The State of Telework in Government
The ongoing pandemic has affected every aspect of our day-to-day business operations, which have mostly transitioned across the board from manual, in person operations to complete digital ones. Currently, the Federal Government’s nationwide operating status remains “open with maximum telework flexibilities to all current telework eligible employees, pursuant to direction from agency heads.” Many federal, state, and local governments have taken steps during the pandemic to allow greater workforce autonomy, including the Department of Defense (DOD). As such, “the DOD is just days away from launching its high-security version of Microsoft Office365, dubbed DOD365, which is designed to replace the current telework system.” Seeing the DOD in particular invest in more telework infrastructure indicates lasting changes and advancement in technology across government, as they tend to have the most restrictive security policies.
Continued Uptick in Adoption of New Technology
During this past year of changing trends in the workforce, electronic signatures and digital document processes immediately became a large focus of modernization and software solutions adoption, as this functionality is central to the regular workings of agencies across the government sphere. Many businesses had to close temporarily and many agencies had to immediately put telework plans in place, therefore necessitating a need for electronic signature solutions to continue regular functionality and deliver services to the public. The use of electronic signatures continues to increase, building upon layers of the previous adoption. At the beginning of June 2021, “The New York State Legislature passed The Electronic Signatures and Records Act, authorizing the use of electronic signatures on funeral and cemetery documents.” Additionally, “in light of the COVID-19 crisis, The Federal Reserve Bank of New York also wants to make pledging institutions aware that it will accept pledges of loan collateral that includes electronic signatures on loan documentation.”
The Modernization Strategy for the Immediate Future
Moving forward, since the importance of technology has been proven many times over by recent global events, most agencies (most notably U.S. Space Force) are pledging to become a “digitally fluent” workforce so that “a person at any level of the organization [can] effectively select and use the appropriate tools and technologies to interpret information, discover meaning, design content, construct knowledge, and communicate ideas in a digitally connected world.” Digital literacy is essential for successful operations with technology so deeply embedded within current workplaces. In a recent plan for modernization, USSF indicated that “by becoming a Digital Service, we have the potential to be more proficient, efficient, and agile.” As such, “through this digital transformation, we will foster an environment that incubates quick-turn, innovative solutions in every aspect of capability development.” Agencies have been encouraged to put together similar plans for modernization as another bout of changes in the way we work come around.
Justification for Ongoing Use of Digital Solutions
Although the pandemic was a major driving force in adopting various digital solutions, such as electronic signature platforms, there are many reasons for agencies to continue their use. One major factor is the experience that the public receives from the government. In an increasingly fast-paced and technology-heavy world, citizens come to expect a degree of modernity and ease of use. It is no longer feasible to conduct all transactions on paper with wet signatures, and the public expects to be able to access services on laptops, desktops, or even mobile. Traditionally, the government has been less up to date when it comes to technology compared to the commercial sphere, for example. However, in their recent plan, USSF indicated, “we must leverage our industry and governmental partnerships to ensure the digital infrastructure we rely on can meet modern demands. In addition, we must undergo a cultural transformation in conjunction with our digital transformation efforts.” These digital transformation efforts are not all new, but they are advancing at a faster pace now due to demand for easier access and increased efficacy.
Digital Solutions and Security Requirements
In addition to demand from the public, it must be noted that security also entails increased modernization to avert the latest threats. According to USSF, “our data networks must be bandwidth-rich while also being reliable throughout the spectrum of conflict and secure across multiple security levels.” They indicate that the following requirements must be fulfilled for all technological options: “Our shared data repositories must also be visible and accessible to those who need it and secured against those who don’t. With this robust digital infrastructure as a foundation, we will establish a trusted, understandable, collaborative environment that incorporates the user tools and applications to enable secure interaction with protected categories of data.” Furthermore, the “USSF must support a world in which we are no longer bound to a single physical location,” so it seems telework and the digital solutions that accompany it to maintain regular business operations are here to stay.
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