The National Cloud Strategy’s Impact on Australian Government

In May 2013, the Australian government announced the National Strategy for Cloud Computing that advocates a “cloud-first” approach to procurement and the creation of a public cloud for government and private businesses.

The new policy consists of three core objectives:

  1. Maximise the value of cloud computing in the government. Government agencies are now required to consider public cloud services first for new procurements, as long as they are the most cost-effective option. They must also transition public-facing websites to the public cloud once the sites are ready for a refresh.
  2. Promote cloud services to small businesses, non-profits and consumers. Working with the cloud industry, the Australian government will disseminate information to the public about how different industries can use cloud services. The government and the cloud industry will develop a Cloud Consumer Protocol that establishes consumers’ rights and expands access for small enterprises to technology expertise. 
  3. Support the cloud industry. To support the cloud industry, the government will provide education, research and trade support to position Australia as a “trusted hub for data storage and processing.”

While the policy is still in its infancy, it lays the groundwork for a cloud-first national strategy with several important benefits, including:

  • Cost Savings: From 2011 to 2012, the government spent AU$5.97 billion on IT. The cloud offers tremendous cost saving opportunities for the government by eliminating infrastructure limitations and reducing capital expenses. It also increases efficiency and security at a lower price point.
  • Innovation: By promoting education and expanding access to critical technology resources, Australia’s cloud strategy will drive innovation in small businesses. Cloud services foster new business models, value propositions and revenue streams.
  • Productivity: Cloud services dramatically improve productivity by enabling individuals to store and access information from any location on any device. Cloud services also standardise processes, increase automation and reduce operational issues and inefficiencies, freeing up time for employees to focus on innovation and contributing to business growth.  
  • Service Improvements: With standardised processes and increased automation, moving to the cloud creates significant service level improvements.

Australia’s new policy places an emphasis on education and filling the gap in technical expertise for smaller government agencies and businesses that will use the public cloud. In that regard, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) will develop a certification framework that provides visibility into whether service providers meet the legal and operational requirements the government has set forth. Building on an existing framework of relevant technical standards, the framework will facilitate more consistent technical service and quality levels of cloud services.   

  • Access: The new policy will greatly expand access to technology resources and cloud capabilities for smaller government agencies, local councils and small enterprises. These organisations, especially rural councils, have traditionally been understaffed and under-resourced. Greater access to cloud applications will give smaller organisations the same access to professional services as large city councils and government agencies.
  • Security: Moving to the cloud can dramatically increase security. In the cloud, government information will no longer be at risk of loss, damage or theft as it would be if stored in physical hard drives. Data is encrypted during transit and while stored in the cloud, and authorisations and access permissions ensure that only the appropriate individuals can get to sensitive information.

With a multi-cloud approach, the government can determine which information is accessible via the public or private cloud. For information that is readily available in the public space, such as public-facing government web sites, the public cloud will suffice. On the other hand, more sensitive matters related to national security and personal information should be stored and protected in a more secure, private cloud environment. The established provisions of the Privacy Act and the Competition and Consumer Act will continue to regulate the cloud industry, in addition to a recent law requiring businesses and government agencies to disclose security breaches to affected customers.

Overall, Australia’s new cloud-first approach represents a significant step forward in enhancing the technology services offered to government agencies and small businesses in the country. By working closely with leaders in the cloud industry, the government’s new plan has the potential to improve the economy by making strides in productivity and innovation.

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