Research Report: The Virtual Public Sector

Mobility is Key for Digital Government

In today’s mobile-first environment, ensuring citizen-facing applications are optimized for mobile devices makes good business sense. State and federal agencies have made significant progress toward that goal. The time is right for government to adopt a mobile-first approach to digital government. According to Gartner, more than 50 percent of U.S. citizens will want to use mobile devices to access government services by 2017.

Throughout state and local government, there are hundreds of mobile apps including requests and applications for a variety of services and permits, reporting dangerous situations, and accessing traffic and weather conditions. Federal examples run the gamut from benefits eligibility and tax refund status to federal job searches and PTSD assessment.

Indeed, citizens are increasingly looking to access government services with their mobile devices. According to a recent survey on digital government strategy by the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, citizens who access government services through mobile devices mainly use standard notebooks, laptop computers or smartphones. More than half also use tablets. The survey was conducted by Beacon Technology Partners on behalf of Acquia.

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Despite the relative progress agencies have made in developing mobile apps, there is much more work to be done. According to a 2015 article in GCN, only 36 of the 50 states’ main portals are mobile-friendly. That’s despite the fact more than half of state CIOs consider mobile apps strategically essential or high priority, according to a 2014 NASCIO survey.

The problem doesn’t stop at the state and local level. According to the General Services Administration, the top four most-visited federal government Web sites over the past 30 days didn’t use responsive Web design standards that permit clean access on mobile devices. The GSA noted over the past 90 days, about one-third of all traffic to its sites came from citizens using mobile phones and tablets, compared to 24 percent the previous year.

Many of today’s state and federal mobile apps don’t meet Google’s standards for mobile-friendliness. Problems include links placed too close together, text too small to be legible, and content that can’t scale down to fit an average-width mobile screen. Part of the issue is many of these apps were designed for PCs and not for mobile devices, says Ray Wang, principal analyst for Constellation Research. That’s an important point.

“The first generation of mobile developers just redeveloped the same content to appear on mobile devices, but that doesn’t take advantage of the platform, and it doesn’t work very well,” says Wang. “What they really need to do is take 30 percent of the functionality and make it 70 percent important, because the user’s needs are different on mobile platforms.”

When retrofitting apps for mobile devices, Wang stressed agencies should take advantage of the interactivity mobile devices can provide, such as the ability to share information and communicate in real time. Ideally, he says, agencies should start over with a mobile-first responsive design approach.

Methodology and survey demographics

Between January 21, 2016 through February 11, 2016, 108 subscribers of FCW and GCN responded to an e-mail survey about digital services trends. Survey respondents were screened for involvement with, or interest in, customer-facing digital services offered on behalf of their department or agency. Beacon Technology Partners developed the methodology, fielded the survey and compiled the results.

Approximately 73% of respondents were technology decision-makers (CIOs or other IT managers or professionals), while 27 percent were senior managers, program managers or other business decision-makers. Approximately 51 percent came from the federal government (37 percent civilian, 14 percent defense) and 40 percent from state or local government agencies. Nine percent of respondents represented a systems integrator that offers services to government agencies.

About this Report

This report was commissioned by the custom publishing unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Public Sector Media Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Public Sector Media Group's custom publishing, please email us at PSMGCustomMedia@1105media.com.