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Prince William County Residents’ Data Lost After BlackBerry Stolen

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total chaos after blackberry stolen

We have heard this story before – a public servant is walking around with a BlackBerry that isn’t password protected and they lose the device along with sensitive data. This has happened again, this time in Prince William County, where a public servant lost a device containing private information on almost 700 residents including addresses and Social Security numbers.

According to the executive director for county community services, “it should have been better secured with the use of a password,” he said. “We didn’t do what should have been done.” Not only that, but you would think a government BlackBerry would have an IT admin who would force a password on the device. Also, as soon as the device was found to be missing, the data could be wiped and hopefully stopping someone from taking it before it’s too late.

It’s not clear whether the device was stolen with the intent of taking the personal information, or whether the thief was simply looking to steal a BlackBerry and resell it. This is exactly the sort of situation that BlackBerry Protect will be able to address for individuals.

Open Data: The Role of Government in Fostering Smartphone Applications

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The private sector has been doing an incredible job of creating useful applications for smartphone users. Much of the success and boom of the app economy can ultimately be attributed to Apple pioneering the embedded on-device App Store, and showing the average consumer what a smartphone can do. Apps have been available for a long time before the App Store, but they were always something that only the uber-geek knew about. Other smartphones have done an excellent job of creating an app market for developers including RIM. If there is a problem that a smartphone can help solve, it’s almost guaranteed theses days that someone will create an application and try and make a dollar. But what about government? Your local government can play a crucial role in fostering more useful smartphone applications through a movement called Open Data.

Your local government collects an incredible amount of data on daily basis. Everything from real estate conditions, crime rates, weather reports to public transit schedules and maps. Open data is about taking all of this data and making it available with a license that gives users the right to use the data, merge it with other data sets, modify it, and re-distribute it. Open data is also about encouraging governments to package this data in a format that is easy for programs to read and manipulate.
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Canadian Government Takes Steps to Open Telecom Industry

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Canada has had a monopolistic telecom industry for as long as I can remember, but it seems Parliament is finally taking steps to improve the situation. In the prebudget Throne Speech yesterday, the government said it would open Canada’s borders to greater foreign investment and make the industry more palatable to mergers and acquisitions.
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Indian Government Reviewing the Use of BlackBerrys in Public Sector

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Manmohan Singh

The Indian Government has recently been the victim of attempts by Chinese state-backed hackers to retrieve classified information from government officials, pushing their security agencies to rethink mobile policies. With BlackBerry being the device of choice for the public sector, it’s important that governments can trust the platform to protect their data in light of recent major cyber attacks.
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City of Ottawa Mayor uses a BlackBerry to promote local business

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This isn’t the most breaking of BlackBerry news but there is an interesting contest going on in the City of Ottawa, where BlackBerry is playing a central role in boosting the local economy.

Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is home to a staggering number of BlackBerry devices. Being the capital city, the Federal government constitutes around 18.2% of local GDP. That means there is a significant amount of government workers in the region and the vast majority of them carry a BlackBerry.

The latest city initiative, Picture it Downtown, encourages citizens to take pics of themselves enjoying downtown Ottawa, and sending the pictures in to win prizes. This is a great idea because anything that gets people downtown, enjoying the city, will help local businesses grow and generally boosts the local economy. Even though the contest applies to those who aren’t using a BlackBerry, we can assume this government city is using the BlackBerry as the primary device for entering the contest.

Personally, I think the City of Ottawa could seriously benefit from partnering with vPost. vPost is the easiest way to take pictures, video, audio and add multiple attachments to an email.

So if you live in Ottawa, join in the fun. Also, feel free to recommend this initiative to your local government representatives as it could do great things for the local economy.

BlackBerry Operating Rules in the Canadian Government

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Alastair Sweeny is a Canadian publisher, historian and author. He is best known in the BlackBerry industry for publishing his book BlackBerry Planet: The Story of Research in Motion and the Little Device that Took the World by Storm.

From a published excerpt, we get some insight into how BlackBerry shapes some government institutions. From the excerpt:

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, is a political town, chock-full of BlackBerry addicts. Overall, the city shares with Washington, D.C., a kind of frantic machismo about using the device. Prime Minister Stephen Harper does not use a BlackBerry, but his staffers and most other politicians on Parliament Hill are dependent. All members of Parliament (MPs) and their staffs are given four BlackBerrys by the office of the Speaker of the House.

