This move is part of the department’s IT transformation initiative where they aim to reduce costs by increasing efficiency of their operations. The product of choice was Google Apps for Government, an email and collaboration service.
This by far is the largest US agency to migrate to Google Apps. The State of Colorado and the City of Edmonton are part of the list of government offices in North America who have switched over to Google. In fact, there was a proposed “Cloud First” strategy by ex-Federal Government CIO, Vivek Kundra, that prioritizes cloud computing options when procuring IT resources for the US government. Is the Philippines ready to follow suit?
This year it was reported that the Philippine government has started an initiative to set up a private cloud to host email and other ICT services. According to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), this aims to provide better and more efficient services to taxpayers. However, this move to the cloud is currently limited to a few government agencies. Some LGUs have also unveiled their ICT plans for the next five years. And as expected, there are questions and concerns that arose with this type of set-up. While there is no question on the productivity that cloud services bring, the issue of security is consistently raised. There is a perception that it is unsafe to store confidential and critical government data in servers located around the world.
Orange and Bronze Software Labs (O&B), an Enterprise partner of Google and a Google Apps authorized reseller in the Philippines, believes in the security and reliability that cloud services bring to the table. Google, for example, adds an extra layer of security to its cloud-based products and complies with federal standards. Our very own Department of Finance (DoF) has deployed Google Apps, with O&B doing the migration and training for the government agency.
“As IT service providers, we feel that it is our responsibility to educate the public as well as affirm the reliability and security of cloud services. We are not merely pushing products, we are pushing an improvement in processes. We are pushing ways on how money can be saved, and how jobs can be done faster. For example, it takes days or months for paper documents to be circulated to various government offices. With cloud, documents can be disseminated in less than a second. Files can be difficult or impossible to find in traditional physical filing. With cloud, it’s just a matter of entering a search on a search box. Face-to-face meetings over video between people located in different regions become convenient to schedule, with savings in travel expenses.” says Calen Legaspi, CEO of O&B.
Whereas low cost previously meant sacrificing either quality, service or speed, the cloud business model breaks through this mold by providing a robust environment to meet all qualifications. This means that a government agency can focus on its core competency, which is serving its constituents, and leave the technology tasks to the experts.
According to Sam Cheung, Google Apps Supporting Program Regional Manager for South East Asia, “providing access to information and education is central to what we do, so it’s very exciting to see this happening at scale in the Philippines with this national project.”
Legaspi adds that “cloud services allow government to be connected, to simplify processes, to be efficient and transparent, without much cost or disruption. Cloud services are the best bang-for-buck for taxpayers’ money.”