Councils head for the cloud

11th December 2013

Council services tailored to you, delivered to you

Councils are having rather a tough time of it at present. Local government funding will be cut by 43% in real terms between 2010 and 2015, whilst the inevitable impact on services is offset against remarkable strides forward in the private sector. When your Amazon package can be delivered in 30 minutes by a drone but contacting the right department in your local council is game of hit and miss, you could be forgiven for wondering is going wrong.

Anthony Kemp, IT Chief and Director of Corporate Resources for Hounslow Borough Council, told a recent event of his local authority peers that the answer lies something called ‘government as a platform’. The concept is aimed at bringing lots of disparate services together and serving them to local residents through one simple platform, such as a website or app.

The idea may sound idealistic, but Hounslow Borough Council are serious about it. “In four years, we intend to be infrastructure free, with no on-premise IT, and no legacy systems,” said Kemp. “True public cloud, multi-tenanted, non-proprietary, available over the internet – not some supplier’s datacentre with a cloud label on it.”

Although delivering the premise may sound costly, it would likely make significant savings for councils in the long-term through minimising infrastructure and making service delivery more efficient. Currently, councils tend to use lots of different systems for delivering services and taking payments. By offering open-source, standard platforms available to all councils and the departments within them, services can be delivered in a more targeted and efficient way.

For local residents, the potential benefits include fast and simple access via a computer or mobile device, a single portal for all council services and improved speed and delivery. The use of websites and apps also gives users a familiar means of delivery and customisation.

Government as a platform offers compelling advantages, but as with many local government schemes, whether local or otherwise, the initial outlay and bureaucracy may well be stumbling blocks. In the long term though, it may not be local government employees who force the concept to fruition, but local residents across the country who will increasingly expect council services to be quickly and effectively via their computers and phones.

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