Govt looks to cloud to accelerate service delivery

Johannesburg, 06 Jul 2020
Read time 5min 20sec
Thomas Mangwiro, public sector specialist, Mimecast
Thomas Mangwiro, public sector specialist, Mimecast

Alongside the importance of their people, the ability of technology to enable flexible, agile businesses is shaping up to be one of the major lessons that organisations, both large and small, have learned from the COVID-19 crisis.

While employees have shown how they are infinitely adaptable in keeping business functioning as usual, it’s the use of technology that has made this possible.

As well as providing the ability to have millions of people work remotely, as if they were in the office, the power of the cloud as a tool for increasing productivity and reducing costs has not been overlooked by companies.

Thomas Mangwiro, public sector specialist at Mimecast, comments that while the focus has been on how private sector companies are benefiting from the advantages of the cloud-hosted applications, government departments have also been paying attention.

“In the discussions we’re having, it’s clear that many government departments have been put under massive pressure to deliver additional services during the crisis. Each department has its own CIO and its own technology strategy, so it’s hard to make generalisations. However, we are seeing that many departments are looking to accelerate their technology strategies and are looking to their technology partners to make this happen,” he says.

Wherever possible, government departments have embraced remote working, but this hasn’t come without its security challenges. Criminals have been capitalising on the fear and uncertainty around the virus and have been using this as bait for cleverly crafted phishing and impersonation e-mails. They’re also aware that employees are operating in a less secure environment off their company networks and are perhaps letting their guard down more than usual. Security is therefore moving up on the list of priorities, which is encouraging considering 57% of public sector organisations believe it’s likely or inevitable they will suffer a negative business impact from an e-mail-borne attack this year. This is according to Mimecast’s State of Email Security 2020 report.

Government is also leveraging collaboration tools such as videoconferencing services to keep team members connected and engage with the public. These tools also brought the issue of security to the fore as “Zoombombing” became a real issue. This made it clear to all involved that security has to be an integral part of all systems from day one. As they embrace cloud services, they are focused on how to bolster and secure all platforms.

While there are issues around the cloud for government departments, because of the need for guarantees around data sovereignty and privacy, Mangwiro explains that this isn’t stopping departments from looking to the cloud.

Cloud is now part of the picture

“There are three key issues that are driving the eagerness for cloud services in the public sector,” he says. “The first of these is convenience. While this isn’t universally true, there are many applications that benefit significantly from a cloud model. An example of this is e-mail, where it no longer makes sense to host your own mail server.

“The second area driving cloud adoption is security. Cloud-based security systems have advanced in leaps and bounds and it’s becoming clear that, with the proper architecture, it’s safer to use cloud-based security irrespective of whether the application is located on-premises or in the cloud.”

The third area highlighted by Mangwiro is the issue of cost.

“All departments are looking to deliver their services more effectively,” he says. “They need to ramp up delivery, but with budgets being cut, return on investment is top of mind. Moving applications to the cloud allows costs to be moved from capex to opex, but more than that, it eliminates the need to maintain costly on-premises equipment and retain in-demand skills.”

More than just a tool

“It’s clear that government departments are now looking at technology as a key enabler in delivering services to citizens, and not simply as a necessary tool.”

He adds that the biggest shift that’s happening is that government CIOs aren’t looking at technology in an isolated manner. They’re looking for ways to address all their challenges in an integrated fashion. With the accelerated timeframes and the need for access to skills, they are working with their partners to find innovative ways to fulfil their mandate in the most effective way possible.

“It’s very encouraging that we are seeing a concerted push to leverage the capabilities of the private sector to ensure that government is able to deliver services cost-effectively. Equally encouraging is that they are not letting security take a back seat as part of this discussion. Security is being treated as a non-negotiable element of any solution,” he says.

In closing, Mangwiro says if the government wants to be always on and always connected, it will need to look beyond a defence or security only approach. The key is to be more cyber resilient. “The threat landscape is always evolving with criminals constantly finding new and improved methods to target individuals and their organisations. So, if a threat does make it through the various layers of security, organisations need to be prepared to get their systems back up and running as soon as possible.”

The State of Email Security 2020 report found that 50% of public sector organisations surveyed experienced two days or more of downtime due to a ransomware attack. “If public sector departments want to keep their service delivery promises, they need to be able to quickly restore systems to continue with business as usual. They also need to immediately recover business critical data from a cloud-based archive in the event of a ransomware attack,” Mangwiro concludes.

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