Blogging for and about Youth Work and Young People

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Courtesy of Hansol

I’m currently mulling over a new initiative by the local authority (LA) which is apparently set to ultimately affect everyone working within local authorities. We have been recently issued with notice that we won’t be able to download anything from the internet or upload any software onto LA computers. This is due to the recent very public issues government (in most forms) has faced with losing lists, confidentiality etc. If I want to continue using the computer as I do now then I will need to make a special case and get special approval to do so.

I’ve been reflecting on how this will now affect peoples’ practice. What does this mean for me? Well I use a number of online tools which (to be used more effectively) I need to download some software, or equally if I’ve done work on line using these tools and if I want to be able to use what I’ve been working on I need to be able to download things. (Documents from Google Docs, using online bookmarks like Delicious, downloading supporting photos from Flickr, mind maps from bubblus, etc etc).

I also download various PDF files to read them and to disseminate the information to others, including young people. That’s without thinking of the additional software I need for doing some of the video editing I’ve been involved in (although I usually use my own computer for that anyway but it doesn’t negate the feeling that this directive brings) and also what about music, podcasts etc?!?!  In an era where we are trying to encourage and develop more collaborative ways of working it feels like I’m about to be chained to the past by what feels like a knee jerk (although no doubt well thought through in parts) reaction!

Part of my mulling is to challenge myself. Is this just my reaction to Change or actually do I have some valid arguements? Your thoughts would be welcome!

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Comments on: "Restrictions on Downloading and Software" (3)

  1. You’ve some very valid arguments.

    To restrict downloading and uploading of materials via the web seems bizzare. It reduces computers from useful tools, into mere word processors.

    One strong argument is about control and training/management/norms & trust. The telephone on your desk could be used to share confidential information – but few staff abuse that possibility, not because the telephone is controlled to prevent it, but because there are norms they have been made aware of, there is management to pick up any problems, and, fundamentally, there is trust in staff.

    Attempts to replace these with ‘code’, or with computer control are almost always counter productive and have many more costs than are forseen.

    Happy to help find the literature and evidence on that if useful.

    Is there any more info in public about this proposal from the LA?

  2. Chris Cook said:

    From the IT Help Desk perspective anything that can be done to minimise change from a common standard will reduce the time taken to identify and resolve problems. Unfortunately, there are so many tools out there that have been designed by their authors to maliciously introduce viruses or capture information. Unless the user exercises discretion and can understand the impact of what they are doing then I can sympathise with the harassed and busy IT Department that only gets called when there are problems.

    At the same time, I suspect there is an element of misunderstanding of our business. A Local Authority consists of thousands of people working at a variety of tasks and the bulk will easily fit into a standard model. Should someone in administration really need to be able to do video editing?

    It may be the case that the IT Department should be encouraged to do a proper business analysis of the needs of a youth service – not just the administration part but the ‘on the edge’ working with young people too. Perhaps with a real understanding of what is required they may be able to adapt their IT standard to fit a particular case.

  3. To a small extent I can understand there may be legitimate concerns about using google docs and similar services particularly if confidential data is involved, but I don’t see how that translates to banning downloading & uploading – I don’t for that matter see how it’s relevant to other people having mislaid usb drives and cd’s (that is what the missing data was on wasn’t it?) – if so seems a pretty tenuous justification.

    I’m curious as to how much of the web is functional now with those restrictions – presumably that means any site that uses cookies is off limits/won’t work?

    The first thing I’d be doing is requesting a 3g dongle!

    The second thing I’d be doing is finding out a bit more about who has been granted ‘special approval’ and also who the rules don’t apply to at all.

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