silicon.com speakeasy: Government IT chiefs on how technology will transform public services...
Public sector is not always known for its innovation. In an age where everyday tasks such as banking and shopping are carried out online, too many government services still rely on face-to-face interaction and paper trails.
But the public sector is changing, beginning to grapple with how consumer technology such as app stores, online services and mobile devices including tablets and smartphones can change the way government is run.
At silicon.com's speakeasy event in London this week, two senior government IT chiefs discussed how the public sector can best engage with innovative technologies.
Loving the iPad
Mark O'Neill is the founder and head of the UK government skunkworks - the Cabinet Office body that is helping devise new ways the public sector can use IT more efficiently, from creating an app shop for government to more agile development of IT projects.
It's time the public sector starts to let the best consumer technology into government, O'Neill told the silicon.com speakeasy.
"There is a growing disconnect between the world outside work and the world inside work. Outside work is a world where we have access to all of the world's information, where we can connect to anyone at any time and where we have flexibility. Inside work tends to be characterised by rigidity, a lack of access to information, rules, restrictions and limitations," he said.
But there is a growing appetite within the public sector to start using "tech from our private lives in our working lives", according to O'Neill, with even the information security arm of GCHQ starting to explore how more consumer devices like iPads and iPhones could be used by public sector officials.
"The usual excuse for not letting people use iPads in the office is security. Now the security authority itself is saying we should be looking at this tech, that safety net has gone."
Introducing new tech to the public sector may require new practices and difficult security issues to be overcome but these challenges are not insurmountable, O'Neill believes, citing the example of how access to NHSmail, the largest Exchange mail service used in the public sector, is now available via iPad.
"The pressure was coming from clinicians who said, 'Why can't I use this technology? I can access notes and information from the medical system vastly more quickly, and I can save patient's lives because I have access to this material.' It's a very hard thing to say, 'I am not going to let you use this tech because of security rules' despite the fact that someone might die."
Jos Creese, CIO at Hampshire County Council and recently voted the most influential head of IT in the UK, said there are many advantages to letting staff use their own devices at work.
"We have been allowing people to use their own iPhone and iPad, and we have a...