- 69% say sustainability is a key initiative for 2024
The findings form part of a report based on the views of more than 4,000 customers from 2,900 organisations in the UK and Ireland, across 27 industries in both the public and private sectors.
The report, which is produced annually, reveals the education sector is, for the second year running, prioritising Cyber Security above all technology areas, with 60 percent of respondents saying it is their focus over the next 12 months.
A 2023 government Cyber Security breaches survey revealed that 85 percent of higher education institutions detected cyber security breaches in the last 12 months, followed by further education colleges (82%), secondary schools (63%), and primary schools (41%).
The research suggests that educational institutions have started to move towards more proactive cyber security processes and defences, with 100 percent of schools using firewall protection, 99 percent of schools using antivirus solutions and 72 percent of schools enabling two-factor authentication. Furthermore, 56 percent of school leaders feel more informed about cyber security issues.
Additionally, with the use of education technology (EdTech) across the UK continuing to grow, those in the sector must exercise cyber vigilance to keep up with this trend and mitigate increasing risks, a natural byproduct of digital innovation.
After Cyber Security, Devices and End User Computing was the second most reported investment priority for the next year, with over half (54%) of respondents prioritising it as a key IT investment area.
Secure devices and appropriate technology not only prevent cyber breaches but help retain valuable staff, something which is particularly important to the education sector as it faces a staffing crisis, with 16 percent of teachers planning to leave their jobs within two years and a further 41 percent planning to leave in four years.
Heavy workloads are a considerable contributing factor to high employee turnover, but investment in upgrading devices and digital workspaces to accommodate the rising use of generative AI will help lighten the load.
A recent report revealed that more teachers are realising the benefits of AI, using it to streamline administrative tasks, create subject-specific resources, and provide specialised support for learners with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Alongside this, investment in collaboration and communication technology to support staff, improve efficiency and productivity and increase overall job satisfaction is crucial.
This ties in with the third investment priority for 2024 – Networking and Connectivity (35%).
Investment in appropriate and updated technologies and devices fosters efficient networking and connectivity across the sector, internally and externally. Networking is important as it gives pupils greater access to job opportunities, enhances learning, develops skills and builds meaningful social capital.
Meanwhile, external marketing and communications bring in the next generation of learners to educational institutions, facilitating continued business success and educational teaching for years to come.
Finally, this year’s findings revealed that the prioritisation of sustainability in the education sector has skyrocketed. An increase of 44 percent was recorded, with 69 percent of respondents citing Sustainability as the top Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) priority for the next 12 months.
Educational institutions are powerful drivers of change through research, community engagement and dissemination of knowledge, helping guide society towards a more sustainable future.
Alongside the top tech priorities for the sector, the three top challenges identified for 2024 are Commercial Risk (41%), People (39%) and Technology Procurement (37%).
Given the top three priorities, it is clear to see a correlation between them and these top three challenges. Cyber security investment mitigates commercial risk, whilst networking and communications bolster business growth.
Investment in devices and end-user computing addresses the associated people challenges through updated digital workspace technologies but brings forth natural challenges associated with, sometimes complex, technology procurement processes.
Richard Wyn Griffith, Chief Commercial Officer, commented on the findings:
“As we continue to navigate the ever-changing landscape of technology, it is essential that we remain vigilant and adaptable. The past year has seen global unrest, but it has also presented us with countless technological opportunities for growth and innovation. By taking a measured and strategic approach, we can effectively manage the risks associated with emerging technology, while also seizing the opportunities that it presents. We must remain proactive in our efforts to safeguard against cyber threats, integrate AI into our operations, and build digital resilience.
“Only by embracing change and remaining steadfast in our commitment to progress can we hope to thrive in this new age of digital transformation. I look forward to continuing to work with our customers towards a brighter future!”
The full findings from the 2023 Softcat Business Tech Priorities Report, including expert analysis, can be downloaded here.