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Solving the “Cost/Reach Equation” in the Public Sector

When the world economy went into recession, many political officials and commentators talked about “not wasting a crisis” – making sure we took the opportunity to learn some lessons from the downturn and solve problems that would make the economy — and the world — more cost efficient. Today, while there are brighter signs around economic recovery, we still face a seemingly intractable parcel of outstanding issues.  Indeed many countries around the world are still struggling with both growing their economies and reducing budget deficits.

Rather than “not wasting a crisis” perhaps we should be thinking about not making a “crisis of waste.”  Said simply, there are enormous efficiencies available to public entities to improve the lives and well being of citizens through transformational efforts that can lower the cost and increase the availability and quality of citizen services. 

Across the globe, the public sector faces one clear and present challenge: the reality of increased service requirements bonded to constrained or declining budgets.  Demographic shifts, growing social expectations, and an increasingly more complex and dangerous world are driving enhanced public sector requirements to serve and protect citizens.  However the need to address deficit spending remains the defining paradox. The conundrum created by increasing need to serve and decreasing ability to pay is a “cost/reach gap.” 

For the first time in several generations public leaders worldwide are rethinking both how they deliver citizen services as well as how they consume information technology.  Many experts believe governments should not revert to traditional processes and IT practices.  Instead, they should look for ways to improve both cost effectiveness and service.  Indeed, the public sector could actually lead the private sector in transformational approaches to building efficiency and driving customer satisfaction through innovation in cloud computing services, cyber security, mobility, and video. 

Governments are looking to technology to improve efficacy and efficiency of service delivery in key mission areas – intelligence, defense and security, economic development, education, and health care. In the area of healthcare, practitioners and payers are looking at remote forms of care like Cisco’s HealthPresence to extend the reach and availability of medical services, and particularly to help leverage and defray the typically high cost of specialist consults and other services that are typically geographically scattered.  Being able to remotely “visit” with a medical specialist means less waste for everyone. For the patient, it means greater availability and quality of service, for the health practitioner, it means more time helping patients and less time travelling, and for the employer it means lower productivity losses.  

Cloud computing is another area where governments and other public entities are cutting waste.  Replacing large one-off department and agency- level system resources and sharing IT capabilities through a secure government cloud, or G – cloud, are becoming realities and gaining traction in the UK and Germany as well as a range of other nations.  

While in the past technology has been often lauded for streamlining back office operations and speeding transactions, today’s challenges mean thinking about technology in a much bigger and more far-reaching way. Today’s needs are about cutting costs, for sure. What’s new is the triple expectation of reducing costs while increasing high-quality public support and driving new and higher-performing internal processes that connect people to solve problems and advance new ideas in highly useful and efficient ways. 

A good example of this was recently announced by our partner, AT&T, with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).  The GSA recognized that it needed to accelerate collaboration among a range of government agencies and put in place a managed, pay-as-you-go TelePresence service.   The GSA took advantage of a public/private partnership with AT&T so regional meetings, training, inter-agency planning, crisis management, partner and supplier discussions can all use this service and pay for it on an hourly basis, avoiding agency start-up costs. 

This is just one example of public and private partners working together to overcome the cost/reach gap and it is the tip of the iceberg.  As technology solution providers like Cisco and forward-thinking public sector leaders work together to address how to best support increasingly complex public needs, I believe we will build a new public sector paradigm that will address the cost/reach gap in ways that will be both cost effective and provide new and better solutions for our citizens.

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Top 3 Government Challenges with Cloud

As Cloud Computing gains more attention from government customers, it presents new challenges and demands a different set of skills to become successful. Having a clear understanding of the business’ challenges and the benefits that may be obtained from the cloud becomes even more important.

In my conversations with different government organizations about Cloud Computing, three distinct challenges keep coming up.

Cloud Computing Government

#1: Reducing Costs. More than ever, agencies have the pressure to reduce costs at all levels.  Dealing with shrinking budgets and demands for newer services has forced agencies to carefully look for areas that may be optimized or simplified.  While many agencies struggle to keep the lights on, they are forced to look at alternate ways to provide services. Cloud services has become an attractive way to address those demands and provide new services to its citizens.

The pressure to reduce costs has also forced agencies with common needs to work together and find ways to collaborate and simplify operations.  This is different from the past, where agencies could not justify or were not interested in combining computing resources with other agencies.

#2: Agility and Scalability. At the same time they are forced to reduce costs, agencies are also forced to achieve new levels of agility and innovation.  The constant demand for new services and deployment of new technologies have forced agencies to consider services in the cloud in order to simplify and reduce their infrastructure footprint.  While agencies may be solely focused on reducing costs, cloud applications can not only reduce the costs, but also give agencies a new level of agility and scalability.

The cloud allows agencies to pool resources to serve multiple customers using a multi-tenant model.  These shared resources give agencies a sense of independence and elasticity, since resources may be dynamically assigned according to demand.

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Engage With Us On The Government Blog!

Welcome to our government blog!  I hope you will become an active participant and visitor to this community.  Each week, we will explore various topics that are top of mind in government.  I encourage you to share, comment, and probe so that we can have genuine discussions about what is happening in this ever-changing industry.

The experts on our team, who bring together decades of experience in advanced technologies and government know-how,  will be blogging about cloud, cybersecurity, security, teleworking, innovations in government , and much more.  If you have a topic of interest related to government and technology that you would like to discuss, please comment on this post. We’d love to hear from you!

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Broadband Applications: Something for Everyone

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

When Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea for Web browsers, he really only wanted an easier way to access information on the Internet. He wasn’t planning on rewriting – and more important, simplifying — the rules by which information is exchanged and business is transacted.

Now apply that same concept to broadband Internet access.

An increasing number of countries already have national broadband plans, including Australia, Sweden, Morocco, Malaysia, and the United States. These networks are being deployed because, as we discussed in the Economic Incentive for Telecom Infrastructure Investment, they bring myriad advantages to their countries — and the citizens that apply them in everyday activities.

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BBC Radio 4 – Creating More Apprentices

As I was driving into work this morning, I was listening to the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4. An interesting discussion came up around the UK government’s plans to an extra 75,000 adult apprenticeships over the next four years. Karen Brady, former managing director of Birmingham City Football Club and one of the judges on Lord Sugar’s television series The Apprentice, was being interviewed on whether she thought this was a good idea and how this could be achieved.

As someone who didn’t go to university and went straight into the workforce, Karen thinks apprentices are a “brilliant idea” as they create opportunities for young people, who want to increase and develop their skill set, to enter the workplace. As anyone of any age can apply for apprentices, they also provide older people with the chance for a career-change and to learn new skills. Apprentices are clearly in high demand – last year over 33,000 people applied for 200 apprentices at BT.

Could increase the number of apprentices be a way for a company to demonstrate Inclusion and Diversity? Share your thoughts below.

To listen to the interview with Karen Brady click here

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