Sandetel: Reshaping public services with digital | I-CIO

It is a fact of life for public service organizations that budgets are always constrained. Despite that, technology professionals in the sector are under pressure to explore and deliver on the potential of digital transformation, while also ensuring the protection of vast volumes of sensitive data.

This is a paradox confronted daily by Ángel Ortiz Sánchez, CEO of Sandetel, the state-owned company tasked with delivering IT, telecoms and business process management services to the regional government of Andalusia in southern Spain.
Big digital challenges

His on-going digitalization challenges are as much about stakeholder buy-in and management as technology and services. “When talking about digital transformation, one of the most important challenges ahead of us in public administration involves raising awareness among politicians about the [growing] importance of IT services and solutions for any modern society,” says Ortiz Sánchez.

Another ongoing challenge has more to do with streamlining IT through a program of centralization and consolidation of many of the diverse services and projects Sandetel provides to the Andalusian regional government. And lastly – though no less challenging – is the change management that needs to be carefully implemented across the workforce as more and more aspects of public service are digitized.

“It is crucial to make our employees understand the importance and benefits of transformation and to involve them in the process,” says Ortiz Sánchez. “Any digital transformation relies more on people and processes than on technology. Employee resistance can cause any digital transformation project to fail.”

He observes that public administration is not typically an early adopter of new technologies but he is keen to highlight some tech trends that Sandetel is following in order to deliver cutting-edge services. Those include projects that ensure the transparency of public services, the provision of open data and the easy and rapid access to information and services.

That is being extended to open innovation initiative in which Sandetel encourages thirds-parties, such as research groups, universities and citizens, to get involved in building solutions to the administration’s challenges in areas such as big data analytics, IoT and smart city initiatives.

People-centric security

While digitalization of public services is opening up data to businesses and citizens, it also makes it more of a target for cybercriminals. Ortiz Sánchez has found that many of the associated challenges are centred on people.

Training the workforce on best practices on digital services and data management is effective in reducing vulnerabilities, he argues. But, in many cases, the learning curve is steep. “In Spain more than 40% of civil servants are over 50 years old. They are not digital natives and therefore need education in fast-evolving digital environments.” Everyone in public service – from politicians to administrators – needs to increase their awareness of the risks and scale of the danger associated with cyber-attacks, he adds.

Ortiz Sánchez explains how digital security has moved up Andalucía’s agenda in recent years. “We deal with fields in which data is very sensitive – health, education, defense, justice, tax – and the cybersecurity landscape has changed drastically in Andalusia in recent years,” he says. His team dealt with 3,400 security incidents in 2016 – a figure that is expected to rise to around 4,000 in 2017.

“Our digital security program encompasses multiple lines of action but the most notable is probably the management of Andalucía-CERT (computer emergency response team), one of four such public security operations centers in Spain.” Andalucía-CERT focuses on monitoring and securing the information systems of 64 critical regional agencies, responding when any of them come under cyberattack.

Co-creating with partners

With budgets always tight, Sandetel finds itself turning to close technology partners for inspiration and technology direction. “There is a great opportunity for our providers to not only fulfil our present demand but to be advisors, capable of bringing us innovative proposals that will meet our coming needs,” he says.

Fujitsu, for example, has been one of Sandetel’s closest technology partners since 2012, and provides around half of the IT infrastructure services used by the Andalusian government. Ortiz Sánchez highlights Fujitsu’s work on Project NIX, which includes the interconnection and security of the entire communications network of the regional government, spanning 11,000 sites and more than 250,000 employees.

When it comes to such innovation, scale is key. “With a presence across multiple countries, larger companies get involved in thousands of projects and gain priceless knowledge and global vision. If they are able to share that experience, then their value to us just increases.”


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