Why Britain’s public sector leads the world in cloud technology

Britain’s public sector currently leads the world both in terms of cloud usage and the applications that it is putting in the cloud. Yet it has failed to communicate its successes, and is yet to realise the full benefits.

Recently, I was interviewed at Think Cloud for Government, and we discussed the big issues for the UK public sector, some of our major success stories, how we can help the rest of Europe with issues like the NSA and where we see the future of cloud computing.

Smart security

Sensible security is one of the big issues; at last month’s Conservative Councillors Association (CCA) Local Government Conference, I ran a session with Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis MP on Cyber Security.

It was very clear that some Local Authorities are spending a fortune doing the wrong things to get the PSN security accreditation, and going backwards from a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy to investing in hundreds of thousands of secure laptops. At the same time, we have large central government customers moving to a BYOD policy to save millions through sensible segregation of data.

> See also: Home office IT chief receives honour for G-cloud

Any sensible form of security requires different levels of security, and segregation between the levels. Central Government has in some cases learnt this lesson, and a cloudBuy customer with 1,000s of remote workers wanted to have a BYOD policy for Intranet access.

99% of the data on the Intranet could be released under FOI and is not confidential

Less than 1% of data requires a level of military security, which means it cannot be connected to the internet. The department pooled all this data, and thus had to bring all its systems up to the higher level of security.

This was straightforward in the old days when remote workers had no external access to the department without using expensive security accredited devices with significant operational overhead, ensuring that remote workers could never access corporate data without going into a local office. We worked with the department to move the 99% of data (which is not confidential) on to a cloud hosted Intranet which could then be accessed by all the remote workers with their own devices.

Pioneering examples of cloud technology across local Government

Unfortunately, while Central Government has a policy of moving into the cloud and is already seeing benefits, the rest of Government, the NHS, Higher Education and Local Government has yet to adopt a ‘cloud-first policy’, and is not using G-cloud.

Yet there are great examples of innovative cloud usage outside of Central Government, demonstrating that it can deliver extraordinary benefits.

‘Artificial Intelligence’ in the NHS

The NHS uses world class cloud-based “Artificial Intelligence”, developed with two of Britain’s leading University cybernetics departments, to identify billions of savings across its supply chain.

NHS carbon foot printing is at least 8 years ahead of international ‘best practice’ in both the public and private sector, in its use of item-level spend analysis to identify potential carbon savings throughout its supply chain. This technology could deliver over £10 billion a year in savings to the NHS

These are major global breakthroughs that could be applied to all Government agencies, and this is another issue, the effort required to take the learning from one part of government to another part of Government.

> See also: UK government adopts 'cloud first' policy IT procurement

For example, Britain’s Higher Education institutions are the first in the world to use a cloud-based ‘e-marketplace’ providing complete contract management along with fully automated ordering, invoicing and payment. This process is a global first, and it is now Visa's main global reference site for fully integrated procurement. This could easily be emulated across the rest of Government and the private sector.

Ecommerce marketplace for Social Care?

UK Local Government already started using cloud-based procurement systems back in 2002.

Today, Britain is leading the world in pioneering cloud-based “social care marketplaces” which are both incredibly easy to use and automate the most complex processes used by any part of Government.

Several UK Councils, including Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire, recently launched the world’s first online ‘market for social care’, where local authorities “kite mark” suppliers and allocate a budget for people to “spend” through the site and where patients are empowered to “shop” online for personalised care plans.

Critically, the technology boosts transparency, allowing Councils to see what services are being purchased, and empowering patients to flag up poor-quality care providers to other patients and to Local Authorities through the website.

The care users are a mixture of frail elderly, mentally and physically disabled along with their friends, family and carers. The complex processes include needs assessment and choosing, booking, and buying care visits to the home at different times of day with different requirements in terms of the physical and medical problems associated with looking after a person at home.

G-Cloud success should be expanded and supported

cloudBuy is on all 4 lots of the G-Cloud framework, and we’ve seen strong interest from Central Government in all aspects of our technology. However despite our strong presence in public sector all of our G-Cloud sales have been to Central Government. The Government needs to promote the G-Cloud framework across local government and to the rest of the world so that G-Cloud providers can drive innovation across local and global markets.

> See also: Government could save £70bn with more digitasation, think tank says

Leading and helping in Europe and the rest of the world

The EU public sector is in the process of adopting e-procurement, but Britain is over 10 years ahead in its use of the cloud for e-procurement, and even further ahead in terms of the complex applications like care that we have put onto the cloud.

We need to engage with the rest of Europe so that they can learn from our successes.

Our public sector needs to talk up its success, both in Britain and around the world. It feels like the Olympics, where we won lots of medals and then went quiet again. Very few people know that the UK public sector has been successfully running major projects in the cloud and that in some areas it is a decade ahead of private sector best practice. It’s time to start shouting about it.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...