With the global COVID-19 pandemic, floods and wildfires in the northern hemisphere, and a long Australian summer ahead, having the capability to successfully manage emergency events has never been more critical.
Police forces, fire brigades, medical personnel, and the armed forces need to be able to mobilise quickly and work together to overcome whatever challenges the nation is facing. Failing to achieve this can lead to devastating losses of property and life.
Governments at all levels also have a key role to play – from high-level coordination and leadership to the allocation of resources to those in need, departments and agencies must be able to respond and deliver required support as rapidly as possible.
The power of data
Increasingly, effective responses to emergencies are relying on access to data. This data can be anything from COVID-19 case numbers and vaccination supplies to bushfire movements, flood forecasts, and hospital admission rates.
Encouragingly, Australia’s governments have indicated they are prioritising the way data relating to natural disasters and emergencies is shared. Earlier this year, Australia’s National Cabinet signed off on an intergovernmental agreement that commits all states and territories to sharing data between jurisdictions by default.
This move is a welcome one, but it is only the first step in a journey to true data sharing within and between governments. As well as setting policies, the public sector must rapidly move to put in place the infrastructure that can turn those policies into action.
Around the world, there are some compelling examples of how efficient data sharing is already being used as part of the response to emergency events.
In the United States, the California Department of Technology (CDT) has used Snowflake to create a centralised location for all data relating to COVID-19. By harnessing Snowflake’s Data Cloud, CDT has been able to securely share that data with state agencies and departments, as well as partners such as hospitals and vaccine providers.
Rather than taking months or even years to get the required infrastructure up and running, as is often the case for governments, the entire platform was fully operational in just days. CDT now has a single source of the truth to support its ongoing battle with the virus.
A similar approach to COVID-19 data management has been undertaken by the City of San Francisco. The city has created an integrated hub dubbed the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). This hub is being used to centralise data around the purchasing and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Using the Snowflake Data Cloud, the EOC has been able to provide a consolidated view of PPE quantities, where they are located, and how they need to be distributed. The hub was deployed in less than a week.
Such examples of rapid deployment of data platforms by government bodies clearly show the benefits that can be delivered. Rather than remaining in disconnected silos across multiple locations, data is made readily accessible to those who need it.
This consolidation also helps to significantly improve data reliability and Integrity. As was the case for the CDT, data can be ingested from multiple sources and combined to provide a single, reliable source of truth.
Data consolidation can also help to overcome the constant challenge of effective security. Governments need to ensure a safe and secure data environment is in place to enable data sharing between agencies and with other parties.
Government agencies have deployed Snowflake’s native security features to prevent re-identification of protected citizen identities and protect against cyberattacks. Snowflake has also completed an Information Security Registered Assessors Program (IRAP) assessment that ensures data sharing occurs in a secure and protected manner.
With the COVID-19 pandemic likely to continue for an extended period, and the potential for other emergency events to occur at any time, Australian governments need to act now to put in place the infrastructure needed for effective data sharing.
To guide this effort, state leaders have agreed to the creation of an Australian Data Network, however detail on exactly what this will comprise is yet to be revealed.
By taking advantage of Snowflake’s Data Cloud, Australian governments can achieve secure and effective data sharing quickly and cost effectively. Just as the CDT and the City of San Francisco have demonstrated, it’s possible to achieve in weeks or even days what has traditionally taken months or years to complete.
The time for action is now.