AWS Public Sector Blog

Helping battle COVID-19 and improve cities: How AWS CICs foster innovation


Left: healthy lungs, captured in a CT scan; right: the lungs of someone infected with COVID-19.

Technology and the cloud can help address some of the world’s most pressing and immediate challenges, like battling COVID-19 and improving cities. At Amazon Web Services (AWS), we encourage innovation through technology in our AWS Cloud Innovation Centers (CICs).

CICs are long-term, strategic collaborations with public sector organizations interested in solving societal problems through digital solutions while providing students a platform to learn by doing. The goal of CICs is to solve public sector challenges that will address, over time, the real-life problems or opportunities facing public sector organizations. Our priority is to transfer these innovations from challenge and prototype to solutions as quickly as possible.

Check out a few of the challenges CICs around the world have worked on so far this year.

Diagnosing COVID-19 through CT scans

The University of British Columbia (UBC), the UBC CIC, Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), and Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Research Institute are working to enable diagnosis of COVID-19 through computed tomography (CT) scans as an alternative to testing.

The proposed solution uses machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), as well as open data to diagnosis COVID-19 through CT scans. This collaborative project includes contributions from UBC CIC staff, radiologists from VGH, medical, computer science, and engineering students from UBC, and AWS technical support—nearly 100 people coordinated by the UBC CIC team. The project is using credit through the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative. The UBC CIC plans to host a website that will present the model to the public, enabling healthcare professionals to submit CT scans for recommendations on probability of the presence of COVID-19.

Tracking developments of COVID-19 to help make better public health decisions

The University of Swinburne Data for Social Good CIC is creating a tool to help inform public health decision makers on the current status and future developments of COVID-19, as well as support citizens with monitoring their or their loved one’s health, based on current virus symptoms and local government recommendations.

To do this, the team created the BeatCovid19Now symptom tracker. The solution came out of a hackathon held in March led by Professor Richard Osborne, an expert in global health and epidemiology at Swinburne. After the hackathon, a solution review workshop was held on the proof-of-concept, to provide scalable architecture guidance to AWS Partner Network (APN) Partner, Arq Group, who completed the production build and hosting on AWS.

Updating and improving city services

Arizona State University (ASU) Smart City CIC is working on several projects to improve services to residents in the local community, including the City of Phoenix.

First, the ASU CIC is exploring how to update the city of Phoenix’s 311 services—the non-emergency phone number for local information, services, and complaints. Second, the ASU CIC is developing Amazon Alexa payments and information query prototype for the city water department to demonstrate how the Alexa digital assistant can be used to lessen traffic in the city’s 19 call centers.

To cultivate a culture of innovation and educate on cloud capabilities, the ASU CIC held workshops with various local government groups, including the City of Albuquerque police department on a data lake solution, the Pima County Association of Governments on transportation planning, and ASU Decision Theater on data science application.

The ASU CIC is continuing work on four innovation prototypes, including: The Hope for Homelessness Platform for the Phoenix Human Services Campus, Reducing Poverty Social Services Platform for the Northeastern Arizona Community Resources Network, Graffiti Abatement for the City of Tempe, and Business Intelligence Application for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Learn more about AWS Cloud Innovation Centers and email us at for more information.

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Ben Butler

Ben Butler

Ben Butler is the global lead for Amazon Web Services (AWS) worldwide public sector cloud innovation programs, focusing on driving digital innovation for societal good in the worldwide public sector. Ben is an U.S. Air Force veteran and holds a B.S. in systems engineering from the University of Virginia, a M.S. in management information systems from Bowie State University, and a M.B.A. at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Ben is based in Herndon, Virginia.