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Paving the way towards the 'Cloud first' digital mandate

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More than three years ago the government announced its 'Cloud first' digital mandate for the public sector, with the aim of boosting businesses through increased savings and efficiencies.

Fast forward to 2016 and although many public sector organisations have embraced the Cloud and the numerous benefits it brings, a recent FOI request has shown the mandate hasn’t been adopted by as many organisations as hoped. Shockingly, two fifths of councils across the UK have no Cloud strategy in place at all, which is as far removed from a Cloud first approach as possible.

Why certain sections of the public sector have been so slow to adopt the cloud isn’t clear, especially when you consider the vast benefits the industry would gain. Currently, the sector is largely fragmented. Existing silos complicate collaboration between departments which should be working closely together to add value and deliver the best possible service levels.

The benefits of this type of collaboration are already being felt by consumers applying for a driving license. Previously, people needed to fill-in large amounts of questions either online or by hand and submit this to the DVLA. However, now the department’s IT has been synchronised with the Passport office, this process is largely automated. Instead of users spending precious time filling in information already available to other departments, the vast majority of the data is automatically entered from the Passport Office’s records. It is this type of collaboration which should be rolled out across all government departments.

It doesn’t seem this has been a priority however, as local government departments run on separate IT systems to their central government counterparts for example. The issue is widespread and clearly it will remain so until the public sector begins to appreciate the benefits of Cloud technology.

However, change is afoot, as the Public Sector Network (PSN) is continually improving to offer a platform which helps public sector organisations collaborate and share resources. Not only will this increase operational efficiency but will directly support compliance to the ‘Cloud First’ mandate through the availability to access Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions via it.

IaaS virtualises computing processes and can therefore offer a single dynamic platform which each public sector department can use as a basis for collaboration. Simultaneously, as the infrastructure is managed externally by the service provider, departments can focus on adding value to service users, rather than fighting IT disruption internally.

It also removes the pressure felt during peak times. For example, when the demand for passport renewals inevitably increases in the build-up to the summer months, the Passport Office’s external IT system can deal with the sheer volume of enquiries. Without this, it’s likely employees will either have to work longer hours or the time taken to renew passports will increase.

It’s time for public sector organisations to accept the Cloud into their way of life and the PSN has a key role to play in this step-change. Operating on a central network which facilitates cross-department collaboration will increase internal productivity vastly and, more importantly, offer a service which adds more value to the end-user. The ‘Cloud First’, consumer first era is upon us.

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