Australian government revises cloud computing policy

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has flagged that a revised cloud computing policy for the Australian government will be released in the coming weeks.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Australian government departments will soon be pushed to take up more cloud services with the upcoming release of the government's revised cloud computing policy.

The government's National Commission of Audit recommended in May that government agencies adopt a cloud-first strategy as it said that the reliance on bespoke, legacy systems impeded progress in moving to the cloud.

At the time though, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann indicated that cloud services would be considered after the 2014-2015 budget, with most technology investment deferred.

At the 2013 election, the Coalition pledged that smaller government agencies would need to use shared or cloud services unles efficient scale hurdles could be met, and there would be a trial of relocating critical data to a secure government cloud in 2014, but as of July 2014, this has yet to eventuate.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed today at the launch of the Australian App Economy report in Sydney that a revised cloud computing policy, updated from the policy the government took to the 2013 election would be released soon.

"We'll soon release a revised cloud computing policy to significantly increase the take up of cloud services by federal government agencies, consistent with our policy for e-government and the digital economy," he said.

The minister indicated that the policy would look to stop some of the blocks placed on government agencies in using cloud services.

"As important as mission statements are, of most importance are the actions we're taking to remove barriers that currently restrict, and in many cases prevent, agencies from procuring cloud services," he said.

"We cannot shy away from the fact that we need to improve the way ICT is traditionally being delivered by government. Consider the fact that the federal government alone spends about AU$6 billion a year on ICT and yet has spent less than $5 million on cloud services since July 2010."

Turnbull said that the changes to be announced "in the coming weeks" would present a range of opportunities for cloud service providers.

Last month, the Australian Government Chief Technology Officer John Sheridan told ZDNet that government agencies were in no rush to moving to the cloud, with many waiting for existing contracts to end.

"One of the challenges of understanding of where you might use a cloud procurement is to reflect on the fact that we're often in contract for things now, and you're not going to move into the cloud in the middle of a contract; you're going to wait until a contract reaches its end and then in accordance with the direction from government, evaluate cloud opportunities that meet that particular requirement, and use them if it is value for money to do so," he said.

The government is set to have a cloud provider panel in place by the end of 2014, Sheridan indicated.

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