Cambridgeshire: BYOD, But Expect To Foot Bill

Cambridgeshire CIO forbids bring-your-own-device practice unless staffers pay for all associated costs -- he fears bad publicity.
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You can bring your own device to work for Cambridgeshire County Council -- just don't expect anyone to reimburse you for using it.

Speaking at a local government technology conference last week, Alan Shields, strategy and architecture team manager for the council, told delegates that any staff members who ask to use their own IT will get no money or financial incentives for doing so -- as he and his team cannot contemplate being "pilloried" in the local press if they did.

Shields was referring to a story published in the Cambridge News, the local newspaper of another Cambridgeshire town -- home of the prestigious university -- that excoriated the way a $3.7 million (£2.3m) accounting error crept into the city government’s 2013-13 business plan. Although it did not mention BYOD, the article criticized the city's "financial planning processes" and used the phrase "budget black hole." A revised plan suggests on-going fiscal pressure; the body is expected to pare costs down by $11 million (£7m) for the year.

[ BYOD is big in U.S. government. Read Feds Give Agencies More BYOD Advice. ]

All of this might be expected to make the idea of BYOD more attractive to politicians like Shields, but he needs to be cannier than that to make such a strategy work. Instead of bragging about cutting costs with BYOD, he dubs his technique "headline of the local newspaper method."

"I don't want to see headlines saying, 'Council pays £100 [$158] per staff so they can use iPhones'," he told the conference. Instead, staff will get simple instructions and then get left on their own -- at zero cost to local government: "We won't pay for the cost of the phone, we won't pay for the cost of the tariff. We won't even train you."

Shields said the whole scheme couldn’t operate at all unless it was supported for free by the eat-all-you-want data plans the employees' get with their own technology. "We call it 'use your own device,' not 'bring your own device,'" he said. "You spend your own money, and we will not reimburse anybody. It is a purely voluntary scheme."

If that seems a tad harsh, Shields remains practical."In the environment of U.K. local government, "with what is deemed to be public money, you've got to be careful."

Mobile applications are the new way to extend government information and services to on-the-go citizens and employees. Also in the new, all-digital Anytime, Anywhere issue of InformationWeek Government: A new initiative aims to shift the 17-member Intelligence Community from agency-specific IT silos to an enterprise environment of shared systems and services. (Free registration required.)

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