A Cloud-First, Mobile-First World

State and local agencies are harnessing the cloud in new and creative ways.

by / August 1, 2014

As this issue went to press, new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was vowing to retool the software giant to concentrate on the cloud and mobility. In a lengthy July memo to employees, Nadella outlined a vision for pushing the company away from former CEO Steve Ballmer’s “devices and services” strategy and toward a new focus on platforms and productivity.

“We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world,” Nadella said. “With the courage to transform individually, we will collectively transform this company and seize the great opportunity ahead.”

The new boss at Microsoft isn’t the only one gearing up for transformation. State and local agencies are harnessing the cloud in new and creative ways, and they’re also coming to grips with supporting mobile citizens and employees.

We found a great example of this during a recent meeting with Iowa state officials in Des Moines. When budget cuts forced the state Department of Workforce Development to shut down 36 unemployment field offices, the department responded by implementing cloud computing and virtual desktop technology that both reduced costs and improved citizen access to vital unemployment programs. Now computers running virtual desktop software are available in nearly 100 locations, including libraries and National Guard facilities statewide. (You can read more about it here.)

In addition, the department plans to launch a cloud-based, mobile-friendly app for filing unemployment claims this summer. Using responsive design and HTML5, the new app will make it easier for Iowans to file unemployment claims regardless of the device they use to access it. The department also expects to cut costs by developing the app using the open source Drupal platform and hosting much of it in the Amazon cloud. (You can read more about this project online at govtech.com.)

The jury, of course, is still out on Nadella’s plan to reinvigorate Microsoft. But he’s already right about one thing: The cloud and mobility are reshaping how organizations work and citizens live. And savvy government leaders are using these trends to their advantage.  

Steve Towns

Steve Towns is the former editor of Government Technology, and former executive editor for e.Republic Inc., publisher of GOVERNING, Government TechnologyPublic CIO and Emergency Management magazines. He has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at newspapers and magazines, including more than 15 years of covering technology in the state and local government market. Steve now serves as the Deputy Chief Content Officer for e.Republic. 

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