27 October 2020

Municipalities cannot digitise on their own

The government wants to make it as easy as possible for the citizen and the entrepreneur. Digitisation of services is a vital part of this. This is –  in a nutshell – the main message from the Digital Agenda of Municipalities 2024 (Digitale Agenda Gemeenten 2024), recently published by the VNG. The question is: how do you do that?

Digitisation of the services is often easier said than done. There is quite a lot that influences the IT environment of municipalities. Consider for example, political developments (such as laws concerning privacy) economic developments (such as sustainable thinking), and social developments (such as the corona crisis, which means that we want to keep to a minimum the number of people coming to the town hall, but also the effects of an ageing society, leading to major differences in digital skills). Not to mention the rapid technological developments, of course, in particular in terms of security and the cloud. Those are major challenges!

“My recommendation to municipalities is therefore: seek each other out!”

Everyone has a different approach

It is interesting to see that every municipality in The Netherlands is interpreting digitisation in a different way. There are municipalities that keep investing in hardware and that want to keep doing everything themselves. However, there are also municipalities that choose to outsource everything and only keep a managing role. Between these two extremes, numerous variants can be observed. For example, municipalities that actively seek each other out, to offer a number of IT services collectively, based on a kind of shared service centre concept. These can include a shared security policy and a shared infrastructure, to ensure maximum efficiency. This is another area where you see cooperating municipalities doing this themselves, and those that collectively outsource it to a third party.

A ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution does not exist. For example, there is little point to outsourcing if the municipality is not yet ready for it. What you could (and should) do, is consider what you can do to build a solid base that can prepare your municipality for a digital future. But there again, I would recommend not doing it alone. By working together with other parties, you can make use of their learning experiences and you can prevent (costly) surprises in the long term. My recommendation to municipalities is therefore: seek each other out!

And most of all, ask for help from specialist parties in the market to take the necessary steps in the digital transition. For example, we keep an eye on all developments and can offer state-of-the-art solutions, which fully comply with the requirements that the government sets for municipalities, such as ISO 27001 and the Government information security baseline (Baseline Informatiebeveiliging Overheid BIO).

The Digital Agenda for Municipalities 2024 also mentions the topic of increasing municipal resilience. Although the IT infrastructure is operational in many municipalities, over the years more and more components have been ‘strung together’. In a situation like that, it is not easy to follow the requirements of the Digital Security Agenda (Agenda Digital Veiligheid). With the emergence of the cloud, the increasing use of Software-as-a-Service, and the increasing pressure from the government to ensure security, it becomes increasingly important to unravel this ‘knot’.


“The expectation is that around 80 percent of all applications used by municipalities will be available from the cloud within a few years.”

Cutting the knot

The expectation is that around eighty percent of all applications used by municipalities will be available from the cloud within a few years. So municipalities will no longer need their own infrastructure to this end. However, this does raise a different question: how do you integrate all those applications in the cloud and how do you ensure that all the data stays up to date, accurate, and above all, secure? We, from Solvinity, can see our role in this change: from just securely managing infrastructure, to playing an important role in the secure service integration of applications and data.

And no, outsourcing does not mean that a municipality will let go of the reins or is no longer responsible for their own information security. The municipality remains in charge of the IT environment and the digital services to citizens and entrepreneurs. However, we can help to put this into practice. As we can help define the responsibility for information security. For example, with our security awareness program, which helps employees at all levels to become – and stay – aware of possible security breaches and their role therein.

Don't stand-alone

The stand-alone computer has been defunct for years. Likewise, I would recommend municipalities not to remain in ‘stand-alone’ mode in the digital transition. Seek out hands-on experts and specialists, and cooperate with them to realise optimal and secure digital services.

We offer you that opportunity during the online event “Digital Agenda 2024” on 19 November, which we organize in collaboration with AG Connect. In an interactive online program you will discuss digital transformation and the pros and cons of outsourcing IT with experienced experts from the municipal world. Topics such as trade-offs, maintaining control over IT and proper protection against cybercrime are discussed.

For more information or to register, go to:
Digital Agenda 2024: whether or not to outsource IT, how do you make the choice?

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