How government agencies can benefit from cloud

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I was honored to have been asked to speak at the recent Westminster eForum Keynote Seminar: Next steps for cloud computing. My discussion addressed “Cloud Skills, Flexibility and Strategy,” and I’d like to share some of the highlights of my presentation in a short series of two blog posts.

The Westminster Forum Projects enjoy substantial support and involvement from key policymakers within the United Kingdom and devolved legislatures, governments and regulatory bodies, and from stakeholders in professional bodies, businesses and their advisors, consumer organizations, local government representatives and other interested groups. The forum is structured to facilitate the formulation of best public policy by providing policymakers and implementers with a sense of the way different stakeholder perspectives interrelate, helping to provide policymakers with context for arriving at whatever decisions they see fit.


The abstract to the session asked about the extent to which government departments are embracing the cloud, what progress is being made toward achieving the UK’s data capability strategy on skills and infrastructure development, and whether organizations are doing enough to address the emerging shortfall in skills. It also asked about the contradiction between mobile device power and cloud.

My presentation examined the power of cloud, covering three areas raised in the session abstract: shared services and shared data, mobile and skills.

We see cloud being used in three different ways: for optimization, innovation and disruption. Most of what I’ve seen so far in cloud adoption centers is on optimization or cost saving measures—the use of standardization, automation, virtualization and self service to do the same things cheaper and faster.

What’s more interesting are the new things that can be achieved with the innovation and disruption that cloud can provide.

I’ve been working with various groups (local authorities, police forces and universities), discussing ways to consolidate their data centers. Instead of each one managing their own IT environment, as they have done in the past, they can now share it in a cloud. They justify this with the cost saving argument, but it’s important to note two things: first, they can stop worrying about IT and focus on their real role; and second, by putting their data together in a shared environment, they can achieve things that they’ve never done before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe copyright on this image is owned by Andy Beecroft and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution–ShareAlike 2.0 license.

For example, if the Soham Village police force had access to data that Ian Huntley had been convicted of previous crimes in other towns, he never would have been hired as caretaker of the local secondary school, and the Soham murders would have been less likely to happen.

If data was shared, we probably wouldn’t have issues with burglars crossing the border between West and North Yorkshire to avoid detection.

We predict that by optimizing their IT infrastructure, the UK city of Sunderland will have £1.4 million cost saving per year. What’s more important is that this has already helped to create a shared environment for start up companies to get up and running quickly, which is stimulating economic growth in the area.

The 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann provides another example. After her disappearance, it was important to collect holiday photos from members of the public as quickly as possible. Creating a website for this before cloud would have taken far too long. Nowadays it can be accomplished very quickly. This isn’t just about cost saving and optimization; it’s about achieving things that could never have been done before.

What new things can or should governments achieve with cloud that they couldn’t before? Please leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.

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