the ground without first implementing hardware.
The right public sector hardware lends departments and operations the routine equipment they need to meet service expectations in today’s world. What’s more, they meet those expectations in a quicker, easier and more streamlined manner — plus save taxpayer money. It’s a win for all parties.
There are dozens of cutting-edge hardware tools and equipment specially made for public sector efficiency. Agencies and organizations looking to become more mobile should consider the following hardware — many of which can be made to fit within prudent public sector budgeting:
1. Mobile, Mounted Public-Safety Computers
It is standard for police cruisers and ambulances across the country to be outfitted with some form of a fixed-mounted or removable computer. What’s not standard, however, are the designs and digital functions of these computers — many of which were not tailor-made for the emergency service vehicles or operations for which they’re used.
Fixed-mount, mobile-first PCs for public sector disaster response is imperative for a contemporary fleet of police officers, fire departments and EMTs. These pieces of hardware are a functional as well as formidable first-step in making these public sector operations able to track, respond and input data in real-time, on-site.
Today’s fix-mounted mobile computers need to come fully equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, both for hotspots or in-vehicle connective networks. They also need durable yet positionable hardware pieces, from the keyboard to the advanced touchscreen display, allowing employees to move and re-position the computer to type reports in-vehicle without damaging or disconnecting the entire system.
2. Medical and Healthcare Computers
Anyone in the industry understands the complex digital demands of today’s healthcare. From specific regulations to documentation compliance to the secure storage of medical records, housing a network that’s both holistic and mobile often seems impossible. Often, medical professionals must employ individual systems for in-hospital operations, field operations and public-facing communication.
All-in-one computers for public sector healthcare is a contemporary solution streamlining these pain points. These computers come in one design outfitted both for point-of-service, rugged and sterile environments and contain mountable extensions for the computer to be moved as-needed. They also provide Windows compatibility and low-leakage power safety, ensuring they’re intuitive for medical personnel to use yet also safe and secure around sensitive patients. Plus, everything meets the resolution and size requirements set by major health data vendors without compromising sanitation or mobile protection.
3. Medical and Healthcare Tablets
Tablet PCs for medical professionals have seen many improvements over the past decade. From system features to the durability and design enhancements of the tablet itself, medical professionals equipped with tablets can access patient records, manage critical data or streamline pre-op or admissions processes in just a few clicks. Touchscreen capabilities, a long-lasting battery, contemporary Intel processors and a lightweight build also make these systems innately mobile, all to enhance medical best-practices in a hospital or emergency vehicle.
4. Rugged Public Sector Tablets
Rugged PC tablets are ideal for mobile field force management across sectors. Whether its caseworkers needing wireless access to important files, utility workers on a job site or first responders at the scene of an accident, only the strongest and most durable tablets will do.
Able to be mounted or used hand-held, these public-sector tablets come with convenient hardware features like attachable keyboards and tablet-specific mounts. They also provide the same Windows functionality, Intel processing power and cloud-based or database connectivity while your field force is on-the-go. Some can even be configured with barcode readers and other input applications, to make public sector employees’ routine tasks even easier.
5. Embedded Box Computers
Installed into other computer devices to enhance their range of functions, embedded box systems round out another way for the public sector to drive their mobile efficiency and performance.
Depending on the box system type, these enhancers can be used for many data collection, GPS, surveillance and backup-power solutions. Public sector mobile technology can use embedded box computers at traffic lights to take high-resolution pictures to automate ticket enforcement. They can be added to other surveillance or security video recording functions. Or they can make arithmetic-intensive government applications run smoother and faster through their processor extensions and more reliable mainframes.
How to Effectively Mobilize Your Field-Based Staff
Government department managers have more choices than ever when it comes to shaping their processes to be mobile-first. And evidence only serves to back up its prioritization. If mobile equipment adoption were to increase across the country — with 70 percent of municipalities implementing one or two new major mobile technologies in their local and federal departments — it would collectively translate into a government-output boost exceeding $70 billion.
Where exactly can municipalities start? Consider the following mobilization adoption steps.
1. Identify Clear, Specific Department Problems
Do your city hall personnel field too many permit-filing questions, when their time and energy would be better spent off such phone calls? Is finding parking a growing complaint from constituents around town? Do officers and other first responders still have to enter handwritten case notes into the system manually at the end of every workday?
Regardless of the civil or employee pain point, different mobile technologies offer different solutions. You can only start to strategize them if you have an exact problem in mind. Otherwise, your mobile adoption is shapeless.
2. Define the Problem’s Solution Through Technology
Rather than seeing technology as a complement to a current operation or process, public sector departments must begin to see hardware as the answer itself. They stand to gain the most when they don’t just plop brand new computers or tablets into a department, but train new procedures and daily tasks around these tools.
3. Start Co-Creating Initiatives
Not every solution needs to stay internal. New York City earned an estimated $10 million in intellectual property ideas when it used new apps and crowdsourcing to solve some of the city’s most pressing transportation concerns, with a series of prizes up to $20,000 for winning proposals.
These sorts of public initiatives work on a national level as well. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) sponsored its “Flu App Challenge,” which resulted in the creation of Flu-Ville, a game where users build their own city and manage waves of flu outbreaks based on real CDC influenza activity reports.
4. Roll out Tests and Pilot Programs in Stages
Once a mobile solution has been secured, test, tweak and implement it in stages. This prototyping approach is known as “agile development,” and it realizes there will always be adoption hiccups that shouldn’t be silenced, but rather embraced and proactively navigated through set scaffolds.
5. Advertise and Get Feedback
Find ways to get the word out about a new application or procedure, then procure feedback on them from those who use it most. Leverage your prorated rollouts of pilot programs to get step-by-step, detailed thoughts and opinions. All this is pivotal to secure long-lasting and successful mobile technologies — and see real returns on investment.
Public Sector Mobile Efficiency Products Made to Work for You
Mobile productivity has become mission-critical for public sector organizations, especially those on the front lines. From your emergency first responders to healthcare caseworkers, your public sector field force works tirelessly to build a safe, sound community for all. Are you doing the same for them?
With Datalux, you get expert information and leading products needed for a mobile-first world. We’ve been manufacturing computer systems for the public sector for over 25 years — and we’re not stopping anytime soon.