Government agencies have some additional cloud-based tools to consider, as IBM launched a host of new social collaboration services as a part of its Federal Community Cloud platform.

The new cloud services, designed to improve IT efficiency and service delivery, include software such as wikis, microblogs, staff profiles, instant messaging, Web conferencing, e-mail and various other items for social interaction. The cloud offerings also include support for various mobile devices, including the iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones and the Blackberry.

“The rise in big data and the demand for transparency and collaboration will continue to put pressure on agencies to embrace new computing environments such as the cloud to improve IT capabilities,” said Todd S. Ramsey, general manager of IBM U.S. and federal. “IBM cloud collaboration solutions will help agencies gain faster access to the latest technologies, increase innovation across departments and ultimately improve citizen services.”

IBM said its cloud offerings complement the federal government’s “cloud-first” policy outlined in Federal CIO Vivek Kundra’s 25 Point Implementation Plan to Reform Federal Information Technology Management. The plan instructs federal agencies to seek a cloud solution to IT needs before looking elsewhere.

Vermont is one of the early adopters of some of IBM’s cloud collaboration services. In order to cut costs and reduce reliance on paper products, the state’s Department of Information and Innovation (DII) has combined IBM’s LotusLive cloud-based collaboration service with an online e-signing program called e-SignLive from Silanis Technology.

The service doesn’t require any downloads and should speed up the signing process of the approximately 80 vendor contracts DII signs each month, according to Kris Rowley, chief information security officer of DII.

“Employing the software also encouraged us to re-evaluate our business process and signing procedures and we ended up achieving efficiencies we hadn’t even expected,” said Rowley in a statement. “Not only have we reduced paper, but we have cut courier costs and the turnaround time for a typical contract approval has dropped from weeks to minutes.”