Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The United Nations of Cloud Computing

With all the recent buzz around cloud computing within various governments around the globe there is one major international organization notably absent from the discussions -- The United Nations. I thought I'd take a moment to briefly explore some of the opportunities for cloud computing within the UN.

To give a little background, the UN's stated aims is to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achieving world peace. I'm the first to admit that cloud computing can do a great many things, but solving world peace probably isn't one of them. But international law, international security, economic development, and social progress all fit nicely into potential applications for cloud computing, especially within emerging economies around the globe.

Among the UN's various technology related endeavours are the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of eight targets to help end extreme poverty worldwide by 2015.In attempting to achieve these goals one the early efforts was the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force, created to advance the UN's efforts around addressing the core issues related to the role of information and communication technology in economic development and eradication of poverty. In 2006 the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID) replaced UNICTTF, and now has the task of providing an open policy dialogue on the role of information and communication technologies. GAID is probably one of the best places to address the need for cloud computing at the UN.

One of the more famous off shoots of this program is the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, a nonprofit created by Nicholas Negroponte. The OLPC's goal is to create a laptop to sell for $100 each to governments to give away at no cost to school-aged children. One of the key drivers that brought about the "NetBook" trend.

As I've said before, Cloud computing isn't about one endless global cloud, one with no defined borders or geography, but instead it's about the localization of cloud computing within these new and emerging regions around globe. It's about the opportunity that flexible and efficient distributed computing enables as an economic & social stimulus. More over, it's about empowering those who have up until now been passed by on the information super highway. The UN has the opportunity to bring the ultimate equalizer, emerging technology as well as more importantly real access to information to these under enabled regions.

The UN has a long history of providing a multilateral source of grants for technological assistance and access around the world including being an early advocate of open source technology. Recent advances in technology have revolutionized the way people live, learn and work, but these benefits have not spread around the world evenly. The so called digital divide exists between communities in their access to computers, the Internet, and other technologies. Over the last few years the UN has been at the forefront of trying to knock down some of these technological barriers. With the emergence of Cloud Computing we may now have an even more effective tool to help in this on going effort to end poverty and encourage social progress around the globe.

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