'Cloud doesn’t exist where broadband doesn’t exist,' says Essex CIO

By Danny Palmer
25 Mar 2014 View Comments
David Wilde is chief information officer at Westminster City Council

Local government institutions in rural areas will struggle to benefit from services offered through the government's G-Cloud scheme because there isn't the infrastructure to properly handle the demands.

That's what David Wilde, CIO at Essex County Council, told the audience at the Think Cloud for Government conference at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London, today. His concerns mirror those of SMEs recently interviewed by Computing, which revealed that almost one in five surveyed feel that their broadband connection is too unreliable to support cloud applications.

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And while Essex might be known for its urban nightlife thanks to reality TV, Wilde explained how much of the county is rural, making deployment of the infrastructure required for cloud a difficult task.

"There's a very interesting geographical issue around Essex; we've got a lot of countryside and cloud doesn't exist in rural areas where broadband doesn't exist," he said.

"One of the things we have to bear in mind, certainly in localised services, is cloud is only as good as the broadband capacity it actually reaches, so some of our constraints of moving into the cloud are actually physical.

"That's where investment in broadband infrastructure is absolutely crucial and I think it's often overlooked in the country," Wilde continued, before making the stark comparison between cities and the countryside when it comes to broadband access.

"In urban centres like London, we've got broadband coming out of our ears," he said. "But if you go out to Dedham [rural Essex,] it's well named in terms of broadband - it really is because there isn't any. Then you go out to Dengie peninsula and it's a whole new world of nothingness."

It's that lack of infrastructure, Wilde argued, which means cloud computing - and therefore G-Cloud services - won't be heavily adopted in rural areas for some time yet.

"Those kinds of realities around delivering services on the ground mean that local solutions are going to be a factor for us probably until 2017," he said.

Nonetheless, Wilde is generally positive about G-Cloud itself, although he suggested the time frame for rollout has been too ambitious.

"Sometimes in government we want to do everything yesterday. Any commercial operation that set up something as huge and complex as G-Cloud would have allowed a five year horizon before it started to break even. And yet we want to create this megabeast for all sectors within the public sector in under two years - dream on," he told the audience.

"It's a big and complicated beast that needs more focus round the customer and what the customer wants to buy in terms of the type of service."

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