Monday, 27 April 2015

Cloud Computing in Government Sectors - Middle East

Introduction:
Cloud computing as a concept became popular in 2010 and individuals and organizations (mostly private sector) across the world were quick to adopt it. On a broader scope cloud computing encompasses a mix of computer and network resource pooling solution that includes hardware, software and communication systems harnessed to obtain desired goals and objectives. Networking and global communication processes now demand the presence of cloud computing as an integral component.

Current Scenario:
In the present fast paced environment internet communication technologies in the Middle East are in tandem with global standards with significant trends affecting regions irrespective of their current ICT development levels. The Middle East region is not so different in terms of high capacity networks, low-cost computers and storage devices with extensive inclination towards hardware virtualization, service-centric architecture etc., all of which constitutes pre-requisites of cloud computing.
The gradually ascending level of economic growth in the Middle East has placed the region in the forefront to adopt cloud technology to achieve their commercial goals. At the same time, the market for cloud technology in the region has also grown. It is said that in the coming years cloud vendors can expect a surge in demand to deploy services and data into the cloud environment.

Cloud in Government:
Today, expectancy run high among people. They expect all services including public services to be available in the blink of an eye and that too at the least cost, in the least possible time. Thus, the time was right for government take the initiative to consider the need of the hour and provide the best service to its citizens. This need has resulted in the public sector embracing technology and offering their services online thereby creating better engagement with citizens. But with each passing day there is an increase in computational data which makes it imperative for government bodies to adopt cloud computing technology.

While cloud technology is being openly embraced by most industry segments, adoption of cloud technology is comparatively slow in government sector. It is not a new concept for governments, as they are gradually inching towards adopting cloud environments to reduce operating costs substantially. Government bodies have realized that cloud technology can actually optimize asset utilization and increase flexibility in the scale and scope of IT services and hardware. Cloud technology is being considered as an evolutionary transformation to conventional IT applications. Cloud technology offers an array of ancillary benefits viz., cloud can be used as a tool to drive innovation, facilitate smooth interaction with people and other government bodies. At the same time, it would also assist in reducing IT footprint thereby facilitating government bodies to concentrate on the effectiveness of their programs rather than managing their IT infrastructure. However, it is well known that there are two sides to a coin, similarly, cloud technology not only presents opportunity but also brings forth several challenges which again can and must be overcome to fully harness its potential.

Benefits of cloud computing for Governments:
The key question that any entity harbors while venturing into relatively new areas or implementing new techniques is the kind of benefit a new technology would offer that would ultimately enhance their overall performance. As mentioned in the introduction, there are several advantages offered by cloud technology for governments:- 
  •          Rapid Elasticity
  •          Cost & Efficiency
  •          Disaster Recovery
  •          Data Scalability


·        Rapid Elasticity: One of the basic advantages of cloud computing is to provide services with unrestricted scalability. It can offer governments with an easy access to an immense array of virtual resources facilitating them to counter periods of peak load in an organized, elastic and economically viable method. Moreover, cloud computing is available on demand with no restrictions on quantity or time.

·        Cost & Efficiency: Cloud computing not only provides economically viable services but it also offers an option wherein costs of investment can be replaced with operating costs by obliterating the need to purchase expensive infrastructure or employ professionals to operate and maintain the relevant infrastructure.

·        Disaster Recovery: Cataclysmic events that threaten loss of data / records causing a suspension in services include; earthquakes, floods, war and civil unrest. In such situations data stored in one location or separate locations for that matter can be easily destroyed. Cloud computing can address this problem as they have more options than traditional models that facilitate easy recovery of critical data without causing significant delay in provision of services.

·        Data Scalability: One thing that governments can be assured of is that the amount of data they process will keep on increasing without any scope of reduction in data inflow. In such situations, conventional hardware demands frequent upgrades. On the contrary, data processing in cloud is absolutely scalable. Any database can continue to grow relentlessly without directly affecting quality of service.

Next Steps :
Though cloud computing offers several benefits it also has its own set of challenges. Governing bodies in the Middle East today are working towards addressing those challenges that hinder adoption of cloud technology thereby moving closer to bring in the ability to provide innovative ways to provide the essential services in a faster and efficient manner to its citizens.