By Trish Damkroger, VP/GM Extreme Computing Group & Clifton Roberts, Global Director Cloud & Data Policy
According to an Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) review of over 58 countries, governments around the world are dealing with technology that is evolving faster than the speed of policy development and regulation. Citizen concerns like distrust of government, widening of economic inequalities, access to healthcare and dissipation of opportunities for the next generation of the most vulnerable have spurred countries to embrace technological innovation at break-neck velocity. With geopolitical and environmental issues like conflict, climate change, exclusion, hunger, and homelessness gaining in public scrutiny, the OPSI survey illustrates an overwhelming response by governments towards three policy trends. And guess what? Data-centric high-performance computing (DC-HPC), which includes Cloud technology, artificial intelligence (AI), modeling and simulation as well as high-performance data analytics, all have roles to play in these tendencies, as the mass amounts of data to process and analyze this type of information and scientific research requires high compute power.
TREND #1 – IDENTITY
Because digital identities have become foundational to digital economies, both cloud technology and AI have evolved into innovative mechanisms that are employed to safeguard human privacy while simultaneously defending and liberating data. Consequently, public sector identity-related initiatives equally embrace these technologies for the benefit(s) of society. For instance:
- Australia is leveraging cloud and AI to help companies distinguish their identity and bring unique products and services to market through the use of revolutionary image recognition and trademark creation tools.
- Estonia, renowned for its technologically advanced government, has established “data embassies” to protect its data. These “data embassies” are servers physically stored in other countries that fall legally under Estonian jurisdiction. Through this initiative, Estonia – with a population of just under 2 million (0.4% of U.S. population) – continues to evolve as a country without borders and is, in the process, challenging the significance of sovereignty and native identity in a world of digital economies.
Of particular interest is the report’s recommendation that governments “use open standards and application programming interfaces (APIs) to unlock the potential” of public sector identity technology.
TREND #2 – INCLUSIVENESS
In its report, the OECD positions that:
“In the face of major cross-cutting challenges such as migration, aging population crises, uncertainties about the future of work and job automation, and continued gender and economic inequalities, governments are turning to innovation to build more inclusive societies. Governments are rallying behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), finding new paths towards gender equality, and easing the transition and economic circumstances for migrants. The world is at a juncture that challenges governments to acknowledge new realities and create new solutions for everyone through innovation.”
We agree that governments around the world should see innovation as a way to create more inclusive societies where no one is left behind. A great policy example is the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan of action for people, the planet, and for prosperity. Such policies challenge the public sector to embrace uncertainties like the future of job automation, or continued gender and economic inequalities, and to use cloud technology, infrastructure modernization, AI, modeling and simulation and high-performance data analytics to mold (digital) societies that are much more inclusive.
While the challenges are significant and complex, the world has never been more connected than it is now, which gives the public sector a distinct advantage to leverage technology innovation to formulate solutions that promote inclusiveness. From traffic and parking, to waste management and public health, technologies like cloud computing, AI, and DC-HPC facilitate the gathering, secure storage, analysis, and dissemination of data which governments can tap into to envisage, explore, and shape sophisticated analytics. These real-time insights can help government leaders make more intelligent choices, respond more effectively to the needs of all citizens, and ultimately offer much better results. For example, cloud technology is helping schools and universities all over the world better understand how to enhance learning outcomes. For instance:
- Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana: Known as the U.S.’s largest community college with nearly two million student records at 23 campuses, Ivy Tech found a way to store and analyze data on student performance. Using cloud technology and AI, this approach derived useful insights on struggling students, enabling a more proactive approach to interventions and support activities.
- Seattle Public Schools: AI, predictive analytics, and cloud technology helped this public school district design a system to (i) reach marginalized students, (ii) provide better insights, and (iii) enable educators to focus on improving student outcomes.
Likewise, services deployed in the cloud are confronting deeply-felt issues like homelessness. For example, the United Nations estimates that there are well over 100 million homeless people worldwide and almost two billion people who lack adequate housing. A lack of multi-agency cooperation further confounds the method of acquiring accurate data about homelessness trends. California-based VerticalChange boasts a cloud-based application that manages, stores, and analyzes data in public health sectors, which includes family support, education, and homelessness. This innovation offers the public sector the ability to securely share data and leverage its insights to understand the needs of people experiencing homelessness. Furthermore, both technology’s secure data sharing and interoperability are designed to cultivate a collaborative environment between multiple public sector entities focused on this significant issue.
Customized healthcare is another example of innovation citizens are wanting access to. Organizations such as The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard are looking to cloud computing resources to ensure the widest possible access to personalized therapies made possible by genomic analysis on HPC systems. Genomics data are huge and complex. The Broad Institute itself generates greater than 24 terabytes of data each day. Analyzing these huge data can strain even advanced on-premises HPC systems like that which The Broad Institute has available. This leads to large queues of people waiting for genomic analysis and its promise of improved care. However, the increased availability of low-cost cloud computing resources brings exciting new opportunities to employ these resources for social good. The Broad Institute has therefore sought to increase access to its Genomics Analysis Toolkit (GATK) by optimizing it for cloud environments. The Broad Institute also collaborates with Intel to develop integrated hardware and software solutions to run GATK faster, at larger scale, and with easier deployment.
Inclusion is the foundation of high performance and innovative teams and emerging fields like data and computational science should bring together individuals with a wide range of perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. Furthermore, data-centric, multi-national corporations should remain committed to empowering under-represented groups, and cloud and AI technology programs can reduce barriers to initiatives that focus on inclusivity.
