Cloud-adoption in Public sector is the Black Swan

Posted on: February 8, 2017 by Kay Hooghoudt

Swans are elegant creatures, only to be avoided when young ones are around. People tend to qualify swans as white birds: for a long time swans were presumed to be white only, as no-one had ever seen them in any other color. “A black swan” was a common expression in 16th century London as a statement that describes the impossible, deriving from the old-world presumption that all swans must be white. When Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh discovered Australia in 1697, he also discovered black swans and the term metamorphosed to connote that a perceived impossibility might later be proven true (The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is a book by the essayist, scholar, philosopher and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb, released on 17 April 2007).

In my experience, talking over recent years with numerous government and public bodies - whether it is in Europe, Australia, UK, or US - most of them still seem to look at IT as a well-controlled stack of hardware and software, with a vast team of civil servants around it, that is orchestrated in a generally conservative, ring-fenced, closed, secured, controlled and expensive way, preferably in their own costly basement. That is what we still see as the current status in government environments and other public bodies – and what we may call the White Swan.

With pressure for Digital Transformation now rapidly approaching even the Public sector, it no longer makes sense to keep all IT in the old-fashioned manner: not only for keeping up with the dynamics of new business demands, even in the Public sector, but also in order to spend the taxpayers’ money wisely. In other words, other options – if any - must be explored. After FinTech and HealthTech, now also PubTech is knocking on our doors, and we may need Black Swans.

Meeting those challenges with outdated concepts of White Swans is not the way forward any more. Other concepts like cloud-based business-models and -platforms are presenting themselves as agile, flexible alternatives, including for public bodies. Too often I still hear that cloud is not suitable for the public sector, because of security, data protection, complexity, legislation, etc. The impossibility that agile, secure and cost-effective cloud-platforms are actually suitable for government services is still mainstream thinking out there in governments and public bodies.

Well there is news: Black Swans actually exist!

Ask the Western-Australian Government, who launched the innovative procurement (“GovNext –ICT”) for ‘whole of government’ ICT services to be delivered from a purely consumption based IaaS model. ‘GovNext –ICT’ is a foundational program that underpins the Western-Australian Governments’ progressive ICT Strategy to transform delivery of government services.

And guess where black swans were discovered by Willem de Vlamingh in 1697? Exactly: in what is now Perth, Western-Australia :)

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About Kay Hooghoudt
Global Director Digital Transformation & Cloud in Government
Kay is Global Director Digital Transformation & Cloud in Government at Atos. Kay advises governments, universities and public bodies all over the world on digital strategy and cloud adoption. He is a digital visionary, responsible for developing new themes and strategies in the public space. Having worked with public service leaders in Europe, Australia, the US, the Middle East and Asia, Kay addresses the fear in some parts of the public sector about cloud adoption. With his extensive international cross-market network, he has knowledge and stories to share about how leading public institutions have navigated the journey to cloud and the role of private, public and third-party cloud ecosystems. Kay advises on hybrid cloud orchestration, access to legacy systems, data classification, security, scalability, resilience, cost, data protection and data sovereignty. Kay’s career includes 15 years in Senior Management positions within the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Since 2012 he was Vice-President Government & (Higher) Education, Atos International. He joined Atos in 2007 as Executive Account Director for Government & (Higher) Education in the Netherlands. Kay has a Masters degree in International Law (LLM) and a BA in Cultural Anthropology & Non-Western Sociology from the University of Leiden.

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