India's government cloud infrastructure, Meghraj, goes live today. The government cloud (g-cloud) now offers infrastructure-, platform-, storage-, and software-as-a-service for the Indian public sector.
A fortnight ago, my colleague Manish Bahl and I published a report that highlighted the opportunities and challenges of cloud adoption in the public sector. Three-quarters of the Indian public sector organizations we interviewed indicated that addressing the rising expectations of citizens and ensuring that they are satisfied is their top business priority. Over the next decade, the Indian government’s g-cloud approach will drive major changes in the types of services it delivers — not just to citizens but also to employees and businesses by 1) rolling out services faster and reaping the desired benefits earlier, 2) optimizing the use of infrastructure while reducing management overhead, and 3) reducing bureaucracy and increasing transparency.
While the government’s efforts to centralize services via the g-cloud is commendable, we believe that the initiative will be successful if the government can overcome three fundamental challenges:

  • A lack of common policies will challenge application reuse.  The problem is significant in India due to the diversity of the federal structure and the disjointed, disparate IT initiatives of the central and state governments. The government will face challenges in getting the various departments to use common policies and a shared g-cloud infrastructure.
  • Individual technology stacks and a lack of infrastructure standardization will limit success. The Indian government has set up multiple data centers and allowed vendors to colocate their hardware infrastructure in these data centers for the rollout of eGovernance initiatives. We believe that the government will face significant challenges in managing, consolidating, and scaling its private g-cloud model.
  • The lack of a clear mandate or incentives will affect g-cloud uptake. A closer look at the g-cloud framework published by the government reveals that there is no clear execution plan. The government should not rely on incentives and sanctions to spur widespread adoption of the g-cloud, because individual departments still feel the need to control all aspects of their services.

To harness the power of cloud, the g-cloud needs to provide a wide range of services that are more efficient and economical than traditional ICT infrastructure. While other government initiatives, such as the process architecting framework and common service centers, address some of the fundamental issues related to eServices penetration, the g-cloud initiative must focus on standardization, optimization, and the partner ecosystem. To see Forrester’s recommendations, check out the full report.