Innovation and changeDigital TransformationThe time has come: digital transformation in the public sector

The time has come: digital transformation in the public sector

Cloud technology, smart data management and DevOps could all help reaping the rewards of digital transformation in the public sector, says Brian Chidester, Senior Industry Strategy Lead, Public Sector, OpenText

Whilst 2018 was clearly a whirlwind year for the public sector – with Brexit negotiations, the GDPR legislation compliance deadline and the NHS 10-year plan taking centre stage – it was also a time of rapid disruption in terms of IT systems and processes.

Public sector organisations are some of the largest producers, collectors and consumers of information in the world. As a result, data has swiftly become the lifeblood of their operations. Yet historically they have been left behind when it comes to digital technologies – and the benefits that they provide – as private sector enterprises utilise their bigger budgets to pull ahead.

However, all that is about to change. Figures released last year revealed that UK public sector spend on digital, data and technology services has surpassed £3.2bn since 2012. It appears that IT is not only firmly on the agenda; it’s set to become even more of a priority moving forward.

But what are the key technology trends accelerating digital transformation in the public sector and shaping the future IT landscape?

A new ‘Cloud Smart’ era

Cloud adoption is now prevalent within the public sector. In 2013, the UK government announced it had adopted a ‘Cloud First’ policy for public sector IT. Since then, local and central government, healthcare services, police forces and education establishments have all started to reap the rewards of adopting cloud technologies. In fact, recent research from the Cloud Industry Forum revealed that 82 per cent of public sector organisations are now partaking in some form of cloud adoption. And is it any wonder? When budgets are tight, and resources are scarce – as they often are in the public sector – cloud provides a cost effective, reliable solution. It improves service delivery and, most of all, it is secure. And its popularity is only set to increase.

According to a recent Gartner report, analysts predict a double-digit growth in government use of public cloud services. It is also believed that government spending on cloud will grow on average 17.1 per cent per year through to 2021. But what comes next?

It’s likely that over the next year, we’ll see a shift from ‘Cloud First’ to ‘Cloud Smart’ in the UK. Whilst initially a US government strategy, ‘Cloud Smart’ is the next logical step for governments around the globe. It will help public sector organisations to make sound decisions in order to drive modernisation, by focusing on the integration of cloud security, procurement and workforce strategies. Now that cloud is the ‘new normal’ for the public sector, it’s time to think about how it can be utilised even more effectively.

Keeping pace with IoT and data overload

The explosion of IoT has affected every organisation – regardless of sector.

Your laptop, your mobile phone, even your watch or home security system, every single IoT product produces millions of data files at an ever-accelerating rate. And the reality is that this won’t slow down any time soon. In fact, advancements in technology – such as machine learning – will only add to the reams and reams of data being produced. Recent research from SINTEF suggests that IoT devices and platforms will produce over 40,000 exabytes of machine-generated data by 2020.

Data management and storage systems need to not only be able to cope with the colossal amounts of data being produced right now, they also need to continue scaling to keep up with future demands.

Private sector organisations have often seen this data explosion as an opportunity to transform operations and improve efficiency – basing many strategic and tactical decisions on the insights gleaned from data analysis. And so too can those in the public sector, through smart city initiatives.

IoT and smart cities promise increased flexibility and creative solutions for both national and regional governments, as well as other public sector organisations. If cities can utilise the data produced from IoT networks in an effective – or ‘smart’ – way, the possibilities are endless.

It’s predicted that, by the end of 2019, 40 per cent of local and regional governments will be using IoT to turn infrastructure like roads, streetlights and traffic signals into assets. By using data to analyse performance, public sector processes will be able to continually improve and further extend tax revenues – giving citizens more for their money and providing public sector organisations with effective and future-proof strategies towards digital transformation in the public sector.

DevOps and better collaboration

A relatively new strategy, DevOps has the power to enable a more agile methodology. Organisations can use it to break down the barriers and siloes between various departments in order to improve collaboration. Other tangible benefits include substantial cost savings and increased productivity through automation.

Yet, for many years, DevOps has been the sole territory of private sector organisations, with the public sector much slower in its adoption. But why, when there is so much to gain from it for the digital transformation in the public sector?

Organisations operating in the public sector often face challenges adopting new technologies, primarily due to budget restrictions or the government’s ‘late adopting’ culture. In many ways, DevOps encourages organisations to flip their risk profiles upside down and trust an iterative process.

Despite this, digital transformation is well and truly here within the public sector and so DevOps will inevitably play an increasingly important role moving forward for the digital transformation in the public sector.

The innovative technologies that have long been adopted by the private sector are finally becoming more widely available and more easily accessible. Cloud technology, smart data management and DevOps could all help to alleviate the resourcing challenges that the public sector faces, while opening the door to a whole new – digital – world of possibilities. The time has come to start reaping the rewards of digital transformation in the public sector.

About the author

Brian Chidester is Senior Industry Strategy Lead for Public Sector at OpenText

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