The future for cloud services in Scotland
Where would the world’s digital technology capabilities be without Scotland?
This is an interesting question given the rich history of Scottish inventors whose work has, in some way, contributed to the development of the computing and communications that are now so pervasive in our lives. Notable individuals include John Napier and his revolutionary 17th-century manually operated computer known as ‘Napier’s bones’; Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone in 1876; and John Logie Baird, with his mechanical television, first demonstrated in 1926. They all brought to life some of the foundational yet revolutionary thinking reflected in today’s digital technologies. We should perhaps also add Clerk Maxwell, whose work inspired quantum mechanics and helped pave the way for the next predicted major wave of disruptive technology: quantum computing. For a country that, even today, has a population of only 5.4 million and one of the lowest population densities in Europe, there can be little doubt that Scotland has a record of punching well above its weight.
Levelling the playing field for businesses
Fast forward to the present day and it’s clear that the current acceleration of cloud computing technology is transforming the way IT systems can be delivered. From flexible pay-as-you-use commercial models, to scalable on-demand and highly available infrastructures and configurable platforms, powerful compute capability can be bought online in minutes, not months. What’s more, access to this seemingly limitless capacity and on-demand functionality is only a network connection away. In principle, a one-person business can gain fast access to the same level of compute power and functionality that might previously have been restricted to the largest enterprises. Given that over 98% of Scottish private businesses have less than 50 employees, cloud can help level the digital playing-field, yet again enabling Scottish entrepreneurs to punch above their weight.
As technologies such as the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, 5G networks and artificial intelligence progress to maturity, the demand for cost-effective, flexible and scalable compute platforms will only increase – some would say exponentially. Scottish enterprises at all points along the size spectrum need to be ready to embrace the continually emerging potential of digital technologies. Challenges of migrating applications to the cloud and managing services in an environment that includes both legacy and cloud must, and can, be overcome so that Scotland can reach its cloud-enabled potential.
Modernising public services
With 21.5% of Scottish jobs in the public sector1, delivering digital government services that are efficient, effective, secure, reliable and usable is critically important, especially with the requirement to support a widely dispersed and diverse population. Use of public and private cloud services can be the basis for complete transformation of traditional government service models – not just through the type of infrastructure deployed, but in the way that previously disparate applications and data sources can be integrated.
The Scottish public sector is forecast to invest considerably in cloud infrastructure and services in the next five years. Growth in expenditure on hybrid and private cloud services is expected to exceed 50%2.
Cloud implementations will usually reflect a mix of public and private cloud solutions, managed and orchestrated as an integrated service delivery platform. Using such platforms to securely share and exchange information between public agencies – for example the police, health services and social services (subject to data protection requirements) – enables government to improve citizens’ lives. For instance, through cloud-based analytics of multi-source government data, the police can make targeted interventions earlier to protect vulnerable individuals and tackle repeat offending. With the flexibility and simplicity offered by cloud, processes can be streamlined and simplified; and manual processes can be redesigned and digitalised. In this way, cloud is a foundation for government modernisation, bringing better value and more functionally-rich services.
Thinking bigger, why could Scotland not become its own centre for cloud services? After all, its relatively low average annual temperatures of 8°C and abundance of renewable energy sources make Scotland an ideal location for powering and cooling highly efficient cloud datacentres. The prospect of Scotland establishing itself as a leader in cloud service provision and consumption must surely be more than Scotch mist
Digital Vision for Scotland
This article is part of the Atos Digital Vision for Scotland opinion paper. We explore the key opportunities and challenges for Scottish Government, organisations and citizens in the digital age, as new technologies bring huge potential to enhance people’s lives and transform organisations.
1 Gov.Scot: Public Sector Employment in Scotland - Statistics for 1st Quarter 2018 2 https://www.scotlandis.com/media/5340/public-sector-spent_extr