Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia
Sweden is one of the most mobile-centric countries in the world, with its public sector now fully on-board with the thinking, following the 2011 implementation of a mobile strategy by Stockholm’s local authorities to improve processes and save costs.
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“Our mobile environment is now equal to our traditional PC environment. Everything you can do on the PC, you can do on your mobile phone,” Constantinos Amiridis, IT strategist at the City of Stockholm, told Computer Weekly.
The backbone of Stockholm’s mobile system is an enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform provided by software firm MobileIron. It is used to deploy, manage and secure the city’s mobile apps and devices, as well as their access to city data.
The platform, first piloted four years ago, covers 55,000 handheld devices across Stockholm’s government and manages around 40 internal applications, in addition to standard business software.
The high number of internal applications is driven by user demand, as all city departments have the freedom to create their own mobile apps to boost efficiency. Application development is outsourced, but the city’s IT unit assesses the feasibility of the ideas and makes sure all apps conform to its standards.
“We help [different departments] to get their ideas on the table and explain what they can do with the technology,” said Amiridis. “This is a big change compared with how people worked when there were only PCs. Previously, the IT department took an application to the users. But now, with smartphones and tablets, it is the other way around.”
The EMM platform is also used to run Stockholm’s corporate app store. The city runs a separate mobile application management platform for services targeted at its 900,000 residents and uses Apperian software to enable the city’s external partners, such as utility companies, to access its applications.
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Towards a smarter city
The challenges in Stockholm’s approach stem from the sheer number of parties involved. While all city departments have ownership of their apps and the city has several app developer partners with different styles, IT still has to ensure the application portfolio remains unified.
“The biggest challenge is that we want every application to work in a similar way. The same authentication, the same look, so people don’t get confused,” said Amiridis.
It is a goal IT will continue to strive for, as Stockholm’s employees have been quick to adopt the new mobile tools. For example, water inspectors now use an in-house iPad app to submit work orders directly to the inspection site. Previously, this would have required a visit to the office and a desktop computer.
According to Amiridis, mobile access to the city’s systems has enabled its 12 inspectors to eliminate practically all of their manual paperwork, saving close to 300 work hours per year.
Similarly, the staff at Stockholm’s cemeteries have reduced their time spent on administrative tasks by moving away from pens, paper and cameras. Today, all site inspectors are issued with a smartphone and a custom mobile app, feeding the data directly to the city’s central system.
Stockholm’s strategy was implemented when staff demanded a more mobile way of working, and now Amiridis only expects things to grow. “We try to find more and more departments inside Stockholm whose work we can make easier and help them to do more with less,” he said.