How Mobility is Changing the Landscape of Govt Field Data Collection

3 months, 1 week ago by Timothy Cox

Technology is making inroads not just in the private sector, but also in the public sector. With several acts concerning mobility coming in to force, the face of field data collection is changing. This blog unveils some interesting facts & figures pertaining to productivity, reduced operational costs, & even carbon footprint. As a matter of fact, some federal agencies have achieved digitalization already. Read how!

The Background of Mobility

Have you ever accessed any of the federal websites a year back? Do you notice the difference in the website from what it is now to what it was a year back? The user experience has improved dramatically.

Wonder why?

Thanks to the ‘Connected Government Act.’

Quick info: The act passed by the US govt. states that all federal sites need to be optimized for a better mobile experience.  

So, if you haven’t experienced a mobile-friendly website yet, you will experience it in the near future.

This enactment comes into an effect as govt. has taken cognisance of an interesting fact: ‘around 93 million US citizens used mobile in 2016 to access the internet.’

Other quick striking stats:

  • 60% of people used smartphones to go online.
  • 33% of such people had no other means other than smartphones to get online

Woah!

The numbers are excerpts from a report published in 2016. Fast forward 3 years - there’s a definite surge.

But, this is not limited to websites. Websites are just one drop of the ocean. Why am I saying it?

There’s actually a whole law behind it. President Trump signed ‘Modernizing Government Technology Act’ into law. The implication of this move alone is poised to be a major game-changer in the public sector.

Paperwork in Field Data Collection

Before we get into the ‘how’ part, let’s throw a glance at other intriguing details. Even today, as you read this, there are innumerable frontline executives in the public sector who depend on paper-based processes.

These field agents right from foster care worker to an FDA inspector, (caseworkers, inspectors, investigators) fill hundreds of paper forms for individual cases.

It’s no wonder that agencies are immersed in paperwork all the time.  

Did you know that these frontline executives spend around 50% of their time on paperwork during field data collection? That’s correct -50%.

The moment of truth: Paper-based processes are tedious, erroneous, disengaging, and there’s a list. Accept it.

For example, pick the easiest of the inspection survey, and it will still require the following processes:

  • printing of paper forms
  • collecting information & filling forms
  • bringing those forms back to the office
  • entering the data into systems
  • checking for errors & information gaps
  • form review
  • assigning rework where needed
  • organizing &  sorting data
  • analyzing the data
  • preparing reports

(Not necessarily in the same order though).

Well, that’s a lengthy & time-consuming process.  

It’s not just about time, paper-based processes bring other baggage of drawbacks like inefficiency, manual errors, increased costs of paper & print, storage problems, data security challenges, and rise in the carbon footprint.

BTW, considering field agents can submit the data from their devices, they don’t need to travel regularly to the office (as opposed to paper form submissions).

This rounds up to a saving of around 0.9 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Fascinating!

In addition to saving transit time, environment safety comes as a bonus.

Mobility is an Easy Way to Digital Transformation

Mobility counters the aforementioned challenges. To be specific, mobile apps help govt agencies to transform the paper-based processes into digital ones.

Agencies who embraced digital transformation witnessed an increase in productivity & efficiency. (Cases mentioned later in this blog.)

Other benefits that follow are reduced costs of paper, print, storage, and other operational costs. Lower carbon footprints & improved data security.

The aforementioned benefits are internal, but what a govt agency could also achieve is accelerated service delivery & enhance the rate of citizen experience & satisfaction.

Gripping facts here:

Manual processes are 42X costlier as compared to digital processes.

Turning to mobile devices for field data collection instead of paper forms can boost productivity by 45%.

(Sources: Deloitte & GovLoop)

This sounds not just great in theory but also in practice. It’s getting translated into reality.

Don’t believe it? Below is the proof.

National Agricultural Stats Service (Agriculture Dept.) launched the digital project by arming the 3500 field enumerators with tablets for crop data collection.

Here’s the real eyebrow-raiser:

The agriculture department saved around $5 million of printing & mailing costs. That’s huge!

A report published by IDC identified about 6 million govt. workers who spent most of their work hours away from their desks, engaged in the field data collection.

What came out was really a shocker: more than 50% of work time goes into admin-related tasks.

Why Mobile Apps are the Best Alternatives?

