The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is embarking on a major technology overhaul led by chief digital and information officer Arif Harbott, who admitted that staff currently struggle with “creaking PCs and snail-paced connections in the office”.
Harbott wrote in a blog post that he wants to ensure staff at the department have access to technology that is “at least as good as what they have at home” so that they can work more efficiently.
“You can learn a lot by looking at the computers, laptops and mobile devices used by your staff at work and at play,” he said.
Harbott acknowledged that old devices and systems at the MoJ cause frustration and make it far harder than it should be for staff to work effectively.
“It can take a long time just to log on, involving layers of encryption and multiple passwords. Desktops are well past their prime and heavily locked down, so staff can't take advantage of the latest browsers, software and apps,” he said.
Harbott explained that the department lacks many modern business tools, and that BlackBerry devices are still commonplace.
“There are no tools for instant messaging, video conferencing and collaborating on documents. Staff on the move can’t use their own smartphones to open work emails. They have to use an official BlackBerry or an expensive encryption app," he said.
Harbott has instigated a major overhaul in four key areas:
- Fast devices with invisible security
- Collaboration and messaging tools for work on the move
- Up-to-date software
- A choice of devices to suit individual needs.
Underpinning this are nine goals concerning how new IT choices should be considered. These include:
- Ensuring systems are up-to-date with the latest platforms
- Offering a choice of end-user devices
- Considering cloud services where possible
- Ensuring kit is more regularly updated, rather than being run down to its last legs.
The MoJ has already started piloting some new technologies with 20 users, and plans to increase this over time.
“We keep delivering working hardware at regular intervals, and are on track to radically improve our technology over the course of this year,” said Harbott.
“We don't underestimate the size of this challenge. However, it will be worth it if we can create a smaller, smarter department where technology helps us do a great job rather than being a barrier and source of frustration."
The MoJ said there was no specific information on the devices in use as they were a mix of devices anc technologies already in use in single, one-off cases around the department, rather than a set of 20 deployed specifically for the pilot.
The plans come amid changes in government around how departments should use digital technologies. A new head of the Government Digital Service was appointed earlier this week.
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