By Eric Conrad, Regional Managing Director, ASEAN, Worldwide Public Sector, AWS
In the last few years, public sector customers around the world have moved quickly to the cloud to accelerate innovation in government, education, nonprofits, space, and healthcare. Cloud technology helped them digitally transform rapidly to better serve citizens while staying resilient and secure.
As we begin 2023, we look at what’s next for public sector technology, and how public sector organizations can continue to adapt and innovate to successfully navigate the constantly evolving global landscape and changing needs of their end users and constituents.
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When AWS started its public sector business in 2010, customers were primarily attracted to the cloud for two reasons: to save money and to promote efficiencies by hosting websites on the cloud and using cloud storage. Over the decade, AWS public sector customers have grown more sophisticated in how they leverage the cloud, and are now realizing additional benefits and potential. They’re seeing increased business agility and scalability, which helped them quickly build and implement new services for citizens, from creating nationwide vaccination platforms in a matter of weeks, to launching apps to tackle misinformation during the pandemic. They are also modernizing infrastructure to save time and improve performance, so they can redirect resources to deliver more value to their end customers. Today, public sector customers are looking to leverage the cloud for more advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things to drive further innovation and efficiencies.
For example, the Zero Waste Zero Hunger (ZWZH) program in South Korea is using data and artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce food waste. At the heart of the program is an AI-based three-dimensional (3D) food scanner, which analyzes food consumption and provides insights to both cafeteria managers and diners. The scanner uses AI and machine learning (ML) to analyze the leftover food, identifying food waste by type and cost and gathering quantitative data that helps cafeteria managers optimize food inventory, quantity, and menu options.
In time, AWS expects that virtually every application will be infused with AI and ML to help drive mission outcomes, lower costs, save valuable time, and more. To get full benefits from ML, it is important to have relevant and high-quality data to inform ML models. For that reason, AWS recommends organizations create data management strategies that will continuously improve the integrity, access, and security of their data.
Using the cloud to improve citizen experiences
Today’s citizens expect a frictionless experience when interacting with the government. Their banks, stores, and hotels do a great job knowing them, predicting their needs, and satisfying them in surprising ways—and they now expect public sector organizations to do the same.
And many are rising to the challenge. More governments and public sector organizations are increasingly relying on the cloud to deliver the right resources at the right time, ranging from unemployment insurance to human services.
In the years ahead, a commitment to enhancing and personalizing citizen experiences will become more pervasive as we continue to advance analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and ML, and as governments become more familiar with deploying these technologies.
Experimenting with Quantum Computing
Quantum computers promise to speed up computational tasks that are beyond the reach of conventional computers. And with the cloud, organizations no longer need to be one of the world’s largest companies or most advanced research institutions to leverage this powerful technology.
A few years ago, AWS launched Amazon Braket, which enables customers to experiment with different types of quantum hardware. For the first time, Amazon Braket made it possible to compare different quantum technologies side by side and to switch between them by changing only one line of code. AWS also recently established the AWS Center for Quantum Computing at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), a pioneer in the fields of quantum computation and quantum information; the AWS Center for Quantum Networking, with a mission to address these fundamental scientific and engineering challenges and to develop new hardware, software, and applications for quantum networks; and the Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab, where we are helping customers to accelerate the development of quantum solutions.
While still in its infancy, we at AWS believe that quantum computing has immense potential and is something we will continue to invest in. As it becomes simpler for organizations to experiment with quantum computing, we encourage our public sector customers to explore what quantum can do for their mission.
Increased access to digital twins and large-scale simulations
A digital twin is a live digital representation of a system and all of its physical and digital components. It is dynamically updated with data to mimic the true structure, state, and behavior of the system.
While the concept of digital twins is not new and dates back to the early days of the space program, the cloud is making the technology much more accessible so all of our customers can build and run simulations at scale. Organizations no longer need special hardware or in-house expertise to reap the benefits.
For example, AWS IoT TwinMaker is a service that allows customers to build operational digital twins of physical and digital systems. The service creates digital visualizations using measurements and analysis from a variety of real-world sensors, cameras, and enterprise applications. And just recently at re:Invent 2022, AWS announced AWS SimSpace Weaver, a fully managed compute service that helps customers build, operate, and run large-scale spatial simulations.
We, at AWS, are already seeing public sector customers take advantage of these technologies, like the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Earlier this year, the school announced a research project designed to create an individual’s “digital twin” using health and environmental data collected from in-home and on-body sensors. Once created, healthcare practitioners use the digital twin to virtually test and evaluate various treatment options and potential outcomes before applying them in the physical world. This is a major advancement that can help deliver precise, personalized medicine based on data collected directly from an individual and their local environment.
As the barriers to entry continue to lower, we predict that more and more public sector organizations will use digital twins to solve their unique mission challenges.
Commercialization of space
The extraordinary growth across the global space industry is creating an incredible opportunity for innovation. In 2021, the space industry grew at its fastest pace in years. And of 1,022 spacecraft placed in orbit during the first six months of 2022, the majority—958—were from the commercial sector.
AWS helps lower the barriers to entry that organizations in the space industry commonly face, including high latency, limited-bandwidth networks, and infrastructure. We’re seeing organizations of all sizes being able to play a part, because AWS gives them the infrastructure, the speed, and the security they need to be successful. Even small organizations can have a big impact by leveraging the cloud for the space missions of tomorrow.
For example, the company Lunar Outpost is using AWS digital engineering tools such as AWS RoboMaker to develop and test a new rover that will autonomously navigate the Moon’s surface and help scientists explore the lunar south pole for the first time. AWS digital engineering tools are integral for testing the robots in a variety of harsh operating conditions in preparation for the first rover’s upcoming launch.
Space innovation can come from anywhere, and we’ll continue to see both government and commercial customers innovate new approaches to space missions.
Organizations with strong digital foundations have proven to be better positioned to move faster and maintain continuity for those they serve. Having the right tools in place will help organizations prepare and respond to any circumstances yet to come, while also helping drive the next wave of innovation. At AWS, we are focused on helping our public sector customers around the world unlock the potential of cloud and accelerate adoption of emerging technologies so they can address challenges and better serve their citizens.