How Does State Gov Enable Bring-Your-Own-Device?

By  Jessica Binns — June 21, 2011

Every once in a while, IT departments are fortunate to discover a solution that kills two birds with one stone, and that’s precisely the experience of the State of West Virginia’s Office of Technology. Under pressure to both reduce costs and to allow employees to use personal mobile devices in the workplace, a team led by Kyle Schafer, CTO, evaluated and selected Good Technology’s Good for Enterprise to enable the bring-your-own device phenomenon for workers.
 
Personal use of mobile technology in the workplace is a big topic among state governments. The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) in March 2010 issued a report on the subject, "Security at the Edge: Protecting Mobile Computing Devices – Part II: Policies on the Use of Personally Owned Smartphones in State Government.” According to the document, of 36 states reporting information, 14 allow personal devices, 10 do not, six are reviewing policies, and six have agencies that are setting policies for the use of personal mobile devices.
 
“Although challenging because of vulnerability to theft or being misplaced, and the commingling of business and personal information, applying security controls on personally owned smartphones is a feasible solution to protecting the security of government networks,” according to the report.
 
Bolstered by those findings, Schafer, who currently is president of NASCIO, selected Good for Enterprise, a mobile device management platform that enables IT to centrally manage and secure a variety of smartphones and tablets that are owned by individual employees. Schafer says that as his team began last year to consider moving away from government-issued BlackBerrys in favor of using iPhones and Android devices, it began to realize that its current ActiveSync solution was not robust enough to secure these devices.
 
“From a security perspective, ActiveSync was not as secure as what we’d like,” Schafer explains. “We’re trusted custodians of government information. We couldn’t do remote wipe or enforce passwords. We needed a comfort level that people could use personal devices with the same security level of a state-issued BlackBerry.”
 
The team also considered virtualization, which it found “clunky” compared to Good for Enterprise. But with Good, Schafer continues, IT solved all of its biggest concerns—especially the need to separate or “sandbox” personal data from government information on the same device. Beyond that, employees for some time had been asking to use smartphones such as the iPhone, largely due to its appealing interface and the myriad apps available, especially those that enable social networking and collaboration, which would reduce expenditure in other areas, Schafer adds.
 
Prior to working with Good for Enterprise, the state owned 1,000 BlackBerrys. “Some folks are going to want to stay with BlackBerry,” Schafer explains, “but we will see new folks who want to switch to the iPhone. Some agencies want to deploy mobile technology but can’t afford device or service. If employees buy the devices and the state reimburses a small portion of plan, we’ll see fairly significant growth of mobile users.”
 
Despite all of the benefits Good brings, Schafer says there are some minor concerns that must be addressed before the solution is fully deployed. For example, the state is exploring whether reimbursing workers for part of their cellular plan could be considered a taxable benefit, and if so, how that needs to be managed. West Virginia also is investigating whether employees’ personal devices would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, adds Schafer, and how those waters should be navigated.
 
At the moment, West Virginia is piloting Good for Enterprise, with the software installed on approximately 100 devices. It has purchased 1,000 licenses, which it expects to deploy in phases through the end of the year once its pilot stage concludes.
 
 
 
 

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