Government IT: Time for a change

A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches can never be sure.

Chief Officer Eric Bush currently finds himself in such a two-watch quandary, regarding the future of the Cayman Islands government’s Computer Services Department.

On the one hand, Mr. Bush has a report from Deloitte consultants detailing a four-year strategy to turn around the notoriously dysfunctional IT entity.

On the other hand, Mr. Bush has a different report from EY consultants that includes, as part of its broad approach to reducing the size of government, the recommendation to outsource many of the department’s daily functions, and to create instead a centralized entity that occupies a higher-level role, including IT strategy and IT procurement.

Mr. Bush’s dilemma – and it’s a dilemma, not a crisis – is that until Cabinet makes a determination on which EY recommendations to accept and which to adjust or reject, he is caught between pursuing Deloitte’s strategy or, for now, doing nothing at all.

The first option carries the risk that Cabinet decides to accept EY’s IT solution, rendering Deloitte’s obsolete. The second option carries the risk that Cabinet rejects EY’s IT solution, but too late to re-adopt Deloitte’s.

The EY report provides some numerical perspective: Computer Services currently has 54 employees with wide-ranging responsibilities, including for 71 websites, 248 terabytes of data, 457 servers, and networking in 72 distinct locations. The department’s overall annual budget is $6.6 million – not including the untold millions that other government agencies, such as Customs, allocate from their own budgets on third-party IT services.

In EY’s words, “There is no record of how much is spent on IT across Cayman Islands Government.”

More: “There is no synchronized and usable overall Government IT asset register” … “There is a minimal cyber security program in place” … “Demand for services and resources far exceeds that available” …  “There is no evidence of a Government IT Strategy or plan for the future state architecture of IT for Government.”

Put another way, the EY report portrays government’s IT arena as being full of infrastructural, managerial and systemic woes that render Computer Services unable to protect government’s existing IT assets or respond effectively to government’s current IT needs – much less make preparations for the years ahead.

“There is no reason why Government should continue to provide IT services in-house,” according to EY.

The unfortunate reality was brought into stark relief in early June, when the Cayman Compass reported that “a major server malfunction” resulted in the government losing an immense amount of police data – 1,200 gigabytes.

Nearly four months after those public revelations, neither police nor Computer Services have been able, and/or willing, to provide clear explanations for how the data was lost or even what records, exactly, were lost.

That massive and, thus far, unmitigated IT disaster should weigh heavily on the minds of Cabinet lawmakers as they debate the future of Computer Services, the sorry state of which behooves them to make a decision sooner, not later, on which strategy – Deloitte’s or EY’s – that Mr. Bush should pursue.

Mr. Bush may have the luxury of wearing two watches, but that doesn’t mean he has any time for delay.

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  1. Lets not forget the General Registry and how much they pay for IT services externally. Planning, DOT and other agencies who outsource nsome of their IT. They only reason Computer Services is used in some cases is because it is their platform and servers.