AWS is seizing the enormous ASEAN cloud opportunities. Here’s how
- In a group interview during the AWS Summit in Singapore recently, the cloud giant shared how it has been doubling up on efforts amidst the pandemic to meet the growing necessities for cloud services in the region, especially within the public sector
It wasn’t until the pandemic that governments worldwide were forced to deliver vital public services in unprecedented ways. Many administrations had to experiment with digital technologies on an unforeseen scale as citizens simultaneously turned to their public healthcare providers, educational institutions and even other public sector organizations for help during the crisis. The changes were not only overwhelming, but often collided with overburdened and outdated IT systems.
Then came public service providers that were quick to adapt to the soaring demand, and in no time implemented innovative solutions that helped people access critical resources and infrastructures. In Southeast Asia, a region where cloud adoption was at an all time high especially during the pandemic, the cloud computing division of Amazon, Amazon Web Services (AWS), were quick to ride on the cloud adoption wave.
While AWS provides cloud services to public sector organizations around the world, the cloud giant witnessed first-hand how the pandemic sparked public sector innovation in the region, in the form of small pilots and large-scale transformations. AWS regional managing director for ASEAN, Eric Conrad, shared how despite the transformation were the result of an emergency, many of those moves have set the path for lasting change far beyond the crisis.
“Especially when it comes to public sector solutions built on the cloud,” he told reporters during a group interview at the AWS Summit held in Singapore. “Over the past two years due to necessities, organizations, public sectors, governments, health agencies, nonprofits, and educational institutions have had to really adopt the cloud. Because there really was no other way in which they could meet the critical needs their nations faced,” Conrad said.
He also shared how AWS witnessed a lot of work associated with educational institutions, and more apparently through different ministries. “The pandemic has really had a significant financial impact to the balance sheets of all of the governments and so you know, if ministries and agencies are being asked to do more with less, they’re beginning to take a look at what is the best way to do that,” he noted.
Essentially, the shift signals how governments can quickly innovate and address critical needs that they otherwise would not have been able to do under traditional on-premises approaches, Conrad suggests. The changes, he reckons, also led to governments increasingly adopting policies that will accelerate the access and use of cloud across ministries and agencies.
The AWS Cloud journey began in Singapore
AWS has had a head start as one of the first cloud suppliers to enter Southeast Asia with a Singapore data center in 2010 and Conrad reckons till date, the city-island stands at the forefront of cloud adoption within the region. “It is true that Singapore is further along in terms of maturity and adoption of the cloud but I think it’s important to look at the fact that their region was established more than a decade ago, so that is how long they have been working with AWS.”
As a result, Conrad said Singapore have been able to fast track a couple of initiates. “Number one, they have addressed those procurement mechanisms early on. Number two, they established a very strong cloud-first policy. In fact, they have specific goals about how much they want to get onto the cloud. Number three, they have a very thoughtfully designed data classification structure, so that they understand that unrestricted or public data that is of low risk can easily be put on the cloud — and they are continuously refining that,” Conrad continued.
Expansion to Malaysia
In terms of collaboration with educational institutions or ministries of education across ASEAN, Conrad shared a significant collaboration AWS has with the Department of Polytechnic and Community College Education (DPCCE), which is a department under the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE). “We have helped the local Polytechnic to get their online learning system onto the cloud so that they can scale effectively and deliver online coursework to 150,000 students throughout the pandemic,” he shared.
Then in March 2022, AWS signed a new Cloud Framework Agreement (CFA) with the Malaysian government, together with local IT provider and AWS Partner Radmik Solutions Sdn Bhd, to help accelerate cloud adoption in the public sector and help agencies save costs, boost digital skills, and drive innovation.
AWS setting a stronger foothold in Thailand
When it comes to Thailand, where AWS has set up a local office in May 2016 to better support customers of both Amazon and AWS, a MoU were signed earlier this year with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand (MDES). “The MoU enables Thai agencies to have access to AWS cloud services to deliver their services. The move was quickly followed up with education, where we committed to providing skills to 1200 government employees in Thailand,” Conrad shared.
In essence, what AWS noticed is a very tangible shift in terms of how governments want to move forward, and as of time of this writing, AWS just announced it plans to invest US$5 billion in Thailand over the next 15 years to strengthen its infrastructure in the country. The investment would include construction of data centers, and purchase of goods and services from regional businesses, according to AWS in a statement.
The cloud giant also plans to set up an infrastructure hub in Bangkok to help customers in the region securely store data and serve end users better. “AWS’ plan to build data centers in Thailand is a significant milestone that will bring advanced cloud computing services to more organizations and help us deliver our Thailand 4.0 ambition to create a digitized, value-based economy,” Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said.
Biggest challenges AWS Cloud sees in ASEAN public sector cloud adoption
Conrad thinks that people and culture are the biggest hindrances when it comes to the cloud adoption. “And by that, I mean that you have to have very strong leadership from the top. You have to create an environment where people feel safe and reach for the goals set. So experimentation is a key component, because that’s how people learn,” he told reporters during the briefing. Another major challenge Conrad highlighted is the lack of digital skills, and more specifically cloud skills — both which AWS have been actively pursuing to improve.
Referring back to AWS’ report commissioned by AlphaBeta, Building Digital Skills for the Changing Workforce, Conrad emphasized how their research found that the seven countries studied will need to collectively train an estimated 86 million more workers over the next year in digital skills to keep pace with technological advancements. The amount is equivalent to 14% of the current total workforce across Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea.
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