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iPads for the public service?

By johnboy 24 February 2011 45

News.com.au is reporting comments by the head of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on plans to equip public servants with iPads instead of laptops.

A device that’s not great for actually doing anything seems almost ideal for some sections of the public service.

And while they’re expensive for tablets they’re certainly cheaper than laptops.

(Although a lot more could be done with a cheap netbook)


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iPads for the public service?
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Truthiness 9:08 am 26 Sep 12

touchscreen tablets are great for some things and terrible for others, for instance designers and developers often need more power and more screens. If all the apps, sites and accessories you need work, then it doesn’t really matter which device is running them.

I wonder how many gov sites and intranets are iPad compatible? Seems like a fair few are ancient and only support IE6.

At SES level they don’t do much real work anyway, may as well give them a shiny toy to play with, it might keep them distracted long enough for everyone else to get some work done.

Conan of Cooma 9:08 am 26 Sep 12

Er… Centrelink and DHS have had them for quite some time now – It’s not a new development. They sure are handy for checking emails for the busy worker on the go, but in terms of full functionality they are hitting some pretty big walls. I use mine for facebook – It makes it fun, somehow.

switch 9:05 am 26 Sep 12

Good luck getting any sort of innovation past the glacial IT mob in the APS before it is also out-of-date.

HenryBG 8:38 am 26 Sep 12

emd said :

Middle aged execs with little real knowledge of IT are not going to use any device to the best of it’s capability, so part of the trick is giving them a device that intuitively works the way they expect it to for the task they are doing. If they want to read email, browse websites, and manage an address book and diary,……

No, what they want an iPad for, is so that next time they go to an inter-agency meeting, *they* have the shiny new toy to show off and studiously tap on to very little effect.

If you collected data on,
dates of inter-agency meetings
and
dates of Executive requests to their IT departments for iPads
you would find a spectacular correlation.

Complete waste of time. As JB says.

steveu 7:52 am 26 Sep 12

Obviously the girls at facsia want something to play around with in their numerous meetings. I cannot see how serious word processing and spreadsheeting is going to be done on these things. I think ipads are great, but they are not a replacement for a notebook PC IMHO.

Notebooks are for staff to remote connect to the network from out of the office (ie. home) and in alot of cases, replace their desktop pc at work so they can work from any office location.

JimCharles 6:58 am 26 Sep 12

frankie said :

Filling out forms electronically and sending the data via 3g or wifi directly to an online database seems to be where an iPad or tablet would be particularly useful. The APS certainly does make Australia fill out a loooooot of forms 🙂

Agencies such as the ATO, FaHCSIA, ABS and others would definitely benefit from the portability and quicker access to real time data while out in the field with the public.

Exactly…that’s the benefit. Shouldn’t the argument be “how many civil servants have their own fixed desktop PC when they only need it for a fraction of it’s capabilities”?
Many jobs are just inspections, enquiries, surveys, asset updates, production of work orders …they can be done better from the field with locationing and photographing added in, then you can also reduce the blanket cost on accommodation, permanent parking, staff travelling time to work just to clock in and check worklists or emails, then go out.
That’s where future savings come from if you want to protect the actual jobs. It’s cultural change and enhanced flexibility…..staff are performance managed on their production output, rather than what time they got in.
The employee benefits because they start work when they like, can go straight out to site, manage their own workload and go when the work is done…just like the private sector. If they don’t get the work done, then deal with them.
It’s not for every job, but there must be thousands of jobs where this would improve their efficiency.
I don’t know the deal with Apple….or if it could have been bettered by an Android tablet and app., but the principle is sound.

frankie 10:43 pm 25 Sep 12

Filling out forms electronically and sending the data via 3g or wifi directly to an online database seems to be where an iPad or tablet would be particularly useful. The APS certainly does make Australia fill out a loooooot of forms 🙂

Agencies such as the ATO, FaHCSIA, ABS and others would definitely benefit from the portability and quicker access to real time data while out in the field with the public.

Mr Waffle 11:41 pm 26 Feb 11

WoodenAgent said :

will said bluetooth offer non-qwerty layouts? Dvorak, for example, cuts RSI rates almost to nil, and I’ve been using it for about 8 years, with no recurrence of my RSI. However, I don’t know if IOS allows alternative layouts. (Blackberry doesn’t.)

Looking at my iPhone’s keyboard settings now, for the software keyboard it offers QWERTY, AZERTY and QWERTZ only, but the hardware keyboard settings it has all the international keyboard layouts, including Dvorak.

boneymaloney 10:23 pm 26 Feb 11

AndyC said :

I wonder why agencies are allowed to jump in and buy these things before they have undergone DSD certification?

They are a Portable Electronic Device (PED) and are covered under the DSD guidelines for security of same (for what they’re worth, which is vanishingly little).

WoodenAgent 5:23 pm 26 Feb 11

Gerry-Built said :

tommy said :

I’d not want to be typing on it for any great length – nice RSI claims waiting in the wings on that. You can get a keyboard – but it’s pretty cramped the key layout.

