Like most everyone this past week, I was surprised, (although not shocked) when Steven VanRoekel was appointed as the new Federal CIO.
Vivek Kundra’s legacy(technically, he still is in office for a few more days) will be “Cloud First”, the “Open Government Initiative” and the proponent of “common APIs” such those used in data.gov.
VanRoekel presumably will follow through on those areas that Kundra started and get them implemented to a further extent.
I know his appointment was publicly announced on August 4, but what could VanRoekel’s legacy be?
How about a “Mobile First” strategy?
I’ve even outlined a draft. It might seem familiar:
“To harness the benefits of Advanced Mobility, we have instituted a ‘Mobile First’ policy. This policy is intended to accelerate the pace at which the government will realize the value of Advanced Mobility by requiring agencies to evaluate safe, secure mobile computing options before making any new investments.”
The originator of the term “Mobile First” as far as I can tell was Ben Coit of Sapient, when he posted the idea a few weeks ago on the ACT/IAC Advanced Mobility Dialogue site.
Of the 43 ideas that were posted, I thought Ben had the most original idea and, not surprising, it was the leading vote-getter. Coit intended the policy as an option on any “Citizen Services” initiative, but I would take it a step further and include any enterprise initiative, as well.
Agency budgets clearly are tight and right now, saving money is very hot politically. Don’t we have an election in two years? A “Mobile First” strategy would look beyond traditional IT to save money and extend the savings over the business units.
Recently, I was part of an initiative that resulted in the discontinuation of the printing of the Federal Register, using the http://www.federalregister.gov/ web site and a mobile app on an iPad that was developed using a data.gov feed. President Obama even referred to the Federal Register in his weekly address as a way to save money (see his video). The discontinuation of the Federal Register will save $4 million per year. How much does any particular agency spend on printing and distribution costs?
In addition, some agencies have thousands of small offices and most of its personnel telecommute or work in the field. If workers had the right tools, you could potentially close these offices and save money with a reduced real estate footprint.
In doing field collection work, how much time is wasted with “double entry” of data usually from a clipboard to a laptop? Also, could you use a smart-phone or pad that has a built-in efficient workflow that uploads data in real-time? Can this new technology help me close cases, collect data, file a report, or help me with any other mundane tasks previously known as “paper” work?
When you have a new person taking over for the previous person in IT, many times you try to do the exact opposite of your predecessor and have to “turn the battleship” to get anything done. By the time you start making progress, you are out of office and things change again.
One of the best things about a Mobile First strategy is that it is completely complementary to Cloud First, Open Government and common APIs. It accentuates the prior initiatives.
It will be interesting to see what VanRoekel has in store in Federal IT and what mark he wants to make on it. Besides moving his predecessor’s agenda forward, what innovative agenda can he come up with more compelling than Mobile First?
Tom Suder is president and co-founder of Mobilegov, co-chair of the Advanced Mobility Working Group at ACT/IAC, and a member of Breaking Gov’s Editorial Advisory Council.