Lawrence says he is still trying to understand how mobile devices could be used in a combat sense and if they would offer any real benefits to soldiers. "But if we can see a military use for it in that context we'll certainly be looking into it."
Enabling personnel to access information anywhere, anytime through their mobile devices and tablets fastens decision-making processes which increases productivity, he says.
"Once you've got wireless networks and activity-based working you can actually change the footprint of your offices, change the layout and workflow and drive a lot of efficiency," he adds.
Lawrence is also working on an internal app store for DoD that will have defence-specific apps, as well office-productivity type tools. This will enable personnel to create the applications they need to help perform their jobs.
Alongside this, DoD is looking into a bring your own device (BYOD) plan called corporate owner and personally enabled (COPE), which will be supported by a defence app store and allow users to work even when they are disconnected from the network.
Part of enabling a mobile workforce is setting up strong wireless and communication networks. Lawrence is working on a terrestrial communication initiative that will enable it to run 10Gbps links into its largest bases. The network will support 100,000 users in Australia and overseas.
"Our focus... is remediating the core backbone in Defence so that we are able to provide information consistently to all personnel regardless of location," Lawrence says.
"We will get a better fixed network in Australia, we'll get better integration for satellite and international networks... it will give us wireless connectivity for bases and offices, and we will get improved video conferencing and unified communications.
"This will increase a worker's productivity by ensuring staff can meet with their colleagues using the video conferencing capability, making it easier to connect with regionally based staff. This technology is an essential part of creating a mobile workforce."
Telstra is helping DoD deliver the network. Lawrence says he is "deep in the design phase", aiming to complete the rollout by mid-2016. Initial capability is expected to come late 2014/early 2015.
Randall Brugeaud, chief technology officer at Australian Customs and Border Control, is another public sector IT leader enabling a mobile workforce. He is trialling Microsoft Surface Tablets and Nokia smartphones, as well as Windows To Go USB keys for remote access, using the Windows 8 mobile platform. About 700 devices have been deployed for field workers across a staff of 5000.
"We have more than 100 systems currently in production and many of those duplicate functions across different business lines," he comments. "Our challenge is to bring that number down by bringing together common functions into a service-wide capability rather than a business-line specific capability.
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