Perspective: ICT Leadership in Central Government a Mixed Bag in CEE
In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), high-ranking government officials readily acknowledge that centralized IT services and tools provision and a clear set of policies governing internal standards could be of great value to both government and taxpayers. They would help standardize systems across ministries and agencies (and possibly across borders). They would ensure that lesser-funded and underfunded bodies have access to key IT tools. And they would likely cost much less than the current method of ministries issuing their own tender proceedings and building out their own systems. This would free funds for additional projects that would help CEE government bodies catch up to Western European (WE) bodies and the private sector.
Unfortunately, capitalizing on this knowledge has been a slow and sometimes painful process. The challenges preventing faster change tend to fall into three categories. The first is simply growing pains. The pace of IT development has accelerated, but not so much that current systems are now obsolete, meaning that CEE government bodies, often strapped for cash, have been able to make do with upgrades to old systems rather than insisting on a common set of tools or standards. It can also be a problem for different systems to work together. Database and computing needs at ministries of finance are, generally speaking, fairly different than those at ministries of the interior, even when the records are of the same citizens or businesses. One government CIO from Hungary told IDC that joining hands and budgets — especially two to five years ago, when processing power was one-half to one-quarter of what it is today — often seemed and seems like more trouble than it is worth.
The second is budget. Since the global financial crisis, austerity measures and recessions have taken their toll on tax revenue and deficit spending in CEE. Budgets for external IT spending were no exception. Most of the region's governments significantly cut government spending on IT in at least one year between 2011 and 2014. Romania will do it again in 2015. Even the exceptions of Russia and Poland, which managed to increase external IT spending during the down years, put strict limits on growth. And while government IT spending is finally set to rise again across the region by around 4.4% annually through 2018, the region is still spending (and getting) far less per capita for its investments than countries in Western Europe. (For more information, see Related Research below.)Please Note: Extended description available upon request.