Public sector IT predictions for 2017
Imran Razzaq, public sector business lead at MarkLogic looks into his crystal ball and discusses the year’s likely trends
IT departments will embrace the concept of software re-use and leverage existing technologies and solutions such as public cloud
Software re-use, using fewer solutions and focusing on tried and tested solutions are some of the cornerstones of the Cabinet Office’s six-point plan designed to speed IT delivery and enhance transparency by opening up the market to a broader range of SME tech providers that are more nimble and innovative.
At MarkLogic we are working with one government department that has already created reusable components that will be deployed more widely acrosstheir own department and other departments during2017. We believe re-use will become more prevalent for technology contracts in 2017.
Leveraging existing technologies will also lead to a dramatic increase in the use of public cloud-based NoSQL databases, which are rapidly becoming mainstream. With the opening of Microsoft and AWS’s UK-based data centres offering cloud services, concerns about data sovereignty and security are being resolved. The Ministry of Defence has signed up as one of Microsoft’s first customers, inspiring others to choose hyperscale public cloud as a more scalable, flexible, cost-effective alternative to on-premise IT infrastructure investments.
The open source pushback is underway as IT leaders start to prioritise open standards above open source technologies
When it comes to using open source tools for applications that involve real transactions, many public sector organisations have had their fingers burned. Not only has the expected innovation not materialised but, on examining the ROI, they realise that they were hit with licensing costs as well as a need for costly software developers either in-house or as contractors.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) was a big supporter of open source when its focus was on web development and interfaces. This played to open source’s strengths. But when there is a legal requirement to record all data and transactions, open source is rarely up to the task.
The pendulum is now swinging back to a preference for less risky and more secure enterprise software that supports open standards and has a more predictable ROI. While open source is great for some applications such as websites, it is a risky proposition for mission-critical apps and services where you are can’t lose transactions and data. At the same time, there’s a move away from proprietary developer tools to those that support open standards including Java, .NET, XQuery etc.
IT and operations are starting to work more closely together as public sector organisations see the benefits of agile development
Recognising the value of continuous delivery, the Cabinet Office is putting pressure on organisations to embrace agile development principles. This business transformation involves training existing teams and hiring people with DevOps experience from the private sector.The GDS has spearheaded the digital transformation of government departments, resulting in a much-lauded look and feel across .GOV. In 2017, the enterprise systems underpinning .GOV will become a focus.
In one example of best practice, a simple but effective idea involved David Munn, head of IT at the London Government Authority moving the organisation’s development and operations teams so they sit next to each other, spurring conversations. Additionally, public sector organisations are taking a cue from commercial organisations that have had success using Scrum to quickly mock up what an application will look like. A Scrum team brings together individuals with different sets of experience to design new working models.
Relational databases are outdated
NoSQL has already replaced relational databases in a number of central and local government departments (e.g. public safety, national security and defence) for numerous applications and services, including grant request, management and payment. This is set to accelerate in 2017 as public sector organisations look for ways to gain a 360-degree view of their data. This will allow them to make more informed decisions and improve their services to citizens and businesses.
MarkLogic is already being used to help deliver mission-critical apps used by thousands of council users and citizens. This has allowed developers to deliver apps and services in a fraction of the time and at a much lower cost than was previously the case with relational technology.
Slowly but surely the number of vendors, creative solutions and deployed connected devices with sensors will accelerate. The smart city might still be years away, but driverless cars are getting nearer and sensors will become more prevalent to monitor pollution levels, adjust lighting levels, monitor parking availability, and check whether recycling bins need emptying.
As the volume and sophistication of DDoS attacks continues to rise, the lack of skills and investment by the public sector will provide greater challenges. We will see a big focus on recruiting senior executives withan understanding of IT security. We believe that the government’s latest cyber security strategy, underpinned by £1.9bn over five years, will start supporting public sector security needs in 2017, particularly with new training and tools.
Open Data and Blockchain
With the growth of freedom of information requests and a need for more transparency, open data will be an important part of IT in 2017. There are a growing number of third parties using open data to unlock the value of this data, such as using open timetables to allow users to manage their journeys on public transport.
Leading on from open data, some public sector projects around the world are experimenting with using Blockchain to keep records about details as varied as businesses, property and birth/death certificates. Because it ensures the provenance of the data, Blockchain could make recordkeeping about citizens, propertyownership and other services more accurate. Once scalability and security issues have been ironed out, Blockchain has the potential to increase transparency in the public sector, because citizens can look up the time-stamped, digitally signed transactions on an online ledger.
Imran Razzaq is public sector business lead at MarkLogic