Lisa Feldner

CIO of North Dakota

Oct 07 2011

How North Dakota Implemented a BYOD Program For Public-Sector Workers

In my list of Top 10 annoyances, carrying two smartphones ranks as No. 1. Having both a personal phone and a work phone is common in state government. It wasn't so bad until the smartphone came along, but now I find myself checking e-mail, voicemail and texts and taking calls on two devices.

Imagine the promise of "bring your own technology" (BYOD) programs in which public-sector workers can use their personal smartphones, notebook computers or tablets for government business. Not only do such initiatives free people from carrying multiple computing devices, but they trim organizations' capital expenditures and wireless service costs. Here in North Dakota, we're giving BYOD a whirl.

Policy in Motion

At the midyear NASCIO conference in May, I attended a presentation about cost-saving measures. My colleagues in Delaware had implemented a plan to reimburse workers for a portion of the expenses incurred by using their personal smartphones for business purposes. The state saves money because it doesn't have to purchase the device; instead, it reimburses employees for their data plan and/or a portion of the voice plan. Delaware had already researched the open-records requests and tax liabilities and had deployed mobile management and security tools to protect state data.

North Dakota is following suit. We're drafting a policy that allows qualified employees to use their personal devices at work as long as they adhere to our acceptable use and security policies. Like Delaware, we will reimburse workers for their data plan and, in some instances, for a portion of their voice plan.

We also have another option, in which one of our wireless providers supports split billing. For example, the employee receives the bill for voice service, and the state is billed for the data plan on that employee's device. This will eliminate a lot of paperwork in our accounting department and doesn't require the employee to submit monthly statements.

When the Apple iPad came out, our department procured three for testing to make sure the public-facing applications we developed worked appropriately. What we didn't anticipate was the number of employees who personally purchased iPads and wanted to bring them to work. All of the buildings in the North Dakota Capitol complex have a secure Wi-Fi network with member and guest access. It wasn't surprising that people wanted to use their tablets in meeting rooms and other areas outside their offices.

Rather than banning a tool that allows people to be more productive, we decided to provide training for using the iPad securely and effectively. Our half-day workshops filled up quickly and were highly successful. We are seeing a steady rise in the number of mobile devices being used in state agencies, and we are expanding the training as needed.


North Dakota has a very low unemployment rate, and we often find it difficult to fill positions. With our mobile device policies, we hope to attract and retain workers who have grown up with technology.

And while our state is in the enviable position of having a budget surplus due to our energy resources, it certainly doesn't hurt to save money wherever and whenever possible. BYOD programs help state and local governments conserve tax dollars while boosting efficiency.