A view from the G-cloud

Government ICT has seen a significant change over the last few years, with smart governments starting to leverage the scalability and agility of the cloud to drive value for money initiatives.

Government ICT has seen a significant change over the last few years with a focus to get the best out of its technology to deliver modern public services. From the legacy mainframes to the standardized virtual servers, IT always enabled governments. Traditionally, governments had to develop dedicated IT infrastructure and applications specific to their purpose to conduct its business.

This lead to highly fragmented, inappropriately provisioned silos of infrastructure and applications, utilised to just 10 per cent of its capacity. This approach hindered governments’ ability to fully take advantage of new technologies in delivering better citizen-centric services which are deployed quickly as well as responsive to demand.

Technology is evolving constantly and so are the unexpected challenges for governments - terrorism, recession, natural disasters, slow economic growth – are just few examples. So citizens expect their government to take proactive measures to monitor and mitigate these risks. Current smart governments have started to leverage the scalability and agility of cloud services to drive the initiatives to provide value for money to the taxpayer. Government cloud (G-Cloud) is the evolution of the traditional government services to a catalyst to revolutionize the way IT is used.

G-cloud will create a platform for future governments who will be confronting bigger challenges like huge demand due to increase in population, rapid urbanisation and technological obsolescence. G-Cloud will be the game changer for the future governments as they will be able to match the demand with real time reporting, pro-actively devise better service delivery mechanism to common man. G-Cloud requires a well planned road map which involves three major framework iterations.

Digital services transformation

This can be described as the imperative to better enable more online service delivery through key technologies such as mobile applications, Open Data and Cloud computing. A recent Market Analyst report mentioned that there is a shift from capital intensive IT investments to affordable, operational IT expenditure and Asia-Pacific governments will spend more than $US100 billion on IT in 2014.

Gone are the days, when Adam used to get surprised that despite the heavy traffic all his key document verification, tax returns submission and auditing is done over cloud within no time. Now when he makes a tax saving investment, it directly gets verified and updated in the IT department linked to his citizen ID avoiding the need for document verification by citizen.

Along with the confirmation of this saving on mobile, he receives suggestions with comparisons of similar government accredited tax saving investment offerings for the remaining taxable amount. Even credit card payment entries for tax exempted payments are updated in IT department without any duplication. IT returns filing is just a one click verification of these entries in the year end.

All government systems and applications are always accessed by millions, so sizing a system in silo for a particular capacity is not a viable option as it is often rapidly overwhelmed. Sharing resources will provide flexibility for scalability, enable high load levels and improve service management. Cloud services along with datacentre consolidation for cross-government economies of scale will reduce the inherent costs and complexity of traditional on-premise server-based systems.

Security, data governance concerns of government departments can be resolved by utilising the assurance levels and benefits of different cloud computing models (private & public cloud) and categorising the government applications based on the sensitivity of data. Public sector organizations can access their hosted ICT from a secure and cost-effective shared environment of G-Cloud through the public network.  A complex IT environment with diverse technologies, devices and methods makes it difficult to deliver good service quality. So improved operation efficiency through standardisation and process automation is another enabler for G-Cloud. Also well-defined service level agreements will ensure timely delivery and quality of service.

Beyond cost, government needs to look at cloud services as a transformational tool. It is not just about migrating all infrastructure , applications and data to cloud but utilizing the nature of web to transform the core-process itself. Adopting cloud technology will help government to divert their IT budgets to priority areas like public safety, education, disaster recovery and healthcare

A “one-stop-shop” for all the government departments to find a solution from pre-procured services or G-Cloud certified services in context of their organization. This open market place consolidates the buying power, assurance of government accreditation and reduces the procurement overheads. Thus providing unprecedented levels of choice for solutions/business services, development platforms and infrastructure. In this open market pricing is transparent, established procurement process and barriers to entry are limited. Here the suppliers are also given the freedom to innovate and think beyond the out dated customer specifications and requirements given in the RFP procurement process.

Citizen centric solutions

Larry called up the municipality complaining about the regular noise pollution in his neighborhood. On the same day Samantha posted an image of children covering their face due to smoke near her daughter’s school, on a social networking site. Grievances department identified the proximity between these locations and found an approval for construction work granted by the municipality few days back in that area. Next day Peter mailed the traffic control department to complain about the daily traffic blocks near his office. He received a quick reply mentioning that the construction work near his office has been asked to stop their work during day time to avoid pollution and traffic blocks. Peter was thrilled by the proactive approach of the traffic control department. 

Dynamically integrating multiple back end systems for achieving a more sophisticated business process and utilizing the power of social web will radically transform the service delivery for citizens and the cost base for implementing these technologies. G-Cloud encourages innovative ideas from suppliers and new solutions can be developed with inputs from the citizens to suit their need.

For emergency services - such as police, fire, anti-terrorism task force, search and rescue services – solutions are being developed by integrating and advanced analysis of data from multiple sources such as GPS, video surveillance, social websites or other communications to process data in real time. Leveraging GIS capability, natural disaster mitigation activities can be planned by assessing the vulnerability of disaster prone areas and citizens can be warned with mobile alerts by application delivered through G-Cloud. Government officials can use mapping tool to track areas in the country with high instances of violence and plan for crime prevention activities.

The Australian government and other major government IT organisations including those of Japan, Singapore, New Zealand and South Korea, have already determined to run centralised G-clouds.

Pradeep Bindal is the president HCL Technologies - APAC and MEA

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