Australia’s Cloud First Policy and Plans

Australia’s Commission of Audit in May 2014 introduced a new mandatory cloud first policy. This applies to government programs that have “low-risk information and communications.” The policy’s purpose is to evaluate any new spending in the government which could be lowered by going to cloud services. The commission predicts a savings of 20% to 30% over a five year period by switching to more cloud services.

The commission criticized the government’s previous lack of progress in transferring over to cloud computing. The Australian government spends about 6 billion a year on ICT, information and communication technology. Yet, between the years of 2010-2012 the government spent a mere 6.2 million on procuring cloud services. The percentage is especially small when compared to the fact that 43% of Australian businesses use cloud services. However, they seem to have learned from their mistakes and have created a Cloud Services Panel to be implemented and financed in January of 2015. John Sheridan, Australian government chief technology officer, describes the program as:

“The panel aims to offer agencies scalable and flexible cloud services via industry offerings and do so in a way that reduces the burden on industry.”

Back in 2010 the Australian Data Centre Strategy attempted to lower ICT costs and, in the process, help transition to the cloud. The 15 year strategy devised back in 2010 is almost a third finished and progress has been steadily improving. The need to upgrade Australian servers in the near future is estimated to save $35 million in electricity costs alone, as well as lowering Australia’s carbon footprint by 13%, or about 40,000 tons per year.

Australia historically hasn’t been the only country slow in addressing the switch to the cloud. Even with American companies being the leaders in the cloud computing market, the Department of Defense almost cancelled a 5-year $450 million dollar cloud computing contract due to “lack of interest”. However, the DOD quickly realized that this was a bad choice and released a 44 page document on how they would eventually expand on their need for the cloud.

Governments historically are very slow to react to technological change, so Australia is not alone in this. At the end of the day, governments understand money: people don’t want their taxes increased or spent poorly, and politicians want to look good by lowering costs. After the initial security concerns are addressed and analyzed, there are no real reasons not to go to the cloud. Over the next few years it’s certain that we will see an increasing number of governments transitioning, for the better, into the cloud.