AWS Public Sector Blog

Building digital capabilities to withstand future challenges, from cyberattacks to severe weather events

Recent events, from public sector cyberattacks and severe weather events to the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, have revealed that many educational institutions, as well as regional and local governments, are not fully prepared to respond to these incidents (see Figure 1). At the same time, large-scale disruptive events illustrate how important it is for public sector organizations to respond rapidly to keep essential services running as well as quickly pivot to offer new services. This agility, along with the security and flexibility needed to respond to change and disruption, are the foundations of digital resilience and why we see digital resilience as a key factor in the digital transformation of government and education.

Figure 1: Global government and education preparedness Question: How prepared was your organization to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?  (Government and Education Respondents Only) Source: IDC Future Enterprise Resiliency and Spending Survey, February 2021

Figure 1: Global government and education preparedness
Question: How prepared was your organization to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic? (Government and education respondents only)
Source: IDC Future Enterprise Resiliency and Spending Survey, February 2021

Major events are not the only driver of digital resilience. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also witnessed the rapid adoption of new technologies by the public, a shift in government agencies and educational institutions’ attitude towards remote and hybrid work and providing constituents with remote services, and new desires by communities for more digital experiences. According to IDC, 33% of government and education organizations have expanded resiliency plans to support a proactive stance on digital resilience. During the pandemic, many consumers were forced to use technologies such as telemedicine, video, contact centers, collaboration tools, kiosks, and mobile apps for the first time, while others increased their usage of these technologies. This increased adoption is contributing to a desire to continue virtual and digital services. In an IDC survey of 2,000 U.S. residents in September 2020, 31% said they would like to continue virtual government services as a replacement for in-person interactions, while another IDC survey of U.S. teachers revealed that 38% expect a growth in hybrid or remote learning to be a lasting change. These shifts will drive changes in policies and regulations, from new permitting bylaws to new accessibility options, and result in the introduction of services that need to be adopted quickly.

An agenda for the future of government and education

The next normal for government and education will rapidly evolve in the coming years. The path forward should include a focus on meeting new consumer expectations, offering new capabilities for the hybrid workforce, enabling remote and automated infrastructure management, and being open to new ecosystems of partners and suppliers (see Figure 2).

Strategic initiatives to support digital transformation and digital resilience; source: IDC

Figure 2: Strategic initiatives to support digital transformation and digital resilience.
Source: IDC

What we mean by digital resilience and how it helps you to be proactive

Digital resiliency is the ability of an organization to rapidly adapt to business disruptions by leveraging digital capabilities that both restore business operations in a timely manner, and also capitalize on the changed conditions.

Digital resiliency is about acknowledging and sometimes modifying the interdependencies and vulnerabilities associated with technologies embedded in almost every aspect of government. The key is that digital resiliency is not just defensive as in disaster recovery or cybersecurity; digital resiliency is also proactive in that government and education organizations use technology to improve services in response to changing circumstances and/or disruptions.

To meet the future of their agenda, government and education organizations must also have the following capabilities:

  • Fast, large-scale public communications
  • Up-to-date security
  • The ability to update, add and/or scale up services quickly
  • Access to applications and systems unbounded by time or physical space
  • Agile development tools
  • Analytics, decision-support and automation software
  • Collaboration and other workforce tools for ongoing employee training, upskilling, reskilling, and onboarding

These capabilities are essential for digital resiliency, and rest on a platform that is cloud-centric and a combination of an intelligent core of data analytics, automation and decision support, intelligent applications, and intelligent services, such as governance, DevOps, and orchestration. Cloud-centric hardware and software are key enabling technologies for the capabilities listed above.

Becoming more digitally resilient

IDC’s Digital Resiliency Framework identifies three stages of digital resiliency that shows progression from a reactive response to one that takes advantage of changed conditions:

  • Respond and restore. This phase emphasizes the safety and security of the workforce, disaster recovery of systems, and meeting budgetary spending targets. Critical digital technologies that support this stage center around business continuity, crisis management, and communications. This is not the time for deep analysis, planning, or investment: the onus is on action and taking such action fast.
  • Expand and optimize. This phase emphasizes improving productivity, making faster decisions increasing community outreach, stabilizing supply chains, and reducing costs. There is some time to analyze, to plan, and, cautiously, to invest. Existing technological capabilities are improved, expanded, and optimized to respond to gaps in capabilities exposed by the disruption. Typical digital investments are modest, and involve improved reporting and intelligence, cloud migration, remote working, privacy and security, and data optimization.
  • Accelerate and innovate. This phase incorporates digital resilience as a core tenet of the future to survive and thrive. Priorities include creating a learning organization, supporting agile business operations, expanding supplier ecosystems, and planning for the next crisis. Typical investments are substantial e.g., artificial intelligence (AI), automation, analytics, digital twins, and cloud-native development.

These phases also apply across six areas of resiliency: organizational, financial, operational, workforce, trust and reputation, and consumer and ecosystem. Each of these have their own outcomes and digital tools used to achieve these outcomes, depending on the phase of resiliency.

Building digital resiliency starts with a proactive stance and extends beyond disaster recovery to include agility, flexibility, and security postures across the six organizational dimensions. While new resiliency plans in the public sector now include a pandemic scenario, plans are still not fully realized and do not necessarily address other potential disruptions. To prepare for novel business disruptions, government and education institutions need plans that enable them to rapidly adapt as opposed to reactively respond. Investment in digital capabilities not only enable an organization to adapt to the current crisis but also proactively prepare for future changed conditions.

Check out our webinars Deploy End User Computing to Collaborate Securely in the Cloud including Building digital resilience within education and government for a post pandemic era to learn more.

Ruthbea Yesner

Ruthbea Yesner

Ruthbea Yesner is the vice president of government insights at IDC. In this practice, Ms. Yesner manages the US federal government, education, and the worldwide smart cities and communities global practices. Ms. Yesner's research discusses the strategies and execution of relevant technologies and best practice areas, such as governance, innovation, partnerships and business models, essential for government and education transformation. Ms. Yesner's research includes analytics, artificial intelligence, open data and data exchanges, digital twins, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, and mobile solutions in the areas of economic development and civic engagement, urban planning and administration, smart campus, transportation, and energy and infrastructure. Ms. Yesner has had several roles at IDC over the past 15 years. Ms. Yesner helped launch the IDC end-user research vertical group as the director of vertical views following five years as a consulting director for large-scale international projects that provided strategic and tactical marketing services, including market opportunity assessments, competitive analysis, and cost/benefit analysis. In 2016, Ms. Yesner was presented with the James Peacock 2015 Memorial Award for excellence in her contributions to IDC research and IDC clients. Ms. Yesner holds a BA from Wesleyan University, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Boston College with an MBA and MSW joint degree.