Government agencies around the world are getting started with their cloud journeys

By | 5 minute read | October 5, 2021

Graphic depicting the importance of government agencies using cloud technology

Cloud infrastructure is becoming more critical for government organizations as they explore digital modernization. With cloud technology, governments can tap into more sources of data as well as new ways to analyze it. They can also leverage the latest technologies, like IoT, blockchain and high-performance computing. Additionally, new algorithms, machine learning and AI are driving new insights and automation that can help governments deliver more engaging, personalized citizen services.

Here are just a few reasons why governments should consider using cloud resources:

  • 66% of healthcare executives say their healthcare organizations will be in the cloud within the next year and 96% within three years.1
  • 75% of requests for proposals, requests for information and requests for quotes in the human services market referenced cloud.2
  • Using “open source, cloud-based” solutions across the technology stack is a priority in the US Digital Services Playbook for government agencies.2
  • The European Commission adopted a “cloud-first” approach based on a hybrid cloud service to support its goal of becoming a user-focused, data-driven digital organization by 2022.3

Benefits of moving to cloud

If those trends aren’t convincing enough, then consider the potential that cloud solutions have to support the goals of government agencies by optimizing internal operations and customer relationships. Cloud environments offer many advantages, such as:

Greater scalability and elasticity. Cloud computing lets you scale workloads automatically — up or down — in real-time to respond to business growth or surges in traffic. Working with a cloud provider that has data centers around the world helps you scale up or down on demand without sacrificing performance or connectivity.

Greater cost efficiency. Gartner says the two main reasons governments are turning to the cloud are “delivering services efficiently and achieving cost savings”.4 Traditional IT requires you to purchase computing capacity in anticipation of growth or surges in traffic — capacity that sits unused until you grow or traffic surges. With cloud computing, you pay only for the capacity you need, when you need it. Cloud also eliminates the ongoing expense of purchasing, housing, maintaining and managing infrastructure on premises.

Improved agility and faster time to market. On the cloud, you can spin up a server in minutes, while purchasing and deploying the same server on premises might take weeks or months. Forrester5 agrees that cloud adoption by government agencies means faster innovation that is simpler and cheaper to scale, easier to fund (fewer capital expenditures and more balanced operating expenditures) and less expensive to operate.

Improved reliability and business continuity. Because most cloud providers have redundancy built into their global networks, data backup and disaster recovery are typically much easier and less expensive to implement effectively in the cloud than on premises. Providers who offer packaged disaster recovery solutions— referred to disaster recovery as a service, or DRaaS — make the process even easier, more affordable and less disruptive.

Continuous performance improvement. The leading cloud service providers regularly update their infrastructure with the latest, highest-performing computing, storage and networking hardware.

Better security, built in. Traditionally, security concerns have been the leading obstacle for organizations considering cloud adoption. But in response to demand, the security offered by cloud service providers is steadily outstripping on-premises solutions. According to security software provider McAfee, today 52% of companies experience better security in the cloud than on premises. Gartner has predicted that by this year (2020), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) cloud workloads will experience 60% fewer security incidents than those in traditional data centers.

Cloud deployment and delivery models

Today, enterprises are adopting a variety of cloud deployment and delivery models. Deployment models include private clouds, public clouds, and a mix of both, such as hybrid cloud or multicloud environments. Cloud platforms currently have three main delivery models:

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). IaaS is when a vendor provides clients pay-as-you-go access to storage, networking, servers and other computing resources in the cloud.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). PaaS is the next level up, which also includes developer tools for building applications, such as middleware, database management and operating systems.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). SaaS is the most commonly understood model. A service provider delivers software and apps through the internet then users subscribe to the software and access it via the web or vendor APIs.

The flexibility offered by these models can be very useful to government agencies because it provides them with options to re-vamp their entire digital ecosystem all at once or to gradually update services one by one through a more modular approach. There are pros and cons to both approaches, so which approach your agency will use largely depends on your agency’s needs and goals.

The next phase of the government cloud journey

As local governments continue to strengthen their modernization efforts, it’s important for cloud technology vendors to meet organizations where they are in their journey. At IBM Watson Health, we’re committed to bringing our health and human services domain knowledge together with cloud expertise to deliver solutions that can be adapted to each agency’s specific needs

For example, IBM Watson Health supported the Scottish Government’s journey to the cloud to deliver benefits to its citizens using a deployment of IBM Social Program Management (SPM) and the government is currently in the first phase of launching a modern, flexible platform. Social Security Scotland has used the system to pay out more than GBP 190 million to nearly 100,000 households.

Because SPM is deployed on Red Hat OpenShift, which can be deployed to any cloud provider, including IBM Cloud, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google, Social Security Scotland won’t be committed to a single vendor if their needs change in the future. The solution can also operate on premises or in the cloud using private, public or hybrid cloud technologies, which gives them the flexibility they need to build a solution that works well for them.

Ultimately, health and human services IT organizations around the world that are looking to optimize their capital and operational expenditures should strongly consider cloud strategies. Cloud-native solutions and infrastructure can strengthen almost any plan you have for offering digital services in your community.

Learn more about how IBM Social Program Management can assist your agency on their cloud journey.

References:
  1. Accenture Digital Health Technology Vision 2021, June 2021
  2. IBM Research, September 2019
  3. The European Commission – Cloud Strategy, May 2019 ec.europa.eu
  4. Gartner, Understanding Cloud Adoption in Government, April 2018
  5. Forrester, Best Practices: Government Cloud Usage, Tackling Contracts, Culture, And Regulation, Nov 2019 forrester.com