Embracing BYOD In Local Government

BYOD In Government

The UK public sector is already under huge pressure to deliver significant cost savings without compromising public services. With central government funding slashed significantly, many organisations are turning to their IT team for solutions to these major challenges. It is in this new climate of austerity that a need for bold, innovative IT strategies must thrive.

For many public sector technology specialists, revamping an organisation’s laptops, tablets and mobile devices can be a thankless task. When Sheffield Council decided to upgrade its tablet set with a new batch of iPads, it was met with the headline “£12,500 iPad purchase to save council money”. The fact remains that taxpayers are not keen on expensive technology spend, especially for gadgets used by employees, regardless of the savings.

With this conundrum in mind, local government organisations should begin investigating the wonders of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. If implemented correctly, these policies will mean that the technology spend will shift from the employer, to the employee, reducing the need for expensive batch upgrades and in theory meaning the member of staff is using a device of their preferred choice.

In order to explore the uptake of BYOD initiatives in local government, the Parliament Street think tank recently commissioned research into the volume and existence of such schemes in London Borough Councils. The findings, published in our new report entitled BYOD in Local Government were disappointing to say the least.

Only a handful of major councils surveyed had a BYOD scheme in place and those that did were failing to make use of it to the best of their ability. Once Council had a scheme, but only enabled two devices on it, whereas Camden Council led the way with just over 250 phones activated on the network. This was surprising, given that these organisations are tasked with managing very large populations with minimal budgets.

As well as the obvious savings argument, there is a clear efficiency case for implementing a BYOD scheme. Individual employees can work with a device they are familiar with, having most likely purchased it themselves. This means instant access and engagement with the device and no need for tutorials or refreshers on how to install and update the phone with new applications.

So with these clear benefits in mind, what are the next steps for public sector organisations in local government around BYOD? Firstly, they need to discuss the long term cultural impacts from bringing your own preferred device into the workplace. Secondly, they need to consider the technical and economic benefits this policy would bring. Thirdly, they need to promote awareness of the option of BYOD in the council, so that employees are actively volunteering to join the scheme.

BYOD presents a huge opportunity for local government to transform IT policies, delivering both savings and innovations. CIOs and IT managers should seize the moment to make technology a transforming force, to deliver new ways of working whilst reducing overheads.

Steven George-Hilley is Director of Technology & Enterprise at Parliament Street, one of the UK’s most influential think tanks. Parliament Street is fundamentally a research-based organisation, producing papers and a political magazine that influence thinkers in government, the media and the academic world. The group holds regular debates in Westminster and at major conferences across the UK.