Features: July 8th, 2016

There is momentum driving a digitised public sector, but progress depends on continuing public trust that personal data is secure. In this article Paul Appleby stresses the importance of robust cyber security and discusses the learning available from the private sector.

Once a term used by the ‘in-the-know’ in the technology and IT services community, ‘digital transformation’ is now understood by most people in an era where we have ubiquitous access to data on multiple mobile devices. The impact that technology is having on our lives, and on the business community across all industries and sectors can no longer be ignored. The need to ‘digitise’ in order to survive and thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution has become a reality. But this mind-set and new approach should not just be confined to the private sector.

The UK government continues to make pledges to drive efficiencies, cost savings and innovation across various public sector departments. But what next? Can local councils, healthcare trusts and online services keep up with the pace of change and, more importantly, what lessons can be learnt from the private sector for successful digital transformation projects?

Avoiding ‘digital incompetence’- building momentum

According to Gartner, 25 percent of businesses will lose competitive ranking due to ‘digital incompetence’ by 2017. Whilst it’s not a matter of competition in the public sector, many local councils and healthcare trusts could soon find themselves in a similar strait, losing the trust of citizens who want fast, on-the-move and secure access to their data in today’s digital economy.

Significant inroads have been made in the past year to digitally transform the UK public sector. Earlier this year, the government pledged to spend £4bn in a drive to create a ‘paperless’ health service that would not only help doctors make faster diagnoses, but improve the overall patient experience.

We are on the verge of a new era of electronic records and online appointments and consultations. Furthermore, in 2013 the government announced the start of a sophisticated transformation programme, to make 25 major public services digital by default. These services included applications for student finance, civil claims and the ability to register to vote. The momentum behind an efficient and
digitised public sector is clearly there for all to see.

Security at the heart of the digital by default economy

Many high-profile private sector organisations such as The University of Greenwich, Sony Pictures and Vtech have suffered significant data breaches over the course of the last year, with sensitive customer information such as passwords being leaked online. Today’s most sophisticated hackers are not just looking for credit card details, but also for a wealth of personal data from which they can eventually use to steal a person’s identity. In the digital era, any personal information has value to someone.

As more organisations take the steps to digitally transform, it is vital that robust cyber security and a ‘not if, but when’ approach to data protection is fully implemented. The public sector must also be prepared to adopt this approach if it is to successfully protect a wealth of citizen data in our digital by default economy. Whether a private or public company- ‘digital incompetence’ can be avoided when the right cyber security measures are fully in place.

Data security must be at the heart of the paperless NHS and other online public services for the sustainability of our new digital by default society. IT decision makers within healthcare trusts, for example, must ensure that confidential patient data is encrypted and that mobile devices such as tablets and iPads are secured with the latest security software. Healthcare trusts should view such security measures not as a burdensome cost, but as a worthwhile investment that will improve and protect the overall patient experience for years to come. Moreover, a significant amount of time must be invested in training doctors, nurses and staff on how to use the latest mobile devices in the most secure manner possible.

The new era efficiency, security and convenience

Digital transformation will power both private businesses and public sector departments in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Our ‘digital by default’ society can enhance efficiency- allowing data to be shared and exchanged in the most streamlined way possible, and allowing customers and citizens to quickly access an array of services unlike ever before.

As long as robust data security is at the heart of any digital transformation initiative, all organisations in the public and private sector can retain customer and citizen trust, and continue to flourish in our new digital economy.

Paul Appleby is EVP of digital transformation at BMC Software