Public Sector Agencies and the Cloud: A Changing Relationship

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Public sector and the cloud: where we are and where we’re going

Public sector agencies are notoriously – and for good reason – hesitant to embrace changes when it comes to their information management. The concept of the cloud has struggled to gain traction in the public sector for a variety of reasons, with security being chief among them. This trepidation is understandable, though, as often with government organizations, data security can be a matter of life and death or can have significant impact on international relations.

As the cloud continues its journey towards ubiquity, government organisations in Australia have started to take notice and are considering and implementing cloud-based solutions more than ever. In support of this, the Australian Federal Government has set forth a strategy for organisations making the jump to the cloud. While it’s often the smaller departments making the jump first, the larger ones usually aren’t far behind.

In great news for federal government agencies, Microsoft will be opening a data centre in Canberra to help facilitate these organisations’ jump to the cloud. This is something that information managers everywhere cannot afford to ignore. It’s not only the federal government that are implementing cloud first policies, but also those at state and local levels.

The Department of Finance’s ‘Feasibility Study into a Whole of Government Digital Records Management Solution’ from May 2016 found that

EDRMS implementations in government are not being used efficiently and effectively, and many agencies have not harnessed the productivity gains that digital record keeping offers.”

It also said that “In many cases, EDRMS are being used as paper filing systems or as storage repositories and not as the sophisticated information management tools that they are.”

It goes on to report “This is because many agencies haven’t yet investigated how to use the technology to its full potential. Without prioritising records management, government is facing a bloat of records of unknown value, while paying a premium price for systems designed to avoid such an outcome.”

Perhaps most concerning “The vendor community has not provided products that address usability issues, and the primary supplier to the Australian Public Service (APS) has undertaken very little product innovation in the past decade.”

What this means for Federal Government Agencies

Currently, public sector agencies are limited in what they can purchase with EDRMS budget money, until the Department of Finance has chose their preferred platform to invest in. Some agencies will have allocated budget for other ICT spending. This means that some agencies may only be able to upgrade existing systems if there is a critical risk of system failure. While this doesn’t affect all

This doesn’t affect all Federal Government agencies, but many may choose to  adopt the standard regardless of whether compliance is mandatory.

The result of this is that federal government agencies maybe left with rapidly aging systems that don’t manage records in an intuitive or compliant way. The National Archives of Australia (NAA) also have a Digital Continuity 2020 Policy that mandates;

  1. Information is valued
  2. Information is managed digitally
  3. Information systems and processes are interoperable.

Some federal government agencies may find it difficult or impossible to meet this standard because they cannot invest in technology to allow them to undergo digital transformation in the records management space.

What this means for other government agencies

The strategies and standards listed above only apply to federal government agencies. This means that agencies at the state and federal level can choose their own path (within their own jurisdiction’s policies and standards) to digital transformation and cloud services.

There are key business drivers for organisations to move from legacy systems to cloud based services and platforms. This may be as a result of government policy, business efficiency, or cost or risk reasons.

Document and records management systems and services are not different to other applications that are currently being transferred to cloud based solutions. Organisations have been slower to adopt this technology in the records management space, but it cannot be ignored for much longer.

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