Home » Digital Transformation » COVID-19 and the cloud: digital transformation in the public sector

Chris Hayman

Director, UK Public Sector, Amazon Web Services

The world has changed faster in the last few months than any of us could ever have imagined. And as part of this, we have seen a massive shift in the way public sector organisations are delivering citizen services.

We’ve seen emergency hospitals set up, staff enabled to work from home and critical new services rolled out at high speed. Even the Prime Minister has been running Cabinet meetings via video conferencing.

It’s ironic that social distancing has actually brought us closer together in some aspects. The collective focus and greater agility have seen long-standing walls between teams, divisions and organisations dismantled in a matter of days (and in some cases, overnight) to allow for greater cross-agency collaboration.

Cloud enabled innovation

One benefit of the cloud is that it enables customers to very quickly develop and roll out new applications, which means teams can experiment and innovate without having to worry about the significant financial risks incurred when using traditional IT with its attendant high capital cost.

For example, the COVID-19 outbreak has been accompanied by an overabundance of information that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.

Private companies running on the cloud are nearly three times as likely to increase their revenue by 5% or more, per year, as those that are not.

A new project, led by Imperial College London and enabled by AWS, is responding to this ‘infodemic’ by enabling the healthcare community to quickly make sense of this tidal wave and find better treatments for COVID-19 and other diseases. Using AWS’ machine learning services, the project is able to analyse vast amounts of information in real-time and quickly extract the most important insights, saving the tens of thousands of hours that would traditionally have been required for manual research. Over half a million sources are being analysed to find the best available evidence for better patient treatments at a speed that would not have been possible with conventional approaches.

Transformation to tackle challenges

The London Borough of Waltham Forest is another example of the digital transformation that has been accelerated by the pandemic.

The borough was using on-premises call centres when COVID-19 hit, and experienced an immediate increase in call volume from citizens. It would have taken weeks for their existing provider to deliver a solution to meet the additional capacity required to meet demand, and they had to act quickly to respond to the needs of their local community.

Working with the borough and AWS Partner, VoiceFoundry, we rolled out Amazon Connect, a cloud-based contact centre that is scalable, simple to deploy, and easy to manage. It took just a few days to get up and running and enabled the council to scale quickly and easily to meet citizen demand. The Borough was able to operate this service seven days a week – up from five – handling more than 3,000 calls a day. The new solution has also enabled the council to retrain and reallocate staff quickly to support demand – all while ensuring staff safety by enabling them to work remotely.

Public and private benefits

COVID-19 has pushed the public sector to embrace technology to better meet citizens’ needs right across the UK. Research published mid-September showed that 70% of companies using AWS to sell into the public sector said that their business or operating model would not be possible without cloud platforms. And it’s not just the public sector that is benefiting from this digital transformation – private companies running on the cloud are nearly three times as likely to increase their revenue by 5% or more, per year, as those that are not. The environment benefits too; for example, moving a company’s IT workload to AWS reduces its carbon footprint by 88%, while in total, UK customers of AWS have saved over 200,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, the equivalent of planting an extra 400 million trees.

Together, we can create lasting change in this era of digital transformation. All of us in this ecosystem – whether service providers, partners, small businesses or public sector organisations – must help turn this better way of working into the new normal.   

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