Councils see surge in device purchases during COVID-19

London Councils have bought more than 7,000 mobile devices to manage remote working

Posted 6 July 2020 by

London Councils have purchased a total of 7,792 new devices since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak to facilitate remote working, according to official figures obtained by Parliament Street Think Tank.

The data, released under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, revealed a surge in purchases of mobile phones, laptops, and tablets to enable council workers to continue operating remotely, while formal lockdown measures remain in place. 

Andy Harcup, VP at cybersecurity firm Absolute Software notes that while the surge in device purchases is necessary, it brings “significant security concerns”.

Top of the list for device purchases was Tower Hamlets council which bought a total of 2,063 new devices. This figure included 463 mobile phones and 1,600 laptops to enable employees to work from home since social distancing instructions were given by the Government.

“The rapid expansion of a device estate and dramatically increased remote working brings with it significant security concerns that should be acknowledged, as endpoints remain one of the most vulnerable attack surfaces today,” he said.

“This means it is imperative to have an unbreakable connection between the endpoint and the enterprise who distributed it – in order for InfoSec teams to know where devices are, if they have the right patches and updates installed, and whether the right security controls are in place and working effectively.”

Kingston & Sutton Council, which shares IT services, has made the second highest amount of purchases with an overall total of 1,147, of which 697 are laptops and 450 are mobile phones. Royal Greenwich council have invested in many devices, including 157 laptops, 123 tablet computers and 661 mobile phones. This is closely followed by Hounslow with a total of 858 bought so far.

Equipment in place

Interestingly, Richmond & Wandsworth council and Bexley council have not purchased any devices due to the outbreak, which suggests that they already have the appropriate equipment in place for remote working.

Additionally, Croydon council said it purchased 100 laptops but has not ordered any new tablets or mobile phones due to existing supplies in place.

The data shows that tablets have been purchased the least during this crisis (528) and that laptops have been in the highest demand with a total of 4,341 bought as well as 2,460 mobile phones sold to councils.

Overall, London councils also purchased 5,688 remote working software licences to help tackle the Coronavirus pandemic. Tower Hamlets buying the most, with 4,648 Office 365 accounts, presumably to help with staff communications and document creating or sharing during the outbreak. Croydon council also bought 177 Zoom accounts to allow for employee call meetings.