Nearly 75% of civil servants find security restricts digital progress

Digital-by-default is also not yet fully incorporated across the board

A survey of central government staff has revealed that most (74 percent) believe they would be more productive if the security controls on the devices that they use were less restrictive.

Last year, CESG, the information security arm of GCHQ, advised government that although Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies are possible for public sector organisations, it is not recommended.

It appears that the government has adhered to the advice, as 95 percent of respondents to the Digital Public Services Survey said that they are not able to access applications they use on a daily basis on their mobile phones.

Civil Service World surveyed nearly 2,500 central government civil servants from departments including the Ministry of Defence (MoD), HM Revenues & Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), on behalf of Unify, formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications.

Despite the government making some headway in making data more open, 46 percent of respondents said that being unable to use and share data because of technical controls was a major barrier to the civil service becoming 'more modern'. A fifth said that the lack of access to data prevented them from doing their jobs effectively.

Furthermore, few civil servants (just nine percent) were aware of the government's plans to streamline security controls so that information can be shared more easily on standardised IT. In October, the Cabinet Office announced a reduction in the number of Whitehall security classification levels from six to just three - Top Secret, Secret and Official. This will come into effect in April 2014.

Michael Bowyer, director of public sector strategy and CTO at Unify, said: "A key element of the Civil Service reform agenda is the shift to a modern workplace. Currently, security controls prevent individuals from maximising their full potential and the campaign has stagnated.

"Security should grow organically with the modern workplace and provide civil servants the platform where they have freedom to work productively and collaboratively while securing government data."

Digital-by-default progress

The survey also sought to discover civil servants' attitude to the government's digital-by-default agenda.

While 40 percent said that they were receiving clear leadership regarding the strategy, just 52 percent are aware of their digital leader.

Only 36 percent believed that their department has the skills and capabilities required to carry out the digital-by-default agenda, while 28 percent of people in IT roles were not even aware of digital initiatives within their own departments.

In addition, respondents believe that the rate at which central government is implementing new technology is too slow and therefore hampers productivity.

Only 20 percent of civil servants in IT roles feel that the implementation is being done quickly enough to be effective.

Meanwhile, just 39 percent of employees who have had access to new technology in the past three years are happy with the pace of the rollout.

Bowyer said: "Emerging technologies such as WebRTC will enable civil servants to access information and applications more efficiently and cost-effectively, but to have an impact they must be fully embraced by the public sector.

"For the benefits of new communications technology to be harnessed securely, the civil service must act quickly and proactively to implement the likes of WebRTC while it can be controlled. Longer implementation processes will not only see benefits diminish, they will see government departments lose control over their sensitive data."

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