AWS Public Sector Blog

Failing fast: How the cloud allows you to innovate on behalf of citizens

How are startup organizations able to innovate so quickly? Without the large monetary commitment to a physical infrastructure, they can lean on the cloud to provide an environment that allows them to fail—securely and without a large upfront investment.

Government agencies are depending on the cloud to do exactly the same – set up an inexpensive environment to scale up and down as testing requires, and deliver the tools they need to improve the lives of their citizens.

Why is failing important? Innovation is not easy. It doesn’t usually come on the first pass, and can be the culmination of years of testing—and failing. In a recent GovLoop webinar, Chris Adzima, Senior Information Systems Analyst for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, discussed the importance of cloud as his team built a program to better determine the identities of people in surveillance footage.

For smaller agencies and organizations thinking about moving to the cloud, Adzima encouraged taking the leap. “You have to just get out there and get your hands dirty. Don’t worry too much about failing.”

Building the infrastructure for this program would have required a large capital investment for the physical servers and resources required to secure and analyze the data. With such a large upfront investment, road blocks along the way could be time-consuming and expensive.

According to Brian Tracy, Sr. Solutions Architecture Manager at AWS, “Programmable infrastructure has revolutionized IT. Agencies who ‘fail fast’ are able to pilot their ideas as prototypes and test without worrying about the cost of the infrastructure.”

While many governments are beginning to migrate their data to the cloud, core services, such as computing, storage, database and a virtual private cloud allow agencies to build without worry. “AWS builds all of these capabilities for you, which means you don’t have to become a deep, subject-matter expert in every technology you want to implement,” Tracy noted.

Using Amazon Rekognition, a learning-based image analysis program, the facial-recognition software indexed over 300,000 booking photos for Washington County, all stored securely in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets and they are is using it to create an accompanying mobile application, through which deputies could upload pictures directly from their phones, do a search, and receive immediate results. “It’s one more key tool in the detectives’ toolbox,” Adzima said.

Adzima emphasized that making the switch to the cloud is easy. “You don’t have to be a developer or data scientist to take advantage of the cloud. With this technology, anyone can leverage powerful services you might not have been able to use otherwise.”