AWS Public Sector Blog

Improving virtual education, economic research, and environmental data: The latest from AWS CICs

Cloud Innovation Centers (CICs) powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) aim to empower public sector organizations to quickly create and test new ideas using Amazon’s innovation methodology. In the second half of 2020, all those who participate in the CIC program, from students and researchers to the technology teams from AWS, worked on wide-ranging societal problems. Their focus was on improving education with virtual computer labs, working on climate change initiatives, improving economic and healthcare research, and supporting at-risk high school students. What were they up to at the end of 2020?

woman checking her smart phone standing on busy city street

Connecting communities with needed services

The Arizona State University (ASU) CIC focuses on building smart city solutions that help solve pressing community and regional challenges. In 2020, they leveraged cloud-based applications and online platforms to help connect communities. Among their many innovations, the ASU Smart City CIC teamed up with the city of Tempe, Arizona to help provide access to safe, affordable care for children. They designed Care4Me, a guided search app that uses a matching system to connect local families to child care subsidies and tuition support, among other resources.

Knowing that human services transportation is an essential service for seniors and people with health or mobility issues that prevent them from driving, the ASU Smart City CIC worked to develop the Transit Reporting Information Portal System (TRIP). The TRIP application gives human service transit providers the ability to collect, report, and analyze transit data. Citizen wellness is not the only way that cloud-based applications can make an impact. The ASU Smart City CIC also focused their resources on building a tactical climate intervention planning application.

The University of British Columbia Community (UBC) Health and Wellbeing CIC was busy launching the Cloud Innovation Centre Network (CIC-NET) platform, which provides an intuitive interface for UBC CIC student alumni to view information, ask questions, post updates, and learn more after the completion of their work.

female student sitting at laptop at home with headphones listening to lecture

Improving student success through virtual education

While connecting communities to services is necessary for citizen well-being, with the move to remote education, schools, teachers, students, and parents continue to need improved access to virtual learning. The California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) DxHub CIC focused on three big projects to help tackle this challenge.

To help educators facilitate lab work from home for their computer science class, which requires students to manipulate operating systems not supported on most personal devices, DxHub developed a website that allows students to spin up and alter the operating systems with Amazon Machine Images (AMI) from home. The solution costs $26 per student, and provides the faculty member full administrative access on the backend to manage spend and appropriate access.

The DxHub also teamed up with the Grizzly Youth Academy, a hybrid K12 institution by the U.S. National Guard with a rehabilitation program for high school juniors and seniors at risk of dropping out. The academy lasts six months and teaches students skills to support lifetime success. They collaborated with DxHub to pilot a mobile application that provides a daily routine planner, a record of monthly counselor check-ins, and streamed content for exercise routines that provides graduates structure and a connection to the lessons learned at the academy.

The DxHub also helped with Cal Poly’s annual Cyber Range events, which teach high school students cybersecurity skills and test what they learned. The DxHub designed a scalable Cyber Range event using a custom virtual environment for students to access AMIs and perform digital forensics activities like operating system exploitation, analytics, and encryption. Producing a similar experience to an escape room, students explored simulated virtual settings to solve puzzles, find codes, and perform digital forensics activities using AWS. This allowed teachers to assess and teach students using the federally recognized NIST/NICE cybersecurity framework. More than 500 students have used this solution to date and it is architected and developed to scale to over 10,000 users. Learn more about the innovation challenge and open source resources.

close up of hands typing on laptop keyboard with data analysis overlayed

Leveraging data for innovation

Data is powerful, and these CIC challenges proved it. The DxHub teamed up with NatureServe, a nonprofit focused on collecting, mapping, and providing access to comprehensive biodiversity data and scientific information to support land and water conservation decisions. Together, they used data to make education decisions around land use, and launched a platform that allows the NatureServe partner network to upload data to NatureServe, and allows them to set access and resolution permissions for their datasets to prevent misuse. Learn more about the innovation challenge and open source resources and how NatureServe is working with AWS to promote biodiversity conservation with open data.

The UBC CIC teamed up with the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) to automate economic data extraction, and later with the Rural Coordination Centre of British Columbia and the British Columbia Emergency Medicine Network to create the Smart Access to Guide Emergency Care (SAGE), a repository of information about the availability of equipment, supplies, and personnel in rural areas.

On the other side of the globe, the University of Bahrain CIC tacked AI powered digital sign language translation with the Ministry of information Affairs (MIA). Together, they designed VoiceMate, a solution to support people with hearing impairments watch the news. To see this innovation up close, check out a working demo of the digital avatar developed by the University of Bahrain CIC.

Any public sector organization, including nonprofits, government agencies, healthcare organizations, and education institutions that are facing a challenge can apply to work with a Cloud Innovation Center to help identify new approaches to problems, leverage leading-edge technology, and explore opportunities to better deliver on their mission. Send the CIC team a message if you are interested in working on a challenge to support your digital innovation initiatives and advance your organization’s mission. Listen to the latest episode of the Fix This podcast, to learn more about CICs.