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FEATURE STORYJune 10, 2022

Cloud Services Advance Digital Transformation for Governments

medical personnel in scrubs

Photo: Henitsoa Rafalia, World Bank


  • Cloud services offer governments cost savings, capacity to rapidly scale, advanced cybersecurity features, and access to powerful analytical tools for processing big data.
  • Hybrid cloud models that mix public and private cloud services for data storage and processing can unlock enormous benefits for governments and citizens.
  • Cloud services are essential for maximizing digital dividends and advancing digital transformation in developing countries.

Cloud services play a critical role in accelerating digital transformation and delivering essential public services. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cloud services proved life-saving in Rwanda where an acute shortage of health-care workers was resolved through artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted medical triage using a cutting-edge application that required a connection to the cloud. The application checked patients using an AI symptom checker and monitored them during recovery, freeing up health-care workers to support other people as needed.  AI also facilitated near-realtime language processing so patients could speak their indigenous language, Kinyarwanda.  Sensitive medical records shared by this application were safeguarded with cybersecurity and data protection measures.

The intensive AI and security requirements used in projects like this one in Rwanda are too expensive and technically sophisticated for a single local cloud provider to manage. Instead, the job must be shared between two cloud providers in an increasingly common hybrid-cloud solution that resolves challenges like this that would be otherwise impossible. In this case, one cloud hosts basic digital services involving personal identity and health information collected from patients, while a public cloud service provider takes on the heavier workload involving AI applications that require more processing power.

Turning to innovative cloud solutions made much sense in this case, given the deficit of skilled health-care workers needed to meet public demand, and an enabling ecosystem that facilited adoption of this hybrid-cloud solution.

Cloud-based options for managing data

To achieve the next stage of digital transformation and enable countries to reap the benefits of the global digital economy, governments must prioritize adoption of cloud services where feasible. Cloud technologies offer cost savings, the ability to scale rapidly, access to advanced cybersecurity features and big data processing using AI.  In addition, enhanced capacity for innovative business applications through the cloud  can facilitate e-Government platforms and services, as demonstrated by the case in Rwanda.

Additionally, there is an ever-growing number of sophisticated Software as a Service (SaaS) business applications delivered through the cloud to solve specific public sector challenges, such as invoicing, citizen engagement, and managing registration databases. Cloud solutions can further support governments with cloud-based backup systems to enable a layer of redundancy in the case of a system crash, and ensure service continuity.

To realize these benefits, governments in developed countries have long shifted focus away from relying on legacy IT systems to utilizing more cloud-based solutions to manage their data, and increasingly, using public cloud services delivered over infrastructure shared by multiple clients.  In contrast, governments in developing countries often maintain or expand legacy-IT systems, limiting the cost savings and advanced functionalities that cloud services could yield. 

cloud business application diagram

Countries leading with cloud policies

The government of the United Kingdom adopted a “Cloud First” policy, where organizations must first consider and assess public cloud solutions before seeking other alternatives when integrating technology with public services. British ministries are empowered to select the cloud solution that best suits their needs based on security, flexibility, and value for money.

Singapore took a different approach, with the government creating a private cloud for the government, the “G-cloud,” to meet security and governance requirements, paving the way for hybrid solutions where public and private cloud solutions can operate together. Singapore’s various ministries can choose appropriate solutions if a public cloud or the G-cloud doesn’t cover their needs.

While public ministries across digitally advanced countries are increasingly integrating hybrid cloud solutions, the mix of public and private cloud procurement in any country will be determined by government objectives, performance requirements, data classification systems, and data governance laws and regulations. To help navigate the available cloud options, a three-step framework focusing on policy objectives, strategic goals, and operational requirements can help governments identify the best solution.

cloud policy, strategy and operations diagram

Government cloud migration as a catalyst for the private sector

When a government takes a big step towards adopting cloud services, it can also encourage local businesses and entrepreneurs to embrace cloud solutions. Governments—especially in developing countries—are uniquely positioned to signal and generate considerable trust in a system where there is confusion around cloud benefits or concern about placing sensitive data into the cloud. This mistrust can ultimately leave countries expanding legacy IT-storage systems, losing out on cloud benefits and risking a widening of the global digital divide. A government’s adoption of cloud services can act as a catalyst that advances digital transformation not only in the public sector, but across local industry sectors, helping them maximize capture of digital dividends.

This feature story integrates findings from a Government Cloud project supported by the Digital Development Partnership (DDP) which is administered by the World Bank Group. The DDP offers a platform for digital innovation and development financing, bringing public and private sector partners together to advance digital solutions and drive digital transformation in developing countries.


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