Cloud computing leaders from the governments of Canada, China, Japan and the United States pledged their continued international cooperation to fulfill cloud computing‘s potential to transform public services worldwide.

The leaders made their comments, while also touching on a range of legal, security and data standards issues during an executive session at the 5th annual Cloud Computing Forum & Workshop, sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Tuesday.

Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel, representing the U.S., told the audience “cloud computing has the amazing ability to revolutionize interactions with citizens. We will continue to work in the international realm on the best ways to collaborate; we will continue the dialogue on issues such as standards and security.”

Moderating the panel was Ambassador Philip L. Verveer, United States Coordinator for International Communications & Information Policy, Department of State.

Ambassador Verveer stressed the need for more international cooperation to resolve some of legal issues surrounding data standards, data transit across borders and lingering privacy issues.

“These are common problems that all countries have to solve,” said Ambassador Verveer. “We will all benefit when we work together,” he said in kicking off the session, which was part of a three-day symposium being held at the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

The international panel featured top IT officials, each of whom highlighted the progress and concerns each is seeing from their respective governments, including:

  • Pierre Boucher, Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Government of Canada
  • Zhang Feng, Director General, Telecommunications Development, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), People’s Republic of China
  • Yasuo Sakamoto, Deputy Director General, Global ICT Strategy Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), Japan
  • Steven VanRoekel, Chief Information Officer, United States

Information is a lifeline, especially in the one year since earthquake. The use of cloud is essential in the recovery.” – Japan’s Yasuo Sakamoto

US Progress
VanRoekel said cloud computing represents a “once in a generational opportunity to change how government buys and uses technology.”

He added that while the cloud represents a dramatic change in the way government can deliver services, agencies have come a long way in a short time in their cloud adoption.

By having each agency identify and migrate three applications to the cloud and defaulting to a “cloud first” strategy, VanRoekel said agencies are making notable progress. He also said cloud migrations are growing in size and complexity as agencies learn how to manage cloud services. He stressed that the cloud changes the mindset of buying IT to buying a service, not a piece of hardware.

VanRoekel said the biggest challenges remain in the security arena. “The key point is agencies must account for security and the reliable administration of data. They must ensure systems are secure whether they are on or off the premises.”

He said a major effort is to provide tools to the agencies to facilitate cloud migrations and security.

One of those tools is FedRAMP program. Launched in December 2011, it has three goals: (1) Improving the consistency and quality of how cloud security assessments are done by the federal govern­ment. (2) Building a trust based and transparent based security approval process that’s reusable across government – “do once and use many times.” (3) Using FedRAMP to continue the already existing movement toward continuous monitoring.

“It provides it provides government with a standardized approach and will save money,” said VanRoekel.

He also announced that FedRAMP will begin its initial operating capacity later this week. “This is great for government.” He urged interested parties to go to and learn more about the program as it goes operational.

Canadian Course
Pierre Boucher, deputy chief information officer for the Government of Canada said Canada has a long history of leveraging IT for public services.

“Because of the demand of services, expectations are growing and we need to keep up,” he explained. “The goal is to provide many services as possible through the Internet, with single access to services. We will continue to leverage the cloud platform and use web 2.0 technologies to establish policies that encourage workers to collaborate.”

Boucher told the audience that Canada is still grappling with issues such as data ownership and storage, while protecting access to sensitive citizen’s data. He sees Canada moving towards using a mix of public, hybrid and private clouds.

“In the short term, we won’t use public clouds because of security concerns. But we are confident that things will come together and partnerships and strategies will be developed,” he continued.

“We as public servants must work to be responsive and responsible and offer flexible models that inspire public trust.”

China In The Clouds
Zhang Feng is the director general for the Telecommunications Development Department, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), People’s Republic of China.

He said China support for cloud is outlined in the 12th 5-year plan and while cloud computing is still in the beginning stages in China, efforts are underway to combine many of the basic IT functions into a single public service.

“Through the Internet the service is accessible to the client and that will ignite a technology industry revolution that will lead to great social economic development,” he said. “The cloud will change how the user is going to get technology resources. All this is going to reduce costs raise flexibility.”

Feng said large Internet companies such as Alibaba and Shengda are developing both IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) capabilities.

Throughout China there is enhanced coordination and planning to construct data centers with diversified profiles to avoid over investment and blind deployment said Feng. China is also in the process of upgrading traditional data centers to “green” cloud capable data centers that emphasize energy efficiency.

Citing the need to strengthen technical innovation and standards, Feng said China is encouraging open platform development.

“We need to develop a standards system to regulate application interfaces, regulate service quality and standardize technical interfaces between cloud platforms and applications to solve application cloud migration issues.”

He called for global cooperation to meet challenges. “The US and EU have different policies. The cloud brings together technology, market forces, policy and law which make international exchange and collaboration essential.”

Japan’s Smart Cloud Strategy
Yasuo Sakamoto, deputy director general for Japan’s Global ICT Strategy Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), described Japan’s “Smart Cloud Strategy.”

The strategy aims to promote the widespread use of technology and “thus amass and share a wealth of information across the entire social system, beyond the boundaries of companies and industries.”

Sakamoto told the audience how information is a lifeline, especially in the one year since earthquake.

“The use of cloud is essential in the recovery. Cloud services provided shelter and relief information,” he said. It also provided victims with sufficient health care. The cloud allowed doctors to share information on evacuees and perform remote medical consultations.

Japan’s Smart Cloud Strategy relies heavily on lessons learned from the earthquake. It calls for guidelines for medical, health care and education. It promotes local government’s use of the cloud and provides support mechanisms for small and medium companies. and

The strategy’s objective is to “establish a reliable system with resiliency, which can transmit, process and store multiplying information resources using various apps,” Sakamoto said.

He called for an international environment where there is harmonization on rules and systems, so that users can use convenient cloud services.

“We should be sharing best practices on technical standardization, interoperability, portability and security guidelines.”