Government 2.0

VA's Roger Baker gives an iPad a test run

More than 100 employees at the Veterans Affairs Department, mostly clinicians, have been testing iPads and iPhones on VA networks in several pilot projects in recent weeks — and CIO Roger Baker is one of them.

“I made myself part of the pilot projects,” Baker told reporters Aug. 30. The iPad he's testing is “very nice. I traded my laptop for it,” he said.

Baker said he is accessing e-mail messages and VA’s networks on the iPad, and he made sure it was secure first before loading his work and personal applications onto it.

“It is my entire records management system,” he said. “It is all encrypted and double password protected. I would not be fine with losing it.”

The VA is on track to meet a self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline to allow iPhones and iPads on its networks, Baker said in a conference call.

The VA is still considering an acquisition strategy for iPads for use mainly for clinicians and administrative staff. For now, allowing employees to access VA networks with their own personal iPads is “still under research,” Baker said.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Aug 31, 2011 at 7:25 PM0 comments

Questions are being raised about an OPM system failure that affected 70K job applications

Reader reaction is still going strong on the 70,000 job applications affected by the Aug. 7 to Aug. 9 malfunction of the Office of Personnel Management application processing system attached to

At FCW, we published an exclusive initial report on the problems Aug. 15, followed by another news article with official confirmation from OPM on Aug. 17. On Aug. 19, we published additional details obtained from an agency official knowledgeable about the events.

We are continuing to investigate what happened to OPM’s USA Staffing system that caused failures in performance, what happened to the job applications, and what actions were taken by OPM and other agencies to resolve the problem.

Questions are starting to arise about the handling of the incident, based on concerns raised by readers: Were all affected job seekers informed in a timely fashion, and did they have an opportunity to resubmit their applications? Did OPM get the word out quickly to the 54 federal agencies that use USA Staffing so that job application deadlines could be extended, and were the agencies able to follow through on extending the deadlines? Do federal job seekers feel they lost out on federal opportunities because of the incident?

Some readers suggest there are lingering problems. For example, an FCW reader submitted this comment Aug. 18: “My bureau never got notice of this problem until today, this morning. The phone is ringing constantly, and people are so mad, saying they are suing us, filing an EEO complaint, calling their congressman, writing the president and other threats. My manager says that we may have to re-announce every job to avoid lawsuits and wishes that the department had notified us when they got the message, but everyone was on vacation in August.”

Another reader said our Aug. 15 story on the system malfunction and lost applications was unhelpful because a deadline had already passed for resubmission.

Please keep in mind that FCW is a news organization, and we rely on officials and readers to provide tips on unexpected system failures such as this. Although the malfunctions and downtime occurred from Aug. 7 to Aug. 11, there was no public announcement from OPM about the problems until Aug. 16, to the best of my knowledge. Basically, no one was talking to the news media about the problems. Some job seekers made comments on a Facebook page, but apparently that page did not draw wide attention.

I learned about the USA Staffing malfunction through a reader who sent me an e-mail message Aug. 14. I am extremely grateful to that reader for bringing it to my attention so that it could be reported as news. An OPM official provided me with an official statement on Aug. 16.

But that still begs a few questions: Should there have been a public announcement prior to Aug. 16? Were all the 54 agencies that used OPM’s malfunctioning system able to adequately extend deadlines to accommodate the job seekers whose applications were affected?

I think everyone, especially in challenging economic times, can relate to the frustrations of one of the job seekers on the USAJobs Facebook page about learning that the USA Staffing system was not working.

“I’ve missed three close-outs due to the outage,” the user wrote. “Help desk sent me an e-mail but no status.”

We would love to hear from more of our readers about what happened with their applications and how this has affected them.

Follow Alice Lipowicz on Twitter at @AliceLipowicz.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Aug 19, 2011 at 7:25 PM7 comments

Do agencies need a platform to share info on iPad deployments?

As agencies prepare to deploy iPads for their employees, it would be great if they could share information on a Facebook page or another platform, suggests a project manager at the Agriculture Department.

Satish Iyer, IT project manager at the USDA office based in Des Moines, Iowa, said he has been looking — but has not been able to find -- a common Web platform or wiki where multiple federal agency managers can collaborate and share information on tablet deployment and other Web 2.0 programs. He has asked permission to create a Facebook page for interagency collaboration for those purposes.

The Veterans Affairs Department, General Services Administration and USDA are all involved in iPad deployments. For example, the VA expects to allow employees to use their personal iPads on VA networks by Oct. 1, VA CIO Roger Baker said recently.

“At the USDA, we’ve initiated identical pilots and are addressing similar challenges to other agencies," Iyer said. "However, I’ve not come across a platform where multiple agencies can collaborate on their Web 2.0 and tablet deployment initiatives, share ideas and pool resources,” he added.

Here are some questions he wants answered:

  • How do we measure the cost-effectiveness of an iPad deployment and justify it compared to existing laptops or desktops?
  • Should we purchase devices in bulk?
  • Should we purchase directly or from resellers? Who are some of the resellers out there?
  • What kind of maintenance agreement should be written for the devices? Should we build in a provision to replace all devices to a newer version of the iPad at a discounted price when one is released?
  • Are there any vendors who can assist federal agencies with the technical feasibility study, planning, and rollout of iPads?
  • Should we let employees use their personal tablets for work?
  • What kind of iPad-relevant technology training should be given to IT teams?
  • What kind of training should the IT helpdesk be given?
  • What are agencies’ experiences with Apple’s ‘IOS Enterprise Developer Program’?
  • What are agencies’ experiences with Apple’s volume purchase programs?

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Aug 08, 2011 at 7:25 PM6 comments

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