The federal government, adhering to its Digital Strategy guidelines to “pour into applications” a wealth of information, is moving to serve both the public and federal worker in their mobile efforts.
Now, the Smithsonian Institution has joined the trend of using mobile apps to serve citizens and its workers.
Visitors can now explore museums via Google maps on their Android device and technical employees can keep up with repairs and other assignments on their smart phones. It’s a great example of two sides of the mobility coin, according to John Palguta, vice president for policy, at the non-profit Partnership for Public Service.
“There are customers within the organization and customers (outside the organization),” he said. “The government is looking at the use of mobile technology to serve customers and to serve the internal needs of the organization.
“They need to look at both sides, and very much so,” he said, adding that tight budgets provide additional incentive to streamline applications between agencies, as well as within them. Part of the Mobile Strategy involves developing application platforms that can be used across agencies, though this is still in the planning stages.
The Smithsonian’s visitor app maps indoor public spaces at 17 museums and at the national zoo so that visitors can guide themselves through the exhibits and grounds. It frees up docents and other museum employees to answer more in-depth questions as well as lead full-blown tours.
“The benefits to workers are fewer visitor complaints and fewer people asking directions,” said Nancy Proctor, head of mobile strategy and initiatives at the Smithsonian. “People ask fewer questions and fewer people are getting lost.”
Users of the Smithsonian app see the “you are here” feature as a blue dot on the phones. That dot shows their location and the location of landmarks such as exhibits, stairs, restrooms, restaurants and other items. Step-by-step walking directions are available as well.
As for federal workers, the app for technicians and supervisors within the Smithsonian facilities management system builds on the “Facility Center” system which keeps track of assignments for the workers. The app is called the “FacilityCenter Mobile Work Manager,” and it lets technicians get their assignments via smart phone.
“They can see their work tasks on their mobile device, instead of having to print them out on paper and take them with them on assignments,” said Jennifer Frye, IT project manager for facility center mobile work manager project for Smithsonian.
Frye said the technicians can also use the app to keep track of their work throughout the day, rather than having to sit down at a computer and enter in all their data at the end of each day.
This application is used by technicians who take care of plumbing, heating, air conditioning, electrical work, lighting, painting, carpentry and many other tasks associated with keeping the Smithsonian Institution’s varied facilities up and running.
Frye said the application is being rolled out to workers in waves and eventually all of the 400 or so technicians will have access to it.
“The data has greater accuracy as they do the work, instead of having to mark on paper how much time they spend on a task and then log in later and record it,” she said.