6 May 2004
Today and tomorrow I’m meeting with other CIC Library IT Directors in Chicago. This afternoon the question of productivity use of PDAs and laptops led to a riff on the personal use of public university equipment. Some states (such as Ohio) have very strict ethics laws prohibiting the personal use of state equipment, and all our public universities face some degree of state restriction on such use. I find this amazingly shortsighted. The smaller devices get, the more they become, at heart, personal devices. For the state to go to the expense of buying this equipment, and then tell you that you may not integrate your life using it, is completely missing the point of the technology. Devices like PDAs and laptops, if they improve productivity at all, do so by allowing users to build their lives around the devices. An employee who can readily know what personal appointments are on their calendar or can quickly respond to their daughter’s email query about an evening ride to softball will be a more productive employee as surely as they will be a more balanced person. I understand the ethics concerns behind these restrictions, but can’t we find some way to encourage personal use of equipment as long as it does not interfere with the work purpose of the equipment?