No intention of ‘watering down’ Cloud First policy, minister claims

Written by Sam Trendall on 19 March 2020 in News
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GDS review concluded that moving to US-style nomenclature would be ‘confusing’

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A minister has claimed that there is no intention of “watering down” the government’s Cloud First policy.

First introduced in 2013, the guidance – which is “mandatory for central government and strongly recommended to the wider public sector” – asks that buyers “consider cloud solutions before alternatives”. 

If departments wish to adopt something other than public cloud, they must demonstrate how and why their proposed approach will deliver better value for money.

Since as far back as 2011, the US government has also run its technology infrastructure on a Cloud First policy. But about 18 months ago, it changed its guidance to Cloud Smart, which it describes as a “long-term, high-level strategy to drive cloud adoption in federal agencies”.

The new guidance is focused on ensuring efficacious implementation and use of cloud, rather than simply encouraging widespread adoption.


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About a year ago, it appeared that the UK was also to move on from the Cloud First guidance, with the Crown Commercial Service announcing that it was working with the Government Digital Service to formulate “more appropriate guidance”.

But, following research conducted over late summer and autumn last year, GDS announced in November that Cloud First is “here to stay”.

Baroness Barran, minister for civil society, said that the digital agency’s research had considered the merits of differing cloud policies adopted by governments around the world. 

“GDS conducted extensive user research… on the UK's cloud strategy which concluded that Cloud First is as relevant to government today as it was when it was introduced, and will remain a flagship technology policy,” she said. “This research considered international cloud strategies, such as Cloud Smart in the US, but concluded that Cloud First was a better fit for the UK government.” 

Barran added: “This is for a number of reasons, including that many departments consider Cloud First to be a core part of their technology strategy, and that there is a need for government to provide a strong cloud message from the centre to encourage transformation. The user research showed that Cloud Smart was seen as ‘watering down’ the high-level cloud message and many participants considered the name ‘Cloud Smart’ to be confusing.”

The minister’s role is based within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is currently putting together a National Data Strategy for the UK. She said that consideration of cloud and other tech innovations is playing a key role in informing this work.

“Emerging technologies can enable effective use of data for improving public services,” she said. “DCMS is continuing to lead cross-government work to progress the UK's National Data Strategy, so that we can fully and responsibly unlock the power of data, for people and organisations across the UK.”

Barran, a Conservative peer, was responding to a written parliamentary question from Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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