The problem with technology sometimes is that not everyone can afford or is able to use it. Take for example remote learning, not every family can afford to get laptops or mobile devices. In most cases, the family often have a family desktop which everyone uses. The same can be applied to contact tracing problems as well.
Chan Cheow Hoe, Singapore Government’s Chief Digital Technology Officer for GovTech highlighted the challenges they faced in rolling out the Trace Together application for COVID-19 contact tracing. Amazingly the app itself was built in under a month but ensuring every citizen was able to use it was another problem for them.
The older generation for example was not familiar with using the application while younger students did not have their own devices. To solve this, GovTech’s IoT team had to build tokens. These groups of people only had to bring the token with them wherever they go and everything else would be done for them, creating an ease of mind and also achieving the purpose of the exercise.
Looking back, Chan explained the challenges GovTech faced since the journey to cloud started way back in 2014. The cloud was imperative to them but they still had to break down the myths around the cloud. Back then, most security personnel were not trained in the cloud and for them, if they could not touch it or see it, it did not feel right. It took a lot of retraining and reskilling on security teams to understand cloud security.
At the same time, Chan pointed out the problems of classification of data from the government. They had to be able to deal with privacy issues and debunk the myth of information going to the cloud. By proving that most workloads in government are not security-driven, they committed to move more than 70% of their workloads, 70% of the entire government workloads to commercial cloud.
In working with AWS, it also allowed them to save costs. This is because AWS solutions were sold as “Lego blocks”, whereby you only buy what you need and build it up. Previously, everything was outsourced. They were used to buy services, unlike today whereby you can build up your services and applications. What started with just seven developers quickly moved up to over 800 people building up solutions and services on GovTech.
Around Southeast Asia, connectivity is also still a huge problem in most areas. For example, a university student in the state of Sabah in Malaysia made headlines when she had to go climb up trees just to get internet signals to access her studies online.
These are just some of the many challenges which AWS is hoping to help solve in the near future. According to Max Peterson, Vice President, International Sales, Worldwide Public Sector, AWS, the shift to online for education required everyone to rethink how they can approach the problem. While there have been applications developed locally in the public sector to help curb some of these issues, much was still needed to be done. AWS is enabling this through AWS GovCloud.
The AWS GovCloud is an AWS program designed to allow U.S. government agencies at the federal, state and local level, along with contractors, educational institutions and other U.S. customers to run sensitive workloads in the cloud.