Since 2010 at least fifty governments have published strategies or initiatives that focus on cloud computing, with the trend accelerating in the last year. This growing focus on cloud adoption demonstrates that governments, like businesses, have a keen interest in realizing the benefits of cloud computing – often not just for the public sector, but their countries as a whole. By using cloud services, governments can achieve far greater computing power, better availability and resilience of data, and improved security even as they dramatically reduce their costs. Most importantly, scalable, on-demand cloud computing services can help government organizations focus on key public priorities with increased agility. In addition to saving governments direct costs, government use of cloud computing can encourage national use of a technology that is proven to empower new job creation, democratize computing and social inclusion, and increase national competitiveness.
These varied benefits and the divergent emphasis put upon them are reflected in the diversity of approaches governments have undertaken with regards cloud computing, and these paths are not set in stone. For ease of understanding we have categorized the government cloud initiatives into the following groups:
- Explanatory: These governments have taken a narrowly focused approach to cloud computing, which oftentimes results in only basic levels of cloud adoption. Their initiatives may define cloud computing and the different deployment models and apply the existing legal frameworks to the technology. While nascent government cloud project are frequently introduced, there is little debate of the risk and benefits of cloud computing. Countries in this category are as diverse as Mauritius and Denmark.
- Operational: Governments in this category take a much more actionable approach to cloud computing. They are mindful of cloud computing benefits and risks, setting practical goals for and criteria to evaluate government adoption. Moreover, they are most focused on managing public sector environments and answering current operational questions for government agencies. Countries in this category include Malaysia and Qatar.
- Aspirational: Finally, governments in the aspirational category demonstrate intentions to absorb significant benefits of cloud computing through wide adoption. Those focused on the public sector aim to increase or organize government procurement of cloud services, advancing aggressive ideas for resolving issues that might inhibit adoption. Those focused on both the public and private sectors aim to increase not only government procurement but also private-sector use of cloud services. Singapore and the European Union fall into this group.
A cursory examination of a small sample proves this: whether we look at the evolution of the cloud first model adopted by the U.S. and Australian governments and their changes over the years, the procurement-based approach introduced in the United Kingdom with G-cloud, national cloud paths being currently considered in the Philippines, Moldova or Slovenia, or the security-focused virtual data embassy initiative in Estonia, one thing is clear – no single model has emerged as predominant.
In the coming months, I will publish a series of blogs that outline what we learned from working with governments on cloud security concerns in particular. In these, I will introduce issues such as risk management, data classification and governance processes and examine whether there is a cloud strategy that governments could utilize to examine their security and compliance risk and help them on the path to realizing broader cloud benefits. Stay tuned.