Indian government plans for IT in the cloud

Government of India’s cloud-computing project promises to cut costs and speed up adoption of IT in government organizations, but challenges remain due to federated decision making

The government of India’s cloud-computing project has promised to cut costs and speed up the adoption of IT in government organizations, but challenges remain due to federated decision making.

J. Satayanarayana, secretary in Ministry of Information Technology, used the Oracle CloudWorld event in New Delhi to name 4 February as the start date for the Government of India Cloud (GI Cloud), or Meghraj as it is known.

GI Cloud is modeled on a project run by the UK government, known as the G Cloud. This itself was modeled on the app stores run by suppliers such as Apple.

App stores enable businesses to buy cloud-based services that are already accredited and tried and tested through a single pre-agreed contract. The services are also cloud-based and available as pay as you go, rather than requiring up-front investments. This opens up competition in the government IT services sector with a wider variety of suppliers.

GI Cloud is modeled on programmes such as the UK’s G-Cloud. In the UK, the public sector as a whole has so far spent £78m through Cloudstore. Over half of this (53%) is going to small and medium-sized firms.

“If we saw as much money going through Cloudstore every month as we did this November, the annual spend would be £120 million,” UK Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude recently said.

“But we are not stopping there. That’s why I’m pleased to set out my ambition today that, through the CloudStore and digital services framework, we will spend a further £100m with small businesses offering IT services and technology to government by the next general election.”

Forrester analyst, Sudhanshu Bhandari, said GI Cloud, a cloud-first policy, promised to enable government organizations to re-use and quickly deliver citizen-centric applications. “Right now, it takes more than two years end-to-end to move a business need from conceptualization, to design, to user acceptance testing and finally production.”

He said that typically, during this period, there are a lot of requirements, regulations and technology changes.

“Using cloud-first policy, government will be able to more efficiently manage the technology infrastructure spending and avoid getting into the same consolidation spree, like in the US,” said Bhandari. 

“Government of India will face challenge in implementing cloud-first policy due to diversity in the federal structure and the inclination from various state departments to have control on all aspects of technology infrastructure,” he said. “The Ministry of Information Technology will give a guidance to first evaluate state data centers (SDC), and build department technology infrastructure, only if there is some unique requirement that is unfulfilled by SDC. 

He said SMB suppliers will flourish. “It will benefit the SaaS vendors in particular. They will be able to reach a wider audience and re-use their application for various departments.”

He also said that large supliers will be able to reduce lengthy and expensive procurement processes if the government establishes a cloud vendor accreditation program.

He said transparency on costs will improve and suppliers will be more likely to innovate. “Vendors who provide better services at efficient cost will become preferred partners.”

Manoj Agarwal, lead technology officer at Sunrise Pvt. Ltd, said cloud computing today is a priority for many suppliers to India. “With the GI Cloud project, a whole lot of growth and investment scope could come about in the IT domain.”

Shireen Malwani, analyst at an IT-startup in Kolkata, said: “The Meghraj project is set to enhance the growth scope for private players like us. We could see immense opportunity provision from the government’s end for establishing cloud systems as per central guidelines.”

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