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From Crisis to Continuity: Cloud Will Enable the Public Sector During and After COVID-19

By Mike Daniels, Vice President of Global Public Sector for Google Cloud

Presented by Google Cloud Google Cloud's logo

How does one manage a global health crisis, a new working landscape and a changing economy all at the same time? This is the question that many in the public sector have grappled with and continue to ponder as they plan for the future. And now, as many state, local and federal agencies continue to telework, public sector employees are juggling the need to reach and serve constituents during the unprecedented public health crisis and economic fallout created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With all of these concerns top-of-mind, there’s hardly space to navigate videoconferencing technology, deal with downed websites or prevent a cybersecurity breach.

As vice president of global public sector for Google Cloud, I take pride in seeing — and helping — the people behind these systems manage these challenges. Google Cloud has been committed to aiding public sector leaders in their mission to deliver top-notch services to citizens, and now, more than ever, I’m honored and humbled by the impact that reliable, collaborative tools and cloud infrastructures can have for agencies looking to navigate the COVID-era and beyond.

Ensuring Continuity of Operations and Telework Services to Meet Evolving Agency Needs

While teleworking tools have been on the rise for some time, cloud-enabled collaboration is more crucial than ever as huge numbers of government employees are still working remotely — with  little indication that they will be back in the office soon. We have responded to public sector customer’s calls to provide our cloud services to assist with the IT and collaboration capabilities they need right now — and for sustained services in the future. 

Even as government begins to embrace digital transformation, many employees still did not have the hardware required to work remotely when the pandemic hit. We’ve been able to step in to provide continuity of operations for remote workers through our VDI and Chrome solutions, ensuring that public sector employees can continue serving constituents during this crucial time. We have also been able to provide video and collaboration capabilities for the public sector through tools like Google Meet — ensuring business continuity from anywhere at any time. 

For example, since 2010, Google Cloud has worked with Multnomah County, the most populous county in the state of Oregon, to provide tools to better manage collaboration and productivity at scale. But when the pandemic hit, G-suite tools like Google Meet took on a whole new meaning: Google Meet video meetings at the county went from 35 to 1,200 per day once employees began working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s more, these tools continue to provide an opportunity for Multnomah County to meet the ever-changing needs of their community. 

“Forms, Docs, Sheets and Slides allowed our teams to continue providing services to our constituents,” Bob Leek, former CIO of Multnomah County, said in a case study. “The ease of rolling out updates, especially the most requested feature — tiled layout in Meet — means that we can keep improving the tools everyone uses.” 

Meanwhile, workers at the Georgia Department of Human Services Eligibility and Child Support are leveraging Google Chromebooks to remotely access critical apps and data. Their colleagues at the Georgia Department of Community Supervision are also using Chromebooks with Google Hangouts and Meet for teleconferencing.

As the impact of the pandemic continues, it has become increasingly important for agencies to choose a provider who has built security into their entire infrastructure, with the necessary compliance and certifications, as well as the reliability to provide video conferencing capability at global scale. Google Meet’s security controls are turned on by default, so that in most cases, organizations and users won’t have to do a thing to ensure the right protections are in place. This means that not only does Google Meet employ an array of counter-abuse protections to keep your meetings safe, but that users won’t have to contend with difficult and frustrating security tools or policies that can potentially slow their workflows. 

But the crisis doesn’t end when people go back to the workplace. Looking ahead, critical government programs, like social services, will need to proactively prepare to meet the unprecedented demand as the nation recovers from this crisis. Our social services safety net solution can help agencies prepare and support constituents at rapid scale. For example, we helped  the city of Las Vegas build a COVID-19 intake application, which managed the placement of homeless patients at pop-up virus treatment centers in parking lots across the city. 

Providing Critical Information and Data in Real Time 

As agencies work to keep communities safe and healthy during the pandemic, communicating with constituents quickly and efficiently is paramount. But as people look to their government for information, many public sector websites are experiencing huge increases in the number of visitors, leading to traffic bottlenecks and downtime. We are proud to be working with many different states, including New York, Oklahoma, Illinois and Colorado, to ensure constituents can access the services and information they need.

Many states are tapping AI-assisted operational support systems in order to disseminate quality information from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and leading health organizations. For example, in order to offer immediate assistance to constituents with questions about filing benefits claims, eligibility and more, Google Cloud is providing its Contact Center AI technology to the Illinois Department of Employment Security website. The technology will establish an Automated Intelligent Virtual Web Agent that constituents can interact with in real time, answering commonly asked questions and freeing up human agents to handle more complex cases. Soon, following the website, an Automated Intelligent Phone Agent will be deployed to provide the same type of assistance via the phone system. This will help constituents receive faster help via the phone, reducing traffic to the website and preventing downtime. 

Moreover, many are looking to equip their organizations with disease monitoring and control services, which can help to detect outbreaks and deliver actionable insights to government leaders. Google Cloud has also been working closely with partner MTX to further these types of services and provide critical Emergency Response Management (ERM) solutions for the public sector. Hosted on GCP, the MTX Disease Monitoring & Control app allows organizations to monitor, connect, send and receive information to their constituents via text messaging. Already, New York, Oklahoma and Ohio have begun using the application.

Furthering Public Health in Unprecedented Times

Public health agencies and facilities during this time have one of the most difficult challenges when it comes to keeping employees and patients safe and well. Here, too, technology is stepping in to help. 

In addition to providing video conferencing solutions that support telehealth practices, Google Cloud is providing rapid data collection and integration, storage, analytics and predictions to get the right assets — like beds, ventilators, masks and gloves — to the right place at the right time. We’re also working with state agencies, like the Oklahoma State Department of Health, on ways for medical staff to engage remotely with at-risk people. In just a 48-hour timespan, the department deployed an app that allowed medical staff to follow up with people who reported symptoms and directed affected people to testing sites.

Moreover, as government agencies continue to respond to this ongoing crisis, they must, of course, do so in a way that complies with emerging public sector regulations. At Google Cloud, we’re building on our FedRamp High Authorization — and pursuing new government regulations like the Department of Defense’s upcoming Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification — to ensure federal agencies and the vendors that work with them remain fully compliant.

And to provide insights into what has changed in response to work from home, shelter in place and other policies aimed at flattening the curve of this pandemic, we have published our COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports as a resource.

For those in the public sector, it’s far from business as usual. From all of us at Google, we want to let you know that your work reacting to and recovering from this current crisis has not gone unnoticed. We thank you for your commitment and the tireless hours you are spending to keep us all safe and ensuring that essential services and safety nets work to help people in their moment of need. We are encouraged by your ability to get us through these trying times, to try innovative approaches, and to build new partnerships that matter today and in the years to come as we all learn from this experience that will likely forever change the way we work and deliver services.

We’re here to help. Learn more about the Google Cloud resources available to the public sector for COVID-19 response here: https://cloud.google.com/solutions/government

This content is made possible by our sponsor Google Cloud; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of GovExec’s editorial staff.