SA begins $500,000 mobility pilot

South Australia will begin a mobility trial this month to develop a business case for the whole of government.

Some 200 senior SA government executives will participate in the trial as the state develops a business case for the viability of mobile applications.

SA government CIO Grantly Mailes told Computerworld a business case will be developed over the next 12 to 18 months as handsets become more functional and cheaper.

"The position we find ourselves in is that there is a lot of general interest in mobile computing and a lot of departments doing their own thing, so it's crept in a little bit already," Mailes said, adding the government ICT services unit has already done a number of projects and has good integration between the devices and Exchange e-mail backend.

The pilot will be managed by the government CIO's office and the Department of Administrative and Information Services, headed by state CTO Mike Grillo.

"We're attempting to ease up on the number of these things in the wild [to] reduce diversity and cost, and we will also look at productivity and other benefits," Mailes said.

Some government agencies have deployed BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices to provide their own phone solutions, but Mailes wants to discover a whole of government solution for the procurement benefits and to ensure it doesn't end up with "stranded" technologies. The pilot is slated to cost "south of half a million", including gateway infrastructure, training and devices.

Devices from BlackBerry, Palm, and Windows Mobile will be trialled and the lowest-cost, highest-value platform will be determined "on balance". New generation smartphones will also be trialled, which Mailes said, as they are now competing in the push e-mail market.

"The sort of person we are looking at to equip is a mobile senior executive, with emphasis on executive staff that are mobile, and [then] we will look beyond that profile for other beneficiaries," he said.

"We're trying to avoid the executive toys thing - where they get them and don't use them."

The executives will be represented by a cross-section of departments, including Police, transportation, and Treasury.

"The killer app for BlackBerry is push e-mail, [but] what are the productivity benefits of always-on communications?" Mailes said.

When the pilot is complete and a business case has determined any productivity improvements, the recommendations will be circulated to government agencies, but it won't become standard issue across the public sector.

The amount spent on mobility, including the number of devices purchased, will be decided by the individual agencies which might be "hundreds or thousands", according to Mailes.

"At the moment we are asking agencies to hold off buying anything, because want to determine the business case," he said. "Then the agencies will determine how much they want to spend."

A key directive of the trial is to prevent people getting mobile devices just "because they think they need them".

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