Based on latest information and communication technology, e-Governance is a major thrust for governments around the world in both developed and developing countries. Effectiveness and efficiency of the government and its sustainability are the prominent factors for the maturity of e-Governance. As a result, the United Nations has developed an index called the E-Government Development Index (EGDI) 4 to calibrate the relative development of e-Governance in countries around the world.
The e-Government survey conducted by United Nations in 2012  featured the Republic of Korea as the leading country in e-Governance. The others who covered the umbrella of top five were the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Denmark, and the United States. Cloud-based services are being rapidly adopted by leading nations as they look to integrate increasingly complex public sector services across sectors and agencies. A cloud-based model is enabling service providers to address increased innovation and productivity without costly investments by the government. The cloud model equips governments with greater efficiency by helping them scale up their services utilizing highly shared virtualized computing resources with automation and self-service. In the United States, as part of the new “Cloud First” Initiative , government agencies are required to first consider cloud options before making any new IT investments. Most countries face service integrity, data security, and privacy and regulatory environment as the prominent challenges for large-scale adoption.
During the adoption of cloud model, governments around the world are at a different level of maturity . At the basic stage, government initiatives focus on infrastructure virtualization—a cloud delivery organization is formed but service delivery or demand management roles are not formalized. In the more advance/mature adopters of the cloud model, the focus shifts to how business services are sourced and shared across government agencies with external partners and ISVs also enabled to provide services in a community cloud model. Formal security models with measurable security controls are put in place. Billing support systems are put in place for differentiated charges based on quality, capacity, service, and security level. A formal cross-governmental organization drives cloud governance and sets policies and approves shared service offerings by various governmental agencies. The Cloud Delivery Organization is much more structured and runs in a formal business model including structured development and marketing of cloud offerings, demand management for infrastructure and application services, a governance authority that makes decisions on shared business applications and functions opened to third party vendors and “government app stores” and has accountability for service delivery quality and client satisfaction.
From the viewpoint of the United Nations E-Government Development index, India is behind in the adoption of information and communication technology to transform the governance of the nation, India’s rank in 2012 was 125, down from 119 in 2010. This is also reflected in the adoption of cloud-based government services, which are still in the initial stages. At the same time, there is a tremendous opportunity for India to adopt the cloud model thereby dramatically accelerating its progress in e-Governance. India has been significantly investing in infrastructure including fiber to the village (NOFN), National Knowledge Network, NICNet, and Aadhaar as a biometric unique identification to facilitate citizen access to government services. India has already leapfrogged into the mobile era with widespread mobile phone adoption even at the base of the pyramid. The next logical step is ubiquitous mobile access to cloud-based services. National Informatics Centre (NIC) of the Department of Information Technology acts as a network backbone and provides a wide range of services including Nationwide Communication Network for decentralized planning-. NIC also provides support to central government, state governments, UT administrations, districts, and other government bodies , . As part of NICNET Storage Area Network (SAN) data centers and State Wide Area Networks (SWANs) are being established in all 35 states/UTs.
Current functioning of SAN and SWANs are independent with each other and by connecting all these data centers (SAN) into a cloud, all the computational resources such as the CPUs, disk storage systems, specialized software systems, etc. can be provisioned to all the users connecting to the cloud. This will also help focused users to take advantage of the benefits of advanced capabilities like remote application hosting space, data storage on cloud, persistent transaction states, and distributed data mining.
Also, NIC supports heterogeneous platform based independent applications. This means those applications provide services without any resource sharing functionality. In some critical cases, services are continuously required for any kind of citizen services. Under such situations, breakdown of any machine or operating system or database server or application server results into outreach of the services. Hence, the cloud model is needed to support high availability and disaster recovery.
To have such a paradigm shift, the most critical challenge is to address web services framework for interoperability among the various state government and department networks as this is a precursor to moving to the cloud model.
A tremendous advantage that India possesses relative to other nations is the cloud know-how in the country. India has numerous multi-national companies with big cloud research, design, development, and delivery capabilities catering to the whole globe. A rapidly burgeoning ecosystem of startup companies is further fueling cloud-based innovation. Several prominent academic and research institutions in the country are showing leadership in the cloud arena and bringing premier technical conferences to India. India has the opportunity to rapidly move to cloud-based e-Governance leveraging this human capital already within its shores. With the scale of population and the richness and diversity of various citizen services, India has the opportunity to establish a national scale cloud that is a trailblazer and firmly establishes leadership of India in the era of cloud and Big Data.
Recommended Next Step
- National Cloud Governance Organization: The Indian Government should quickly form a national level Cloud Authority that brings focus and rigor to the transformation of the Indian Government to the cloud model. The Meghraj initiative , from the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) provides a starting point for such an Authority. This body should drive structured development and marketing of government cloud offerings, define a web services framework for interoperability among the various departments, plan and frequently review/refine the infrastructure and application services capacity needed for the nation and act as a governance authority that makes decisions on shared business applications and functions opened to third-party vendors and “government app stores”. This organization needs to urgently develop a detailed catalog of existing web services that would be distributed across many departments and would serve as a basis for the definition of a web services framework for interoperability. The CCICI could act as an expert council who can advise the National Cloud Authority and form workgroups to make progress in specific areas such as interoperability standards.
- National Cloud Innovation Challenges: To accelerate the transformation to cloud while tapping on the wealth of know-how and innovative spirit in the country, the Indian government should frequently issue a set of National Cloud Innovation Challenges with associated awards and recognition. These could range from new cloud-based services that are required in the country to fundamental research problems that need to be tackled in Cloud Computing to spur a national scale e-Governance Cloud in India. These challenges could prompt various businesses in the country on the one hand and academic research organizations on the other hand to constantly innovate in areas most relevant to the Indian government. The CCICI could partner with the government to frame these challenges and accelerate innovation in response to the challenges.