Modernized efficiently and operated by T-Systems, the NRW state government network is prepared for the digital future.
State government network NRW

A state keeps its word

“A digital society requires a digital government”, said Ralf Jäger, Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), as he announced a new e-government law that went into effect on July 16, 2016. Soon, the state’s residents will spend less time standing in line at government offices. Instead, they will be able to do more online – from filling applications to checking for official notifications of decisions.
Author: Roger Homrich
Photo: Getty Images/Westend61, Land NRW - Jedermann-Zeichen
This change will make life easier for citizens and public servants. But it requires long-term planning for Germany’s most populous state. Poorly planned infrastructure could bring data communications to a standstill. The entire state – including the smallest of government offices in rural back country areas – needs a flexible, powerful communications network that can handle growing data volumes. “This is a huge challenge for the state government network in terms of security and data volumes,” said Hartmut Beuß, CIO of the State of NRW.

Broadband at the ranger station

Knowing this, NRW’s network planners started preparing the state government network for a broadband future over a decade ago. There was push-back, though. Today’s mainstream digital policies were controversial schemes back then. Why should the tiniest members of NRW’s sprawling network of 4,000 government offices receive high-speed connections to the state government’s wide area network? No one asks this question any more. As digitization has gained momentum, calls for more bandwidth have become standard fare in every political speech that touches on the state’s future. “We want to future-proof our infrastructure even more, which is why we focus on maximizing our flexibility,” said Beuß. At the end of August, he awarded a competitive bid contract to T-Systems to modernize North Rhine-Westphalia’s state government network. Locations will be connected to the state government network at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. Offices with greater data demands can get more. It takes very little time to step up bandwidths to the next higher level. That allows the state to only provide locations with the capacity they currently need and keep costs low until their needs change.
“This is a huge challenge for the state government network in terms of security and data volumes.”
Hartmut Beuß, CIO of the State of NRW

The magic word is IP

The network uses a single IP transmission standard for data and telephony, making it cheaper to operate and faster to make changes. Jörg Flüs, who oversees IT planning and IT management at IT.NRW, sees two big benefits to the IP network: “First, we don’t have to operate two different technologies side by side. Second, we’re using a technology that has proven its worth to us over several years.” North Rhine-Westphalia is now equipped to handle the further increase in data rates fueled by e-filing and voice over IP telephony (VoIP). By 2022, all government offices will use the network for sharing digital files, searching in files and downloading documents. Not only that, but the IP network can support VoIP telephony for phones at around 120,000 work stations spread amongst 4,000 locations in 700 state government agencies and institutions.

Encryption for security

A whopping 20 percent of the total investment is earmarked for security and data protection. Flüs said, “We have a closed user network with dedicated lines that we protect with appropriate technology.” IT.NRW and CIO Beuß plan to look into other security options. Thanks to the new state government network, North Rhine-Westphalia is in a good position for the near- and medium-term future, concluded CIO Beuß: “We can now tell state officials, ‘Don’t worry about network capacity any more. We’ve got the infrastructure.”

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