Government as a Platform

Recently I had to replace a birth certificate. I was dreading the process, previously as it involved a long slog down to DMV with all that entails. However, while I looked up the hours for DMV online, I realized that I could look up Virginia’s civil records, and order a copy. It was so fast and easy, and I wondered why nothing like this been done before.

In fact, access to government data is only one facet of the new Government as a Platform initiative. Beginning in 2011 the US Federal cloud computing strategy instituted a cloud-first policy to accelerate the pace of adoption. This required government agencies to look first to cloud solutions for any IT problem. You know the writing is on the wall about the superiority of cloud, when even the government requires it.

What Is Government As a Platform?

The government has a lot of information. A lot. And yet it is frequently siloed into various departments and agencies. Not only is this inefficient from a sharing perspective, it wastes a lot of resources. Cloud adoption has seen ragged implementation across the board, but much low hanging fruit has been seized.

Although you would expect people with greater-than-usual security requirements should be the least likely to adopt the cloud, in fact the CIA is actually one of the first adopters. Amazon actually won a $600M contract with them in 2014.

However, most adoption across the board included website hosting and email integration, SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS adoptions. As you may be experienced in your own organization, the small unremarkable changes actually free up considerable resources for more critical work. One Gartner analyst says that agencies then shift their efforts to grants management, collaboration services, security storage, and records management.

The Effects So Far

One of the biggest champions of Government as a Platform is Dr. Rick Holgate, former CIO of the ATF, now of Gartner. He is most excited about the way the government is opening up access to its data, such as weather data and GPS data. This has enabled huge amounts of innovation in the private sector. An interesting list of applications is compiled at, but many more are not listed, such as Uber, Lyft, and just about every weather app.

As cloud adoption continues, it will be interesting to see what new innovations grow out of that. Certainly it will continue to grow, since the government intends to spend $6.4 billion by 2020.



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