TREND #3 – SYSTEMS APPROACH
In a connected world fueled by digital economies, governments’ embrace of a systems approach to solutions should understand not only the nature of problems, but also appreciate the interconnectedness inherent in the challenges they present. The ever-increasing complexity of the world’s problems may require equally complex solutions. Cloud and AI technologies are well-equipped and best-positioned to support governments’ focus on the impacts and outcomes of policies and their purposes, and DC-HPC systems are increasingly necessary for the converged AI, Modeling & Simulation and High-Performance Data Analytics (HPDA) workflows needed to grapple with society’s most complex challenges. Governmental reliance on these tools, which are largely provided by non-government actors, are indicative of the types of public/private partnerships this connected era requires. This approach includes identity (both of individuals and of organizations), inclusiveness, and efficiency and effectiveness (cost, practicality, etc.).
As such, The Economist’s Intelligence Unit recently published its Automation Readiness Index (ARI) which identifies those governments who are mature in their commitments to developing technology & innovation policy for the greater good of society, as well as indicates which countries are still developing, emerging, or nascent in innovation-related policy development efforts. The index was developed on the premise that “policies are required to help manage the transitions in the areas of innovation, education and occupational skills development” and that “governments need to have a strategy for automation.”
The ARI ranks countries for their systems approaches to innovation and South Korea ranks highest overall because of its heavy investment in AI-related research and development, as well as for its laser focus on labor market policies. Conversely, while the ARI ranks Indonesia last, the country demonstrates an unwavering commitment to improving its broadband policy which is strategic to prioritizing the improvement of its communications infrastructure.
Here are how some of the other countries stacked up:
While the ARI concludes that not a single country has yet to “take the bull by the horns,” the index leaders (rated mature & developed) have embarked on individual journeys to prepare for the age of intelligent automation. More importantly, this study illustrates an unyielding opportunity to increase engagement between government policymakers and stakeholders in lesser-developed countries emerging or nascent to the use cases, possibilities, and implications of AI and automation technologies.
RISING TO THE OCCASION
Key to meeting these government policy trends head-on is a genuine obsession over the needs of customers, stakeholders, and society in the following ways:
Identity – A Commitment to Trust and Protection: As Identity drivers like privacy and data protection continue to be cornerstones of focus for governments, a steadfast commitment to driving security innovation from the silicon to applications and from the client device, to the edge, and to the cloud, to bolster public trust in government while protecting identities, in all of its forms is crucial.
Inclusiveness – Creating a Better World through cloud technology and AI Innovation: Coupled with the cloud and AI technology that powers global efforts to drive social improvement programs, data scientists add tremendous value to the technology missions of public sector institutions. And while AI for Social Good projects positively impact people, animals, and the environment, data scientists commonly assess such projects by gauging alignment to the aforementioned policy roadmap laid out by UN Sustainable Development Goals. Examples include projects that protect children, use drones to study animals, help to grow crops more efficiently, and enable quadriplegics to control a motorized wheelchair using 3D facial gesture recognition.
Cloud and AI technology service providers would benefit by ensuring public sector institutions of their i) support of social good organizations with data-centric, cloud and AI technologies and expertise to accelerate their positive work in the world and ii) research and support efforts to ensure AI is more transparent, less biased, and more accessible to all will inspire and cultivate data-centric, AI-focused services. Specifically, the hardware, software, and algorithms that these companies create and utilize on a daily basis that may recommend the next book to read, automatically tag your images, or identify the best route to go to work, should also help identify the children who are most at risk of exploitation, improve medical diagnosis, and protect our natural resources. As both the private and public sector unleash the power of AI, close attention to the equalization of resources, capabilities, and services to those that have been traditionally dis-advantaged is paramount to deployment efforts.
Systems Approach – Real-world Applications of AI are Solving Complex Problems: Global enterprises, government, public institutions, and cloud and communications service providers employ diverse applications across their compute, storage, and network infrastructures that are considered critical to their digital transformations. Likewise, the technology that powers and connects the billions of devices that provide the landscape for the smart, connected, data-centric world should be equally expansive, building on a global ecosystem that gives government and enterprise unparalleled choice and flexibility in technology innovation as they build modern, cloud-ready data center and networks. You see, as public and private sectors continue to work together to solve some of the world’s most sophisticated challenges, removing barriers between theory and reality, is paramount. Specifically:
- Hardware should be comprehensive and include software technologies that deliver broad capabilities to both maximize AI performance, as well as support diverse approaches to innovative, trusted, and inclusive AI, no matter how complex the data or where it lives, from on-device to in the cloud.
- Software and tools should be open to speed up AI, including optimizations for the most popular frameworks and abstractions that make the best use of technology hardware in the cloud or device across training and inference.
- Radically new processing, interconnect, and software technologies should be created to break through bottlenecks in algorithmic development.
From workstation to cloud and data center, to the most power-constrained environments, to software designed to optimize performance, compute, interconnect, memory and storage, an end-to-end portfolio provides turn-key, interoperable solutions for any systems-related challenge taken on by governments.
PUSHING ‘POSSIBLE’ FORWARD
Intel CEO, Bob Swan reminds us that, “the convergence of AI and high-performance computing is an enormous opportunity to address some of the world’s biggest challenges and an important catalyst for economic opportunity.” Whether it is driverless cars, 5G communications & networking, artificial intelligence, cloud technology, or the Internet of Things, the most exciting technology innovations on the planet are primed to move society forward. By helping both public and private sector innovators of the world do more; by empowering government to transform its technology infrastructures with solutions and innovations previously thought beyond reach; and by providing the backbone for a smart, connected, and data-centric world, we can, and will, push ‘possible’ forward.