Feds not reaping the benefits of mobile tech

Only 11 percent of government employees use laptops, study finds

Many government information workers still don't have mobile technologies to support the kind of location flexibility that would make telework much easier, according to a new study by Forrester Research.

The study compared the responses of private and public-sector IT employees in Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Approximately 700 of the survey respondents were North American and European local and federal government information workers, according to the Jan. 28 study.

Many of the respondents were managers.


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“As the February 2010 blizzard that hit Washington, D.C., showed, weather emergencies or other situations that prevent travel can paralyze a government whose workers are tied to a desk in an office building,” the study said. “But today, North American and European governments trail other sectors in untethering their employees from a cubicle: 63 percent of government employees work in only one location compared to 56 percent of nongovernment workers.”

The study also found that 87 percent of government employees use desktop computers or tools that “lock them to their office desks.” Only 11 percent use laptops, which would allow them to work from home even if they don't have a permanent home office set up, and other mobile technologies such as iPads are “rare in government office computing environments.”

In addition, only 9 percent of government information personnel have smart phones that they use for work, which lags behind the rest of the information workforce, according to the study. This contrasts with the 19 percent of government employees who use smart phones in their personal lives, the study said.

Cindy Auten, general manager for Telework Exchange, said the majority of federal employees spend at least a portion of their work day out of the office, and she encouraged agencies to provide workers with mobile technologies.

“As this report suggests, agencies can realize major productivity gains by equipping employees with mobile tools and support to enable them to conduct work at home, while traveling and at meetings in other locations,” Auten said. “Rather than allowing federal employees to spend time out of the office unconnected, agencies should build mobile technologies into technology refreshes to replace desktop computers and other technology that ties employees to their desk.”

Auten said the new telework law will help the federal government advance its telework policy and allow the maximum number of eligible employees to telework.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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