At one minute past midnight, on Sunday, May 5, Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, introduced a policy that will hopefully bring about a much-needed change in public sector ICT.

After much speculation and many pleas for the UK government to take a leaf out of its U.S. counterpart’s book, a “Cloud First” strategy has finally been mandated for UK central government departments. In the announcement issued to the press, Maude insists that “the formal introduction of a Cloud First policy will drive wider adoption of cloud computing in the public sector, boosting business—and furthering savings and efficiencies—through the Government CloudStore, which is a quicker, cheaper, more competitive way for the public sector to buy IT…In the future, when procuring new or existing services, public sector organizations should consider and fully evaluate potential cloud solutions first—before they consider any other option. This approach is mandated to central government and strongly recommended to the wider public sector.”

Next-generation technology for the government

The Cloud First strategy could not have come a moment too soon. The very real fear was, without such a mandate, the UK would be left behind when it comes to global cloud adoption. While it’s fantastic that the CloudStore seems to be gaining momentum, hitting sales of $28.3 million (£18.2 million) and a record month in March, there’s a lot more to be done. This is a fraction of the estimated $28 billion (£18 billion) that UK government spends on technology. Pushing cloud first from the top down will help ensure the UK doesn’t lag behind when it comes to accelerating cloud adoption in the public sector.

But what I would like to see in the future is this Cloud First mandate expanded to cover all public sector organizations. It’s also important that the government stays focused on a small number of highly specialized true cloud services that have strived to bring cloud benefits—agility, scalability, flexibility, and efficiency—to the public sector from the start. Widening the G-Cloud’s remit could result in fragmentation, stifle innovation, and prompt government bodies to shun true cloud services. If you give people the option to select large integrators and suppliers, the danger is they’ll simply revert to what they know.

Pushing down the field towards the future

So, while the government has achieved the first of the three goals I wanted to see hit over the next 12 months with their Cloud First strategy, I would still like to see a culture shift in the government within the Government Procurement Service (GPS). With the launch of the third iteration of the G-Cloud Framework, there is a real opportunity to turn away from the tech goliaths and integrators that have dominated public sector IT and look at new and innovative technologies to solve the issues they’re facing and reduce costs. This shift in attitude will not just benefit public sector organizations, but also the taxpayer.

What’s more, let’s not forget the original sentiments of the G-Cloud. One of the aims of G-Cloud is to “level the playing field” and provide government access to all the benefits that true cloud services bring. It’s no coincidence that Huddle is used by 80% of central UK government departments and numerous local council and NHS organizations nationwide.

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