Improving Governance with Cloud Technology » Manila Bulletin Technology


GovCloud, powered by Microsoft, will help reduce costs and improve public services in the national government


By Art Samaniego Jr.

The advent of the cloud and the rapid digitization human activities have completely changed the way we live. From the way we work to the way we communicate, a lot of what we do today is online.

The cloud has revolutionized industry, and both the public and private sectors are now retooling their processes around it. The cloud allows people to more efficiently utilize massive computing resources, as well as the ability to access those  conveniently – via any computer or smartphone.

While the cloud has opened many great opportunities for human progress, it has also created a window for others of malicious intent. Governments, organizations, and private citizens are more exposed to sophisticated cyber-security threats.

‘Cloud First Policy’

In light of the cost and productivity efficiencies offered by cloud computing, as well as increasingly sophisticated and frequent cyberattacks, the Philippine Government is transitioning to the cloud through its Cloud First Policy. The policy was announced in January 2017 by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) with the express purpose of reducing costs, increasing employee productivity and developing excellent citizen online services.

Denis Villorente, DICT Undersecretary, explained that “Under the government’s Cloud-First Policy, agencies must always consider cloud solution as the first option for their IT infrastructure. Other options can only be considered when a cloud solution is not feasible.”

Microsoft Philippines, as a leading provider of cloud services through its renowned Azure platform, is a staunch supporter of the Cloud First Policy and the DICT.

The company believes in enhancing governance by working towards a secure cloud computing environment, having signed the Technology Manifesto for Shared Prosperity with the DICT.

“Microsoft welcomes and supports the Cloud First Policy. Advancing cloud capabilities with the Government is aligned with the 2016 Manifesto signed with the DICT. We remain a strong partner with the Government in their move to the cloud,” said Microsoft Managing Director Karrie Ilagan.

GovGloud: A Path to Better Public Services

In accordance with the Cloud First Policy, the Government launched GovCloud, a public service cloud infrastructure provisioned by the DICT for use by Government agencies. It is a hybrid deployment of on-premise resources controlled and provisioned by DICT as well as resources from accredited Cloud Service Providers (CSPs). It is designed to reduce the cost of government technology solution, boost employee productivity, and improve online services.

“The GovCloud shall provide a complete cloud solution, allowing the DICT to act as a cloud broker with the ability to rapidly scale the infrastructure for government,” said Villorente.

The GovCloud bid was awarded to the Vibal Group who has Microsoft Philippines as one of the partners for this cloud project. Vibal and Microsoft have been official partners since 2012, when Vibal made available its interactive e-books compatible to Windows OS.

“Microsoft is proud to partner with Vibal and the DICT. We’ve been working with Vibal since 2012 when they made their e books compatible with Windows. We look forward to delivering the benefits of cloud technology to the Philippine government and the Filipino people. We believe that Microsoft’s expertise and commitment to security, privacy, transparency and compliance will enable the government to provide faster, more efficient, and secure services,” Ilagan added.

The Cloud and Enhanced Cybersecurity

IT leaders in different industries all value their data, but public sector data can be among the most important to protect. So in a mobile-first, cloud-first world, data security should be a priority for implementing a new platform or infrastructure.

Security has long been a hallmark of Microsoft’s cloud services, and features like the Azure Security Center help give cloud adopters more peace of mind than ever before. Microsoft corporate vice president for Azure and security, Julia White, said that most of her customer conversations started with ‘I can’t go to the cloud because of security. It’s not possible’. But that has shifted to people now saying, ‘I need to go to the cloud because of security.’

The Philippines is one of the Top 10 Countries to receive Malware threats, coming in at number 7 on the list with an encounter rate of 35.6 percent. This vulnerability prompted the Government to launch the National CyberSecurity Plan of 2022, which will be implemented alongside the transition to cloud-based systems.

The primary goals of this Plan are: assuring the continuous operation of our nation’s critical info-structures, public and military networks; implementing cyber resiliency measures to enhance our ability to respond to threats before, during and after attacks; effective coordination with law enforcement agencies and; a cybersecurity educated society.

it used to be safe to have on-premise data centers. But with mobile devices and cyber-threats that grow more sophisticated by the day, on-prem isn’t as safe anymore.

The cloud has allowed companies like Microsoft to create much more effective tools and safeguards against increasingly sophisticated cyber-threats. Microsoft has invested more than $1B in cybersecurity and has a firm commitment to a secure and trusted cloud environment.

Microsoft has some of the most comprehensive compliance coverage of any cloud provider. It has more security certifications than anyone else, are the industry leader for customer advocacy and privacy protection, and offer unique data residency guarantees.

Advanced technologies such as machine learning come into play in making the Azure platform more secure as well. Microsoft doesn’t just keep your data secure, it also learns from all the attacks it fends off. Azure uses a branch of artificial intelligence to analyze billions of pieces of data to improve its security defenses and hone its responses.

Cloud Flexibility

Government agencies require flexibility in their operations and the ability to adapt to quickly changing real world scenarios.

Because many agencies still use legacy systems together with highly specific apps, inter-operability and cross-integration should be considered a top priority when sourcing cloud services. This need makes Microsoft an ideal partner for Vibal and DICT in launching GovCloud. Analysts have seen that Azure provides the best consistency in hybrid cloud, allowing the seamlessintegration with other on-premise legacy systems.

Azureis also open-source, making it truly flexible to suit the Government’s diverse public service requirements. It also integrates readily with Dynamics 365, Microsoft’s famed enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, as well as Office 365, the Software-as-a-Service version of the global standard in productivity tools. Altogether, this presents an extremely robust solution for the DICT as it rolls out its GovCloud project.

“The Government constantly works with a lot of sensitive data, and so compliance with security and privacy standards, as well as the ability to ‘talk to’ existing systems are very important for their cloud systems,” added Ilagan. “We’re proud to offer just that and to be a long-term partner of Government as it works to improve the lives of Filipino everywhere.”

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