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Driving Cloud Adoption in Government

VMware’s Americas CTO Cameron Haight stands beside a podium with a backdrop of the Toronto skyline

Cameron Haight speaking on the stage at the FW50 2018

Special Contributor: VMware’s Americas CTO Cameron Haight looks at what it will take for Canada to lead the cloud game.

 

Earlier this year I had an opportunity to speak at FWD50, an event dedicated to charting the course of government tech, connected citizens, digital policy and the future of society. Conversations focused on what technology can help and how we, as a society, can move more deliberately to use technology to make society better for all.

Often this comes back to how governments can lead the charge.  But when it comes to public sector IT, I’m often struck by the fact that IT for a government entity presents challenges that simply do not exist in the private enterprise.  For starters, in no other business can a consumer of the service “fire” the CEO (note: this is called an election).  When you manage IT for a government department or agency, priorities need to be able to pivot quickly to react to public opinion or a change in government leadership. To some degree, I’d argue that they need to be more nimble than that of private enterprise – something that hasn’t always been the case.

When it comes to adopting a cloud-first model, governments need a solution that’s flexible, cost efficient, and easy to manage in order to drive innovation. That last point is key.  Cloud is a means to an end and not the end goal which we sometimes forget.  We need to continuously think about what new capabilities we’ll be able to derive from our cloud investment.  Take Estonia as an example of a government that’s leading when it comes to the delivery of e-solutions for its citizens. When Estonia first regained its independence in the early 1990’s, less than half of its population had a telephone line. But today, it is a world leader in technology with some of the fastest internet speeds, online voting, mobile parking and self-driven delivery robots. Virtually all state-related operations can be done online 24/7 – driven by the Estonian IT sector and an ambitious startup community.

So what will it take for Canada to lead when it comes to cloud adoption?  For me, a cloud-first mindset that is centered on driving innovation from leadership is first and foremost.  We’ve seen this at the federal level under the leadership of Chief Information Officer of Canada Alex Benay, and the promotion of a ‘cloud first’ approach in the Government of Canada’s Cloud Adoption Strategy. If Estonia is any indication, Canada is on the right path and partnership between the public and private sector will help this move more quickly.

Still we need to be mindful that we don’t recreate the problems that occurred within our data centers as we move towards the cloud.   Most IT managers I speak to today tell me they’re currently running more than one cloud – that’s true for public and private sector organizations alike.  But if they’re not managed properly, new clouds can create new silos which can create challenges in areas such as management, security and governance.  Portability is another item that needs continued focus especially here in Canada as government and other IT organizations need to be able to shift workloads in response to changing regulatory conditions.

With a new VMware Cloud on AWS availability zone expected in Canada next year, I expect to see more IT organizations at every level of government looking at opportunities to embrace the public cloud. Taking the time to revisit and modernize the cloud strategy is an important part of this transition –  because in addition to a culture that supports innovation, governments need a strong digital foundation to successfully navigate the addition of public cloud in their IT infrastructure.

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