It’s now been close to a year since the world changed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. One might remember when you didn’t have to worry about your kids appearing in the backdrop of an important work meeting, or when vacations to exotic destinations were a thing people did – often. In fact, to travel is no longer something Canadians, let alone people around the world, are doing carefree. Because of the pandemic, it’s become a source of anxiety for citizens, and governments around the world.
Throughout the year we’re had dozens of changes to shelter in place policies and shutdowns across the country. Rules regarding travel outside of the country continue to change. When the Quarantine Act came into place at the start of the pandemic, we saw a change in government services being deployed with technology playing a big role.
One was the creation of the ArriveCAN app, which became mandatory in November, allowing travelers to log their information up to 48 hours prior to coming into Canada, whether by land, air or sea, and informs public health officials of any symptoms experienced during their 14 day quarantine. Developed by the Canada Border Service Agency and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the app helps travellers stay connected to officials to monitor their health status, identify when to introduce testing, self-isolation, and allocate the necessary resources. It runs on Amazon Web Service (AWS) with security in mind, and was built quickly with the help of AWS Partner Fortinet.
Virtual call centres, using Amazon Connect on the AWS Cloud, have been deployed all over to help governments deliver essential services to citizens.
The Government of Canada responded to COVID-19 by working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its partner Accenture to launch a cloud-based call center for its Emergency Response Benefits program (CERB). Using Amazon Connect they created over a 1,500-person call centre in Canada that could seamlessly expand as necessary, with some days exceeding 40,000 calls answered as the number of daily calls peaked. Those calls helped Canadians apply for the tens of billions of dollars the Canadian government was making available to residents—a critical lifeline for them in this time of emergency.
A few weeks later in Rhode Island, in the U.S., the state was trying to deliver a similar unemployment benefit to its citizen. It also built a contact center using Amazon Connect. On the first full day of operation on April 19, the new service running on AWS allowed 75,000 Rhode Islanders to file claims successfully. The same with the Kansas Department of Labor, who was receiving 1.6 million calls a day from 40,000 unique callers—volumes that the existing on-premises platform was incapable of serving, leading to high levels of frustration. In the US, AWS helped 14 states launch unemployment insurance call centers in the spring at the height of the pandemic.
This type of rapid deployment of technology to solve citizen needs has never been seen before, largely because we haven’t been faced with the need to communicate with citizens en masse like this.
The Canadian government has moved quickly during the pandemic and the power of what the cloud can enable for governments and businesses is undeniable. Digital modernization is here and we look forward to the next round of innovation across Canada and the world.
Rejean Bourgault is the Country Manager – Canada Public Sector – Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Photo by Artur Tumasjan on Unsplash
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