Public Sector

It’s time to modernize the public sector

From paper and mainframes to digitization 

With the increase in government directives related to digital technology, such as the NARA memorandum to transition federal agencies to electronic records and the Modernizing Government Technology Act, the public sector is experiencing increasing pressure to modernize.

Many government departments worldwide continue to depend on outdated technology and applications. In the U.S. federal government, the IRS Individual Master Files, the authoritative data source for individual taxpayer information, is the oldest legacy technology currently in use—it is more than 50 years old.  

Governments worldwide are challenged by inflexible IT budgets that include O&M costs tied to legacy custom-built applications. Each year, the U.S. federal government spends more than $100 billion on IT and cyber-related investments, 80% of which goes to the operations and maintenance of existing IT investments, including legacy systems.  

The burden of legacy technology in the public sector 

It’s clear why now is the time to modernize. Custom-built legacy applications cannot be easily modified to accommodate larger volumes, do not readily work well for remote workers, are not secure and are typically poorly documented, making it difficult to find programmers familiar with the system. 

Several recent examples have demonstrated the pitfalls of legacy applications and technology in government. In the U.S., relief payments made during the COVID-19 pandemic were plagued by website issues and outages, payment errors and fraud.  

In January of this year, the FAA ground flights across the US when the Notice to Air Missions (Notam) system, a vital air safety tool, went down. This system outage, caused by a damaged database file, forced the FAA to pause all domestic departures to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information. 

It may feel intimidating to get started, but modernizing doesn’t mean governments need to rip and replace legacy technology or transition every application and workload to the cloud. Rather, governments can focus on making realistic changes that will most benefit both employees and citizens. 

Digitizing records ahead of NARA 

Digital records management significantly benefits employees and citizens by supporting regulatory compliance, eliminating data siloes and reducing time spent searching for data. For example, Eliminating paper-based processes

Much of the public sector is not yet digitized and continues to rely heavily on paper-based processes. As a result, organizations are faced with significant challenges related to data access, data governance, employee productivity, citizen experience and more. By transitioning from paper-based to digital workflows, organizations can make significant improvements in both employee and citizen experience while reducing costs and increasing operational efficiencies. 

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), a government-owned bank in India, processes thousands of cases each year, including funding applications for agriculture and rural development projects. The organization relied heavily on paper to manage cases and process documents, often mailing records between offices and departments, which was a slow process and risked loss of documents. NABARD transitioned to intelligent document processing and digital workflows powered by OpenText solutions to enhance its services to rural communities across India. As a result, they are saving over 2.4 million pages of paper and reducing time to approve projects.  

As this example shows, paper-based processes not only present challenges with respect to government directives, but they also impede government environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. As I discussed in a recent blog, the digitization of paper-based process and forms can help reduce environmental harm. For example, customers of OpenText Trading Grid™ digitize more than 33 billion transactions per year, saving the equivalent of 6.5 million trees and greenhouse gas emissions of more than 922,000 tonnes of CO2e.

Modernizing the mainframe 

There are many reasons why governments continue to rely on mainframes to run their business-critical applications. Mainframes are reliable, consistent, and perform—they hold and protect the complex transactional and operational rules and policies of government agencies. Mainframes can also run on multiple operating systems and handle high-volume input and output. 

Generally, mainframes are deeply embedded into the organizational IT of a government department. Replacing these core systems can present significant risks to the organization and can be costly and time-consuming. As the public sector evolves, the key is to bridge the gap between the reliability of mainframes, current business need, and the future innovation citizens will demand. 

With mainframe modernization, governments can extend the capabilities of their current technologies and investments to achieve new business outcomes. Options for modernization include:  

  • Application modernization, which focuses on software versus hardware. 
  • Process modernization, which uses DevOps practices and tools to improve and secure user access, boost platform integration, and accelerate deployment.  
  • Infrastructure modernization, which involves looking at the platform itself and exploring additional elements such as the cloud to provide a more flexible IT deployment environment. 

Modernize the public sector with OpenText 

OpenText has many solutions to help governments digitize and modernize their IT environments. For intelligent document processing, OpenText™ Intelligent Capture enables process automation with text-searchable PDFs and metadata extracted by information capture with AI and machine learning.  Micro Focus, recently acquired by OpenText, has a suite of products related to mainframe modernization.   

Learn more about Public Sector solutions from OpenText. 

Keith Nelson

Keith Nelson is Senior Industry Strategist for Global Public Sector at OpenText. He has more than 20 years experience working in public sector high-tech and management consulting and as a government appointee. His roles in government include serving as Assistant Secretary for Administration, Chief Financial Officer, and Deputy Chief Information Officer at multiple U.S. Federal Cabinet Agencies.

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