Dave Briggs has written a post about browsers and other online tools in the public sector that set me thinking. Dave’s perplexed about why there’s a resistance to a number of tools that he (and lots of us) find helpful:
I’d really like to know the reasons – the real reasons – why, bearing all this in mind, FireFox isn’t at least available as an alternative to Internet Explorer. FireFox is quicker, more secure, more useful. It’s better. Why can’t we have it?!
This is something that annoyed me immensely when I was a councillor; the unilateral decision that we couldn’t go beyond the confines of whatever the IT department decided was good for us. I don’t know whether things have changed in the last two years but reading this piece (paid subscription) by Jonathan Zittrain (his site looks its full of really good stuff by the way) suggests some of the thinking that’s going on around security.
In fact it goes further and argues that the amount of malware, spam and viruses out there is threatening to “drive people away from the internet and towards sterile, stand-alone appliances that be manipulated only with the acquiescence of their manufacturers.”
The iPhone is apparently an example of this in action; you can’t add applications that haven’t been sanctioned by Apple. For most users I’m sure that’s not going to be a problem, but for those who like tinkering it will feel very restricting.
Safety is, of course, an invaluable promise for consumers. But a lockdown on PCs and a corresponding rise of “tethered” appliances will eliminate much of what we take for granted: a world in which mainstream technology can be influenced, even revolutionised, out of left field.”
In my experience it is certainly the case that innovations like Love Lewisham wouldn’t have happened had Nigel lived by the rules, using council approved technology and processes. Admittedly Nigel’s a bit of a one off, but that’s where innovation comes from and if organisations don’t accommodate that (as to be fair to the IT people in the council they do) we’re stuck with poorer services for fear of spam and viruses.