When you consider that we are currently in the ‘Technology Age’ you can only think that advancements in technology are going to further grow exponentially. We are now moving towards an era where Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence could hold the key to a number of issues our public sector is currently facing. I have decided to detail below some of the ways technology can be used to improve our public sector, likewise outlining some of the challenges we may face due to such changes…
Imagine this… 20 years down the line and every hospital now has the technology in place to store all patients’ records/ data in the cloud. No physical copies of doctor’s notes/ diagnoses. All the information is now stored in the ‘Cloud’. With our growing technology capabilities comes the growing risk of ransomware attackers. Let’s say these attackers decide our healthcare records are a good bargaining tool against our government, not only could they poses sensitive information for all UK citizens, they could also tamper with medical records and put many lives at risk from people who are dependent on medication. Although there is a need to revolutionise our public sector’s technology, it’s even more critical that we can control these transformations and be certain cyber attackers will not get the upper hand on emerging technologies….
With budget cuts continually happening across all public sector departments and with the IT infrastructure already lagging behind the private sector; how can we be sure that all avenues are being explored when maximising investment on the security associated with these technology transformation projects?
For example, to attain a patient’s record 50 years ago you would need to break into a hospital/ health-centre, then find the store room in search of the GPs notes on a patient... Although this is a pretty farfetched example and who would look to change Betty’s Diabetes diagnosis to Alzheimer’s, the principle remains the same; is it easier to hack into sensitive information nowadays? I keep going back to patient records as it’s an easy example to get your head around. However, consider ransomware attackers deciding to target departments such as the Ministry of Defence, they would be exposed to information regarding our armed forces and the British army’s involvement overseas and also military equipment… Scary, right?
AI & Automation.
When considering departments such as Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customers are now using Robotic Process Automation technologies, one can only think that RPA will be rolled out across all public sector bodies in the future, attempting to solve routine tasks and allowing employees to focus on the more critical elements of their jobs. Not only are these technologies saving time and reducing potential mistakes, they’re also better managing workflows to enable public sector bodies to collaborate on issues as and when required. Likewise, digitising customer services makes sense as it would improve efficiency and save money, moving away from a person in a call centre directing you to right division... Another department who has recently invested in these emerging technologies includes DWP, who are combining cloud services, automation & artificial intelligence. They have introduced a software that pre qualifies applicants allowing their vacancies to be filled more quickly. Additionally, introducing a support function to help anyone who is having a problem get the attention they need promptly. It makes sense to use AI/ RPA across all public sector bodies and enhance efficiency.
Consider this though… Again, ransomware attackers decide to take control over HMRC / DWP’s new automation software. Not only could they tax the big banks appropriately, or they could give refugees who are trying to escape from war and poverty, a national insurance number to help them get work in the UK; ransomware attackers could also cause pandemonium. For example, if they were to hack DWP’s new qualification system and were to present applicants who were the least qualified for the positons this would have huge complications.
It’s safe to say that our public sector is in desperate need of modernisation. However, with this comes large amounts of investment within a sector where cuts are continually happening. Unfortunately we don’t have a limitless pot of cash that we can just pump into our public services, in attempts to keep pace with the ever growing modernisation of technology within the private sector. However, the benefits of implementing RPA & AI into our public sector is incredible. My question is, if not now when? If you look at how quickly technology has advanced over the last 5 years the rate is exponential; we’re now talking about machine learning and AI to further enhance our growth, which is a term my mum would have find mind boggling when she was in her 20’s. In my opinion, if our public sector doesn’t invest in modern technologies now then it will be out of date when they decide the time is right to invest. As technology is progressing rapidly, the opposing forces are becoming even more prevalent and our public sector systems are becoming more and more archaic. With over 60% of central government departments now adopting to cloud it appears we are make the right noises. However, considering that less than a third of NHS Trusts have invested in cloud technologies, it implies to me that we are still some way away from reaching this goal. Bearing in mind, Nurses and Doctors are working longer hours than ever before, wouldn’t it make sense to help them with some of their work load by modernising the IT Infrastructure within hospitals? In my opinion, our public sector should be investing in our hospitals before we have no choice but to privatise our healthcare…