HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is to roll out 7,000 mobile devices, including Apple iPads and MacBook laptops, as part of a move to increase mobile working.
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HMRC CIO Mark Hall told Computer Weekly the department was looking to introduce "out of the box" consumer devices for users. Historically HMRC has used standard, locked-down Windows desktops, but now wants to introduce a broader range of devices.
“The ultimate number will be about 7,000 – but we don’t at the moment know how many of that will be iPads, laptops etc,” said Hall.
He said the move will have a huge benefit for mobile field workers: “We are doing a piece with HR at the moment about mobile working, and how we can make our VAT inspectors more mobile, for example.”
An initial iPad pilot is taking place with a dozen executives. “Then we will pause and reflect and look at user cases for the next tranche. Once we are ready, we will move quite quickly,” he said.
However, it is likely that the final roll-out will not exclusively involve Apple products, said Hall.
The devices will work on non-restricted information, classified at Impact Level 2 security levels and below, with the department working closely with government security arm CESG to ensure that security will not be compromised.
Hall said the department’s recent Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft to renew its desktop services did not signal supplier lock-in. “A lot of systems are based on Microsoft, so it was about supporting existing systems,” he said.
HMRC has also been trialing the government’s end-user device strategy, and has submitted its findings to the Cabinet Office, which is reviewing the policy.
“We have completed the design work, having collaborated across government departments. But it is important that is always managed by the departments themselves,” said Hall.
It will be the job of the Cabinet Office Efficiency and Reform Group to monitor the strategy. “But once you’ve developed something it is a natural wish to see it become successful,” he said.
The government is about to re-categorise its data security rules to widen the range of devices cleared to handle sensitive data.
A review last year by GCHQ's information security arm CESG concluded that iOS6, the latest Apple operating system for iPhones and iPads, is now secure enough to handle restricted government information, providing departments build in additional security controls.
HMRC's move is likely to make it the biggest Whitehall user of consumer devices such as tablets, but large organisations elsewhere are increasingly moving away from the traditional Windows desktop. For example, Barclays said last year it is rolling out 8,500 Apple iPads across branches to improve interaction with customers.