In their Reach for the Cloud analysis, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says that:
“it is also possible that the Government of Canada might create a “private cloud” infrastructure internally to facilitate information sharing, or even that some or all government institutions might make use of a cloud infrastructure for data processing or storage.”
The key question is how might this be sourced from external outsourcing providers, ideally in a manner that stimulates the economy?
An anatomy of the key factors involved can answer this, highlighting how a number of different trends, like open source software, Open Data standards and Cloud Computing can be combined within an entrepreneurial context to enable not only more efficient IT, but an overall national innovation program too.
This highlights the first and main headline point, that while Cloud computing is a very technical proposition, the large-scale adoption of it will be driven from the senior business executive level, meaning we have to first quantify what these business benefits will be.
In the case of government these drivers are articulated in this Open Government call.
Proclaimed by the Privacy Commissioner it highlights how this is first approached from an IM (Information Management) point of view, in terms of regulating the privacy implications of data hosted in the Cloud.
However as it builds on this to emphasize the shift from reactive analysis of data privacy implications to the need to take proactive steps to openly share information, it shows how this is more an exercise in a larger organizational transformation, rather than simply a question of where an application is hosted.
Open government is linked to access to information legislation. However, it extends the concepts inherent in these laws to promote an entirely new way of viewing the role of government and the participation of citizens in it.
For governments this represents the deepest change in their most fundamenal nature, where this technological trend is reinventing their entire mode of operation. The call understands that a more collaborative approach with citizens:
- improves communication channels
- promotes citizen engagement
- instils trust in government
- fosters economic opportunities and
- ultimately results in more open and responsive democratic government.
These are extremely powerful drivers and justifications for transformation, with the essential statement that the capability will:
support the renewal of the social contract between government and citizens.
Open Government Outsourcing
The Privacy Commissioner makes a strong point of calling on all levels of Canadian Government to declare the importance of Open Government, and to promote it as a means of improving transparency and setting higher standards for democracy and public participation.
This includes senior executive commitment, engagement of broad-based public consultations and the adoption of reuseable Open Data.
This of course leads to the million dollar question, and the context setting for Cloud Computing: How?
As this diagram shows, next to zero Canadian Government organizations are active with this type of technology right now; indeed many are still yet to e-enable even their most basic of business processes.
Which is exactly the point of Cloud Computing: Outsource to gain new technologies quickly that you don’t have in-house skills for.
And better yet, do it in a manner where your streamlining costs via a utility model, so that you save money at the same time.
Although a technical how-to, this short blog from Microsoft’s Open Source Strategy lead in Canada, provides a great, quick synopsis of how component parts can be assembled to achieve this, like Microsoft’s Open Data program, their Azure Cloud and the open source package Drupal.
This shows how the Open Government model can be achieved. Drupal provides the web site software that would enable the broad-based public consultations, and Cloud-based Open Data the plumbing to link these to the back-end business process systems.
Conclusion: Innovation Nation
If governments obtain these capabilities by outsourcing it to local Cloud providers, then they’re also providing a direct stimulus for their own technology industry.
All other governments throughout the world will require the same solutions, and locally developed solutions can be exported internationally.
Furthermore these are the hottest, leading edge technologies in the world right now, and so would create an equally powerful skills program too. Abilities developed with Drupal, Open Data and Cloud will be highly attractive to commercial organizations too.