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Amazon Launches Accelerator for Public Safety Tech

It’s the first time Amazon has offered this type of service for gov tech — and perhaps not the last. What’s behind this particular cloud-based push, and what does it mean for the broader world of gov tech?

Closeup of a police officer writing on a clipboard.
Shutterstock/Collins Media KS
Amazon’s newest cloud-computing launch targets one of the fastest growing and most controversial areas of government technology — public safety.

The e-commerce, web services and logistical giant has launched its first “AWS GovTech Accelerator.”

Amazon Web Services, the cloud-computing arm of the Seattle-based company, is becoming a bigger presence within the gov tech space.

“From first responders to members of the court system, the justice and public safety industry is looking for new technology solutions to help address a range of challenges they face,” Josh Weatherly, global managing director for AWS Startups, told Government Technology via email, referencing the recent Dallas cyber attack as one example.

It’s not just new cybersecurity tools that are in demand.

As Weatherly told it, generative AI such as ChatGPT has moved to a top-of-mind concern for law enforcement leaders who worry about the technology’s impact on public trust.

Meanwhile, public safety agencies are busy upgrading 911 call centers and deploying software and gear that can, say, provide more precise details of emergency situations.

All that is happening as political and cultural battles shape the future of law enforcement, with gov tech suppliers trying their best to read the trends and respond to shifting demands.

The new Amazon gov tech program will accept applications from startups using cloud-based tools to “accelerate innovation,” according to an Amazon blog post. Community engagement, crime deterrence and recidivism reduction are among the challenges that Amazon hopes to address through this new accelerator.

After the application window closes on July 10, Amazon will inform successful candidates by Aug. 9, according to the post, with the program kicking off in the fall with an in-person event. Companies accepted into the accelerator will receive technical guidance, mentoring, investment guidance, AWS promotional credit and more.

More such gov tech accelerator cohorts that focus on other areas could follow, Weatherly said.

“We started with justice and public safety because we are customer obsessed and listened to the needs of our customers,” he said. “Justice and public safety customers tell us they need technology solutions to address these challenges and build trust and engagement with the communities they serve.”

AWS already has a presence in gov tech, including via its smart city program, announced late last year. The general idea is to use cloud computing and data analysis to help cities better make decisions about service delivery, infrastructure, transit and other areas.

Amazon also sells supplies to public agencies. And Big Tech rival Google is building up its own cloud-based public-sector practice.

As for the new Amazon accelerator, don’t expect it to have a significant impact on the larger gov tech space, said Jeff Cook, managing director at Shea & Co., an investment bank that advises gov tech deals.

Even so, the launch of the accelerator reflects two trends in the space, he told Government Technology: The growth of resources available to gov tech, and the “increasing presence” in government of Big Tech, a group that also includes the likes of Microsoft and Oracle.

“While historically each has had some presence in gov tech, I think the market opportunity has become too great to ignore,” he said.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in Wisconsin.