Interior employees can now access network on mobile devices

Thursday - 2/2/2012, 12:13pm EST

Andrew Jackson, deputy assistant secretary for technology, information and business services, Interior Department

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The Interior Department launched a new portal Thursday that allows employees to access the agency's internal network using their own computers and mobile devices.

The new portal, a key step in in the department's goal of having a more mobile workforce, allows employees to access the network from an array of devices.

"We're pretty much talking about any devices that have an Internet connection, like a laptop or an iPad, even a mobile phone, " said Andrew Jackson, Interior's deputy assistant secretary for technology, information and business services. "It could be an Apple device, it could be a Droid or it could be an Android tablet. Any device that will access a network can access this new system that we're launching today."

Jackson, who joined The Federal Drive with Tom Temin, said there is no estimate yet on how much the new portal will provide in cost-savings. But there are likely other benefits, as well, he said.

"What we really believe is that this will allow us to have a more flexible approach to how employees access the services they need to get their jobs done."

Jackson said he hopes, ultimately, the portal will reduce some of Interior's device management costs and the need to purchase additional technology. It should also help reduce the costs of seasonal employees who don't really need a computer.

"We're taking a pretty slow approach in terms of which services we're allowing," Jackson said. "We're trying to be very thoughtful about this and identify those services that are most requested by employees."

As of today, any Interior employee who would like to record time and attendance can access those services with their mobile devices. Eventually, the agency would like to offer a broad range of services to employees, such as mobile access to its email and Sharepoint systems.

"My goal is that any service that an employee needs to actually get their job done, they'll be able to get to it through this new system that we're setting up," Jackson said.

Security remains a concern

While the agency is moving toward greater access, security remains an ever present consideration. Certain types of information will always have a heightened level of protection.

"As we think through what are the challenges in accessing this information, there are some requirements, such as the browser has to have security encryption enabled, so that information is passing through a fairly secure connection to the network," Jackson said.

For agencies looking to adopt this type of mobile accessibility, Jackson suggested working closely with the IT security community in designing a system that offered minimal risks.

Agencies should also listen to their employees to learn what challenges they faced in doing their jobs effectively and what services could help them work better.

"If we can give them the tools to get their job done more quickly, more efficiently, it's my belief that we'll actually function better as a department and ultimately do our jobs better for the taxpayers," Jackson said.

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