Government losing billions by not moving to the cloud

The public sector could be making unnecessary redundancies due to a reluctance to innovate in IT and shift to the cloud, says former CIO John Suffolk

The public sector could be making unnecessary redundancies due to a reluctance to innovate in IT infrastructures and shift to the cloud, says former government CIO John Suffolk.

Estimates suggest the cloud model could save the government £4bn a year, Suffolk said in an online debate about cloud computing hosted by Cisco.

"That's a lot of teachers, a lot of nurses, and a lot of doctors and police," he said.

"Local authorities are making people redundant and it's their choice because they don't want to bite the bullet on all this duplication. What will make them work together?"

Suffolk added, "I said to the last government the worst thing you ever did was to give people too much money. When you have lots of money can buy any old tat, and not have to teamwork with anyone else. People make better decisions when they've got no cash."

But Suffolk says the IT market also has to reposition itself to provide genuinely cloud-based offerings. "Everybody is being cautious. But someone will come along and break the model and they will eat other people's lunches," he said.

"There's a tremendous amount of fibbing going on in IT, around 'the next holy grail'. Go back no more than 18 months ago and the cloud wasn't in the lexicon, it was all about green IT. Then, everything was washed with green, now it's washed with cloud."

David Wilde, CIO of Westminster City Council, who was also involved in the debate, agrees. "The preserve of IT techies is not to move to cloud, but to dress up what they already have as cloud. But they are not taking advantage of the marketplace, they're trying to preserve what they have."

Pressure also needs to come from the top to demand that projects be completed quickly and cheaply, he adds. "My worry is we live in world where anything technology-based glazes the eyes over of most politicians and senior officials."

Suffolk's predictions for the government's IT strategy over the next few years are downbeat. "I think we are going to go into a hiatus for a year as the government repositions itself, then the harsh reality of life is going to kick in which [will say] this is the only solution for government. All governments around the world [are moving in this direction]. The UK government will do it, but I think they are going to be a bit too slow," he said.

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