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Interior Dept., Federal Agencies Follow Private Sector’s Lead in Using iPads

Photo: Glenn Fleishman

The Interior Department is conducting a limited “pilot study” into the use of iPads to boost productivity and efficiency, Nextgov reports.

Andrew Jackson, deputy assistant secretary for technology, information and business services said individual Interior Department agencies purchased the tablet devices for staff who travel or telework often. Jackson, himself, an iPad-user, told Nextgov the biggest gains came in productivity “out in the field.”

The U.S. Geological Survey, an Interior department, which first began using iPads last summer, has expanded its cache of said devices to about 1,000 in the hands of personnel.

One of the biggest hurdles to more widespread adoption is the reputation tablet devices have for being luxury “toys.”

“We’re still very much in pilot mode,” Forrester researcher Ted Schadler told Nextgov. “The value of the iPad is very, very high, but it doesn’t replace a phone or a laptop.”

The slow, cautious adoption of the tablets mirrors patterns in the private sector, he added.

Another stumbling block is that government agencies and private companies, alike, are waiting to see what competitors emerge. BlackBerry creator Research in Motion is expected to unveil its tablet, the PlayBook, sometime this year, which tech observers think will offer stronger security controls.

For both the federal government and the private sector, this year could be a watershed one for the tablet devices, with more agencies and companies tinkering around with using them.

“2011 is going to be a big experimentation year,” Schadler said.

And, federal agencies aren’t the only places iPads are popping up.

Last month, the new Republican leadership of the House of Representatives announced rule changes that would allow lawmakers to use their tablet devices on the House floor.

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