Although the Government Digital Service (GDS) last week made a pitch to provide a secure WiFi service for public sector users, it may have to accept that although it will provide a key service in central government, another service, govroam, is also gaining significant traction in the wider public sector.
govroam was launched in July by Jisc, the UK higher, further education and skills sectors not-for-profit organisation that provides digital services and solutions.
govroam evolved from eduroam, an “education roaming” secure access service developed for the international research and education community. eduroam allows students, researchers and staff from participating institutions to obtain Internet connectivity across campus and when visiting other participating institutions.
Public sector organisations where govroam is live include the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust (NFT), the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the Kent PSN, which includes over 300 sites, including health, council and blue light operations, Medway NFT and the Yorkshire and Humber PSN (which itself has over 150 sites).
Other organisations include several local authorities: Barnsley, Doncaster, Hull City, North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, and Wakefield; NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in Calderdale, Doncaster, Greater Huddersfield, North Kirklees, and Wakefield; and NHS trusts at Barnsley Hospital NFT, Calderdale and Huddersfield NFT, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NFT, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NT, Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NFT, The Rotherham NFT, Sheffield Health and Social Care NFT, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NFT, and South West Yorkshire Partnership NFT.
The list also comprises the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the London PSN, including the London boroughs of Brent, Camden, Haringey, Islington, Lewisham, the London Grid for Learning Trust and the Local Government Association.
Other organisations where govroam is actively being set up include the North East London Commissioning Support Unit and the Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board with Inverclyde Council, which is a pilot for the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN).
Despite detailing the public sector organisations where govroam is being adopted – outside GDS’ central government realm – Jisc is keen to point out that it does not view govroam as being competitive with the GDS GovWiFi service, but rather as complementary to it.
Mark O’Leary, Jisc head of network access, said, “The two services serve different audiences, with govroam’s main application being to support public sector staff.
“Since GovWiFi and govroam have distinct roles, these are complementary systems rather than competitors and could both conceivably be deployed by a single organisation, if that’s what they needed. It’s a shame that this message isn’t gaining traction. There’s an opportunity here to co-operate and maximise the benefit to the public sector.”
He added, “Individual organisations will make their choice based on local needs. However, the rapid growth of govroam, although it is a subscription service, attests to it being an ideal match to public sector business-critical activities, such as the integration of health and social care, or the efficient reuse of shared estate. It’s in these contexts, where reliable connectivity really matters, that the proven support and accountability model of govroam inspires the confidence.
“Building on our 15-year experience developing and operating the eduroam wi-fi service for the education sector, we can be certain that govroam can scale up as required and is reliable for the long term.”
Health and social care is certainly a key target area, suggested Jeremy Sharp, the Janet Network infrastructure director at Jisc. “There is certainly a lot of interest in health and social care, and also in disaster management services for local authorities. Multi-tenant buildings where you are seeing a significant presence of public sector organisations sharing with each other, including blue light services is also an area where we are seeing interest,” he said.
govroam’s subscription charges include a one –off boarding range and range from an individual organisation category (£1000 initial charge plus £300 per month) to a regional federation, a group of organisations under a single regional federation operator (£3000 initial charge, plus £700 per month) and a ‘super’ regional federation, which comprises more than 26 organisations (with a one off charge of £5,000 , plus £3,000 per month). A 5% discount is available in all three instances.
Both services have stressed their security strength. GDS says GovWifi meets all the requirements from GDS and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) for secure WiFi. govroam is currently conducting its own security engagement with NCSC. Officials point out that govroam is based on eduroam, which itself is “based on the most secure encryption and authentication standards in existence today. Its security by far exceeds typical commercial hotspots.”