Pre-event interview with Pavel Kats for the Public Sector World Cloud Forum.
Pavel Kats is Chief Technology Officer at the Europeana Foundation, and is chairing a panel session at Public Sector Cloud World Forum, entitled Reviewing European Cloud Initiatives for Societal Applications.
Beyond core public services, cloud solutions are increasingly being adopted across Europe for societal applications such as education, arts and culture, science and digital citizenship. Key stakeholders in societal cloud adoption will discuss issues including:
- Outlining cloud initiatives in the cultural heritage sector – the current work of Europeana (the European Culture portal)
- Designing and implementing an aggregated infrastructure to support local content in the Europeana cloud (LoCloud initiative)
- Examining cloud services and applications to foster ‘creative cities’
- Understanding the strategic plan for scientific cloud computing in Europe
- Reviewing educational applications that can be supported by the cloud
We took a few minutes to talk to Pavel about his experience, responsibilities and hopes for the event. Public Sector representatives can claim a free pass for the event.
Which opportunities, from your point of view, can cloud computing bring to the cultural heritage sector?
The opportunities are immense because cloud computing has the potential to drastically change how this sector works. Contrary to associations that the word may invoke, cultural heritage institutions are increasingly involved in the digital, like everyone else today. Museums, libraries and archives have entered the new world, where they are expected by citizens, policymakers and sponsors to be active in cyberspace in many ways. They are expected to feature their content online and engage audiences, create rich media experiences on par with commercial media outlets and play by the rules of social media. This is quite a challenge for institutions traditionally oriented towards preserving the past rather than adapting to the future. Add to this financial limitations due to the crisis and you get the idea. Cloud computing provides exactly the opportunity required in this time of change. The good news is that a lot of what the sector does requires expertise already available elsewhere: efficiently operating IT infrastructures, the ability to handle large amounts of media, collaboratively improving the quality of content and making it more accessible to users, developing big-data applications using content etc. A lot of this expertise comes from using or building cloud computing services. If the cultural heritage sector is bold enough to proactively adopt cloud computing, then the prominence cultural content can gain in our lives is limitless.
How does Europeana plan to leverage cloud computing in the next 12 months?
We have ambitious plans for cloud computing. We start with critically assessing our own operations and farming out to cloud providers those parts which are better run by them. Continue to the infrastructure level where we adopt a novel Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) approach to developing and hosting applications. Here, we expect to gain efficiencies in how Europeana and its wide network of technology partners develop collaboratively the Europeana service. Last, but definitely not the least, when it comes to content, which is the lifeblood of everything we do, we launch an ambitious Europeana Cloud Services initiative whose goal is to build a Europe-wide cloud-based infrastructure for sharing and distributing cultural heritage content. This is our flagship project aimed at gaining efficiencies in how the European cultural heritage sector aggregates and distributes data. And there is a lot to gain there.
What are the main steps in building success and managing failure in cloud implementations in your sector?
Making the cloud a success is a lot about overcoming prejudice through better education and knowledge sharing. Cloud is a natural next step in the evolution of computing services, but it has undeservedly got a bad press thanks to some juicy stories. But also because regulation is lagging after technological development and that is not technology´s fault. The main steps should be to put prejudice aside. We need to quickly get away from cloud ‘gossip’ and look at specific functional and non-functional requirements. We have to choose experienced technology partners and work in short implementation cycles to mitigate problems. Cloud implementations have to be firmly backed by management because you never know where you will end up after stepping on the cloud path. A lot of changes in an organisation may be required to implement the cloud efficiently.
Why are you speaking at the Public Sector Cloud World Forum and what do you hope to get out from your time at the event?
There are not many cloud initiatives in our sector and we are interested in sharing our plans but also getting feedback from others. It would be great to connect with like-minded initiatives and exchange ideas and experience. Novel technologies, such as cloud computing, is not the first thing that comes to people´s mind when they think of the cultural sector. This might be changing today and we are here to talk about it and raise awareness of the very cool things going on in our sector.