Agencies embrace the cloud for digital records and virtual reality during and after the pandemic

After the pandemic, the public service is expected to be hybrid, paperless and nimble. It is thanks to cloud technology, which the Department of Labor, Government Accountability Office and Air Force have implemented in a personalized way both through the conditions of forced mass teleworking of COVID-19 and before them. this.

Since last year, Labor has embraced the remote working environment with more enthusiasm and adapted its approach to collaboration. Shifting the foreign labor certification process at Labor from paper to the cloud – something Rick Kryger, deputy director of information for operations, thankfully said was done before the pandemic – streamlined the process, from processing applications to their examination and treatment.

“There is an interaction between federal agencies to accomplish this. So between the Ministry of Labor, we obviously need to communicate with immigration on this particular subject, to make sure that the approval for this purpose goes through all the processes of the government, not only to the Ministry of Labor, but it also affects agriculture [for farm workers] and immigration, ”he said as part of a virtual panel organized by GovExec on Thursday. “So that streamlines it across government, not just in one agency where we’re seeing benefits like this. “

The department also moved court filing and appeals for labor disputes from paper to the cloud, which Kryger said was important because the National Archives and Records Administration requires agencies to submit digital versions for records. permanent.

But dematerialization has also affected the collaboration habits and functioning of managers. Kryger described a noticeable change in the way a Zoom meeting, for example, eliminates the “head-of-the-table” dynamic of a physical conference room, which helps more people join the conversation. While he plans a hybrid model when some people eventually return to the office, this digital component of collaboration is not disappearing.

The cloud enables virtual and augmented reality

The lack of paper helped the Air Force track its flight assessments more efficiently and accurately, but when the pandemic hit, the need for digital was especially urgent. Major Bryan Allebone, a combat training instructor at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and his team relied on the use of virtual reality and augmented reality, which also posed a problem. content delivery.

“We were able to leverage things like Software as a Service using some of the API-driven elements out of the box in order to actually distribute that content, because in a lot of ways it’s kind of sensitive or mostly sensitive. the times, ”he said. “But it made it accessible from a FedRAMP-approved source on an app we developed, and it was slim, it was something we could put on the periphery of a device. person and allow them to offload it to the SaaS provider. “

Virtual reality and augmented reality also have potential in a post-pandemic world. Taka Ariga, chief data scientist and director of GAO’s innovation lab, said the agency can use AR to conduct surveillance visits because the COVID Delta variant makes travel precarious. GAO can physically send one person to a site instead of twenty, while achieving the same experience of working with headquarters or a field office.

Ariga said that before an agency spends a dime, from the Technology Modernization Fund or for that matter in the name of virtualization, they should “articulate what is the architecture of your journey in the cloud.” . Is it lift and shift or optimized for the cloud?

“And more importantly, go talk to people like Rick, who have already done the job, so you don’t reinvent the lessons learned,” he said. “Many federal agencies are loath to talk about failure – that ‘F’ word is such a dirty word in the public sector. But there are many kinds of common mistakes that organizations tend to repeat because they don’t have this kind of knowledge sharing.

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