AWS Public Sector Blog

What you missed at the public sector leadership session at re:Invent 2021

At the 10th anniversary of re:Invent, Max Peterson, vice president of worldwide public sector at Amazon Web Services (AWS) took to the stage for a leadership session to discuss how public sector customers are innovating on Earth and beyond.

Max highlighted AWS customers’ innovative advancements to empower communities and transform the future of research, as well as new cloud-powered paths to space exploration and the impact this has on our lives here on Earth. He was joined by customers who shared their stories of how they’re leveraging the cloud to drive their missions. Plus, Max announced a series of new initiatives for public sector customers. Read on for what you might have missed during the leadership session:

Empowering people to change the world

The 2021 Imagine Grant winners use the cloud to maximize change across the globe
To solve the world’s most pressing challenges, we need diverse, innovative minds to develop solutions. In 2018, AWS created the Imagine Grant to empower and fund US-based nonprofits using cloud technology to meet critical needs. Since then, we have awarded more than $4.5 million in unrestricted funds, AWS Promotional Credit, and AWS training support to 46 nonprofit organizations in support of their technology-driven goals. During the session, Max announced the 20 winners of the 2021 grants. Read more about the 2021 Imagine Grant winners.

African Leadership Group and AWS to connect 20 million people globally to training and jobs
As the global economy rapidly transforms, education, training, and reskilling are all vital to making sure people across the globe are equipped to succeed in the future economy. The African Leadership Group announced a commitment to create a matching program to connect global talent to in-demand technical careers. AWS will help power “The Room Intelligence Platform” and offer cloud training curriculum to assist in the effort. The Room aims to empower, connect, and train 20 million people over 10 years from across the globe. Learn more.

IronNet uses AWS to protect the NYC power grid and keep New Yorkers moving
IronNet, an AWS partner, has combined forces with the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the state’s largest power utility, in a cloud-based cybersecurity solution that will provide collective defense to the NYPA, and its key supply chain partners. Powered by AWS, IronNet’s proprietary machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) will allow for real-time threat detection and correlation across organizations in NYPA’s supply chain, allowing them to see cyberattacks earlier, share threats instantly, and stop attacks faster. This type of collaboration aims to protect the power grid serving the citizens of New York from malicious cyberattacks that can shut down critical businesses and infrastructure like power plants, schools, and hospitals.

AWS empowers Pennsylvania’s small business economy with new “buy local” search program
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with so many consumers shifting to online shopping during the pandemic, local businesses were hit especially hard. Working with AWS Partner, Mindgrub, AWS will launch a “buy local” search platform to prioritize Pennsylvania-based businesses, which is now onboarding local merchants. The platform will launch in the coming months, and the program will help meet the commonwealth’s goals of supporting small businesses.

Expo 2020 Dubai creates an interconnected global experience with the cloud
Taif Muhsin, vice president of integrated operations at Expo 2020 Dubai, spoke virtually during Max’s leadership session about how Expo 2020 Dubai used the cloud to pivot the massive international event in response to the pandemic, and is now establishing a model for how global events can connect people around the world.

Because much of the Expo’s infrastructure was already on the cloud, Muhsin explained they had the flexibility needed to scale quickly, reducing costs by 70% during the Expo’s postponement. During the delay, the Expo team built new virtual experiences like Expo Dubai Xplorer, an interactive and educational game that allows users to walk around the Expo remotely. The Expo team also used technology to improve the in-person experience when the event resumed. They built a data science platform with AWS to provide insights for things like crowd management and prediction. AWS’s multi-regional disaster recovery makes sure that the Expo has high availability and the resiliency needed to provide the best guest experience and avoid downtime.

“We’ve learned a lot over these past six years, and have been pleased to pave the way in establishing a model of how global events can connect people around the world, in person or virtually,” Muhsin said. Expo 2020 Dubai is ongoing through March 2022 — visit Expo 2020 Dubai here.

AARP empowers its members and is revolutionizing how people can live as they age
Najeeb Uddin, chief information officer (CIO) of AARP, took the stage during Max’s leadership session and shared how AARP is leveraging the cloud to support the vast population of people aged 50 and older. He highlighted the efforts AARP is taking to revolutionize how people can live their lives as they age. “Our cloud journey began ten years ago,” said Uddin. “Today, our members can get the help and resources they need in a consistent way across any device, any time – day or night, on any channel.”

This cloud journey helped support AARP’s transformation during the pandemic to best support its members. Before the pandemic, AARP’s 53 state offices hosted only dozens of virtual events, alongside thousands of in-person events. “Last year, we did a complete 180 and were able to produce over 5,000 high-quality virtual events that reached over four and a half million people,” Uddin said. Leveraging the cloud also allowed AARP to provide new solutions and scale to keep members informed during the pandemic. For instance, its cloud-based help center was able to support a 152% increase of inbound requests. Uddin closed out his presentation by encouraging the audience to think big: “When you are creating the next great things on AWS, no matter how old you are, I want you to think: what would you design for a future version of you?”

