Scottish Government banks on Windows 8 for mobility push

Windows 8

The Scottish Government is looking for ways to overhaul the way it delivers public services to citizens and has hit on the idea of rolling out several brands of Windows 8 tablets to its staff.

It is hoped the Windows 8 devices, which include the Samsung Series 7 Slate, Dell Latitude 10 and Samsung ATIV, will enable civil servants to take greater advantage of mobile and flexible working patterns.

The deployment follows on from a successful proof of concept (POC) project, carried out by York-based IT provider Trustmarque, involving a fully-customised version of Windows 8.

The Scottish Government has recognised the importance of being able to empower staff to work flexibly and in the community.

Andy McClintock, chief technology officer at the Scottish Government, said the move to Windows 8 has been prompted by the need to help staff become more mobile during their working day.

"Our long-term ambition is to transform the way the Scottish Government employees and our shared services customers can collaborate, access and use information applications with mobile access, both online and offline, from virtually anywhere in the UK," he explained.

"Greater mobility provides staff with the capability to work beyond the traditional boundaries of Government buildings and engage with stakeholders and the public which is incredibly important to us."

The devices will be centrally managed using Microsoft System Centre 2012 Configuration manager, while the POC also featured the use of Microsoft's User Experience Virtualisation offering.

The latter allows device users to have roaming profiles, meaning they can log into any computer on the same network and access their documents.

IT Pro asked Microsoft and the Scottish Government for clarification about how the findings of the POC will be used, and was informed that an initial pilot project is now in the works.

The pilot will be carried out within the Scottish Government's internal IT division, which is responsible for providing shared services to 10,000 users across 130 sites in Scotland.

"It's for an initial 100 devices, but this is part of a pilot and if successful will be extended to reduce the laptop and desktop estate by a corresponding amount over time," a spokesperson told IT Pro.

Chris Forrest, director of Microsoft Scotland, said the project has the potential to make a massive difference to the way services are both accessed and made available to end users.

"The Scottish Government has recognised the importance of being able to empower staff to work flexibly and in the community," said Forrest.

"By improving information access to employees whilst on the move, the Scottish Government can get closer to citizens, wherever they are, and deliver stronger, more effective public services."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.