Cloud computing: Data privacy questions as uptake rises

The public sector's uptake of cloud computing is on the rise. 

Photo credit: File | Pool

The public sector's uptake of cloud computing is on the rise. More government agencies are recognising the benefits such as enhanced agility, cost-efficiency, scalability, and the potential to transform citizen services. However, concerns about data privacy and residency loom large, requiring careful evaluation of cloud service providers and revisiting the role of government data centres.

One of the primary considerations for public sector agencies venturing into the cloud is ensuring compliance with stringent data privacy regulations. As such, cloud service providers have upped their game, offering robust security measures and compliance frameworks tailored to meet the unique needs of the public sector.

Industry giants like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) have invested heavily in data encryption, access controls, and audit trails to safeguard sensitive government data. Moreover, they provide dedicated government cloud regions that adhere to specific data residency requirements, ensuring that data stays within the borders of given jurisdictions.

For instance, AWS GovCloud offers a secure and isolated environment to host sensitive data and regulated workloads for government agencies in the US. Similarly, Microsoft Azure Government provides a comprehensive suite of services tailored to meet the stringent security and compliance needs of governments. Google Cloud's government offerings come with support for data residency requirements, empowering agencies to leverage cutting-edge technology while maintaining compliance with regulatory mandates. In 2022, Google Public Sector launched as a subsidiary. Of note is that in the US there is FedRAMP- The Federal Risk and Authorisation Management Programme that provides a standardised approach to security authorisations for cloud service offerings.

Despite the allure of cloud computing, some argue for the continued relevance of government data centres. Advocates of this viewpoint emphasise the need for sovereign control over critical data and infrastructure. It is contended that while cloud providers offer robust security measures, entrusting sensitive government data to third-party entities introduces inherent risks.

Government data centres, on the other hand, afford agencies greater control and oversight, mitigating concerns about data sovereignty and dependency on external vendors.

Moreover, government data centres can offer a level of reliability and continuity of operations that is critical in times of crisis or national emergency.

By maintaining their infrastructure, agencies can ensure uninterrupted access to essential services, even in the face of external disruptions or cyber threats.

Ultimately, whether to embrace the cloud, rely on government data centres, or pursue a hybrid approach depends on a multitude of factors, each requiring thoughtful consideration and strategic planning. Either way, the citizen wins.

Njihia is the head of business and partnerships at Safiri Express. [email protected]

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