Cloud computing in the public sector

BCN has partnered with the Cloud Asia Forum event to speak to some of its speakers. In this interview we speak to Ben Dornier, Director of Corporate & Community Services, City of Palmerston.

BCN: What does your role involve and how is technology helping your organisation grow and reach more customers? What is the role of Cloud Computing in this?

Ben Dornier: My role includes responsibility for general corporate affairs (finance, city tax revenue, legal affairs, HR, IT, contracts, insurance and risk) as well as governance and strategy (the city strategy, annual budget, annual financial reporting, performance reporting, policy and corporate strategy), and community services (libraries, city recreational facilities, city facilities, city community services).

ICT plays a major role in ensuring this portfolio can not only be adequately delivered, but especially in ensuring it is done efficiently and sustainably. Cloud computing is a major player, with several major systems already in the cloud, and our transfer of all corporate ICT systems into public/private cloud hybrids over the course of this financial year. It has reduced our risk and cost base, and allowed us a shift of emphasis from employing pure technical expertise to technical strategy expertise, allowing us to focus on our core services while improving service standards.

What do you consider as the three main challenges for wide Cloud Computing adoption in Asia and how do you anticipate they can be overcome?

Interesting question, and really I can only answer regarding the public sector – the first is primarily HK based. I note a reticence amongst public agencies to provide mobility solutions to their employees, and I think this seriously hampers the effectiveness of cloud based solutions to get government workers out of their desks and into the city infrastructure and services, which I believe likely drags on costs and efficiency. With this as a barrier, many of the benefits of cloud based solutions will not be readily as apparent to the government – and the skill sets of highly competent, highly mobile workforce will not be an advantage.

Second, I see the structural issues associated with data governance and related policy as a serious barrier, although this is steadily decreasing. As long as policy makers are not actively addressing cloud procurement and adoption issues, the ICT staff supporting internal decision making will not be able to recommend new and innovative models of service delivery without there being fairly high costs associated with development. This continues the prevalence of ‘bespoke systems’ and the myth that ‘our agency and its requirements are unique, and we need a unique system’. I simply do not believe this is true any longer, and nations which address this at a federal or national level are reaping the benefits.

Third, in ‘cloud-readiness’, Asia is rapidly climbing – but this is really a private sector metric. I would strongly advocate that there be a concerted effort in the industry to support a public sector metric, which could bootstrap some of the incredible work happening in the private sector, and be a convincing argument for changes in public policy towards cloud use. Public sector use will be a serious revenue driver once procurement practices are able to support government cloud use in the least restrictive manner appropriate.

How much is Mobility part of your strategy? Is it important for organisations to enable employee mobility and reach out to customers through mobile devices?

Mobility is a ‘force-multiplier’ for us (to borrow from military terms), which allows us to increase productivity while reducing pressures on human resources. Municipal employees are able to spend less time at their desks entering data into corporate systems, be it for inspections and assessments of civic assets, to animal and parking infringements. For these staff, less time at the desk means more time doing the work they were hired to do. It also allows us to offer better employment flexibility for staff who would prefer to operate part time or odd hours, without some of the productivity issues often associated with workplace flexibility.

We are also finding that young employees are increasingly expecting us to provide this capability, and quickly adopt mobile solutions. As for our city residents, more than 50% are accessing city information through mobile devices when and where they need it, and an increasing proportion of these rely on mobile devices as their primary access. This will only increase.

How do you think Disruptive Technologies affect the way business is done in your industry?

Technology disruption is continuing to be a key component, particularly as older, expensive Line of Business systems are proving not nearly as capable as well managed cloud based solutions. I believe an increasing disruptor in this area will be cloud based integration services offering connections which tie multiple cloud based solutions into effectively a single service from the perspective of the end user.

There will always be a role for major system suppliers, but increasingly the aggregated cloud based service sector will take a large chunk of market share while reducing the risks associated to big capex spends and expensive implementations. When I am spending tax money, this is an important consideration!

Can you recommend a – relevant to Cloud and Technology – book/film/article that inspired you?

Being a bit more digital, might I suggest a blog! I have a heavy interest in concepts around ‘smart cities’, a technology disruption occurring around the business of building very expensive but often technologically ‘dumb’ civil infrastructure like bridges and waste facilities. I am an avid reader of posts at Jesse Berst’s “Smart Cities Now” blog, through his site at There are a few good blogs in this sector, but I enjoy the variety Jesse’s site provides.

What was your interest in attending Cloud Asia Forum? What are you looking to achieve by attending the event?

Frankly, I know from past experience that I am guaranteed an ‘ah-hah’ moment, or even several, which will change my thinking and perspective on a specific area related to cloud solutions in government. I am looking forward to hearing the speakers and interacting with delegates and finding out where these ‘ah-hah’ moments will occur. This year I am particularly interested in listening to topics covering C-Level persuasion, the translation of the technical advantages of cloud computing into corporate decision making involving non-technical (meaning ICT!) executives. For me, I think this will be helpful in persuading elected officials on their own terms about the benefits of cloud adoption.

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