December 29, 1997 in Nation/World

Work Is No Place For Games, Batt Says State Computer Managers Shred Workers’ Unauthorized Software

Associated Press
 

Those who got computers for Christmas are trying out all the bells and whistles, but Gov. Phil Batt wants to ensure it is business as usual for state government’s 12,000 PCs.

Online games, brokerage houses, fantasy football leagues and video strip shows are off-limits under his Oct.

30 policy.

It is a three-strikes approach, with the third offense being grounds for dismissal. State agencies are shedding extraneous software - even unauthorized screen-savers that occupy idle computer monitors.

Also prohibited are any political activities, promotions for charitable events and excessive e-mail.

State computer managers have not started installing Net Nanny or other Internet site-blocking software, but they are not ruling it out.

Batt thinks too many people are playing games on taxpayer time.

“The governor felt that wasn’t a very professional image for the state to have,” Batt spokesman Lindsay Nothern said.

“It’s not an issue,” replied Jerry Rasavage, executive director of the Idaho Public Employees Association.

Governments across the country are installing software to monitor their cyber-surfing workers. It won’t be long before Idaho agencies can produce a list of the 500 most frequently visited World Wide Web sites.

Many will be business-related. But if state workers are like employees elsewhere, many sites will be off the work track.

“There is a great concern with the adult sites, but the vast majority of sites people might go to are different from that,” said Miles Browne, project team manager of Batt’s Information Technology Resource Management Council, which is turning Batt’s order into state policy. “The issue isn’t so much where they’re going as it is using time someone else paid for.”

Browne likened desktop computers to telephones equipped with speed-dial functions. Check a work phone’s speed-dial list, he said, and there will be numbers for home, the weather, ski reports or a stockbroker.

“More than anything, it’s a time issue,” Browne said.

He said Idaho is not on a “search-and-destroy mission” to purge games from its computers, but it will erase them as computers are maintained.

“We don’t want to take away the creativity. We don’t want to stifle that,” Browne said. “And yet, they need to be doing state work.”

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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