Interview: SuperCloud: the next stage of the digital evolution for public sector bodies?

Sean Green London Borough of Tower Hamlets

As part of our series on the Cloud, Adam Evans, Partnership Director from Agilisys recently caught up with Sean Green, Head of ICT at Tower Hamlets and Independent director of London Grid for Learning (LGfL).

Their discussion centred around the potential of the London SuperCloud, and how it can help to deliver public services more effectively in the capital.

Can you explain to me what the London SuperCloud is?

Certainly. There’s an organisation called London Grid for Learning (LGfL), it’s a non-profit organisation, which provides IT services to about 3,000 schools across the country. The idea behind London SuperCloud is based primarily on using the existing LGfL infrastructure and network security to connect the public sector as a whole. This service would enable public bodies to share information and resources more efficiently as well as reduce their costs.

LGfL has largest implementation of CISCO firewalls in the world We own the biggest implementation of CISCO firewalls anywhere in the world and own a fibre network that delivers one the largest educational and public sector networks in the world, so suffice to say it’s got scale in providing services in a secure way to the schools. Therefore, the network is a fantastic asset. It has access to Public Services Network (PSN), the Further Education network Janet, NHS N3 and the National Government Departments.

At LGfL we have realised we have an asset that it should be applied more broadly in London as a ‘network aggregator’ not just cost because of our scale, but also because of the connectivity our network offers.

So through LGfL and its links to PSN are you saying that the goal of the London SuperCloud is to build on the existing infrastructure and simplify connectivity?

Pretty much all the London councils, I believe use PSN and LGfL is an aggregator for PSN, which means we can interconnect every council database in London via this network.

We already have councils like Newham using the LGfL network as a key component of their network model. That is because there are many advantages to SuperCloud, not just the general scale and efficiency but also the dependence, security overlay, the link into other third parties, 4G overlays – potentially 5G going into the future.

I believe it could also be used in municipalities in their smart cities initiatives. The infrastructure is key to getting these projects off the ground. While you need wireless to get a smart city working, the infrastructure is what allows for connectivity with third parties.

In London, and this doesn’t have to be just London-centric as the network is already being used in other parts of the country, the network is already here. It’s simply a question of how much other London councils want to buy into it. They’re already buying into it anyway via their PSN links but the question they need to ask themselves is how much they want to broaden their use of it.

Another benefit of the network for the citizen is data-sharing. Data-sharing can be done in an anonymised form. For example rather than a citizen having to create 33 different identities for let’s say for parking in the different London boroughs – which means having to create an identity of each district – the existing data can be exported across the network thereby removing the administrative chore.

Part of the proposition is not about the core infrastructure, it’s actually providing an on demand service to other platform services and making the public sector more collaborative. The network is the easy bit, because it’s just there and that’s great as it’s been a point of discussion for year and years.

With data protection at the forefront of everyone’s minds, how well do you think the London SuperCloud will be received by the citizens in the capital?

The trick will be to build trust between citizens and ourselves. It’s also a case of demonstrating the value of the cloud system by highlighting benefits such as accessing better care and support for those who are housebound for example.

We can control the demand through this system in a most cost effective manner, enabling us (local authorities) to allocate more bandwidth when needed.

How do you think this this will alter the perception of the way public services are delivered in the future?

I believe it will make more sense to people. I feel there is often inconsistency with how different parts of government interact with citizens and also with each other. As a citizen when I deal with the government I want to make sure my experiences are the same.

For example as a consumer I choose to go to places with the least hassle and that are the most consistent. Why do I choose to go to a certain supermarket rather than another? It’s because I know where I’m going and what I’m going to get because the stores are laid out in pretty much the same way. In fact a while ago they changed the layout at my local store and that really annoyed me. I want to go in and get out of there as soon as possible – it’s the utility I’m looking for.

For citizens dealing with government is a utility, a must have, a must do. And the easier we make that journey for them the happier they’re going to be about it. Equally as important is being able demonstrate the value we are delivering for the public purse.

So just to clarify you see the SuperCloud also as a way to break down geographical barriers to improve customer’s experience?

You touched on the customer experience, now that’s a great marketing term, but what does it mean? I’m looking at this from both an organisation’s perspective and from the citizen’s point of view. The SuperCloud allows me to plug in and connect with practically all the services the public require.

We, in the public sector, have to think about how we join the dots to create better value for citizens. For my money the London SuperCloud initiative has the potential to deliver not only better value for money, but also better services which make a real difference to peoples’ lives.

Find out more about how Agilisys can provide solutions to address the needs of public sector organisations on their journey to the Cloud.

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