Government technology: Mobile transformation for the federal government

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Mobility is becoming the backbone of enterprise technology. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about mobility in government technology. Yet the federal government could benefit from more efficient management through mobile transformation.

Imagine government agencies with mobile-enabled workers accessing real-time data from devices to better serve taxpayers. A mobile government means a better emergency response due to better access to real-time data. It also means improved continuity of operations during winter storms and power outages, when federal workers would have difficulty getting into their offices.

Mobile transformation at the speed of government

It helps to look at each federal government agency as an independent institution with its own mission. Civilian agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are prime candidates for going mobile because they have large field workforces and regional offices. Since they both have enforcement arms, access to real-time data and applications can help agents make better enforcement decisions in the field.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is home to mobility initiatives inside the Pentagon, according to Federal News Radio. The Defense Information Systems Agency — the DoD’s IT department — has an enterprise app store that serves as a hub for DoD mobile apps. There’s also information about the Defense Mobility Unclassified Capability, which provides commercial-grade mobile devices with secure business tools for the department’s servicepeople and civilian employees.

Service branches such as the US Army are developing mobile training apps for soldiers’ devices. According to Interference Technology, the Navy is using a suite of eSailor apps to train sailors. These apps can reach prospective recruits who grew up as part of the smartphone generation, and they can reinforce what service people have learned in class while they’re deployed.

Government technology acquisition cycles run much longer than commercial procurements, and they can’t keep pace with the evolving mobility market. However, it’s safe to expect procurement changes: Agencies are experimenting with outcome-based procurements from 18F, an organization charged with improving the government experience. After the procurement changes, agile development and DevOps will likely grow, and custom mobile apps will become standard as agencies deliver apps as quickly as consumer developers.

The future of mobile government

The White House’s Cybersecurity Executive Order could help increase the pace of mobile transformation. The order mandates strengthening federal cybersecurity through cloud-based services and infrastructure. The strengthened cybersecurity measures should result in updated security tools, including two-factor authentication and derived credentials.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a bright spot in the government’s mobile transformation thanks to its mobile security work. According to GCN, the agency has made a significant investment in app security and released an important study about mobile device security. DHS efforts could bolster the case for more government agencies to go mobile.

Another factor in the government going mobile is employee telework. The General Services Administration has approved over 90 percent of its roles for telework, according to GovTechWorks. Unscheduled telework is a frequent message on radio and TV around the Washington, DC, area when it snows, raising even an infrequent need for mobile device access.

While the federal government is currently behind the times, its mobile transformation will continue as the cloud becomes even more of an IT standard across government agencies.


This post originally appeared on Mobile Business Insights on November 14, 2017. The site is no longer in publication.


My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve written for corporations and technology publications about such topics as cloud computing, DevOps, and enterprise mobility. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly

Mobile device management (MDM) strategies for healthcare organizations

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The value of customer data is a top priority for any enterprise. Patient health information (PHI) carries higher security stakes, requiring mobile device management (MDM) and accompanying strategies to secure this high-value information and ensure patient privacy.

Mobile strategies for HIPAA compliance

When users access PHI using an unsecured device, they are violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, better known as HIPAA, according to HIT Infrastructure. Such violations bring costly fines and lots of bad press.

Further complicating the issue, doctors and other professionals accessing the data may not even be employees of the hospital where they are providing patient care. IT must prepare for this BYOD scenario. Creating BYOD policies for healthcare organizations requires:

  • Defining cases for acceptable use
  • Detailing privacy and data ownership expectations
  • Approving devices and device provisioning
  • Crafting security policies for BYOD devices
  • Evaluating risks and liabilities

It’s possible to bring mobile devices into HIPAA compliance by developing an MDM or enterprise mobility management (EMM) strategy and implementing the appropriate security policies to secure PHI and institution-owned or BYOD devices. Achieving such compliance may require bringing in a third-party professional services firm that specializes in mobility compliance. You should also be working with your outside auditor at every step of your mobile device rollout.

HIPAA compliance also extends to texting, group chat and instant messaging within a healthcare enterprise. There’s a growing list of HIPAA-compliant messaging solutions that target healthcare enterprises. Client apps for these solutions are often available for:

  • Corporate-owned devices
  • Employee-owned devices
  • Corporate-owned PCs
  • Personal PCs

Physical working environment

The healthcare industry workforce is on their feet for eight to 12-hour shifts, with much of that time spent responding to immediate patient needs and emergencies. These working conditions make it easy to leave a mobile device on a counter or a table; the open nature of a hospital makes it easy for somebody to walk off with the device inconspicuously, never to be found.

Having MDM with geofencing, which uses a mobile device’s GPS to create a boundary that triggers a response when a user crosses it, can also protect PHI from leaving the healthcare facility. For example, you can set a policy that blocks access to hospital applications that contain PHI from all corporate and BYOD devices running an MDM client app as soon as the user leaves your facility with the device. When they return for their next shift, the geofencing solution restores their application access.

Wearables and connected devices

Wearables are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, and the healthcare field is finding ways to use wearables for patient monitoring outside the traditional healthcare setting. Healthcare providers may issue patients a wearable for use in monitoring a health issue. There are also patients who already own a wearable device that captures data that might help their doctor to further monitor their health condition.

Healthcare enterprises face many of the same challenges as a commercial enterprise when securing wearables, but they have the added need of strict HIPAA compliance. The amount of PHI data these wearables generate also prompts the need for strong data governance and an MDM strategy. Your data management policy will need to account for:

  • Patient data ownership
  • Privacy policy compliance
  • Cybersecurity protections over the data in transit and at rest

These challenges extend to medical devices such as insulin pumps, defibrillators, CPAP machines, cardiac monitoring devices and oxygen tanks equipped with IoT sensors for remote monitoring. These medical devices provide real-time information to caregivers and clinicians while enabling the patient to receive care at home. Sensors Online explains these devices face the following challenges:

  • Design: The design process for a remotely monitored device is different from those designed for in-hospital use and different from common IoT devices, such as telematics or security devices.
  • Certification: The often-underestimated wireless device certification process, which is separate from the FDA’s testing for all new wireless devices.
  • Collaboration: Connectivity challenges are posed from manufacturers all the way down to the people who manage these devices.

The OWASP Secure Medical Device Deployment Standard provides a guide and checklist for deploying these network-enabled devices. You can expect to see MDM vendors evolve their IoT security portfolios to secure these devices. Blockchain, the secure digital ledger, shows promise in helping secure medical devices, according to Network World, but it is an emerging security technology that is still suffering performance hurdles.

Mobile device management in healthcare organizations

The prognosis for implementing mobile device management in a healthcare enterprise is healthy if the healthcare institution’s IT staff works closely with their user community and outside auditors to implement HIPAA-compliant mobile solutions that empower clinicians and other healthcare professionals to serve their patients better.


This post originally appeared on Mobile Business Insights on January 11, 2018. The site is no longer in publication.


My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve written for corporations and technology publications about such topics as cloud computing, DevOps, and enterprise mobility. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly

Writing topics I hope to tackle in 2019

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I had a nice week off between Christmas and New Years. Too often in the past, I’d forget to slow down for a couple of days to catch my breath, reflect,, and make plans for the next year. One thing I thought about was what writing topics I want to tackle in 2019.

Here are some writing topics that have my attention going into the new year.

Continue reading “Writing topics I hope to tackle in 2019”