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Creating a council cloud-first approach

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2018

Georgina Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK, makes the case for wider adoption of cloud technology by local authorities.

There are lots of councils across the UK that are realising the benefits of adopting and using cloud services. There are also a lot more that are not – and they should be. A recent Eduserv report found that only four in 10 councils had a cloud policy. Only 62% of councils currently use cloud infrastructure, and the rate of adoption has only increased by 10% in the last two years. 

Often, councils are choosing to run cloud alongside on-premise systems rather than displacing existing IT infrastructure entirely. While 64% of councils use both on-premise and cloud hosting, there is a long way to go before councils adopt a truly ‘cloud-first’ approach.

For time-poor and financially constrained councils, the cloud can increase efficiencies and, more importantly, provide better services for citizens. Aylesbury Vale District was one of the first councils to adopt a cloud-first strategy and has already saved over £6m. Being on the cloud has also enabled the council to bring more services online to keep costs under control, such as the AI front-end which has reduced phone traffic by 20%.

So why is uptake slow amongst some councils? The core issues around full cloud adoption are common ones around digital transformation: gaining the buy-in of senior leadership to see and understand the visionof how digital can transform outcomes and achieve savings for the council, as well as overcoming the skills and capability barriers on how councils buy technology. Furthermore, with local government holding vast amounts of data, perceived security concerns continue to remain a major restraining factor to cloud adoption. 

The low uptake of G-Cloud amongst councils doesn’t help. It is a fast and easy way to procure cloud services, yet the latest figures show only 17% of sales through G-Cloud were from the wider public sector (which includes local government). There could be various reasons for its low adoption, from lack of awareness of the framework to the fact that councils aren’t mandated to have a cloud-first policy. G-Cloud is also the mechanism in which SMEs can easily access the local government marketplace, and the lower uptake from councils has wider implications on the digital ecosystem.

techUK has produced a ‘Building Local Government Trust in the Security of Cloud’ paper that provides information and questions to ask to engender change and help councils adopt the right cloud model. Key questions include:

  • What are the IT security arrangements in place? 
  • Is the data suitably encrypted when it is in transit? 
  • What standards are you compliant with? Have they been externally validated? 
  • Has the resilience of the underlying cloud infrastructure been independently security tested? How frequently does this take place? 
  • Are other local government organisations or public sector bodies in your area using cloud services? What could you learn from their experiences? 
  • What data assets do you have in your organisation? Do you know where these data assets are currently stored or reside? 

A lot of this comes down to understanding what the ‘art of the possible’ is. Councils must look to the breadth and depth of the industry to understand what innovations are out there and see what cloud model will best suit their needs. 

The future isn’t bleak. While councils aren’t yet adopting cloud fully, the more progressive ones already see cloud as an opportunity to reimagine how services can be delivered, as well as gain value by reducing demand on service, improving efficiencies, and enhancing the customer experience. 

Through sharing best practice across local government and collaborating more with industry, those councils that are at the very start of their digital journey should gain the confidence they need to embrace the cloud and provide better public services.


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