When it comes to using and deploying technology to respond to the coronavirus, time is of the essence.
“It’s not just about if you can do it, but how fast can you do it? You just can’t wait,” said Sandy Carter, Vice President of Public Sector Partners and Programs at Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Cloud computing is one of the technologies that has enabled and empowered agencies to respond as quickly as possible to the COVID-19 virus. It scales operations, secures data and distributes data, Carter said at GovLoop’s recent COVID-19 virtual summit. In this way, agencies such as the Kansas Department of Labor, and even researchers around the world, can help flatten the curve and deliver services to those in need.
Cloud computing can scale operations, and scale quickly. For many agencies, especially on the state and local levels where constituents are contacting their governments for information and aid, they have had no choice but to move to the cloud because it is the only way to scale up operations quickly. Government agencies have experienced a massive influx of inbound calls, many looking for help with unemployment claims.
The Kansas Department of Labor, for example, once received 877,000 calls in one day. “That’s more than what they would receive in an entire month,” Carter noted.
“We assisted them by expanding call capacity and the automatic triage of calls,” Carter said. Routine requests were directed to automated services, which freed representatives to handle more complex matters. With the help of cloud technology, the agency was able to scale up their operations and handle the exponential increase of calls to get services to people in need.
With the rise in cyberthreats, ransomware and phishing, security is even more important than before. And many organizations have migrated to the cloud precisely for that reason.
“One of the primary reasons agencies move to the cloud is to enhance security,” Carter said. “We say it’s priority zero.”
Services that are FedRAMP-approved — which means it has the government seal of approval in security assessment and authorization — allow agencies to inherit security for any workload they host on the service. The Treasury Department, for example, has deployed this kind of cloud service to secure their valuable data and networks and keep cyberthreats at bay.
Data is the new soil, not the new oil — because everything grows from data.
“Leveraging data is what is helping us flatten the curve,” Carter said. Data on supply chains for grocery store items or medical supplies help responders take the best course of action quickly, whether that’s on the frontline or behind a screen.
The COVID-19 Open Research Dataset is one cloud-powered tool helping researchers around the world. The dataset hosts 47,000 papers and research material on the coronavirus. Researchers can quickly and easily find relevant documents through natural language processing, which is a type of artificial intelligence that analyzes, deciphers and functions on how we naturally speak.
“It’s that kind of access to data that enables you to move quickly,” Carter said. “We need to make decisions at a new normal pace. We need to get data into everybody’s hands.”
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