The light and shade of public sector IT deployment

Public sector employees are turning to shadow IT if they don’t have the tools they want, warns Laurent Marini, Orange Business Services

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The light and shade of public sector IT deployment Research from the US shows that public sector workers are using many more cloud services than their IT departments are aware of, says Marini.
By  Laurent marini Published  March 17, 2017

The public sector has faced some tough challenges during the recent age of austerity. Demanding, technologically-proficient stakeholders — staff, citizens, businesses, visitors — have developed increasingly high service expectations that had to be met with lower budgets. eGovernment has proved it can rise to the challenge; firstly, by transforming and automating business processes to make operations more efficient. Secondly, it provides brand new services to citizens, such as secure online services on all kinds of devices. And thirdly, it gives staff the tools to be more efficient in their day-to-day activities.

Governments have been able to deliver a higher level of service to stakeholders, while reducing operating costs and delivering a strong return on investment for public institutions. In fact, for over two decades eGovernment services have been offered by many government bodies at national level, in European institutions and worldwide bodies, like Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

These services have developed from modernizing processes, installing secure and robust connectivity, providing secure cloud computing and running online services to deploying open data strategies, for all categories of public businesses, from taxation and defence to employment and healthcare.

Digital transformation is rolling out across the administrations of governments in high-growth markets, including automating manual processes with information systems and developing online services on popular channels, such as mobile platforms.

It takes a consultative approach to identify how eGovernment can meet specific challenges and to develop the end-to-end solutions that cover the full service lifecycle from development to deployment, hosting, support and maintenance. With a multi-channel focus, eGovernment tools can support public service delivery over a wide range of media, including online, mobile, telephone and IVR.

It also puts the tools into public sector worker hands that help them become more efficient, from integrated geo-localized camera phones for road maintenance crews to secure diplomatic connectivity for traveling ministers.

But there’s a darker side to eGovernment, where IT lurks in the shadows.

If IT departments don’t take action and start providing the services that public sector users need when they need them, and secure them properly, then the problem of shadow IT will not go away.

Shadow IT has become a major problem in the public sector as users move to cloud services to carry out their day-to-day work in government administration. Research from Skyhigh Networks found that 742 cloud services were being used in the average public sector organisation, which is around ten times more than the IT department expects. The research is based on actual anonymized usage data from over 200,000 users in the public sector in the US and Canada.

The most popular cloud services are collaboration (eg Microsoft Office 365), followed by development (eg Sourceforge, GitHub), file sharing (eg Dropbox) and content sharing (eg YouTube). Although some of these applications are enterprise-grade, many users bring their consumer applications into the organization. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top three of these are Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Although most users have the best of intentions, the use of shadow IT is a serious problem for the public sector. In fact, research shows that US government agencies estimate that nearly one-third of the data they host can’t actually be moved to the cloud, because of security or data sovereignty issues. The public sector faces similar restrictions within the EU, particularly around data protection and data location issues.

Many cloud services don’t even meet the basic levels of security required for enterprise use. Skyhigh looked at over 10,000 cloud services and calculated that only 9% of them achieved the Enterprise-Ready CloudTrust rating from the Cloud Security Alliance. And some of the cloud services in use in the public sector are clearly high-risk. The top ten of these — according to data uploaded — include Smallpdf, LiveLeak and FilePi.

The public sector needs to take action to prevent shadow IT causing a serious security breach. There also needs to be a change in public sector IT departments around attitudes towards cloud services, because despite the enthusiasm at the highest levels of government, 89% of public sector IT professionals  report that they “feel apprehension” about moving to the cloud.

The simple fact is that users will turn to cloud because they find government computing procurement too slow. Research has found that 54% of Federal agencies in the US say they are not able to acquire IT resources quickly enough.

Laurent Marini is Managing Director, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain, Orange Business Services.

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