Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Why the District DMV needs more than a dozen iPads

February 27, 2012 - 09:21 AM
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(Photo: flickr/glennfleishman)

Apple sold its first iPads in April of 2010 and counts more than 50 million sales since. Now, less than two years later, the District DMV lends out 16 iPads to its employees. How did this piece of tablet technology come to be integrated into a monolith like the DMV so quickly? The consumer price for the iPad 2 starts at a cool $499, and last year Steve Jobs said, "People laughed at us for using the word 'magical,' but, you know what, it's turned out to be magical."

It's so magical that even an entity as frustratingly complicated as the DMV integrated 16 into their 2011 operations. Out of an overall DMV budget of $39.7 million, the iPad's value was deemed important.

The agency gives out far more equipment than just iPads, of course. Like many agencies, the DMV understands its employees need the right technological tools. The DMV gives out a few dozen phones as well as laptops (but fewer laptops than iPads — just four).

I read through the list of 16 DMV employees who had received iPads and noticed some higher level officials among the group. There was Amit Vora, the chief public information officer in the crowd. Cherice James is a Service Center Manager and has one. So does Kenneth King, Vehicle Services Administrator. Tanya Forbes, in her role as Supervising Legal Instrument Examiner, was found to benefit from having one, as was spokeswoman Sylvia Ballinger. How was the DMV choosing which employees to award these modern tablets?

"DMV mainly uses iPads for managers and supervisors at our Service Centers to change the queuing system without having to go back to their office," remarked DMV director Lucinda Barbers by e-mail. "As you might imagine, management is normally on the floor assisting employees and customers throughout the day; therefore, the ability to have a mobile device to make operational adjustments is extremely helpful."

Absolutely. In a remarkably short amount of time, the iPad has found value among everyone from doctors to musicians, from journalists to restaurateurs. No wonder the slim tablet would also find use among government agencies and specifically in the transportation-centric world of the DMV. Barber emphasizes the mobility of the iPad — it harnesses the power of a laptop but in a flexible way, with easier daily use than a smartphone.

Barbers explained the senior staffs' iPads in a different way.

"Most DMV senior staff have iPads for meetings and home use," Barber noted. "These individuals do not also have laptops."

The use of the iPad was one of the many ways agencies have begun to change their operations from a technology perspective in recent years. The DMV also sought to reduce "unnecessary printing of paper" to "engage in employee communication to make employees more aware of recycling and conservation." They successfully reduced paper use by 1% as of last September. The DMV also began an online traffic school in December of 2010, which now touts 245 graduates from last year. The inclusion of so many iPads at the DMV is a testament to how the tablet has changed the 2010s and the way we administer transportation now.

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