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Findings

Mobility and Use


One important goal of the demonstration project was to assess the way having a laptop affected where work was done.1 Therefore the survey that participants received at the end of the pilot period asked them to estimate the number of hours per week they used their laptop in various locations. The three areas of primary interest for mobile use are in the field, in court, and at home. The reported average use in these three locations across all respondents is shown in Figure 1 below. Overall, the respondents used their laptops a little less than 6.5 hours per week in locations outside of the office during the pilot period, with almost half of that use at home. Use at other locations outside the office amounted to a little over three hours per week.

Figure 1 - Average Hours Per Week of Use by Location - All Districts
Figure 1 - Average Hours Per Week of Use by Location - All Districts

 

The reported use in court of approximately one-half hour per week was somewhat lower than expected, given results from our previous research about the long waiting times in court. The pilot period was less than two months for many of the participants, however, and several reported no court appearances during that time. So these results may not be typical of laptop use over longer time periods or reflect the full potential for significant use in courts. The overall level of reported use may also be a result of limited wireless access available or private space to work in court. This may be due to limited wide-area service or lack of hardware, or both. Opportunities for use in court and while moving about in the field were further limited by conditions in many of the courts and the cold weather.

The overall averages also mask considerable variation among the districts. Some reported much higher levels of use outside the office. The Putnam County respondents reported over nine hours per week of use at home and three in court, while respondents in both St. Lawrence and Suffolk counties reported over nine hours per week of laptop use, on average, in the field. The range of variation in use across these three locations was substantial, from 19 hours per week in one district to less than two in two others. Some reasons for the difference may be due to the range of conditions across the districts as described in Chapter 2. The variability in connectivity and policies may have led to districts being able to use the technology in different locations.

A different pattern of variation can be seen in the reports on impact on work shown in Table 1 below. As with location of use, the survey of all participants at the end of the pilot period asked whether five types of work were better, worse, or about the same with their laptops. For all five kinds of work, the opinions ranged almost exclusively from “about the same” to “much better.” The most positive impacts reported were in the areas of “access to information” and “timeliness of documentation,” with over 50% of the respondents rating these results “somewhat better” or “much better.” Ability to work in court improved for over 30% of the respondents, and communication with supervisors and client service was better for 20% and 28% respectively. Of the 226 participants who answered this question, there were only 22 instances of a reported worsening of ability to work with the laptops. The survey and interview comments included reports of technical difficulties with some devices and poor connectivity that may account for the negative reports on work impacts.

Table 1 - Reported Impacts on Work of Mobile Device Use – All Districts

Impacts on:
 
Much
worse
 
Somewhat
worse
 
About the
same
 
Somewhat
better
 
Much
better
 
(n)
 
(n)
 
(n)
 
(n)
 
(n)
 
Timeliness of documentation
 
2% (5)
 
2% (4)
 
40% (91)
 
40% (91)
 
15% (35)
 
Ability to do work in court
 
0% (1)
 
1% (2)
 
67% (141)
 
23% (49)
 
9% (18)
 
Ability to access case
information
 
1% (2)
 
0% (1)
 
36% (80)
 
38% (86)
 
25% (55)
 
Communication with
supervisors
 
0% (1)
 
0% (1)
 
78% (173)
 
14% (32)
 
6% (14)
 
Service to clients
 
1% (2)
 
1% (2)
 
70% (156)
 
21% (46)
 
7% (16)
 

1 The demonstration project included both laptop and tablet computers in some districts. Since this section deals with a mix of the two kinds of devices it is not possible consistently identify which results apply to one or the other device. Therefore we will use the term laptop to include tablet PC’s.