Friday, 11 March 2011

Police, Google, IC and Toxic Data star at the User Group

CiCS User Group this morning. A very good attendance - we ran out of biscuits!  Did wonder what we'd put on the agenda that promised trouble when I saw 5 policemen outside, leaning on their cycles having a quick cup of coffee. Didn't know our move to Google was so controversial. Suspect they had something to do with a certain event happening in Sheffield at the moment.

After a report on stuff we're doing at the moment, our first presentation was a report on changes taking place in the Information Commons from our (relatively) new IC manager, Rene. Providing students with transferable skills, more flexibility in the use of the space,  loaning laptops ( possibly with assistive software preloaded), providing high end machines for media processing - all currently being evaluated following focus groups with students. Exciting to see how the building is evolving.

Next we heard how one of our faculties had coped with the move to Google mail. Great to see a Faculty IT and CiCS IT support person presenting together. This has definitely been a joint operation - we have worked with the faculty to plan the move, and have staff based in the departments the morning after the move floor walking and generally assisting people. Staff from other areas of the University have been involved as well - a real collaborative effort. I think what surprised people more than anything was how few problems there's been - for most people their mail has moved, there's a small reconfiguration to their client, and that's it. Now we're moving round the University adopting the same technique, and we go live with Google docs in May, then the calendar - which will be big bang rather than staggered.

A scary talk then on Information as a Toxic Resource.  Our Data Protection and Freedom of Information experts gave a very informative (and yes, scary in places), about how information can be requested under DP and FoI legislation, what we are obliged to release, how we should be storing it, how much we should be keeping etc. We should of course be deleting anything we don't need to keep, but that is definitely not the practice with emails where many people keep everything. We also touched on the dangers of downloading data onto mobile devices and the need to have suitable encryption in place.  Requests under FoI and DP are on the increase - we need be make sure everyone knows and understands their responsibilities - the Information Commissioner can now fine us up to £500,000, and there is personal liability, as well as corporate.  Be afraid....

Finally, an interim report on the mobile survey we're in the middle of conducting. It closes on Monday, so a bigger and better blog post when we've analysed all the results, but initial result show all students (except 2 apparently) have a mobile phone, over half of them are smart phones (with many of the rest expecting to upgrade to one soon),  and 95% ownership of laptops.  Lots of good info about how students use them, and what other mobile services they want to see.

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