Conflicting Stories on the Introduction of Tablet Devices Into the Public Sector

17/01/2012 | Hayley

Two stories appeared in the Guardian this week concerning tablet devices in the public sector, but what was the overriding consensus?

Security warning for NHS staff

I read two conflicting stories in the news this week concerning new technology in the public sector. The first was an article in the Guardian on Friday which reported how NHS staff had been warned about tablet security risks. NHS Connecting for Health (CfH) has issued guidance to staff warning them not to store sensitive patient data on tablet devices. The guidance makes it clear that, although the NHS must keep up with other commercial organisations in the take up of tablet devices, the devices are not as secure as more traditional technology.

CfH is concerned that the risk of device theft and potential for data loss is a lot higher with tablet devices, and as such, all devices being used by staff must be securely encrypted and configured for remote wiping. Unwanted sharing of patient information is to be restricted by turning off cloud back-up functionality and maintaining a list of permitted data transfer destinations. To counter potential malware or virus threats, tablet devices should be fully configured with a standardised OS and firmware version along with crucial security updates.

Cost-saving and environmental benefits

The second article also appeared in the Guardian, but today, it is reported that Scarborough Council will save around £10,000 by introducing tablet devices such as iPads for councillors to use on a day-to-day basis. Much like the campaign for paperless courtrooms, the council is expected to vote out paper today and conduct all future meetings using iPads and similar devices. Head of Legal and Support Services for the Council, Ian Anderson, produced a report to the Yorkshire resort’s cabinet claiming that along with the massive cost savings, the move would make the Council one of the most environmentally friendly in the country.

At the moment, councillors are still using pen and paper for reports to committees, meeting agendas and minutes, which are then posted to colleagues. The introduction of iPads will eradicate the use of paper almost completely, and the new system will mean that only an internet connection will be required to access all the documents mentioned above. Whilst laptops are currently being used at the Council, the report highlights the superiority of tablet devices because they are lightweight, portable and easy to use. Leicester Council has already made the move to tablet computers, and Bassetlaw are also voting to trial a similar scheme soon.

Missed opportunities?

I think the introduction of new technology in the public sector is a step in the right direction. Tablet devices such as iPads will make light work for NHS staff and councillors, and the cost-saving and environmental benefits are hard to ignore. However, I do think it’s important that all public sector workers are fully trained on the devices before paper is sacrificed completely, and workers should always be encouraged to offer suggestions or improvements for using the devices in practice. Also, it would be interesting to know whether organisations such as NHS centres and councils have investigated the huge opportunity for outsourcing services that devices such as smartphones and tablets make a lot simpler, such as digital dictation. The range of apps available now makes these devices much more tailored to business productivity, and not just entertainment or multimedia consumption.

Image from liewcf

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