The short answer to the question of whether legacy ICT environments inhibit digital and therefore economic transformation can be a complex one.
We’ll start this discussion by defining what “legacy ICT” means in the context of digital transformation.
Then you can determine whether your environment should be considered to be legacy.
And how does it inhibit economic transformation and more pertinently economic growth.
What is legacy ICT?
As we discuss the impact of legacy ICT on the economy and our ambitions for becoming a digital economy it is imperative that we understand “legacy” to mean the information and communications technology (ICT) platforms, hardware, software, and applications.
When the legacy environment is outdated, does not adequately support digitisation and the digital economy, and are old, they are considered legacy.
Another major area that helps determine “legacy” is if the vendor no longer provides newer releases, or newer versions if you will, of all or parts of your ICT environment.
And if the system components, and the environment is no longer supported by technology or software engineers, and you cannot easily get replacement software (patches) or hardware to keep the system running smoothly.
Essentially the vendors research and development dollars no longer exist.
It is nearly the same as those analogue mobile phones before smart phones came by, in fact many smart phones can be considered legacy as well.
Legacy can also mean your system cannot support your needs any longer.
Imagine not having zoom and wide-angle on your smartphones cameras, particularly if you’re planning to travel.
Is legacy ICT a showstopper?
Does legacy ICT mean we cannot pursue digital transformation aspirations?
Does it inhibit comprehensive and strategic digital transformation that supports economic growth.
Do we have to “fix” issues with legacy and older ICT environments before we begin digital transformation efforts?
The Fiji governments DigitalFIJI has shown that you can get started.
The qualifier is what we want to achieve with digital transformation.
No, legacy ICT is not a showstopper, but the degree of success and pace of progress may be impeded.
Why digital transformation is important
World Bank economist Zia Qureshi says “economic paradigms are shifting, and digital technologies are driving transformative change … across economies, there is uneven participation in the economic opportunities created by digital transformation.
Many are being left behind.
New thinking and adaptations are needed to realign policies and institutions with the digital economy.
What that really means is that we have to modernise the government.
What is a modern government?
A modern government understands its citizens’ needs and preferences and provides valuable services far superior to what we currently provide, through a different and new digital experience for citizens and businesses.
Modern government can be delivered through a digital transformation, and it is expected by citizens and businesses and is critical to the prosperity of the nation.
It connects across ministries, departments, agencies, programs, and services, supported by an agile and skilled public service using technology to increase transparency and win public trust.
It shares data across whole-of-government encouraging interoperability and collaboration to enhance business process cohesion.
It fulfills the digital promise to meet citizen’s needs.
Modern digitally inspired government notwithstanding legacy ICT environments
There is an imperative for governments at all levels to deliver services that are citizen-centric and maximise the economic benefits that digital innovation and emerging technologies offer.
We cannot afford to wait for all the ICT “ducks to line up” before a committed and strategic whole-of-government moves toward digitalisation.
One of the strategies many in the private sector who are under intense competitive pressure employ are a two-platform strategy.
Tried and proven two-platform strategy
The plan with two-platform strategies is to separate Legacy ICT from a digital platform.
First efforts around the legacy ICT environment are for operational excellence which is often referred to as an operational backbone.
The second platform would focus on innovation and speed.
Operational excellence platform
An operational backbone including network, infrastructure, devices, applications, and data centres for operational excellence has been considered important for decades.
With national digital transformation intentions, an efficient and effective operational backbone for whole-of-government is an imperative.
Without a strong operational backbone it is impossible to participate in the digital economy.
So potentially, there’s your legacy ICT showstopper.
Digital services platform
The way around the legacy ICT situation is to build a second platform, a digital services platform for speed and innovation.
This is where we’d build the applications and common business components, it’s how we’d integrate services for our digitised solutions, it relies on cloud, mobility, AI, data, analytics, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
This is about developing components rapidly, and allowing people and partners to weave them together so we can create superior world class services for our citizens.
That’s our digital capabilities.
New National Development Plan (NDP) 2024-2026
The challenge is there are way too many opportunities as, no doubt anticipated by the Ministry of Finance’s new National Development Plan 2024-2026, and 20-year aspirational plan will confirm.
How do we figure out which ones to prioritise for execution.
We know how to go about it with an operational backbone, having developed target ICT architectures for a long time.
The likelihood of current networks and infrastructure being a value adding operational backbone and enterprise architecture is very low and possibly nonexistent.
If that is the case, then the industry recognises this as technology deficit or that we are “standing on a burning platform”.
And as is well known, fixing that is costly and takes a long time.
But because we need underlying capability to play in the digital economy, we better do it fast, with urgency and alignment to the nations
• NALEEN NAGESHWAR is a regular contributor. The views are his and not of this newspaper.