01/30/2012 11:24 am ET Updated Mar 31, 2012

Mobility and Access: Driving Government on the Information Superhighway

Twenty years ago, we used to talk about the transit systems (typically buses and trains) as providing mobility and access. The idea was that people who didn't have cars or didn't want to use them, could get where they wanted to go (mobility) and could have access to work, education, healthcare, and recreation opportunities that might be lost without the transit system.

But times have changed. In the past, many things that we could only do by going somewhere -- like jobs, education, and even healthcare -- are now accessible from our homes or wherever we want to be. This is the new think of mobility. Not just the ability to go where we want, but the ability to be where we want.

And even the government is getting on board. Earlier this month, federal CIO Steve VanRoekel, gave a speech at the CES conference in Las Vegas (I attended virtually from my home office) and posted a blog on the White House site setting the tone for the mobile government. This new approach can "fundamentally change the way we do things in government," VanRoekel writes. He goes on to cite a number of examples that increase productivity and save money, including telework.

The real sea change here is not a federal commitment to cloud computing, telework, or even social media, but rather a realization that the nature of work and government service to its citizens has changed and we need to change how we do it and deliver it to keep up. Just putting a few systems in the cloud, creating some nifty apps for my smartphone, and sending a few folks to work at home is evolutionary, but not revolutionary. Changing the way we think of our relationship with our government is the real paradigm shift.

I applaud Mr. VanRoekel and his team for their efforts and goals, but will also throw down a small flag of caution that, like in knowledge work, it's the outcome, not the effort that is the true test of success. Talk is cheap in Washington and we are moving quickly into what we like to call silly season (election time) here in the nation's capital, so we will be watching and hoping that their efforts follow the Latin motto, facta non verba (deeds, not words).

I look forward to your thoughts and comments. You can email me at or check out my blog on