Cloud Computing In Government Sector

Abstract
This paper examines the manner in which cloud computing has been used
in the public sector and explains the trends in its applications. It
outlines the reasons why there is a disparity in the uptake of cloud
computing technology between the private and the public sector and
examines the successful application of the technology in Australia’s
national security agency. Varied barriers to the implementation have
been identified especially regarding security issues pertaining to cloud
computing. This has been complemented by some alternatives or options
for how such barriers may be eliminated. In addition, the benefits that
accrue to cloud computing have been outlined including cost saving and
elimination of the possibility of duplicating service.
The importance of technology in the contemporary world cannot be
gainsaid as far as the efficiency of institutions is concerned. Indeed,
technology has been credited with increased speed and efficiency, as
well as decreased cost of carrying out operations in organizations and
government institutions, thereby enhancing service delivery. This should
underline the reason for its incredible absorption especially in
organizations, business entities and institutions. Of course, it is well
acknowledged that both the private and the public sector has been
adopting technology at different rates. Nowhere else is this more
evident than in the absorption of cloud technology.
While there exists no commonly accepted definition of cloud computing,
it may simply be defined as the form of internet based computing in
which the different services such as applications, servers and storage
are delivered to the devises and computers of the organization via the
internet. The technology revolves around a modification in knowledge
management and computing where hosted IT services are delivered on an
internet-based and shared platform. Scholars have noted that the
fundamental value in this category of environment revolves around the
capacity of the institution to utilize this platform in blending access
and exchange of data with access to low-cost application and computing
so as to offer flexibility and efficiency (Nikolov, 2011). Of course,
the transformative nature of the technology can never be underestimated.
However, like other innovations that are potentially transformative,
cloud technology has taken quite some time for users to fully comprehend
its full capacity, as well as go beyond the initial mystique, build and
operationalise it, not to mention developing and proving its credibility
and going to its broad adoption (Nikolov, 2011). Indeed, there remains
quite a lot of work to be done for the technology to be fully adopted
and operational. Nevertheless, research shows that the momentum for the
adoption of this technology has been increasing in both the private and
the public sector. However, the private sector has adopted the
technology more readily than the government sector (Nikolov, 2011). This
may be attributed to some differences between the private sector and the
government agencies.
First, governments are faced with a different risk/reward environment
compared to the private sector. Scholars note that governments have less
incentives to undertake risks that come with new and untested
technologies (KPMG, 2012). This is unlike private entities that are
usually rewarded to taking and managing risks. Public officers rarely
get rewarded if all goes well in the adoption of such technology but
would pay a high price if the adoption results in any problems (KPMG,
2012).
In addition, there exist variations between the scope and size of
government enterprises and private sector corporations (KPMG, 2012).
Indeed, governments are extremely complex and large, running numerous
programs, each of which may be equal to business lines in private
sectors.
On the same note, government agencies usually make efforts to maintain
their presence in a wide geographical area, which is in conflict with
cloud environments as they pull resources from scattered operations into
concentrated models.
This, nevertheless, does not undermine the fact that governments have
been taking fundamental steps in an effort to facilitate the
implementation of cloud technology and eliminate barriers. Scholars note
that there exists no single favored approach to its implementation as
widespread adoption of the technology in service delivery is yet to
reach a mature level.
The United States has taken up the mantle in the adoption of the cloud
technology. Indeed, researchers note that the country has been adopting
a “Cloud First” strategy in a rapid speed starting with the use of
Google Documents and Google Mail to the migration of Recovery.com,
thereby making it the trailblazing government-wide system to migrate to
Cloud as at April 2010. In addition, the United States 2011 Federal
Budget had cloud computing as a fundamental component of its strategy in
the achievement of efficiency and the reduction of costs (Wang et al,
2012). The budget underlined the importance of all agencies carrying out
an assessment of the varied cloud computing alternatives as a component
of their budget submissions for every key IT investment. Indeed, it
required that all IT investments that were enhancing to an existing
investment had to undertake an alternative analysis consisting of cloud
computing based alternative as a component of their submissions by
September 2012 (Wang et al, 2012). On the same note, all IT Investments
that were in steady state were require to have undertaken an
alternatives analysis consisting of cloud computing based alternative as
a component of their budget submissions by September 2013. In its
efforts to increase the pace of the adoption of cloud computing
technology, the United States Services Administration developed a portal
targeting cloud computing applications for the government sector (Wang
et al, 2012). This offered public sector agencies a common platform on
which it could procure cloud services IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
and SaaS (Software as a Service) from recommended service providers.
