Cloud computing is gaining momentum in Canberra with last week’s release of the draft Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper by the Department of Finance and Deregulation. The draft paper indicates the government is intending to implement cloud services where secure, risk-managed and fiscally advantageous from early 2011.
Among the first government content to transition to the cloud will be the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) websites www.data.gov.au and www.govspace.gov.au. The minutes and work plan of the Gov 2.0 Steering Group indicate the new www.data.gov.au website will have all of its content hosted in the Amazon Cloud.
Glenn Archer, Acting Deputy Secretary of AGIMO, wrote on AGIMO’s blog that the Office has been monitoring cloud computing as a ‘growing area of interest in ICT’. This, he writes, led to their decision to release a draft paper seeking feedback from the public as to the Australian government’s possible future use of cloud computing.
The Draft Strategy Paper proposes a whole-of-government policy position towards cloud computing stating that agencies may choose to adopt cloud-based services if they demonstrate value for money, fitness for purpose and adequate security measures.
AGIMO also sets a framework for guiding agencies as to what the cloud computing concept means, and articulates many of the associated risks and benefits with adopting the cloud model.
Advantages to adopting the cloud, the paper notes, include increased efficiency, scalability, cost containment and flexibility, which would be in-line with the Gershon Review recommendation that the government tighten management of ICT business. Cloud computing, for example, would allow agencies to share the same ICT infrastructure and access services, software and data storage through remote infrastructure.
The risks and issues associated with cloud computing, however, are also emphasised by AGIMO. Migrating to the cloud will drastically alter the procurement, supply and security of ICT within government agencies, and may lead to confusion as to where data actually resides.
The foremost concern, as has always been with cloud computing, remains the level of security within the cloud environment. Due to these risks and the comparative immaturity of the model, the paper’s timeline for transitioning personal information of citizens to the public cloud is not expected to happen for six to ten years, while citizen-facing services, business processes and applications will move to the public cloud in the next five years.
With agencies like the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) already delivering software services from cloud or cloud-like providers, AGIMO’s www.data.gov.au website will be an interesting experiment as to the cloud’s success in the government data hosting arena.
The website, which serves as a repository for datasets which Federal agencies have chosen to make publicly available, was created to address recommendation six of the report of the Gov 2.0 Taskforce. The Taskforce recommended that public sector information (PSI) be made “open, accessible and reusable”.
Peter Alexander, Assistant Secretary in the Online Services Branch at AGIMO outlined the reasons for adopting cloud in an AGIMO blog post last November stating “We think cloud computing is an appropriate option for data.gov.au since the site’s datasets are being publicly released anyway, which removes a lot of the privacy and security concerns in this area”.
At present, a beta version of the data.gov.au website is live online. It currently provides access to over 60 datasets, including a list of the instances and frequency of crimes sorted by capital city from the Australian Federal Police (AFP), and the National Public Toilet Map, released by the Department of Health and Ageing.
The Government 2.0 Work Plan December Status Report, released alongside the minutes of the Steering Group, reported that the full version of the site was likely to be launched that month. The newly released Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper moves the target date for completion to March 2011.
Other jurisdictions will be watching AGIMO’s use of Cloud Computing for their data hosting with keen interest.
The Draft Cloud Computing Strategy Paper is available for comment until 31 January 2011.