There is a huge desire on the part of government to make our lives easier by giving everyone who wants it access to all public services through a single-sign on portal. In Scotland, this takes the form of the Citizen’s Account. This is, slowly, taking shape and now being used by a number of different public bodies to provide a one-point-of-access route into some public services. Edinburgh City Council has been a keen adopter and the idea that I (or indeed you), as a member of the public, will be able to access all public services from one entry point is an attractive one.
This will, in the vast majority of cases, benefit the ‘customers’, reducing the need to scout around various different websites to pay housing benefit, search for a job, find information on planning notices etc. That much is very welcome, but there are, of course, people who will wonder about the Big Brother aspects of all this data collection. However, I believe that, while it is essential that we have a free press scrutinising national and local government to ensure that they are not doing anything pernicious, all these data are of immense use in helping the powers-that-be plan ahead for the country’s future needs. I also understand that many different interest groups are consulted on much of these developments, and generally are supportive of what is being attempted.
That said, there are undoubtedly concerns, and not just about monitoring of citizens’ behaviour. A recent article in the local government trade press (the MJ) highlighted these issues, noting that while most attention is on the external threats (malware, viruses, hackers, etc.), the real threat to data security does not come from these misdemeanours but from the digital environment in which local government staff now operate”, or more specifically on the understanding that IT departments have of the “employee’s organisational digital footprint”. That, as we shall examine in Part II of this blog, is as maybe and quite a lot of business owners would beg to differ.
The MJ article argues that as government becomes increasingly digital there will be more access across corporate firewalls and much more use of their own mobile devices by staff who are working remotely. Moreover, when someone leaves an organisation the potential for inadvertent security breaches is obvious. With the increase in the employment of contractors, partly as a result of reductions in permanent IT staff in the public sector, the likelihood of these problems increases. Knowing the extent and reach of the employee’s digital footprint becomes more difficult, and with the need to continue to keep the plates – specifically frontline government services – spinning, it’s easy for it to be ignored or forgotten…until a problem raises its head…
To be continued.
Gareth Biggerstaff, MD, Be-IT Resourcing