Cloud security: a key enabler for digital government

Published on April 14, 2022

There are multiple ways in which cloud computing can play an important role in the digital transformation of the public sector and help governments deliver better services to citizens while saving taxpayer dollars. 

But it also carries risks, particularly to user and government data and services that need to be protected from cyber-attacks. 

The challenge of security in the cloud is how to create an environment that combines flexibility, scalability, speed and reliability with solid controls over who has access to government and user information, when they have access and what they can do with it.

Cloud security. A key enabler for transformation

From customer services to business processes and policy management, cloud computing offers government agencies the capabilities to transform their services by improving efficiency, effectiveness and agility. 

However, as countries make this shift, cloud security must be considered a key enabler of this transformation. 

When properly implemented, robust cloud security can mitigate risk and help build trust with citizens and business partners while providing an essential foundation for greater innovation across government. 

Cloud security enables trusted collaboration among employees, business partners and the public—not a barrier to innovation or risk inhibitor that slows down the pace of change in government.

The pandemic has accelerated cloud migration

Cloud computing is the future of information technology for governments, whether it’s the federal, state or local levels. 

Government agencies at all levels have been migrating their workloads to the cloud in a variety of forms (private, public, hybrid) as they look to take advantage of the cost savings and operational efficiencies and agility that come with moving away from on-premises data centres.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on how reliant state and local governments are on cloud services. 

When government organisations were facing unprecedented strains during the pandemic, cloud computing seemed to be the solution.

As the coronavirus forced many public employees to work from home, cloud services offered agencies more flexibility in dealing with remote workers. 

They allowed them to continue providing essential services to citizens while their offices were closed.

But it’s not without a cost, as data breaches have been an issue for some time now, causing millions of dollars in economic loss.

Ensuring and keeping citizen trust

It is important for public sector organisations to be more vigilant and proactive about cloud security. 

Data captured and held by governments is often more sensitive than that held in the private sector, and data breaches are much more likely to be noticed by the public.

To mitigate the risks of security incidents, public sector organisations need to take a holistic view of their cloud security by looking beyond the technology at users’ behaviours and risk management processes. 

Ultimately, as a collective community, public sector organisations need to take a more collaborative approach to cloud security if they are going to remain relevant in today’s digital world.

Public and employee training is also fundamental. Why?

Recent research shows that the vast majority of organisations that have had their data breached due to errors by employees or customers, not the service providers.

The way forward

The cloud is here to stay, and governments that ignore it risk falling behind in their efforts to deliver digital services. 

Cloud computing will have a role in all digital government strategies because it offers cost savings and better user access to data, agility, and the means to use data analytics to transform citizen-centric service delivery.

At the same time, governments can use cloud technology to build smart infrastructure for managing and exploiting the vast amounts of information generated daily. 

But, in order to protect the data from cyberattacks, it’s crucial to think of a model where the cloud provider and the data owner both have responsibilities. 

That’s why all government leaders should :

  1. Develop a comprehensive cloud strategy
  2. Implement robust data governance
  3. Attract, train, and retain the right talents
  4. Map out the ecosystem to accelerate the cloud journey and do it safely
  5. Carefully evaluate and select cloud vendors.
  6. Continue the migration toward Zero-Trust. 

With the right policies, standards and safeguards in place, cloud technology can provide rapid access to services based on flexible pricing models that match demand. 

In many cases, these services will be cheaper than providing them locally. 

This allows agencies not just to achieve cost savings through economies of scale but also to increase service levels by reducing or eliminating idle capacity or periods of peak demand.



About the Author

Mohammad J Sear is focused on bringing purpose to digital in government.

He has obtained his leadership training from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, USA and holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK.

After a successful 12+ years career in the UK government during the premiership of three Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair, Mohammad moved to the private sector and has now for 20+ years been advising government organizations in the UK, Middle East, Australasia and South Asia on strategic challenges and digital transformation.

He is currently working for Ernst & Young (EY) and leading the Digital Government practice efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and is also a Digital Government and Innovation lecturer at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, France.

As a thought-leader some of the articles he has authored include: “Digital is great but exclusion isn’t – make data work for driving better digital inclusion” published in Harvard Business Review, “Holistic Digital Government” published in the MIT Technology Review, “Want To Make Citizens Happy – Put Experience First” published in Forbes Middle East.

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FRIDAY, 30 JUNE 2022