Queensland agencies will be asked to justify any non-cloud IT purchases going forward, under a new policy that will see cloud solutions formally preferenced ahead of on-premise competitors in government tenders.
The policy makes Queensland the first Australian government to take the plunge and commit fully to a ‘cloud-first’ approach, following in the footsteps of the UK, Denmark and New Zealand.
The policy, released today, states that agencies “must consider first cloud-based solutions in preference to traditional ICT investments”.
As a result cloud will become the “default ICT-as-a-service solution unless a sound business case exists for a contrary solution”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Science, IT, Innovation and the Arts said the state’s position should not be considered a "’cloud-only’ policy".
"Some ICT systems may not be suitable or available in a cloud environment," she said. "The Directors-General Council will endorse non cloud-based investment proposals only after full and careful consideration of all aspects including cost/benefit analysis, risk mitigation strategies and whole-of-government potential and implications."
The state first flagged its intent to go down the cloud-first path a year ago, but has remained silent on the practical implications of the procurement stance until today.
Launching the policy, plus a suite of cloud implementation guidelines, IT Minister Ian Walker called the release “one of the most robust suites of tools to be delivered by any Australian government” which will help to “revitalize frontline services by giving agencies the agility to respond to changing business needs and priorities.”
“The strategy and implementation model is an update to the Queensland Government’s ICT strategy and is critical to progress our ICT as a service policy, allowing us to only pay for what we use,” he said in a statement.
Queensland’s fellow states have so far eschewed this kind of strong-arm approach to technology buying, with both NSW and Victoria favoring more nuanced approaches.
Just last week the Victorian Government cemented its own cloud-buying policy (PDF), which encourages agencies to include at least one cloud option in their procurement considerations – but makes no attempt to influence the final outcome of a tender.
Speaking to iTnews at the time, Grantly Mailes, the state’s chief technology advocate said he would not call the Victorian stance "cloud-first".
“Cloud-first implies that there is a burden of proof on agencies to show there is no viable cloud offering they could select before going with a non-cloud product,” he said.
Rather, the Victorian policy serves as guidance for agencies to investigate cloud options on the basis that an increasingly mature software-as-a-service market can offer a number of benefits to government buyers. The government does not plan to enforce or monitor applicable agency procurements.
The NSW Government – and for the time being the Federal Government – have adopted much the same policy position, but there have been indications that Canberra could follow Queensland down the cloud-first path in the near future.
Queensland has also clarified its stance on offshore data hosting for the benefit of government buyers.
Before hosting data in the cloud, agencies will be required to classify the sensitivity of the information into a ‘classified’, ‘cabinet-in-confidence’, ‘protected’ or ‘below-protected’ category.
The government will prohibit anything classified above ‘protected’ from being hosted offshore.
However with the approval of their chief executive, agencies will have the option of hosting ‘protected’ and ‘cabinet-in-confidence’ information in overseas technology environments as long as they have satisfied the requirements of a data sovereignty and security risk assessment.