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Environment Agency swallows tablets

The agency says it is committed to using technology to work smarter with less impact on the environment

The Environment Agency is rolling out tablet PCs to its inspectors in an attempt to improve productivity and limit the impact on the environment.

The government body, which is responsible for enforcing environmental regulations, hopes that the policy can make its inspectors more effective when they're out in the field, and also cut down on the amount of paper it uses.

"We are looking to provide more support for the people actually doing the inspections," said Gerry Kaspers, programme manager at the Environment Agency.

"We are working towards getting the right generic tools and processes to our staff because we have a mixture of customers. The inspectors will work on intelligent forms using tablet PCs, saving them time on having to come back to the office."

Kaspers said that in very rural areas, where customers such as farmers and large industrial companies have no mobile or wireless access, inspectors will capture information onsite and replicate data back to central systems when back within network range.

In an interview with ZDNet UK, Kaspers said that this mobile project would not have been possible without four years of prior work to streamline and update its technology, during which time it also re-engineered its processes.

The organisation has worked with business-process management (BPM) software from US vendor Tibco to update existing IT systems, as its responsibilities have increased in line with recent government legislation.

The mobile project is just part of the agency’s wider plan to use technology to reduce its impact on the environment.

"We have a three-year programme of work, which is already underway, and we’ll have a major release of the BPM software going in this year," said Kaspers.

"The work is saving us thousands of tonnes of paper and reducing our carbon emissions by reducing the amount of travelling we have to do."

"We’ll also be looking to provide self-service capabilities to our customers by putting more of our applications online, so they will be able to register and apply for a permit online. And we’re going to continue to offer more, improved BPM-based systems to our internal teams," Kaspers added.