A “cloud-first” approach to strengthening Poland’s position as an IT challenger
Last year Poland further reinforced its reputation as a local, Central-European leader of innovative technology and IT solutions. In the near future, the country’s public and private sectors are both expected to redouble their efforts to make Polish technology and IT products among the most innovative in the region.
To keep pace with current worldwide trends, major players on the Polish market are already working on implementing a fully cloud computing (or “cloud first”) model for its technology and IT products and solutions. In a cloud-based environment, software and data resources remain available on-demand even when the user is not directly active and without the need to engage any data centre or the user’s actual storage.
When trying to provide an accurate forecast for the Polish TMT sector, it is important to realise that it is not only private entities that have recognised the widespread need for cloud solutions. The Polish government has also identified a growing reliance on cloud technology and has made it a priority objective in its future plans for developing and managing public IT solutions for Polish citizens.
On 11 September 2019, the Polish Government passed Resolution No 97, a new initiative entitled Common Information Infrastructure of the State (henceforth, the Initiative). This is a 19-page roadmap setting out the next steps that need to be taken at the government level to ensure public IT solutions are upgraded to the next, fully cloud-based, level.
The overriding goals of the Initiative are: firstly, to shorten the time required to access public electronic services; secondly, to broaden access to public electronic services and personal data processed by the public authorities; and, thirdly, to ensure the highest possible level of data security and integrity.
The two key innovations envisaged under the Initiative are Government Cloud Computing and the Government Security Cluster – comprehensive software solutions that will provide most public authorities with free, unlimited access to the Government’s centrally maintained cloud storage system. All solutions connected with the central cloud and cluster systems, as well as all local clouds created by the authorities, will be based on the software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) models so as to guarantee they meet the latest industry standards. Moreover, the Initiative requires all tools and systems designed for the domain of public administration to comply with strict new State Cyber Computing Standards, which will determine the minimum level of security that systems must meet for them to operate within the state-administered cloud and cluster.
The anticipated cost of the Initiative will partly be covered by funds set aside from the state budget for the coming years. Another source of financing will be the European Union’s “Polska Cyfrowa” (Digital Poland) operational program. Both the Initiative itself and the fact that the resources set aside for software development will be allocated within the state budget are a clear signal that it is a time for providers of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS tools and services to focus their efforts on Poland, where investment in such technologies will undoubtedly increase.
Gambling sector to set the technological trends in the coming years
The adoption of the aforementioned Initiative simply highlights the efforts that the Polish Government has already undertaken towards promoting a computerised and digitised public administration. A number of key areas are already covered by complex IT solutions, thereby enabling the public authorities to gather and process on a remote basis the data required for their day-to-day operations using a “real-time access” model.
One institution that has committed itself to remaining in step with such global trends is the Polish Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for Poland’s quasi-private gambling sector. The latter is deemed to be one of the sector’s most exposed, due to the dangers of possible fraudulent activities, and has therefore always been strictly regulated.
Beginning from 2016 and 2017, gambling in Poland, both online and on-premises, has been organised and administered as a state monopoly and is strictly regulated. The task of exercising this state monopoly has been delegated to the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance and Totalizator Sportowy sp. z o.o., a limited liability company fully controlled by the State Treasury. Some games – such as betting and casino games – are still run by private entities, albeit while being closely monitored by the public authorities.
After 2016 the Polish public authorities have had to adapt to a new reality, in which they are not only required to supervise the gambling market, but also to run actual gambling businesses in the form of a state online casino and state slot-machine rooms. The centralisation of the gambling market has forced the authorities to develop technology that would enable it to oversee the participants and organisers of the state-supervised gambling activities.
To monitor the activities of players using state-supplied slot machines, the Polish authorities were required to develop a solution ensuring remote, real-time access to the data stored in all legally operated slot machines in Poland, which in turn would provide information relevant to the task of administering access to these slot machines as well as the size of the stakes. The task of the central system is to obtain and record data on bets made and winnings paid out from slot machines, the history of game play and all data on the status of slot machines, including information on any machine malfunctioning or interference. All slot machines located in Poland have real-time, unlimited access to the system so that data can be passed onto the latter, which in turn enables data to be stored and automatically archived. The development and maintenance of this system remains one of the most recognisable IT projects in Poland currently being financed with funds from the state budget.
Moreover, over the last few months Poles have had the opportunity to bet in the country’s first-ever state online casino. The Total Casino (which is the official name of both the casino itself and its website) offers both browser and mobile access to various casino games, including online slot machines, online roulette, poker, blackjack and other card games. The launch of an official state-sponsored online casino is a major novelty on the Polish gambling market and the casino’s operations conform to the highest standards of cloud data storage with both the casino administrator and the player enjoying high-quality remote access. To meet the strict requirements of the regulator regarding participation in gambling, the online casino was provided with a complex certification system aimed at monitoring the access of players and preventing unauthorised persons from playing.
Similar centralisation tendencies can be observed in other sectors, which makes the Polish gambling sector a test case for analysing what has been achieved to date and what we can expect to see in the future in other markets where the state or state funds exercise direct or indirect control – such as television, media and broadcasting.
Faced with the steady expansion of mandatory electronic systems for tax declarations and government reporting, Polish business entities nowadays have no alternative but to enter into the new, digital world. This in turn will require entrepreneurs operating in Poland to engage top IT developers and providers in the design, implementation and maintenance of solutions crafted to meet Polish compliance criteria.
Both private and public entities will be seeking technologies enabling unlimited, free and safe data transfer and storage without the use of actual data centres, and where the public authorities will have guaranteed access to such data in real time.
Auction for 5G frequencies
Ongoing digitisation, the shift from on-premise to cloud models, the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities all require rapidly expanding the network and increasing its bandwidth. These undertakings will be supported by the introduction of the 5G network in Poland.
The distribution of 5G frequencies in Poland began in December 2019 and is expected to end in 2020. The President of the Office of Electronic Communications (UKE), the regulatory authority responsible for telecommunications and postal activities and frequency resource management, is planning to award the rights to use four frequencies in a simultaneous, ascending auction with a minimum price of PLN450 million per one packet of frequencies.
UKE chose to organise an auction instead of a tender as an ascending price auction allows it to respond rapidly to the actions of other participants, making it more likely that higher prices will be achieved. A company will only be allowed to bid if it has already invested at least PLN1 billion in the telecommunication infrastructure or radio network in Poland and if it possesses a reservation for another countrywide frequency. This means that only a limited number of participants may take part in the procedure. Each bidder can only apply for one frequency and will be obliged to make further investments – for example, by building at least 500 base transceiver stations within the next five years./