Public sector ‘unprepared to provide huge cloud savings’

The public sector is largely unprepared and uncomfortable with cloud computing, with almost half collaborating through the post,  according to research released in advance of tomorrow’s Budget.

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to reveal more details of how government departments are expected to meet £13bn of savings previously announced.

But the research from enterprise cloud firm Huddle suggests that it would be unwise for him to put too much emphasis on savings from a cloud-first approach for computing platforms.

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Dods Research carried out a study of 5,000 public sector workers for Huddle, which found only a third (35%) are comfortable using cloud ICT.

Almost the same number (36%) say they haven’t used cloud computing before, with a quarter saying they lack confidence to use cloud computing.

“The public sector frontline is stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said Alastair Mitchell, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Huddle.

“On the one hand, staff are being asked to remove £13bn of spend, but on the other, the new cloud-based IT infrastructures that are key to a large proportion of these savings are not yet sufficiently understood or trusted enough to be widely deployed. UK government has to up the rhetoric on cloud benefits and training, else the cuts are simply not possible.”

The research found that within public sector ICT departments, 47% feel comfortable with cloud computing, although a quarter said they had never used them.

Security concerns were cited as a barrier to using cloud by 92% of respondents, with 85% identifying the time and effort required for migration and 83% worried about clashes with legacy technology.

According to the study, 43% of public sector employees still collaborate by printing documents and sending them in the mail, with 18% still relying on USB drives. “These behaviours are the antithesis of collaboration and efficiency,” said Mitchell.

“If cloud platforms are not trusted or believed to be beneficial, collaboration cannot take place, and so insecure and inefficient approaches to co-operation are filling the void.

“There’s no reluctance to collaborate – it’s just that staff are not yet convinced by the tools being offered to them, making it essential that UK Government provides more education on cloud platforms and their benefits.”

Socitm, the representative body for public sector ICT professionals said that many local public sector bodies are have yet to adopt digital approaches that provide the most plausible response to austerity.

‘We are perhaps only half-way through the journey that is austerity’, according to Nick Roberts, Socitm’s immediate past president.

In the foreword to a new report which looks at digital responses to austerity, he said: “The only way we can achieve the required organisational savings is to be radical and disruptive and force an organisation to work differently.

“Socitm believes it is the responsibility of the CIO and their team’s to identify these opportunities,” he said.

Colin Marrs

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