Cloud computing model perfect fit for PH public sector, says AWS

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Although the Philippines is not exactly known for having an efficient bureaucracy, the government has actually put in place a good policy on cloud adoption that will allow the country’s public sector to take the big leap into the future.   

AWS regional managing director for Asia Pacific and Japan for the public sector Peter Moore

Peter Moore, regional managing director for Asia Pacific and Japan for the public sector at Amazon Web Services (AWS), said the “cloud-first” policy espoused by the Philippine government is already producing significant results.

“The Philippines has actually progressed very well. It helps that the government has a cloud-first policy. That’s a very positive thing for the country,” said Moore in a recent interview during the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington DC.

Moore, who is based in Singapore and has been working in the public sector space for decades, said the cloud is the ideal model for developing countries like the Philippines because it does not require infrastructure spending but is highly scalable.

“The reality is that, if you look across all of the socio-economic challenges that governments are trying to face, they are constrained by the money available intended to achieve the outcomes that citizens are looking for,” he said.

This is where the power of cloud computing comes in, Moore said. “Rather than governments having to expend a lot of money to buy data centers, they can use the cloud on a pay-as-you-go-basis,” he stressed.

The Philippine government, he said, should take credit for being able to recognize early on the advantage of the cloud and made the necessary move to give preference to it over the traditional computing model.

“We worked with the government of the Philippines to give them a framework for using the cloud and to establish a set of guidelines for the use of the cloud,” he recalled.

Local implementations

The executive said among the projects that AWS has undertaken in the local public sector is the Advanced Manifest System (AMS) of the Bureau of Customs.

The AMS, which was started in March 2016 and deployed within three months, allows brokers, customs employees, and others to review and assess inbound goods 24 hours after their departure from their port of origin. This streamlines clearance processes up to 35 days before the goods arrive in the Philippines.

This transparency, according to AWS, helps equip law enforcement and other regulatory agencies with near real-time access to information about all inbound cargo.

Before using the cloud-based system, the BOC historically relied on labor-intensive, paper-based systems and its own data centers which would take three or four days to process a transaction. This slowed trade activities and left opportunities for corrupt behavior.

“The AMS is a good example where tremendous savings and efficiencies can be gained. And also, I might add, a lot of transparency as well,” Moore shared.

Using AWS also helps BOC avoid cost expenditure of hundreds of millions of pesos in purchasing and maintaining servers for 48 locations throughout the Philippines, the company said.

“By leveraging the cloud and making the systems for import clearance available to customs offices around the country, it has led to some really great outcomes in a very cost-effective way,” Moore emphasized.

The AWS official said another project that it implemented in the Philippines involved the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the famed international agricultural research and training organization based in the province of Laguna.

IRRI made use of the AWS cloud platform to develop and run PRISM or the Philippine Rice Information System. The system provides satellite “snapshots” of rice-growing regions covering seven million square kilometers of the South and Southeast Asia.

Having this “rice map” allows IRRI to monitor rice growth, assess damage from droughts, flood and typhoons, and disseminate information that helps policymakers in local government units and even insurance companies make recommendations on how to avert or recover from disasters, optimize farming sites, pay out insurance claims, and allocate resources for the betterment of farming communities .

Additionally, by turning to cloud computing, IRRI was able to conduct projects that require huge amounts of data such as the 3,000 Rice Genome Project (3K RGP). This project involves the sequencing of 3,024 rice varieties from 89 countries that, through analysis, can yield important traits leading to better nutritive value, climate change tolerance, and disease resistance.

IRRI’s 3,000 Rice Genome data is now freely available as an AWS Public Data Set, according to Moore. 

“This is another important topic. We believe that too often, data is collected and kept private. The value of that data is limited to whoever has access to that data. By hosting this type of data on AWS in a public data set, not only does it make it cost-effective because we have a public data set program where we provide the storage at no cost, but it means that people from all around the world then have access to that genome data set,” he said.

Huge potential of PH

For Moore, the Philippines has what it takes to succeed in the cloud era because of the country’s “incredible” human capital potential.

“If you think about many of the countries in Asia, most are facing an aging population problem. The Philippines does not have that problem because of many young people. As a result of that, we’re very excited about the opportunities to help develop the young people in the Philippines,” Moore said.

The executive said AWS has been working with the Philippine government on educating young people about the cloud. “With that education, they’ll be able to get better jobs, and it will help grow the economy of the country,” he said.

A part of the company’s education initiatives in the country is Siklab Pilipinas, a training program that is now on its second consecutive year. Siklab Philippines, said Moore, is a way of addressing what is somewhat unique to the Philippines, which is so many young people graduating without a lot of opportunity for a job.

“We want to give those people the opportunity for a job by holding these training events and by bringing companies in that are looking for people with cloud skills and doing that matching process. It’s one of the most successful programs we’ve run worldwide,” he said.

This year’s event is expanding from Manila to other major cities including Cebu, Davao, and other parts of Luzon, to reach more graduating students and educators. The week-long training events will be conducted monthly from May to December 2019 in cities across the Philippines, with the first session conducted on May 20 to 24, 2019 in Manila. There were 180 students participated in the training and 150 students participated in the job fair.

Siklab Pilipinas is part of the global education program called AWS Educate which aims to narrow the technological skills gap for companies requiring cloud skills, including technical ability in artificial intelligence, machine learning, or Internet-of-Things (IoT).

Under the program, AWS provides cloud computing-related course contents, collaboration tools, and AWS Promotional Credits for hands-on use of cloud services that enables students to experience the AWS cloud technologies first-hand.  The program offers 12 self-paced cloud career learning pathways that represent the most in-demand technology roles around the world.

“We also invite organizations that are looking for people that have cloud skills to participate in these events,” Moore said. “We get these young graduates and we take them through intensive training. The companies that come along could then hire those people.”

Unlike other vendors which require students to get certifications on their technologies, Moore said AWS is taking a different tack. “What we focus on is workplace skills. We don’t want just treat this as an academic exercise,” he pointed out.

Moore added: “In AWS Educate, you get badges for each step. And then when you get to the end, you can go to the job board, which then allows organizations to find people that will fit their requirements.”

He said some the companies that have participated in the event include Jollibee, Globe Telecom, and Aboitiz Equity Ventures.

“In general, the Philippines has some advantages because of its tech readiness and the English language proficiency of the people. This is the reason why it is a large outsourcing country for IT. There’s a lot of demand and a lot of capability,” he concluded.

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