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Feds Pursue Uniform Approach To Device Management

Government starts process of reviewing mobile device management software on March 8, as agencies that issue smartphones and mobile apps hope for common tools to provision and secure them.

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The federal government is making progress in plans to develop a government-wide approach to managing mobile devices and applications, according to federal CIO Steven VanRoekel.

VanRoekel, in a blog post, said responses to a government-issued "request for technical capabilities" are due March 8 from tech vendors with products and services geared to federal requirements.

The mobile device management (MDM) plan is tied to the Obama administration's Digital Government Strategy, which was introduced last May with a goal of making government information and services available "anytime, anywhere" in the form of mobile applications. To do that, federal agencies need tools to provision and secure devices, authenticate users and deploy apps.

The Digital Government Strategy requires agencies to "set up a government-wide mobile device management platform." The General Services Administration is taking the lead on the strategy and issued a request for technical capabilities in early February.

[ Wonder what VanRoekel sees as the biggest challenge to efficient government IT? See Federal CIO Q&A: Security, Sequestration And More. ]

Although adoption of MDM products and services is still in the early stages, the government has "a small window of opportunity to avoid fragmented buying across federal agencies and programs, and help shape this emerging space to meet the broadest needs," said VanRoekel. "As we adjust to this new digital world, we need to seize the opportunity to procure and manage devices, applications and data in smart, secure and affordable ways."

GSA's technical request focuses on three areas: MDM, mobile application management and mobile life-cycle management. The list is split into required and desired capabilities. Required capabilities include general security and privacy functions, device enrollment, data management and performance and compliance reporting. Security is also a priority for mobile application management, in addition to application deployment and a mobile app store. Mobile lifecycle management encompasses installation and operations support.

Technologies that strike a balance between security, cost and functionality will have the most value to the agencies, according to GSA's request. It cites an example of a user losing a mobile device and the device manager being able to enter the user's name, retrieve the device ID, disable it and notify the provider to terminate the service -- all from one interface.

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