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Cloud will give public sector the freedom to innovate – AWS

AWS Summit Photo

At the AWS Summit in London this week, Dobromir Todorov, AWS’ Regional Technology Officer outlined to Telecoms.com the drive towards cloud in the public sector.

For numerous companies around the world, public sector customers are a dream come true. They have large budgets, long contracts and consistent terms. While there are various vendors who specialize in public sector services, some would assume these taxpayer funded organizations are behind the times, and to a degree, they would be correct.

“When it comes to public sector these organizations are expected to deliver services to very high standards,” said Todorov. “In times of austerity when budgets are shrinking, stakeholders, whether they are citizens or politicians, still have high expectations of the public sector. Technologies such as mobile and IoT are becoming more prominent meaning IT is much more than keeping the lights on. Innovation is a challenge which every organization faces, especially in the public sector.”

Irrelevant of organization, innovation comes with an element of risk. The more far reaching or disruptive an idea, the higher the risk will be. Risk will be accepted by start-ups or by venture capitalists, and to a degree big business, but it becomes a much more difficult task when you are spending taxpayer’s money. Here, risk is always perceived as bad.

“When you are chasing technologies and the risk of failure is 90%. This is something which a venture capitalist will accept, but from central government perspective this is not acceptable,” said Todorov. “You’re probably going to lean away from innovating, and unlikely to invest because it is taxpayer’s money. You are not going to be as forward looking as the start-up community on the whole, and will always be chasing the trends.”

The main challenge here is the capital expenditure. For any major project, investments in data centres, new technologies, staff, licenses, applications and many other aspects, will be required. Should an idea fail, this could be a disaster. The concept of fail fast, lauded in many corners of the industry as the catalyst for innovation, is non-existent here. But cloud could be the differentiator.

“In a cloud based environment, you can remove these limitations because you only pay for what you consume,” said Todorov. “You are not making a huge capital expenditure to launch these projects. In the cloud, it is going to take minutes to bring up a prototype of the experiment which you can play with for a couple of weeks and this might only cost you $1000. If it fails it fails, but your cost of failure is only $1000 not $10 million. Suddenly your barrier to innovation has disappeared, and you are in the same position as the start-ups who are innovating much faster than public sector.

Cloud is going to bring down the cost of innovation and allow public sector organizations to become much more active and deliver better services for the stakeholders.”

For Todorov, this will be one of the biggest trends over the next couple of years. The cloud will enable innovation as a cost effective exercise, and eventually remove the idea of clunky and dated government. With the rights tools in the right hands, it might not be long before the public sector is considered in the same breath as the start-up community. But there are still road-blocks.

“I think the skills gap is one of these,” said Todorov. “Cloud is a platform which is created on customer demand, it should be native, easy to use, natural to embark on, but at the same time we appreciate it takes a new set of skills.

“Other than skills, we don’t see any difficult challenges; it’s only a question of time before the public sector organizations transform their entire estate into cloud based environment. I think it will come over the next couple of years. Clearly cloud is here to stay.”

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