March 29, 2011 By Matt Williams
Show up at an event where government CIOs tend to congregate, and you’ll quickly notice many of them are toting sleeve-like carrying cases. It’s the mark of an iPad adopter. Apple’s hottest device — with a growing number of competitors — has begun to change how the public sector does business. From government agencies to police and fire departments, the tablet is accruing a legion of fans. One reason is that the tablet is an easy-to-use platform for gadget apps. More than that, the public employee is using apps to improve workplace productivity and efficiency. With tens of thousands of iPad apps available, it’s hard to tell what’s really business critical. Here’s what government workers are using.
Doug Holt, deputy executive director, Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR)
Holt is one of several employees in the agency who’s piloting the iPad to figure out how the device can best be used. Holt uses his iPad’s browser to view the DIR website and other sites he routinely visits during his workday. “I also use Salesforce.com to manage a lot of different parts of our business. I don’t use the app as much because of the configuration; I just go to the website.”
In addition, Holt uses a couple note-taking applications. One of them, WritePad, types out in real time what is written by hand on the bottom of the tablet. “This is a really high-value item for me,” he said.
Holt is also trying Jump Desktop, a multiprotocol remote desktop client. With such a tool, someday a government could choose to virtualize all desktops and manage them centrally — a money-saving strategy — and then give employees iPads and zero clients as their workstations. In these frugal times, this combination of cooler and more mobile technology at lower cost could be difficult to argue against, he said.
Conley uses Evernote, a free app that gives him the capability to instantly e-mail his notes to other participants in a meeting. “I’ve never had the ability to take notes, include action items, insert photos and record important sound bites in one place, and then share them out with the entire group,” Conley said. The app has made meetings more efficient because his colleagues don’t have to wait for him to go back to the office, type his notes and send them out. Conley also uses the Twitter app to keep up to date on stories about the state and local governments that he serves.
A frequent tweeter and enthusiast of emerging technology, Fletcher said on his personal blog that he’s a fan of the iPad app Flipboard. Presented like a “personal magazine,” Flipboard aggregates social content generated by friends and other sources chosen by the user. Fletcher said he’s talked to people who buy an iPad for this app alone. “I use it to aggregate information for Utah government, Utah education, Utah media and much more,” he wrote.
Feldner said her iPad is indispensable during the legislative session, and using the device at a hearing isn’t obtrusive because of the flat footprint. “It’s easy to type notes quietly, and I don’t have a problem with the touch keyboard.” Feldner uses GoodReader to read and mark up documents and PDFs. “That was impossible with my smartphone,” she said, adding that she has also been exploring Teleprompter, which a few of her colleagues have used when they’re called to provide testimony.
Like many municipalities, Oakland County has begun testing iPads in the government workplace. Bertolini likes Quickoffice, a productivity tool for the Microsoft Office suite. The app lets him create, open, share and edit documents, spreadsheets and slides. He also likes the App Store’s bestselling game, Angry Birds. But not at work. “This is an addictive game!”
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