The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will allow its 4,000 employees to use their own iPads and iPhones for work later this year as the agency embraces a new federal digital strategy to reform federal mobility, websites and the sharing of digital services.
Darren Ash, the NRC’s Deputy Executive Director for Corporate Management in charge of the agency’s mobile policy, said the decision to overhaul the way the NRC works with mobile devices aligns with the federal strategy announced Wednesday to increase the mobility of federal workers in a move to improve productivity and lower costs.
“We are changing our thinking,” Ash told Breaking Gov. “We’re not interested in a mass distribution of hardware.”
Employees will be able to use their own mobile devices later this year on the job to check their email, calendar and contact information.
“It will give us the ability to learn how to play in it,” Ash said, and ultimately move to other tasks.
He said NRC is still working on protecting its security when an individual logs on with their own device, and he is focused on “protecting information and how do we ensure the employee gets what he needs.”
NRC has not yet decided on the technical solutions that would enable an employee to securely connect his own device to NRC’s network, but certified encryption software will needed to be used to protect agency information, Ash said.
Federal agencies, including GSA, are starting to allow individuals to use their personal devices if encrypted, and NRC has reached out to other agencies to find out what they have learned.
“This BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is something that OMB is paying attention to,” Ash said. “It is a component of the government’s newly released digital strategy.”
BlackBerries are currently the only mobile devices distributed to 1,000 NRC employees, costing $3,000 a year to maintain and support. Before they even try to increase the number of their mobile devices, Ash said they will study what works and what’s cost effective.
“We are focused less on the device but more on the information and portability,” Ash said.
He said the NRC’s mobility plans would not be affected by the May 22 resignation of NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko after a tenure in which he wrangled with other members of the commission over the direction of safety regulations.
In a widely distributed email, Jaczko urged employees to “stay focused” on what they’re doing. He plans to leave when a successor is confirmed.
Ash said the NRC’s mission is also to make its information available to the public, and it is working hard to deliver it on mobile.
In the last two years, the NRC has launched social media services, redesigned the agency’s website, making it easier to find documents, and published a significant amount of raw data in formats that enable stakeholders to more easily analyze the information.
He said the NRC is designing social media, media streaming and other kinds of Web 2.0 systems to connect with smartphones and tablets.
Its quick response codes are making it easier for members of the public to access information by scanning a bar code with their iPhones and tablets. It could be recruitment information, documents or simply a website.
On its website, the NRC states: “The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) views nuclear regulation as the public’s business and, as such, believes it should be transacted as openly and candidly as possible to maintain and enhance the public’s confidence. Ensuring appropriate openness explicitly recognizes that the public must be informed about, and have a reasonable opportunity to participate meaningfully in, the NRC’s regulatory processes.”
Ash offers the following tips as agencies embrace the mobile age:
- Understand the total cost of ownership.
- Focus less on the device and more on information and how it will be presented.
- Discuss plans with unions representing employees as you develop mobile policies.
- Learn everything you can about mobile and recognize that sometimes you will fail. Learn from other agencies.
- Think about how mobile tools will be used to support the mission of your agency.