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UK public sector is full steam ahead on National Data Strategy

Guest blog by Tim Skinner, Head of Public Sector, NetApp UK and Ireland.

Data is undoubtedly a buzzword within public sector right now – and with good reason. It’s the driving force of a modern economy, fuelling innovation among businesses. During the Covid-19 pandemic, data was pivotal in saving lives and livelihoods.

One clear example of this is the NHS Data Saves Lives initiative, rolling digital tools to power new research and connect together vital health and social care services. Building on some of the great work already being done, there is a real opportunity to expand data sharing capabilities across national and local government organisations.

To that end, the UK Government’s National Data Strategy (NDS) aims to harness the power of data to boost productivity, create new jobs, and improve digital public services. Recent research conducted by NetApp shows that public sector leaders back this strategy, but work needs to be done to fully implement and realise its far-reaching benefits.

The NDS is in full swing

Decision makers across central and local government, health and social care, emergency services, and defence broadly agree that the NDS is currently working. Three-quarters say it is essential to the UK’s future economic growth and almost four in five say their organisation views the NDS as a strategic guide for policy making around data sharing and usage.

When it comes to implementation however, there are valid but not insurmountable challenges to overcome. Around half of the leaders we surveyed felt their organisation lacked the necessary infrastructure to deliver the digital services of the future, with the same amount planning to invest in technologies that are fit-for-purpose.

What we will see in the next 12 months is organisations across public sector decrease their reliance on legacy infrastructure and accelerate their use of cloud services wherever appropriate. This will remove some of the existing barriers to more efficient and effective data sharing capabilities.

Cloud will remain king

The UK public sector has significantly accelerated cloud adoption in the past decade, let alone the past two years where transformation initiatives have been supercharged in response to Covid-19. This is a trend that will continue well beyond the pandemic as public services become more data-driven in their approach and digital-first in terms of delivery.

This will be fundamental to how the UK more generally moves forward with its NDS. Organisations need to take advantage of the flexibility, scalability and compute power offered by the public cloud to enable this digital-first, data-driven mantra of delivering public services.

Considering this, around 9/10 public sector leaders will grow or maintain their cloud spend from the previous 12 months over the next 12 months. This is in-keeping with the UK Government’s guidelines set out in the Cloud-First strategy since 2013. However, we are seeing more organisations adopt ‘cloud-appropriate’ over ‘cloud-first’ strategies, which is a more financial and operationally prudent way to describe supporting digitised public services.

The fabric of future public services

To realise the vision set out by the NDS, the public sector is increasing its use of hybrid cloud data services. This requires technical expertise among IT teams and digital skills among employees.

The challenge is that the UK government’s data skills gap report shows that as many as 234,000 data-related roles are presently unfilled. Public sector leaders are feeling the impact of this, with almost two in three saying that digital upskilling is required to help their organisation achieve its digital transformation goals.

Bridging this gap can be achieved through employee training and establishing a digital-first culture across the entire public sector. Alongside investment in hybrid cloud data services, this will be vital to achieving the NDS’s aim of preserving the UK’s position as a global leader in data.


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