Fed Workers Cite Barriers To Tech Adoption

Federal workers say technology at work isn't keeping up with their personal technology; training and cost are obstacles.
Top 14 Government Social Media Initiatives
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A new survey finds that the technology gap that separates federal workers from private sector employees can be narrowed through increased investment and training in new technologies.

The survey of 220 federal employees was conducted by MeriTalk, an online community provider, and sponsored by Google. More than 90% of respondents said they shop and bank online, 78% use social media, and 68% use smartphone apps. "We think these results clearly show that federal employees are excited and ready to bring the technologies they use in their personal lives to work," said a Google spokesman.

Age isn't necessarily a determinant of tech adoption, the survey found. "One particularly interesting result was ... that more employees aged 56 to 66 use video conferencing and chat than their 35- to 55-year-old peers," the spokesman said.

[ Read about the White House's digital government strategy. See 3 Goals Of White House 'Digital Government' Plan. ]

There was no strong correlation between the age of respondents and their willingness to try new technologies. The survey asked, "Once out, how soon do you test out new technology?" While about 45% of respondents 48 years and older said they wait for a full evaluation of the technology, 47% of the youngest respondents (17 to 21 years old) do the same.

The survey didn't measure the use of consumer tech in federal offices, but it did gauge employee attitudes about personal tech in the workplace, which provides some evidence that a gap exists. Two thirds of respondents (67%) agreed with the statement, "I wish that the technology at work could keep up with the changes in technology in my personal life." That response jumped to 80% for federal workers 35 and younger.

As for differences in technology use in their personal and professional lives, 75% of respondents said cost is the biggest barrier to adopting new technology in their personal lives, while 42% identified lack of training as the biggest obstacle in the workplace, followed by cost at 40%.

"When looking at technology for personal use, federal employees are willing to learn it themselves," MeriTalk said in a written explanation of the survey results. "When directed to use a new technology at work, they expect enough training to use the new technology with some proficiency."

Respondents across all age groups agreed that it doesn't take any longer to get used to new technology at work than it does in their personal lives. And 60% of older workers believe it's easier to see the benefits of technology in their work lives than in their personal lives.

"For most federal workers, seizing the digital opportunity is less about changing behaviors and more about translating how they use technology at home to how they use technology at the office," MeriTalk said in its statement.

The Office of Management and Budget demands that federal agencies tap into a more efficient IT delivery model. The new Shared Services Mandate issue of InformationWeek Government explains how they're doing it. Also in this issue: Uncle Sam should develop an IT savings dashboard that shows the returns on its multibillion-dollar IT investment. (Free registration required.)