Secure Real-time Comms is Key

It’s hard enough for workers within the same agency to quickly communicate and share information. When you add people from other agencies or outside the government realm, it can quickly become nearly impossible.

That was the problem facing state, local and regional decision-makers in the Puget Sound area in Washington State. Each agency had its own communications methods for emergency situations—and they didn’t work together well.

Decision-makers knew they needed a system that was fully secure, could integrate easily with existing systems, and would make crisis communications faster and more effective. They chose AtHoc Connect from BlackBerry. This mobile-focused system supports multiple communication methods and connects organizations in real time.

Crisis management is just one reason government agencies at all levels need the ability to chat, access documents and collaborate with peers instantly and securely on mobile devices. There are many day-to-day business needs for this ability as well. Committee management is just one good example of a business use case.

“If you are organizing a committee with 30 members and have to use e-mail or phone, it takes time that you sometimes don’t have,” says Sinisha Patkovic, vice president for government solutions at BlackBerry. “If you can communicate on a secure real-time channel, you can create a group for that committee and start a secure chat where you can exchange documents, change appointment times, and anything else you need to do. It’s about speeding up communication and information flow, which impacts productivity.”

Secure, real-time communication is also important for government employees communicating with citizens or contractors. For example, a government employee doing research for an upcoming policy might need to chat securely with an employee of a private company. With the right technology, simply by sending that request to that person’s mobile device, the government employee is extending government-grade security for the communication.

When looking for a real-time secure communications platform, it’s important to ensure it has been architected specifically for mobile devices. While desktop platforms can work, they tend to be somewhat clunky for mobile users. The platform should also have built-in security and be easy to use. To ensure interoperability, secure messaging solutions should work seamlessly between all mobile devices from all the major manufacturers.

Different platforms offer different features, and some are more critical than others. The ability to create secure group or team chats is a big productivity enhancer. Secure file-sharing and collaboration—not only files but text, media, data and location information—also are important.

Being able to flag some communications as high priority is important in certain time-critical situations. It’s also useful to be able to forward message content from one secure chat to another. The ability to include video can be crucial in emergency situations, as well as business situations. A video might be the best way to demonstrate a specific procedure that needs to be put in place, for example.

And of course, security is the most important feature. Make sure your chosen solution uses enterprise-grade encryption, ideally FIPS 140-2 certified. Even better, each sender and recipient should have unique public/private encryption and keys. Ironclad security is important not only for voice and chat, but for file sharing. That means ensuring files are protected on individual mobile devices and in transit.