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Eduserv findings highlight council cloud adoption resistance

Neil Merrett Published 21 July 2016

Research of 100 UK authorities argues that local government is largely unsure over how to use cloud services safely without risking data security


A resistance to cloud adoption among councils is preventing local government from improving digital service performance, according to new research by not-for-profit IT group Eduserve.

In findings based on Freedom of Information (FoI) requests sent to the top 100 local councils on a revenue basis between March and June 2016, 10% of respondents were found to have switched to a pure cloud IT model.

Eduserv argued that its research showed almost half of councils included in the research were yet to formulate plans around making use of cloud computing.  However, 73% of the same group reportedly said they do make use of cloud services in some capacity for data storage.

Jos Creese, principal analyst at Eduserv’s Local Government Executive Briefing Programme and a former council CIO, said the findings highlighted the need for providers to understand the needs of public sector buyers in deploying cloud services, as well as issues they face in trying to do so.

“These are of course the well-known issues of data security, location and recovery. But there are also [matters of] support, identity management, access methods and integration between systems,” he said.

However, Creese expected significant growth in local government cloud adoption over the next few years.  He said he expected this to be driven in part by “mainstay IT systems” increasingly being run in the cloud, as well as being supported by key industry players.

“This will include systems holding sensitive data, but with the necessary control and security,” he argued.  “Secondly, there will be less ’big’ IT and more smaller system and apps in the cloud which public sector teams will just deploy, without the IT department even being involved.

“Both of these are positive moves, but they need managing and that is why cloud policies, IT strategies which embrace cloud models, and higher digital awareness in staff are all pre-requisites.”

In the report’s conclusions, Creese said cloud platforms were able to provide councils with a lower cost and more flexible approach to deal with unpredictable capital spend over the next few years. Yet he argued that there was ongoing reluctance to embrace such technologies for various reasons, some of which could be offset through clearer planning.

Creese noted particular concern about general council perceptions over the potential safety risks from cloud adoption that had limited possible uptake.

He argued that based on a seeming lack of clarity by numerous authorities over where their data is stored, the level of information management maturity was relatively low across local government in the UK.

“That weakness will need to be addressed in the inevitable move to digital delivery which must place greater reliance on shared and cloud-based services, to get better value from data,” he said

“The research also suggests that many councils are still unsure how to use cloud safely, without risking data security and control. In this respect the leaders in cloud use in the public sector need to do more to share their risk management methods.”

Creese said that the findings also pointed to the significant cost burden resulting from the number of councils opting to hold data on premise.  While accepting that wholesale public sector outsourcing was previously found to be expensive and inflexible for meeting changing authority needs and expectations, he questioned councils continued to run data centres data centres in-house.

“To truly exploit digital change that is proven to generate both service and financial benefit, councils must be prepared to use every technology tool in their armoury,” Creese said.

Based on the latest figures on the total spend through the G-Cloud framework, which is used to acquire commodity cloud services, 77% of overall demand was found to be driven by central government.  The remainder was assigned to the wider public sector, which included, but was not exclusively based on local government spend.

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