We’re in an era where mobile phones are well-known tools for increasing productivity, but recently California Gov. Jerry Brown directed state agencies to collect about 48,000 government-paid mobile phones — half of the 96,000 phones the state pays for — by June 1. Brown estimates the move will save $20 million annually.

“Some state employees, including department and agency executives who are required to be in touch 24 hours a day and seven days a week, may need cell phones, but the current number of phones out there is astounding,” the governor said in a statement.

Brown also wants every department and agency to examine and justify all mobile-phone usage.

That’s a risky proposition, given the fact that employees are often connected and reachable via phone and e-mail on their devices. Moreover, the latest technology is fast becoming a way to attract and retain employees. Governments everywhere are realizing they need to compete with the private sector in this way.

According to Raffi Tchakmakjian, vice president of product management with mobile device management company Trellia, CIOs of government organizations have become aggressive about purchasing and integrating mobile devices, especially when it comes to tablet devices.

“It really caught us off guard,” he said. “They are usually the last ones to adopt new technology … If government employees can’t do everything they already use at home, that becomes a huge problem.”

In that vein, Brown should be careful not to alienate employees. These government agencies could best cope with the situation by allowing and encouraging employees to bring in their own mobile devices, which is the trend seen by many enterprises today. Agencies just need to ensure that security policies are put in place. But there is no reason why governments can’t benefit from what enterprises already are experiencing: Employees prefer to bring in the latest devices and use them for both work and personal functions. And the enterprise is growing happy with that, because they don’t have to pay for them.

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For more information on mobile data, attend these sessions at IWCE in Las Vegas, March 7-11, 2011.