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May 23, 2012, 11:03 a.m.
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Obama directive means federal agencies have to go mobile — can newsrooms keep up?

Each major federal agency is required to make two key government services available via mobile phones.

Okay, newsrooms: The race is on. Think you can innovate faster and better than the federal government?

Major federal agencies are getting 12 months to implement new mobile strategies, the White House announced on Wednesday. President Barack Obama says each major agency has to pick two “key government services” to make available on mobile phones. Obama said in a statement that “Americans deserve a government that works for them anytime, anywhere, and on any device.”

Exactly what that means will be up to individual agencies. The idea is to make sure the federal government finds ways to “keep up with the way the American people do business,” as U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel said in a statement.

More and more newsrooms are making the same realization. One in four American adults now has a smartphone, and one in five owns a tablet, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism 2012 State of the News Media report. The White House estimates that by 2015, more people will access the Internet via mobile phones than via traditional desktop computers.

The shift under way means consumers already expect access to news and information when and where they want it. The federal government’s mobile shift, should it be implemented as planned, will only serve to reinforce those expectations. And yet Pew finds that newsrooms have struggled to understand how people behave differently on mobile versus online. It’s worth watching how the feds approach that challenge.

From the White House: “To serve the American people as they make this transition, the Administration is committed to making the mobile shift right along with them. The digital strategies announced today intend to do just that. By next spring, the American people will be able to access dozens of additional government services on their mobile phones for the first time.”

Bernt Rostad’s photo of the White House used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     May 23, 2012, 11:03 a.m.
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