As global companies like Citigroup and Starbucks have known for some time, cloud technologies offer huge opportunities in terms of reduced computing costs, faster speed and greater flexibility.
Similar benefits exist for governments. While the journey may be rocky owing to the different environment governments live in, the final destination should be well worth the effort.
A look at the cloud
Cloud computing can be defined as the dynamic provisioning of IT capabilities whether hardware, software or services via the Internet. A cloud-based model provides rapid acquisition, low to no capital investment, lower operation costs and variable pricing tied directly to use.
Organisations add processing power by simply attaching more servers. Everything is virtualised so software can be operated on any available server with capacity. With everything hosted on the cloud, users can run processes and build applications without loading every tool onto their computers.
Envisioned with cloud is a cross-government sharing system that allows citizens to access everything they need from a common portal. Data security is appropriately provided with governments specifying data sensitivity, and the cloud storing it accordingly.
Cost -Significant savings are realised by eliminating upfront capital expense and replacing it with low pay-as-you-go operating expense. Governments can use it as an economical way to provide IT services to NGOs, community organisations or small start-up businesses.
Flexibility - Clouds grow, shrink or disappear as required, making it particularly applicable for seasonal needs or to supplement conventional systems.
Speed - Cloud makes governments agile and responsive. Cloud alleviates the traditional lead time previously needed to procure, deliver and install hardware.
Globally, governments are quickly realising the opportunity. The U.S. federal government recently launched Apps.gov, an online storefront for national agencies to purchase cloud-based IT services for productivity, collaboration and efficiency. In addition to changing how its IT operates, the government believes it will eventually save taxpayer dollars.
The Japanese government plans to create the Kasumigaseki Cloud, a nationwide cloud computing infrastructure to host the country's government IT systems. Japan hopes to reduce electronic government-related development and operating costs while increasing the pace of processing by integrating shared functions, increasing collaboration among systems, and promising secure and advanced services.
In Singapore, there are plans to create a Government-Cloud (G-Cloud) to provide a cloud infrastructure for the Whole-Of-Government to leverage on. Central G-Cloud will provide central services such as government Web service exchange, and gateways to SingPass and e-Payment services. To further aggregate Whole-Of-Government demand to maximise cost savings to the government, the government will identify and provide common services, such as customer relationship management and Web content management, as software-as-a-service offerings on G-Cloud.
Governments, of course, must look at cloud computing through different lenses than the commercial sector.
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