Everyone knows the cloud is gaining traction in government, but IT firm Unisys and the Center for Digital Government released survey data showing just how big it is. On Oct. 15, Unisys announced the results of a survey of 109 state and local government IT professionals regarding cloud computing. The survey found that about half of government leaders are either deploying a cloud solution (32 percent) or thinking about deploying a cloud solution (14 percent).

The survey also asked respondents why they pursued the cloud. About 25 percent said it was savings on hardware and software maintenance that attracted them to the cloud, while about 20 percent said they were attracted to the ability they would have to “meet the demands of a growing mobile workforce.” About 46 percent of respondents reported they have or are planning to implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs.

The cloud is big because it meets needs that so many governments have, said Crystal Cooper, head of public sector for Unisys state and local government. “The big takeaway is that citizen expectations are on the rise,” she said. “They’re expecting their governments to provide services with increased responsiveness and in the most convenient way possible and citizens are comparing their systems against private enterprise.”

As the standard for technology rises every day, people are likewise raising their expectations of their governments, Cooper said. If a person can shop online and bank online, they will want to interact with their government online through modern applications and they don’t want to pay for it, she said. As technology in general evolves, government is being left behind and there is an expectation gap, she said.

Citizens want to use social media and mobile devices to connect directly with their governments, she said, all while having their data protected. “And I don’t believe citizens are really interested in knowing or caring that budget cuts are impacting the ability to modernize their applications and embark on mobile and cloud strategies,” she said. “Therefore, all of these combined together is a forking mechanism for governments to look at doing things differently.”

The Unisys study also found that security remains a big concern for governments moving to the cloud, with 71 percent of respondents citing data security as a barrier to cloud adoption. Two other large barriers cited by respondents were integration with existing systems (42 percent) and regulatory compliance (40 percent).

These are important concerns, Cooper said, but the cloud and mobility are the best tools available today to bridge the government expectation gap, and without action, the gap will only grow. As new generations of workers enter the government workforce, BYOD adoption and expectations about technology will only increase, she said, also citing confidence in Unisys’ partnership with Amazon’s cloud division.

“The partnership we have with Amazon is something we’re very excited about because we’re seeing a trend that governments have private clouds and they’re moving toward hybrid clouds and we believe that in the future, the trend will be toward just a public cloud and partitioning off to ensure data is secure,” she said.

Editor’s Note: The Center for Digital Government and Government Technology are owned by the same parent company, e.Republic Inc.

Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog.