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1/31/2011
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Government Workers Seek Better IT Tools

Less than half are satisfied with the technologies they are given to use in the workplace, according to a Forrester report

Even as governments move toward a more collaborative IT environment, government workers remain largely unsatisfied with the technology given to them to do their jobs, according to new research.

Public-sector employees -- or "iWorkers," as Forrester Research calls them -- said the government is failing them in three key areas when it comes to creating a modern-technology workplace: mobility, collaboration tools, and leveraging Web 2.0 applications that are available to workers at home but not on the job, according to a new report by the research firm.

Forrester's "Portrait of a Government Information Worker" report leverages responses from 669 North American and European local and federal government information workers, according to the research firm.

With any number of smartphones available to access business applications, only 9% of iWorkers polled said they use mobile phones at work. Eighty-seven percent said they still depend on a desktop PC to do their jobs, while 11% use a laptop, which gives them a bit more flexibility.

President Obama recently signed a telework law that provides official support for government teleworkers and will set up a framework for the practice, which could soon change this trend.

However, as it is now, "the obvious gap between personal and business use of portable devices likely means there is pent-up demand among government workers for more mobile access," according to the report, written by Forrester analyst T.J. Keitt.

Another area in which government workers said they are lacking is access to collaboration tools to help them work together more efficiently, according to the survey.

Ninety-three percent of North American government workers said they rely on email to collaborate, which is not as efficient as some of the more modern tools -- such as social software and web conferencing -- for work that involves sending multiple messages in real time across groups of people.

Some agencies already are working to remedy this problem. The State Department, for instance, is developing a Facebook-style social-networking tool internally called Statebook to foster more collaboration between employees.

Government workers also claim the government isn't using Web 2.0 tools and applications that are available to them at home, but not at the office. One in three iWorkers surveyed said their technology at home is better than at work, and only 45% said they were satisfied with workforce technologies, according to Forrester.

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