Technology: an enabler of change for European governments

Posted on 18/02/2021 by vmwareemeasmt

Joachim Murat, Public Sector Industry Director, EMEA Civil Government, VMware 

Who’d be in government right now? For almost 12-months European leaders have been faced with the greatest challenge of our generation. One that has forced rapid changes to policy, process and protocol that would normally take months, if not years. All the time faced with massive uncertainty over an invisible enemy and with a requirement to balance personal safety with economic survival. Not a job for the faint hearted.

What has been largely universal is the shut down of countries (to varying degrees), which thrust the use of digital technologies to the fore as people of all demographics were forced online overnight for everything from socialising to shopping. A subject we have examined in detail  in a new report, MIT Executive Study Uncovers Top Government IT and Pandemic Resilience Trends.

Integral to indispensable

For all the politicking – both nationally and throughout Europe – the role of technology has been consistent from the outset. In March 2020 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief advisor, Dominic Cummings, invited technology CEOs from companies like; Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple to a Downing Street meeting. As he pitched it, ‘it’s big tech versus bad virus” so it’s been of little surprise to see technology at the core of everything from the track and trace response, key service delivery like food supplies and government messaging to name but a few.

Fast-forward (almost) a year and the role of technology has gone from integral to indispensable. When opening the 2020 Web Summit, the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen claimed ‘the pandemic has accelerated technological innovation’. Perhaps this is something of an understatement but, as a result, the EU has carved out a significant chunk of its new €1.8trn budget for the digital agenda and is pushing through numerous updates to its digital framework. In addition to the Digital Services Act, it plans a swathe of new legislation to target areas such as data sharing and the ethical use of artificial intelligence.

COVID crashing the glass ceiling

We’re about to see some major changes in regard to how government leaders boost constituent digital experiences as a result of the pandemic. Indeed, the MIT report found that 70% of government executives believe their digital transformation efforts have been accelerated by the pandemic. Because of the need to use technology to transact business and engage with constituents and other departments, COVID has been a catalyst for speeding implementation plans and broken the glass ceiling as ‘getting things done’ has become the norm. The report found that 84% of government executives intend to maintain or grow annual IT spending levels by continuing to invest in the adaptable technologies.

As governments introduce new digital services, we’re going to see a focus on protecting against cyberattacks and securing data and information – over half (51%) of those surveyed in the report are allocating more than 25% of their IT budgets to security and threat management. When you consider that global organisations saw a 148% spike in ransomware attacks early in the pandemic, it’s not hard to see why this is a priority for governments. Especially when you consider how much data is being driven from the cabinet to the server.

Expansion, investment, growth

Also seeing an acceleration is cloud adoption. On average, 10% of government applications were hosted in the public cloud prior to COVID-19. This number is expected to increase to 19% over the next 18 months. As well as improving data access and collaboration, the adoption of cloud will be critical to maintaining governance and compliance regulations, for example, patching apps to meet security or compliance requirements is critical for long-term success here. In fact, nearly four in ten government respondents (36%) want to see an accelerated adoption of cloud-based platforms that support modern application development.

And Cloud is just one area of expansion and investment. An impressive majority (67%) of government IT leaders indicated that they have expanded agile practices and continuous delivery methods due to COVID-19, key to which has been investment into infrastructure efficiency through; adopting modern development platforms (36%), leveraging intrinsic security (36%) , expediting cloud services adoption (31%) and moving to a multi-cloud strategy (25%). All of which goes hand-in-glove with improving remote working environments. On average, government workforces saw a 13% spike in the number of employees regularly working remotely during COVID-19. Despite some agencies already having robust teleworking policies with data protection, formalising or expanding work-from-home policies is a number one priority (56%) when it comes to future IT investments for the government.

We as a business continue will continue to enable, drive and support cloud innovation and adoption, and are also a day-1 member of GAIA-X AISBL, created to support Europe‘s next generation of data infrastructure, while meeting the highest standards of digital sovereignty while promoting innovation. Our belief in the power of partnering and open innovation that connects data and services is a natural complement to the European data services agenda.

The Cs of change

The playing field has changed – and that’s a good thing. Governments that are not always considered the nimble, early adopters of technology have had their hand forced. Historically challenges of procurement and red tape may not have been shed in perpetuity but both citizens and governments alike have seen what can happen when best-in-breed technology is not seen as ‘just another sector’ but an enabler of change.

But success long term will rely on the three Cs of collaboration, communication and continuation to capitalise on the learnings from this pandemic. Perhaps this is the watershed moment and the beginning of the innovative, responsive and reflective governments we all want.

Download your copy of the MIT Technology Review Insights report here.

For more information on how VMware can help your vision of government become a reality, please contact Joachim Murat, Director of Civilian Government in EMEA here.

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