Cloud needs Thai government backing

Asian governments must look to cloud computing to help spur domestic IT sectors, but top officials need convincing still, Thai delegate reveals.

SINGAPORE--Governments in Asia's developing economies should look to cloud computing to free up capital to boost their countries' IT sectors, urged a Thai government official.

Speaking at the GovTech 2010 conference here Wednesday, Jirapon Tubtimhin, a senior expert at Thai statutory board, the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), said the government is needed to boost IT sectors in developing nations. "Modernization often comes from government spending in emerging economies, not the private sector," Tubtimhin said.

To that end, the NECTEC is strongly advocating cloud computing to the Thai government, as a means to freeing up more funds to pour into the domestic IT sector, he said.

In addition, the road to cloud computing is also expected to provide an upgrade path for the current disparate Web portals of each government body, he noted.

Tubtimhin defined a set of five "maturity levels" for governments looking to provide "true" cloud-powered services. In the first level, a site displays mainly information. In the second, the site offers a low degree of interactivity such as search or forums, while in the third level, the site allows for transactions with the government agency. At the fourth level, it allows for transactions and cross-collaboration with other agencies' portals. In the final level of maturity, dubbed "intelligent services", the portal will sport features such as personalized Web pages and uniform check-in IDs.

Upgrading an agency along this path requires consolidation and establishing standards on the backend, as well as a path to cloud computing, he said.

The vast majority of government portals in Thailand are in the third and fourth stages of maturity, with the ability to integrate and process transactions with the public, he noted. He added that the NECTEC is aiming to transform all government agencies to level five within four years.

Government buy-in for cloud still unclear
However, getting buy-in from the top may not always be clear cut.

Tubtimhin told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines of the conference: "Cabinet ministers are still thinking about investing in servers." These decision makers still favor traditional computing investments because of security and reliability concerns, he said. But in the ICT ministry's work, the NECTEC is emphasizing the concept of utility computing to get buy-in from Thai ministers.

While the concept of utility computing suggest that government agencies do not have control of the cloud infrastructure, Tubtimhin said government officials need to be shown that control over this platform is still firmly in the government's hands, much like the state-owned utilities company.

Government support of the cloud will then spur the private sector into providing services for the overall network, he said. "The [electric company] is in the hands of the government, but behind the scenes, the private sector is servicing it," he added.

Tubtimhin urged the burgeoning cloud-friendly vendors to start finding proof cases of their service reliability so that "the government will let [them] in".