Former Liberal MP and financial author Garth Turner is a self-confessed connection junkie, who sleeps with his BlackBerry next to his bed. Turner particularly hates long flights when his precious device no longer works. “Travelling is hard enough,” he says, “but travelling without your BlackBerry vibrating reassuringly on your hip is absolute digital hell.”

Durham MP Mark Holland says he felt “phantom vibrations” when away from his device for three days, and notes that there is a BlackBerry-driven “subconversation” going on all the time in committee and in the House. There is also an “emergent BlackBerry etiquette,” where it’s okay to use the device, even at a dinner, when everybody else is also tapping away, but it’s important to be aware if there are any-non addicts in the room who might be insulted.

But there are islands of sanity on Parliament Hill. All parties ask their MPs to check their BlackBerrys at the door of caucus meetings, and the Liberal party caucus even went so far as to pass a rule banning them outright. You can also find a few people off the Hill with some decent perspective on RIM’s invention and how it ought to be used.

Dick Fadden is former deputy minister of Citizenship and Immigration in the government of Canada. (In June, 2009, he was appointed head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service). Fadden became a hero to his department and to scores of government employees when in January 2008 he banned BlackBerry use for business from seven o’clock at night and on weekends. Well, not exactly banned. Fadden called the new policy “operating rules,” designed to help “attack some of the stresses around work”:

- BlackBerry blackout between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. and on weekends and holidays;

- Meetings should not be held during the lunch hour;

- BlackBerrys should not be used during meetings;

- Meetings should start and finish on time as a means of managing workloads.

I visited Fadden a year after the famous memo and asked him whether the policy had any effect. Right away he said, “Look, we consider the BlackBerry has great value in the department. It’s a useful tool and boosts productivity. But it has to be managed.”

I asked him whether he had done any analysis of the BlackBerry blackout. He said he brought it up regularly with his managers and found “the main result was a major drop in the amount of e-mail delivered in the department. Although it is creeping up again.”

How did Fadden manage his own personal use as a senior public servant? He said he never uses e-mail on his BlackBerry, but only PINs or sends messages for security. E-mail stays on his PC. He turns his off at 11 at night, but of course he still has to be available for emergencies by phone 24/7.

Fadden says public reaction was mixed to his policy. Some newspaper letter writers said he should “get a life” or “join the 21st Century.” One senior manager sniffed that the BlackBerry blackout was “a stupid decision that pretends to deal with the real issue of workload and stress. So would we have banned telephones on bureaucrats’ desks at the turn of the century?”

But overall the policy struck a nerve.

People in Fadden’s department were clearly suffering under the onslaught of e-mail and the expectation of being always on. They knew they needed to manage their addiction and attack their BlackBerry abuse. One employee told CTV News, “We’re feeling the pressure trying to get a lot of stuff done in a short period of time and the fact that they’re recognizing our families are suffering the consequences of it, I think it’s a great idea.”

I asked Fadden why these kinds of operating rules were not more popular and why they weren’t government policy across the board. He said other departments were bringing in similar guidelines to a greater or lesser extent, but that it was not something that should be imposed from above. Policies had to be tailored to each department, and managers had to be convinced they were useful in their particular cases.

Fadden acknowledged his measures might seem a “bit artificial” to some. Obviously you had to be flexible and recognize that some meetings had to go on longer or you had to keep your BlackBerry on at critical times. But finding ways to respect the needs of employees to balance their work and life was worth it. And the very fact of having a policy — not a ban — still makes people aware of the dangers and time-wasting if they don’t respect others in the amount of e-mail they send.

Linda Duxbury, a professor at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business in Ottawa, hailed Fadden’s move as “visionary” since, in her opinion, many people in the public service were too “wired” to do their jobs efficiently and productively. “Good for him, it’s the kind of leadership the public service needs, and this is leadership because he’s doing something that is not easy. The whole public service revolves around the BlackBerry and being available 24/7 and he’s the first to go beyond talking about balance.”