Cloud Computing is likely to be one of the key pillars on which various eGovernance services would ride and GI Cloud MeghRaj is an extremely important and relevant technology to create a paradigm shift in the way government procures IT, and deploys eGov applications across the country, says Renu Budhiraja, Senior Director and Head – State Data Centre & Cloud, DeitY, Government of India, in an interaction with Souvik Goswami of Elets News Network (ENN)
What is your view on the importance of ‘National Cloud’ with regard to various programmes of the Government of India, like Digital India?
The Digital India programme talks about IT infrastructure as a utility and provision of government services on demand. All applications of the Digital India pillars need an elastic and agile infrastructure. Cloud will definitely turn out to be the pillar in facilitating delivery of various eGovernance services. In order to utilise and harness the benefits of Cloud Computing, the Government of India has embarked upon a very ambitious and important initiative – GI Cloud, which has been christened as ‘MeghRaj’. It is going to be an extremely important component that can bring a paradigm shift in the way government procures and deploys IT tools and implements eGovernance applications in the country.
What is the current status of MeghRaj?
The journey of Meghraj started in mid- 2013, but the first phase of the project was launched in 2014 by the National Informatics Center (NIC). Initially, we came up with two important and comprehensive reports. These were ‘GI Cloud Strategic Direction Paper’ and ‘GI Cloud Adoption and Implementation Roadmap’. Subsequent to that, NIC introduced first National Cloud in February 2014.
At present, the National Cloud has 241 government users and several projects are already running through this Cloud and the demand is increasing continuously. The Meghraj architecture has got the space for the dedicated government Clouds like that of NIC and also for the Clouds of the private sector.
The next important step would be building an ecosystem where the private Cloud service providers can actually deliver services to various government departments. It can be Public Cloud or Community Cloud or can be a dedicated Cloud set-up for a specific department.
How critical is it to implement the plan?
The Cloud Management Office is being set up for its implementation. It is a bit critical. It is going to help in coming up with the various guidelines, policies, frameworks, standards on security, privacy, procurement and other aspects. These guidelines will be from the Cloud service provider’s perspective and end-user department’s perspective. We will be empanelling Cloud auditors, who will then audit the various Cloud service providers once these guidelines are in place. These will be accredited and made available on the MeghRaj Cloud directory.
We are also coming up with a Cloud Selection Framework. Based on the data sensitivity and the type of application, the departments will be in a position to know that this kind of application can be run on a Public Cloud, etc. All of these guiding principles will help.
That apart, we also have State Data Centres (SDCs). As many as six SDCs have been Cloudenabled and various other SDCs are at different stages of Cloud enablement.
What are the challenges in operating the Government Cloud?
Awareness is a major challenge in operating the Government Cloud. A lot of departments are showing interest to adopt Cloud technology, but awareness on Cloud security needs to be increased. Many people have apprehensions that their data will not be in their control. But a clear understanding of setting up Cloud in SDCs should be there. People should be informed that security concerns are not the same vis-a-vis having Cloud services which can be provided outside India by a Cloud service provider, in which case concerns of cross-border jurisdiction and data security become larger.
Another problem is that various departments also don’t have the technical resources and strengths.
The MeghRaj architecture has got the space for the dedicated government Clouds like that of NIC and also for the Clouds of the private sector… At present, the National Cloud has 241 government users and several projects are already running through this Cloud and the demand is increasing continuously
What is your vision on Cloud for Government?
The Cloud is no more only a buzz word; in the next one year, the entire ecosystem of Cloud in India is going to reach various departments in the Central and state governments. The Digital India initiative, which we are trying to imbibe, is going to be on Cloud as the Cloud First Policy. We will see new architectures proliferating and applications getting revamped to ensure the benefits that Cloud can give, and it would be made available in the various projects that are going to come up in the near future.