2018 proved a whirlwind of a year for the public sector, with technology solutions being core to our preparation for Brexit, new GDPR legislation changing people’s perceptions of data and ambitious leadership in the form of the new, digitally savvy, Health Secretary (Matt Hancock) and new Ministry of Defence CIO (Charles Forte). That’s a great foundation for why I think 2019 will be an even better year for public sector tech.
1. People-powered health will drive innovation
The healthcare industry is one of the most challenging to transform, thanks to the huge number of legacy systems, combined with criticality of data in healthcare delivery. It’s no surprise, then, that citizens are taking matters into their own hands. From fitness apps to full-on biohacking, people are increasingly becoming empowered to engage with their own health. Individuals are coming together, using tech platforms to share not only their own health experiences but also their data.
What this means is that, as digitally-empowered patients rise in 2019, so will patient data. This could prove a bonus for the NHS, as more patient data can be harnessed for research, resulting in a much more informed and tailored health service. However, storing this data appropriately will be of utmost importance to ensure its ready availability and protection against malicious intent.
To achieve this, a complete cloud-focused culture shift must take place within the NHS. Just consider the process of version control when managing millions of electronic patient records, integrating social and health care information, and developing the infrastructure to connect the countless health and social care settings. .
Clearly, cloud computing has already changed the way citizens engage with their own health, as consumer apps are cloud-native. For the next stage, the interconnected nature of cloud computing can bring efficiency and improve the patient experience across the NHS, creating and promoting knowledgeable communities of experts working together to help save more human lives.
What does 2018 hold for public sector tech?
2. Diversity will help plug the cyber security skills gap
Critical national infrastructure is the backbone of the country’s security and economy, and it’s becoming increasingly digitally dependent. Undeniably, new cyber threats arise every day, and so the cyber security capability gap remains a pervasive problem that risks only getting worse. From a cyber security perspective, intelligence sharing is vital to combat threats — whether from nation-state actors or mercenary cyber criminals — to safeguard our modern critical infrastructure.
As just one example, there’s no doubt that the NHS can’t afford another WannaCry. To make matters worse, a cyber threat to national infrastructure is as immediate as any other type of threat facing the country. As such, a multi-pronged approach is required to enable the good folk to keep ahead of the cyber criminals.
First of all, organisations will continue to up-skill current workers, such as re-training IT staff, ex-services personnel, and ex-civil service call centre workers. We will also see rising higher education fees being combated with technology-focused apprenticeship schemes, along with inspiring young digital natives by encouraging local coding clubs.
Finally, we will see a step-change investment to develop our specialist cyber security community such as the proposed Cheltenham Cyber Park. The UK is home to some world-leading cyber companies that support the Social Value Act, while the likes of the GCHQ Cyber Accelerator are vital to incubate the next generation of home-grown cyber startups. With the right approach, the UK could cement its position as a knowledge powerhouse, irrespective of the uncertainty of Brexit.
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3. Sharing UK knowledge will be more important than ever for collaboration
Across the world, the newly fragmented geopolitical landscape means that sharing information among nations is more important than ever. If Brexit constrains how we share information with our European partners — for example, the UK universities and UK research community with their European counterparts — then it becomes much harder to collaborate and innovate.
Even within the UK, there is a clear need to connect the various capabilities across our public sector in order to deliver better services to citizens, business, patients and the heroes that deliver front-line public services. We’re already seeing social care workers collaborating better with NHS staff. And we need to see our police and security services sharing knowledge more effectively in order to keep our nation safe.
Consequently, 2019 will see greater collaboration within the public sector in order to deliver better public services. To this end, cloud services will prove a key enabler for technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning — pivotal for optimising our data-driven insights.
4. Conversations will change about cloud ROI in the public sector
The conversation will change about how cloud projects deliver ROI back into public sector organisations. Cloud has delivered impressive ROI for its greenfield projects, whereby new systems are built from the ground up to take advantage of cloud (although we’ll increasingly see the issue of ‘budget sprawl’ driven by the hidden costs inherent to the global public cloud platforms). However, we need to reach beyond the low-hanging fruit. Greenfield projects still account for the minority of public sector IT spend; more than 80% is still tied up in expensive and inefficient legacy operations that are inhibiting digital transformation.
Consequently, in 2019, it’ll be vital to modernise legacy technology without negating existing investments in skills, tools, and systems – we mustn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Cloud providers must expand their capabilities in order to deliver a lower total cost of ownership to the vast majority of public sector organisations that are yet to take their first steps towards digital transformation. To this end, a multi-cloud environment that’s familiar and flexible is the where organisations will derive the most value — and we will see a clear framework emerge as to how this is adopted across the public sector.
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In an exclusive with Information Age, Frank Krieger -vice president, Governance, Risk and Compliance at iland – answers some of the key questions that explain how cloud adoption is evolving in the UK. Read here
5. Data privacy will dominate cloud concerns
By now, it’s clear that the conversation has moved on from whether or not cloud is secure, to whether cloud-enabled services such as Facebook and external providers can be trusted with the privacy of their users. May will be the first birthday of one of the biggest changes to data privacy in over two decades — and 2019 will see the first serious GDPR fines, following what would have been a series of warnings in the previous year to the culprits in question.
In 2019, then, we can ask: what impact has the regulation had on the public sector? How far have organisations actually come? And with companies such as Apple and Microsoft adopting its principles internationally, what will its potential global impact on data security be — especially when it comes to information-sharing between nation states? Comparisons with the US CLOUD Act will have to be made, as there are elements of harmony and conflict between both legislations. The true level of the latter has yet to be seen — to be played out next year in courtrooms.
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While we’re still waiting for answers, the best approach is a hybrid cloud strategy that clearly defines which data can be stored in global cloud services, and what should be stored in data centres operated by European providers.
Certainly, 2019 looks set to bring even more innovation than its predecessor. To ensure that such technology is genuinely transformational, public sector organisations must work with expert specialist providers, which have had proven success in providing not only cutting-edge technology solutions but also to address the burden of existing and legacy IT systems which threaten to constrain the pace of digital transformation.