The Department of Parliamentary Services will allow iPad users to access full desktop and internal IT services under a pilot project commencing today.
The test expands an iPad trial running within the department since February. About 40 iPads are used at various levels in the department.
It is anticipated that the trial could lead to Federal Parliament officially supplying the tablet devices to parliamentarians, rather than just supporting those who bring their own devices.
Parliamentary librarian Roxanne Missingham revealed the desktop and system access trial as an extension of the existing iPad project.
Missingham said that the department would test ways of providing resources such as the Parliamentary Handbook to iPad users. She hinted that apps may be developed to facilitate access.
Secure document access
Appearing before a budget estimates committee today, Missingham fielded questions from senators looking to access parliament's secure e-document dissemination system, CommDocs, on their iPads.
One workaround raised by senators on the panel was to email documents to each other. That could put unnecessary strain on the email system, the committee heard.
Deputy secretary David Kenny said the department was also close to implementing a solution that will allow senators to access multiple email accounts - parliamentary and personal - on their iPads.
"We've found a technical solution that we're looking at road-testing to make sure it can be implemented," he said.
iPhones or BlackBerrys?
Senators were keen to see whether the department will consider ditching BlackBerry devices for iPhones for corporate email access.
Last week, BlackBerry maker RIM faced its worst outage in 12 years, affecting the BlackBerry service in Europe, the Middle East, India, Africa, Canada, Latin America and the US.
Kenny said although parliamentarians received BlackBerrys because the Department of Finance had a contract with RIM, there were "strong technical ... usability... and functional reasons" to explore the supply of iPhone devices instead.