The history of governments’ technology adoption behaviour has shown that over-reliance on proprietary softwares and vendors makes makes it difficult for the public sector to adapt to technology changes. “A lot of governments have recognised that they were stuck with a particular vendor or technology, which means that their investments were locked-in to the offering of that vendor. When things have to change and move on, the turnover was a lot harder to manage - they were having to invest in new technology,” said Harish Pillay, Global Head for Community Architecture and Leadership, Red Hat.
Public sector agencies continuously ensure that they meet strict security and data governance requirements, and they cannot risk this by getting stuck with a vendor’s offerings. “May be on day one you went with a cloud provider A - they were in-country and it was not an issue. Then it got acquired by a foreign company, now it is owned by a foreign company. From a public sector perspective, this may not be acceptable because they hold sensitive data that is now held by a company with a foreign owner,” Pillay explained.
Another risk for governments is having to reinvest in their employees skills every time they move from one proprietary vendor to another. “Going from one proprietary vendor environment to another necessarily means that an array of additional learning, training and expenditure comes into play,” he said.
For instance, over the last 20 years, many governments in southeast Asia adopted Lotus Notes, a proprietary communication software, he added. “When Lotus Notes needed to be replaced with a newer version or they [the government agency] decided to move to another vendor’s platform, they had to train a new bunch of people to handle these newer technologies.”
When a cloud environment is open source, it allows the user to be able flexibly shift between suppliers and involve more than one supplier in improving the technology used by the agency. “In an open environment, you can move from one cloud provider to another and your data is portable,” Pillay said. “The [cloud] tool may have come from one vendor, but because it is in an open source environment, the [government] agency can include other companies and startups to add to the technology that they are using,” he added.
In the public sector, “you don’t want to be in a situation where you cannot get to your data because it is in a format that was create by a vendor who does not exist anymore.” Pillay said.