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Daniel Lai, chief information officer for the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Daniel Lai, chief information officer for the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Just eighteen months after the plan was first proposed, Hong Kong has implemented a government-wide private cloud platform, GovCloud, to support the next generation of e-government services across the public sector.

The platform, which is projected to cost the government roughly $242m over a five year period, was first proposed in May 2012 as a way of making public services more agile in the way it procures IT services.

It is intended to help the central administration operate more efficiently, and will save the public sector over $67m annually according to preliminary government estimates.

“GovCloud is the government’s first major private cloud computing initiative and is important central information technology infrastructure with full cloud computing functions. It provides computing resources, including server, storage and network resources, for bureaux and departments,” a spokesman for the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer said.

The platform initially supports services on offer from 30 suppliers including many familiar incumbents like HP, Accenture and IBM, and a few smaller regional players. The services deployed on GovCloud at the outset include a range of software as a service offerings, back-up and recovery services, collaboration platforms, information management platforms and other privately hosted solutions.

The contract to build the cloud platform and handle the bulk of the integration work was awarded to Atos Information Technology HK Ltd (a subsidiary of Atos Global, an IT services firm) in March last year.

The platform went live December 27, keeping with Hong Kong government chief information officer Daniel Lai’s promise that the platform would be delivered by the year’s end.

“It will substantially reduce service delivery time and enhance our responsiveness in meeting dynamic demands through rapid provision of computing resources, including processing power, network bandwidth and disk storage,” Lai said of the government’s first major foray into delivering cloud services.

For the time being, all of the services are hosted in local datacentres, and will initially be used to support the development of electronic record keeping and facilitate better information sharing practices across government agencies.

It will be progressively rolled out to support more services as the procurement model becomes normalised, the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer said.

In a similar fashion to how the UK public sector has moved forward with G-Cloud, the Hong Kong government seems keen to use the platform as a means to promote a local IT services sector and strengthen the related professional skills required to manage these services.

By comparison, the UK’s G-Cloud has seen over £77m in sales since procurement began in 2012 (the bulk of which took place in 2013), with over 1,000 suppliers listed in the latest procurement framework. According to Government Digital Services, the team within the UK Cabinet Office overseeing the programme, 56 per cent of total sales by value and 61 per cent by volume of all reported G-Cloud sales to date have been awarded to (mostly local) SMEs.

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