AWS Public Sector Blog

Pushing boundaries to achieve innovative breakthroughs: Key takeaways from the AWS Public Sector Summit Online 2021 keynote

AWS PSSO keynote Teresa Carlson Max Peterson

Organizations across the public sector are leveraging the cloud to drive their missions forward with cutting-edge innovation. At the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Summit Online, vice president of worldwide public sector and industries Teresa Carlson and vice president of worldwide public sector Max Peterson at AWS shared the latest updates and spoke with leaders who are reinventing what’s possible using the AWS Cloud. Here’s what you missed.

And don’t forget to check out more than 45 breakout sessions at the Summit.

Announcing the second round of funding for the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative and plans to distribute $12 million in 2021

To accelerate diagnostic innovation in the fight against COVID-19, we launched the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative last year. Through this initiative, AWS committed $20 million in computing credits and customized expertise from the AWS Professional Services team to support customers using AWS to drive diagnostic innovations. In the first phase of the initiative, AWS helped 87 organizations in 17 countries ranging from nonprofits and research institutions to startups and large businesses. This week, AWS launched the next phase of the program, expanding support to three new areas: 1) early disease detection to identify outbreaks at the individual and at the community level; 2) prognosis to better understand disease trajectory; and 3) public health genomics to bolster viral genome sequencing worldwide. AWS plans to distribute the remaining $12 million of support it has set aside for the program this year. Applications are open—apply now.

Using the cloud to detect signs of infection at Stanford University

Dr. Michael Snyder, Ph.D., professor and chair of genetics for Stanford University’s School of Medicine, detailed how his team developed a smartwatch app to alert users when their bodies show signs of fighting an infection up to 10 days before they’re even aware of symptoms. The Stanford team had realized tracking pre-symptomatic COVID-19 cases through a less costly, more accessible method like wearables could help provide an early detection system. The app is powered by an algorithm that detects changes in an individual’s resting heart rate and step count. Early results are promising, and a pilot trial successfully alerted newly infected individuals as early as 10 days before they became aware of any symptoms. The app has entered the next phase of study, and the Stanford team is recruiting participants with the goal of reaching 10 million participants to increase its ability to detect signs of COVID-19 in real time. This smartwatch-based early detection system was built on AWS with the support of the AWS Professional Services team, who collaborated with the researchers to help the study scale its data processing pipeline.

“We have built up our data processing pipelines, and we’ll soon be building a data lake to combine this wearable data with our genomics data for researchers around the world to access, providing a collaborative platform to support the advancement of precision medicine as the first of its kind,” said Dr. Snyder.

Unlocking data to connect individuals with jobs

Last spring, AWS worked with the state of Rhode Island to rapidly scale the state’s unemployment insurance system. With a surge in unemployment insurance applications because of COVID-19, a large volume of data about the state’s workforce offered an opportunity to better understand current workforce needs, and connect individuals to new jobs.

The state worked with the nonprofit Research Improving People’s Lives (RIPL) and built a secure data lake on AWS. They then applied an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to the data to help provide users with job recommendations that match their skills and experience. The system also gives RIPL and Rhode Island real-time data about the effectiveness of workforce development programs.

Providing distinct security capabilities

Security is the top priority at AWS, and AWS provides customers with distinct security capabilities.

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances are built upon the secure foundation of the AWS Nitro System. AWS Nitro continuously monitors, protects, and verifies the instance hardware and firmware, and also minimizes the attack surface by offloading virtualization resources to dedicated hardware and software. The AWS Nitro security model is locked down and prohibits administrative access. With the launch of AWS Nitro Enclaves, users can now create isolated compute environments to further protect and securely process highly sensitive data.

AWS pursues security certifications that customers can use to support security certification programs. For example, AWS recently became one of the first cloud providers to achieve ISMAP certification from the government of Japan.

AWS also works to share security knowledge and best practices. In March, AWS signed a strategic alliance with the Organization of American States. Under this agreement, AWS will provide governments across Latin America with a cybersecurity assessment and an implementation guide to improve their cyber security posture.

Enabling secure innovation at NHS Digital

National Health Service (NHS) Digital designs, builds, and operates the digital products, data systems, and services for the national healthcare system in the UK. Sarah Wilkinson, chief executive officer of NHS Digital, shared how the elastic infrastructure in the AWS Cloud helped them deliver new products and scale existing services at an extraordinary rate in response to COVID-19. The peak load of one key system in the early weeks of the pandemic was 95 times its highest ever previous peak load.

Maintaining reliability and security has been critical as NHS Digital introduces changes at a faster rate than ever before, and these efforts are serving as a springboard into the future. “There is so much more energy and ambition for digital transformation within the NHS now than there was a year ago. And because digital services have been consumed at such pace, and with such positive impact, there is a level of confidence about the journey ahead that is incredibly exciting,” said Wilkinson.

Building cloud momentum with DLA

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is responsible for managing the global supply chain. The program executive office manages approximately 200 IT applications that support these DoD and DLA business operations, processing over 7 billion transactions per year. Adarryl Roberts, program executive officer of the DLA, shared how the team embarked on a digital business transformation journey and initially migrated five applications to the cloud under the Procurement integrated Enterprise Environment (PIEE) in just 138 days, nearly six weeks ahead of schedule. The team now stands up multiple releases in the cloud per year and increased their uptime above 98 percent.

With 85 percent of their applications currently on the cloud, they plan to complete the full migration in the next few years. The DLA will also be migrating data to SAP to the cloud, and will transition one of their apps supporting COVID-19 vaccine distribution to the cloud within the SAP framework later this year. “Modernizing our systems and moving to the cloud is enhancing the way we operate. As technology keeps evolving, and we continue on our cloud journey, our valuable partnerships and unified team vision to have exceedingly high ambitions will help us stay at the forefront and deliver on our mission,” said Roberts.

Identifying new ways to develop cloud skills with Pearson

Rod Bristow, president of Pearson, offered insight on the latest education trends and the changing workforce. Leveraging the cloud allows Pearson to scale high-traffic periods around midterms and final exams and develop new digital products and next-generation apps that meet the evolving needs of students globally. And while the cloud has helped power Pearson’s internal transformation, they understand the importance of teaching cloud-based skills to help shape the future workforce.

Pearson recently collaborated with AWS Educate to develop the first-ever Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) Higher National Diploma in Cloud Computing. Students at over 600 universities and colleges around the world will be able to complete the qualifications remotely or in person, which are equivalent to the first two years of a UK honors degree and can lead to higher study or directly to a job. “We’ll continue to invest in cloud computing skills and cloud computing will also hold a key to ever more effective online learning, helping to power and transform the workforce of today and tomorrow,” said Bristow.

Check out the keynote and more than 45 breakout sessions—for new to the cloud to experts in the cloud—at the AWS Public Sector Summit Online.