Cloud computing as a new e-governance paradigm
Guru Malladi and Anand Hariharan on how cloud
computing holds the potential for the Indian government to offer better services
while adding a green touch to its e-governance enabled transformation
Cloud computing holds the promise to transform the functioning
of governments. In www.apps.gov, the United States administration has taken
a definitive stride to infuse cloud computing paradigm into its Enterprise Architecture.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines
cloud computing as a model for enabling on-demand network access to a
shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned
and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
The cloud computing industry represents a large ecosystem comprising of many
models, vendors and market niches. Significant investments are being made by
leading technology players to create tailor-made cloud computing solutions for
governments. The case for cloud computing for government agencies is on account
of the following.
spikes in demands for infrastructure: Government to Citizen (G2C)
services witness periodic and often unpredictable peaks of demand. As a result,
ICT infrastructure created as part of e-governance initiatives often hold excess
capacity, which is unused most of the time.
Similar software investments
leading to redundancy: Often similar software solutions are required by
more than one government agency. One of the largest software investments made
by government agencies is in procurement of office productivity software and
collaboration solutions. The license costs and creating ICT infrastructure for
hosting these solutions often constitute a large portion of software costs of
governments. This not only entails higher investments in servers but also desktop
Complex software change
logistics: Low levels of IT infrastructure maturity and complex organizational
structures in government make software upgrades difficult. It requires significant
time investments from IT support staff of government agencies to track the roll-out
of changes on each individual workstation.
Inadequate capacity for
ICT management: Government agencies make large investments in creating data
centers and networks for their needs and due to inadequate internal capacity
for ICT management, service levels often leave a lot to be desired. It also
creates information security related vulnerabilities.
Difficulties in enforcing
ICT standards: Considering the autonomy enjoyed by government agencies in
ICT procurement, it is often difficult to enforce minimum ICT standards, which
are vital for creating a uniform Government Enterprise Architecture.
It is in this context that the two aspects of cloud computing are of interest.
First, scalability and on-demand procurement of software services, platform
and infrastructure. Government agencies could procure to meet additional needs
on a need basis. This will save setup and maintenance costs as well as contribute
computing initiatives as cloud computing setups can provide the scale necessary
to make green technologies feasible. Second, multiple, customizable deployment
models adhering to e-Government standards: Cloud computing allows for four different
deployment modelsPrivate Cloud, Community Cloud, Public Cloud and Hybrid
Cloudwhich could be suitably designed for specific purposes of government.
Being centrally managed, these models enable better implementation of e-governance
standards. For example, government agencies which have strong security concerns
could create a private cloud within a specified premise and use the shared infrastructure
Cloud computing could add a new dimension to Indias ongoing e-governance
program. Certain preparatory steps could be initiated by the Government of India
to launch cloud computing as a model for e-governance programs. These are as
a nodal agency for cloud computing: This is the first and vital step that
needs to be undertaken. The role of this agency will be as follows:
- Create a cloud computing strategy for supporting
Indias e-governance program
- Outline standards that need to be adhered to by
cloud computing vendors, which would include separate guidelines for software
providers, platform providers and infrastructure providers. A key area to
be addressed will be security
- Create standard procedures for enlisting of vendors
so that new market offerings are made available to government agencies quickly
- Define payment and service level models which could
form the basis of the public private partnerships with the cloud computing
pilot solutions and demonstrate their success: This will be vital in order
to obtain a buy-in from government agencies. Some of the large mission mode
projects can provide a good test bed for cloud computing. As an illustrative
example, the tax offices could pilot tax return filing based on cloud computing
infrastructure and demonstrate their on-demand scalability. Another option is
to create a cloud based on the State Data Centers and offer the same as a private
cloud available to all governmental agencies of India.
a legal framework and risk management program: There are a few risks that
need to be addressed to realize cloud computing for which a supporting legal
framework may need to be created. Considering the large investments required
for setting up cloud computing infrastructure, there is likelihood that some
of the vendors may not be from the domestic market. In this context issues such
as security in the cloud computing context and potential liability arising out
of security breaches in the cloud may need to be addressed.
a solution portfolio for cloud migration: From the point of view of each
government agency or department, creating a Cloud Migration strategy may be
of importance. This will call for a significant change in mindset as these agencies
are used to an IT infrastructure that is either hosted in-house or in-country.
This may also call for inter-departmental collaboration to identify the solutions
which are easier to transition and create necessary volumes to realize cost
benefits. This could be done by the nodal state level information technology
State governments and their departments are at varying levels of e-governance
maturity. As a result, citizens and businesses get varying degrees of accessibility
and quality of government services across India. Usage of cloud computing can
ensure the reach of citizen services in all states irrespective of their present
Guru Malladi is Partner Ernst & Young and Anand Hariharan
is Senior Professional, Technology Advisory, Ernst & Young. The views expressed
herein are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent
the views of Ernst & Young Global or any of its member firms