The public sector has seen a massive increase in the use of cloud services. Gartner predicts that Global End-User Spending on Public Cloud Services is soon expected to exceed $480 billion globally. (1) This has the potential to change public sector operations as we know them. Our CTO Mark Skelton looks at the forces driving change, the impact on the public sector, as well some of the key challenges.
Multiple factors have driven the increase in spending. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic massively affected the spending requirements of the public sector when technology spending increased in direct response. Brexit has also played its part as delays at customs, and the additional costs from meeting separate regulatory regimes in the UK and the EU has prompted many tech leaders to consider shifting closer to the cloud.
The benefits are far-reaching including:
Fast-tracking Net Zero
As the public sector looks at ways to rebound, supply chain issues linked to both the pandemic and Brexit have resulted in the slowing of the production of technology components, including essential equipment for data centres. This combined with the new Government Net Zero Strategy (2) mandate of green initiatives across the sector has prompted a further acceleration towards using cloud.
For many, this has provided the much-needed catalyst for kick-starting digital transformation projects. Some reports suggest migrations to the Cloud can reduce CO2 emissions by 59 million tons per year which equates to taking 22 million cars off the road, positioning cloud firmly at the starting line of sustainability efforts. (1)
A Better Citizen Experience
We are seeing the biggest accelerated use of cloud in areas where it will directly affect patient and citizen experience. As Government and governing bodies prioritise spend, tech investments must be evaluated against efficiency as well as their impact on the health and wellbeing of the country.
The pandemic has driven a need for public sector organisations to think differently and deliver technology solutions at a much faster pace. The shift to cloud has occurred because traditional models were no longer able to keep up and deliver the outcomes required. By contrast, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) models can be turned on and configured with minimal effort and cost. This is particularly beneficial for areas of the public sector that witness rapid change, for example in healthcare where new treatments are trialled, and patient numbers and staff needs are in constant flux.
An Evergreen IT Strategy
Historically, underfunding in the public sector has left many struggling to keep legacy applications up to date. Consequently, there is a large amount of technical debt to eradicate. The adverse impact of this debt has been highlighted with the rise in cyber security threats targeting underfunded organisations. This has led to a large-scale transfer of applications and infrastructures being moved to the cloud where security technologies are more robust, accessible, and due to the fluidity of cloud, faster to deploy.
In addition, the critical nature of the public sector systems means there is no room for any downtime; cloud technologies help to minimise risk and maintain critical system availability, especially for the continuity of patient care.
Stretching Resources Further
Digital is key to helping manage the increased volume of work in overstretched areas of the public sector such healthcare. Increasingly technologies such as AI, Machine learning, and Robotics have the potential to transform the patient experience - making initiatives such as remote surgery, with surgeons operating on a patient on the other side of the world, a day-to-day reality.
Using technology in this way could solve resourcing issues as well as health inequalities for the estimated 5 billion people globally who cannot access safe surgery. All of this technology is made possible using cloud infrastructure as the backbone for connecting the surgeons with the operating theatres.
With future innovations using tech such as IoT and sensors, healthcare organisations will be able to provide better patient care targeted towards the people that need it. But consolidating data across complex environments can be challenging, which is why initiatives to centralise data, for example in electronic patient records (EPRs) such as EPIC will be key to creating a better-connected healthcare system across different areas.
Furthermore, having connected data sets is critical to underpinning Machine Learning and AI initiatives, and will not only pave the way for better healthcare but better services across the public sector - from smarter cities to better public safety, to less congested roads, to less pollution.
Opportunities and challenges
- Public versus Private Cloud - The public cloud may be the focus of many solutions, but not all applications and data will work within the constraints of public cloud platforms. For this reason, we are seeing a large increase in the need for hybrid cloud solutions. These solutions offer the best of both worlds thanks to the mix of physical data centre and cloud and will allow organisations to have more control over their applications and data to meet strict data sovereignty and compliance requirements. We also find that the private offerings in hosting providers’ data centres are often more capable when it comes to supporting legacy systems where they are not supported in the public cloud. This gives public sector organisations more options to manage their technical debt.
- The Pace of Change - The UK public sector has had a massive injection of funding to accelerate the pace of technology change to keep up with global issues such as pandemics and climate change. Cloud solutions, if designed correctly, can provide greater operational performance and uptime. This is because of the vast amount of funding and development hyperscale providers invest in their platforms.
The rate of change will, however, be challenging for IT teams as many technologies will be brand new and there will be a steep learning curve regarding how to manage these platforms operationally. This is where technology providers like Telefónica Tech can help accelerate the change, smooth out the skills shortages and collaborate as a trusted partner to provide comprehensive, integrated technology services
Why work with a cloud expert
To avoid cost escalation, many applications used in the public sector require specialist knowledge. As a specialised cloud and managed service provider within the public sector, we can help you identify your goals, then help you to thrive in the cloud.