TribalNet 12: Delivering Citizen Services and Bridging the New Digital Divide
Although most of us mindlessly take it for granted, Internet access in the US is by no means ubiquitous. However, the dynamic mainstream adoption of smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices has helped to drive irrefutable progress among rural residents and underserved populations.
By literally placing the power of the web into the pockets of many citizens for the first time, mobile devices empower these segments with a surge of newfound access to unlimited information (cell tower coverage and data plans permitting).
However, a closer look reveals a new challenge, as mobile devices are often the only gateway to the Internet for many of these new users. Despite the significant advancements they represent, these devices will not realize their full potential until enterprises, like government agencies and other organizations, deliver consistent experiences for meaningful business processes and human services across these channels – from start to finish.
For example, imagine what it would be like to exclusively use a cell phone to conduct an exhaustive job search… then actually write and submit a resume on the same device.
Or maybe you need to research and compare your options for health benefits and other social services… then actually select a plan and submit multiple forms of information to enroll a family of five.
In most cases, these simple tasks would be difficult to say the least on a mobile device. But they don’t have to be; technologies exist today that can extend robust Internet experiences through these channels and then measure their effectiveness.
This new digital divide, which also includes the lack of universal broadband availability (an issue that deserves a blog post of its own), was among the topics covered as I recently addressed tribal leaders and executives on tribal health IT at the 12th annual Tribalnet conference in Scottsdale, AZ.
This year’s theme was Bringing Technology and Tribes Together, and that was comprehensively explored throughout the three conference tracks offered: IT Governance, Tribal Health, and Virtualization.
As some Tribalnet attendees prepared to also attend the upcoming White House Tribal Nations Conference to continue these important discussions, I was reminded of our government’s commitment to these issues. Regarding improved service in tribal lands, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, recently commented “Our actions will further empower native nations to access and use the latest technologies to grow their businesses, increase their access to quality health care and education, reach 911 during emergencies and receive public alerts and warnings.”
And while this level of attention to such a vital lifeline for so many is commendable, I am personally hopeful that we won’t stop there to ensure that meaningful access eventually becomes a mindless afterthought for everyone.