The state of Maharashtra in India has a population of nearly 100 million people. Its capital, Mumbai, is one of India’s most vibrant cities. Maharashtra is the wealthiest state in India, contributing to 13 percent of the country’s GDP. The territory covers 10 percent of India’s entire geographic area.
In the U.S., states struggle with e-governance, but no state’s population even approaches the population of Maharashtra. To put it into perspective, California has the most citizens with about 38 million people. To deal with the complexities of e-governance for its population, Maharashtra has turned to private industry for its new solution, the MahaGov Cloud. Officials hope cloud computing will save money while enabling better service to Maharashtra citizens. In fact, the Government of India is looking to Maharashtra’s example as it deploys a national cloud.
E-Governance in India and the GI Cloud Roadmap
The Government of India initiated its National E-Governance Plan in 2006 to make government services accessible to all Indian citizens regardless of their localities; however, the government soon discovered that while ICT infrastructure was implemented by states rather quickly, application delivery lagged behind because many agency personnel lacked the expertise for large-scale application delivery and procurement.
To solve the problem, the Department of Electronics and IT (DeitY) decided to enable shared application delivery via a nationwide cloud called the GI Cloud. The cloud builds on both new and existing infrastructure, setting up multiple discrete cloud-computing environments across multiple locations.
As long as the cloud is built on open-source standards, the government believes that the environment can encourage healthy competition between vendors that want different elements of the platform. States or municipalities could share support service functions like Help Desk, which enables them to save money on staffing and infrastructure costs. Also, state clouds can either associate with the GI Cloud as independent environments or become part of the GI Cloud by lending their infrastructures to the task.
India’s national e-gov app store will set up a common platform for running and hosting applications developed by both private players and government agencies within National Clouds. The types of applications that will be prioritized include widely used applications like payment services, messaging platforms and management information system (MIS) reporting. Departments can use e-gov applications either by accessing them through the cloud or downloading them locally. The store will also host non-cloud applications that are easy to deploy with the appropriate customization.
Before deploying the GI Cloud, DeitY needs to compare the infrastructure and application requirements for the national cloud with the existing capacity at government data centers. DeitY has also envisaged five major challenges that may hinder cloud adoption:
- Security and interoperability. To meet this challenge, the government needs to prioritize applications and data for movement to the cloud. Many front-facing municipal services can migrate quickly, but sensitive data and operations like defense should be migrated slowly to prevent losses.
- Alignment of procurement norms and processes for the cloud. Application delivery generally lagged before the GI Cloud initiative because many people in agencies didn’t have the necessary knowledge for procuring cloud and application components. However, cloud adoption has the potential to speed up a number of procurement processes in many agencies.
- Change management for agencies to achieve cloud buy-in. Data security is the primary concern. That concern is exacerbated by a lack of trust in private cloud vendors.
- Sufficient technical competency to manage the cloud environment. For many reasons including a lack of alignment between educational institutions and business demands, India isn’t producing enough skilled IT professionals to meet domestic demand.
- Migrating legacy applications to the cloud. Many people have expressed concern that the government chose proprietary cloud solutions instead of open-source solutions. Critics fear vendor lock-in will hurt security as well as the government’s ability to scale as demand for services increases.
In 2012, the Business Software Alliance ranked the 24 countries that comprise 80 percent of the world’s information and communications technology (ICT) market. Of these 24, India ranked 19th for three main reasons: lack of awareness of the cloud, lack of computerized government resources and lack of policy. With the development of the GI Cloud Roadmap, India hopes to improve its e-governance service delivery through the cloud.
About the Author: Vijay Aggarwal writes about issues regarding VMware hosting and the general IT landscape.