In a challenge to global giants like Amazon and Microsoft, the new agreement will ensure more of our public data is protected under New Zealand’s own law and privacy regulations.

Government agencies now have the option of using a New Zealand owned and operated cloud provider to keep data in local hands.

Catalyst Cloud and the Department of Internal Affairs have reached an all-of-Government Cloud Framework agreement, meaning public agencies will be able to use the New Zealand owned-and-operated company as a cloud services provider.

Previously, agencies following the Government’s Cloud First policy, which required public organisations to use cloud services instead of traditional IT systems, only had the option of storing their information in foreign owned-and-operated data centres, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft. Furthermore, most of these are off-shore.

Catalyst Cloud chief executive Doug Dixon was confident public agencies would take up his company’s services, but he expected this would take time.

“It’s going to be gradual, things with Government procurement and migration don’t happen overnight,” he said.

Dixon said the arrangement paved the way for the public sector to use a local cloud provider, where data was held onshore and came under New Zealand law and privacy data regulations.

“Self-determination is a very real thing in the digital economy. That is super important and can have very practical implications,” he said.

“Not all of the time, but when things get difficult and when the geopolitical situation changes over time, then being able to assert our own self-sovereignty over our own data is vitally important.”

Dixon pointed to how information stored in foreign owned cloud services did not enjoy the same protections as data held onshore.

For example, US-owned cloud service providers were subjected to American laws, such as the US CLOUD Act, which meant the companies could be forced to hand over data to American authorities, regardless of where the data was stored.

New Zealand’s immunisation registry was among our data kept offshore on US-owned servers in Australia, prompting calls to repatriate the data and put it in the hands of local providers.

Digital economy and communications minister David Clark said the Covid-19 tracer app was among the cloud-based technologies and the service was a foundation for future development.

He was pleased to see Catalyst Cloud as a new player seeking to differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive market in New Zealand’s growing digital sector.

Potential users of the new arrangement would start by signing a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Internal Affairs, as it was the lead agency on cloud framework agreements. After that, the agency signed an affiliate agreement contract with Catalyst Cloud.

A Department of Internal Affairs spokesperson said greater availability of onshore cloud storage options could enhance the protection of New Zealand data.

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