Mobile apps for field data collection turn the tables because:

  • Field workers can collect data on mobile devices (even offline - connection needed only for data sync).
  • As soon as they click submit from the field, the data is accessible in real-time at the office desk.
  • The review of the collected information can be done at the office in real-time, and feedback is provided. This eliminates the rework.
  • Mobile apps like Axonator offers engaging UI coupled with intelligent forms - this makes form-filling an easy experience. It saves a lot of admin time.
  • Widgets like image, audio, video allow faster & rich data capture.
  • Other features like barcode scan, QR code scan -lower the turnaround time by leaps & bounds.
  • Reports are generated upon every record submission.
  • Mobile apps like Axonator even go a step further to build workflows in the form which enables automation.
  • Data credibility is enhanced with features like live location capture, date & time capture, and signature.
  • Specific responses in forms trigger actions like task/ticket generation.
  • More: send approvals/requests automatically - which brings down the bottlenecks in decision-making.
  • No data entry on different platforms is needed since the data collected is exported easily with integration capability that these mobile apps offer.
  • Platforms like Axonator comes with powerful data analytics dashboard. The gathered data is analyzed in the matter of clicks, and visual reports are pulled out to learn from the data.

These capabilities are clearly missing in manual & paper-based processes.

When all of your processes are digitized, you can immediately sense that the citizen satisfaction levels are rising. It’s an effect of more transparency achieved in processes.

Tracking of any task becomes easy. Automatic reports sent to citizens relating to their case builds good confidence in the system.

Mobile apps improve process compliance by a greater degree as mobile forms are designed in a way to avoid errors while data collection process.

Manual processes are disengaging - it’s not a surprise that they don’t drive productivity. In fact, repetitive admin processes make jobs mundane and bring down morale.

The case is exactly opposite with mobile apps.

But when the benefits are crystal clear, why are mobile initiatives sluggish when it comes to implementation?

Deploying Mobile Solutions Made Easy

Most federal agencies think of mobility as a costly affair. Apart from costs, other factors that play deterrent are a long timeline, training costs, and efforts involved in process rejig.

These concerns aren't completely invalid in nature, but such factors can be taken care of by choosing a robust mobile solution like Axonator.

Let’s look at Axonator vis-à-vis all these factors:

  • Cost

You don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on getting a mobile app developed.

Choose a custom mobile app from an available app library for your different needs. Inspection app, asset management app, incident reporting app, audit app, survey app, and 1000+ apps created for govt needs.

Create your own custom app just by dragging & dropping widgets (no coding required at all). The app is dirt cheap. Start with a free trial to check if it fits the bill.

  • Timeframe

With the traditional app development route, your app release dates keep getting delayed, the minimum time is as good as 6 months.

(Read the in-detail comparison of app development options here)

But with custom app platforms like Axonator, you can build a field data collection app under minutes, and publish it to make it functional in hours.

  • Training

Mobile apps developed on Axonator platforms offer an intuitive UI - which makes data collection very smooth.

You don’t need complex software that your teams can’t handle. All you need are mobile devices - Android & iOS (iPad and smartphones).

Mobile forms are designed in a smart way, which eliminates typing when not required.

Remember that enhancing the user experience is a reinforcement for the field teams to use the mobile app effectively.

  • Process Configuration

It’s a misplaced notion that technology introduction means reshuffle, reconfiguration, or even change in the processes.

That only holds true if you are planning to buy off-the-shelf software. But the whole idea about platforms like Axonator is that it lets you customize the apps easily to suit your processes & needs.

The most critical factor here is that Axonator is a scalable platform. So no matter how many data collection forms you create, or how many users you add - the app will remain rock-solid.

  • Data Security

Govt data security cannot be overlooked at any costs. The collected information must be protected.

Axonator deploys bank-level data security protocols to make sure that data is safeguarded in transit & in storage (cloud storage powered by AWS).

Creating different users to assign various roles and permissions is smooth. Setting a hierarchy amongst users and admins is again made easy.

Data access is controlled with such measures, and the information is accessed on a need-to-know basis only.

Cases of Successful Mobility

Do we have any examples of govt agencies adopting mobile technology to better their service delivery?

Yes, we do have!

The County of San Diego

San Diego County shunned the use of paper forms & clipboards and replaced those with mobile forms - which increased the response rate of authorities to citizen requests & queries.

L.A Airport

Los Angeles International Airport also digitized asset management operations with the help of mobile forms. (a total of 1900 assets are managed using mobile technology).

The biggest benefit they realized is the flow of real-time information through notifications. Keeping stakeholders informed at any point in time was very critical to the authorities.

What changes can your agency anticipate with Axonator mobile solutions?

  • 2X Productivity
  • Better fieldworker-engagement rates
  • Improved efficiency
  • Fewer manual errors
  • Automation of manual & repetitive tasks
  • More time on strategic decisions
  • Better citizen satisfaction rates
  • Easier data management
  • Easier data analysis
  • Better data security protocols
  • Auto-generation of reports
  • Data migration to other platforms made easy
  • Capture of rich data - annotated images, audio, video
  • And more

To know how Axonator can help you transform digitally with a simple mobile app, get in touch with us at support@axonator.com

Or

Start Your Free Trial Today!

Read How a Mobile App Made Govt Scheme Accessible.

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