What Is the UK Government’s Cloud First Policy and What Does It Mean for Public Sector Bodies?

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Classic rooftops in London with grey sky and clouds

Since its launch in 2013, the UK Government’s Cloud First policy has been a flagship technology initiative and an important point in the Technology Code of Practice. The policy says that organisations should evaluate cloud solutions first before considering any other option. Organisations are ultimately free to use other options, but need to demonstrate that alternatives offer better levels of security, flexibility and/or value for money than cloud solutions.

The policy was re-examined in 2019 by government officials and then confirmed that it would be upheld in October 2019, showing that cloud reigns as the endorsed methodology to modernising UK public sector ICT infrastructure. 

With the advent of unique challenges like COVID-19, the public sector needs digital solutions to meet their fast-changing requirements. While the immediate focus is to limit the human, social and economic loss, operating in the new normal also indicates extra pressure on government IT in years to come. UK public servants need to use digital channels to inform and serve residents. At the same time, many functions have gone all-digital during the pandemic, increasing the demand for omni-channel communications. Change is upon us and is inevitable at this stage.  

One example of a local organisation embracing this change and adopting cloud first during the pandemic is St. Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School, who adopted RingCentral’s cloud communications suite to help keep the learning and engagement going during lockdown.

Quote from Mark Johns, St Bartholomew's School

Another great example of cloud first adoption is from Fairtrade Foundation, who kept advocating for farms and workers in the developing world, even as the rest of the world went into lockdown. When the pandemic hit, Fairtrade Foundation needed to roll out RingCentral overnight so that employees and volunteers could continue to carry out their life-changing work from home. The full Fairtrade story is available online.

Quote from Jacob Cunningham, Fairtrade Foundation

The UK Government’s vision for G-Cloud

The G-Cloud framework was developed to help UK government bodies evangelise the Cloud First policy and source suitable suppliers. 

The hope is that the framework encourages the use of multi-tenanted services that are shared and managed by several groups. Shared resources, infrastructure, software and information can be provided to a range of end users as a utility – on a pay-by-use, per user per month basis. It will be dynamically scalable, agile and easy to move in and out of the service. G-Cloud is not a single entity; it is an ongoing and iterative programme which will enable the use of a range of cloud services, and changes in the way government procures and operates ICT. By adopting cloud, the government will be able to more easily use and share ICT services. This enables the move from high-cost customised ICT solutions to low cost, standard, interchangeable services. It means changing the culture of government to adapt to the solutions the market provides and not creating unnecessary bespoke approaches. 

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For government admins and users, the benefits will be:

  • Many more commodity solutions – a range of the best industry ICT services available off the shelf so public servants can use what they need when they need it and not create duplicate services that cannot be shared.
  • Flexibility and freedom – the ability, if required, for departments and organisations to change service providers easily without lengthy procurement and implementation cycles, no “lock-ins‟ to long contracts, and the freedom to quickly adopt better value and more up-to-date solutions. 
  • Ready and easy to use – complete solutions that are already assured for security, performance and service management. Ready access that allows cost efficiencies and can be used alongside dedicated on-premises solutions if needed. 
  • Low cost – Services that are paid for on a usage basis, driven by strong competition on price and quality. Transparent costs along with quality and scope-of-service metrics for simpler comparison and control.
  • Competitive marketplace – a range of service providers constantly improving the quality and value of the solutions they offer, from small organisations providing niche products to large scale hosting and computer server capacity.

Another case study from the Welsh Government shows how it developed a strategy that was aligned with the UK Government’s policy, modernised all its technology, and changed its working practices. The case study also goes through how it dealt with obstacles and was produced by the UK Government itself, serving as a guide on regional government best practices as it evangelises the Cloud First policy in real time.

Given the increase in online interactions, digital transformation in government is no longer about simply innovating, but about managing scale, operational efficiency and ensuring taxpayer value for money, while user expectations, technologies and suppliers’ services are rapidly shifting.   

In the context of the COVID19, cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) becomes crucial in ensuring demands for scalability and reduced cost, as well as simpler integration of digital services, automation, efficiency and improved interactions.

The local authority digital transformation journey

simple flowchart showing the stages and inputs of the local authority digital transformation journey

How can RingCentral UK help? 

RingCentral’s expertise is more than ‘just cloud’. Cloud-based communications platforms can strengthen the links between government, small businesses and citizens to allow for greater collaboration, problem solving and benefit sharing. As a 5x leader in the UCaaS Gartner Magic Quadrant, RingCentral is recognised for its industry-leading technology, manageability and reliability.

We have over 20 years’ experience implementing, managing and improving mission-critical cloud communications for customers across all sectors. Our celebrated customer onboarding and end to end migration support is notable to our success in the UK. RingCentral has the cloud migration expertise to help define a viable path to the cloud for your government applications and data. RingCentral is on the G-Cloud framework and is RM3808 (Network Services 2) certified, and can offer UK data localisation to any clients who need it.

Restructuring a nation through technology: How UK businesses are facing a post-pandemic future

Originally published Jul 14, 2020, updated Apr 10, 2023


    Ashima Bhatt is the Director of Product Marketing for RingCentral’s core Message, Video, Phone product offering. She uses RingCentral as a platform to share with the world how to connect people in meaningful and compelling ways to build forward.

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