Early in January the Federal Government released a Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper - Opportunities and applicability for use by the Australian Government. Microsoft has provided a response to the Draft Consultation Paper which can be found here and a copy of the submission is attached below.

The Introduction to the Response from Microsoft reads as follows:

Microsoft welcomes the release of the discussion paper issued by the Australian Federal Government and the opportunity to provide feedback on this important area.  We also note the alignment this Cloud Computing Strategic Direction Paper has with the government’s strategic reform of the Public Sector outlined in Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration.  Microsoft believes five of the nine key recommendations in the blueprint can be directly supported by a carefully developed and implemented Cloud Strategy:

1. Delivering better services for citizens

2. Creating more open government

7. Strengthening the workforce

8. Ensuring agency agility, capability and effectiveness

9. Improving agency efficiency

Microsoft agrees with AGIMO that cloud computing primarily represents a new form of delivering and consuming ICT related services rather than a new technology per se and that it does hold promise for improving the efficiency and effectiveness for delivering services to citizens.  In particular, the significant changes in citizen expectations of their public sector organisations, uncovered through the course of the Gov2.0 Taskforce, will see agencies struggle to deliver with their present IT systems.  We offer some local Australian examples later in this submission that demonstrate how cloud can provide an alternative means of supporting consumer/citizen demands in the 21st century.

Microsoft also agrees that although the technological and business application options for the use of cloud services is expanding rapidly, a number of important aspects required for the appropriate selection, deployment and use of any cloud service remains at an early stage of development or understanding.  This is particularly true of the legal and contractual arrangements supporting the operation of cloud services and the understanding of the economic drivers and trade-offs between traditionally operated IT and cloud-delivered variants.   We discuss these later in the document.

Lastly, Microsoft  believes that cloud computing represents an opportunity for organisations generally to reassess the way in which not just security but overall risk is managed to ensure that the Australian Government is able to continue to protect its people, information and assets, at home and overseas.  As the most recent Protective Security Policy Framework states: "How the Government protects its people, information and assets is critical to effective engagement with the Australian people".  Microsoft therefore advocates a move away from purely prescriptive advice to agencies in favour of a more Principles and Risk based approach which provides the necessary resilience, flexibility and comprehensiveness given the increasingly distributed nature of information technology and the ever-changing threat landscape within which it must operate.

For further information please contact:

Greg Stone, Chief Technology Officer Microsoft Australia, by email: gstone@microsoft.com