The opportunities for digital transformation in the public sector are significant. Market and technological advancements have opened up possibilities that were considered too difficult in the past, all of which is hugely exciting for those charged with improving services.
But for IT leaders in this sector, delivering technology innovation is still a challenge. Public sector organisations need to have the right connectivity infrastructure in place – and historically, access to that infrastructure has come at a prohibitively high price.
Greater bandwidth, robust reliability: priorities for the public sector
With the rise of data-intensive services, the days of a 10Mbps connection being sufficient are long gone. Connectivity requirements are rapidly moving from 100Mbps to 1000Mbps, or even 100Gbps, and achieving this demands a foundation of reliable infrastructure. Many public sector IT leaders must seriously consider whether their current set-up can deliver.
Rising consumer demands are also affecting what they do. Citizens’ expectations are changing and the demand for digitised public services is getting stronger. That means greater bandwidth is a must, which necessitates extensive fibre infrastructure to support those growing capacity demands.
But bandwidth is only one corner of the triangle. The public sector also has huge reliability and delivery responsibilities, as essential services simply can’t go dark on users. When services do fail, organisations may find themselves hitting the papers for all the wrong reasons, which isn’t the sort of press any IT leader wants to be responsible for.
Adding to this pressure, public sector bodies work across multiple sites and need to provide the same experience at each. Universities often have hundreds of sites (and thousands of data-hungry students), while local authorities may be spread out among regional offices. And of course, healthcare is becoming increasingly reliant on IT systems that straddle multiple teams and organisations.
IT leaders will quickly come under fire if they fail to deliver reliable connectivity across all of these locations. So, network design, diverse connections, building entry points, fibre routing, switchover times or single point of failure analysis considerations are more important than ever. IT leaders will need to work carefully through these with credible providers to be successful in this endeavour.
Grappling with costs
There’s also a final pressure. All of this comes at a cost and public sector budgets are invariably under strain. The harsh reality is that improving connectivity has historically come at a significant cost, making it incredibly difficult to balance all three of these requirements: if you want fast and reliable, it won’t be cheap.
As a result, many IT leaders have been left feeling that the cost of network investment is too prohibitive for any serious improvements to be made. Especially when there are so many other priorities to juggle. But significant change is in the air, driven by three main factors.
- Fibre technology has advanced significantly, driving down the costs of better services.
- Competition has increased, and new entrants are causing existing providers to fight for market share.
- Ofcom has ‘persuaded’ Openreach to undertake a number of significant and quite fundamental changes, including price reductions, Infrastructure availability and dark fibre to remote exchanges.
All of this has driven costs down, meaning IT decision makers will be pleasantly surprised by the economics of investing in better connectivity. It’s simply a case of making sure they work with a network partner who can offer economies of scale and match the rapidly changing market dynamics.
Driving the public sector’s connected future forward
Working as an IT leader in the public sector will always be an incredibly challenging, complex role. From budget constraints to complex procurement processes, making change happen is rarely straightforward, and delivering the services of the future involves a balancing act between what’s required and the funds available.
Yet for all the challenges involved, achieving this balance is not impossible – it’s simply a case of working alongside the right strategic partners, with the right network capabilities, and the ability to offer quality infrastructure at fair prices. In doing so, IT leaders can square the triangle of greater bandwidth, higher reliability, and cost – enabling them to fulfil their organisation’s digital transformation ambitions and provide people with better experiences of public services.