Google debuts more cloud tools for government agencies and educators – SiliconANGLE News

Google Cloud has taken it upon itself to help the U.S. government disburse billions of dollars in much-needed emergency funding for rental and housing assistance that’s yet to be claimed.

It’s believed there are millions of people across the U.S. who are entitled to some kind of financial support because of hardship experienced during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet just $7.7 billion of the more than $46 billion in federal funding that was set aside to help people pay their rent and catch up on their utility bills has so far been claimed.

Google says more than 3,000 counties are struggling to deliver emergency funding to their citizens, burdened by slow systems and older technologies that can’t keep pace. To change that, Google announced the launch of a new “public benefit solution for rental and housing” at its annual Government and Education Summit today.

The public benefit solution is a suite of tools for state and local government that’s meant to replace the outdated legacy systems they rely on with easy to use online tools. As well as providing a streamlined portal for people to apply for and receive rental and housing assistance, with artificial intelligence tools like Document AI used to rapidly process applicant’s documents, Google provides fraud detection and claims verification.

The solution also provides tools for governments to help people who are interested in job reskilling and finding work; communications modules for local governments to communicate better with constituents online and through call centers; and artificial intelligence and machine learning-powered tools to help governments assess constituent sentiment and likely policy outcomes.

Google Cloud’s public benefit solution for rental and housing has already been put to good use by Hamilton County, Ohio. Officials in the county, the third largest in Ohio in terms of population, turned to Google at the height of the pandemic when they were struggling to disburse federal money fast enough and were at risk of rescission of those funds.

“Hamilton County turned to Google Cloud’s public benefit solutions, which can scale up to meet any workload with nothing more than an internet connection,” said Mike Daniels, vice president of Global Public Sector at Google Cloud. “Families could quickly see if they qualified for assistance, and then apply online or over the phone. After just one day’s training, staff could access claims processing, fraud detection, approvals and payments, all in half the time of the old system.”

The public benefit solution is just one of many ways Google is looking to provide assistance to government agencies. In another partnership announced today, Google revealed it’s working with the State of Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services to create a new, centralized data hub that can access and analyze data across multiple agencies.

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services provides State of Oklahoma agencies with a wide range of services, including financial assistance, human resources, property management and more. But up until now, each agency has been restricted to using its own, siloed data repository, which means they were unable to cross-reference against other data sources.

Built on Google Cloud’s serverless data warehouse service BigQuery, the new data hub will help state agencies to more precisely and quickly identify needs and services, roll out targeted social programs faster and create personalized recommendations that point citizens to the right services, Google said.

Powering student success

Google’s initiatives for public good are not only restricted to helping governments. Education, as always, is another major priority and the company is announcing new services in that area aimed at helping educators scale individualized learning.

Google said today it’s expanding its portfolio of Student Success Services with a new AI-powered learning platform that’s designed to help educators develop more individualized curriculum and create more dynamic, on-demand learning opportunities for students.

The platform consists of various applications and application programming interfaces that can be integrated into a school or university’s existing computing infrastructure. Educators can create competency graphs for their students and feed these into the platform, which then uses AI to generate learning activities automatically based on those competencies. Students can then access these activities via an app.

One of the most appealing aspects of the student app is it features an “Interactive AI Tutor” that’s able to provide individualized, scalable guided practice and coaching for reading comprehension and writing. So, for example, it can generate targeted questions based on specific reading materials to help students understand and practice new concepts in a way that meet their learning needs, Google said.

Southern New Hampshire University said it has already deployed Google’s expanded Student Success Services to aid its 3,000-plus on-campus student and more than 160,000 online learners.

“We are partnering with Google Cloud to build an AI-powered system that supports this new model for learner centricity, with initial emphasis on recognizing who our learners are and what motivates them,” said Travis Willard, chief product officer at SNHU. “For example, with this platform, a student can see auto-generated and personalized recommendations for courses based on their prior learning, interests and career goals. We’re excited to explore the additional learning assistance students will get with this new learning platform, from in-course planning to tutoring.”

Easing cloud deployments

A final announcement out of Google’s Government and Education Summit today spoke of a new sandbox environment for public sector organizations to experiment with new cloud technologies without any risk, before deploying them more widely.

As Google explains, when it comes to developing new technology, public sector organizations must plan very carefully, not only to ensure they don’t overshoot their budgets, but also to avoid disruption with any existing services they provide.

To help with this, Google has announced a new service called RAD Lab, which is a Google Cloud-hosted sandbox environment for technology teams to move quickly from research and development to deployment. The idea is to help organizations prototype and accelerate the stand up of new cloud environments through experimentation, without any risk to their existing infrastructure.

“With RAD Lab, government agencies, laboratories and university IT departments can quickly create cloud environments for inexperienced and experienced users alike,” Google explained in a blog post. “With simplified processes and straightforward tools, RAD Lab users can easily spin up projects in just hours.”

Google has plenty of early adopters willing to validate the new service. In this case, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said it is using RAD Lab to enable new internal research and development in AI, machine learning, data science, enterprise architecture and more. The agency’s research teams have already used RAD Lab sandbox environments multiple times to vet ideas and develop prototypes that can scale, before deploying them more widely.

“Cloud computing is part of our drive to modernize and transform our agency’s technology to serve our mission,” said USPTO Chief Information Office Jamie Holcombe. “RAD Lab allows our staff — from technical specialists to economists and business experts — to build, test, and validate new cloud solutions to meet critical agency needs.”

Analyst Holger Mueller of Constellation Research Inc. told SiliconANGLE today’s announcements by Google are part of a wider effort by the company to retain its strong position in key cloud vertical markets.

“Google started making verticals important for clouds two-and-a-half years ago and the industry has followed,” Mueller said. “To keep its lead, Google Cloud now has to venture more into the application space, as it’s doing with its government finds disbursement offering and the new, AI-powered learning platform for higher education.”

Image: Google

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