COVID-19 compounded existing challenges for governments, colleges, universities, and teaching hospitals. These organizations were already struggling to meet rising expectations with aging infrastructures and more complex IT, and those struggles only intensified when the pandemic changed the ways in which people worked and increased the demands for digital services.
In one week in March 2020, unemployment claims jumped from 250,000 to about 3 million — a more than 11-fold increase. Legacy applications and processes floundered as state residents constantly hit the refresh button for the latest news. Simultaneously, epidemiologists tasked with a race against the clock to help flatten the curve of COVID hospitalizations analyzed massive data sets. And every student and working professional crowded onto online meeting platforms for collaboration and instruction.
We saw organizations across the U.S. innovate to serve their citizens and overcome pandemic obstacles in creative ways — despite constrained budgets and furloughed workers. There were multiple examples of innovative individuals and organizations embracing technology to meet the needs of constituents.
Using automation, the City and County of Denver enabled a remote workforce over a single weekend. The World Health Organization (WHO) introduced an online learning platform that uses machine learning to recommend COVID-19 content for healthcare providers. The State of Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB) reduced its application delivery times. And these are just three of the countless examples that we saw across the country, and around the world.
Here are four ways that automation and modern application architectures can improve user experience, lower costs, and give agencies the agility to adapt to what’s next, courtesy of Red Hat.
1. Do more with less, with automation
Organizations with public cloud workloads are able to scale servers and storage on demand, which helped them respond to COVID-19. Automation enables cloud technology to scale for the unexpected. If a task is repetitive, software can do it faster, more accurately, and more consistently than humans.
2. Enable a remote workforce with automation
Many organizations expect some employees to continue working from home after pandemic restrictions are eased. Helping a remote workforce stay productive and engaged requires giving them the services and tools they need to do their jobs well and stay connected with coworkers.
Elements of a remote worker solution range from VPNs and centralized routing to remote workstations and learning platforms. Automation accelerates the provisioning of servers, storage, and network and security devices.
3. Modernize aging infrastructure with hybrid cloud infrastructure
Many public sector organizations are saddled with aging infrastructure. Legacy operating systems and monolithic applications are costly to maintain, complex to manage, difficult to scale, and burdened with technical debt.
Aging infrastructure also makes it more difficult to adapt to whatever changes the post-pandemic world may hold in store. For example, many governments and universities are planning new applications for virtual interactions, surveillance of now-empty spaces, or asset location tracking.
4. Connect people and things at the network edge
Governments and healthcare organizations looking to increase operational efficiency in the post-pandemic world are embracing edge computing.
City governments, for example, are deploying Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that transmit data to edge servers, where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications swiftly identify and remediate problems. Examples include traffic flow monitoring and transportation management, timely pothole repair and garbage pickup, identification of suspicious packages, and automated responses to emergencies like chemical spills or gas plumes.
Teaching hospitals are using edge servers for healthcare analytics on medical images and bedside sensor data. Processing huge volumes of data locally rather than moving it over the wide area network (WAN) to the cloud accelerates the identification of problems that require timely intervention and enable analytics, even in locations where WAN bandwidth is limited, such as rural clinics.
With edge computing, instead of sending data to the cloud — which requires a fast, high-capacity WAN — government organizations bring processing to where data is generated – such as a clinic, hospital, city parking garage, or transportation center. Processing takes place on compact edge hardware, often equipped with graphics processing units (GPUs) optimized for AI/ML.
The edge device ingests data from diverse sources. These can include sensors, internet protocol (IP) cameras, electronic health record (EHR) systems, and imaging systems. AI/ML applications running on the edge device rapidly identify situations requiring immediate action — either sending an alert or initiating an action according to rules.
COVID-19 underscores the fact that governments, higher education, and healthcare organizations have to be prepared to change service delivery with little notice. Many organizations already had plans in place before the pandemic to improve processes, modernize applications, or start migrating to the cloud. The pandemic has given these projects new urgency.
Fortunately, modern, open source technologies make change easier. Automation platforms help the public sector do more with less by shifting time-consuming, manual tasks from humans to software. And today’s hybrid cloud infrastructure enables rapid deployment of applications on any platform — and faster changes.
With automation and modern application architectures, agencies can increase their agility to meet new challenges, better serve their constituents, and enable their workforce to focus on the highest value tasks – increasing organizational and operational efficiency. All of which is essential today during the pandemic and will continue to be essential in the post-pandemic world.
To learn more about automation and digital transformation, click HERE to download a complimentary copy of the whitepaper, “The post-COVID public sector: 5 ways to come back stronger with automation and hybrid cloud infrastructure.”