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Overall Deployment and Security Considerations

Large- Scale Deployment Factors

The purpose of a pilot project is to discover what works well and what does not. For this pilot, a number of valuable lessons were learned and deployment issues identified. The issues are discussed below in three categories: infrastructure, training, and IT support of the mobile technologies.

Infrastructure concerns include connectivity and hardware specifications. Connectivity refers to how the mobile technologies connect to the central database. The laptops needed a connectivity solution that enables caseworkers to connect and sustain access to CONNECTIONS. Connectivity solutions may combine various wireless infrastructures (local hotspots or LAN’s, wide area cellular provider services, etc.), and wired infrastructures (in courts and schools). Connectivity for the laptops was not uniformly reliable and faces considerable technical problems because of the densely built environment in much of the city. Cellular connectivity was a major concern with the telephonic dictation service as well due to unreliable cellular service coverage, which led to relatively large numbers of dropped calls and dead-zones (limited or no connectivity). Reliable connectivity is crucial to the success of both the laptop and dictation service strategies. Dealing with these infrastructure concerns must be a core part of future strategies.

Hardware specifications are similarly important. This pertains mainly to the voice recognition software deployed on caseworkers’ desktop computers. The software is a relatively complex software application that requires considerable computing power to operate effectively. IT administrators must ensure that computers operating the software have ample processor speed, sufficient memory, and adequate sound cards to meet or exceed the products’ minimum requirements.

The digital pens require using special paper in order to convert the analog information to digital text. Although the device is a one time cost, the special paper will be an on going cost to all Local Districts that deploy this technology.

The second main deployment area concerns training for caseworkers. Many of the problems described above are linked to three training needs: (1) basic training dedicated to familiarizing caseworkers with the particular problems and skills required for mobile technology, such as setting-up and calibrating the specific devices and applications, and understanding how to operate them, (2) what is needed to adapt the work practices and the technology capabilities to the work requirements and incorporate it into their daily tasks, and (3) what is needed to troubleshoot the mobile technology in the event that an error or malfunction occurs.

Caseworkers had more difficulties when they were required to learn new skills to use the mobile technologies effectively, particularly with dictation. Training sessions devoted to skills and techniques that enhance caseworkers’ ability to dictate their notes may have improved the overall success of the mobile technology. Some caseworkers required additional training for use of the voice recognition software, which requires users to calibrate the software so that it is capable of recognizing users’ personal speech patterns and accents.

A greatly expanded mobile technology operation for CPS work will require improvements in the technical and support infrastructure and resources. The districts do not currently have adequate personnel and technical resources to manage large numbers and wide varieties of mobile technologies while caseworkers are in the field. IT support varied from one district to the other, but they all have limited capabilities to support a wide-scale deployment of mobile technologies. The lack of IT support for caseworkers using the voice recognition software led to frustration. And IT support is not limited to providing technical support to caseworkers with mobile technologies, but includes the full range of physical and organizational resources to ensure the systems are working as intended.