In the private sector, the cloud is now the new normal for businesses looking to innovate to better serve their customers. Governments in Canada are taking a more measured approach, but there’s a clear recognition that cloud adoption is the key to modernizing service delivery, with endless opportunities to innovate and add new value for Canadians.
We live in a service-on-demand culture where we can access what we need, when we want it, on any platform we choose, from our phone to our watch to our cars, even our fridge or microwave. People are looking for that level of experience from government. Behind the scenes, government needs to deliver those services with the agility and speed necessary to keep pace with changing legislation and evolving service offerings.
That’s where the cloud comes into play. Since putting its Cloud-First Adoption Strategy into action in 2018, the cloud has helped the Canadian government take on more of a fast-moving, scrappy startup mindset.
Rather than having to wait up to six months to manage procurement acquisitions and secure approvals, leveraging the cloud allows government organizations to quickly develop and roll out new applications. Teams can experiment and innovate more quickly and frequently. If an experiment fails, simply de-provision those servers without risk.
In fact, the Government of Ontario migrated its website, Ontario.ca, to AWS in order to provide the province’s 14 million citizens with clearer, quicker and more reliable services – whether that’s renewing your health card, registering a new small business or finding out what tax credits might be available to your family. By shifting to the cloud, the government team re-imagined the public service website – it stopped going down, they put a disaster-recovery solution in place and they can now scale their computing resources up or down based on their needs, all without requiring an expensive infrastructure purchase.
Whether it’s the public or private sector, saving money is a key consideration when adopting cloud-based IT infrastructure. With the cloud, government organizations can trade capital expenses for variable expenses, paying for IT as it is consumed. The low, pay-as-you-go pricing model helps governments lower IT costs, all the while freeing them to experiment and build new solutions that address pressing challenges.
Genuine innovation is rarely the result of an “a-ha” moment. More frequently, it is the culmination of years of experimenting – and failing. For governments, testing and failing with no guarantee of success is slow, expensive and often not palatable to constituents. These risks often deter government from investing in experimentation in the first place. However, through the cloud, these same government agencies are empowered to “fail fast” and accelerate the pace of innovation – in a secure environment and without large upfront costs.
Government organizations are quickly realizing that migrating to the cloud is an opportunity to improve their level of security assurance and reduce operational risk.
Among the challenges that come with building and maintaining data centres are the expenses and resources needed to keep up with the ever-evolving security and privacy regulatory environment. Working in the cloud, organizations can leverage all the best practices, policies, architecture and operational processes required by some of the most security sensitive customers on the planet.
Cloud infrastructure is built to support more security certifications and accreditations, data encryption and hardware security, offering full compliance with international and local security and privacy policies. Pairing that with strong physical security gives governments piece of mind and a more secure, cost-effective way to manage IT infrastructure.
Data residency refers to government legislation mandating that sensitive electronic data under its control be processed and stored in an IT system within the country’s borders. Data residency is designed to address a combination of issues associated with security risks around third-party access to data, including foreign law enforcement agencies. In Canada, data residency offers assurances that sensitive data is protected from unwanted access by nefarious attackers and other governments.
The cloud gives organizations full ownership and control over their data through simple, powerful tools that allow them to determine where it should be stored. We’re seeing AWS public sector customers taking advantage of our Canada Region to store data locally, with the built-in controls, auditing and security accreditations to maintain compliance with Canadian government regulations.
It is reassuring that federal, provincial and municipal governments are seeing the value and benefit of migrating to the cloud. To fully realize the value of the cloud and its role in modernizing service delivery, it is equally important that Canada’s public sector workforce is equipped with the knowledge, skills and training to build, experiment and iterate.
To help address this challenge, we held the first-ever AWS DigiGov Program in November 2018. Collaborating with the University of Ottawa Professional Development Institute, the two-day pilot program was designed specifically for government employees, providing education and inspiration that will help take the delivery of digital services to new heights. We need to build on that momentum and encourage more government organizations to innovate on the cloud.
Innovating in government is hard, partly because the consequences of failure can be devastating. But it could be argued that the need for transformation is also felt most acutely in this area. The cloud helps manage these challenges by allowing for rapid, low-risk innovation that can improve people’s lives.