The Department of Interior plans to purchase and distribute Apple iPads to see how the devices can improve worker productivity.
The move is part of a larger acquisition of Apple hardware products the department plans to make and mirrors similar moves by businesses to experiment with giving employees iPads and similar tablet devices to see how it affects job performance.
Interior is seeking to acquire the tablet devices, which will be "used in personal productivity and visual media" within the department, as part of a two-year, firm fixed price indefinite-delivery contract, according to a public request for proposals posted on FedConnect. The contract period will begin April 1. Other products Interior seeks to buy in the acquisition include MacBook Pro and Air notebooks, and MacPro, iMac, and MacMini desktops.
Although federal workers say they are using a range of personal computing and mobile devices as part of their everyday lives, the tools are still largely absent from their work environment. A recent report by Forrester Research found federal workers are generally unsatisfied with the technology they use at work, with only 9% of them saying they use mobile devices on the job.
That number could increase if Interior's experiment goes well, especially with research showing demand and interest among employees for new technologies.
For its part, Interior has been one of the federal agencies out in front of the federal open government move to use modern technologies to improve IT operations internally. However, the department ran into a stumbling block recently with a strategy to move its 88,000 employees to cloud-based email and collaboration tools.
The department's plan to award an estimated $59 million contract to Microsoft to deploy its email and collaboration services was blocked by a court injunction stemming from a lawsuit by Google and reseller Onix Networks. The companies filed suit in late October charging Interior with failing to follow federal procurement guidelines in its search for a hosted collaboration suite last year.
Forrester's research also found that government workers seek better ways to collaborate, claiming current means of using email to work together in groups are not efficient enough.