How trusting are local authorities today with the cloud?

Cloud computing is a necessary direction for all in the public sector as directed by central Government.  In 2017, leading industry body TechUK issued a peer paper called ‘Building Local Government Trust in the Security of Cloud’.   In this, the widely held concern around security of cloud services was addressed, providing information, advice and specific messaging for local authorities.

The drivers of the shiny digital future underpinned by cloud computing were identified as:

• Internet of Things (IoT)
• Mobile applications
• Big data analytics
• Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The opportunity of cloud adoption is to enable ready access to computing platforms, ‘on demand’, creating efficiency and cost savings, with flexibility to allow for greater innovation, productivity and operational effectiveness.

A GovNewsDirect survey of 2016 did quote a growing concern over security of data in the cloud.  The counter was for organisations to use the cyber security tools, solutions and educational initiatives to introduce secure cloud computing and inform the user.

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)
Added to this, GDPR in May 2018 made all organisations sit up and take notice around effective management and processing of data for EU citizens. With penalties of 4% of global turnover or €20 million for any breach, a more thorough and diligent approach has added to the configuration considerations for cloud architecture and storage.

Accepting a half-way house to cloud?
For many public sector organisations, a full blown ascent to cloud migration is not feasible, often because of complexity around their legacy apps or workload types and the cost implications as the ROI for cloud is poor.  In this scenario, we are seeing and hearing greater noise around the hybrid cloud format, Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) solution.  This on-premise hybrid solution has garnered advocates in the public sector, as being a viable and desirable way forwards as part of their digital journey, better suited for workloads with higher GB volume where performance is needed.

Digital vision, a budget to transform – mixed with a healthy dose of reality
For even the most progressive Councils in England, the drive to digital transformation comes with various challenges.  Glyn Peach, Director of Digital Services & Corporate Programmes at Swindon Borough Council, commented to us: “As part of our Transformation Programme, Swindon has evolved a highly effective Software Defined Data Centre and we’ve made solid progress on front end citizen services, moving many services online and providing self-service capability.  But true end-to-end user integration is still a little way off.  We are seeing great opportunity in data analytics and assistive tech.  This is starting to have an impact through our ‘Community Navigators’ programme supporting Adult Social Care and using preventative technology which can identify the risk of isolation and spot abnormal behaviour that may indicate a problem for the elderly in our care homes in Swindon.  If we can more broadly implement interoperability opportunities and open systems, this will ultimately pave the way for common standards that in the long term will bring down the costs of new tech and save money for the tax payer”.

Helpful tools

Cloud journey checklist
• Ensure your cloud service meets your organisations’ needs aims and objectives securely.
• Understand what type of data is involved and what levels of assurance are required.
• Work with cloud providers who have their own independently audited compliance framework standards (eg. ISO27001, Cyber Essentials Plus etc.)
• Use the latest cloud security technology to solve issues or business problems (ie around remote working or revenues and benefits)

Is it safe?  What information do you want to share with the cloud?
The levels of data privacy and security from different providers will differ depending on the type of information you are sharing when using a cloud service.  Amicus ITS has a Cloud Services Framework for helping organisations determine their own path. Take a look at our Cloud Assessment

Glyn Peach added:  “While the IT department may not handle the physical infrastructure or management of Shadow IT applications and services, IT does carry the burden of ensuring security and compliance for the corporate data that employees create and transmit through Shadow IT sources.  This creates mixed feelings toward Shadow IT, as some enterprises are willing to embrace the innovation and increased productivity it can deliver, while others aren’t as willing to look past the increased risk of security and compliance complications of Shadow IT”.

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Councils moving their infrastructure to cloud is a positive first phase.  Embarking on the path of true digital transformation is a second, far larger project which requires input from everyone and requires a re-examination of the entire way of doing business.  It is exciting though and with both parts of the journey, relies on careful planning, a strong strategic vision, good leadership, buy-in from the board, plus trusted partnerships.  Firstly in fostering and directing the talent of inhouse IT teams and then identifying the areas where further support or specialist technological solutions are needed to drive higher performance, enablement and ROI, adding new frontiers of value that come with our brave world of tech.

Q What has been your experience of cloud migration?  Has your organisation been able to make the leap to digital transformation, or is this part of a longer strategy which has either started or is being planned?

 

The 53rd State of IT

epa05133258 A Union Jack flag flutters next to European Union flags ahead a visits of the British Prime Minister David Cameron at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, 29 January 2016. Cameron arived in Brussels for unscheduled talks on a Brexit referendum. EPA/LAURENT DUBRULE

Research has suggested that British technology companies are significantly in favour of remaining within the EU, but Matt Warman, Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness, told a debate about the UK’s digital future that if the sector was so passionate about that position, it should speak up and hope to influence public opinion.

