How Oregon Addressed a Flood of Unemployment Claims
Early in the pandemic, the Oregon Employment Department faced a crush of unemployment insurance claims, and its legacy systems could not keep up with the demand.
To fix the issue, Oregon contracted with Google to set up a cloud-based portal that “allows the agency staff to link claims to the agency’s mainframe computer system, which handles benefit payments,” as Columbia Gorge News reports. In that process, IGNW, a CDW company, played a crucial role in connecting those systems. It was able to tie the Oregon Employment Department’s legacy PDF forms to Google Cloud, which rapidly sped up claims processing. Prior to the change, applications for unemployment insurance were coming in one by one via PDF, and a staff member was reading them.
The shift helped the state scale up claims processing from about 100,000 claims to 500,000 in a week and a half.
The Oregon example shows many legacy applications that have been around for years performing the same function can be automated. Modern applications can also leverage chatbots that can answer frequently asked questions and then connect to a human staffer for more complex queries.
Another aspect of the drive to modernize is that many state and local government IT staffers do not understand the power of the data they hold once it is placed in the cloud and analyzed with AI-based analytics tools.
Such analytics capabilities can be used to help agencies figure out how to improve their services. For example, in the unemployment context, analytics can help determine how many people have had their claims paid out, how many people might have been erroneously paid twice, how many people remain in the queue, and so on.
Creating the Ability to Develop Modern Applications
One way government IT leaders can accelerate their adoption of modern government services is to change the way government applications are developed.
Such an effort is not easy, especially if government application developers are accustomed to developing apps only in established languages such as Python.
While the term software-defined data center has become ubiquitous, the framework of virtualized infrastructure can indeed serve to develop modernized applications. Such efforts are necessary for government to rapidly develop new citizen-facing services.
IT teams and government application developers can leverage tools such as infrastructure as code to create infrastructure on demand in the cloud using software. However, if government agencies do not have the expertise in house to do so, they turn to experienced partners, such as CDW and IGNW, for help.
Two tools can be very useful in this regard. One is infrastructure as code tools from HashiCorp, which can be used to navigate multiple clouds and on-premises infrastructure from a code perspective. Another is a Contentful headless content management system, which is a cloud-based, product-focused CMS.
Partners can use these tools to write scripts for agencies to modernize and automate application development. All of this can be used to speed up the development and deployment of cloud-based applications.
While such tools have the ability to create modern apps, IT teams need buy-in from C-suite leadership and elected officials to drive such initiatives forward. Citizens are demanding more responsive, easy-to-use government services, and agencies have the technology tools available to deliver those. However, agencies need to commit to make modern digital government a reality.