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Using Cloud and AI to Transform Service Delivery

Cloud computing concept. Smart city. Communication network.

Data-driven technologies delivered through the cloud let governments scale innovation. The Google Cloud Government and Education Summit brought together government, education and industry leaders to demonstrate how jurisdictions are putting these powerful tools to work.

Data-driven technologies delivered through the cloud help governments scale innovation

Cloud technologies, data science and artificial intelligence (AI) are enabling government leaders to implement new ways of operating and better serving the public.

The Google Cloud Government and Education Summit, an online event held in November 2021, explored many real-world examples of how governments today are using cloud tools to rapidly transform their public service initiatives in the digital world. The summit convened industry experts and leaders from government and education across the world.

“Public servants are able to use technology to help their staff and teams accomplish more on a greater scale than ever before,” says Mike Daniels, vice president of global public sector at Google Cloud. “We're seeing services and processes get more efficient with scale at less cost and remarkable speed.”

Dozens of on-demand sessions from the event are available at no cost.

In the summit’s keynote session, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian hosted a panel of public sector leaders and Google executives for an overview of how cloud capabilities and technologies are instrumental to the core services and functional needs of government and education organizations globally. A few highlights:

  • Daniels described how the U.S. Navy deploys aerial drones and machine learning algorithms to fight the pervasive enemy of seagoing vessels — corrosion — and improve maintenance processes.
  • Amy Pechacek, secretary-designee at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, explained how the state combined cloud tools and AI to disentangle a massive backlog and accelerate the distribution of unemployment insurance claims.  
  • Lori Carrell, chancellor of the University of Minnesota Rochester, talked about how fresh ideas from the gaming sector and other disciplines can reinvent higher education.

Delivering Empathy with AI

State government contact centers in New York received a crush of calls when COVID vaccines first became available to the public, vastly exceeding the capacity of staff to respond. New Yorkers complained on social media that they couldn’t get their questions answered.

“At the end of the day, we were not making a significant dent in the number of calls that needed to be answered,” said Rajiv Rao, chief technology officer for the state of New York, in a session titled AI Enabling Real-Time, Virtual Vaccine Information. “We very quickly realized that was not going to be sustainable at all.”

Rao’s team quickly ramped up capacity by implementing a cloud-based virtual agent solution that uses AI to answer an array of common vaccine questions. But the team also understood that automation needed a human connection.

Rao said their goal was to “deliver empathy in the first minute,” making sure the automated response system understands the caller’s real-life problems. By the time the technology was fully implemented, almost 50 percent of contact center calls were handled by the AI system — ensuring residents got the information they needed while easing the strain on contact center staff.

“It just goes to show you that technology can solve the problem,” Rao said.

Getting People Back to Work

The pandemic caused unemployment to spike in communities across the nation. In a session titled Integrated Experiences Getting People Back to Work, agency executives from Rhode Island and Ohio shared how cloud technologies helped them serve job seekers across their states.

Sarah Blusiewicz, chief operating officer for Rhode Island’s Department of Labor and Training, launched a virtual career center that uses AI tools to help residents find job opportunities that match their skills and experience. Google Cloud’s video collaboration solution, a part of Google Workspace, also proved crucial to the initiative.

“[The virtual career center] really allowed us to have access into digital meetings and digital spaces, and to continue to serve people through the pandemic as they looked for work,” Blusiewicz said in the session.

Kevin Holt, director of Hamilton County (Ohio) Job and Family Services, had an infusion of federal relief funding for rent and utility assistance in his community. He needed every dollar allocated according to strict laws and regulations as quickly as possible.

Holt said cloud tools helped his agency roll out a new system for establishing people’s eligibility and dispersing money to them safely, legally, and with accountability and good communication — all in the space of three months.

“It is a nearly unprecedented process in my 30 years of experience,” Holt recalled in the session. It didn’t take months of policy meetings or years to implement. “We just did it — and we did it quickly with the right partners.”

Read more about how Google Cloud helped Hamilton County provide residents with rent assistance and relief faster.

Driving Better Public Health Decisions

In a session titled Sentiment Analysis Powers Vaccine Distribution and Opioid Analytics, experts from California and Oklahoma described how they used AI tools hosted in the cloud to better understand people’s actions and encourage better health decisions.

In California, agency leaders used sentiment analysis to correlate data from multiple sources, painting a statistically valid picture of public sentiment on vaccines and other COVID concerns. “This was a critical component of making sentiment data make sense — and making it so that it can inform actual decision-making and policy,” said J.P. Petrucione, deputy director for communications and insights for the California Office of Digital Innovation.

In Oklahoma, sentiment analysis drills down to the ZIP-code level to understand the motivations of people who need treatment for drug abuse or addiction. “Being able to have real-time information from data, and to be able to make decisions quicker, has been critical in our success and in addressing the opioid epidemic,” said Heath Hayes, chief communications officer for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Data can reveal the impact of outreach and engagement, as well as the results of efforts to target specific demographics. “Instead of doing an approach where we just put it all on the table and hope that it works, we're able to be more targeted with our specific programs that are evidence-based — and reaching the people that we know need it the most,” Hayes said.

The Key to Success

What’s the foundation of success with cloud technologies and AI? Rhode Island’s Blusiewicz said success hinges on these core components: leadership, prioritization and speed. Top officials need to set priorities — based on which actions can make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time — and then give core stakeholders the authority to make plans and execute them.

Gerald Mullally, director in the UK Cabinet Office, recommended an incremental approach to transformation. Mullally led a team that used cloud technologies to perform sentiment analysis aimed at overcoming public reluctance to try the new COVID vaccines.

“Start small, iterate quickly and do so with external partners that have the specialist expertise that you need,” he said in the summit’s keynote session. Resolve, he added, is essential.

“Hold true to that vision that you have and persist, persist, persist,” Mullally said. “The outcomes that you eventually achieve and the importance of those outcomes to the citizens that we all serve will be well worth the effort.”

Get inspired to change the way you work, empower others and make your organization a more welcoming workplace for everyone. Register and watch more sessions from the Google Cloud Government and Education Summit to see how public sector leaders are meeting the challenges of the pandemic and improving technology to support their organizations.