How the Public Sector Can Unlock Value Using Cloud Computing

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Public sector organizations are often slow to adopt new technologies. For many public sector managers, the public sector cloud computing approach is unfamiliar territory. However, they can benefit from adopting this technology, and it’s not all about cost savings. Public sector managers need to understand how public cloud computing can help improve public service delivery and enhance public trust in government agencies.

Public vs. Private Sector Cloud Computing Growth

According to the 2020 IDG Cloud Computing Survey, there has been a steady growth in cloud adoption in the private sector since 2007. Four out of five organizations use at least one cloud application or have part of their IT infrastructure hosted on the cloud. Unfortunately, public sector cloud computing hasn’t enjoyed the same stellar growth in the US and worldwide. For example, pre-pandemic, only 50% of US government organizations were actively using cloud services.

Of note, though, is that the US Federal government launched the data.gov portal in 2009 and has adopted cloud computing much faster than local and regional governments. In addition, while the Federal government is more concerned with strategic IT modernization, local governments prioritize immediate cost savings and benefits of innovation. Local governments tend not to understand how changing certain processes could increase efficiency or innovation, decreasing time spent on tasks like data entry, which is critical with limited resources.

The pandemic positively impacted public sector cloud computing spend as the Federal and Local governments needed to adopt remote work and digitalize service delivery. According to a 2020 survey, roughly 39% of public sector organizations worldwide expect to be 100% in the cloud by 2026. Of concern, however, is that 24% of organizations are slowing down their cloud migration due to cost, security, and compatibility issues.

Also read: Managed Cloud Services for SaaS Companies

On-prem vs. Cloud Security

Data security is a major concern for public sector managers. As a result, many are skeptical about using public cloud computing services without on-premise alternatives or public service provider guarantees.

IT departments face challenges in securing data accessed by employees while working from home, especially when accessing public cloud applications. Public cloud providers don’t automatically provide comprehensive protections to organizations that use their services, making it difficult for IT teams to know what’s being compromised with virtualization technologies, software updates, and network access permissions. Even worse, an increase in high-profile cyber attacks has impacted government agencies worldwide, leading governments globally to be more cautious about public sector cloud computing.

However, data security rarely has anything to do with the location of IT infrastructure but has more to do with good processes, governance, education, and compliance.

On-premises Analytics vs. Cloud analytics

Cloud analytics, an emerging field within predictive analytics, is growing more popular among public sector managers who need information gleaned from massive amounts of big data stored in the public clouds (with high levels of redundancy) rather than building expensive private infrastructure systems.

The main difference between on-premise and cloud analytics is the ease of deployment, contributing to its popularity in the private sector. Public sector data is usually outdated, and on-premise analytic tools cannot provide the necessary insights for public services. This includes public schools, hospitals, transportation systems, public safety agencies, etc.

Cloud computing can be used as a tool for public sector organizations to analyze their data sets more quickly and provide feedback to decision-makers faster.

Also read: Juniper Launches Software Agent to Protect Applications in Cloud, On Premises

How Public Sector Cloud Analytics Works

To understand how cloud analytics works, we have deconstruct it into three sequential steps below:

  1. Acquire public sector data: This is achieved via APIs or third-party integrations. Examples of tools used to load data into a cloud platform include WaveFront and Syncsort.
  2. Data Processing (i.e., aggregation, transformation): This includes aggregations, transformations, and buffering. Google BigQuery and Databricks are examples of data processing tools.
  3. Analysis of Results and Presentation to End Users: The analysis of results with a presentation to users on a dashboard. Tableau, Power BI, and Qlik are a few examples of analytical and presentation tools.

Why the Public Sector Needs Cloud Computing

There are five main areas where public sector organizations can benefit from cloud computing:

  1. Better agility: Using cloud computing, public sector organizations can quickly deploy and scale resources, applications, and data.
  2. Better data insights: Public sector managers need access to more actionable insights, and public cloud analytic tools provide an easy way of capturing data. Most tools also come with a built-in suite of advanced features that enable you to analyze and take action based upon these insights.
  3. Faster time-to-value: Cloud computing allows for more rapid deployment times meaning public sector organizations get value from their investment quicker than they would using traditional on-premise enterprise software. On-prem tools require IT teams to be heavily involved in deploying new applications by managing upgrades, patches, and security vulnerabilities across network resources.
  4. Lower costs: Public sector organizations can use public cloud computing to decrease the cost-per-user and reduce public service delivery costs. A cloud computing approach is also cheaper because public organizations often spend a lot of money on software licenses for on-premises deployment.
  5. Citizen satisfaction: Public sector managers can better respond to public needs and citizen expectations, improving service delivery. Public sector organizations should also consider the benefits of faster data processing in response to public requests without waiting for IT team intervention.

Examples of Successful Public Sector Cloud Usage in the US

There are numerous examples of how public sector cloud computing has helped organizations unlock value. Below are a few cases that stand out.

North Carolina Crime Prevention

In North Carolina, the public criminal justice dataset comprised multiple historical systems. This fragmentation — a common problem with public sector data — made obtaining an individual’s prior criminal records difficult. 

The North Carolina State Government solved this problem by implementing an on-demand cloud application. The CJLEADS public cloud computing platform integrates criminal offender data from multiple historical systems providing law enforcement, probation, courts, and parole agencies with a single version of the truth regarding a suspect’s criminal history.

Four years after the state rolled out the system, it estimated it saved about $28 million in time saved by eliminating unnecessary processes. There were also gains in productivity and a reduction in the public cost of crime. Numerous lives were also saved. 

Florida Department of Health

In another example, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) needed to improve business agility to deliver consistent access to applications, provide dependable support and services, and ensure operations continuity, especially during natural calamities. The FDOH implemented an innovative Model Office concept created to ensure its staff can adapt to any challenge to solve this problem. 

IT infrastructure was moved to the cloud — with security and disaster recovery built-in. The FDOH managed over 26,000 devices at the time, so the move to public sector computing saved considerable time and delivered reliable user experience and security. It also ensured the organization remained nimble, adjusted quickly during disasters, and had the adaptability to deal with all circumstances.

Public sector managers have yet to embrace cloud computing or do not understand its value. 

Organizations can benefit from improved service delivery, cost savings, and increased efficiency and innovation by adopting cloud computing. Those that have embraced public sector cloud computing are realizing the power of this technology.

Read next: Effective Cloud Migration Strategies for Enterprise Networks

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