Cloud computing and the public sector

29Legislation has mandated that more public sector IT moves to the cloud, but what are the implications of this move? Will it be cost effective? Will it benefit the environment? How will it affect recruitment in IT in the public sector?

Why is the government moving to cloud computing?

As part of the EUs IT strategy, the European eGovernment Action Plan 2011-2015 has mandated member states to “increase the use of e-government services to 50% of EU citizens and 80% of EU businesses by 2015, through the use of cloud and service orientated architectures.” However whilst there is a general move towards cloud computing in the private sector with Google, Amazon and Apple investing heavily in the cloud architecture, any public sector move into the cloud is a hugely ambitious project due to the sheer scale of the task at hand.

How will cloud computing benefit the public sector?

In theory the move will have massive benefits. It will save huge amounts over the next few years as costly service contracts and hardware maintenance will be reduced, benefiting local government in particular. It will also allow increased storage as local organizations can store more data than on local networks. It is argued that it will also be more secure and software personnel will not have to be so concerned with keeping software up to date as that will be maintained in the cloud. Finally it will encourage advances in IT in the public sector as government organisations will have the freedom to concentrate on innovation rather than constantly worrying about server updates and other computing issues.

How will cloud computing affect the environment?

With the increase in use of digital information data storage is currently growing at an unprecedented rate of 60% per year. At the end of 2011 it was estimated that around one zettabyte (1000 billion gigabytes) of storage is now being used globally, estimated to increase to 35 in 2020.

To store this amount of data requires enormous data centres whose environmental impact is not insignificant. The amount of energy required to simply power and cool the storage systems is one of the major concerns of environmental groups who estimate that data centres and the telecommunications network are set to see their emissions grow, on average, 7% and 5% respectively each year between 2002-2020. Therefore any public sector move to the cloud will be closely scrutinised by environmental groups who will want to see that all the steps are taken to ensure that any data centres used will be the most environmentally friendly as possible. Whilst cloud storage is generally much better for the environment than local storage due to economies of scale the ecological impact of cloud storage cannot be ignored and much attention will be paid to both the energy source for the data centres and how the energy is used.

How will the move to cloud computing affect recruitment in IT?

The scale of the move from local storage to cloud storage and moving many public services into the cloud cannot be underestimated. The IT expertise needed for such a move is immense. We expect a significant increase in demand for both hardware and software professionals to ensure that as each public service makes the switch there are absolutely no problems. In the future there will be many opportunities for cloud software developers and hardware experts to maintain the public data centres.

The IT sector is a continually evolving sector and the move to the cloud is just one of many changes we will see in the public sector over the next few years. The biggest hurdle for the public sector is implementation into the current IT systems. This is a hugely complex task and many external observers will be watching carefully to see how successful the move is.

For more information on cloud computing, IT recruitment and recruitment in the public sector please contact our dedicated IT recruitment department.

Public Sector