By Chris Huggett
Spending £100m an hour or £28,000/second, is an immense responsibility for the public sector. How it chooses to distribute an approximately £817 billion annual budget impacts everyone living in the UK. Deciding how to squeeze out every bit of value is crucial, and wrong decisions will be mercilessly scrutinised by the media and electorate. Up until recently, most decisions have been made without the use of new technology such as machine learning and AI, powered by the public cloud, which the commercial sector has been doing for a decade. This has been due to the legal limitations of using sensitive data in such clouds. This is changing, however, and the public sector now has access to the public cloud to process and store an increasing amount of its data. Providing a platform on which to better manage and use information will create a launchpad for innovation within the public sector. It’s an opportunity that will fundamentally improve the sector’s ability to provide services to UK citizens.
But there’s one more, big hurdle to get over and that is one of trust. Data-savvy citizens and the demand for more transparency have choked the public sector’s ability to capitalise upon the opportunities that public cloud can offer. We expect, even demand, the public sector to be incredibly diligent with our data. Unsurprisingly there is legislation in place to ensure that data with a level of sensitivity is both properly protected and kept sovereign by virtue of it remaining within the UK and only accessible by British citizens.
The introduction of new sovereign public cloud services like our own developed on AWS that allow the public sector to store Sensitive and Official Sensitive data on the public cloud is removing that hurdle. Providing the public sector with the ability to capitalise upon a secure, legally compliant public cloud means it can innovate at the same pace as industry and drives better decision making. Put into practice, these things could have huge benefits across the public sector.
Organisations with access to broader, larger data sets can make better decisions and all of this can be handled much more affordably in the public cloud. Decision-making processes such as where to build roads, hospitals and schools, through to identifying where to increase policing levels, even military deployments, can rapidly take into account a huge variety of disparate data. This creates insights that simply cannot be derived any other way in an acceptable timeframe or at acceptable cost. Ultimately, this can make the UK safer, better educated and healthier.
The information stored by the DVLA includes a huge amount of confidential data about the UK’s population and on the nation’s vehicles. With 8,500 cameras recording approximately 35 million number plates every day the possibility exists of being able to more quickly identify the location of a stolen vehicle. However, using techniques similar to the way banks identify fraudulent transactions, combining known data about the vehicle’s owner, other insured drivers and the vehicle’s information and location, it may be possible to identify a possible theft having happened even before the owner realises it has taken place. Imagine how that could reduce car thefts and lower insurance premiums
The ability to look at diverse data sets, including sensitive patient data, could unleash a revolution in healthcare enabling advanced preventative medicine. Taking into account what the NHS already knows about its patients and adding it to other data such as that from the increasing adoption of wearable tech, we are approaching the point of being able to identify possible health scares for citizens with a considerable level of accuracy. The impact on the population and possible cost savings for the ever-strained NHS are considerable.
There is so much value to be gleaned from the huge volume of data that the public sector holds that could have an incredibly positive societal impact. This is just the tip of a very big iceberg that is increasingly visible thanks to new sovereign public cloud technologies.