What was unthinkable just a few years ago is now commonplace – using mobile technology in the government workspace.
“Just two years ago the government was very [uncertain] about mobility,” said Rick Holgate, CIO for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). “Something many of us hadn’t even heard of two or three years ago now is being offered as commodity services.”
Holgate and a number of other high-ranking professionals offered their views on the changing role of mobile technology during the Federal Mobile Computing Summit held last month at the Ronald Reagan Building.
The framework established by the execution of the Federal Digital Strategy, introduced in May 2012, accomplished a great deal, panelists said, especially in developing a community collaborative approach between agencies that worked well. “Not only did we pull together agencies, we had several technical exchanges [and] saw a real impact from that,” said Margie Graves, Deputy CIO at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The Digital Services Innovation Center, launched by the General Services Administration as part of the digital strategy, and the Innovation Committee created by the Federal CIO Council, are part of institutionalizing that collaborative approach. Holgate said these initiatives are helping smaller agencies get to the same functionality that the larger leading agencies have reached.
While “phase 2” of the digital strategy has not been laid out, the panelists said there is plenty of momentum – and work that remains to be done.
The nagging question over mobile technology – indeed, over all IT – continues to be how to provide security.
“We built out the federal baseline as agencies rolled out their mobile architectures, mapped to NIST’s 800-53,” said Kevin Cox, assistant director for information security technologies at the Justice Department. “It contains information for mobile device management, mobile apps, identification, data.”
In some ways the challenge has shifted, even expanded, because of the explosion of mobile apps. “We don’t really have a great handle on how we’re procuring … mobile apps,” said Rob Palmer, director of information assurance at DHS.
Using mobile devices to access data also presents new security challenges. “We’re delivering data to whomever needs to have it,” Palmer said. “You have to know who’s accessing it. [This] has to be where all those delivery mechanisms coalesce,” in having security measures that allow control.