Limited by expensive IT systems

The government receives criticism for old IT systems

The government receives criticism for old IT systems
The government receives sharp criticism for lacking knowledge of problems with outdated IT systems in the public sector, in a new audit report from the OAG

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Eko has previously talked about how the public sector is tamped with IT systems from as far back as the 1970s. It is an IT system that is estimated to cost tens of billions of SEK annually and is based on old technology that makes digital development difficult.

The picture is confirmed by Risk Audit’s audit, which shows that 31 out of 49 government agencies that have been examined have significant difficulties with outdated IT systems. The authorities have not worked long-term and effectively with the issue, according to Marcus Pettersson, who is the project manager for the audit of the OAG.

- Our investigation indicates that it is actually a common occurrence that one has outdated IT systems. The systems may roll on, but you do not make explicit decisions about whether to keep a system or replace it, he says.

Although it is the authorities’ task to control their own IT environment, the OAG recommends that the government no longer give everything up to the authorities themselves, but instead also solve the problems of obsolete IT systems from a political point of view. Something that has not been done before, according to Marcus Pettersson at the OAG.

- Some things have been done regarding digitalisation in general, but with regard to more directed towards outdated IT systems, we cannot see any actual measures, he says.

The government claims to only know about half of the 31 cases where authorities have significant difficulties with outdated IT systems, according to the OAG’s report. And in only four of these can the government describe what problems the IT systems create. Problems include information security, high costs and difficulties with digital development.

- The government does not really have the knowledge that you need to be able to carry out its governance in this area. Nobody seems to have had a real control of this problem picture, says Marcus Pettersson.

However, Many Swedish authorities use outdated IT systems, which are so expensive to maintain that it is difficult to simultaneously develop new digital services.

- When I talk to IT managers, they say that their dream position is to throw a fire bomb into the server room at the IT department so that everything disappeared and they had to build everything from the beginning again, says Johan Magnusson, who is researching digitalisation at the University of Gothenburg. He has reviewed over 70 public sector organizations and their digital strategies.

In 2016, the state’s total IT costs were estimated to be as much as SEK 30 billion, according to the Swedish Financial Management Agency. Researcher Johan Magnusson believes that the majority of the money goes to maintaining old IT systems that prevent authorities from digitizing.

- It is a huge expense for the public sector. The problem creates the effects that we are unable to be relevant to our users. We are limited by the digital heritage, he says.

IT systems are especially expensive because they are often driven by old technology. For example, if an authority wants to develop an app for mobile phones, it must be adapted to the outdated technology, which can simply make it too costly. In this way, IT systems slow down digitalisation.

Kronofogden is an authority that is replacing its old IT systems. Just last year, the authority was able to spend around SEK 170 million on managing and replacing old IT systems. At that time, there was not much left to develop for future digital services.

- It is expensive and gives the authority a strained economy. A number of good ideas must be left behind as we put a great deal of effort into replacing this legacy, says Johan Acharius, IT manager at Kronofogden.
source : Swedish radio

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