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What You Missed at AWS Public Sector Summit 2017

Last week I attended the annual worldwide AWS Public Sector Summit for government, education, and nonprofit technology leaders. This was my first time attending this summit, and it was incredible to hear customer stories from well-known organizations such as the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Ministry of Justice UK, the Australian Taxation Office, and more. The event lasted two days and was packed with more than 100 breakout sessions and 10,000 attendees, multiple announcements, and 95 partners participating. Here are my key takeaways:

Security Is a Top Priority

Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer at, kicked off the first keynote with the theme of Super Powers. The first super power he introduced was a force field, relating to the key message of security. Vogels acknowledged that the public cloud is commonly perceived as not being secure. However, he considers this to be a myth, noting security as a top priority for many AWS customers, and therefore for AWS. Coinciding with this theme was the announcement of AWS GovCloud (US-East) coming in 2018. This new region meets US government compliance requirements and gives AWS customers another place to host their critical data. Although Vogels introduced several other super powers during his keynote, it was clear security would be a core focus throughout the summit.

One of the featured speakers on day two was Craig Fox, Assistant Commissioner at the Australian Taxation Office. Fox shared how the Taxation Office started their cloud journey roughly three to four years ago. At that time their new CEO mandated that they project towards the future. The main issues they had to address were security and data center sovereignty. Their strategy was to get all of the security stakeholders in one room to design their requirements for adopting the cloud. The security stakeholders were asked to run their newly developed cloud requirements against their on-premises infrastructure. By doing so they realized that the cloud was secure, and the next step is to implement the concept of a digital marketplace with high availability, resiliency, security, and 24/7 nonstop service.

Digital Transformation Can Give You Immortality

Another key concept throughout the summit was digital transformation. This concept was highlighted by Vogels during the conclusion of the day one keynote. Vogels stated “we all want immortality and digital transformation is the key to our survival.” The featured speakers throughout both the day one and day two keynotes touched on this idea of digital transformation.

One speaker that stood out was Tom Read, Chief Digital and Information Officer (CDIO), at the Ministry of Justice UK. Read described the digital transformation journey that was underway at the Ministry, saying that they want to transform the way they approach incarceration. He shared several new services, powered by AWS, that have been created for prisoners, such as applications for visitation, exchanging money, and a record keeping app for their escorts. The purpose of these services is to give the prisoners the option to manage their own affairs.

The idea behind digital transformation and immortality resonates with many organizations. On day two AWS announced the 2017 City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge Winners, recognizing 19 local and regional governments for the innovations they have accomplished to benefit their citizens. Digital transformation can be summed up by acknowledging that organizations must create new innovations and services to meet the needs of their constituents, and to survive.

AWS City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge Best Practices Category

Education Is the #1 Vertical

During the day two keynote, Teresa Carlson, VP of Worldwide Public Sector at AWS, said education is the number one vertical. To follow up this statement Carlson introduced the new AWS Education Competency, emphasizing that using AWS services to free up resources for innovation and improving the student experience are important to AWS.

One notable keynote on this topic was by Dr. William Ballhaus, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President at Blackboard. Ballhaus shared how Blackboard has 32 data centers, as well as over 16,000 physical and virtual servers and 12 PB of storage. In order to help solve client problems around the globe they have successfully migrated two critical applications to the cloud, with more to come. One example shared was how in South Africa there is civil unrest and universities are often locked down. However, with Blackboard learning can continue remotely. Thanks to technology, education is attainable across the globe.

AWS Education Competency

Diversity Powers the Future of Tech

The final notable takeaway from the summit was “We Power Tech.” We Power Tech is the AWS belief that the future of technology is shared across multiple genders, origins, backgrounds, ages, etc. Diversity powers the future was certainly a key takeaway. As part of We Power Tech, AWS wants to inspire the next generation of bright minds. It was inspiring when Teresa Carlson introduced Kavya Kopparapu, 16 year old CEO and Founder of Girls Computing League, to close out the final keynote of the summit. Kopparapu created her organization to empower, educate, and encourage other girls to be interested in computer science. The message of educating young minds and encouraging diversity was a great way to end the summit.

AWS We Power Tech

Final Thoughts

I have attended several other AWS Summits in the past, but the Public Sector Summit may be my favorite. It was a great opportunity to hear how public sector organizations and agencies are leveraging AWS to benefit citizens across the globe. If you attended, what were your key takeaways? Please share them with me on Twitter!