With cloud, only sky is the limit

Cloud computing is already here and happening. Given its benefits, e-governance initiatives should make best use of it

samirsachdeva

Samir Sachdeva | April 16, 2012



Getting a flat in Delhi is a dream for everyone. In its housing scheme of 2010, Delhi Development Authority received over seven lakh applications for just 16,000 flats on offer. On April 18, 2011, when the results of the lottery draw were announced, the DDA website remained unavailable for the crucial few hours as everyone from across the country was trying to access it. The system crashed as it could not handle the heavy user traffic. If DDA had opted for cloud computing, people would have been spared of those heart-stopping moments.

Putting emphasis on e-governance, the government approved the national e-governance plan (NeGP) comprising 27 mission mode projects (MMPs) and eight components on May 18, 2006. As part of the e-governance infrastructure the government is in process of implementing the state wide area network, state data centres (SDC), national and state service delivery gateways and the common service centres (CSCs). Each state is setting up its own e-infrastructure as part of NeGP with substantial funding from the department of electronics and information technology (DEITY) of the central government.

However, the question remains whether a state requires a separate infrastructure in the form of a separate SDC or not. Not only states but even the central ministries handling various MMPs are investing in creating data centres and data recovery centres which can easily be shared. 

Jammu and Kashmir has become the first state to share resources: it is using the SDC of Madhya Pradesh for its e-governance initiatives. This has been made possible by use of cloud computing. Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are also contemplating using the cloud infrastructure rather than establishing their own e-infrastructure.

Even though cloud computing is offering cost and time advantage, its adoption by various ministries and states is limited. One key reason behind is that there is no roadmap from the central government on adoption of cloud computing. The perceived security concerns and loss of control of data is another key factor. The third issue is that of vendor lock-in.

But then cloud computing has a huge advantage of replicability. The e-district application of one district can be used by other districts in the country. Not only this, the state wide applications like treasury, land records and transports developed by one state can be shared by another using the cloud platform.

There are numerous applications which are best suited for cloud environment. The applications like the declaration of election and exam results, filing of tax returns and admission process witness peak traffic on a particular day. They have to be designed in a way that they withstand the peak demand. Such applications can be shifted to a cloud platform, sharing resources, servers, software and even data. That way, the end users will be able to access these applications and get better service and performance. Even the applications like railway ticket booking through IRCTC website can benefit by sharing additional IT infrastructure in the morning hours when the reservation of tickets start.

In an innovative move, the ministry of micro, small and medium enterprises is working on an initiative towards providing cloud-based services (software, IT platforms and IT infrastructure) to the MSMEs so that they can increase their efficiency and reduce their costs on IT infrastructure. The project Baadal as conceived by the ministry will ensure that the small enterprises will have access to latest computing technology, software and server by sharing the IT infrastructure facilitated by government. 

Even the rural India will benefit greatly by the cloud platform as the applications like e-learning, tele-medicine, weather information, credit approvals, commodity exchanges and agriculture information can easily be made available on above platform.

What is important is that the government needs to work on a blueprint for adoption of cloud. The government needs to evolve standards, guidelines and regulations which are to be followed by agencies/vendors for adoption of cloud. It also needs to designate a nodal agency which can issue these guidelines and resolve inter-agency issues.

NeGP needs to be relooked as the introduction of cloud computing will change the dynamics of its implementation. Also, there are no cloud computing regulations in India which are needed to be evolved to address challenges of privacy, data security and cyber security.

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