Data storage anxiety could delay the UK government’s digital ambitions

Data storage
© Siarhei Yurchanka

Steve Rafferty, UK and Ireland Manager, RingCentral, explains how leaders in government organisations can help to ease data storage anxiety through education

Digital technologies have been the UK government’s best defence in the battle against COVID-19. GPs have been able to see patients remotely, kids have been able to stay in contact with their teachers, and civil servants have been able to continue to work from home. I’ll admit it hasn’t been perfect, but that is why ensuring government organisations continue along their digital transformation journeys is critical this year. Yet, there is one very large elephant in the room that we must address first. Almost half of government leaders still lack confidence in cloud security.

This anxiety may come as a surprise to most given that 2020 was a year during which digital transformation accelerated ten-fold. A matter of necessity, we saw entire organisations transition to remote working and data-led projects spring up to help determine which hospitals needed PPE, oxygen and beds. Cloud technology has been central to these examples as well as many of the conversations around defending the nation against the coronavirus.

The fact is, many have been acting in crisis mode, adopting cloud technologies to solve urgent challenges with little thought to specifics outside the immediate benefits. However, as this lack of urgency wanes, anxiety is slowly creeping in – particularly, it seems, around data storage. That is, at least, according to our latest research study ‘Communication and Collaboration in the new normal’.

Digital anxiety rife among public sector leaders

The new survey reveals that a concerningly high percentage of UK government leaders (45%) across central, local and healthcare organisations are still unsure of their policy around data storage – with 46% agreeing that security concerns are a top inhibitor to cloud adoption. In fact, when asked if storing data in a UK data centre is a deciding factor for adopting cloud solutions, a third (35%) of respondents say their data must absolutely reside within the UK while 8% say that their data can be stored in any secure centre globally. The uncertainty is palpable.

As the dust settles the EU-UK data flow agreement, we may see attitudes change. Yet, organisations cannot rest on their laurels. If high anxiety among leaders and their colleagues is not dealt with immediately, we may see the roll-out of some much-needed IT modernisation initiatives delayed. Sadly, data storage concerns – if allowed to fester and grow – could be detrimental to the UK’s economic recovery, let alone digital ambitions.

Creating a culture of confidence

Against this uncertain and changing backdrop, public sector leaders have an opportunity to reimagine this “new normal”, with technology supporting organisational resilience and improving service delivery. As such, when it comes to understanding where responsibility lies for cloud security, it is important that the workforce understands it requires a collaborative effort.

Every member of the team must be aligned and work together to eliminate threats. This calls for awareness and often behaviour change, which can be achieved through regular training and collective accountability.

What’s more, clear, realistic and forward-thinking data management policies will help to empower and enable change – rather than hinder it. And government services need to be designed and operated with both transparency and security as a core consideration to boost citizen trust.

A refresh of leadership to refocus teams can also be a great help. In fact, the UK government recently appointed three senior digital, data and technology leaders with the goal of shaping and delivering its innovation and transformation. The truth is, rather than being new roles this was a refresh among the government’s digital leadership to reignite the UK’s transformation journey.

Understanding Data Policy

Data storage is a shared responsibility across entire organisations. If all employees are brought up to speed, trust one-another and their leaders to understand and enact the latest data regulations effectively, communicating clearly on any potential breaches, there is little to be anxious about. Bridging the gap between reality and ambition for the UK’s digital future is critical. Technology must be mastered with confidence, to be mastered at all. We must bring the entire workforce along for the ultimate digital transformation.


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