Headquartered in Canberra, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is Australia’s national statistical agency. Its main function is to provide reliable and comprehensive statistics on a wide range of economic, social, demographic, and environmental conditions in Australia.
As part of this mission, the agency has been responsible for conducting the national Census for more than 100 years. Given Australia’s considerable territorial challenges, this is no easy task. Roughly 70 percent of the country’s population is concentrated in urban areas, while the rest is spread over the vast rural interior. For the 2016 national Census, ABS needed to count close to 10 million dwellings and approximately 24 million people in Australia.
To reach these dwellings, the agency registered 33,000 devices to Field Officers within eight weeks. This project was one of the largest BYOD deployments and enabled Field Officers of all ages and backgrounds to deliver letters and ensure households completed the Census. ABS also developed in-house mobile apps to run on a variety of iOS and Android devices. The Mobile Collect app, and its associated Training app, were deployed so workers could self-educate and access and update the list of households to be contacted on a mobile device of their choice. Deploying these apps across thousands of BYOD and agency-owned devices required a secure, simplified, and scalable mobile solution.
MobileIron and Mobile Mentor delivered a customized and scalable solution
ABS worked with technology partner Mobile Mentor through an open tender process that accepted bids from multiple qualified vendors. After evaluating these solutions and gathering independent industry advice, ABS chose MobileIron’s enterprise mobility management (EMM) platform over many other competing technologies to help the agency achieve its ambitious mobility goals.
“Mobile Mentor provided the best financial value in a scalable solution meeting the needs of the ABS. During the operation, we found Mobile Mentor and MobileIron worked well on a range of devices, and also came with a range of management information to enable the ABS to monitor enrollment and operations,” said Ved Gupta, Assistant Director of the Census 2016 Technology Services Division. “In addition, both Mobile Mentor and MobileIron were highly responsive in their technical support during the operational period.”
MobileIron helped ABS secure over 33,000 BYOD devices
ABS used MobileIron to secure and manage corporate-owned devices and one of the largest and most diverse BYOD deployments with more than 500 types of smartphone and tablets. The agency also securely deployed and updated its custom apps across these various types of smartphones and tablets running on multiple operating systems.
“Field Officers were using a broad range of iOS and Android devices, so we needed the apps to work on any device within a wide range of OS versions. We also needed to secure information in the Mobile Collect app while letting the staff continue to use their own mobile device for their own purposes. Personally-owned information was kept separate so that employees would feel comfortable enrolling the application on their personal devices. We looked at a lot of EMM options, but the MobileIron solution delivered the security, scalability, and simplicity we needed,” said Gupta.
33,000 devices deployed in 8 weeks
Within eight weeks (July-Sept. 2016), ABS was able to enroll nearly 33,000 Android and iOS devices. The chart below illustrates the timeframe and breakdown of enrolled devices.
With MobileIron, ABS was not only able to support multiple types of Android devices, but also multiple versions of the Android OS, which is especially critical in a BYOD deployment. The following charts illustrate the various OS versions and device types ABS secured and managed through MobileIron.
MobileIron helped securely modernize an age-old census process
Devices enrolled with MobileIron provided access to the ABS-developed Training app and Census Mobile Collect app, which helped Census workers simplify their workload while increasing data quality and efficiency. To deploy the app securely, new Census workers were able to enroll their personal mobile devices with MobileIron or use one supplied by ABS. Once devices were enrolled, workers were automatically provisioned with ABS’ custom apps through MobileIron Apps@Work. The apps were securely containerized through MobileIron AppConnect, so the information in the app remained secure and separate from personal information on the device.
For the 2016 Census, a majority of households received a letter with a unique login to complete the Census online or via paper form. To reach households in the remaining areas, Census Field Officers were assigned to deliver forms in person. When a Field Officer delivered a form, they used their mobile device to scan the bar code on the form into the Census Mobile Collect app. This not only eliminated error-prone and time-consuming manual data entry, it also enabled workers to know exactly when and where the letter was delivered so follow-ups could be completed if needed. Since many workers operated in remote areas, it was critical for the mobile app to perform well on any device and also provide instructions if workers encounter problems in the field.
In the past, Field Officers worked using paper based lists of dwellings and received a text message when households completed the Census so the address could be crossed off the list of residences to visit. In the 2016 Census, Field Officers only viewed the most current address list on their mobile device, eliminating confusion and unnecessary trips in remote areas where workers have to travel long distances between households. The app also works offline so users can still access and update addresses even if 4G coverage isn’t readily available.
“Thanks to MobileIron, our new mobile program has helped dramatically improve our data quality and efficiency,” said Ved Gupta, Assistant Director of the Census 2016 Technology Services Division. “Workers no longer have to manually record and update information; now it’s all done automatically in the backend system. Furthermore we significantly reduced the cost by eliminating paper waste. We would be happy to work with MobileIron on our future mobility initiatives.”
CRN Magazine: Census 2016: the unknown IT success story