Transforming the future of research to protect our planet and save lives

UC Davis Health and AWS announce first Cloud Innovation Center at an academic medical center
AWS launched the world’s first Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) based at an academic medical center in collaboration with University of California (UC), Davis Health. Practicing Amazon’s Working Backwards principles, the UC Davis Health CIC will provide a space for clinicians, patients, and developers to exchange ideas, prototype, and validate open-source solutions focused on improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities. The UC Davis Health CIC will tackle some of the most pressing challenges around health equity, access to care, and population health against the backdrop of a health system that is rapidly undergoing digital transformation. Read more about the UC Davis Health CIC powered by AWS.

Lockheed Martin uses AWS to boost climate preparedness and influence policymakers with natural disaster simulators
As our climate changes and natural disasters increase, it is vital that decision makers are equipped to manage the coming crises. AWS has partnered with Lockheed Martin to develop a natural disaster simulation that allows customers to model scenarios that are otherwise too dangerous, time consuming, or costly to replicate in the real world. These kinds of simulations are made possible by cloud computing power, and these simulations are critical to help policymakers and their constituents make more informed decisions, increase disaster preparedness, and keep people safe.

UBC launches global research initiative to conserve marine habitats and wildlife
The University of British Columbia (UBC) has launched an international research initiative called the “Sea Around Us” to assess the impact of fisheries on marine environments. This cloud-based initiative includes academic institutions from across the globe and can collect, analyze, and store fisheries-related information from every maritime country since 1950. This real-time data is turned into insights that offer mitigating solutions to a range of stakeholders to help better conserve marine habitats and protect critical wildlife. UBC is leveraging our Cloud Innovation Centers (CICs) to test new ideas and access AWS technology expertise.

The University of Oxford drives cutting edge research and advancements with the cloud
Louise Richardson, vice chancellor at the University of Oxford, spoke virtually in Max’s leadership session and shared how Oxford’s collaboration with AWS and use of cloud technology is helping the university drive cutting edge research. Over the past 24 months, hundreds of Oxford students and researchers used AWS services in their research. “Our engagement has enabled Oxford to accelerate a diverse portfolio of research, from advancing our understanding of ancient artifacts and ecosystems to creating cutting edge trustworthy artificial intelligence systems and advanced autonomous robots,” said Richardson.

Using AWS, a team from Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum — the first museum in the world to be opened to the public in 1683 — built and deployed a collection of ML models, allowing the team to catalog 300,000 ancient Roman coins and save an estimated three years of work compared to traditional means.

At Oxford’s Wytham Woods, an ancient woodland and pioneering ecological  research site, a cross-disciplinary university team is using AWS as a backbone to provide live connections from 40 Internet of Things (IoT) sensors installed on grassland plots to drones and mobile robots, which survey the plots with multi-spectral and 3D imaging tools. “The data from this network of environmental sensors will help us explore the potential effects of climate change on biodiversity, building predictive models in the cloud and forming a digital twin of a real ecosystem in an ancient woodland,” explained Richardson.

“As might be expected, the ambition of an Oxford-AWS engagement is substantial,” Richardson told the re:Invent audience. “As collaborators, we remain open and forward-looking. There is so much more to be done — and we look forward to the challenge.”

Reimagining space exploration

Astra uses the cloud to accelerate and innovate rocket technology
Stratos Davlos, senior vice president of software engineering at Astra, joined Max on the re:Invent stage to explain how Astra uses the cloud to design and build rockets, to help get data insights more quickly, and to ultimately drive Astra’s mission to improve life on earth from space. Astra supports customers in missions like powering more efficient and affordable agriculture and providing broadband connectivity to the unserved and underserved populations around the world.

“Being a cloud-first company is in our DNA,” said Davlos. Speed is critical in enabling Astra to get to insights more quickly, so that they can iterate, innovate, and automate fast. “Astra was intentionally built on the cloud to ensure we’re able to move quickly and make data-driven decisions,” Davlos added. Davlos explained how everything Astra does — from designing a part or system, to sourcing materials, to initial testing and flight simulation of their rockets, to managing financial information — is done on the cloud.

Plus, AWS services support Astra’s rapid evolution with the insights they gain through ML and more. “We were able to iterate from Gen 1 to Gen 3 rockets in just a few years, which historically has taken up to a decade in the industry,” Davlos said.

“We’re tremendously excited about how these efforts will allow our customers get to space quicker, more cost-effectively, and more reliably, so they can bring to all of us positive outcomes,” Davlos shared.

Statement of Strategic Intent with Singapore opens new doors for space innovation in Asia
AWS signed a Statement of Strategic Intent and Cooperation with Singapore’s national space office, the Office for Space Technology & Industry (OSTIn). This statement of strategic intent is the first of its kind for AWS in Asia and supports both AWS’s commitment to innovating for our customers and partners in the new space age, and Singapore’s focus on space as a new area for economic growth and technology development. Our cooperation will support Singapore’s long-term space goals by providing AWS resources to support businesses, educate and train talent, and enable the development of new innovative products and services. Read more about the Statement of Strategic Intent with Singapore to support space technology.

“I hope this session has helped you think bigger about what is possible,” Max said as he closed his session. “The bottom line is this: don’t get left behind. Make sure you are leading, and your organization is ready for the future. AWS wants to help you get there.”

Watch Max Peterson’s leadership session, as well as other keynotes, breakout sessions, and more, on demand through the re:Invent virtual platform.

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