It’s rare to see government agencies at the front of the technology curve, but it’s becoming more common with U.S. federal agencies after U.S. CIO Steven VanRoekel declared at CES that 2012 the year of mobile for the federal government. While most agencies have pushed to reevaluate their mobile technology option during the past few months, the Environmental Protection Agency seems to leading the government charge to mobile.
The EPA announced earlier this week that the agency has adopted a new “mobile first” policy. Under the policy, it is a setting forward-thinking IT mandate than even the most tech-savvy companies have yet to consider or embrace: develop solutions for mobile devices first and then re-work those solutions to function on the desktop.
This week’s announcement at this week’s Social Business for Government Summit in Washington, shows that the EPA considers mobility as more important than desktop computers in the 21st century – for both its workforce and the public.
EPA Chief Information Officer Malcolm Jackson noted the importance of a mobile presence as key for citizen engagement.
I’ll tell you why we are doing it — a lot of people cannot afford personal computers or Internet service. But they can afford smartphones, and they do not leave home without them.
The EPA has already embraced mobile technology as away to interact with citizens. The agency has four iOS apps available for free in the App store that cover topics like indoor and outdoor air quality, estimating the environment impact of recycling specific items, and prevent health issues in warm and summer weather.
The new policy will also apply to development of internal solutions at the federal agency, which will be developed first for mobile using a “platform agnostic” approach. Only after mobile deployment will those solutions be re-imagined and implemented on desktop and notebook computers.
With the iPad, iPhone, and other mobile devices easily beating the sale of PCs, it’s easy to see that mobile is the future for many processes, applications, and companies. It shows a real sense of initiative on the part of the EPA to take this focus forward, particularly when so many organizations are still debating when such steps will be needed.
Jackson did point out has “a long history” of early adoption, particularly when it comes to social media. In fact, a push for EPA employees to embrace social networks is another priority that the CIO mentioned at the summit.