Government not ready for disaster

17 Nov 2005

A survey by IDC research analysts has revealed that the Government’s ICT infrastructure is ill equipped to deal with disaster. Respondents in the public sector were asked about the ability of their organisation to support their operations in the advent of a “major interruption” — 10pc said they would not be able to provide any support while 73pc said their business continuity systems could only partially support their business.

“In other words, 83pc of the Government, and remember we’re talking about central government departments here and large local government organisations, will not be able to fully support the business in the event of a major disaster,” said IDC sales manager Keith Gaffney. “We think the citizens of the country would be very unforgiving if there was a major interruption and the business continuity systems were found wanting.”

At an IDC event in Dublin the message was clear to the audience. “Investment is required in this area in fairly substantial proportions,” advised Gaffney who highlighted another piece of data. “The survey reveals that the Government is the more aware of the need for business continuity [compared to the private sector] but the lesser prepared.”

“Business continuity is not new but governments now have a real focus on it because they have never relied as much on technology as they do now,” commented IDC consulting director Duncan Brown. “It’s been a surprise to us that it’s taken so long for disaster recovery/business continuity to appear on the public sector radar.”

Compared to last year, the IDC survey, IT Trends and Expenditure in Ireland, showed a marked increase in public sector plans for IT investment. The Government is five times more likely to increase IT spending in 2006 than the entire rest of the Irish market.

Of the 301 interviewees taking part in the survey, 49 were from the public sector. Participants were made up of central government departments, several local departments and a single health organisation.

Highlighting what IDC described as a “bullish” attitude, 62pc of government departments said they expected to increase their IT spend in 2006 compared to only 42pc in the private sector.

The growth comes after a slowdown in 2004, which IDC attributed to a number of factors. “Decentralisation was somewhat of an inhibitor for spending. People didn’t know where they were going to be and what infrastructure was required,” said Gaffney. “There’s now light at the end of the tunnel as far as decentralisation is concerned. And hardware refresh will be more necessary, which will further drive spending.”

One possible caveat is that the survey took place between May and June this year, prior to the fallout from the Personnel, Payroll and Related Systems (PPARS) affair. Gaffney conceded that it could have some impact on the IDC predictions though experience has taught the analysts that while there is often a short-term effect when high-profile IT disasters occur, the long-term impact on spending is negligible. He did warn, however, that the Government plan to introduce ministerial sign-off around IT projects would almost certainly slow down implementation speeds.

By Ian Campbell

Pictured: Government Buildings