The government is to trial a public-sector WiFi standard that would enable workers to connect to any public authority WiFi network automatically, V3 has learned.
The project, called PSNRoam, is being led by Surrey County Council, and could see the creation of a new government standard that would allow any device with the relevant certificate to access any public sector organisation’s WiFi network.
Nick Roberts, the group IT manager for Surrey County Council and president of Socitm, told V3 about the project, explaining it could offer numerous benefits.
“[PSNRoam] is enabling connectivity, which is a bit like internet cafe-style connectivity, over corporate WiFi infrastructure, where traditionally you can’t easily get in – you’ve got to get a certification or WiFi password,” he said.
“This way you get a certificate on the device, so it’s a trusted device, and that gives you access over another person’s corporate infrastructure – so another government agency or local authority – and routes you to your home network.”
Surrey is leading the project with backing from the Cabinet Office and other local authorities, as Roberts explained. “We’re the first authority to adopt this, doing it in conjunction with the Cabinet Office” he said. “We’re also working with a couple of borough councils in Surrey so that we can test it between ourselves, because you need more than one.”
Currently the servers needed to run the service are in place. They are owned by the Cabinet Office, but managed by the same team behind the existing EduRoam system, which provides similar WiFi access for those at universities.
Roberts said that at present the project is on the verge of going live with just one ‘piece of the jigsaw’ left to sort before it will be up and running.
“The configuration is on the access points so PSNRoam presents itself as an available hotspot, but then if you route through to your local network the certification doesn’t kick in,” he said.
“It just needs a bit of work to make that handshake come online and then it will be up and running. It’s proven techonlogy.”
Roberts said once the first part of the pilot is live he hopes to extend it by getting a few more organisations on board to help prove its value. “It’s quite powerful,” he added.
If the pilots do prove successful they could lead to the creation of a new standard that would enable any public authority to provide WiFi access.
The final call on whether the PSNRoam will become a set standard is with the Cabinet Office, as funding will be required to get it up and running.
V3 asked the Cabinet Office for its stance on the project, but it said it would not comment yet. Furthermore, since V3 asked the Cabinet Office about PSNRoam, a public-facing website about the project has been taken down.
Nevertheless, Roberts said he is hopefully the project will go-ahead: “I firmly believe it’s an excellent model for government because it takes the internet cafe concept and makes it possible to connect over secure internet infrastructure,” he said.
“If you want to just switch on and get working, or you’re part of a multi-disciplinary team that works together three hours a week, it makes it seamless [to get online] and there isn’t an easy way to do that as yet.”