Senior executives with Google Cloud emphasized at their first Public Sector Summit on Dec. 8 the work that the company has been doing with a variety of public sector organizations during the coronavirus pandemic, and one emerging silver lining to the health crisis: a big leap forward in IT modernization that will help government and academia during the recovery.
Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, said during a keynote speech that he was “humbled” at how the public sector has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with all of its attendant business and social dislocations, and the need to bridge those gaps with innovative uses of technology.
“With a new-found resilience, you have delivered consistently and around the clock,” he said. “We are honored to work alongside you … as you support citizens around the globe.”
Kurian listed a host of Federal, state, local and overseas governmental organizations that Google Cloud has worked with over the past year, including the Departments of Defense and Energy, states including New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, and West Virginia, and numerous academic institutions including the University of North Carolina, and Penn State.
‘Crucible for Progress’
Mike Daniels, VP of Global Public Sector Sales at Google Cloud, echoed those sentiments and looked ahead to what happens next for digital transformation.
“The public sector has embraced this crisis as a moment of real change … and a crucible for real progress,” Daniels said of the pandemic period. “At Google Cloud, it has been our privilege to work with the public sector” and realize the “positive impact we can make by working together,” he said.
With the pressing need to bridge gaps with rapid technology development and deployment, some public sector organizations have squeezed “years of digital transformation into just days or weeks,” he said.
Looking ahead to next year, Daniels said, “the shift to digital services is here to stay” as 2020 comes to a close. “It’s clear that innovation is an increasingly necessary ingredient,” and that public sector organizations need a cloud partner to continue along the innovation path.
“We believe that virtual collaboration, remote work, and digital service delivery will definitely continue” once the pandemic abates, Daniels said.
He said Google Cloud fits that bill on numerous fronts with global infrastructure, up-to-date systems, the ability to offer a variety of cloud environments, and a variety of security solutions including the ability to offer “confidential computing” with encryption of data at rest, transit, and in process.
“We learned this year that our customers need more than just leading technology and capabilities … they need experienced partners,” Daniels said, who added, “we will continue to deliver industry solutions that meet customers where they are.”
Asked about his biggest lesson learned while working with public sector customers this year, Daniels replied, “the thing that has resonated the most … is great empathy for the outcomes our customers are trying to achieve,” and focusing on achieving “the fastest time to value for the missions they are serving.”
Helped by the rapid advance during the pandemic of public sector organization IT modernization – up to five years of progress in less than a year in some cases – Daniels said that work will lead to further acceleration in the technology “value chain” going forward.
“When faced with a challenge like this … we are able to bring tooling, like with applied AI, to drive breakthroughs in how we assess data,” he said. “These sorts of trends … allow us to digitize the entire service delivery motion.”
That trend, he predicted, is due to accelerate as organizations work to overcome some of their legacy IT burdens that have held back faster progress in the past, and they pursue greater goals in addition to building “digital front doors” for the government.
Workspace for Government
Daniels talked about several new Google Cloud products, none bigger than the company’s planned launch in January 2021 of its Workspace for Government cloud-based system providing collaboration and communications tools to Federal customers.
He said the product offers a variety of price points to meet the “needs and constraints of government customers,” along with the ability to use Google Workspace as a full suite, or choose services that customers need to complement their existing setups, with interoperability for tools including Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Calendar.
Especially important to government customers, Daniels explained that Workspace for Government features tools to support that support agencies’ needs to comply with legal requirements for data location, portability, and archiving users, among others.
In the States
Daniels highlighted the state of Rhode Island’s use of Google Cloud in deploying a virtual career center as part of the state’s Back to Work Rhode Island initiative in October. The virtual center is filling a big gap in the state’s efforts to help job seekers during the pandemic when physical offices are closed and in-person service is curtailed.
“Our team has built three employment support solutions that are now widely available,” Daniels said, adding, “we can equip other regions with the same tools.” The virtual career center solution features data collection across agency systems and other data sources, virtual agents that work via text or phone, video and collaboration tools provided via Google Workspace, and a Cloud Talent Solution that leverages Google’s machine learning capabilities.
He also talked about how the Illinois Department of Employment Services deployed Google Cloud’s Contact Center AI to help meet unprecedented demand in unemployment insurance claims, allowing the state agency to “enable rich conversational experiences” between virtual agents and citizens via chat and voice. The result: the state’s phone virtual agents handled an average of 40,000 calls per day, with the web chatbot logging 100,000 interactions a day with citizens.
Finally, Daniels discussed solutions that Google Cloud deployed to help states cut down on fraudulent payments when state systems were dealing with high demand for assistance payments during the pandemic. The solution, he said, helps state agencies identify prioritize improper payments before funds are distributed – “thwarting both honest mistakes and fraud, and ensuring aid gets to the constituents in need.”