9 Bold Statements From AWS Public Sector VP Max Peterson

CRN looks at the top remarks from Peterson, vice president of Amazon Web Services’ worldwide public sector business, at AWS Summit Washington D.C.

The global coronavirus pandemic showed that people expect the same world-class technology from their public sector organizations that they expect when they log on to Netflix or when they shop online, says Max Peterson, vice president of Amazon Web Services’ worldwide public sector business.

The pandemic provided an “unfortunate laboratory of innovation” that in many ways has been powered by technology and cloud computing, Peterson said during his keynote at the AWS Summit Washington, D.C. Though many governments and non-profits had been working on the cloud to start digitizing and modernizing their organizations, it took that “jolt” to derive a true transformation in digital services, he said.

While in-person engagement was limited, if not completely shut down, citizen demand for government services has skyrocketed, Peterson noted. From delivering unemployment benefits to providing emergency hotlines to managing the flood of new health data, the capacity of many of AWS public sector customers was really tested, he said.

“We found out during COVID (that) sometimes the only interface that we have is digital — with our citizens, our customers, our students — and so failure was just not an option,” Peterson said. “COVID changed our health care, it changed the way that we work, it changed the way we learn — for the public sector, it changed almost everything. Citizens turn to local and national governments every day, and those agencies must deliver. Because of the global pandemic, many customers did heroic things to keep their systems up and running. The cloud enabled them to maintain their business continuity, move at astounding speeds and deliver critical services — and to speak to their citizens and interact with their citizens in these hours of greatest need.”

More than 1,000 AWS partners had registered for the AWS Summit Washington D.C. Here’s a look at some of Peterson’s top remarks from his keynote.

Moderna And Vaccines

COVID-19 drove a major acceleration in telemedicine, in digital health, in data sharing and medical research. What used to take years to develop or accomplish, we saw customers doing in days or weeks. And now that we’ve proven that this is possible at scale, how do we keep building this momentum and build together for a better world?

One of the most powerful examples of rapid innovation that was born out of the crisis is speed with which COVID-19 vaccines were developed. Moderna was one of the leading companies addressing this pandemic. The power of Moderna’s cloud-based strategy was demonstrated by the speed with which they delivered a highly effective vaccine and its capacity to scale production globally. Long before Moderna was a household name, they had used AWS-powered research engines to develop and deliver on the promise of mRNA vaccines.

Once the vaccine was developed, it quickly became apparent that the next challenge for our public health system would be efficient and equitable distribution. Around the world, AWS worked alongside more than 26 national governments to build vaccine management systems that could help organizations quickly scale up to meet the surging demand for vaccines. Here in the U.S., we worked with 32 states to support public health initiatives such as vaccine management, immunization management systems, electronic lab reporting, contact tracing, data lakes and more.

The provincial health authority in British Columbia (Canada) built a system that could accommodate 2.5 million residents in a matter of weeks. We had the privilege to work with the government of India to execute the largest vaccine drive in history through their application called CoWIN, a country-wide vaccine registration and scheduling management system. And here are the results: When it first opened, 1.9 million people accessed the system. Today, viewing the CoWIN dashboard, more than 850 million vaccine doses have been administered, and more than 1 billion people are expected to eventually use this system. That is scale. And that’s the power that you can have on the AWS cloud. Let me give you an example for just how big this operation is. On Sept. 17 of this year, CoWIN recorded 22.5 million vaccinations in one day. It was a historic milestone for India’s vaccination effort. That’s the equivalent of vaccinating every person in the state of New York today. That’s scale.


In addition to the direct involvement in vaccine development and rollout, our cloud-based services also helped to usher in a new era of telehealth — a long-promised revolution in healthcare. The stories of how customers in our healthcare sector are innovating throughout this pandemic continue to flood in.

New South Wales (in Australia) was able to handle an 18-fold increase in video conferencing and scale up to support remote employees and telehealth services on the cloud. They used Amazon Connect, our cloud contact center, to manage this influx of calls regarding COVID-19 testing and provided SMS message results as part of the workflow. The customer stood up the solution in just three weeks. And since March of 2020, it has sent and received more than 104 million SMS messages using Amazon Pinpoint. Again and again, we’ve seen how technology meets healthcare on the frontlines to care for more people in more ways and more quickly and cost-effectively than ever.

Genomics Advances

It took less than a year to go from diagnosing the first case of COVID-19 to administering the first vaccine. Advances in genomics, sped up by the cloud, contributed to this revolutionary speed.

