Government cloud gets personal -- and Siri-ous
- By Paul McCloskey
- Mar 28, 2012
In the past year or so, the future outline of what might be called a government community cloud has become imaginable as agencies start committing to consolidating their IT systems and moving their compute-intensive operations off the agency floor and into the cloud.
To call the government’s cloud investment a community at this point is a stretch. But the forces at play as agencies build their cloud systems are at least community-centric, moving toward shared services, multi-tenant approaches, and linking the workforce with cloud-based tools for real-time collaboration.
Tapping into this trend, Microsoft recently announced it was developing a “community cloud for government,” a multi-tenant offering that, together with its Microsoft 365 and System Center 2012 cloud services, would target the government’s complex mix of agency systems, budgets and missions. Google also is moving to brand the government cloud, creating a corps of agency end-users interconnected through common cloud-based desktop collaboration tools.
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As the government cloud takes shape, the consumer cloud is already roiling. In fact, Gartner recently released a report heralding the arrival of the “personal cloud,” which it described as an expanding consumer ecosystem driving a $2.5 trillion “digital lifestyle” market centered on cloud services. The personal cloud, says Gartner, will coexist with other cloud “ecosystems,” including the business and government cloud, and offers users a “scalable and nearly infinite set of digital resources” to improve aspects of their work and personal lives.
So what does the advent of the personal cloud — and its rapid build-out — mean to the government cloud community? What happens when the government cloud meets the personal cloud? How can agencies best prepare to do business with citizens and workers equipped with “infinite” digital resources?
For starters, it means that government agencies must prepare for a highly synchronized services relationship with their citizen-customers. Facing a consumer who can use a mobile device to access any reference material, translate any language, provide geospatial coordinates to information and events in real time, and mobilize social groups at a moment’s notice, will put significant pressure on government agencies to personalize their workforce and customer relationship management services.
To serve personal cloud-powered citizens, agencies must also be capable of accessing any piece of public information, check detailed transaction histories and even anticipate a citizen’s question or request. When the personal cloud meets the government cloud, “service to the citizen” becomes “Siri to the citizen.”
But while service demands on agencies will rise dramatically, the personal cloud will also drive significant government workforce performance gains. The interaction of the personal and government clouds is likely to produce a human capital cloud capable of more economically matching workforce resources and expertise with the task or emergency at hand.
In the end, synchronizing the personal cloud with the government workforce will mean a more dynamic relationship between agency managers, staffs and the individual citizens and businesses they work for. In the everyday world of parking tickets and taxes, this will mean fewer headaches — and for the military services, it might save life itself.
Paul McCloskey is senior editor of GCN. A former editor-in-chief of both GCN and FCW, McCloskey was part of Federal Computer Week's founding editorial staff.