Posted by Hiwa Afandi, Head of the Department of Information Technology, Kurdistan Regional Government
Editor's note: Today, we hear from Hiwa Afandi, Head of the Department of Information Technology for the Kurdistan Regional Government, the official ruling body of Iraqi Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.
Why did the Kurdistan Regional Government decide to move to Google Apps?
We want to improve our operational efficiency and modernize our technology. We also want to help our 300,000 employees across the Kurdistan Regional Government’s ministries and departments to collaborate and communicate more easily. Like many emerging markets in the Middle East, lack of proper infrastructure and Internet service providers in our region make it very difficult to achieve true “interconnectedness.” That’s why we see Google Apps for Business, and cloud computing in general, as the kind of innovative technology that can help us to achieve our objectives.
What factors did you consider before making the move to Google?
Pricing was definitely a consideration. We are working on several large IT projects that are resource-intensive, including a state-of-the-art data center and government cloud. We like that Google is very price-competitive. But many other benefits – such as ease of use and management, speed, and reliability – were important factors in our decision, as well. We also have full trust in Google’s data security and privacy safeguards.
How many people in the Kurdistan Regional Government are using Google Apps?
About 3,000 employees are currently using Google Apps, including my IT team of 180. Several of the early adopters will be taking the lead in a “train the trainee” program in 2014. One person in each ministry or department will become the Google administrator for that unit and will train other users on how to use Google Apps.
Is there a Google partner assisting with your move to Google Apps?
Our Google partner is BRAMS, based in Dubai. They are helping us to transition both quickly and smoothly to Google Apps from our legacy systems, such as Microsoft Exchange.
How do you see employees using Google Apps after the rollout?
Steve Jobs once said that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. In a developing country like ours, people sometimes need time to accept and adjust to innovation. I think that once our employees see how easily they can communicate and collaborate with each other – and all from a single platform – they will want to use Google Apps more and more. They will be able to work more efficiently.
What about your IT team? Will the move to Google Apps help make them more productive?
The move to Google Apps has already made our team more productive. I introduced Google Apps to my team as soon as I joined the IT department. It didn’t take long for them to embrace tools like Google Calendar, Google Chat and Google Docs for everyday work. On a broader scale, by moving the entire Kurdistan Regional Government to Google Apps for Business, my IT team doesn’t have to worry about the technicalities of hosting and configuring a complex data center for email and collaboration solutions. That prevents a huge headache. I only have about five people devoted to Google tasks for the entire government. The rest of my team is free to focus on other responsibilities.
I want to emphasize how important that is, especially as the Kurdistan Regional Government pursues a number of other important IT initiatives. In the Middle East, skilled IT resources are difficult to find and retain, and are often expensive to hire. So, we must use our IT resources wisely. Again, that’s why Google Apps and other cloud solutions are so beneficial to us. We don’t have to worry about heavy data storage or processing infrastructure. There is no need to install hardware, implement software or perform complex integrations. We can just focus on our business and on innovation. That is a huge enabling factor for our government.