Government matters today in a way that it hasn’t mattered in decades. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the nation, we are reminded how much we need the services provided by our federal, state and local governments.
Agencies are working around the clock, pushing the systems they rely on to their limits in order to provide constituents with essential services. What’s remarkable is the unheralded speed and innovation they’re demonstrating to get us all through these times. Their ability to forge rapid public-private partnerships and scale to the crisis today will matter in the months ahead and will likely forever change the way they serve their missions.
Google is proud to be one of many organizations partnering with government agencies during this period. We are working alongside agency leaders to implement new solutions that allow them to shift quickly to remote work, use their data to inform decisions and prepare critical social services programs to meet unprecedented demand now and in the future.
Helping states respond to the surge of resource demands
As the pandemic continues to disrupt lives across the nation, state governments’ unemployment websites are being inundated by an unprecedented amount of traffic.
The systems state agencies had in place weren’t designed to accommodate the number of Americans suddenly filing unemployment insurance applications, which skyrocketed past historic norms. Claims topped 6.6 million in a single week, ending April 4, and 5.3 million in the week after, according to seasonally adjusted Labor Department figures.
We are proud to be helping states like Illinois and New York meet this overwhelming demand. In the first three weeks of Illinois’ stay-at-home order, for instance, nearly half a million residents filed for unemployment benefits. Soon after, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced an overhaul of the state’s unemployment website. Google responded by bringing artificial-intelligence-enabled tools to help the state process its high number of claims.
And New York — the hardest hit state in the pandemic crisis so far — announced it is working with Google Cloud and other industry leaders to greatly improve online and telephone-based unemployment insurance application systems and speed the response to constituent claims. Additionally, we are working with New York to provide information to residents in a number of other areas, including updates on the virus, home education and global social distancing data.
Coordinating medical and research data in real time
Coordinating the efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic has also meant assembling and analyzing data required to understand both how the virus spreads and how it affects communities. Public leaders recognized the benefit of reaching out to organizations around the globe to consolidate information sharing.
Google Cloud is one of several organizations that responded to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s request to develop new text- and data-mining techniques that examine COVID-19 using an Open Research Dataset (CORD-19). The dataset represents the most extensive machine-readable coronavirus literature collection available for data and text mining to date.
No one is in more need of that data to make decisions on the ground than our public health workers. We have been working with state leaders to find better ways of delivering that information. For example, a recent partnership with Oklahoma’s State Department of Health is improving how medical staff engage remotely with patients who may have been exposed to the virus. The department deployed a COVID tracking system within 48 hours. The tracker will be used to provide symptoms updates, enable tracing management and logistics, test scheduling and give customized advice.
Stepping up crisis response, information sharing, and telehealth support
At a local level, community leaders are using G Suite technology for outreach and to track the virus’ impact in their neighborhoods. Eagle County, Larimer County, Summit County and Pitkin County in Colorado, for example, all launched sites to enable their constituents to report symptoms related to coronavirus.
Given the uncertainty on how long the majority of the workforce will continue working remotely, we’re taking steps to expand the videoconferencing capabilities of Google Meet. In early April, we partnered with the Texas Association of Counties to offer free licensing of our Google Meet software through early fall, to ensure local leaders can continue conducting open meetings with their constituents.
Preparing critical government programs for what’s next
While the full socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 remain to be seen, this crisis will be a defining moment to how quickly and effectively government can address the needs of citizens across the nation. Agencies that provide social services are priming for increased demand for food, cash, medical and other critical public assistance programs, and more than 26 million Americans to date have applied for unemployment benefits since the crisis began.
We look forward to continuing to partner with our government customers to help them address their most pressing needs while they work to support citizens impacted by COVID-19.
Mike Daniels is the Vice President of Global Public Sector at Google Cloud. He has worked to help public sector entities take advantage of technology solutions for over 25 years. He and his team are focused on helping customers achieve breakthrough digital transformation results by effectively capitalizing on the innovation available through Google Cloud solutions.
Learn more about how Google Cloud is helping the U.S. public sector during the pandemic and beyond.