India's Digital India mission, launched in 2015, was aimed at empowering citizens digitally and enhancing the country's digital infrastructure. Since then, the Indian government has introduced several initiatives and policies to support the cause.
A recent report by NASSCOM, "Assessment of Cloud Adoption in Government Sector," sheds light on the cloud adoption journey of Indian Government Sector. The report finds that the Indian government has laid the foundation for significant cloud adoption by the public sector, allowing Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) to align with government sectors via open channels for procurement, new policies, awareness spreading, and capacity building. This creates a bridge between CSPs and ministries/departments.
In recent years, government ministries/departments have started evaluating, planning, and adopting cloud computing services. In 2013, the IT Regulators of India published the first policy document on the cloud titled "GI Cloud Strategic Direction," which laid out the roadmap for cloud adoption. Under this, ministries/departments are required to analyze, adopt, and leverage cloud for existing and future applications to optimally utilize IT infrastructure, resulting in optimal procurement policies designed by the government.
Cloud adoption in ministries/departments allows the government to procure new tools and technologies to enhance existing applications, which was not feasible or viable earlier. To facilitate this, the IT Regulators of India have introduced a "Cloud First" approach while designing new IT services/applications or migrating/enhancing existing applications to acquire both financial and non-financial benefits of cloud adoption.
Indian Government Cloud Adoption Journey
Since 2013, the Indian government has taken significant steps to promote cloud adoption. A task force was formed to create a strategic direction paper and an implementation roadmap, and a working group made recommendations for cloud adoption in 2013.
In 2014, the National Informatics Centre launched the first national cloud, and a working service function chains approval for cloud management office CMO followed. In 2015, the National Institute of Smart Governance (NISG) proposed to prepare a CMO request for a proposal, and empanelment of CSPs was initiated.
Audit criteria were finalized in 2016, and ten CSPs were empaneled. Three additional CSPs were empaneled in 2017, and the CMO RFP was published. In 2018, the CMO was set up to assist government ministries/departments in adopting cloud, and the onboarding of CMO agency Dash M/S PWS followed.
In 2019, 12 CSPs were re-empaneled, and a cloud services bouquet was introduced. CSPs were onboarded on the GEM platform, and a capacity building program for cloud was initiated. Six additional CSPs were empaneled in 2020, and guidelines were introduced on security, procurement, data centers, SLA/master service agreement (MSA), and best practices. In 2021, empanelment was opened perpetually.
Impacts & Benefits of Cloud Adoption
The report highlights the positive impact of cloud adoption on government departments, including improved agility, scalability, cost savings, and enhanced service delivery. Cloud adoption has enabled departments to modernize their legacy IT infrastructure and migrate to a more flexible and secure cloud-based system. The adoption of cloud has also enabled departments to streamline their processes, improve collaboration and provide better citizen services.
- Improved Agility
One of the most significant benefits of cloud adoption is improved agility. Cloud services allow government departments to quickly scale up or down their IT infrastructure and services based on their requirements. This means that departments can quickly respond to changing situations and requirements, such as during times of crisis, where they need to rapidly ramp up their capacity to support citizens.
The scalability of cloud services allows government departments to optimize their resource utilization, reducing waste and inefficiencies. This is especially important for departments that have varying workloads and require flexibility in terms of capacity. The cloud allows these departments to scale up or down their capacity based on their needs, which translates to cost savings in terms of infrastructure, maintenance, and staffing.
- Cost Savings
Cloud adoption can also result in significant cost savings for government departments. By reducing the need for in-house IT infrastructure and services, departments can save on hardware, maintenance, staffing, and other expenses. They can also reduce their operational costs by leveraging cloud services that offer pay-as-you-go pricing models.
- Enhanced Service Delivery
Cloud adoption enables government departments to deliver services in a more efficient and effective manner. By leveraging cloud-based systems, departments can provide real-time updates and feedback to citizens, streamline their processes, and reduce the time required for service delivery. This leads to improved citizen satisfaction and trust in the government's ability to provide timely and effective services.
- Modernization of Legacy IT Infrastructure
The adoption of cloud technology allows government departments to modernize their legacy IT infrastructure and migrate to a more flexible and secure cloud-based system. This modernization enables departments to move away from outdated and inefficient IT infrastructure and systems, which are often more vulnerable to security threats, towards more modern and secure cloud-based systems.
- Improved Collaboration
The cloud provides government departments with an easy-to-use and secure platform for collaboration, allowing for real-time collaboration and sharing of information across departments and agencies. This collaboration can improve decision-making, information sharing, and innovation within the government sector.
Challenges in Cloud Adoption
While cloud adoption offers numerous benefits, it also poses several challenges, including data privacy and security concerns, lack of cloud literacy among employees, and resistance to change. The report identifies the challenges faced by government departments at various stages of cloud adoption and provides recommendations to overcome them.
- Data Privacy and Security Concerns
One of the primary concerns related to cloud adoption is data privacy and security. The Indian government has put in place various regulations and guidelines to ensure the privacy and security of data stored in the cloud. However, government departments still face challenges in implementing these regulations and ensuring compliance with them. To address this, the report recommends that departments must adopt a risk-based approach to security, which involves identifying potential security threats, assessing the level of risk, and implementing appropriate security controls.
- Lack of Cloud Literacy Among Employees:
Another challenge faced by government departments is the lack of cloud literacy among employees. Many employees may not have the necessary knowledge and skills to use cloud services effectively, which can hinder the adoption of cloud-based systems. The report suggests that the government must invest in training programs to upskill its workforce and increase cloud literacy among employees.
- Resistance to Change
Resistance to change is also a significant challenge in cloud adoption. Many employees may be resistant to change and prefer to stick with their existing systems, which can hinder the adoption of cloud-based systems. The report recommends that departments must create awareness about the benefits of cloud adoption among employees and provide them with the necessary support to transition to cloud-based systems.
- Other challenges
Apart from these, there are other challenges such as the lack of standardization in cloud services, issues related to vendor lock-in, and the need for a regulatory framework that is tailored to the unique needs of the public sector. The report suggests that the government must work closely with CSPs to ensure that cloud services are standardized and interoperable. The government must also develop a regulatory framework that takes into account the unique needs of the public sector and promotes innovation while ensuring data privacy and security.