Cloud And Government: A Good, but Not Comfortable, Fit

Ann All

When I wrote about the Obama administration's suggestion that government agencies consider using cloud computing, I focused on the idea of cloud as a means of cutting costs. So did several folks participating in a recent eBizQ discussion based on the question "Is Cloud a Natural Fit for the Government?"


But wait. As consultant and professor of computer science Jerry Smith notes in the discussion, despite the government's lip service on cutting IT costs, expense rarely factors into agencies' IT decisions. So if cost reduction isn't the same kind of driver for government agencies as it is for most private companies, will many of them be willing to consider cloud computing?


I'm not seeing it, even after the interesting ideas outlined by Delivered Innovation CTO Michael Topalovich in the eBizQ discussion. In his bio, Topalovich describes Delivered Innovation as "a company that designs innovative business solutions on the platform for strengthening customer relationships, integrating cloud computing technology with business processes, and leveraging the cloud to enable new revenue opportunities." So it's safe to assume he's used to thinking of the cloud not just as a way to cut costs and increase efficiencies, but also to enable new ways of doing business. He shares three big-picture thoughts:


  • Much government information is public but might as well not be, since it's disseminated via "byzantine Web 1.0 technologies like websites and PDFs." I agree. Who among us hasn't gone a little crazy trying to find information on a government website? He suggests agencies could open such information up to "entrepreneurial constituents" (presumably through a cloud-based interface) and let them turn it into something more "contextually meaningful."
  • He says the cloud could also be employed to collect real-time data from constituents, perhaps through online opinion polls or a similar mechanism.
  • Finally, the cloud could be used to help break down data silos and help agencies share information with each other. He writes:
Assuming it would take multi-decade project cycles to replace or upgrade the information systems that are in place today, how much would new cloud-based integration tools ease the systems integration processes? And since anything resembling SOA wouldn't take root until my grandchildren were old enough to vote, this is something that could be used at the periphery to begin to remove friction one data point at a time while the big picture slog happens in the background.


Unfortunately, I don't think many agency CIOs are comfortable with this kind of thinking. As Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio mentioned in a blog post discussing a brainstorming session among government CIOs considering ideas for using Web 2.0 technologies, their ideas were largely relatively small tweaks to existing processes and kept the government, not outside users, squarely in control.

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