iPads have the floor in Virginia legislature

Pilot program to cut down on paper gets good marks from delegates

The Apple iPad is winning the hearts and minds of some members of the Virginia House of Delegates, who are finding it an easier way to keep track of bills than hauling around binders of paper documents, or even laptop PCs.

The state House’s IT department recently gave 15 delegates iPads as part of a test to see whether they’d take to them, and the results so far have been positive,  Dave Harrison writes in Stateline.

Even inveterate technophobes have taken a liking to the device. Delegate Lionell Spruill, 64, told Harrison he never used the laptop the IT department gave him a few years ago — “I’m old-school and I just didn’t know how to use a laptop,” he said — and had even resisted using e-mail. In a few weeks with the iPad, however, he’s done an about-face on technology.

“Man, I love it,” he said. “This iPad, you just zap-tap it.” He’s since taken up e-mailing and texting, too.

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The experiment is part of an effort to cut down on paper use in the legislature, something a decade of laptop use hasn’t really curbed, Harrison writes. Many legislators have continued to rely on printouts of bills.

Sharon Crouch Stiedel, information systems director of the House clerk’s office, said that if the iPad proves to be effective, the House could potentially issue them to all 85 members.

Apple introduced the iPad less than a year ago and, despite its seemingly consumer pedigree, it has been catching on with some government users at various levels. High-profile politicians such as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert are among the growing list of iPad users, the Army has tested iPads for use in the field, and organizations such as the New York State Senate have developed applications for iPad users.

At the moment, the Virginia House seems to be pioneering legislative iPad use. Pam Greenberg of the National Conference of State Legislatures told Stateline she doesn’t know of a similar program in other states. But if it does catch on in Virginia, other states could follow suit.

About the Author

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

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Reader Comments

Mon, Jan 10, 2011 Susan Clarke Schaar

Kevin: You should note that the Virginia Senate also has a pilot project utilizing iPads. We have taken a different approach than the House and have issued them to all members (15) of the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee. We are excited about the project and our members are very receptive.

Thu, Jan 6, 2011 Lars Seattle

While security is important to some sectors of the government, there are other governmental services that this is not the case. In some ways, the few so-called "short comings" of the 1st Gen. iPad is itself a form of security - such as no camera, no USB, etc. In addition, other features allows one to track the location of the iPad and provide the ability to wirelessly lock and delete everything on an iPad. That said, a small number of agencies in the Seattle area are already testing the iPad as a tool for a number of public service. To date, the results from inspectors from my agency have been extremely postive.

Thu, Jan 6, 2011

I question whether the iPad OS and apps meet the Govt's security standards.

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