When the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency migrated its IT systems to the cloud for all 17-member agencies, the US$600-million effort made headlines around the world. It was a bold move for a risk-averse intelligence organization, but the CIA’s IT team heralded the cloud services model as “more secure and capable than legacy systems.”
Beyond improved security, the modern platform will “usher in a new era of cooperation and coordination, allowing agencies to share information and services much more easily and avoid the kind of intelligence gaps that preceded the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,” wrote Frank Konkel in an article for The Atlantic.
No doubt, cost was also a consideration for the CIA. By some accounts, up of 75 per cent of government IT budgets are allocated to maintaining legacy systems. In economically challenging times, governments need to demonstrate judicious spending from the public purse.
Indeed, cost savings — along with improved service and support — was a main motivator for the U.S.’s adoption of a cloud-first procurement policy in 2010.
A recent Forbes Insight report suggests there’s strong evidence that when it comes to cloud adoption, government agencies are fast approaching a tipping point. Agencies have been migrating cautiously, and many now have cloud experience on a limited or pilot basis.
“Pioneers are reporting that the savings are real, and the cloud earns similarly high marks for cost savings, scalability, device agnosticism — all amid outstanding, and often enhanced, levels of data security,” the report states.
Neville Cannon, research director with Gartner, says governments in this country trail behind their U.S. and U.K. counterparts when it comes to adopting a cloud-first mindset.
Governments tend to be more risk-averse in general, but that’s even more pronounced in Canada where “there are deep reservations about sharing information.”
Not so in some countries where governments have moved comfortably to cloud services, even with systems that expose the most sensitive kinds of data.
“In some Middle East countries you can get a passport within an hour,” says Cannon. “You authenticate your identity via the mobile phone and all the information is linked in the back end.”
Gartner’s research shows that for governments around the world, security is becoming less of an obstacle and more of a driver for cloud adoption.
Public cloud options now offer the scalability, computing power, storage and security to better enable digital government platforms and meet rising expectations for performance and value, according to Gartner.
What’s more, says Cannon, the big providers have the financial muscle to invest heavily in security, much more so than the average cash-strapped municipality, provinces or even federal agency.
“Many cloud service providers … invest heavily in incorporating higher levels of security into their products to continue building confidence that their data is more secure,” he says. “Many of these providers can invest more than what most nations could afford, let alone the average government agency.”
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