In Sydney this week for some work meetings, I sat in on a Trend Micro conference where one of the speakers was government rep, John Sheridan, who talked about how the public sector here had adopted cloud computing such as data center as a service.
First assistant secretary for the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO), Sheridan touched on the same pros and cons that usually come up in a cloud discussion among Asia-Pacific organizations as well as governments. He referred to the oft-cited benefits including flexibility, resource pooling and on-demand self-service. More important, he said, cloud allows IT staff to refocus their time on higher value tasks and identify new business models, he said.
Of course, he also noted how cloud also brought up critical issues for governments such as data management challenges related to international trade as well as data security and user privacy.
While he had highlighted nothing new in the cloud discussion, Sheridan did touch on something that was refreshing from a government's perspective. He noted that while the AGIMO didn't regard cloud yet as mature a platform as it needed to be, that didn't mean the government should be a laggard and skip out on adopting an emerging technology that offered key business benefits.
Sheridan said: "We do what is appropriate now... The government needs to look for applied innovation." He added that the government didn't need to be a Type A organization where it adopted every cutting-edge technology as soon as it hit the market. Instead, it strived to be at the top of Type B organizations, he said. That meant deploying cloud where it made sense for the government, for example, running non-sensitive user data on a public cloud and sensitive data on a private cloud. Data in its public access site, data.gov.au, for instance, is hosted on Amazon Web Services.
The AGIMO also established guidelines on its cloud adoption around three key areas: data privacy, legal issues and financial considerations. These include processes that look at disclosure about data usage, data destruction and trans-border data flow, as well as cloud service management such as liability, dispute resolution and cross-border service agreements. Its financial guidelines also include templated documentation for service matrix as well as simplified contracts that allowed for cheaper procurement and helped reduce risk, since these service contracts were streamlined to a yearly operating expenditure.
Moving forward, he added that the Australia government also will be looking at encryption, certification--to assess capabilities of data centers, such as in security--and standardization, among other areas, with regard to its cloud deployment.
Sheridan's point about "applied innovation" is interesting because it demonstrates how governments, or any organization for that matter, can still implement emerging technologies even if there are unresolved issues, such as those surrounding data security and management in cloud computing.
Do what is appropriate now, as he quite nicely put it. To me, this seems a much better strategy than becoming a tech laggard simply because your organization doesn't want to touch a piece of new, but innovative, technology where key issues have yet to be resolved.