Not bad, but there is room for development – this is how the digital competitiveness of Hungary could be summarized. However, there is one segment where the opportunity for growth is outstanding: the public sector. We turned to Microsoft Hungary to learn more about this topic because this IT giant has extensive experience in digital government.
Péter Szabó, general manager of Microsoft Hungary, pointed out that Hungary performs better than its regional peers in the field of digital infrastructure – broadband and mobile – and digital businesses, while our human capital is by and large on par with that of the region. However, there is room for development in the digital government, mainly because it can have an impact on the sovereignty of the country. The general manager also highlighted that Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) adopted by the EU says Hungary ranks rather low among the 27 countries of the block. “According to DESI, our performance is inferior in integrating Big Data and cloud technology,” he said.
“It is crucial to emphasize that IT has become such a strategic sector, and it can even affect the competitiveness of the country,” Péter Szabó warned. Péter Szabó admits there have been considerable developments in Hungary’s public administration, but as it is not a homogenous organization, so overall, our country’s performance significantly lags Estonia, for example. One of the most important fields that needs improvement is the penetration of cloud technology – as mentioned above – which helps in reducing costs of public institutions while the relatively rigid public administration can become more resilient, flexible, and more efficient against challenges of the future. Resilience is a key term because this is the essential aspect of the development projects aiming at reaching “future-proofness” – a buzzword of our time.
“It is worth recalling the impact events of the past three years in the world had on decision-makers,” said Péter Szabó. “After the global pandemic broke out, every client suddenly wanted to create a digital, hybrid workplace, something that they had put off for years and now has become so widespread that companies are incapable or reluctant to undo. As a result of the events that took place in the neighboring countries, some of our clients decided within a few days to move all their server infrastructure into the cloud because it was the only way to keep their data safe. The conclusion is clear: to secure its safety and competitiveness, a country needs to be prepared for the unpredictable. That’s why it is of utmost importance to achieve flexibility and resilience, especially in the public sector.”
“Flexibility is vital because it is about tackling something unknown in the future, while cybersecurity is also gaining importance,” Péter Szabó added. “It would have been impossible to solve such a large-scale issue within 6-12 months before the pandemic. Now, the energy crisis poses new challenges to the global economy. What governments need is not the ability to react to an X, Y, Z problem, but the ability to solve unpredictable crises in a short time, within a few weeks or months, by allocating human and financial resources.”
IT is key to meeting this requirement. Cloud technologies provide a solid background for this: a set of digital tools which offer various solutions that governments and organizations can use at the time they need it, instead of running a complex and costly infrastructure that they don’t really make use of and lack the human and other resources to continuously renew and maintain. In contrast, cloud solutions can be applied under much more favorable conditions in a subscription model. Moreover, scalability provides flexibility to adapt to a suddenly surging demand. Therefore, citizens can be supplied with public services, webpages, and databases which do not collapse in the most crucial moments. Publishing admission scores is an excellent example to illustrate this. The webpage is hardly visited by anyone in 95% of the year and manages just minimal traffic, but it often becomes inaccessible when the admission scores are published. If this is run from the cloud, extra computing capacity is input gradually as demand mounts up. Once everybody has viewed scores, those capacities can be switched off because they are no longer needed. “One can encounter a similar phenomenon at Christmas when small web shops collapse due to the rush of customers,” said Péter Szabó. “It is no use investing in expensive hardware, as it is not able to handle a traffic of many millions anyways. Those who run their businesses from the cloud will not even notice such an issue because they have an infinitely scalable capacity and processing speed, not to mention cybersecurity. We are talking about hyper scalable clouds now, the size of which makes it necessary to operate on a global scale – due to the economy of scale. On the other hand, governments require security and control over sensible data as a prerequisite. We develop solutions that meet even those requirements, too.
“With the launch of the cloud, IT has entered adulthood – everything prior to this belongs to childhood,” Péter Szabó added. “Cloud is about the thing IT was born for: to serve users in a way that they do not need to care about the technological part of the service. That’s exactly why cloud-based operations can be so flexible because the users do not need to dive into the technology details, be they business or governmental clients. If needed, a cloud solution can be installed with regard to the requirements of the security needs of governments by applying Microsoft technology and processes supporting the sovereignty of any given country. If we didn’t protect government data at the highest possible standard, the operability of governments would be jeopardized, which would influence not only the competitiveness of the country but even its self-determination.”
What does Microsoft Cloud Sustainability offer?
Microsoft announced Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability in mid-July, a cloud solution designed especially for governments. The platform inciting digital transformation was developed because Microsoft had realized how important digitalization was in securing sovereignty. Therefore, the service is fully GDPR-compatible, but it also enables governments to control data uploaded and keep them in servers physically located in Europe. Microsoft Government Security Program (GSP) provides insight for authorities responsible for the cybersecurity of countries into Azure processes, and the source code of operating systems is also shared with them. The program is used by over 45 participants at the moment.