“The tech community is very, very strong in the opinion [that technology] is global,” said Warman, who is also in favour of staying in the EU and is former consumer technology editor of The Telegraph and chair of the all-party parliamentary group For Broadband and Digital Connectivity.

“If you guys believe this stuff, get out there and say it. It’s a hard task for politicians because we are often not the most trusted people in the room.”

Tech and politics
He noted that US-based technology figures, such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg, hold strong political views as well, particularly with regards to the Republican party frontrunner Donald Trump’s hopes of becoming the next president of the USA.

Indeed, Box CEO Aaron Levie opened his keynote speech at an event in London last week to “apologise” for Trump’s views, which have proved divisive both at home and abroad. However Warman accepted that technology firms had to balance their political beliefs with commercial sensitivities.

“Businesses need to find a way to get it out there. They need to … publically say it rather than hope [the Referendum] goes one way.”

Industry support for EU
Research from industry body techUK suggest that 70% of its members want to stay in the EU, 15% want to leave and 15% don’t know. The majority support the UK’s membership because it makes the country more attractive to international investment, makes the UK more globally competitive and gives it a more favourable trading relationship with other members.

“There is a strong message from the tech industry that Europe is good for business. Tech leaders are clear that the UK needs to be holding the pen on the laws that affect their businesses,” said Julian David, techUK CEO.

“A vote to remain is a vote to ensure the UK voice is at the heart of policies that support the UK’s most innovative sector to continue to grow and create jobs. A vote leave would mean that the UK tech industry would lose its voice on the issues that matter most.”

Tech London Advocates surveyed its members and found that 87% of its members oppose Brexit (the Leave campaign), because they believe that membership of the EU boosts the UK economy by making it more attractive to international businesses looking to operate in Britain.

It seems that just 3% of respondents favoured the UK leaving the EU. The remaining 10% reportedly declined to express their opinion on the matter.

It is clear there is concern within the tech industry about the impact of losing access to the European market. The survey found that nearly three in four (71%) feel Brexit would make it harder to reach customers in EU countries, and threaten existing relationships with suppliers based in Europe.

And more than four out of five (81%) believe that Brexit would make it harder to employ people from EU countries.

“London has established a global reputation as the digital capital of Europe,” Russ Shaw, the founder of Tech London Advocates said. “There is significant concern within the digital community that Brexit would undermine this position and threaten relationships with the European market.

“Attracting international companies to the capital has been one of the great success stories of London’s digital economy,” said Shaw. “Brexit could see global businesses locating in emerging digital hubs in Berlin, Paris and Stockholm rather than London.”

Besides the above reasons, it seems that the London tech sector is not keen on the uncertainty that could be generated by a British exit.

“There are things I don’t agree with in the EU, but no can tell us what the alternative will be like,” said Michael Seres, founder, 11Health. “I have an investment round coming up and looking to hire 14 new people in the next 2 years, I can’t make those decisions if my access to markets and the regulation in this and those markets is unknown.”

Business Risk

“The business risk of leaving the EU is on balance too high,” said Nick Thomson, Chief Revenue Officer at Workshare. “The business risk of leaving the EU is on balance too high. Not just for us but for all businesses engaged in the sharing of data securely.”

And Thomson pointed out Europe’s role in tackling America over recent data protection concerns.

“As a large trading block the EU was able to secure the EU Data Protection Regulation against US pressure,” said Thomson. “The UK may well have to compromise this level of data to protection in the negotiation for its new trade concession from the US. Leading not only to less data security for people and businesses based in the UK, but also making it vastly more complicated to share data with the he rest of Europe – our main trading partners.”

There is a real possibility that the UK could vote to leave, as recent polls have suggested that almost seven in 10 pensioners want to leave the EU, while young people were more likely to be pro-European, but are less likely to cast a vote.

Thoughts

It is clear that the UK Referendum will have a potentially significant impact on IT and Data which is quickly becoming, and always should have been, the “crown jewels” of every company.    If you consider what transpired with Safe Harbour and with the European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) on the horizon, would the UK be in such a strong bargaining position outside the EU – or would we be caught in-between the US and the EU?

Added to this, the European GDPR will come into effect before the UK can legally depart the EU, so data controllers and data processors need to think ahead for this anyhow.   Let alone the question of what would the Data Protection and Handling Policy of the UK post referendum look like if we exited?

Technology is global.  Manufacturers are producing to global standards – and yet we still have geographic data protection regulations to adhere to.  Would a global data protection standard work?  Could nation states agree to subsume their local preferred interests against a global framework and would this mean watering it down to gain agreement?

What do you think?

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