It is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale.
The Government of India is embracing cloud computing technology for expanding its e-governance initiatives throughout the country. In India, the focus of e-governance is to reduce corruption and ensure the government schemes are reaching people living in rural areas of the country. Further, e-governance services ensure quicker service delivery and eliminate the involvement of middlemen who tend to capitalize on loopholes for quick money by means of exploiting people.
In order to utilise and harness the benefits of Cloud Computing, Government of India has embarked upon an ambitious initiative – “GI Cloud” which has been named as ‘MeghRaj’. This initiative is to implement various components including governance mechanisms to ensure proliferation of Cloud in the government. The focus of this initiative is to accelerate delivery of e-services in the country while optimizing ICT spending of the Government.
MeghRaj will ensure optimum utilization of the infrastructure and speed up the development and deployment of eGov applications. The architectural vision of GI Cloud encompasses a set of discrete cloud computing environments spread across multiple locations, built on existing or new (augmented) infrastructure, following a set of common protocols, guidelines and standards issued by the Government of India.
- Seamless Connectivity: Cloud-based software offers companies from all sectors a number of benefits, including the ability to use software from any device either via a native app or a browser. As a result, users can carry their files and settings over to other devices in a completely seamless manner.
- Higher Accessibility: Cloud computing is far more than just accessing files on multiple devices. Thanks to cloud computing services, users can check their email on any computer and even store files using services such as Dropbox and Google Drive.
- Improved Disaster Recovery: Cloud computing services also make it possible for users to back up their music, files, and photos, ensuring those files are immediately available in the event of a hard drive crash.
- Cost-Saving: It also offers big businesses huge cost-saving potential. Before the cloud became a viable alternative, companies were required to purchase, construct, and maintain costly information management technology and infrastructure.
- Scalability: can be improvised to cater to increased demand, say in SMART city mission
- Companies can swap costly server centers and IT departments for fast Internet connections, where employees interact with the cloud online to complete their tasks.
- The cloud structure allows individuals to save storage space on their desktops or laptops.
- Increased Collaboration and flexibility: It also lets users upgrade software more quickly because software companies can offer their products via the web rather than through more traditional, tangible methods involving discs or flash drives.
- For example, Adobe customers can access applications in its Creative Suite through an Internet-based subscription. This allows users to download new versions and fixes to their programs easily.
- Environmentally friendly: Cloud computing reduces a company’s carbon footprint by minimizing energy consumption and carbon emissions by more than 30%. For small businesses, the decreased energy usage can reach up to 90% = A huge money saver.
Cloud computing in Indian Governance:
- E-Gram Panchayat
- The majority of the Indian population lives in villages, and the Panchayats represent the face of governance for these villagers. To improve the quality of governance, the Indian government initiated an e-governance scheme known as ePanchayat to simplify and enhance internal government operations. The module was constructed in 4 phases of e-governance.
- Indian Railways on Cloud
- Governed by the Central Railway Ministry of India, the Indian railway network is the largest rail network in Asia and second-largest rail network in the world. A research carried by the railway ministry says out of 17 million passengers every day, only 1 million passengers carry confirmed rail tickets. This results in substantial monetary loss. To avoid loss, the Indian government decided to implement cloud technology for Indian railways. Today, the central government maintains the railway data on the cloud.
- Kisan Suvidha
- The Indian government came up with the portal Kisan Suvidha to help farmers with the relevant information instantly. It delivers farmers with detailed knowledge on weather, market prices, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, agriculture machinery, dealers, agro advisories, plant protection and IPM practices. It notifies them with extreme weather conditions and the changing market price.
- DigiLocker is the public cloud-based storage introduced by the Indian government for the citizens of India. It is much more than an online drive where you upload your documents to be accessed depending on your convenience. The documents are digitally verified and signed by the government of India in a few seconds with an authentic DigiLocker verification seal. With more than 57.13 million users and 4.27 billion issued documents, DigiLocker has proved to be one of the biggest success stories of cloud in the government.
- eHospital is the cloud-based healthcare projected implemented by the government of India to ease the process of healthcare management. The system was designed to speed up services like online registration, payment of fees and appointment, online diagnostic reports, checking on the availability of blood online, etc. This hospital model assigns a unique identification number to every patient at the time of registration. The medical history of a particular patient can be accessed using the number.
- In India, cloud computing has ensured the success of national initiatives and schemes such as Swachh Bharat Mission, e-Hospital, National Scholarship, My-Gov and e-Transport.
- One of India’s most landmark initiatives, the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) uses a multi-cloud architecture to ensure scalability. Today, the GeM serves over 50,000 buyer organisations and has a listing of over 19 lakh products and more than 80,000 services.
- NIC’s SaaS-based service, S3WaaS, has empowered district administrators to create, configure and deploy scalable and accessible websites without much effort and technical knowledge.
- The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), announced last year that it had gone fully digital with the launch of a unique cloud-based and AI-powered big analytics platform. All project documents and correspondences related to NHAI will be stored in a cloud-based data lake, which is linked with GIS tagging and a unique project ID, so that project data can be retrieved easily from any location.
- The Indian Railways has given the responsibility of deploying open source Hospital Management Information System (HMIS), an integrated clinical information system, for its 125 health facilities and 650 polyclinics across the country for improved hospital administration and patient healthcare, using a cloud platform.
- With all of the speed, efficiencies, and innovations that come with cloud computing, there are naturally risks.
- Security has always been a big concern with the cloud especially when it comes to sensitive medical records and financial information.
- While regulations force cloud computing services to shore up their security and compliance measures, it remains an ongoing issue. Encryption protects vital information, but if that encryption key is lost, the data disappears.
- Servers maintained by cloud computing companies may fall victim to natural disasters, internal bugs, and power outages, too.
- The geographical reach of cloud computing cuts both ways: A blackout in California could paralyze users in New York, and a firm in Texas could lose its data if something causes its Maine-based provider to crash.
- As with any technology, there is a learning curve for both employees and managers. But with many individuals accessing and manipulating information through single portal, inadvertent mistakes can transfer across an entire system.
- Maintenance costs: While the upfront or capital cost for the cloud-based server is very low compared to traditional hosting, the cloud server requires the same amount to be paid each month to maintain both servers as well as data.
- Internet connectivity: For cloud-based services, consistent internet connection is important because if any one of the cloud-based service providers loses connectivity, then the company will be out of business until that internet connection returns.
- A common argument from critics is that cloud computing cannot succeed because it means that organizations must lose control of their data, such as an email provider that stores data in multiple locations around the world. A large regulated company, like a bank, might be required to store data in the United States.
Cloud computing can further the motive of e-governance (service delivery, transparency, citizen awareness and grievance redressal) by providing a faster, easier and cost-effective platform that can be used by multiple government agencies. Way ahead lies in taking due care of security, interoperability and licensing.