Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Early days for the public sector and the cloud

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Governments have been using ICT for several decades, but are often doing no more than imitating old procedures online. They are also timid in their approach to cloud services, as the EU-funded study conducted by IDATE and Technopolis on ‘Analysis of cloud best practice and pilots for the public sector’ shows. This means they are not reaping the benefits: a significant reduction in upfront installation costs, lower IT maintenance outlays, up-to-date software, and more efficient use of computing resources.
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The economic crisis is an opportunity for the public sector to overhaul how it uses ICT – to adapt internal processes while reducing its administrative burden and carbon footprint. The impact will be felt among citizens, companies dealing with the public sector and civil servants.

The countries examined by the consortium (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK) have prioritised different applications, adopting either a citizen or employee focus, and opting for vertical, critical or sensitive approaches. Choices also vary on type of infrastructure (public or private cloud), relationships with e-government applications (development from scratch or migration of existing applications), and global policy.

The study clusters the approaches into three models: procurement and marketplace; resource pooling; and standalone applications. They differ mainly at the levels of infrastructure and centralisation, implying a tradeoff between level of control (to ensure better technical performances or security) and short-term savings.

The procurement and marketplace model

relies on a procurement framework that makes it easier to purchase cloud solutions in the marketplace.

Where? Operational in the UK. The Netherlands and Portugal are developing a similar model.

Approach: Cost savings and improving the local economy through getting local cloud suppliers more involved. The general philosophy is to turn to the market to boost cost savings, through external providers’ applications and even infrastructure (this model mostly uses the public cloud). Standardised processes and procedures increase efficiency, which is easier to monitor in terms of actual adoption and savings targets.

The resource pooling model

involves a common central infrastructure and/or platform that reaches across administrations.

Where? Spain, with numerous applications around the Sara (public administration) Network. Also deployed in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Projects in other countries do not yet have the right breadth in scope and ambition to adopt this model.

Approach: The priority is to get the private cloud infrastructure right first, allowing for later developments to support critical or sensitive applications. The common infrastructure should facilitate cooperation between ministries, and lead to higher savings in the long term through the amortisation of infrastructure and scale economics.

The standalone applications model

refers to isolated applications developed by individual ministries. There is no real central coordination (even when a central policy exists).

Where? Denmark and Italy, and to a lesser extent Germany and Austria (small projects like e-mail), France (Chorus) and the UK (NHS).

Approach: In most cases, ‘cloudification’ of existing applications is the priority. Applications may have advanced features, often implying advanced requirements and requiring back-up systems. Adopting the cloud is driven by cost savings. Investments are generally limited as there is no need to start from scratch. Projects are only launched when return on investment and the potential of scalability have been identified. This model is pragmatic and allows for faster development, at least in the short term. This is the model followed by the majority of projects today.


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(Article from net-cloud future magazine (2013) - for complete magazine click here)