blog The iPhone first launched in Australia in mid-2008; the iPad in mid-2010. The Australian Signals Directorate (you know, the agency which has been spying on the Indonesian President and discussing handing over data on Australians to foreign intelligence agencies) approved iPhones and iPads for classified Government communications 18 months ago in April 2012. But it’s taken until now — five years after the iPhone first hit Australia and three and a half years after the iPad launched — for the Department of Defence to finally agree to allow its staff to use the devices, instead of the BlackBerry handsets they’ve been used to for a decade now. ZDNet tells us (we recommend you click here for the full article, it goes into a lot more than just this area, representing a comprehensive interview with Defence CIO Peter Lawrence):
“As with most government agencies, Defence has had a traditional reliance on BlackBerry for mobile hardware, but like many government agencies, Defence was now looking to move away from being an exclusively BlackBerry shop in early 2014.”
I wrote a little bit about this problem in my article last week about the need for a good technology policy think tank in Australia. iOS is generally considered a very secure and modern mobile platform — certainly more secure than Android and a heap more modern and functional than BlackBerry’s various offerings. Yet it has taken five years for the Department of Defence to allow its staff to procure iOS devices. As I wrote in that article:
“… the Government has suffered a constant failure of policy vision. It has missed the boat on adopting almost every modern technology, from collecting and processing Australians’ data online to cloud computing to mobile and social platforms. State Governments have been even worse, underinvesting in their basic technology infrastructure to the tune of billions of dollars and suffering billions of dollars of IT project failures.
Most government departments and agencies are horribly inefficient when it comes to their technology operations, and IT project disasters are now the normal state of affairs in our state governments.”
Sure, Defence has valid security concerns about new technology platforms. Sure, the secrecy of classified Government information is very important. But does anyone really believe that BlackBerry’s operating systems have been inherently more secure than iOS over the past half-decade? And just how much productivity has been lost in major Government department such as Defence over that period as bureaucrats and military personnel struggle with BlackBerry’s outdated technology? When you consider the scale of a department like Defence (it has more than 65,000 staff), the scale of any technology inefficiency becomes magnified massively.
In your writer’s view, Defence’s sluggishness in adopting valuable new technologies is a perfect example of failed Government IT policy. Let’s hope the department does not take five years to assess fundamental technology leaps such as the iPhone or iPad next time they come around. Experience has shown even minor technology improvements (such as allowing web browsers with tabbing functionality or deploying secondary monitors) can have a huge impact on productivity. The benefits of opening up a major department like Defence to competing mobile suppliers should obvious to all.
Image credit: Apple