'Cloud First' for Government Technology

CloudsAs the new G-Cloud iii framework goes live today the Government has announced a 'Cloud First' policy for the procurement of public sector technology - this will be mandated to central government and 'strongly recommended' to the wider public sector.

"Many government departments already use G-Cloud, but IT costs are still too high," said Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office. "One way we can reduce them is to accelerate the adoption of Cloud across the public sector to maximise its benefits. The Cloud First policy will embed the skills a modern civil service needs to meet the demands of 21st-century digital government and help us get ahead in the global race.

francis maude"G-Cloud brings a step change in the way government buys IT. It's quicker, cheaper and more competitive, open to a wider range of companies, including a majority of SMEs, and offers more choice and innovation," added Maude (left).

Cloud services should be the first option considered by public sector buyers of IT products and services, the Government has confirmed. The policy is aimed at driving wider adoption of Cloud computing in the public sector, boosting business - and furthering savings and efficiencies - through the Government CloudStore, which is a "quicker, cheaper more competitive way for the public sector to buy IT," according to Maude.

In future, when procuring new or existing services, public sector organisations should consider and fully evaluate potential Cloud solutions first - before they consider any other option. Departments will remain free to choose an alternative to the Cloud if they can demonstrate that it offers better value for money.

The announcement comes on the same day that the third G-Cloud supplier framework goes live. There are now 708 companies on the new framework - of which more than 80% are SMEs - including 368 firms new to G-Cloud and its CloudStore. This compares with 461 suppliers on the second framework, 75% of which were SMEs.

A recent NAO report recognised that the Government's efforts to cut the cost of government IT are working, with IT reforms and spending controls saving the taxpayer £316m in 2011/12 alone. G-Cloud is fundamental to public service and IT reform in creating a friction-free commissioning point for government IT services, and facilitating the move away from dependence on an oligopoly of large suppliers and lock-ins to long contracts. Government is also reviewing its governance arrangements in the IT area to create more agile structures that better support delivery, including of Cloud-based commissioning of commoditised IT services.

Denise McDonagh, G-Cloud programme directorAccording to G-Cloud programme director Denise McDonagh (left), "Sales from G-Cloud are rising steadily, with cumulative spend now over £18 million - two-thirds of it with SMEs. This is still small relative to overall government IT spend, and the transition to widespread purchasing of IT services as a commodity won't happen overnight.

"The adoption of a Cloud First policy will give added impetus for Whitehall and the wider public sector to move in this direction - complementing our ongoing work to encourage Cloud adoption and to help buyers adapt to this way of purchasing IT, which is already showing results."

McDonagh claims that off-the-shelf products from the Cloud "can be up to 30% of the cost of bespoke solutions".

A new version of the CloudStore online catalogue, with some greater functionality and an improved "look and feel" for ease of use, launches on 5 May.