Security vs Effective Communication

I apologise in advance today for what may be misconstrued, on my part, as axe grinding…

I am trying to do ‘work’ on this rather dismal Sunday morning, but I find my efforts stymied by restrictions imposed on me by the very organisation I work for.

Here is the problem. I wish to email one of my colleagues an article for our weekly staff newsletter. I have drafted the email – however when I press ‘send’ I am greeted with the all too familiar message that ‘my mailbox is over its size limit’. This is due to poor mail management on my part, but also to the fact that my colleagues have mailed me a number of sizeable files on Friday afternoon. I decide instead to send the file via my own personal email account ‘Yahoo’ – but am thwarted once again by an out-of-date browser which refuses to load my mailbox properly or display the content.

I understand the reasons. As a local authority, certain constraints are placed on staff, for example mailbox file size or the ability to download software or updates from the Internet or file sharing. Clearly this will be the case for authorities up and down the country and I sure my organisation is no different in its approach. However instead of making for more efficient working, I believe it is making us inefficient.

I’m sure it is no mean feat to ‘manage’ access to ICT resources within any authority. And clearly there is a need ensure everyone has their ‘fair-share’ of storage space on servers stretched to capacity. Equally it is important to make sure staff don’t inadvertently download illegal or malicious programmes or lose sensitive or personal data. However you do have to question if in our endeavour to restrict, secure and protect, we have also stifled the free-flow of data within our own organisations.

So is it surprising that people are turning to Social Media and web-based solutions? My laptop is now encrypted so if I wish to save a file to a usb pen-drive I have to use either a bio-metric or encrypted drive. Fair enough if the data was or a sensitive nature, classified or restricted. However in my case it is a picture of a library. I cannot send the file to my colleague, for as you will recall, ‘my mailbox is over its size limit’ – I cannot save the file to usb drive as I forgot to bring my encrypted memory-stick home with me (silly me). So what are my alternatives? I can accept the inefficiency of our ‘systems’ or upload the file to Flickr or any number of other picture sharing websites ready for my colleague to collect on Monday.

They say that ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’ and people are undoubtedly resourceful. If something doesn’t work they will inevitably find another solution, a ‘work around’.

Today I read an article on the BBC website entitled ‘social media could transform public services’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8382252.stm. However any authority’s use of social media flies in the face of our current practice of control and restriction. Many organisations have responded by blocking staff access to social networking or file sharing sites. But how can we develop future services if we don’t embrace new technology? As new people come to work for our organisations they will bring with them skills and implicit knowledge of using these web-based services, and use of this medium will become the de-facto standard.

And so back to my axe – I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the inadequacies of the ‘so called’ standard ‘corporate’ set-up and find myself ever more reliant on my own personal ‘tech’ where there are no restrictions – stuff just works – and so can I.

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