Apple's iPad finding a niche in state, city governments

Use might not yet be widespread, but some agencies are finding a use for it

Is the iPad a suitable tool for government use?

The sleek tablet PC seems at a glance to be more of a consumer tool, with its commercial apps and lack of a standard keyboard, but it appears to be making inroads at various levels of government.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is well-known for carrying it around and has touted its ability to improve efficiency. Other state and city officials also are testing the waters.

Bob Woolley, Utah’s chief technologist and strategic planner, tested the iPad and wrote a report outlining 20 government use-case scenarios, writes Karen Wilkinson in Government Technology.

“It’s been very effective, and surprisingly so,” Woolley told Wilkinson.

Woolley’s use cases include Web access, virtual private network access, note-taking in meetings, editing Google Docs and Microsoft Word files and testing battery life — all areas where the iPad scored high.

In fact, Woolley gives the iPad high marks in just about every category. Among the weak spots he identified were printing, its lack of a formal filing system, and the lack of Flash support, which limits the ability to view content on some websites. However, all of those problem have workarounds, he writes, and the lack of Flash support “turned out to be a much smaller issue than expected” because of the number of websites that provide H.264 video and non-Flash versions.

After the tests, Utah bought iPads for the state's governor, CIO, water quality inspectors and social workers, Wilkinson reports.

The iPad appeared in April amid a lot of fanfare over its sleek design and easy use. Discussion soon followed about whether it would be good on the job. The GCN Lab’s review gave 10 reasons why it would be good for government, and 10 reasons why it might not be.

Although the iPad isn't likely to displace a lot of government laptops or smart phones very soon, the device is gaining fans.

Woolley posted his report on GovLoop and started a discussion.

In August, the New York State Senate introduced the first iPad app for legislation, NYSenate for iPad, which posts releases from all of the Senate’s offices in a newspaper-style format. Developed by Senate staff members, the app is free from the iTunes App Store.

And if you’re considering buying one, the website OhMyGov lists 14 iPad apps that make a government job easier.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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