Delivering Public Sector Digital Services

By Special Guest
Yarob Sakhnini, regional director, MEMA at Brocade

Delivery of ‘e-government’ is gathering pace. At the same time, there is a desire among public sector bodies to seize the operational benefits and reduced costs that online services can offer. Understanding how to adopt the right processes to enable collaboration with consolidation has become a key consideration.


Making digital services widely available is seen by many in the public sector as being primarily enabled by cloud, largely because of the capital cost benefits, although questions on cybersecurity and business continuity remain. Governments in the Middle East can look to what Europe is doing in the cloud arena. The European Commission (EC) has adopted a strategy for ‘Unleashing the potential for Cloud Computing in Europe’ to harmonize standards, develop contract terms, and establish a ‘European Cloud Partnership’ for innovation and growth. The consequence is more effort in developing an integrated pan-EU ‘G-Cloud’ strategy to deliver tactical public sector guidance by identifying obstacles, finding innovative solutions, and building trust in European cloud computing. At the same time new standards will improve the capacity to mitigate the risks. However, implementing new policy initiatives may become complex and limited down the line if interoperability issues are not resolved. This would directly impact public sector bodies’ efforts to respond to policy directives and financial imperatives for integration, collaboration, and consolidation. There is a risk that a multiple cloud provider approach could weaken public sector organizations’ ability to meet their objectives in this regard. A ‘best practice’ vendor approach, rather than single vendor or multi-cloud, encourages development of the right model for digital services delivery based on economies of scale and need. It avoids government departments having to adopt a more prescriptive model by enabling the adoption of the right onsite and outsourced resources together, to secure cost and efficiency benefits without putting data privacy at risk.


Citizens are becoming more open to more digital, Web-based, public sector services; the benefits of services that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can be accessed from a wide range of devices mean e-government is becoming more acceptable.

Similar to the EC’s ‘Digital Agenda for Europe’, public sector bodies in the Middle East should create an action plan that aims for more targeted, personalized digital services to accelerate the online access adoption rate so citizens requests and requirements from public sector bodies become ‘digital by default’, while highlighting the need for greater mobility and improved accessibility.

At the same time, governments across the Middle East are engaging in data center consolidation programs, moving from thousands to hundreds of data centers. This phase creates an opportunity to build a foundation for integrating systems and services using a mandated ‘interoperability framework’, and the delivery model most suited to local digital service needs.


Greater standardization and improved interoperability offers an opportunity for more ‘shared services’ adoption and seamless collaboration. This includes collaboration across borders, while also offering particular benefits for local government, police, and education. An example could be to streamline transport licensing and permits across multiple agencies for inter-nation heavy goods traffic, where the savings are potentially significant for both the public administration and commercial transport firms.


There is dynamic growth in the volumes of unstructured data created (which IDC estimates accounts for 90 percent of all data); from mobile operatives, social media dialogue, citizen self-services, and online applications or submissions. A key success factor for continuing the improvements in central government departments, education, police, and local government performance is managing fluctuating digital service workloads in conjunction with the increasingly complex big data that has historically been difficult to access or consolidate across multiple silos. Extensive data duplication, coming from multiple application or registration processes, also needs appropriate processes and platforms in place. This data requires processing and preparing for use in analytics, and in a consolidated form will increasingly provide insight to develop the right platforms for the emerging ‘Smart Cities’. To support this consolidation and analysis of big data, and the required platforms themselves, high performance networks are critical to enable process acceleration and faster or more accurate insight delivery. The resulting information can then be delivered to dashboards, at multiple levels, across a public sector entity, and across borders. For departments that provide benefits, pensions or social security, such insight from analytics is hugely valuable in identifying and reducing fraud, and minimizing ‘error rates’ in application processing.


Flexibility, Scalability and Responsiveness - Managing and supporting continuing exponential growth in ‘big data’, from multiple government and citizen sources while supporting better interoperability, requires an infrastructure that can scale quickly, and adapt at short notice to different workloads, without disrupting performance. An integrated approach, which provides the opportunity to consolidate and virtualize processes and IT systems, offers the best model. Network virtualization and cloud ‘on demand’ services provide the automation and scalability needed to deliver the required flexibility and management. Many onsite public sector data centers are already close to capacity, and unable to cope with a real-time need for information. Gaining agility during peak traffic periods, while reducing operating costs and improving efficiency, will all enable public sector bodies to successfully adopt policies on digital services delivery.


Public sector bodies in the Middle East can create frameworks similar to the EU Interoperability Framework that incorporates standards to establish a consistent basis of best practice to simplify interoperability, and facilitate increased collaboration and expansion. The advantage is a ‘best practice’ model where, in many cases, the public sector entity is independently registered and regularly reviewed.

A significant benefit of International Standards Organization (ISO) frameworks is that they all function in the same format of ‘plan, do, check, act’, and therefore readily support interoperability, using a lifecycle model, which accurately reflects the changing policy environment.

About the Author: Mr. Sakhnini is a networking industry veteran with over 21 years of experience in various senior technical management roles including his last position as director, systems engineering, MEMA at Brocade.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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