Smart Policies for Smartphones

I ‘m in Seoul, South Korea, this week for a Global e-Government Forum. Seoul is 13 hours ahead of Washington, DC, so for more than half the day, it’s tomorrow. But that’s not the only way that Seoul is in the future. The smell of kimchi mixes with the omnipresent electronica of smartphone rings and tablet notifications.

The Samsung building is visible from my hotel room, and its logo appears on at a majority of devices I’ve seen in this city. I’ve learned that this country is home to nearly 50 million people and 30 million smartphones, about 10% higher than smartphone usage in the U.S. Keep reading →

Some companies, famously, have game rooms for employees. Most organizations require that their employees abstain from gaming while at work, and some go so far as to block not only gaming Websites, but many social sites as well.

When employees bring their own smartphones to work, however, and when they connect to the internet using their own networks, employers cannot simply block a site on their own server and think they’ve solved the problem of distracting technology. Keep reading →

Three years ago, the satirical news site, The Onion, published a story titled “Report: 90% Of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles.”

One early paragraph reads:

Researchers were able to identify nearly 30 varieties of glowing rectangles that play some role throughout the course of each day. Among them: handheld rectangles, music-playing rectangles, mobile communication rectangles, personal work rectangles, and bright alarm cubes, which emit a high-pitched reminder that it’s time to rise from one’s bed and move toward the rectangles in one’s kitchen.

This is the third in a five-part series examining the issues that governments and organizations need to address in the absence of a BYOD policy, originally published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government. For more news and insights on innovations at work in government, please sign up for the AOL Gov newsletter. For the quickest updates, like us on Facebook.
Though the article clearly has a mocking tone, there is a clear reason for interacting as we do with those glowing rectangles: some are merely the technological membrane through which we interact with other people, while others are the entry-ways to the technological world in which we create or consume media of all kinds, from music and videos to personal and professional email and documents.

And precisely because people have access to their music, to their pictures, to their personal social networks all the time, they expect to be able to access that content and those networks all the time, even when (a) their devices cannot connect to their private network or (b) their devices alone are not able to display the media they want to consume – because their batteries are drained, for example, or because the particular device is not optimized for the type of media they need.

The Benefits of Connecting

There are numerous reasons that employees may want to connect their personal devices (BYOD) to their work computers or office networks. First, if space is an issue on their hard drives, they can play music from their MP3 players (there is debate about music’s impact on productivity). Even if the issue is not space, but rather simply installing personal applications and/or data on a work machine, connecting an external player may be seen as a good work-around.

Second, personal devices run out of power and many can recharge through USB cables. Outlet space is often limited, especially in cubicles, which now comprise 70% of office spaces according to one report. In those circumstances, it seems logical to charge devices in series rather than in parallel.

Finally, and perhaps most persuasively, work is rarely confined to a single machine and the small devices people take with them everywhere are the perfect, and sometimes preferred media for storing documents that will be edited on multiple machines. And why not? Windows phones, iPhones, and Android phones all carry gigabytes of space that are available for those large PowerPoint presentations and image files that no one wants to send through email.

The Dangers of Connecting and How to Minimize Them

There are three main perils of connecting personal devices to work computers and networks. The primary concerns, of course, are malware and spyware. These twin dangers become more apparent whenever new viruses are discovered on Android phones, or the full implications of iPhone apps are realized.

Of secondary, but not insignificant, concern is that employees could use their personal devices to skirt the spirit of the official use-policy, if not its letter. For example, sites that place a toll on an organization’s bandwidth-Pandora, for example, or YouTube-may be blocked on workstations, but employees could run similar apps from their phones-Spotify and/or Amazon Prime Videos.

> Finally, there is simply the productivity issue. Do the media and applications that personal devices bring into the workplace ultimately boost, depress, or have no impact on productivity?

As with accessing work data, there are three ways that organizations can regulate connecting personal devices to work assets.

First, organizations can ban the practice entirely. Second, they can use technological filters, for example by requiring any device to have security enable before it can connect to a network or computer. Third, organizations can have only policy filters in place.

The most important point, however, is that the leadership addresses this issue in their mobile device use-policy and that all employees understand the risks in connecting their devices to work computers and networks.

Gadi Ben-Yehuda (Twitter: @GBYehuda) is Director for Innovation and Social Media at the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

Keep reading →

Data is often compared to water: people talk about data purity, data flow, and of course, data leaks.

One of the ways that companies try to avoid data leaks is through keeping tight control over the pipelines through which data moves, but when most (or all) of an organization’s employees carry smartphones through which they access data, it’s like having a spigot in every pocket. Organizations then face a choice: limit the functionality of devices by restricting their access to data, install technological filters on the devices to minimize the chance of a leak, or trust their employees to safeguard their devices and the data that they either hold or can access, or some combination of the latter two.
This is the second in a five-part series examining the issues that governments and organizations need to address in the absence of a BYOD policy, originally published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government. For more news and insights on innovations at work in government, please sign up for the AOL Gov newsletter. For the quickest updates, like us on Facebook.
_____________________________________________________ Keep reading →

New college graduates entering the workforce this year may have gotten their first iPhone in high school and their first email address in middle school. While the class of 2007 used laptops for research in their dorm rooms, this year’s graduates could fact-check.

Surely, these new hires will have different expectations for the technology employers will provide and how it will be used. Keep reading →