Adaptation of mobile technology to distribute information and collect citizen feedback is a well-documented trend for state and local government in the last several years. Based on mobile industry reports, such as Rachael King in the CIO Journal who recently said, "The breadth of mobile usage is soaring," and based on government agency future spending plans, the trend will likely continue for the next several years.
"Mobile access is rapidly becoming the primary way in which people seek government information," said Alan E. Webber, research director at IDC in a recent GovTech article "The Public Sector Considers Mobile-First Approaches to Citizen Interactions," written by Justine Brown. In the article, Brown reports on the "mobile-first" strategy that many agencies consider, particularly at the state level. This strategy involves building new mobile platforms for government websites and assumes that most visitors access the websites via their mobiles devices. Brown spoke with several state CIOs and they all have performed research and analysis to support this assumption.
Brown also suggests that mobile technology allows more people to engage and get involved with state and local government. And for this, agencies are turning to mobile applications as an effective and potentially cost-saving way to connect with their constituents. In addition to cost savings, applications can replace 311 calls and expedite agency response times to fix issues such as potholes. Agencies can also easily share government activities such as legislative updates, provide instant alerts for public safety like weather emergencies and traffic incidents and agencies provide automated individualized announcements, such as providing educational loan updates or license plate renewal notifications.
A recent white paper published by Granicus entitled "Government and the Mobile Advantage" highlights the demand for mobile applications in state and local government. "Today, government must bring the discussion to the community members anytime, anywhere, at their convenience," the paper says.
Applications allow governments to create timely transparency with the policies and legislation they publish. In addition, Granicus reports that applications though mobile devices "allow for the interaction between government and citizen to be two-way. Delivering information to and getting feedback from the devices they use the most is the only way governments can hope to stay connected with communities in the new mobile information age."
One can look at a variety of agency websites across the country and see just how many mobile applications can be available for one agency (for example, Utah’s state agency site has 75 applications) and how easy agencies make the process of adding an application to a mobile device (for example, the Cook County IL set up). Mobile solutions are built for a wide variety of purposes that help agencies and the public connect. The NASCIO website provides a “State Mobile Apps Catalog” for state agencies to upload new applications and for anyone to view the applications by state and category.
The implementation of mobile technology has created a significant amount of IT-related business in order to fulfill the demands for mobile-first sites and applications. Granicus points out these new mobile solutions are "opening doors for innovations in efficiency and collaboration internally within government organizations and externally between government and the public."
Onvia has a large database of procurement activity and spending plans from more than 80,000 agencies in the U.S. We pulled examples from this database of mobile government planned projects coming up in the near future that highlight the continuing trend for more dialog with citizens:
The City of Fitchburg in Wisconsin plans over the next 2 years to award $55,000 to a vendor who can provide technology needed to keep the public in touch with the local access TV station coverage of library, city hall and community center events in their community through building mobile apps, an interactive web site and wireless video transmission not just to the agency office and TV station but also to online and mobile streaming applications.
The Parks and Recreation Department for the City of Jacksonville Beach in Florida has a very popular municipal golf course. The golf course pro shop checks in an estimated 50,000 golfers each year. As part of a five-year capital improvement plan, the city will award $35,000 to a vendor to provide a new software point of sale system that will allow customers to book tee times online using mobile devices. It will also allow customers to check in and pay using these same mobile devices, improving customer service and reducing labor costs. In addition, the software will interface with the 3rd party tee time sales services that are a popular method used to sell last minute tee times. The software system will download and interface with the City's current business applications.
Arlington County in Virginia has a ten-year capital improvement plan that includes $2 million for community engagement mobile applications - technology that facilitates two-way interaction, discussion, notification and collaboration between the County government staff and its residents, businesses, non-profit organizations and other partners. A specific product requested is a customer service/asset management tool that provides for the generation and identification of community service requests. With a mobile application, users choose the service request (pot hole, graffiti, street light outage, trash pick-up, etc.) to be generated. The request, with the option to attach a photo and the GPS coordinates, are sent to the vendor which assigns a service ticket number and then communicates with a work order management system to file a work order to the appropriate service organization (DES, Parks, Police etc…) who then responds to the request. The person reporting the request can track the request and be informed of its fulfillment.
In state and local government, Onvia sees potential for IT and mobile vendors to win projects over the coming years. There may be challenges to mobile implementations, such as rapidly changing technology and security but, when done correctly, the benefits for both government agencies and their constituents are enormous.