Obama Unveils Mobile Tech Strategy'Digital Government' Initiative Highlights Privacy Controls
The Obama Administration, acknowledging the explosion in mobile technology, has unveiled a "digital government" strategy that requires every federal agency to make at least two services available to the public via mobile applications within a year.
In addition, the federal government will rework its own use of mobile technologies "saving taxpayer dollars and providing better service by bringing consistency to the way we buy and build for an increasingly mobile workforce," says Steven VanRoekel, federal CIO.
The strategy emphasizes the importance of addressing privacy issues as the government takes greater advantage of the latest advances in information technology. For example, it calls for standardized implementation of privacy controls.
Government Playing Catch-Up
"For far too long, the American people have been forced to navigate a labyrinth of information across different government programs in order to find the services they need," President Obama said in a May 23 executive order launching the effort.
"At a time when Americans increasingly pay bills and buy tickets on mobile devices, government services often are not optimized for smart phones or tablets, assuming the services are even available online."
The president's order gives all federal agencies 90 days to create a page on their websites to publicly report progress toward meeting the requirements of the strategy.
Spotlight on Privacy
A 31-page policy paper on the initiative highlights the need to ensure privacy is adequately addressed as the use of mobile technologies expands.
"As good stewards of data security and privacy, the federal government must ensure that there are safeguards to prevent the improper collection, retention, use or disclosure of sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information. ... These safeguards should be regularly reviewed and updated as technology use, capability and architectures advance so they do not unnecessarily stifle the governÂ¬ment's ability to architect for openness and engage with the public."
The paper notes that the Federal CIO Council's Privacy Committee will work with NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] and the National Archives and Records Administration to "develop guidelines for standardized implementation of privacy controls in a digital environment and educate key agency privacy and legal officials on the latest technology advances and options for addressing digital privacy (e.g.data collection and individual notice) as well as records retention and security issues."
Goals of Digital Strategy
The president's executive order says the digital government strategy will "enable more efficient and coordinated digital services" by:
- Requiring agencies to establish specific, measurable goals for delivering better digital services;
- Encouraging agencies to deliver information in new ways that fully utilize the power and potential of mobile and web-based technologies;
- Ensuring the safe and secure delivery and use of digital services to protect information and privacy;
- Requiring agencies to establish central online resources for outside developers and to adopt new standards for making applicable government information open and machine-readable by default;
- Aggregating agencies' online resource pages for developers in a centralized catalogue on data.gov;
- Requiring agencies to use web performance analytics and customer satisfaction measurement tools on all ".gov" websites.
"Ultimately, this strategy will ensure that agencies use emerging technologies to serve the public as effectively as possible," the president said.
Commenting on the digital government strategy, VanRoekel, the federal CIO, notes: "Designing for openness from the start - making open data the default for government IT systems and embracing the use of web APIs [application programming interfaces] - enables us to more easily deliver information and services through multiple channels, including mobile, and engage the public and America's entrepreneurs as partners in building a better government."
During the next 12 months, VanRoekel says, "agencies will increasingly open up their valuable data to the public and set up developer pages to give external developers tools to build new services. To make sure there's no wrong door for accessing government data, we will transform data.gov into a data and API catalog that in real time pulls directly from agency websites. Agencies will mobilize two of their priority customer-facing services, moving us closer to serving the American people anytime, anywhere, on the device of their choice."