The role of mobile in the Irish Public Sector

by Ken McGrath - February 13, 2018

Digital transformation is not just a concern for private sector businesses, the public sector too is facing an uncertain future shaped by changing citizen demands and public expectation. Government departments and state agencies are under pressure to be more agile and better able to adapt to the shifting digital environment.

Mobile is a significant player in this digital revolution, and eir business has created a series of mobile services and devices that, through the Office of Government Procurement’s (OGP) new framework agreement, public sector bodies can tap into, in order to super-charge their digital transformation projects.

Streamlining public services with digital tools

In a recent CIO survey, Gartner revealed that digital transformation is a top business priority for the world’s top CIOs, including 460 from the public sector.

What we’re seeing in the public sector is that digital transformation projects have multiple aims: they’re looking to achieve cost efficiencies, by replacing unwieldy workflows with streamlined digital equivalents, while also improving customer service.

Telephone-centric processes where citizens must phone a local government office, for example, could be migrated towards faster self-service options, on the web or via an app. For staff in the field, paper-based processes can be phased out in favour of new digital workflows, reducing delays by allowing information to be captured and actioned on-site.

Public service digital transformation in action

Traditional “clipboard” business processes are especially ripe for digital transformation, relying as they do on paper-based data collection, error-prone rekeying of data, and long lead times as staff and paperwork need to return to the office before information can be acted upon. A great example of this type of transformation in practice is the award-winning Garda Siochana eVetting system, which transformed a labour-intensive, paper-based system where people often waited weeks for Garda vetting approval, into an efficient online process that delivers results in a matter of days.

eir business is already working with private sector organisations to digitise paper-based processes, partnering with Cityjet on its award-winning Electronic Flight Bag project, which used iPads and eir’s mobile network platform to rollout a new, digital equivalent of the old-fashioned flight bag for airline pilots.

Elimination of paperwork and the improvements in efficiency allowed the solution – which gives pilots digital access to everything from navigation charts to journey logs – to earn a coveted Tech Excellence Award, and it’s a good example of the kind of project we expect to see more of as we work with Irish public sector organisations under the framework.

Where to start with transformation?

Being named as a supplier of choice on Ireland’s mobile framework means that eir business’ mobile network, customer service offering, mobile services and handsets have been deemed by the OGP as meeting the needs of Irish government organisations.

But it’s important to see government mobility in context: mobility isn’t just about handsets and tariffs, it’s about delivering on longer-term strategic objectives, such as drives to get closer to citizens. Untethering from the office is a priority we’re hearing about from a number of government organisations who are keen to do more in the field, working directly with the public.

If you’re an agency or department considering digital transformation initiatives, the Mobile Maturity Assessment we offer as part of the OGP is a useful step. The assessment allows you to understand the opportunities across your estate to drive efficiencies, lower costs, and deliver on business priorities by using mobile technologies. The assessment can help you to think more strategically about mobile and to assess the needs of your user groups.

Different groups can have dramatically different requirements, from VIP users (ministers and their entourages, visiting dignitaries) to front-line workers, such as staff who may be constantly on the road, working independently, and who may benefit from location-aware services that help enhance safety.

Services like Geopal, which are also available under the framework, offer interesting opportunities to manage mobile workforces and operations, both with paperless workflows as described above, and with GPS location monitoring, which gives better visibility of staff and vehicles in the field.

If citizen self-service initiatives are something you’re considering, there’s inspiration close to home with projects like the Noise App from the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

The app allows members of the public to report a noisy neighbour and record brief sound clips to accompany the case record, all of which can be forwarded to the appropriate investigating officer. The service, first introduced in 2016, was recently named by the Guardian newspaper as one of the best examples of government apps from around the world.

What about security?

As mobile tablets and phones become direct routes into the government network and as cyber attackers continue what Gartner calls “relentless attempts to exploit system vulnerabilities,” we’ve made security a chief focus on the mobile framework.

We’ve partnered with MobileIron for a robust mobile device management (MDM) and security solution for the public sector. The negotiated rates of the OGP mean that smaller public-sector organisations can now take advantage of enterprise-class MDM services, which covers device security, applies policies, and allows the rapid recovery of lost devices or the remote erasure of data if devices cannot be recovered.

For urgent device problems or lost devices, we’ve also put in place dedicated after-hours and weekend support for government customers – including next-business-day replacement. Being without a working phone for any length of time is painful, but when that device is a window into vital work apps and systems, the urgency to stay connected grows, a dependence that’s likely to increase as more agencies and departments embrace mobility and transformation projects.

What’s next for mobile and government?

Mobility extends, too, to the Internet of Things, and there are ground-breaking possibilities here for public sector transformation projects, including smart-city initiatives that leverage sensor networks to monitor and respond to changing conditions.

Whether it’s vehicle numbers, pedestrian footfall, air quality or water levels, key metrics can be monitored via IoT-connected sensors, all integrated with business logic, to help enhance activities that are core to the government mission, like protecting public safety and managing transportation flows. The IoT portal that eir business has made available as part of the new framework is a flexible platform for proof-of-concept projects in particular, and our relationships with IoT vendors mean we can connect agencies and departments with the specialists who can provide an end-to-end IoT solution even for small-scale rollouts.

In 2018 and 2019 we expect to see an increasing number of innovative government deployments, as digital transformation projects gather speed and provide the early wins that prove transformation can reduce costs, improve productivity and boost customer service.

If you are a member of an Irish government department, agency or cross-border body, you can find out more about eir business’s role in the OGP framework.

Ken McGrath is Head of Public Sector Sales at eir Business. You can reach him on LinkedIn.


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