American Samoa Selects DataHouse and AWS to Maintain Travel to Bring People Home during COVID-19

Executive Summary

To prevent the entry of COVID into American Samoa, the American Samoa Government turned to DataHouse to build a health screening management system that ensures travelers clear safety protocols before they return to the territory. American Samoa is the only US territory in the South Pacific region. The DataHouse solution runs on a pre-engineered AWS infrastructure featuring Amazon QuickSight, Amazon ECS, Amazon EC2, and Amazon RDS services.

Protecting Citizens as COVID-19 Impacts the World

DataHouse, a member of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Partner Program, provides a range of application, architecture, and technology consulting services. One of its key offerings is the LumiSight Platform—which integrates data sources and leverages AWS Cloud services to automate workflows, provide secure application access, refine data, and distribute content through multiple channels. The platform would come to fulfill a critical need for the American Samoa Government (ASG).

As the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the world, American Samoa Government wanted to make it possible for citizens who had left the country to return home. The virus had not yet reached the island, and while the government wanted to allow people to reunite with families and friends, it was also determined to keep the territory COVID-free. The government decided to close the borders to anyone wanting to enter the territory.

“Protecting our citizens is our primary mission,” said Motusa Tuileama Nua, Director at the American Samoa Department of Health. “With limited medical resources, we cannot afford to overburden our community health centers and the one hospital that services our entire territory.”

Director Nua, together with Medicaid Director Sandra King Young, were the leads in developing the policies and principles to build the solution to maintain travel while keeping the territory safe from COVID. “With the end of the pre-travel quarantine in Hawaii, where we built a bubble around our travelers and screened out COVID, we needed an IT tool to take place of the pre-travel quarantine to still allow our people to travel for medical purposes and return while still screening out COVID,” stated King Young.

The COVID-19 contact tracing and quarantine modules address the evolving health needs of our community. DataHouse and AWS helped us immensely in fulfilling our mission to protect our citizens.

-Sandra King Young, Medicaid Director, American Samoa 

Expediting the Process to Return Home

After the first year that American Samoa closed its borders under a zero-tolerance policy, the American Samoa Government and the American Samoa COVID-19 Task Force under the leadership of Lt. Governor Talauega Eleasalo Ale, the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR), launched the Safe Travels American Samoa Initiative to qualify stranded residents who wished to return home.

The program involved stationing American Samoa Government personnel in Hawaii, providing catered meals, and renting hotels in Hawaii where travelers would go through a pre-travel quarantine. The approval process was complex and prolonged for residents, and when it was completed, the program cost the American Samoa Government over $20 million in a span of six months.

To reduce costs and accelerate the timeline for residents to return home, American Samoa turned to DataHouse in 2021. The government needed the solution to be deployed in four weeks, prompting the DataHouse team to act quickly to build and implement TALOFAPASS, a system powered by the DataHouse LumiSight Platform.

With TALOFAPASS, residents can use a web browser or mobile application to submit the forms for returning to American Samoa. In addition to streamlining resident experiences, the system unites multiple government agencies so they can work together and communicate effectively about approvals and managing traveler issues. It also set the foundation for the paperless travel of passengers into and out of American Samoa.

DataHouse developed and configured TALOFAPASS on time, and it continuously modifies the system to meet new government needs as COVID-19 conditions change. Residents can now use the platform to enter trip, personal identity, vaccination, and testing information. Multiple agencies can also review the data to ensure travelers comply with American Samoa’s policies.

Upon departure, airport screeners scan each resident’s QR code to review information and provide quarantine instructions. While in quarantine, residents check in at their locations so the government knows they’re adhering to the requirements.

Enabling a Fast Rollout on AWS Infrastructure

By running the TALOFAPASS application on the LumiSight data integration platform powered by the pre-engineered AWS infrastructure, the DataHouse team could deploy the solution ahead of the requested four-week target. Plus, the IT professionals of the American Samoa Treasury Department and the Office of the Governor established the necessary protocols to place TALOFAPASS on the ASG domain within minutes of deployment.

The ASG agencies also took advantage of Amazon QuickSight, which helps analyze data by using machine learning to automatically look for vaccination, virus, testing, and quarantine patterns. Government officials can ask questions using natural language and explore interactive dashboards.

Another key technology is Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS), which automatically orchestrates and scales the containerized TALOFAPASS application. The solution also relies on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) server instances and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), and it uses Amazon CloudFront to reduce the latency of the application by delivering content to users through global access points.

DataHouse can also adapt TALOFAPASS using AWS Lambda to run code and quickly execute application services without provisioning servers. And for managing and securing the platform, the team uses Amazon CloudWatch to monitor performance and optimize infrastructure resource utilization while Amazon Cognito manages user sign-ins and provides access control. In addition, DataHouse relies on AWS WAF - Web Application Firewall to protect the platform from web exploits and bots.

“AWS provides us with a reliable cloud infrastructure and services that allow us to quickly build and customize LumiSight,” says Hong Phan, Chief Executive Officer of DataHouse. “With the range of configurable AWS services that we have access to, we can find the right mix to fulfill each client’s unique needs.”

Creating a Pandemic-Free Zone

Previously, with citizens stranded and not able to get to Hawaii for the initial quarantine, the entire process to get back home took 2–3 months, and in some cases, citizens were not able to complete the process at all. It now takes citizens who test negative for COVID-19 about 30 days or less to return home from the time they start the return process, including the time to quarantine.

“Prior to the Omicron variant, a few cases reached our territory via commercial flights,” concludes King Young. “But our strict quarantine protocols contained those positive cases, and under CDC guidelines, we were considered a COVID-free jurisdiction for two years. During this time, we increased our vaccination levels to over 90% of the ‘eligible’ population and were able to utilize the system and platform to quickly pivot our focus from prevention to management. The Omicron variant eventually entered the community and the system continued to help us with monitoring and data analytics on the outbreak. The contact tracing and quarantine modules originally developed were quickly modified and deployed country-wide to address the evolving needs of our community. DataHouse and AWS helped us immensely in fulfilling our mission to protect our citizens.”

American Samoa Government

About the Customer

American Samoa is the southernmost US territory and consists of five main islands and two coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean. With a population of about 49,710 (Census 2020), American Samoa's current form of government was established when the territory ceded itself to the US in 1900. The American Samoa Government is a democratic bicameral system with an executive branch led by the Governor and a judiciary that operates independently.

About DataHouse

Based in Honolulu, Hawaii, DataHouse is the largest and longest-standing IT consultancy in the state, delivering technology solutions since 1975. The company is on a mission to deliver world-class solutions while also providing high-value opportunities to local and global communities. With a focus on the government, education, banking, and healthcare sectors, key practice areas for DataHouse include business consulting services, application services, architecture advisory, and managed services.

Published May 2022