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iCloud for Government : Why, and how, Cloud Computing is so important for Canada

The purpose of our Canada Cloud Network, the market need it is setting out to address, is that Canada is suffering from an “Innovation Crisis”.

Scoring a ‘D for Innovation‘, ranking 14th out of 17 countries on an innovation scale, the country is slipping downwards on a number of measurement frameworks like this, such as third to 13th on the Global Competitiveness Index and fourth to 13th in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s e-readiness ranking.

CATA’s i-Canada program focuses on this same effect for broadband performance, and how a lack of adoption here is holding back Canada as an Innovation Nation.

In short the downside to the Harper Governmen’s “steady as she goes” approach to managing the economy is that this conservatism is the antithesis of what stimulates, and funds, innovation.

Canada is struggling to fill the pipeline of new businesses that will grow into tomorrow’s Facebook or Twitter, instead it is relying on living off of natural resources like oil and mining. This is not a strategy that bodes well for our children or grandchildren: It’s paying for the now by selling off the future.

The Innovation Cloud : Digital Economy X Factor for an Innovation Nation

In contrast Cloud computing is the solution to this situation in two key ways.

First and most tactically, it’s a market opportunity in its own right. Indeed it’s become THE global technology bandwagon, so momentous that it’s driving a second tech bubble despite the wreckage of the financial sector meltdown.

That’s the power of technology innovation, every one can’t help but get excited and get on board, and the opportunity, and risk, for Canada is to ensure they have a first class ticket. Failing to do so is yet more symptoms of the crisis.

Secondly the technology itself is an enabler of innovation.

Cloud computing is such a powerful investment area for government because not only can it modernize their IT and therefore enhance their business processes and reduce their own operating costs, but this same platform can also boost technology-enabled public innovation across a broader national capacity.

This can be aligned to government programs to create more of an ‘Innovation Nation’ program, such as the UK program of the same name. CATA is pioneering this for Canada.

This encompasses aspects such as ICT skills and programs in schools and colleges, government procurement policies, small business assistance and direct technology innovation stimulus like a tech strategy board. The UK Government then defined their ‘G-Cloud’ (Government Cloud) program as the platform for making this happen where:

“with Cloud building on next generation broadband with high definition video and also more revolutionary applications. These will include tele-presence, allowing for much more flexible working patterns, e-healthcare in the home and for small businesses the increasing benefits of access to cloud computing which substantially cuts costs and allows much more rapid product and service innovation.”

In other words, it’s like an ‘X Factor’ platform – An increased ability to enable more individuals, departments and organizations to invent new ways of working, new processes and tech products.

Procurement-driven innovation

The role the Canadian Government can play in addressing this Innovation Crisis is programs to connect these two points. In other words, to better leverage their own procurement to better stimulate the local Cloud industry.

This is the specific remit of the Canada Cloud Network – To develop a world-leading Canadian Cloud Computing industry, and better connectivity to the Governments procurement spending is one of our goals.

I wrote on this in a recent guide published by IT World Canada, a CIO’s Guide to Cloud Computing (see page 7). There are a number of initiatives government could drive to support commercial leadership in a field like Cloud Computing, but actually the most powerful stimulus they can leverage is simply to become much more aggressive buyers of value-for-money Cloud outsourcing.

In particular this procurement can be directed at the catalyst process of fast-tracking venture idea incubation through to seed stage company growth.

The CIPS organization captured this perfectly in their own digital innovation strategy document, where they described the essential role of Government:

“”Among the many components of a successful digital strategy for the ICT sector, one important element should be support for ICT companies during the product development phase, as well as during upgrades or new releases- specifically, assistance with the definition of user requirements to facilitate commercialization.”

Exactly right. This is the single most important part of launching a startup, and with Government’s involvement at the early stage you’re designing for global growth. Design for one, design for them all.

iCloud for Government

The perfect example for all this? : ‘iCloud for Government‘.

In this recent article Ryan Faas lept ahead of the hype for Apple’s iCloud service to ask ‘What about iCloud for Business?’

Yes of course. With additional security features, integration to corporate applications and other features, these consumer features are the same ones business users want too, just applied to different media, their business files rather than their music.

And what better niche scenario to further refine this than Government? Their security requirements are the ultimate design specifications because if a service is considered to be secure enough for Government then it’s certainly secure enough for the average small business.

It’s such a powerful business model. Imagine, how many other Governments, like the USA or UK, would be interested in their own iCloud for Government services, once it’s proven in Canada. Government can play such an important role in setting up local companies for major international expansion.

So this is the idea behind this CCN venture program: We’re going to bring together a consortium of Canadian Cloud computing startups who can build this technology solution and look for early adopter support from the Canadian Government.

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