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Jisc launches govroam Wi-Fi access service



Education sector digital organisation says initiative should complement development of GovWifi by GDS

Higher education sector digital services organisation Jisc has launched a Wi-Fi service for public sector organisations that it says can provide “zero touch” access to local networks.

Named govroam, it has been based on the organisation’s existing eduroam service for the education sector, and enables public sector employees to immediately gain access to the WiFi network of a site that is equipped with the service. Its profile is installed on a device to ensure the connection is made automatically.

Mark O’Leary, the head of network access for Jisc, told UKAuthority that a significant number of sites are already using govroam, having taken part in the beta phase of its development. These include more than 250 in Kent, where it has been used in alignment with the Kent Public Services Network, and a similar number within the Yorkshire and Humberside Public Services Network.

It is also used in a few sites in London and other parts of the country.

“We’re working with third party providers to roll it out to about 1,700 sites in Kent,” he said, adding that the total in Yorkshire should ultimately be higher and that Jisc is talking to a range of other organisations about take-up. These include the Scottish Wide Area Network and authorities in Sussex, Hampshire and Suffolk.

“We’re splitting the implementation plans into healthcare, local government and blue light services, all with their own targets,” O’Leary said. “We’re most ambitious with health because there have been some positive discussions with NHS Digital, and I think we could get it into 15-20% of its potential sites in the first year.

“It’s more like 5-10% in local government and a bit below that in blue light.”

Price tags

The service is available through the G-Cloud framework and comes with price tags of £3,000 for individual organisations, £10,000 for multiple tenant bodies, and £36,000 for larger organisations.

In a podcast on Jisc’s website, O’Leary said: “We’re not anticipating the creation of a cash cow for Jisc. We’ve had public statements from our chief executive officer and chief technology officer saying it will not be an excess profit generating vehicle.

“If it goes beyond sustainability levels we will re-invest the excess or reduce the tariff.”

He added that the service could also support collaborative working in the public sector, with employees of different organisations being able to access Wi-Fi networks on each other’s sites. It is also technically compatible with eduroam.

Complementing GovWifi

The development of govroam has been running alongside the Government Digital Service’s (GDS) GovWifi project, which provides an automatic sign-in to networks in government buildings.This recently passed its beta assessment and is now being used at about 160 locations for about 12,000 transactions per day with forecasts of 20% monthly growth.

O’Leary said that Jisc has been working with GDS and that the two initiatives are complementary rather than in competition with each other.

“GovWifi is not just for staff roaming, but also to give the public connectivity at public sector venues,” he said. “It’s more of a hybrid between what we are doing and general connectivity.”

He said that govroam involves the employer organisation issuing the credentials to its staff. GovWifi enables users to send a text that requests the credentials, and on receiving them can log the device in to access to any of the buildings covered by the arrangement.

Image from mista stagga lee, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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