There is a lot of chatter in IT at the moment about the Cloud in general, which could be described as the greatest reinvention (rather than revolution) that is happening across IT at the moment. From a consumer point of view it is now pervasive and has extended dramatically in the last two years. Your smart phone, e-book reader, and a host of desktop software you have today is delivered to you by the Cloud. But what is it, why is it important, and who is doing it?
In its simplest terms, a Government Cloud is delivered to government only clients via cloud technology. It can be a mix of public, community, and private clouds though the sweet spot is likely to be in and around the community cloud space.
Let’s say I want to launch an all of government financial service. I probably don’t want that service to be in the public cloud, which may mean my tax data is offshore, or my sensitive data, and if I want several government agencies to use it I can’t put it in a private cloud (something I generally only access myself). If these assumptions are true, then I need to put it in a Government Community Cloud. A place where agencies can consume a software as a service that is closed to anyone outside of government, delivered by a vendor (or vendors), reducing cost, and allowing a higher degree of business standardisation.
The primary reason that Government Cloud makes sense is cost. Cost is a major driver in government globally. It makes more sense to share our ICT resource inter-agency as opposed to a single agency buying all the infrastructure and software just for itself. We spend about two billion a year on ICT in government at the moment. Even reducing that cost by 5% frees up a large amount of money. Cost is also reduced at the operational level through economies of scale. For example, rather than having multiple support teams looking after individual software services, they can be freed up (in a market that is screaming for resource) to do other things, because the vendor is providing that for a single instance of a service that multiple customers happen to access.
The ultimate Government Cloud front more often than not is some kind of “Application Store”. Similar to Apple or Google, these large portals allow agencies to access services and pricing directly and quickly.
In terms of who is doing it, pretty much every large and or western government in the world. The United Kingdom is well advanced with its own Government Application Store. The United States is well down the track as is Ireland, India, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Ultimately, as the world’s ICT companies collapse down into their own data centers and withdraw from the old model of software and hardware sales and deployment, access to the traditional desk top, with an operating system installed, plus software, will become more and more scarce. There will be a point in not too many years where we won’t be able to buy services this way, we will have no choice but to adopt what the cloud offers, or maintain an increasingly complex, old, and expensive ICT service. We need to think now about how to get ready for that.
Best Cloud Practices – Government Cloud (interesting view of what Government Cloud could look like with case studies.)
New Zealand Government ICT Directions and Priorities (excellent website with multiple links to various initiatives and guidance.)
New Zealand Government Cloud programme FAQ (a good start for information on the New Zealand Government cloud work.)
UK Cloudstore (the actual Government “App Store” for the United Kingdom)