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Public sector IT priority: Improved service delivery

IDC Canada's Alison Brooks outlines the forecast for public sector IT spending in 2010, and where the spend will be

Members of the IT channel community that sell into the public sector will be working with a sector that faces counter-cyclical pressures, driven both by the challenging economy and the need to modernize and improve service delivery.

That was the message delivered by Allison Brooks, IDC Canada‘s research director, public sector, during the analyst firm’s IT spending outlook Webcast. While governments are under increased cost pressure, they still need to deliver vital services such as employment insurance, skills training, social services and more. Additionally, they’re pressured from both without and within to do it better.

“Customer-centric service delivery is their top priority, and our research shows its being driven by customer demand; they feel the current system has become unworkable,” said Brooks. “The younger cohort of talent coming into government also want government services brought into the 21st century.”

When government IT decision makers were asked to name their key policy and program priorities, service and modernization and citizen-centred service delivery were near the top, along with business continuity, compliance, security and asset management. However, when asked which area was their top priority, the clear leader was citizen-centric service delivery at 22.9 per cent.

“It’s not really a matter of if government can leverage ICT to improve service delivery, but a question of how,” said Brooks.

There will be challenges. Government departments tend to be siloed, with different systems for human resources, financial and so on. Cultural resistance to change is always a major impediment to modernization of service delivery, and such long-term priorities are often eclipsed by issues of the day, making it hard to secure stable funding.

However, Brooks said information management is reaching a crucial point for government organizations, with 70 per cent feeling the issues is really concerning or near crisis levels. This means opportunity for the IT industry to help.

“For many government organizations, information is their core business. They feel it’s their raison d’être,” said Brooks. But they struggle with reconciling information systems across departments,” said Brooks. “The pressure is mounting, Citizens are demanding it, and government feels improved information management is the best way to address it. The service modernization challenge is real.”

Indeed, IDC Canada research found 59 per cent of respondents named service modernization as a key driver to implementing electronic information management.

Digging down into government IT spending priorities, when asked to name their key technology challenges and initiatives, 60 per cent named upgrading system infrastructure software, 56 per cent named information management solutions, 44 per cent named server upgrades/consolidation/virtualization, and 44 per cent also named deploying mobile/wireless applications and services.