The biggest technology public sector trends in 2021

As we head into a new year, digital transformation will continue to be at the top of the agenda for public sector bodies. Here, Martin Riley identifies the biggest technological trends to impact the sector in 2021

In 2020, the public sector had to rapidly implement new technology, in order to adjust to heightened demand and a new way of working during Covid-19. Remote working technology, upgrading IT infrastructures and cyber security solutions all ensured the effective delivery of public sector services during the challenging period.

Now, as organisations look towards 2021, they will be looking at enhancing their technology solutions, to guarantee optimal, long-term results.  

Cloud platforms
Updating legacy IT systems and adopting cloud services will be at the top of any digital transformation agenda in 2021. This is because, the UK government’s Cloud First Policy details that organisations should evaluate cloud solutions first before any other option is considered across IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

A cloud based digital infrastructure allows some or all of an organisation’s applications and data to be hosted in a public, private, community or hybrid cloud platform. It allows businesses to digitise its processes whilst it also simplifies employees to access the organisation’s server and internal documents, from any location. The commercial flexibility and reliability of a cloud solution is particularly beneficial to the public sector, as it improves productivity and communication, helping to meet increased public service demand effectively.

To implement cloud technology, IT officers and managers will look to frameworks like the G-Cloud 12. The framework provides a comprehensive list of government approved suppliers that provide cloud solutions. This takes away the need to tender and creates a competitive marketplace of services, saving invaluable time and cost.  

SD-WAN capabilities
The public sector is increasingly adopting SD-WAN as a connectivity solution to support cloud capabilities and the growing demand in service requirements. Increased data usage and cloud-based applications can all overwhelm a WAN, leading to significant downtime if the solution is not executed properly.

An SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network) solution is the next generation of WAN technology. It is an overlay to an existing network that provides complete control and visibility regardless of where the traffic originates. But for the public sector, SD-WAN offers so much more than functionality. It provides accurate data that enables decision makers to steer the organisation towards greater efficiency, which in turn, reduces overheads and increases productivity. SD-WAN also enables organisations to flex to the new challenges and demand on services, many of which haves arisen from Covid-19.

Digital Citizen
Over the next year, any digital transformation within the public sector is likely to be deployed with the digital citizen in mind. The combination of modern technology and the tech-savvy user has meant that people are now accustomed to using technology devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and computers, to access information. In 2020, this became even more evident with appointments and meetings being arranged virtually due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

As organisations begin to break away from legacy systems, they will be able to implement modern systems that help people access government data online, provide confidential information and have more control around how they access public services. The technology will need to be underpinned by reliable and flexible security and connectivity solutions to ensure a seamless user experience.

Streamlining the process will also bring long-term benefits to public sector organisations. Enabling online systems where users can input their own information, will cut down admin and paperwork, saving both time and costs in the process.

Cyber security
Any digital transformation within the public sector needs advanced security solutions, to protect sensitive and confidential material as well as information provided by service users.

In 2021, cyber security will continue to be a vital consideration for many IT officers and managers. Threat actors will continue to target business systems, adapting their approach to benefit from change and disruption. For example, since the onset of Covid-19, 92 per cent of UK organisations have admitted to experiencing an increase in cyber attacks. Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly clever with targeting strategies, and employees working from home are more vulnerable to security threats.

Security solutions do not need to be heavy on the purse. IT solution providers can offer public sector organisations additional protection through providing, managed detection and response services, phishing prevention, web security protection and multi-factor authentication, all with a distributed workforce. Cloud based solution Microsoft 365 is also designed to give greater reliability by enabling users to share files and data securely.

There is no doubt that technology will continue to transform the public sector in 2021. With digital strategies centred around updating legacy systems and supporting communities, organisations will have the freedom and tools to focus on delivering much-needed public services effectively over the next few months.

Martin Riley is Chief Technology Officer at IT managed services provider and G-Cloud framework supplier, Timico.