Why South Australia decided against cloud-first

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Why South Australia decided against cloud-first

The difference between 'must' and 'should'.

In April, South Australia issued its first whole-of-government cloud policy, informing agencies in no uncertain terms that they should be buying cloud-based services where feasible.

But the policy stopped short of forcing agencies' hands.

Rick Seaman - acting director of the state’s office for digital government - told iTnews his team made a conscious choice not to go as strict as Queensland and the Commonwealth in its own buying guidelines.

The policy would be better described as “cloud encouraging” than cloud first, he said.

“We have the strong view in South Australia that agencies are responsible for their own business and they need to - on a case by case basis - assess their own business needs, their security requirements, the need to do their own risk assessment, and agencies need to consider the classification of data they are planning to move into a cloud environment,” he said.

“Our policy says public sector agencies should evaluate one or more cloud services when they go to the market. It doesn’t say they must.”

The policy (pdf), which applies to all SA government agencies, states that one or more cloud services should be considered in "every new or reformed ICT sourcing, procurement, or market approach".

It suggests a cloud service should only not be chosen if the bid fails to meet basic value for money standards or breaches public sector obligations.

The release of cloud policies across Australia’s federal, state and territory governments has created a nuanced but significant divide between jurisdictions that are prepared to mandate cloud use and those that don't want to intrude too much into agency independence.

The federal government issued its own cloud mandate in October last year, demanding that agencies “must” adopt cloud services unless they can provide a good reason not to.

Queensland took a similar step in May 2014.

Clarity on South Australia’s buying approach is something that agencies and industry alike have been calling for from the state for some time.

Public Sector Minister Susan Close told a budget estimates panel in June last year that she had registered the message and promised documentation would be forthcoming “very soon”.

Despite the lenient procurement stance the state ultimately decided to take, South Australia does maintain strict rules around what can and cannot be hosted outside of the country.

Its policy rules out critical services, classified information and personal information from being transferred to an offshore arrangement, leaving public facing information like open data and anything “not of a personal nature” within the offshore remit, Seaman said.

He said profiling of the state’s whole-of-government goods and services spend indicated that “external services” in the infrastructure and software licensing space had grown to make up 33 percent of all software, hardware and carriage purchases in the 2013-14 year, up from 24 percent in 2009-10.

Seaman took over responsibility for the office of digital government, inside the Department of Premier and Cabinet, in January, following the dissolution of the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer and the ousting of GCIO Bret Morris.

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