AWS Public Sector Blog

International government leaders join three-day learning program at re:Invent

Teresa Carlson, AWS VP of Worldwide Public Sector, and Max Peterson, AWS VP of International Public Sector Sales, kick off the program with a fireside chat.

Teresa Carlson, AWS VP of Worldwide Public Sector, and Max Peterson, AWS VP of International Public Sector Sales, kick off the program with a fireside chat.

This year’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) Government Delegation Day at re:Invent in Las Vegas had a similar look and feel to last year’s inaugural program – but with a more global and expansive twist.

The 2019 program welcomed a diverse crowd of international government executives from 40 countries, including from Europe, Asia, Latin America, Canada, and the Middle East. Over 300 government officials made the trip to Las Vegas for this customized talent development initiative that focused on the below key themes:

Creating a culture of transformation

Government executives share a desire to innovate for their organizations. Still, for many, it hasn’t happened yet. Public sector leaders cite several barriers, including restrictive regulations, insufficient workforce skills, or an organizational culture that resists change. The program agenda addressed these barriers and demonstrated how they can be (and have been) overcome with the right inputs – beginning with the right people and processes.

Dr. Werner Vogels, Amazon.com CTO, speaks with Sandy Carter, AWS VP of Partner & Programs, during the Government Delegation Program.

Dr. Werner Vogels, Amazon.com CTO, speaks with Sandy Carter, AWS VP of Partner & Programs, during the Government Delegation Program.

How Amazon innovates

Dr. Werner Vogels, Amazon’s Chief Technology Officer, underscored that governments can be as innovative as Amazon and shared best practices. In his presentation on Amazon’s innovation strategy, he focused on the need to empower people through small teams and to entrust them to take responsibility for the outcomes of their decisions. He also spoke about working backwards starting with the customer and the benefits of encouraging and dissecting new ideas through Amazon’s six-page narrative approach.

Adopting cloud-first policies

From the customer side, government leaders from several countries, including Bahrain and Colombia, discussed how adopting cloud-first policies helped accelerate modernization. Adopting such policies requires the right leadership, a focus on specific projects, failing fast, and an unrelenting commitment to serving the needs of constituents. A key piece of advice they shared for successfully managing the cloud journey is to set hard goals, even if it means changing traditional ways of doing things to achieve these goals.

Spending smarter, innovating faster

Leaders from Argentina and Europe shared lessons learned on setting up procurement mechanisms to enable governments to compare service and price offerings from vendors before making purchasing decisions. For these government executives, the ability to demonstrate real cost savings and performance benefits were two reasons to move to the cloud.

Data-driven government

Customers from public sector organizations in Canada and Australia noted how AWS has helped them collect and utilize data in real-time, increasing speed and efficiency. This, in turn, helps governments deliver services that users need, in a safe and effective way. For example, data analysis enabled one courier and freight-service provider to detect a higher-than-average rate of accidents on a particular trucking route. It became clear that drivers on this route lacked essential training required for the job. With the right training administered, the route saw a decrease in accident rates and an improvement in overall driver and public safety.

Amazon’s Worldwide Sustainability lead, Kara Hurst, added a new dimension to the data-driven discussion by presenting on the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative and the implications for global governments. She set the context for Amazon’s Climate Pledge and its commitment to become 80% reliant on renewable energy by 2024 and 100% by 2030. Hurst also shared actions to both reduce individuals’ personal carbon footprint and make critical climate-related datasets more accessible to the public.

Stephen Schmidt, AWS Chief Information Security Officer, discusses key points for integrating security at all stages of the cloud journey.

Stephen Schmidt, AWS Chief Information Security Officer, discusses key points for integrating security at all stages of the cloud journey.

AWS Open Government Solutions

On the theme of data accessibility, AWS VP of International Public Sector Sales, Max Peterson, pre-announced the launch of the AWS Open Government Solutions platform. A new initiative of the AWS Government Transformation team, the platform is an open source catalogue for governments to collaborate and share code and standards of practice. This exists to help AWS customers replicate solutions for government that work to help innovate faster.

Peterson also sat down with Teresa Carlson, VP of Worldwide Public Sector at AWS, for a fireside chat about the state of public sector IT modernization and how governments around the world are making strides with the cloud. Carlson emphasized opportunities for customers to upskill their workforce and harness new tech talent, leveraging programs like AWS Educate and AWS Training and Certification.

The program highlighted security as the greatest priority when it comes to adopting cloud technology. AWS Chief Information Security Officer, Stephen Schmidt, said that security must not be something that is just bolted on; it has to be ingrained in the operations process. He shared 10 priority areas for security teams to spend time on:

  1. Accurate account information
  2. Multi-factor authentication
  3. No hard-coding secrets
  4. Limit security groups
  5. Intentional data policies
  6. Centralize AWS CloudTrail logs
  7. Validate IAM roles
  8. Take action on GuardDuty findings
  9. Rotate your keys
  10. Involvement in development cycle

The AWS Government Delegation Program was hosted by AWS Public Sector Executive Programs and the AWS Institute. The Institute aims to help break down barriers between public, private, and nonprofit sectors to identify common problems and engage technology experts to find a path forward. For more insights, visit the Government Delegation Program website. To inquire about joining this global network of peers, email government-delegation@amazon.com.

Maysam Ali

Maysam Ali

Maysam Ali is global content lead for the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Institute, based in Washington, DC. She writes about how technology helps solve challenges in the public sector. The AWS Institute helps break down barriers between public, private, and nonprofit sectors to identify common problems and engage technology experts to find a path forward. For more information on the AWS Institute, visit https://aws.amazon.com/institute/.

Randi Larson

Randi Larson

Randi Larson leads executive content and programs for the Worldwide Public Sector at Amazon Web Services (AWS). She seeks to facilitate meaningful dialogue around the beneficial uses of technology by convening leaders and visionaries from education, government, and the nonprofit community.