As hundreds of public and private industry executives gathered for the Spring 2012 Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, it was clear technology and the efficiency has pushed mobile workforce efforts farther ahead. But security issues remain the chief concern across federal agencies.

Panelists addressed various issues surrounding mobility and telework at various sessions held in the Washington Convention Center. While many told mobile workforce success stories, they clearly remain perplexed regarding security.

Technology is not a problem,” said Dr. Emma Garrison-Alexander, Assistant Administrator for Information Technology for TSA. “But in the federal government we have strategies and policies and legal constraints. The challenges are really around security.”

Dr. Rick Holgate, Assistant Director for Science and Technology and CIO for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said: “We’re struggling at the federal level to gain an understanding of risk and how to balance that with functionality. We need to evolve in the way we think about security. We have to think beyond the PC-based environment.”

Despite the challenges remaining for a mobile federal workforce, the results of the Telework Exchange’s Telework Week 2012 released at the event show promise. Key findings include:

  • Telework Week 2012 saw an 80% increase in pledges over Telework Week 2011; 71,324 total pledges
  • Federal telework participation increased by 97% since 2011
  • Telework Week 2012’s participating organizations saw improved productivity (up to 71% in 2012 from 60% in 2011), and increased continuity of operations (up to 71% in 2012 from 52% in 2011)
  • The Telework Exhange estimated that by teleworking, participating employees avoided driving 6,413,000 miles and gained 251,774 hours of time not commuting.
  • Just one in five organizations encountered challenges –such as technical issues –during Telework Week 2012, versus nearly one in three during Telework Week 2011

Though panelists agreed security was the main challenge in advancing the mobile workforce, they also agreed cloud computing was key to the solution.

“The current state of affairs is not perfection,” said General Services Administration CIO Casey Coleman. “We need a layered security environment … appropriate for the risk and the information. Strategies like cloud computing actually improve our ability to have security. Then the device becomes more of a viewing platform.”