Cynthia Karena June 11, 2012
Peter Alexander, CIO, Australian Government Treasury Photo: Steve Keough
Security and access to data was top of mind for government chief information officers as they discussed bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategies at 'The Future of Government Mobility' breakfast in Canberra last week.
In the audience was the Department of Infrastructure and Transport CIO Gary Leifheit who said the department was in the early stages of considering how BYOD could be deployed with the right access controls in order to give "the right people access to the right information".
The department currently uses BlackBerry devices as for emails, calendar and voice, but is looking at how it might provide controlled access to business applications and systems on other mobile devices.
"Security remains the key; the better the controls, the more available we can make the information," said Leifheit.
"It's early days for us, but we recognise that expectations are changing and we either have to jump on board the (BYOD) train or get taken out by it."
The Australian Treasury has been trialling Good Technology software for the past five months, and people were happy with it, Chris Reis, manager of IT operations, said. "It's about mobile data management, rather than device management. It's about quarantining data."
Devices matter, but what really matters is the data, agreed Treasury CIO Peter Alexander. "We worry about the data. We used to worry about the device but now we've become device agnostic."
Treasury was happy with the security features of the chosen software, however there was a "tiny" issue of usability,he said.
"It is slow in handling huge volumes of emails, and is unable to download emails in the background."
It appears most people in government are carrying two devices, a Blackberry for work, and another for personal use.
As part of the trial, Alexander happily has both work and personal data co-exisiting, but separated, on the one device. For example, his iTunes account is quarantined from his work area.
"When I download apps, I pay for them not Treasury. And the iTunes apps are transferable if I leave and have to hand my device back."
"Without certification from defence, we can't do anything," said one CIO at the conference.
Good Technology, however, expects certification to be imminent. BlackBerry is already certified by Australia's top information security agency, the Defence Signals Directorate, as are Apple's iPad and iPhone using the latest operating system, iOS5.
Government departments are also interested in marking information as secret, confidential, restricted, unclassified, etc. Security classifications will be addressed in the next release of the software in August, said Gary Griffith, Good Technology's government account director.
Certification aside, organisations need to have a mobile devices policy, according to Kevin Noonan, public sector research director at technology research firm Ovum.
Consider, for example, basics such as who owns the device, and whether there is public access to selected business applications, for example, access for contractors, he said.
"With funding cutbacks, government agencies are defending the (IT) systems and processes currently in use, and they think they can't afford to change to BYOD. But that's false savings. The bigger prize is productivity in the workforce and delivering better services and policy. Mobility and BYOD create a more productive workforce."
In Canberra, people were looking for the closest alternative they can to a BlackBerry with comparable security, said Jim Watson, Good Technology's vice president.
"People are moving from the BlackBerry because of the consumerisation of IT. They want androids and Apples."
Within a year, Watson sees employees demanding BYOD as a condition of employment. "We are already seeing this in sectors such as law firms and mining."
The writer attended the conference as a guest of Good Technologies.