The introduction of bring your own device (BYOD) has revolutionised how the London Borough of Camden works, but security demands imposed by central government could compromise the ability to improve services through flexible working.
That's what John Jackson, CIO at the council told Government ICT 2014 at Westminster's QEII Conference Centre as part of his ‘Implementing BYOD across Camden Council to Cut Costs and Improve Security' speech.
"The outside world as we know, with tablets, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is moving faster than we are moving in technology in government. And when you have a mismatch between the pace outside and the pace inside, you have a problem," he said.
Jackson referred a well-publicised incident last year in which it was revealed an American coder was outsourcing his work to China, describing it as "A great example of how you can change the marketplace".
"What the point is here is that employees [are] designing solutions for government and there's a revolution happening and we can't stop it."
That's partly the reason why, three years ago, Camden council rolled out a BYOD and agile working scheme, with Jackson describing the traditional methods of desk-based working as "not sustainable". He argued that if his team hadn't introduced new ways of working, council staff would eventually demand it.
"Employees' expectations are changing. You can't hold it back, the tide of consumer technology, we have to embrace and harness it."
However, security departments are often wary about the impacts of BYOD, something Jackson was keen to emphasise.
"Let's be frank, who loves their security department? Who thinks they're a great team who advances the cause of agile and flexible working?," he asked the audience, only one whom out of several hundred attendees responded positively. Security "stops us being innovative and doing things we want to do differently," he argued.
Jackson's colleague, Tim Jones, desktop architect at the London Borough of Camden, echoed his sentiments, arguing staff with mobile devices will attempt to use them for work, even if the council didn't have an official policy.
"People will do this anyway, people will forward email to their Gmail, they will just put stuff on Dropbox. Embracing the technical challenge of giving people a secure and audited platform so we can have some visibility over what they're doing is a very lofty goal," he said.
"But people are coming to us and demanding this and as we keep saying if we didn't do this, people would do it anyway."
Jones described the new ways of working as "a great opportunity", which has transformed operations.
"It has enabled people to have a device to go out in the field to do some work and stop having to come back into the office, stop them double handling data, stop them writing things up and that's enabling people to spend more time in the field and get things done," he said.
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