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A New Perspective on Cloud Computing in Government

By Andrea Di Maio | May 10, 2009 | 0 Comments

social networks in governmentcloud

Over the last several months I have been researching on both web 2.0 and cloud computing in government. Incidentally, both topics are top of mind for the new US administration.

I am working on a research note that explores in detail the analogies between these two topics, but I want to share some of my thoughts on this blog.

It seems to me that most discussions about cloud computing have a bottom-up nature, since they relate to the ability and willingness of governments to gradually commoditize portions of their infrastructure as well as some of their enterprise applications. At the same time though, governments are discussing about the role of “open government data” and social media to improving citizen engagement.

What is interesting is that these apparently separate discussion threads are more intimately connected than many realize:

  • The commodization of IT assets and services is the “server-side” version of the consumerization of client devices and social media tools that is driving agencies to consider the use of consumer tools to engage with citizens as well as to support internal operations.
  • Similarly the socialization of information and the emergence of crowdsourcing models to engage new stakeholders (such as citizens) in government service delivery and decision-making processes is closely related to the commoditization of applications and business processes made possible by cloud computing.

Analogies become even more evident when reflecting on how both these impact management processes in government:

  • In order to adopt cloud-based services (at whichever level), governments face challenges around ownership of assets, security and reliability, data location, data recovery and discovery.
  • On the other hand, when exploring the possibility of engaging external parties (such as citizens) in service delivery or of relying on external information for some of its business processes, governments face similar questions about information ownership, reliability, perception as well as the ability to discharge accountability by relying on external sources.

From an IT standpoint, the decision process leading to meet some, most or all of the agency infrastructure requirements with services provided by a cloud platform is very close to the one driving that same agency to use a consumer social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, to support mission critical collaboration among employees (as well as with external constituents).

The bottom line is that cloud computing is just one particular manifestation of a much more important phenomenon that will deeply affect the way governments operate in the future: the commoditization of government.

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