Councils looking to cloud to meet digital demand

From futureproofing to scalability, there are several reasons why local government should follow other levels of government and consider cloud, argues Denis Bouton.

The rapid rate of cloud adoption has been fuelled by widespread success stories. Research and advisory firm Gartner predicts Australian organisations will spend $5.6 billion on public cloud services in 2019, representing a 20 per cent increase on the previous year.

And it’s not just the private sector that’s driving growth. Governments are migrating to cloud-based IT systems to meet demand for digital services while dealing with challenges of ageing assets and constrained budgets. Gartner forecasts double-digit growth in global government use of public cloud, with local governments allocating 21 per cent of IT budgets and national governments 22 per cent.

Despite this accelerated growth, the appetite to adopt cloud services in Australian local government has been tempered by longstanding concerns including cost, security and governance. These continue to drive the opinions and approaches of CIOs, architects and IT leaders. Strategic technology plans must balance the value and benefits of cloud against these concerns.

Cloud is foundational for the future of IT – digital business, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, algorithmic business and bimodal IT. There are several reasons why local governments should embrace it as the centrepiece of any digital transformation strategy.

Futureproofing and emerging technologies

Local governments are seeking innovative ways to gain internal process efficiencies. They also want to give citizens a customer experience that aligns with what they’re used to in the private sector. Removing the need for internal IT infrastructure that needs to be maintained, updated and occasionally replaced to leverage the benefits of emerging technologies is increasingly popular.

Councils can access services without reinventing entire systems while benefitting from the security-at-scale model delivered by experienced cloud providers. At a recurring cost or optimised pricing model where you only pay for what you use, they can access the same benefits as born-in-the-cloud players like Google or Amazon.

Scalability to grow

To meet the current pace of digital transformation, councils must be prepared to build and adapt services quickly. Physical IT infrastructure can be time-consuming and expensive to update as it brings in complexities with maintenance and reliability. Resources spent on intensive in-house upkeep would be better invested in the cloud, which already has a pool of resources available on demand. In the private sector, Westpac reportedly made a recent private cloud investment that is expected to make business 10 times faster and three times cheaper.

Flexibility with service offerings

Users can tailor cloud platforms to their needs and be flexible with customer services. By combining the flexibility to scale with available computing power and the efficiency to access data from any connected device, councils can easily keep up with digital disruption. The cost advantages from economies of scale enable them to meet citizen demands with efficiency and timeliness.

Security is a key component

With 50 per cent of data held in cloud-based systems considered sensitive, cloud services are targeted by attackers. But according to The Software Alliance’s 2018 Global Cloud Computing Scorecard, which assessed cloud computing policies from 24 countries, Australia is in the top five for legal and regulatory environments.  As our cloud computing infrastructure is highly secure, councils can maintain confidence in providers’ ability to reduce threats and attacks.

Moreover, Australia’s industry and regulatory bodies have created a complex array of laws mandating a wide and thorough range of security and organisational governance measures which ensure the safety of cloud data. Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) certification is an example of the country’s commitment via the Secure Cloud Strategy to cloud and security.

Centralised support

Differing from in-house structures where security and management requires a technical support group, cloud-based systems offer central support and management from specialised resources. Downtime from system failures is reduced as security is centrally supported, monitored and managed.

Ultimately, cloud computing services undoubtedly provide tangible benefits for councils aiming to meet ever-increasing citizen demands. Through efficient deployment of new services and upgrades to infrastructure, they’re able to achieve cost efficiencies through economies of scale. Security measures are also increased by using providers’ security services and concurrently maintaining protection for data kept in-house. To keep up with digital transformation, it’s crucial that councils quickly adopt cloud solutions.

Denis Bouton is head of architecture and solutions at Civica International.

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