In the face of a global pandemic, lawmakers have quickly put in place major life-changing programs: vaccine distribution and tracking, mortgage relief, pandemic unemployment assistance, and more in the past two years.
Deploying these programs has been a serious challenge for state and local governments. For example, recent data from the Treasury Department showed that just a fraction of the $ 46.5 billion allocated by Congress for housing assistance has been spent.
Given the scale and complexity of these programs, state and local governments are often bogged down by technical infrastructure that cannot meet their needs. Google Cloud aims to step in and help alleviate these issues with a new set of “public benefit solutions”: a suite of Google tools and capabilities bundled together to address specific social service challenges. Public benefit solutions can include a suite of Google technologies, ranging from BigQuery to Google Workspace and Contact Center AI virtual agents.
Google initially deploys utility solutions modules for: housing and rental assistance, professional retraining and job search, better communication with voters online and via call centers, Fraud detection and claims verification; and assessment of voter sentiment and likely political outcomes using advanced analytics and machine learning.
Some of the programs that Google aims to facilitate are so innovative “that there isn’t even a clear agency in every state that’s really responsible for it,” said Mike Daniels, vice president of global public sector, Google Cloud . ZDNet. “So there’s a lot of policy to sort out, and then there’s a system aspect. Obviously we’re trying to lean on the system side to help with that step.”
The past two years have shown that a focus on desired policy outcomes drives the best IT decisions, Daniels said, even though the policies themselves aren’t entirely set in stone.
“By focusing on the bottom line first, versus the systems we need to get that end…? ‘ It often cuts across different systems and allows you to look at this job in a slightly different way. “
Daniels said the scale of current policy initiatives, combined with the speed at which they need to be rolled out, is creating “permanent change” in the way systems are managed in the public sector. There is a new interest, for example, in ensuring that systems are interoperable, open and agile.
“And then this whole notion of updating these legacy systems – how to do it in a component-wise way, as opposed to literally moving the system to the fork,” he added. “These legacy systems … were perfectly fine in normal times, for the most part, but when you ask them to adapt – to cope with a lot of changes in terms of who can qualify [for government services] and that sort of thing – it broke these things. So we had to break down this modernization. “
On top of that, government agencies are embracing the use of data in a way that “will enable a continuing level of resilience and agility in the public sector that did not exist before,” Daniels said.
As modernization efforts in the public sector move towards a more component approach, Google is also this week highlighting a more holistic approach to data management adopted by the state of Oklahoma. The state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services is working with Google Cloud to create a new centralized data hub that can access and analyze data from multiple agencies. Built on Google Cloud BigQuery, the hub unified 23 PB (petabytes) of data across multiple sources. The idea is to deploy more targeted social programs more quickly and to offer personalized recommendations to citizens seeking government assistance.
While the sharing of government data raises privacy concerns, Daniels said, “there is a lot of informed political thinking around this.” He added that “the tooling is such that the data is shared much more precisely … only what is needed at that time.”
Agencies statewide can choose to share their data in a controlled manner while meeting their specific compliance standards.