Doctors Drive BYOD Efforts at Department of Veterans Affairs

Feb 18, 2013

It is often the most motivated professionals who create new ways for collaborating and sharing information.  In many organizations, employees often take the initiative to leverage nontraditional applications like Google Docs and calendar applications from

In the private sector, this take-charge initiative is laudable.  However, in the government arena, it can create major security challenges that are difficult to fully control.

In 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was in this exact situation when orthopedic doctors at the Chicago VA hospital developed their own Yahoo! calendar application, which contained the names and Social Security numbers of more than 1,000 patients.

At the time, the Roger Baker, CIO of the VA, completely shut down this effort for understandable security issues.

However, as this GovExec article points out, this was an early taste of the BYOD trend happening in government today. Being able to stay ahead of employees while also fostering an environment that supports nontraditional applications and devices is a major challenge for federal agencies.

Since the 2010 incident, the VA has actually embraced these challenges.  As the article points out, Baker predicted that VA had probably made its last desktop PC purchase in 2012.  He believes that, within five to six years, the department would no longer provide employees with actual hardware.

As we have highlighted before, one of the most vital components of BYOD is ensuring that all efforts truly align with mission goals.

2013 will be the year that mobile computing will fully eclipse traditional desktop computing.  The VA’s efforts are an ideal case study for other agencies when it comes to balancing employee flexibility and productivity with ongoing security needs.  And, more agencies will surely be following suit.