This week the BBC published an article that details the 10 Local Councils that have had the most data breaches during a three-year period.

The volume of data breaches is significant (4,236), and something that we should all be concerned about!

Our recent survey of 5,000 public sector employees, spanning central and local government, and the NHS, found that fears surrounding security have been a major impediment to implementing cloud technology, despite government service evolution programmes, such as G-cloud, which are meant to ease the process of cloud computing service procurement.

The concern over security and lack of cloud-technology adoption does not mean, however, that the public sector is immune to data breaches. In fact – as evidenced by the latest research – it’s quite the opposite.

Shockingly, while 95% of UK public sector staff share and work on information with external organisations, the way in which information is routinely shared is anything but secure: 43% of public sector employees rely on hard copies sent through the post and 27% on courier. The time delay, the cost and the potential for security breaches are staggering given that the technology to improve this situation has been readily available for years.

Indeed, according to the study by privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, local authorities recorded 4,236 data breaches during a three-year period beginning in April 2011. Big Brother Watch Director Emma Carr said that "a number of examples show shockingly lax attitudes to protecting confidential information.”

Given the latest news, it’s becoming more and more apparent that the public sector as a whole is in need of a major shift towards more secure methods of collaboration.

That said, the digital government is already becoming a reality.

The Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) is one example. As a result of implementing Huddle Chris Smith, Local Projects Director, Broadband Delivery UK (a team within DCMS) says, “Inboxes are no longer clogged up with huge PowerPoint presentations, guidance documents and images, as Huddle has alleviated the pressure on storage. The files we share externally are now stored securely in the cloud and our stakeholders can easily access previous versions of files if needed”.

The success of plans to improve public sector productivity and secure collaboration via technology depends on clarity and understanding of objectives and intentions behind the introduction of the technology. To help achieve this, we advocate the following three steps:

  1. Comply with the new security classification system by interpreting Cabinet Office guidance and using secure commercial collaboration platforms
  2. Build awareness and confidence in cloud computing by demonstrating the value of cloud platforms relevance and cracking down on protectionist behavior by IT departments, e.g. inefficient, inflexible and unsecure working practices
  3. Embrace G-cloud and work with SMEs in a way that helps boost user confidence in cloud platforms

Successful implementation of secure and auditable collaboration practices not only means an increase in employee efficiency and satisfaction, but also a decrease in unsecure practices of file sharing and ultimately fewer data breaches and security risks.

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