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Empowering government through cloud computing

Since the last decade, cloud computing has been emerging as the biggest disruptive technology on this globe as it is cheaper, better, and faster than its peer technologies. This technology has drastically changed the need of on-premises IT solutions by reducing the deployment and maintenance cost of IT infrastructure, providing 24x7x365 data availability to end-users that can be accessed anytime and from anywhere.

To utilize and harness the benefits of cloud computing, Government of India embarked upon this new wave of technology that has the power to transform the citizen-centric infrastructure. Considering the importance of cloud computing, Government of India in the year 2014 launched GI Cloud (MeghRaj) the cloud computing initiative, to accelerate delivery of e-services in the country, while optimizing ICT spending of the government. This initiative ensures optimum utilization of the IT infrastructure and speed up the development and deployment of e-Gov applications.

The steady integration of cloud computing in the everyday lives of citizens and businesses is helping to open up governments and giving rise to new forms of public engagement and relationships that transcend public.

There was a pre cloud, the era that witnessed various disabilities in IT ecosystem in India. There were various challenges for adopting cloud computing, such as standardized service-level agreement, robust contractual agreements, confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, limited guidelines on cloud security, disaster recovery, best practices, etc. To mitigate the above challenges, various initiatives have been taken by the government like empanelment of cloud service offerings of cloud service providers (CSPs), rolling of cloud adoption guidelines, best practices on cloud, procurement guidelines, identification of the standards for cloud and data center, and legal compliances.

Empanelment of cloud service providers
The government has so far empanelled the cloud service offerings of 19 cloud service providers (CSPs) like Amazon Web Services, BSNL, CtrlS, Google Cloud, ITI, RailTel, etc., from various sectors.

In addition, empanelment process consists of compliance to a large number of criteria, including but not limited to:

  • General requirements for all cloud deployment models.
  • Specific requirements for infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and software-as-a-service (SaaS).
  • Requirements related to certifications, data center, user, backup, disaster recovery, security, technical requirements, data localization, data management, and service-level agreement.

Government cloud adoption
There is plethora of reasons for the government cloud adoption that are faster implementation of the projects, agility, innovative solutions for citizens, easier monitoring, remote access, scalability, flexibility, reliability, etc. It is seen that owing to huge benefits of cloud computing, a large number of government departments are adopting cloud services. Since 2015, post empanelment of CSPs, Indian government has adopted many digital initiatives making India amongst the topmost countries on digital adoption by leveraging cloud technologies.

Impact of cloud computing
The cloud has become need of the population; it is being observed most of the services utilize cloud computing technology to provide a meaningful output. The empanelment of cloud service providers by the government has created an astounding impact on the implementation of citizen-centric offerings and their smooth delivery to the population. These initiatives have led to digital transformation of the government. Some of the key impacts are:

  • Modernization of the internal operations of government departments by creating highly flexible, scalable, and reliable IT infrastructure that enables high automation and agility.
  • Rapid increase in adoption of cloud has boosted MSME sector in provision of cloud services development to achieve true local development.
  • Upscaling innovative/emerging technologies to meet the increased demand for e-learning, digital payments, etc.
  • Change of expenditure model of the government, i.e., shifting from purchase of hardware to software subscription model leading to cost savings.

Enabling digital government
The promising cloud technology is the biggest enabler of digital government as it has the power to transform the government operations, citizen-centric services, and good governance in the most efficient, economical, and fastest way. Cloud computing has been the key enabler in the digitization of the government. This new digital environment offers opportunities for more collaborative and participatory relationships that allow citizens to actively flag their challenges, collaborate in the design of citizen-centric services, and participate in the delivery to provide more coherent and integrated solutions to complex challenges.

Cloud-enabled participation and production of services is changing citizens’ expectations about their relationship with the government. As a result, new governance approaches propelled by cloud computing are shifting from citizen-centric approaches to citizen-driven approaches.

The article is co-authored by Abhay Bansal, Senior Consultant, Cloud Management Office.

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