Google Public Sector - What can it do?

Google Public Sector recently launched in the US, Government Business Investigates

In June, Google Public Sector was launched by Google Cloud in the US, with the aim of helping public sector institutions accelerate their digital transformations. This includes federal, state, and local governments, and educational institutions. But how will this work in practice and what lessons can be learnt and brought over to the UK?
    
Government technology is a big sector, in 2021, the US federal government alone budgeted more than $90 billion for technology procurement. It is no secret that many government agencies and public sector bodies around the world are using outdated and legacy systems that require updating. Of course, major IT projects cost a lot of time and money, and bring disruption, risk and uncertainty – but how can digital transformation be used in the public sector?
    
Google Cloud has already worked with governments across the world including in the US, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Japan. Google Cloud said: “We’ve helped government agencies modernise their core technology systems; transformed the way in which they deliver services via digital platforms to citizens; delivered security solutions to help agencies protect themselves from cyber attacks; provided communication, collaboration, and productivity tools to educational and healthcare systems; and enabled them to use data to improve financial systems and other critical infrastructure.
    
“We’ve offered products that address the unique needs of the public sector; built a dedicated sales force, partner ecosystem, and services organisation; and worked with partners to bring joint solutions to government and educational institutions.”

What’s on offer?
With its new offering, Google Public Sector will provide Google Cloud technologies such as Google Cloud Platform and Google Workspace to American public sector customers. The products on offer include Google Cloud’s data and analytics platform, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) tools, with the intention of helping institutions better understand their data and automate core processes. This should improve efficiency and user experience.
    
Artificial intelligence has already been used in the public sector in the UK including the Department for International Development (DFID) using computer vision to estimate populations, the Department for Transport using AI to improve MOT testing and the Government Digital Service using classification and natural language processing to make GOV.UK more accessible. It is hoped the UK government will use more of these technologies in the future.
    
Google Public sector will also provide Google Cloud’s open infrastructure, including compute, storage, and networking, with the aim of helping government agencies modernise their legacy information systems and build new applications. It is known that the US government’s current cloud solutions are legacy, meaning they are less secure, less resilient and less-future proof than other available options – as is the case in many governments around the world including in the UK. In 2010, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), decided to consolidate U.S. government data on a gov cloud. This was created for U.S. federal, state, and local governments to meet the U.S. government’s thorough security and compliance regulations. However, since then, the internet and the amount of data stored by governments has grown massively and gov clouds are no longer fit for purpose.
    
In the UK, in 2019, Cumbria County Council decided to accelerate digital transformation. They had a limited budget and a small team, but with low-code technology, they were able to create 16 different systems in 12 months, saving them time and money.

Cybersecurity
The public sector customers will be able to use Google Cloud’s cybersecurity products to protect their users, applications and data from cyber threats. Recent research from Gallagher revealed that UK councils are suffering a collective 10,000 cyber-attacks every day. A Freedom of Information request revealed that 2.3 million attacks had been reported by 161 local authorities. Phishing attacks are the most common threat to councils, with 75 per cent of councils saying this was the most common attack they had experienced. 52 per cent of councils reported that they had needed to employ an external expert for advice on how to mitigate the risk of cyber attacks, whilst 85 per cent of councils have increased their cyber security. This is the type of advice and expertise that Google Cloud will offer and there are already many companies in the UK that are available for this service.
    
Johnty Mongan, head of cyber risk management at Gallagher, said: “Criminals unfortunately only know too well that cyber-attacks can cripple systems and with many councils increasingly servicing local people’s needs digitally, they simply cannot afford to experience downtime.
    
“It is positive to see that councils are recognising this threat, and looking to employ external experts to help prevent cyber-attacks – risk management and putting in the right security is absolutely key and external experts are best placed to advise what the most up-to-date measures are.”
    
Training
Google Cloud have also said they will invest in training public sector employees in digital and cloud skills. With reports of a skill shortage in digital skills, this is a must. New research from Virgin Media O2 Business and Censuswide shows that 55 per cent of employees report that their organisation is suffering from a digital skills shortage. As technology progresses, staff need the training to be able to keep up and work with the new technology. According to the research, 36 per cent of employees rarely (if ever) receive digital training, and 48 per cent say a lack of quality business technology would encourage them to leave their job.
    
Google Cloud has previously worked with different levels of the US government on cloud initiatives and digital transformations including working with the Defense Innovation Unit to implement a secure cloud management solution; a scalable, highly responsive architecture for managing government network security.
    
They have also worked with the Department of Veteran Affairs to improve veteran access to benefits and services; with the U.S. Department of Energy to help DoE scale its research efforts across national labs and field sites; with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to help the patent examiners rapidly perform more patent searches using AI tools and with the U.S. Postal Service to improve its customer service across web, mobile, messaging, and call centres.
    
At local government level, they have worked with the State of Wisconsin and State of Rhode Island to launch virtual career centres for job seekers; with the State of New York launch a streamlined unemployment application; with the State of West Virginia in its transition to Google Workspace from its legacy productivity provider; and with the City of Pittsburgh to move the city to modern, cloud-based IT infrastructure, improving the delivery of services for citizens.
    
Google Cloud said: “With Google Public Sector, our plan is to continue down the path of achieving the highest levels of U.S. government certifications and requirements possible. This means the division will have the capability to manage sensitive government data, and we are committed to protecting this data through our secure, zero-trust-based infrastructure.”
    
Google Public Sector has already made sure it is compliant with the US government’s security and compliance regulations and ensured the products can be used on any cloud service provider platform. This means they are ready to go if any agencies wish to work with them.
    
Although still in the early stages of its roll out, Google Public Sector has some benefits and is clearly well prepared to work with the public sector in the US. If all goes well there, it can be assumed that the global company will expand the offering to other parts of the world. Though budgets will be a limit, UK government agencies and local authorities can take learnings from what Google Public Sector is doing.

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