Cloud becoming a reality for more government agencies

By Yun Zhi Lin, Head of Engineering – APAC, Contino
Friday, 17 May, 2019

Cloud becoming a reality for more government agencies

Australian Government agencies should stop being hamstrung by legacy vendor relationships and instead in-source and own their innovation capabilities.

Governments across the world — Australia’s included — have high ambitions for digital transformation, and understandably so. The value of service exploration and innovation is potentially astronomical to citizens and delivery teams. However, to effectively achieve transformation, governments must overcome legacy technology stacks, a lack of automation and information security concerns.

A fundamental part of the public sector’s digital transformation is the use of scalable and reliable public cloud services. The Australian Government recognised the many benefits of the public cloud in its 2017 Secure Cloud Strategy. But the reality is public sector delivery in Australia still bears the scars of ‘big IT’, along with its legacy systems and outsourced teams. Why is that?

Cloud as an exit strategy

A public sector department that is locked into an expensive contract with an outdated vendor, delivering in accordance with outdated delivery models, represents incredibly poor value for money for the taxpayer. Taxpayers are essentially funding large consultancies for the privilege of keeping the public sector stuck in old, inefficient ways of working. At Contino, we have even seen forward-thinking teams within government have to innovate around the dominant vendor.

Migrating to the cloud — besides the up-front benefits of improved visibility, agility and scalability — is an opportunity to break up with outdated vendors and, instead, bring back home core technological competencies that were previously outsourced.

What’s the difficulty?

In the public sector, there is a line between difficult and impossible — and that’s where effective innovation sits.

One of the most significant challenges is the tight coupling between the outcome for citizens and funding. This allows for a clear association between funding and ROI, but limits the ability for teams to do the kind of experimentation that is needed to produce digital services that are truly aligned with citizens’ needs.

Within the DevOps world, multidisciplinary teams are responsible for delivering small, well-defined packages of work all the way from the drawing board to the user. Public sector innovation could be best served by doing similar — focusing on incremental policy changes, testing their impact through hypothesis-driven feedback and refining accordingly.

When it comes to cloud, innovative teams often find themselves set back by the security concerns that still linger. Amazon Web Services recently became the sixth company, and second international tech giant, to be certified to carry protected federal government data. Hopefully, the award of ‘Protected Cloud’ status to more cloud vendors will help allay some of these concerns. Cloud does not imply a ‘wild west’ security model. In fact, controls intrinsic to cloud platforms can augment a government agency’s security posture.

The best approach is to pick a low-risk application or service that can be moved to the cloud and to use that project as a proof of concept. This kind of approach can be a catalyst for the changes to people and processes that must accompany new tech projects.

Engaging citizens through technology

There is massive potential for public sector organisations to use the cloud to enhance the relationship between citizens and the agencies they rely on. The federal government has reiterated time and time again its commitment to delivering services that are fit for the digital age. Achieving this will require a technological renaissance, largely driven by migration to the cloud and cloud-native architecture.

It is time Australian Government agencies stopped being hamstrung by legacy tech vendor relationships and use the cloud to ditch these toxic relationships and instead, in-source and own their innovation capabilities.

Image credit: ©

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