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Addressing the risks of digitising public services

04 / 04 / 2013

Addressing the risks of digitising public services

As the government is keen to see its services take up more and more digital services, processes and engagement within the public sector are set to change dramatically and become more efficient. But with digitisation comes a number of risks.

The UK government unveiled its Government Digital Service to oversee the digitisation of public services. As a result of this service’s strategies, government departments have been becoming digitised. Their internal processes are being updated to fit with changing technology and to change the way that they engage with the public.

Sitting at the top of the pile of concerns with digitisation is data protection. Public services, such as the health service, have a duty to keep data on people confidential. But this can be threatened if there is not adequate security in place.

Cyber security threats mean that data is more at risk. Services also have an added responsibility of encrypting data stored digitally, which the nursing and midwifery council had failed to do when it lost data concerning two children. It was then fined by the Information Commissioner.

Adopting cloud computing, which the government has been encouraging the public sector to do under its GCloud project, has added new concerns to information security. While cloud can be a safe environment to store data in, the public sector needs to have a strong security policy in place to ensure that they comply with data protection regulations. It needs to address where the data is stored and who can gain access to confidential information.

The UK is not the only country that is encouraging the uptake of digital services. In the European Union, member states are being encouraged to create digital strategies that will see them using new technology efficiently. To meet with the growing demand for business broadband, the European Commission is also trying to push through ways to reduce civil engineering costs for installing fibre optic broadband.

Over in the US, a cloud first mandate has been created that encourages public services to look to cloud computing to improve their technology. This mandate was the inspiration behind the UK’s own GCloud project.

Risky or not, technology is taking over the public sector.