Genomics England (GEL) was established to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project, a cohort of cancer and rare disease whole genomes by the UK Department of Health and Social Care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, GEL launched an initiative to deliver a cohort of eight leading pharmaceutical companies and research organizations to fuel vaccine treatment and early-detection research. The COVID Research Environment now hosts 35,000 genomes and went live on AWS in under three months. This federated system allows companies and researchers across the cohort to connect with their own private data sets and then help increase global collaboration in a secure environment.

GEL is also currently migrating its genomics medicine service to AWS, along with the 100,000-genome data set to further accelerate research.

New Health Equity Program

The pandemic has exposed many of the disparities in our society. Now more than ever, we need to end these disparities in our healthcare systems. That’s why…we’re launching a new global program to help customers advance health equity. It’s a three-year, $40 million commitment to harness the power of the cloud to advance technology and health equity globally.

We’ll offer AWS promotional credits and technical expertise to qualified organizations that are advancing health equity in three important areas. Organizations must increase access to health and social services for underserved or underrepresented communities; advance progress on…behavioral and social determinants of health; or leverage data to identify and inform interventions to provide more equitable systems of care. This is just the start, but it’s an important one. And we invite you all to join us by exploring this program and submitting your applications by Nov. 15.

Civic Engagement

Civic engagement is the lifeblood of democracy. And with the pandemic, much of that had to move online really quickly.

Last summer, both the Democratic and the Republican national conventions had to pivot to virtual events. They had to do this in a very limited timeframe, with no room for error and facing a backdrop of information security threats from foreign actors and at a scale that they had never done before. It was a monumental task. But we’re proud to say that both conventions used AWS services, and they were executed seamlessly and successfully.

In fact, over 7,500 government agencies around the world use AWS, and we work with customers to address an array of different sophisticated threats designed to undermine system integrity and public trust. But AWS with election administrators and political campaigns that are all powered on AWS are focused on making sure that they’re delivered securely, maintaining the infrastructure and supporting exactly these types of mission-critical efforts.

AWS Expanding re/Start To Latin America

One of our most critical passions is using the power of the cloud to help build up the next-generation IT workforce. As technology advances, we need skilled workers who understand what the new technologies are and help them stay ahead of the technology learning curve. We hear this from industry that there is a lack of skills, and that could be one of the greatest inhibitors to their cloud transformation and their cloud journey.

For more than a decade, AWS has been committed to democratizing knowledge and giving all individuals — regardless of their background, education or social status — the opportunity to build technical skills. In August, we announced that we doubled our AWS re/Start program’s global presence. Re/Start, is a free, 12-week program that prepares unemployed or underemployed individuals for careers in cloud computing. And, importantly, we connect more than 90 percent of those graduates with job interviews, and so it goes from skills to real job opportunity.

Today, we want to announce a further expansion of the re/Start program into Latin America. We’ll be bringing it to five new countries: Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Peru.

Security, Compliance And Wickr

We take very seriously our role in providing a secure environment for governments to operate and serve their citizens. In fact, the security and compliance requirements that public sector organizations must meet continue to ratchet up each year: in Europe, the European Union’s Schrems II court case, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and privacy; the U.S. president’s executive order on cybersecurity. They’re just a few of the examples of the regulatory requirements that all of our customers have to deal with.

And as these requirements become more complex, the threat landscape has been even more active than any time in the past, with ransomware attacks being top of mind among public sector policymakers, CISOs and security teams. Our customers must be able to move quickly and focus on their mission-critical tasks.

In June, we announced the acquisition of Wickr, which brought to market an end-to-end encrypted collaboration project. When the NSA (National Security Agency) published its guide to selecting and safely using collaboration services for telework, Wickr was the only U.S.-based company that met all of their security elements.


Another exciting development is that we’re enhancing our IPv6 support for Amazon EC2 to support IPv6-only networking on the EC2 instances.

As our federal customers know, the White House OMB (Office of Management and Budget) issued a mandate for U.S. agencies to make federal information systems IPv6-native-enabled by 2023. We’re committed to this important standards initiative, and we’re excited to announce that we will be releasing the IPv6 feature in just the coming weeks. I know a couple of our customers were waiting for that capability, so we’re excited to be able to share publicly that it’s coming.

Cybersecurity Executive Order

In May, the White House issued an executive order on improving the nation’s cybersecurity. With increasingly sophisticated digital threats, the Biden administration has elevated cybersecurity as a national imperative.

AWS is ready to work with our customers to assess resources, provide expertise, use the right technology, employ professional services, all to accelerate timelines for meeting the mandated security and compliance requirements. …Partners can help. This is critical for all U.S. agencies, and the best practices apply globally to the benefit of all organizations planning for this secure capability in a global threat landscape.