Digital transformation is impacting the UK government, and the iPad Air 2 tablets being handed out to 650 MPs after the next election are just the thin end of the digital wedge. Government, like every other part of life, is subject to disruption.
The UK initiative is part of a root-and-branch attempt to embrace digital technologies in government, which is striving to exploit the efficiency and productivity gains and cost-savings it recognizes in enterprise technology deployment.
The UK government saves $4.5 million each year with the 209 iPads already in use by MPs in Parliament to replace paper. Earlier this year, new laws kicked in that allow local councils to run entirely paperless committee meetings.
The decision to deploy iPads among MPs follows an extensive testing process. MP John Thurso, chair of the committee that made the decision, explains: “iPads for Members engaged in Select Committee business were initially piloted by the Administration Committee between April and October 2011. An extended testing pilot within other Select Committees followed this.
“Our requirements are for a secure, SIM-enabled tablet with a good life expectancy and capable of supporting future upgrades,” said Thurso. “The Apple iPad Air 2 meets these requirements and is competitively priced when compared with similar models.”
He also said: “The assessment concluded that the Apple iPad -- and its supporting software -- was the most suitable tablet device available.”
MPs use the iPads to access the Parliamentary intranet, where they can access and annotate committee papers and download Office 365 apps and content. MDM and Find My iPhone features mean their IT support teams can remotely lock and wipe these devices.
Chi Onwurah, an MP who wants a “device independent” solution for parliament, asked whether the risks of being locked into one supplier were considered when the decision was made to trial Apple iPad for select committees. But at the time the trial took place, iPads were the only tablets in town. Now, of course, “access to parliamentary digital services on iPads is mature, offering greater access than on other mobile devices,” Thurso wrote.
The select committee decision was also based on other criteria (security, clear upgrade path and TCO). In the future, the intention is to support other platforms, “subject to security assurance and testing."
If you want to learn a little more about how the UK government secures iOS, take a look at the security guidance here. Existing security procedures require alphanumeric passwords that must change every 90 days. Apps installation, screenshots, third-party keyboards, iCloud services and Handoff are not enabled.
These UK government moves match what we’re seeing in the mobile enterprise, where Apple dominates. iOS has been designed to provide secure access to corporate information networks, including the UK government’s own services. There is also a buoyant industry of security services designed to protect Apple products when used by governments, in the UK and beyond.
The UK is engaged in a major push to embrace digital processes; for example, by 2016, all published information should be freely available online.
The UK also seems to be exploring how to create a Unified Communications infrastructure to help MPs make better sense of the digital deluge as social media, email, letters and online forms all battle for attention, offering the real threat that urgent messages from constituents may be lost in the digital flood.
The move to embrace digital is all the more essential when you consider Accenture’s recent analysis claiming digital technologies could add $1.36 trillion to the value of the world’s top 10 economies by 2020.
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