Governments are turning to tech for improved efficiency

President NtuliPresident Ntuli

Vivek Kundra, the US Government’s CIO, announced in his White House blog in May 2010, that, was moving “to the cloud”. Recovery. gov provides access to data related to Recovery Act  spending, and allows for the reporting of potential fraud, waste, and abuse.

Kundra maintains that the “Federal Government has a duty to be a leader in pioneering the use of new  technologies that are more efficient and economical”. Additionally, the TechAmerica Foundation has  set-up the Commission on the Leadership Opportunity in the US Deployment of the Cloud. The  commission, co-chaired by (chairman and CEO of and Michael D. Capellas (chairman and CEO of VCE) is mandated with providing recommendations on how  government should deploy cloud, and on public policies that will help drive US innovation in the cloud.

Similarly, the British government has released a cloud strategy, which, it claims, could reduce the annual  £16 billion IT spend by £3.2 billion (savings will include the proposed adoption of open source software). “Many government CIOs across the world are considering cloud computing because it can be rapidly  provisioned and released with minimal intervention from the service providers,” says President Ntuli, global accounts manager: public sector, for Hewlett-Packard South Africa.

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“Cloud computing,” he says, “brings with it the promise of choice; choice on how you source and deliver  services to drive down cost, on how you ramp up delivery time, and on how you achieve higher quality.”

Local consideration

The Obama administration’s commitment to a government cloud (or g-cloud) is  evident through mandating a Cloud-First policy through its Office of Management and Budget. The  policy will require agencies, when seeking budget approval in 2012, to default to cloud-based solutions,  if those solutions meet key considerations, including , reliability, and cost-effectiveness.

However, an April 2011 survey conducted by Quest Software, through the Norwich University School of  Graduate and Continuing Studies (available at found almost half of government respondents “(48.4%) ‘don’t know’ how their agency is going to satisfy the demands of the Cloud-First  policy”.

Additionally, only 9% of respondents felt existing federal standards and regulations provided sufficient  for cloud adoption, with 50.5% feeling standards needed to be “supplemented” before  cloud adoption should take place. Locally, while no similar mandate exists, the Government Information Technology Officers’ Council (Gitoc) and the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) are engaging  with private sector service providers on issues pertaining to a government cloud.

International fears are reflected locally, however. , EMC’s district sales manager for  public sector says the uneasiness around cloud services are justified, as recent examples of breaches warrant it. “But,” he says, “there is also a lack of understanding of protocols imbedded in cloud  infrastructure provisioning. And as the volume of data keeps growing, governments, locally and globally, cannot avoid the move to cloud computing.

Governments cannot continue investing in infrastructure that is not agile, and does not allow for  provisioning.”

“Sita is investigating implementing a government cloud,” says Ntuli. “It has realised that the current  systems in place do not allow for efficiency, and are exposing them to unnecessary risk… current demand is not being met, yet there is underutilised infrastructure. Sita,” he says, “has done an excellent  job in understanding where the challenges lie, and what is necessary to move forward with cloud computing.”

Mabothe agrees that government is making a clear move towards a migration to cloud: “Sita is finalising the ICT strategy for government, and it includes cloud. There is a general acceptance that cloud is the way to go, and Sita is engaging private sector industry – it has recognised that service providers can play a key role in cloud migration.”

Underlying infrastructure

The South African government is ready, from an infrastructure perspective, to start its move toward  cloud.

“The basics are in place,” says Mabothe. “The whole reason behind the creation of Sita was to facilitate  communication, and allow government departments to leverage IT gain through collaboration. As all  government departments use Sita, there is an infrastructure backbone, and networks in place.”

Most departments have their own data centres, and they are starting to appreciate the benefits of  virtualisation. “The majority have started on the virtualisation route, with national government departments being the most advanced,” says Mabothe. And some, says , CEO of Cordys  Software South Africa, are already utilising cloud. “SARS e-filing is a good example of a cloud solution,  albeit a vertical solution. It is highly secure, scalable, and is run in a browser.

Most solutions we see  currently are vertical. It’s a good start, but we need to focus on horizontal solutions to see true benefit. As yet, no one has those bedded down locally. And the more information  moved into the cloud, the more the opportunity for a truly horizontal cloud solution will exist, allowing government a single view of the citizen – across multiple departments.”

The steps toward becoming cloudenabled need not be as cost-intensive as many fear, he continues.

“There are many objects that could be saved in government’s critical applications – by using an ‘onion-ring’ approach, applications can be made cloud ready.” Additionally, once cloud services are in place, government, says Rolfe, “wouldsave billions of rand.