Now here’s an opportunity to make the cloud a reality

4 Jul 2011

After last week’s establishment of a high-level steering group to drive cloud computing in the Irish Government, every opportunity should be pursued to get the wheels in motion. In fact, over the weekend, Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton offered up the perfect case study to get the ball rolling.

First, let me qualify – I think cloud computing is inevitable. It’s a logical progression of technology in an internet-centric world and despite high-profile hacker stories and traditional IT managers’ resistance to it, cloud is going to happen. Why? Simply because it’s an efficient way to manage IT resources. The network is the computer and all that.

The problem has been the IT industry hasn’t been very good at selling the concept of cloud computing. Engineers traditionally are used to selling to engineers. IT partners of software giants sell to IT managers and CIOs. When IT becomes a commodity that needs to be understood by business owners, entrepreneurs and department managers, the industry tends to be at a loss.

When the IT industry talks cloud it either bombards you with too much technical jargon or instead talks about the ‘cloud’ with maximum evangelical rhetoric but with the minimum of information. No wonder people have trouble making up their minds when they’re still confused about public cloud versus private cloud and this thing called ‘cloud’ is being talked about as if it’s a panacea for all their problems.

I don’t think a hard-pressed business owner trying to keep his business alive has much time for evangelists in neatly pressed chinos telling them how ‘cloud’ will save their business. They’ll think ‘Y2K again’ and say goodbye.

So the language needs to change. But so, too, must the actions. People need to see cloud in action.

Government serves up the perfect opportunity for the cloud

Last week’s announcement by Bruton about the establishment of a high-level steering group consisting of all the IT bosses at department and agency level was still on my mind when the same minister put out an announcement at the weekend on Ireland’s complex system for the resolution of employment disputes and enforcement of employment law.

Bruton was addressing a UCD conference on dispute resolution and said Ireland was behind its European counterparts in terms of how compliant businesses get embroiled in costly hearings and how workers who deserve protection face unacceptably long delays for redress. This messing around is costing the country €20m a year.

As I read through the press release, I thought: “Hey, now that’s a cloud opportunity if ever I saw one!”

Why did I think this? Well, because Bruton pointed out that there are:

·         Around 30 different pieces of employment law and many more Statutory Instruments

·         Five redress/enforcement bodies

·         At least six websites, including his own department’s

·         Upwards of 35 forms

·         A range of time limits within which to pursue their claims

·         A waiting time of anything up to 80 weeks, depending on which route is taken.

That, right there, is an opportunity for an enterprising or resourceful entrepreneur or Government leader to suggest putting a cloud system in place with a simple front end to empower employers and employees alike and to showcase cloud computing in action by reducing the wait times and streamlining the work of enforcement bodies.

A successful project that could then become the template for so many other things, such as other services to citizens, better ways for firms to be paid on time, a place in the cloud to store your legal State documents, such as birth and marriage certificates and a way of distributing digital schoolbooks to school kids.

Bruton has said he is open to hearing the views of interested parties in the coming weeks on creating a single system for dealing with workplace systems and disputes.

“My intention is to front end practical, tangible systems and procedural changes so that we can begin to see the benefits of a single point of entry and a single channel for workplace grievances by the end of this year,” Bruton said.

Any advocate of cloud computing worth their salt would be readying a proposal right now. Don’t you think?

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years