Cloud computing is seen as a way to save costs while standardizing technology. The Philippines' second-largest city intends to move its information management systems into the cloud, but has expressed concerns due to a lack of standards and because of potential challenges from the country's political framework.
Cebu City is the second largest city in the Philippines, with a population of 800,000 (about 8% of the national population). The city government describes itself as having 80 full-time IT staff, which it believes to be too burdensome in terms of overhead cost. According to William Artajo, head of the City Government's Management Information and Computer Services department, cost savings is the main driver of interest in cloud computing.
"Right now, my department has over 80 people dedicated to IT--the first time I've seen an IT department this big. If there is a standard application that I can use, I won't need this many developers," Artajo said in an interview.
Difficulties Due to Political Framework
The move to the cloud might be a difficult task for the Cebu City government and other governments in this archipelago nation. The country's local government code basically grants autonomy to each local government unit, which has the authority to make its own policies, decisions and rules for operating within its jurisdiction.
While there are national government agencies that run nationwide ICT programs, local governments each have their own way of dealing with content and information. Even two neighboring cities might be using different software and methodologies for keeping track of information.
Standards and Centralization Might Benefit Local Governments
According to the Cebu City government, local governments throughout the Philippines might benefit from a more standardized set of rules and procedures for moving to the cloud. Additionally, it is believed that using standard applications across agencies will also bring in benefits from economies of scale and from reduced training requirements.
For such a purpose, there is a push for the establishment of a Department of ICT, which has long been proposed. Currently, the Philippine government's ICT endeavors are split into various agencies--one for transport and communications, one for telecommunications, and another for IT.
Meanwhile, a model like the Malaysia Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) has been suggested as an ideal means to centralize management of national and local governments' ICT activities. As a national government agency, MAMPU runs Malaysia's e-government initiatives and also acts as an online portal for government services.
Change in Policy Frameworks Might be Necessary
According to the Asia Cloud Computing Association (news, site), policy factors are among the biggest stumbling blocks to cloud adoption in the APAC region. This differs from country to country, though. In some jurisdictions, businesses are wary of storing their data offshore. In the Philippines, meanwhile, the local government code might require some changes before provincial, city and municipal governments can better harness the cost-effectiveness of cloud computing. Until then, a shift to the cloud might be a challenging one to achieve, given bureaucratic inefficiencies.
This might not even figure in the various national and local governments' medium-term investment plans. To illustrate, cloud initiatives are not even in most local governments' medium-term programming. "[L]ooking at the 10 year plan, I don't see any talk of cloud," says Cebu City's Artajo.