Collaboration between the private sector and the federal government is necessary for governments to take full advantage of cloud computing opportunities, a Microsoft executive said Wednesday.
Speaking at the Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington, Microsoft's senior VP and general counsel Brad Smith said that adopting cloud computing has a number of advantages for the public sector that go beyond the obvious financial gains represented by moving software to the cloud.
"It's not just making government cheaper, but making government better -- that's the real opportunity that cloud computing offers," he said.
In an interview following Smith's keynote, Teresa Carlson, VP of Microsoft Federal, said she believes the government sector is slightly ahead of the private sector in planning for cloud computing.
This forward-thinking makes sense for the government's transparency efforts through the Open Government Directive, as well as to improve communications and collaboration between government agencies that often operate on disparate networks.
"It's no secret that over the years, the government has struggled a bit with having interoperability within an agency itself -- it's sometimes decentralized," she said.
She said the cloud is a way to enable people even in a decentralized network environment to collaborate and communicate quickly and in real time.
However, cloud computing also has challenges, and they are ones that only collaboration between all stakeholders can solve, Smith said. This means the government and the private sector must work together to create policy that promotes the move to the cloud.
"If we're going to make the most of cloud computing, we need government not only to adopt it, but to come together to enable it," he said.
The Obama administration already has been taking significant steps to work with the private sector to foster technology innovation. Earlier this year, the White House hosted 50 CEOs from top companies to discuss what the government can learn from the private sector.
Various government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency also have made it a priority for cybersecurity initiatives to work with the private sector companies that own critical infrastructure used by government networks.