UK government spending 50% of IT budget on legacy tech

The UK government is spending almost half of its IT budget on servicing legacy IT systems, a recent report has found.

The cabinet office report, named “Organising for Digital Delivery”, said the UK spends £2.3 billion a year on patching legacy IT systems out of its £4.7 billion total annual IT budget.

The government could spend between £13 billion to £22 billion on maintaining legacy systems over the next five years according to the report.

The report highlighted that many of these “outdated” systems use programming languages that are no longer supported, increasing the costs of “keeping the lights on” from an IT perspective.

Some IT systems did not meet "even the minimum of cybersecurity standards" according to the report.

The report went on to claim that the public sector did not reach the same “operational performance monitoring practices” that are standard in the private sector and that senior civil service leadership lack "technical fluency".

The report also highlighted the untapped potential of government data stores, quoting an external hire who said “my biggest surprise when I arrived was how little we do with our data” and referencing the phrase “data is new oil”.

Legacy IT issues are not limited to public sector; in November research from ServiceNow found that IT leaders believes legacy technology was holding UK business back during lockdown and could leave them vulnerable to future disruption.

The report put forward the following recommendations to mitigate these issues.

• Build mechanisms to put the citizen at the heart of all design decisions
• Strengthen the accountability of Departments and their Permanent Secretaries
• Hire a Permanent Secretary level head of function
• Re-focus and add teeth to the centre
• Create clear investment swim lanes to address the legacy debt
• Set up a quarterly business review process
• Invest in developing the technical fluency of senior civil service leadership
• Create a Government data application centre of excellence

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