Government users are wild for wireless devices

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Reader survey

Agencies seem to be going gangbusters on wireless.

In a GCN telephone survey on mobile and wireless communications, 86 percent of agency managers said their agencies use wireless communications technologies for agency business and continuity of operations.

Moreover, 78 percent expected their agencies to expand the use of wireless communications in the future.

A cautionary note: Three-quarters of managers considered security a major problem
for wireless communications at their agencies.

Thirty-one percent of the survey participants said they personally use a wireless device for agency business.

An overwhelming number of those users'94 percent'thought the ability to communicate wirelessly helps them do their jobs better.

Of current nonusers, more than a third said they thought using a wireless device would improve their job performance.

Research In Motion Inc.'s BlackBerry devices led the way in the survey'43 percent of wireless users in the sample carry the e-mail/pager/personal information manager devices.

'It gives me greater flexibility to retrieve e-mail,' said a BlackBerry user in Washington, a Veterans Affairs Department IT specialist.

'It improves my ability to keep communications open,' added a program manager for the Government Accountability Office'formerly the General Accounting Office'in Washington.

Web-enabled phones (27 percent), wireless personal digital assistants (19 percent) and PDA/phone combinations (11 percent) captured smaller slices of the sample.

The survey found a lower level of standalone PDA use by government managers, perhaps reflecting the attenuation in the commercial market for pure PDAs. Only 26 percent of participants said they use standalone PDAs.

For the most part, those users like their PDAs for their basic organizer capability and convenient access to vital information.

Thirty-eight percent cited calendar, contact information, to-do lists and similar applications as the most important PDA features.

'It keeps me organized,' said an Office of Personnel Management computer specialist who uses a PDA from the former Handspring Inc., which was acquired last year by PalmOne Inc.

'I like the ability to access information quickly,' said a Navy program analyst at Fort Meade in Maryland who uses a PalmOne PDA.

Complaints from PDA users we talked with included short battery life. 'It takes a lot of time to recharge a PDA,' said a Health and Human Services acquisition manager in Washington.


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