Any Bluetooth keyboard will hook up nicely…

will said bluetooth offer non-qwerty layouts? Dvorak, for example, cuts RSI rates almost to nil, and I’ve been using it for about 8 years, with no recurrence of my RSI. However, I don’t know if IOS allows alternative layouts. (Blackberry doesn’t.)

WoodenAgent 5:21 pm 26 Feb 11

Yes, I think you’re onto something there. The iPad is more or less a network-only device, and can be configured to not store anything locally. Maybe they will make the iPad secure that way.

But the bigger issue is that people are very vain, and will want the latest toys…. UNLESS the new technology is for the workers or the public, eg Sametime and SMS passwords, in which case, the technology ABSOLUTELY MUST be prevented from proliferating.

Only the demigods may have ideas or new tech.

ummmm_no 5:16 pm 26 Feb 11

Jordo said :

I got my macbook in 2003 with a core2 duo 2.something ghz and she’s still sweet as + runs all the latest whizbangery no worries.

Bollocks. Apple didn’t even starting making stuff with Intel chips until 2006.

emd 4:58 pm 26 Feb 11

Middle aged execs with little real knowledge of IT are not going to use any device to the best of it’s capability, so part of the trick is giving them a device that intuitively works the way they expect it to for the task they are doing. If they want to read email, browse websites, and manage an address book and diary, an iPad or Android tablet sounds like a good fit. And a trial of 40 people sounds like a good number to really get a feel for how well it suits the user group. I would guess they already tried out a few devices of different types before they decided on this iPad trial.

As for usefulness, it might be a great idea. I use an iPad and travel sometimes for work. It has been great so far. I take meeting notes and email them to myself and others on way back to the office, I can look up maps to find my way to places, use Skype, read meeting agendas or bigger documents on the plane… I could do all the same things with an Android tablet or smartphone, I just like the iPad form factor and the customer service from Mac if there is a hardware failure.

Davo111 1:46 pm 26 Feb 11

Gerry-Built said :

Any Bluetooth keyboard will hook up nicely…

so basically they should buy a netbook with 3g inbuilt.

Gerry-Built 10:28 am 26 Feb 11

tommy said :

I’d not want to be typing on it for any great length – nice RSI claims waiting in the wings on that. You can get a keyboard – but it’s pretty cramped the key layout.

Any Bluetooth keyboard will hook up nicely…

Jordo 9:23 am 26 Feb 11

Davo111 said :

Jordo said :

MacBook Pro + iPhone combo does the trick for me, might be a little more expensive to start with but you don’t have to upgrade for another 5-8 years.

Call me in 8 years if you’re still using your mac book pro + iphone, but i doubt you’ll pull it off. Most laptops and computers have a life of around 3 years (perhaps 5 max) and most companies will have a policy similar to this.

I got my macbook in 2003 with a core2 duo 2.something ghz and she’s still sweet as + runs all the latest whizbangery no worries.

Davo111 10:59 am 25 Feb 11

Jordo said :

MacBook Pro + iPhone combo does the trick for me, might be a little more expensive to start with but you don’t have to upgrade for another 5-8 years.

Call me in 8 years if you’re still using your mac book pro + iphone, but i doubt you’ll pull it off. Most laptops and computers have a life of around 3 years (perhaps 5 max) and most companies will have a policy similar to this.

Davo111 10:50 am 25 Feb 11

Bennop said :

Its one Department, about 40 iPads being trialed amongst the senior execs, to evaluated whether they are any better/more efficient than current tools. Calm down. If a tool came out that made work more productive for them, shouldn’t they bloody use it or at least see if its any better?

Still, its not necessary to buy 40 ipads. Buy 5, after the first 2 weeks interview them and find out what if they enjoyed using it fulltime. If they all want to keep their ipads (and surrender their blackberries on the spot) THEN order 35 more. I’m guessing the people who think this is a great idea have been playtesting ipads at jb hifi and have never used one for real work.

banjo said :

If it was our choice (the IT department) they probably would be,

see this is the problem. These discussions should involve asking IT for suggested models and then the group choosing from that list. At least IT would be able to consider things like encryption, strength of product, battery life etc

gospeedygo 9:34 am 25 Feb 11

Jordo said :

MacBook Pro + iPhone combo does the trick for me, might be a little more expensive to start with but you don’t have to upgrade for another 5-8 years. Does the public service look at long term investment like the rest of us?

don’t answer that.

Did you just pull those figures from out of your arse?

banjo 9:30 am 25 Feb 11

Davo111 said :

banjo said :

if anything it’s closer to replacing the function of a blackberry… yep we are rolling them out!

Why not some type of android device?

Many of them have built in encryption, have 3G, usb, and would be cheaper than an ipad?

If it was our choice (the IT department) they probably would be, infact we were hoping blackberry would hurry up with their “playbook”, atleasts we already have the infrastructure to support that. Unfortunately the horse has already bolted on this one…

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