Process will look at strategies adopted by other countries
Government’s Central Digital and Data Office is working on a strategy intended to standardise how departments use cloud services and host data.
The Cloud First policy first introduced in 2013 requires that central government entities “should consider and fully evaluate” the use of public cloud for their IT infrastructure needs before they look at any alternative options. Beyond this guidance – and its enforcement through the spend controls process – departments and agencies can choose how they host systems and data and the extent to which they use on-premises hardware and public, private, or hybrid cloud environments.
The prompt to explore the use of public cloud has seemingly been heeded; the use of Amazon Web Services is now extremely prevalent across departments, with tens of millions of pounds spent with the cloud firm each year.
Other major European countries have taken a different approach, with governments in France and Germany leading the Gaia-X initiative, the stated aim of which is to create a “federated data infrastructure” designed to serve the needs of “Europe, its states, its companies and its citizens”.
One of the aims of the project is to allow European businesses and governments to store data locally, and to ensure it is always stored in compliance with EU law.
Julian Knight, Conservative MP for Solihull and the chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, recently tabled a written parliamentary question asking DCMS “whether the government has plans to create a domestic sovereign cloud capability similar to the European Gaia-X project”.
In response, minister for media, data, and digital infrastructure Julia Lopez said that, in its work on delivering the National Data Strategy, the department is seeking to “contribute to the goal of supporting the development of data sharing infrastructure within the UK”.
She added that the CDDO, which sits within the Cabinet Office, is currently putting together cross-government guidance; as part of this process, the agency will look at the approaches adopted by other nations, the minister said.
“The CDDO… is working on standardising the approach that government organisations take to the use of cloud services and data hosting and continues to regularly review strategies taken by other countries to assess their relevance for the UK government,” she added. “CDDO is working closely with other parts of Cabinet Office and government departments through the One Government Cloud Strategy forum to ensure it takes a multi-functional view on all decisions.”