Today, government entities must meet the foundational demands of a large and complex populace – housing, healthcare, core administration, business services, and infrastructure development. And it all begins with a transformative government framework at both local and national levels. For instance, the Digital India initiative is part of a larger schematic, focused on a tech-empowered mechanism, pushing the government towards better service delivery to citizens. The objective being to digitize all popular citizen functions that need round-the-clock, and easy accessibility. This has several arms – consolidating fragmented IT infrastructure via cloud architecture, is one of the top priorities.
Laying the Brickwork – Initial StridesThe Indian Government has already made several moves in this direction, starting with the now ubiquitous Aadhaar. Launched in 2009, this 12-character code is assigned by the Unique Identification Authority of India, collating all personal information into a single, secure and virtual source. In spite of initial doubts, the scheme has been widely successful, with nearly 99 % of the adult population above the age of 18 having been assigned an Aadhaar Number. And for public sector bodies looking to verify identities (such as banks and telecom), the cost of Knowing Your Customer dropped from INR 40 per instance, to just INR 5. This is actually a common theme across the board – cost optimization remains a major thrust for embracing the cloud. Early this month, the Maharashtra government announced its intention to stop building data centers, announcing a public cloud policy virtually mandating its departments to move their data storage onto the cloud (with adequate safeguards) in order to enable public institutions to take advantage of the benefits cloud technologies has to offer. IT secretary SVR Srinivas is confident that virtualization is a smarter alternative: “If we use the cloud technology, there will be a reduction in such costs as the empaneled service provider will have the data stored for public/non-public use.”
Every day, the state generates over half a million documents that need to be housed in one of their 75 data centers – a significant drain on the government coffers, simply for upkeep.
Finding the Right Partners, CSPs, and IT Solution FirmsCloud service providers (CSPs) in turn must meet the stringent regulatory and security benchmarks required for handling large swathes of sensitive data. According to government mandates, the information cannot be stored in warehouses/servers outside the country – Last year, AWS became the first international provider to be fully ratified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. However, all services would be delivered under the banner of their Indian subsidiary, Amazon Internet Services Pvt. Ltd.
The country’s home-grown and rapidly evolving start-up eco-system is investing heavily in building cloud based solutions for core processes like collaboration, documents/email storage, workflow and more to meet a range of demands, unlocking the following benefits:
1. Increase security
The recent surge in process digitization is creating huge volumes of data that need cataloging, storage, and maintenance – a monumental task, given the sheer volumes. Further, this data needs to be secure and durable, something an on-premise network may be unable to adequately provide for.Taking core communication lines like email to the cloud, could safeguard critical citizen data. With Cloud Service Providers providing adequate defence against cyber attacks and data durability.
2. Scale easily
A significant requirement for government bodies is the need to scale and extend services continually to cover newer groups of citizens or to include newer services.Built-in scalability, although a must-have for digital infrastructures, is often restricted due to resource constraints in an in-premise data centre. Tying up with Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) delegates the responsibility of infrastructure scaling and upkeep.
3. Ensure reliability
As a public-sector entity, banks, hospitals, and government agencies offer 24/7 availability – any downtime would impact reputation and trust levels severely.A transition to cloud infrastructure keeps services safe from faulty hardware, outmoded software, or even the occasional human error. Preserving mission-critical documents and official communication on a secure cloud, for instance, would shrink the chances of tampering or fraud dramatically.
4. Become efficient
As the economy becomes more digital, government bodies at the helm must also transform in tandem. Processes that earlier took weeks or even months (like issuing a passport) become a matter of just days when effectively digitized.The Indian government is setting up portals to simplify standard procedures – paying taxes, registering businesses, and obtaining licenses. This entire system would lead to faster delivery of a myriad of services provided by the government. Running these applications on a cloud platform guarantees lower overhead in setting up and maintaining the system underlying these applications, with guaranteed uptime and elasticity to cater to any sharp surges in demand for these services. Also ensuring that system downtimes or performance bottlenecks do not impact the efficiency in the delivery of these services.
5. Reduce costs
One of the biggest drivers for cloud adoption globally, is to contain spends and reroute capital to more productive applications. Data centers could prove to be a white elephant for governments in the digital era – demanding a constant inflow of effort and investment.Municipalities and local bodies that operate on strict budgetary estimates are realizing the potential of cloud’s ‘pay-per-use’ model– based on adoption rates by regional communities, they’d scale partnerships with CSPs. This links investments directly to service consumption, lowering upfront costs by a wide margin. An estimated 45% of American local governments, as a result, have already adopted cloud solutions in some form.
6. Encourage collaboration
Siloed IT infrastructure is an ever-occurring hurdle for effective communication. Even when digitized, government employees and teams face gaps, resorting to dated processes and a maze of paperwork.Using a cloud application for collaboration in government workplaces would let officials log in anytime, anywhere, keeping the core processes and services in motion. Last year, the Indian Government pledged free Wi-Fi connectivity for more than a thousand rural communities – a move to empower large segments of the populace to access the services offered by the government digitally, right from their homes.
7. Drive Sustainability
Among the biggest concerns in tech today, is the question of technology obsolescence.As development cycles get shorter and update frequency increases, government bodies must constantly revamp and replace IT infrastructure – resulting in substantial digital waste. With smarter power consumption and lower manual labor usage, cloud service providers offer a more lasting, agile option. In addition, well-defined SLAs maintain service quality throughout the agreement – government agencies can be assured of upgrades as part of the plan.
Build it and Adoption Will Follow – The Way Forward
Globally, governments are starting to approach cloud environments not as an alternative for on-premise structures, but the only viable model.In India, too, several transformative programs are on the cards for 2018 – the government is launching an e-marketplace that lists all procurement needs under one roof. Called the GeM, the platform is slated to witness over USD 7.8 million in transactions, and this is just the beginning. Faster adoption by the public bodies of cloud based solutions, can accelerate the benefits that can be derived from digital delivery of services to the citizens.