If 2020 seemed chaotic for national governments, with agencies pivoting quickly due to a once-in-a-lifetime disruption, 2021 has been about a more strategic, structured approach to digital transformation. This means dealing with the ongoing impact of the global pandemic, but also preparing to thrive in a post-pandemic future with greater agility, efficiency and responsiveness.
During 2021, government agencies undertook many transformation initiatives, including accelerating hybrid multicloud adoption, modernizing networks with Network as a Service (NaaS), and implementing artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) for advanced cybersecurity and other use cases. As we move into 2022, the need for this kind of transformation will accelerate, creating a mandate for greater digital infrastructure investment. According to Gartner®, worldwide government IT spending is forecast to total $557.3 billion in 2022, an increase of 6.5% from 2021.[i]
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Earlier this week, we released an Equinix Interconnections article on the “4 Digital Infrastructure Predictions Defining the Next Decade.” We discuss how private sector businesses will respond to key trends in 2022 and beyond, including:
- Adapting to hybrid multicloud complexity.
- Applying AI/ML at the edge to enable 5G and IoT.
- Using zero trust and converged security to protect against increasingly sophisticated threats.
- Going beyond carbon neutrality to pursue true net-zero sustainability.
Government agencies will take cues from these and other initiatives in the private sector, but they’ll do so in a way that reflects the challenges and requirements that are unique to their missions. Our 2022 national government predictions will take a deeper look at how agencies are adapting their digital infrastructures to keep up with the changes happening around them, and how nations will advance legislation to enable those transformation initiatives.
Prediction 1: Threats to data privacy and cybersecurity will also put national security and data sovereignty at risk
Governments around the world have recognized the value they can gain from collecting, storing and analyzing public data. They’re also realizing that since data represents a vital national resource, it must be protected as such. Simply put, governments believe that threats to public data also represent threats to national security and sovereignty. If a national government can’t keep its citizens’ personal data safe from careless or improper use by a multinational enterprise or any other bad actor, that raises serious questions about a government’s role in a world where borders are getting more blurry all the time.
The European Union (EU) took the lead in establishing stricter regulations around data privacy when the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect in 2018. We predict that governments in other parts of the world will continue to follow a similar path, in line with the specific threats facing their nations. This could include stricter controls around sharing information, new certification standards, and requirements for multinationals to seat a chief information security officer (CISO) on their board to help manage compliance with evolving government regulations.
Until recently, governments in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region were less likely to pursue GDPR-style data privacy regulations, but we’re seeing clear signs that this is changing. In Australia, the government will continue to align itself closer to the U.S. and other Five Eyes countries, resulting in a higher target rate from countries of interest. These attacks will aim to disrupt key services, extort ransoms, and even simply embarrass the Australian government. As the cybersecurity and data privacy threats facing Australia grow more organized and sophisticated, government agencies will pursue stricter regulations to better protect themselves and the citizens and organizations they serve.
Whether it’s via official state legislation like the California Consumer Privacy Act or merely aligning with the EU’s GDPR, the U.S. will continue to pursue data privacy on a state-by-state basis to ensure they are adequately preparing for the risks they face.
Prediction 2: Governments will move their sustainability initiatives into overdrive
The time for feel-good talk about sustainability has long since passed; the time for action is here. In November 2021, COP26—the most recent edition of the UN Climate Change Conference—brought together almost every country on earth for a truly unique summit. This year’s event highlighted the need for countries to go above and beyond the Paris Agreement from COP21 in 2015.
Post COP26, officials are returning to national capitals with a mandate to meet new, more ambitious climate goals, and balance those goals with building out optimized digital infrastructures. As some of the largest consumers of IT services in the world, governments will need to look at their business processes and supply chain partnerships in terms of sustainability.
In smaller countries like Singapore, Ireland and the Netherlands, governments are concerned about how rapidly the data center industry is growing, both in terms of real estate and energy usage. Many national data center providers are beginning to pursue net-zero emissions independently. This may seem to align with government sustainability goals, but the concern remains that they will eat up an outsized portion of the limited renewable energy available, making it more difficult for other sectors to benefit. National governments are already showing the lengths they’re willing to go to push partners into alignment with these sustainability goals, such as Singapore putting a moratorium on the construction of new data centers.
