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Local government units in the cloud – ZUCH system and public administration

The pandemic speeds up the transition of public administration to cloud-based solutions. The time coincidence of the current restrictions with the launch of 1st Edition of Public Cloud Computing Services is random. However, it is certain that local government units will gain a simpler and unified way to implement a wide range of cloud computing solutions, which should translate into more efficient administration and service provision to citizens.

What is cloud computing and where did the ZUCH system come from?

Cloud computing can be defined in many ways. One of the most accessible description is the following: “A wide range of web services designed to enable users to obtain a wide range of functionalities paid for only at the time of direct use (pay-as-you-go), which previously required significant hardware and software investments and required staff with the appropriate skills.”[1] In other words, the provider of cloud-based solution offers a ready-made service to the purchaser and the purchaser gains remote access to specific resources: applications, documents, services, storage and archiving space, etc. This way, the purchaser minimises operating costs, as it avoids, for example, the maintenance of extensive IT support, server maintenance, purchase of specialised software or security systems.

ZUCH, or the Cloud Service Provision System, is part of the Common IT Infrastructure of the Country (WIIP). The aim of WIIP is to standardise and popularise the digitisation of public administration, not only in internal but also external activities. Ultimately, the ZUCH system is a procurement platform and a system supporting the management of services based on cloud computing, which is based on the British G-Cloud model. Thanks to the system, public finance units, as purchasing entities, will have access to a catalogue of verified and secure cloud-based solutions. This way, they can avoid the complicated and costly process of obtaining these solutions themselves. 1st Edition of Public Cloud Computing Services provides an opportunity to accurately identify the needs for cloud solutions, chosen from among products offered by commercial providers. The data exported in this way will constitute the description of the object of the contract. It is not yet possible to make purchases directly in the system.

Who, how and when? Answers to basic questions about the ZUCH system

The purchasers of cloud services from the ZUCH system may be entities from the public finance sector and other state legal persons established under separate acts in order to perform public tasks, excluding enterprises, banks and commercial companies.

In order to participate in the system, the entity must meet the requirements of having the ICT system and register. The buyer is represented in the system by a proxy appointed for this purpose. The entity is verified using the National Electronic Identification Node.

Through the resources collected by the system and functioning in Public Cloud Computing Services (PCHO, from commercial suppliers) and Government Cloud Computing (providing internal IT environment for public aministration), buyers can purchase ready-made cloud solutions, which allow to transfer their IT environment to a cloud tailored for specific needs.

Currently, the 1st edition of PCHO has been launched. Registration of buyers and sellers is now possible. Following the example of the English G-Cloud model, subsequent editions will operate as iterations, i.e. repetitive calls, in which the whole system will also be streamlined.

Opportunities and risks

Certainly, the transfer of public administration activities to the cloud environment will allow better shaping of relations with citizens, offering remote handling of official matters. The wider the catalogue of applications and services, the faster and simpler the relationship between the office and the applicant. However, cloud-based solutions are not just facilitating contact with the citizen; they can also simplify, standardise and unify internal procedures and processes in public administration. Additionally, cloud-based solutions should bring savings and simplification in the day-to-day work of clerks. The WIIP programme adopted by the Government is to introduce the Cloud First principle, which has been successfully implemented in countries such as the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and Estonia. This principle gives preference to the implementation of digitisation of public administration activities using cloud computing. The UK and Estonia are leading in this area. There are therefore many ready-made solutions from which the Polish legislator can draw, implementing the inevitable “cloud revolution.”

However, entering a new stage in the functioning of public administration, including first of all local government units, requires parallel preparation of extensive and multi-faceted infrastructure. Above all, the solutions offered through the ZUCH system must meet security requirements, and public finance entities interested in participating in the system should think carefully about the extent to which they plan to move their resources to the cloud. It should also be remembered that such digitisation depends to a large extent on the service provider and the Internet access. Something that seems to be undisputed in our everyday life may, in an unfavourable coincidence, turns out to be a curse and a serious impediment to public administration activities. This, in turn, makes it necessary to thoroughly prepare such a large project as introducing the public sphere of the country into the world of cloud computing.

 

Adam Madejski, attorney-at-law

 

Katowice, 12 May 2020

 

[1] An overview of definitions and descriptions is available at

http://www.ptzp.org.pl/files/konferencje/kzz/artyk_pdf_2016/T2/t2_0725.pdf

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