He’s now spearheading an effort to modernize the government’s technology, pushing to make more information available to citizens and allow its employees to do more work on the go.
But moving the federal government to tablets, smartphones and applications isn’t as simple as signing a cellphone contract or building a 99-cent app.
VanRoekel’s office last year issued dozens of pages of strategy and milestones meant to help the government shift to a more digital era. The assignments included producing a shared app development program and establishing new government-wide mobile security standards.
Many of the milestones have already come due — and the rest are supposed to be complete by next month.
“It takes a village to really move the mass that is government,” VanRoekel said in an interview last week.
As the government rethinks its approach, local contractors have responded. Some companies specializing in securing smartphones for government have sprung up, while other, more-established contractors are switching gears from developing large-scale software systems to designing smaller applications.
Much of the impetus for the government to move to better mobility has come from employees. Military officials have said that soldiers, for instance, don’t understand why they must use mobile devices on the battlefield that are less sophisticated than their iPhones at home.
At civilian agencies, employees have made clear to their bosses that they want to be able to do work on the go.
Federal employees are saying, “Not only do we want to play Angry Birds and get onto our Facebook accounts . . . we want to use these relatively inexpensive and powerful information tools to do our work,” said Randy Siegel, who handles government sales and strategy for mobile security company Fixmo.
The holdup — and the opportunity for contractors — in many cases is in the security. Military and intelligence officials must ensure that closely guarded information is still secure, even on a mobile device.
Companies such as Sterling-based Fixmo hope to help. The company sells software originally designed by the National Security Agency that Fixmo obtained as part of a technology transfer program in 2009.
The software continuously checks mobile devices for changes, seeking to ensure that any questionable activity is quickly caught, said Siegel, who has spent more than a dozen years working on mobility for government at both Microsoft and Motorola Solutions. As part of the deal with the NSA, Fixmo provides licenses for the basic iteration of its software to the government free of charge (a more advanced version is available for a price).