In contrast to other governments that are limiting new data center capacity—potentially cutting off innovation in the process—Australia is empowering data center providers to pursue sustainability, rather than mandating them to do so. This helps the government meet its own sustainability goals while also getting the data center capacity and digital infrastructure optimization it needs.
Data center providers also have a vested interest to make sustainability a cornerstone of their business, and governments can support them in these efforts. The data center industry joined forces with cloud service providers earlier this year to launch the European Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, an industry self-regulatory initiative with strong private sector commitments and policy recommendations that will help the industry achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.[ii] In pursuit of that goal, leading data center providers are already starting to deploy innovative sustainability efforts such as liquid cooling, modular power bricks and renewable fuel cells. Replacing costly, inefficient government-owned-and-operated data centers with vendor-neutral, as a Service colocation from leading providers can help agencies access these groundbreaking technologies.
Going forward, we predict governments will place increasing pressure on their private partners to help meet their sustainability goals. This could mean more ambitious emission reduction targets or mandates to implement sustainable technology more aggressively.
Prediction 3: The future of government will be defined by public-private partnerships
So far, we’ve talked a lot about the interplay between government and private business as it pertains to cybersecurity, data privacy and sustainability. At first glance, it may seem like public sector organizations and their private sector counterparts are in conflict with one another. The government sets aggressive standards and private partners begrudgingly meet those standards in order to keep doing business with the government.
However, there’s another way to look at this relationship, and it’s one we believe will become more prevalent as time goes on. Governments will rely more on private partners to provide key services and help meet sustainability goals, and it will become increasingly difficult to determine where a government agency ends and where its ecosystem of private partners begins. As private and public organizations become more intertwined, it only makes sense that they will start to take a more collaborative, innovative approach to meeting their respective goals.
Already, we’re seeing examples of what this might look like in practice. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators recently advanced legislation to make the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) a permanently funded government initiative.[iii] The new legislation also calls for the establishment of a Federal Secure Cloud Advisory Committee to improve communication between agencies and cloud service providers. By doing this, the government is taking steps to ensure they can implement the cybersecurity regulations they need to protect themselves, while also supporting partners in their compliance efforts to keep the pool of approved contractors as wide as possible.
In Europe, the Gaia-X initiative[iv] provides a powerful example of businesses and public sector organizations coming together to pursue common goals. By helping to create a standardized, transparent and secure approach to digital infrastructure, Gaia-X shows how European agencies and businesses can fulfill two seemingly contradictory imperatives: creating an open ecosystem that optimizes collaboration and data sharing, while also maintaining data localization and sovereignty. We expect to see a lot more of these kinds of partnerships going forward.
Equinix can help national governments prepare for an uncertain future
In the past, digital infrastructure in the public sector has lagged behind the private sector. There are several valid reasons for this, including the bureaucratic and political challenges that are unique to the public sector. However, the global pandemic proved that government agencies can move fast when the circumstances require it.
At Equinix, we strongly believe governments can accelerate digital transformation in support of their multiple complex missions. By working closely with a partner that’s experienced in providing a trusted global digital infrastructure platform, which can quickly advance digital transformation and comply with complex regulations in multiple jurisdictions around the world, government agencies can act now to ensure they are prepared for the future.
As the world’s digital infrastructure company™, Equinix is uniquely positioned to help our government clients overcome their challenges, now and into the future. With Platform Equinix®, agencies can access more than 235 data centers in 65 strategically located metros around the world. In addition, software-defined interconnection via Equinix Fabric™ can help agencies connect with thousands of potential service provider partners at software speed, making it easier than ever to achieve the public-private collaboration that will grow ever more important in the future.
To learn more or start adapting your digital infrastructure strategy for the future, request a Government Digital Edge Strategy Briefing from Equinix today.
[i] Gartner Press Release, “Gartner Forecasts Global Government IT Spending to Grow 6.5% in 2022,” August 31, 2021. GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.
[iii] FedScoop, “Lawmakers introduce bill to support adoption of secure cloud tech at federal agencies”. Dave Nyczepir, November 2, 2021.