However, other countries have followed suit and introduced cloud
computing technologies.
Successful Implementation of Cloud Computing: The Case of Australia
The national science agency of Australia called The Commonwealth
Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) lacked best
practices like system failover as it implemented standalone scientific
applications and systems that needed to be locally managed, which
duplicated expensive resources and created more work. CSIRO, however,
saw a chance to standardize the systems’ infrastructure, as well as
consolidate applications so as to allow for the management, securing,
and sharing of data across all sites on the basis of industry-standard
practices. It obtained a virtualization and consolidation plan and the
requisite expertise from Cisco with its engagement including a
requirements’ workshop that would define a test bench, needs, a
high-level design, knowledge transfer for the operational tasks, as well
as a run book. Currently, almost 100% of the agency’s business
applications have been successfully virtualized, with work being
underway to duplicate the virtualization in other databases and critical
applications.
How cloud computing has been used in public sector
Cloud computing has been used in providing a way for meeting citizen’s
demands for interactive access to services. This has been attained
through IaaS and PaaS, which allow for extension of platform, thereby
allowing governments IT to proactively and reactively respond to
heightened demand for services at a reduced cost.
In addition, the technology has been used in curbing system failures in
the tax season. Infrastructure capacity undergoes scaling so as to meet
demand in peak season, in which case it is imperative that sufficient
protection is provided from infrastructure failures. Cloud computing
allows for on-demand scaling and eliminated data redundancy, thereby
safeguarding better responsiveness and management. On the same note, it
prevents over-provisioning especially considering computer resources are
provisioned to handle peak-demand loads, which may result in
less-than-full utilization during nonpeak times. Cloud computing allows
multiple agencies to use the same infrastructure, as well as automated
provisioning onsite, which reduces costs and eliminates
over-provisioning.
Moreover, emergency response activities must be coordinated
appropriately and resources provided quickly by emergency-management
agencies. Cloud computing incorporates on-demand scaling, which agencies
can use to quickly provision a set of emergency-response activities,
thereby allowing the agencies to support applications at a low cost and
still respond quickly to crisis and risk.
While government sector have recognized these benefits and increasingly
adopted the technology, various factors have been preventing the
adoption. Key among them is the issue of data security and privacy
(Mudge et al, 2010). Indeed, scholars have stated that while government
agencies may be considerably more risk averse than players in the
private sector, they often incorporate sensitive data pertaining to
citizen personal information, as well as data touching on issues of
national security such as the Department of Defense or Department of
Homeland Security (Mudge et al, 2010).
However, the barriers may be eliminated primarily by enhancing the
security systems in cloud technology. There should be extensive checks
and guards on the individuals who can access the sensitive data that
government agencies have placed in the cloud technology. On the same
note, it is imperative that clear guidelines as to the information that
could be placed on public cloud and private cloud (Mudge et al, 2010).
In conclusion, cloud technology has been increasingly taken up by both
the private and public sectors. However, the public sector has been
cautious in its adoption thanks to concerns of security, few incentives
in its adoption, enormous complexity of the government agencies, and the
fact that they feel the need to increase their presence. However, the
United States has been trailblazing in its adoption of the technology,
which is bound to be fully mature by 2015. As much as governments have
been cautious, they stand to reap immensely from the technology through
decreased costs of operation, as well as increased efficiency and
flexibility. However, it is imperative that the security apparatus are
enhanced so as to allow for the protection of sensitive information,
thereby allowing for enhanced adoption.
References
Nikolov, G. I. (2011). Cloud computing and government: Background,
benefits, risks. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
Mudge, C., & Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and
Engineering. (2010). Cloud computing: Opportunities and challenges for
Australia. Melbourne: Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and
Engineering.
Linthicum, D.S (2009). Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your
Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide. New York: Pearson Education
Wang, L., Ranjan, R., Chen, J & Benatallah, B (2012). Cloud Computing:
Methodology, Systems, and Applications. New York: CRC Press,
KPMG, (2012). Exploring the Cloud: A Global Study of Governments’
Adoption of Cloud. KPMG International Cooperative.
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