Is a lack of access to mobile technology holding the public sector back?

BT looks at what's holding back the public sector from integrating new technology and enabling more flexible working 


14 Mar 2017

Mobility is transforming the way that organisations operate across every sector. Across multiple areas within business, we’re seeing examples of mobile technology being used in different ways to deliver services that are more effective and enable staff to work in new ways, increasing productivity and reducing overall costs.

The public sector is currently being tasked with being more ‘digital by default’, whilst facing the twin challenge of decreased funding and an increase in demand for digital services. Now that we are almost into the second quarter of 2017, is the public sector being held back in its adoption of mobile technology?

Last year we asked public sector staff what they believe will improve the quality of service and enable them to do their job better. The underlying message was resounding: better access to mobile technology would help them manage workloads, and ultimately improve service quality. Particularly as many employees across other sectors are now working from home or on their daily commute to work. 

Yet, financial barriers and stringent guidelines are holding back progress within this area and inevitably stopping people from being able to work from home when it suits their family schedule alongside other aspects that make flexible working a must in a modern business environment.

Public sector is increasingly mobile

Public sector bodies face a dual task: fulfilling their responsibility to protect and serve citizens while meeting ever-tighter budgets to control the cost to taxpayers. This becomes ever more difficult as the complexity and volume of regulatory mandates, citizen needs and caseloads increase.

Enabling applications and company servers to be accessible from mobile devices can permit employees to improve productivity while reducing the government’s cost to buy and provide devices to employees. However, certain restraints have meant that the public sector has been slow to advance toward enterprise mobility and digitalisation.

Amongst key statistics, 75 per cent1  of respondents said that in the future, working away from the office will become more important to their colleagues however 36 per cent do not have access to all the files they need whilst on the move, meaning that their work streams are often interrupted and they have to revert to working within the office for accessibility reasons. This   can lead to slower responses and tasks being missed. 

In order to increase productivity, 86 per cent said that the latest technology was needed for their colleagues to have optimal working conditions; however, not all public sector workers currently have the most up to date smartphone, tablet or laptop in comparison to other industries.  66 per cent said that better communication via devices would make a big improvement to their organisations success as a whole. 

Security is a critical consideration

Within the public sector, security is a crucial issue for mobility because it limits what information and documents can be accessed when employees are engaged in mobile working, if correct procedures are not set up and followed. The different devices that employees use also impacts this, as a large percentage of employees often access and view documents via their mobile and 74 per cent said that an increase in secure mobile access would be useful for their team or organisation. 

Government organisations must be able to share and act on information as effectively as possible across functions and verticals of the business. This requires reliable, secure and high-availability access to resources. Content privacy and security are essential to ensure that confidential information is not compromised.

70 per cent of respondents said that if they were the IT Director or CIO of their organisation that they would say that improving security for mobile devices away from the office would be one of the most important priorities. 

However, awareness over the security surrounding devices they use was low, with 21 per cent saying they are aware that their employer can track how and where the device is used and 27 per cent were aware that the information they send from the device is encrypted. 

The public sector needs to control the costs of mobility

There is a high proliferation of smartphone and mobile usage within the public sector with 64 per cent using a smartphone or blackberry for work. Currently, employers pay for over 75 per cent of the costs of mobile devices and therefore reducing these mobile costs are a key objective for IT Decision Makers. 

One cost implication may stem from the fact that a great deal of purchases are not made centrally: 36 per cent are from a national programme, 37 per cent from a local office, station or site and 27 per cent of employees are unaware where they are purchased from. 

Finding an efficient and sustainable way to improve mobile technology within the public sector is an area that key decision makers need to focus on in order to ensure that costs are not a hindrance to the advancement of mobile working.  

1304 public sector workers were surveyed within a wider study on office workers employed by large organisations working on the go.

For more information on the research, please click here.

About the research

The research involved an independent survey of 1,528 office workers in large organisations in France, Germany, Spain and the UK, conducted by Davies Hickman Partners Ltd in September 2016. It covered the full range of office workers in terms of ages as well as a variety of sectors. Separate interviews were conducted with 10 IT Decision Makers to give an alternative perspective. The results of previous research on Digital Dislocation in the workplace earlier in 2016, sponsored by BT and Cisco, complemented the analysis.

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