The impact of Covid-19 has changed the world in many ways. Among these has been the accelerated adoption of digital technologies by the public sector in an effort to transform the delivery of front-line services in response to the pandemic. There remains, however, a significant number of public sector systems and services that are still dependent on expensive and inefficient legacy IT.

Crisis conditions have caused immense damage to society, but how we approach recovery is a defining moment for tech progress. There is opportunity to establish new digital foundations that facilitate more advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning, promising a better experience for citizens using public services. In the wake of Brexit and Covid, the UK must invest in the groundwork and salvage the lessons learned from this time to drive social betterment. Now is the time to focus on addressing legacy systems, and harnessing data across the nation in order to ensure economic recovery.

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Seeking a perfect solution

Policies such as “Cloud First” and “Digital by Default” have been instrumental in enabling much of the public sector to manage this recent period of accelerated digitalization. But not every public sector organization has been able to embrace it to the same extent.

According to Julia Lopez, Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office, “much of what we want to do now – and in the future – is held back by current structures and systems. That clearly includes moving beyond legacy IT and getting government departments and agencies into the cloud.”

This sentiment echoes the findings of a recent report into the state of cloud adoption in the UK’s public sector, in which 45 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t consider using public cloud for traditional IT environments that weren’t cloud native, with another 32 percent discrediting the use of the cloud for legacy systems. Despite this reticence, though, almost nine out of 10 respondents expressed a desire to move IT environments into the cloud if a “perfect solution” were available.

The spread of challenges faced by public sector organizations – including budget, skills, and compliance – means a single cloud can never be that “perfect solution”. For this reason, there is a rich tapestry of different cloud solutions available from a large number of UK providers – many of which are specifically designed to address the unique challenges of modernizing legacy environments. It’s vital, therefore, to raise awareness of these solutions among public sector organizations if we hope to move forward.

Access to a community comprising many of these cloud providers is now available via a sovereign platform within the Government’s Crown Campus. This community is ideally suited to those public sector organizations running legacy and traditional IT systems that aren’t appropriate for a public cloud environment – particularly when it comes to storing and sharing data.

Building a better future

Data is as important to the public sector as it is to privately owned businesses – it helps support our economy, deliver public services, and drive growth. But if the UK is to treat it as the national asset it is, organizations must harness the value of the data left languishing in their legacy IT systems. By way of illustration, the new National Data Strategy cites examples where innovative technologies are being impeded because organizations haven’t yet got the basics right with regard to how data is stored, shared, and protected.

Given just how critical data is to modern life, it’s essential that the infrastructure underpinning it is safe, secure, and resilient. Organizations should therefore focus on building an appropriate digital foundation that will harness and support the existing data and capabilities deployed across the UK public sector.

Employing a cloud methodology to establish a strategic fit with appropriate providers, for example, will enable public sector organizations to migrate their legacy IT applications to the cloud with a minimum of risk. As part of this, a data strategy assessment will prove invaluable in helping organizations create an affordable and actionable plan to maximise their systems and data.

Resilience is key, too. Organizations should work with a strategic cloud provider capable of bringing the power of multi-cloud services into the most secure and sensitive environments, thereby making it easy for them to connect and share information between security domains, with high availability at all times.

Finally, of course, there’s the question of cost. Up to 80 percent of an organization’s IT resources are focused on “keeping the lights on” for its traditional and legacy systems. Focusing on safely migrating these systems to the cloud will help organizations realise clear cost savings and enhanced value for money.

We must hope that, in 2021, we can begin to look towards recovery and thrive once again. As the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy aims to “level up” the country through investments in physical infrastructure, so a similar focus investment by the UK’s public sector in digital infrastructure will be key in driving this recovery. It’s time to dislodge the anchor to digital transformation that is legacy IT – by using multi-cloud to modernise legacy systems, we will have more time, budget and capability to create a brighter, data-driven future.