How Hybrid Cloud Drives Citizen-centric Government IT Services in Asia Pacific

David Bate, VMware vice president, Cloud, Asia Pacific and Japan

Ask any new parent what they’re most looking forward to after the birth of a child and they’ll probably say something like “spending time together as a family.” They are unlikely to say that they’re looking forward to registering the birth of their new born. Like many other government agency services, the process of registering a birth can be laborious. It involves completing paper-based forms, making an appointment at a government office, attending in person during business hours and enduring what can sometimes be a long wait when you get there.

If there’s one problem that has plagued us as citizens and public sector entities, it is outdated, inefficient processes. As a result, many government IT departments have a new charter:

“Save time, money and resources, while improving the overall level of operations.”

Hybrid cloud infrastructure enables IT departments to deliver on these priorities.

Citizens As “Customers” of Government Agencies

For years, enterprises have invested in digital innovation enabled by the cloud. Businesses reap the rewards in terms of business agility, efficiency, cost savings and improved customer service experiences. This ability to innovate raised the expectations of citizens as consumers of government agencies. People no longer differentiate between whether they are dealing with a bank, an online retailer or a government agency. Instead, they now expect fast and frictionless interactions with service providers, including their local and federal government.

A recent comment from Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board of Canada, reinforces the fact that many cloud-based innovations are applicable to public services:

“We can’t be a Blockbuster government when we’re serving a Netflix citizen. If a company fails to get digital right, it’s out of business; if a government fails to get it right, it becomes out of touch.”

This sentiment is spurring governments into treating citizens as digital “customers.”

Like Canada, people-driven services are one of the most important new trends in digital government across the Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ) region. By being citizen-centric when designing public services, I’m not surprised that Australia, Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and Japan are five of the top 10 e-governments ranked worldwide.

Singapore, for example, digitized birth registration, among other services, through a new wave of cloud-based applications. China enabled visa applications through WeChat. The Australia Taxation Office uses a hybrid cloud approach and offers a digital self-service portal for taxpayers.

Lowering Government IT Costs by Orders of Magnitude

For many governments, the private cloud is seen as the only way to go. While not as flexible as public clouds, private clouds offer perceived advantages in terms of security, data privacy and compliance. For example, private clouds like the AUCloud in Australia allow sensitive citizen data and classified government information to reside within the country in accordance with data sovereignty laws and security requirements.

However, organisations no longer need to make an all-or-nothing choice when it comes to public or private cloud. Hybrid cloud represents a new way of thinking and operating for government IT departments. In fact, forward-thinking governments already reap the benefits of a hybrid approach.

Last October, the Singapore government announced it would move the bulk of its IT systems into the commercial cloud over the next five years, while retaining sensitive workloads in the private cloud.

Adopting hybrid cloud infrastructure means you can combine the best of what public and private clouds have to offer and then choose which environment runs which workloads accordingly. This approach reduces total cost of ownership (TCO). Hybrid cloud also frees up valuable IT resources through backend process automation and outsourced IT infrastructure management.

One way in which TCO can be reduced is via a deployment model known as “cloud bursting.” An application running in a private cloud “bursts” into a public cloud when computing capacity spikes. Real-world examples could be when new public housing is launched and citizens rush to apply for new homes or at the end of the year when  annual tax returns are due.

Thanks to the hybrid cloud, a public agency can simply rent the IT infrastructure when required, rather than buy its own. This approach has the potential to deliver significant savings, enabling governments to rebalance from large, upfront capital expenditures to a mixed, optimized financial model that consumes peak capacity in the cloud, on demand and only when it is needed.

No Child’s Play, But a Worthwhile Endeavor

The hybrid cloud is a critical piece in providing good digital services. While widespread adoption by government agencies is in its relative infancy, momentum is building with early successes proving its worth. Here are three examples in APJ:

1. Singapore: An App for Birth Registrations

Developing the app required collaboration across at least six different government agencies and the development of a government technology toolbox. This toolbox, call it a bundle of joy if you will, gave developers at government agencies access to data sharing platforms, scalable hosting containers and a library of microservices, all delivered through the cloud.

While initially bringing these pieces together was clearly not child’s play, the project exists as a worthwhile example of how a successfully implemented hybrid cloud approach can break down departmental silos and accelerate innovation.

2. Abu Dhabi: Kubernetes Containerization

At the other end of the scale, it is possible to make use of multiple clouds to streamline government services while enhancing their features and ensuring data remains secure.

We’ve been working with the Abu Dhabi Government to consolidate more than 1,600 services into 80 end-to-end user journeys through Kubernetes-based container services and hybrid cloud infrastructure. Not only have we vastly simplified the user journey for citizens, but government agencies can now better share data between themselves and launch new citizen services faster than ever before.

 3. Australia: Streamlined Footprint, Better Experiences

State officials at the Victorian Government in Australia knew they had to:

  • Reduce their physical data center footprint.
  • Transform the delivery of public services for the digital age.

VMware worked with the government’s shared services agency, Cenitex, to connect and secure applications through hybrid cloud infrastructure. More than 35,000 public servants across 21 departments are now delivered through core infrastructure that improved resilience, reliability and security. This allowed the local government to be more responsive to citizens’ needs, while still being cost-effective. 

The Next Step in Fulfilling Governments’ Digital Transformation Mandates

Delve deeper and you will realize that the top-ranked digital governments all tend to have centrally driven digital mandates, coupled with evolutionary steps taken to strengthen and fulfil that mandate year-on-year. Take, for example, Korea, which has been moving e-government services to the cloud since 2015 as part of its Government 3.0 initiative. Or Australia, which last November unveiled its first digital transformation strategy for the next seven years.

Hybrid cloud, as a next evolutionary step for IT, provides government agencies with choice in where they assemble and run current and future workloads. Once implemented, a hybrid cloud architecture enables government agencies to move applications and workloads between private and public clouds, while keeping everything secure.

Delivering modern services for new generations of citizens will become more demanding. For governments embarking on their journey towards becoming a “digital government,” following a citizen-centric approach and treating citizens like customers is the ideal starting point.