Federal government agencies continue to see an increase of tablet use among their workforce, and according to Dell executives, agencies should take a more holistic approach when considering tablet adoption.
Rob Orlando, a field marketing manager for Dell, said that currently, tablet adoption rates in federal government is somewhat of a slow process, and multiple factors should be considered when agencies decide to utilize tablets for day-to-day operations. Two major considerations, he said, should be security and usability.
“I think for federal agencies in particular, that’s the most paramount of all,” Orlando said.
He said it’s crucial for federal agencies to adopt tablets with integrated smart card readers to ensure authentication of the end user and device security. Multi-user authentication can allow different end users to have varied levels of access to data on a single device.
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But Orlando said matching the right device to the right end user can improve usability needs. For example, federal government employees responsible for conducting field-work inspections should utilize tablets that are more durable and capable of functioning in foreign environments. If an agency employee is conducting an inspection in areas with dust in the air, the foreign particles could interfere with the device’s performance.
Like state and local governments, federal government agencies are bound to compliance regulations when rolling out new technology. In addition to the Trade Agreements Act requirement, which fosters fair and open international trade, Orlando said the federal government must stay compliant with Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS), which can often be a challenge for federal agencies.
And various reports show additional challenges in deploying tablets.
According to a MeriTalk survey released last year, 152 federal CIOs and managers cited three primary and significant challenges in increased mobile device use in U.S. government: security risks, IT staffing to support the devices, and the diversity of devices and platforms.
Respondents also felt that the primary steps federal agencies have taken to secure mobile devices are encryption, multi-factor authentication, backup/restore of devices, remote lock and wipe of the devices and automatic software updates.
In a recent Dell- and Intel-commissioned Harris Interactive online survey of 204 U.S. health-care IT decision-makers, respondents pointed out that while tablets continue to become a standard IT device in health care, tablet management costs in these organizations can be more than the expenses involved with acquiring the devices.
But is tablet deployment in the public sector worth the challenges that come with any product rollout?
For Bryan Sivak, CTO of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it's not necessarily a question of whether tablet deployments are worth the challenges that come with them.
“While there might be challenges with deployments of tablets, just as with any new device or form factor, it’s hard to argue that they are not here to stay,” he said. “Furthermore, with the advent of ‘Bring-your-own-device’ programs, organizations across the spectrum are going to need to figure out ways to deal with all types of computing devices – after all, the only difference between an iPhone and an iPad is the screen size.”