Smartphones Boost Government Efficiency; Bring Security Risks The Computer in Your Hand Illustration by Tom McKeith

The smartphone is rapidly catching up with the mobile phone in terms of ubiquity and exceeding it in ability. Users of both types of devices can, of course, make calls, but add e-mail, Internet access, software applications, data storage - even specialized operating systems - and a smartphone becomes a mobile computer.

According to analysts at IT research firm Gartner, vendors - including Nokia, Apple, Research in Motion and Fujitsu - shipped 32.2 million smartphones worldwide in the second quarter of 2008 and 36.5 million in the third. Second quarter shipments to North America were up almost 79 percent, making this the fastest-growing region for smartphone adoption.

Smartphones enable public-sector employers to provide workers with the tools to talk to one another and access e-mail, the Internet or other server-supported applications while in the field.

"It's something that people are seeing more and more as a necessary way to do business and a way to conduct government than as your corporate perk or something that high-paid executives have. It's becoming less and less expensive, and people are starting to realize the benefit in government, not just in corporations," said Chris Andrews, a mobile wireless specialist at CDW-G who works with state and local government customers. "With network speeds [and] bandwidth going up, we're on the verge of really duplicating a desktop computing experience in the mobile space."

Andrews and his colleague Josh Mulloy, a mobile wireless specialist who works with federal government customers, have seen mobile solutions become more prominent in government as departments recognize the value of smartphones, cell phones and other wireless devices. According to Mulloy, notebooks have become almost standard technologies in the public sector, and smartphones are going in the same direction.

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Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  | 

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.