Mobile-first, cloud-first cities: driving transformation in the public sector

Cloud adoption rates are on the rise across the public sector. We speak with Microsoft’s Per Bendix Olsen to find out why

Rebecca Lambert
Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert on 07 July 2015
Mobile-first, cloud-first cities: driving transformation in the public sector

This article was first published in the Summer 2015 issue of OnWindows

To date, the overall pace of government cloud adoption has fallen short of analyst expectations. But a new report by Forbes Insights, From Promise to Reality: How Local, State and Federal Government Agencies Achieve Results in the Cloud, has found that the number of government cloud implementations is now growing rapidly. In fact, research firm IDC predicts that public sector cloud will account for more than half of global software, server and storage spending growth by 2018.

“As more government organisations achieve success with cloud environments, and share their experiences, demand is only going to accelerate,” says Per Bendix Olsen, who is responsible for partner strategy in the Worldwide Public Sector division at Microsoft.

Take Miami as an example. The US city is in the process of migrating much of its on-premise IT to the Microsoft cloud environment. It is also developing a building application scheduling mobile app so citizens can see when they can expect inspectors to visit their property.

City CIO Kevin Burns is so pleased with progress to date that he insists that from now on, any IT functionality that is added or upgraded must be mobile and cloud based. Applications that reside in the cloud, he explained in the Forbes Insights report, “are just so much more flexible, so much easier to maintain, so much more cost effective and so much more secure – it doesn’t make any sense to do it any other way.”

Miami is not alone. From London to Cape Town to Da Nang, cities all over the world are working alongside Microsoft and its partners to implement mobile-first, cloud-first policies of their own.

“Many organisations tell me that they’re committed to being more efficient and want to deliver new and better services and they realise that to do that they must embrace IT innovation,” says Olsen. “Cloud and mobile deployments are helping them to run their operations more efficiently and cost effectively, but they’re also allowing them to introduce new services that they wouldn’t have been able to afford before – digital traffic monitoring, parking management and crime detection and prevention, to name but a few.”

According to Olsen, Microsoft and its partners are currently focusing their efforts on four key market trends to help public sector organisations transform – cloud platform and productivity, big data, mobile and social.

“In the public sector, every cloud conversation hinges on security,” says Olsen. “Our ‘trusted cloud’ platform is one of the most secure in the industry. And with more agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service agreeing to certify our cloud services, we’re expecting even greater cloud adoption. We’re proving that our cloud-based services can meet government agencies’ high security requirements – even at the level of national security.”

For those who would prefer to keep some of their data on premise, Microsoft offers that as an option too – providing organisations with a variety of hybrid cloud deployment options. “Our flexible cloud offering – private, public or hybrid – gives our customers the ability to choose where they store their data. In a nutshell, you make the choices about what happens to your data and the services used to manage and protect it.”

Olsen explains that one area taking off in a big way is in the area of cloud productivity – namely implementations of Office 365. “Our online Office 365 offering provides a huge opportunity for organisations of all sizes to take advantage of our industry-leading Office productivity platform on a flexible, cost-effective subscription basis while allowing their office or mobile workers to benefit from secure access wherever they go,” says Olsen. “Mecklenburg County in the US state of North Carolina, Tallinn Polytechnic School in Estonia and the University of Prague in the Czech Republic are just some of our customers that have deployed Office 365 in the last year to save money and transform the way their employees work.”

With the launch of Windows 10 only a matter of weeks away, Olsen also points to the new operating system as being a huge area of opportunity across the industry. “Windows 10 will support the broadest device family ever and will enable public sector organisations to explore a whole range of new scenarios,” says Olsen. “We’re already seeing significant interest from developers and solution providers looking to create new Windows 10 apps. The ability to port existing Android and iOS apps to Windows 10 mobile devices with minimal code modifications is extremely exciting. Look out for more developments in the coming months.”

Alongside these developments, Microsoft will continue to focus on delivering industry-specific partner solutions for government, health, public safety and national security, and education organisations under its CityNext strategy. Olsen adds that this year, the initiative is being expanded to include an additional focus on sustainability too.

“Through CityNext and our other industry initiatives, we will continue to develop our strong partner network and, together, bring solutions to market that meet our customers’ specific needs,” he says. “We already have over 1,000 registered CityNext solutions and this is growing by the day.”

For any organisation considering an IT modernisation strategy, Olsen advises the following: “Get acquainted with the cloud and learn how you can take advantage of it within your own organisation. Identify a proper workload to start getting experience. Try out solutions such as Azure and Office 365, and begin to reap the benefits.”

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