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Guest blog: Building strong digital foundations for the Emergency Services

Setting the scene

A sensible starting point is the Government’s flagship technology policy, Cloud First, launched back in 2013. The policy requires public sector organisations to consider public cloud services first, however they are free to choose other options providing they can demonstrate that it offers the right levels of security, flexibility and value for money.

While the utilisation of cloud across the emergency services remains relatively low, most of the early scepticism has been eroded away as the benefits have been demonstrated, pathways to adoptions have been defined, and other public sector organisations have enjoyed success. Cloud remains the key enabler for the digital transformation of the Emergency Services.

Other notable pieces of policy include the National Policing Digital Strategy (NPDS), which outlines a series of digital ambitions for UK policing over the next 10 years. It builds upon the Policing Vision 2025 in identifying the critical data and technology building blocks required to fulfil their primary objective of making communities safer in a digitally disrupted world.

The Ministry of Justice is currently responsible for 800+ services and approximately 40 different strategies across its many agencies. Chief Digital and Information Officer for the MoJ, Gina Gill, identified two key themes in her recent article, Sum of All Strategies, that must be embraced if real and lasting change is going to be possible. The first of these is data. We must ensure the means by which we securely capture, store and analyse data provides actionable insights that deliver tangible benefits to the citizens of the UK.

The second is organisation flexibility. In short, it is a desire to move away from the legacy systems and processes that limit the effectiveness of government services. They must be more responsive to changes in policy and drive better outcomes for the general public.

The pace at which advancements in technology are taking place continues to increase at an unprecedented rate. This ever evolving digital landscape places even greater demands on the Emergency Services to continually adapt and innovate the tools, methods and processes they rely upon to protect and serve the general public. This article will explore some of the key challenges and opportunities created by the disruption.

Operational resiliency and organisational flexibility

Multiple industry publications have recently been exploring the key technology trends that they expect to emerge throughout 2022 and beyond. The theme that really caught our attention was the suggestion that operational resiliency could become the defining issue of the year for many organisations. The concept of ‘resiliency’ is an interesting one that requires careful consideration, particularly in the context of the public sector. There is also a significant amount of overlap with the sentiment Gina Gill shared in her article regarding organisation flexibility.

We’re going to begin by discussing the role that technology can play in creating the ‘digital foundations’ upon which greater resiliency, innovation and collaboration are possible. We’ll then explore some of the solutions and strategies that can shield our Emergency Services from potential threats, and in doing so, future proof their IT estate.

The biggest threat to the operational resilience of most public sector organisations is the legacy technologies that they have come to rely upon. A widening gap is developing between the functionality and effectiveness of these systems and the business outcome they serve. IT teams are being forced to pile technical debt into legacy infrastructure without a plan for how this cycle is going to be broken.

The publication of the NPDS in 2020 represents a concerted effort by UK policing to refresh policy and guidelines around digital and data. It gives forces direction with regard to the technologies and approaches that they should be considering. The NPDS places significant emphasis on the importance of delivering sustainable and lasting transformation. It advocates for a strategic approach to the challenges and opportunities created by the advent of cloud, moving away from short term, tactical decision making that the pandemic forced many organisations into.

For the majority of public sector organisations, but particularly the Emergency Services, existing digital transformation strategies had to be altered or abandoned in order to respond to the pandemic. In their place, IT leaders were forced to fast-track cloud adoption in ways that would enable operational changes and allow the force to continue functioning. Critical services could not simply be switched off or suspended. These decisions often superseded or conflicted with existing strategies that had been in place, but in many cases could not be avoided. A more permanent solution is required to reconcile the NPDS’s mandate around cloud adoption with the reality that many forces still rely heavily upon legacy tech.

Digital Foundations

The purpose of a ‘digital foundation’ is to address the need for increased control over the technology and vendors being utilised to power the digitalisation of the UK’s Emergency Services. This sentiment resonated with us as it is something we advocate when supporting our customers to design and execute their cloud, hybrid or multicloud strategies.

As the benefits of hybrid and multicloud strategies continue to be realised, the limitations of traditional connectivity and security providers are going to become more apparent. Organisations will discover that operation critical transformation projects are taking longer than necessary because of excessive lead times. IT teams require the ability to adopt and consume new and emerging digital services as they become available. It is critical that the underlying infrastructure is in place to facilitate this without prohibitive costs, lead times or disruption.

The global pandemic has accelerated the rate at which applications, data, devices and users are moving off premises. Legacy network security solutions designed for traditional, on-premise architectures are struggling to support the evolving demands of the business. The Emergency Services require a modern networking solution that can support increased traffic volumes, improve real time communications, secure cloud connectivity, reduce operational costs, and facilitate digital growth, all of which are addressed by Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)

The SASE framework provides the tools and capabilities organisations need to ensure their network does not become an obstacle to transformation in the future. It arms the Emergency Services with a toolkit of connectivity and security solutions that are available on demand, providing secure, immediate access to all the benefits that cloud, hybrid and multicloud strategies can deliver.

Cloud Gateway’s SASE platform allows IT teams to easily connect and secure all of the organisation's resources, data and users in an agile, cost effective and scalable manner. The convergence of all these capabilities into one managed solution can enable and accelerate transformation for organisations seeking to digitise services, tools and processes. It provides the digital foundation on which greater innovation and collaboration are possible.


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