AWS Public Sector Blog

USAID uses Amazon Transcribe to publish speeches in minutes

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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a federal government agency responsible for extending civilian foreign aid and development assistance, such as for countries that need disaster response and recovery resources, are trying to escape poverty, and are engaging in democratic reforms.

To highlight their global missions and promote transparency in their work, USAID publishes any public remarks from USAID Administrator Samantha Power on their website. In the past, these speeches, covering topics from pressing national security issues to USAID’s evolving development mission, took a day or more to transcribe and verify manually. After migrating to the cloud, USAID knew it could streamline this process with cloud technology. USAID created a solution with Amazon Transcribe, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered service from Amazon Web Services (AWS), in collaboration with AWS Partner CloudShape. Now, USAID transcribes and publishes remarks in minutes.

USAID’s technology vision

USAID has missions in more than 80 countries around the world and programs in more than 100. Like many federal agencies over the last decade, USAID underwent wholesale IT modernization. This included a cloud-first, iterative technology strategy.

USAID’s vision for digital transformation is rooted in two core development objectives:

  1. Improve measurable development and humanitarian assistance outcomes through the responsible use of digital technology in its programming
  1. Strengthen the openness, inclusiveness, and security of country digital ecosystems

In 2018, USAID consolidated its IT environments and selected AWS as one of its cloud service providers (CSPs) necessary for a multi-cloud migration. Tactically, USAID maintains two data centers on the US coasts with a small footprint to connect to its CSPs. USAID uses multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) to connect its domestic users to its data center on the East Coast, whereas many overseas users are routed to the West Coast location so that latency is reduced by 60 milliseconds to 100 milliseconds.

In designing the Amazon Transcribe solution, the CloudShape team prioritized security first. The AWS Cloud environment and USAID’s integrated cloud platform support compliance requirements for the Privacy Act, the Freedom of Information Security Management Act (FISMA), the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), the Federal Records Act, the Trade Secrets Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. Working with AWS, USAID designed a cloud environment that is compatible with these requirements.

Sukhvinder Singh, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for USAID, estimates that “95% or more of our infrastructure is in the cloud.” Their cloud platform has transformed the organization’s capacity for data-driven development assistance and disaster and recovery capabilities. Access to cloud-based resources has also secured highly available access to digital resources for the 13,000-plus users of USAID’s development information solution.

USAID uses cloud-enabled services to automate communication strategy

When USAID’s Office of Legislative and Public Affairs (LPA) requested a low cost, user-friendly solution to provide full transcriptions of recorded interviews and public remarks delivered by Administrator Power, they worked with AWS and CloudShape to build a solution.

Previously, the Administrator’s public remarks were manually transcribed and published on the USAID website in a tedious process that took at least a day to complete. USAID realized that the speed and agility provided by AWS could support the transcription and automation of the workflow to publish the Administrator’s remarks in a way their existing legacy process could not. The automated transcription solution developed with AWS and CloudShape helps the public access USAID communications faster and more simply.

USAID’s transcription solution uses Amazon Transcribe, an AI-powered service that automatically converts speech to text, as well as Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), AWS Elemental MediaConvert, Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS), and AWS Lambda, to automatically convert recordings into a text file and then notify the appropriate user when the transcription is complete.

USAID looks to a future in the cloud

In building responsive cloud-based solutions, such as the AI-powered transcription and publication solution with AWS and CloudShape, USAID is furthering its goal of becoming a nimble organization and technology leader. Solutions like these can save staff time and resources, which can help organizations like USAID keep their focus on the high-value activities that support mission success.

If you would like to learn more about how AWS is helping public sector organizations develop AI-driven transcription solutions, please explore AWS’ machine learning blog. Learn more about how CloudShape supports digital transformation in the cloud across government organizations, industry, and more.