Telework could mean business for contractors

The federal telework law will bring more business to systems integrators and other contractors, but agencies still need to figure out how to comply with the four-year-old legislation, said Jim Shanks, president of CDW Government Inc.

Either because they are unaware of the program's implementation date or because they do not have a standard telework technology in place, many agencies are not complying with the law, according to the Federal Telework Report 2005. The report is a survey conducted for Herndon, Va.-based CDW-G by public relations firm O'Keeffe & Co.

Agency's have until the end of fiscal 2005 to let as many employees as is practical work from home or at other off-site locations. The law has been on the books since Oct. 23, 2000.

Other obstacles to meeting the telework mandate include how to provide remote workers with IT assets, network security and technical support, as well as concerns about productivity, the survey said.

Agencies increasingly will look to industry to fill the gaps and provide technologies they need to roll out their telework plans, Shanks said.

"It's a great opportunity for all in industry to step in and help advise the federal government," he said.

Opportunities include providing installation services, virtual private network access, new or retrofitted computers for use at home, and training and help-desk services, Shanks said.

To support teleworkers, the survey said, agencies will need to invest in technologies such as user authentication and encryption, intrusion detection and prevention, network security and firewalls, biometrics for user log-on, Secure Sockets Layer and antivirus software.

Although agencies share a great concern for network infrastructure security, they have not reached a consensus on how to proceed to achieve it, the CDW-G survey said. The Federal Information Security Management Act mandates 100 percent certification and accreditation for all systems that access federal data over a network. However, almost two-thirds of federal workers who telework use their home PCs, CDW-G found.

Shanks said he does not estimate would not speculate? on the value of work contractors could win to help agencies comply with the telework law.

According to the Office of Personnel Management's latest annual report on telework, nearly 752,000, or 43 percent, of agency employees were eligible in 2003 to telework. Eligible workers are those with satisfactory performance records, who can do their jobs at off-site locations at least one day per week.

The number of employees who teleworked in 2003 rose by more than 14 percent to 102,921, compared to 90,010 in 2002, according to the OPM report.

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