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Changing the government IT landscape with CloudStore

On Sunday, February 19, the Government Procurement Service officially launched CloudStore for UK central government and local authorities.

The UK government first proposed the G-Cloud initiative over two years ago with the goal of bringing a wider range of cloud suppliers to the public sector while increasing the flexibility of procurement contracts. The programme wanted to create an online store that public sector organisations could use to find services and supplies without the restriction of lengthy contracts and complex procurement. The system is being modelled after application online stores, similar to the Apple Mac App Store and Android Market, and is currently offering more than 1,700 services from 258 suppliers.

The G-Cloud initiative focuses on the need for public sector organisations to adopt more cloud-based IT services and supplies, which costs less and can be deployed quickly, versus traditional IT hardware and software. To this end, CloudStore is organized by four service genres:

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a service (PaaS)
  • Software as a service (SaaS)
  • Specialist cloud services

Since last week, UK media have been buzzing with news on the G-Cloud initiative, especially as reports from the Cabinet Office relayed information on the launch of CloudStore. So, what’s the big deal?

The truth is that, while the private sector has long seen the benefits of cloud computing, government is still slow on the uptake. A government employee based in Canada shared his frustrations with the lack of technological advancement in government with a recent blog post on GovLoop. He writes: “In 2012, there are many public servants whose computers simply run Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office. In many cases we are still running the 2003 version of each piece of software. A majority of the work of the public service is still done by traditional desktop or local server based software and e-mail clients. For much of the public service, the reality faced is one where work is conducted on 5-6 year old desktop tower computers in localized applications using outdated desktop software that stifle collaboration, create version control problems and ultimately cost the government more money to run and administer.” While our personal lives are dominated by mobile technology (iPads and tablets) and cloud-based software like Gmail, those who work in government find that their professional technology environment is simply outdated.

UK Government agencies and organisations are under more pressure than ever to deliver services under increasingly reduced budgets. Moving IT infrastructure and software to cloud-based suppliers can have a significant impact. In fact, in the Guardian’s latest article on the G-Cloud the newspaper quotes Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, as saying: “By creating a competitive marketplace, the G-Cloud framework will constantly encourage service providers to improve the quality and value of the solutions they offer, reducing the cost to taxpayers and suppliers. And it gives SME suppliers of niche products the same opportunities as bigger organisations supplying services.”

The G-Cloud initiative outlined the UK Government’s belief that cloud computing is a necessary next step in government IT evolution. But the launch of CloudStore provides the framework and foundation for central government and local authorities to begin to reap the benefits of cloud-based software and services. It is a giant step in the right direction.

As a cloud-based, government-focused communications software supplier, GovDelivery has always felt strongly that cloud computing can increase government efficiency while reducing cost. Thus, it was an honor to be included as a supplier in the G-Cloud catalogue with the launch of CloudStore. With over 500 government clients using GovDelivery software to manage their communications, we witness how impactful cloud-based software is on a daily basis with government organisations. Here are two UK government organisations that are already benefiting from cloud-based software:

Driving Standards Agency (DSA) has seen enormous success in using Digital Communication Management, a cloud-based solution that is scalable, easily implemented and updates regularly to take advantage of emerging technologies. DSA uses this solution to connect to nearly 47,000 citizens currently. For instance, DSA uses this tool to integrate their communications with the most popular social media networks. As other social media channels develop or gain prominence, this cloud-based software can update to include those channels without disrupting DSA’s regular usage. Read their story online.

Norfolk County Council is using the same solution to help manage their digital communications efforts and is now reaching nearly 35,000 residents and stakeholders directly. Norfolk County Council also predicted a savings of £20,000 per annum by publishing electronic committee reports to County Councilors instead of providing printed reports. Norfolk County Council is not only reducing communications costs but also delivering these committee reports more quickly through email, increasing the local authority’s efficiency. Read the story online.

What are your thoughts on the G-Cloud framework and the launch of CloudStore? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

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