Snowflake has unveiled its latest industry-specific offering—the Government and Education Data Cloud.
The company says its Government and Education Data Cloud is aimed at empowering educational institutions and public sector agencies at the federal, state, and local levels with a single, integrated, and cross-cloud data platform that enhances mission outcomes and enables public sector organizations to spend more time caring for citizens and students.
To learn more about this launch, Datanami spoke with Jeff Frazier, VP and head of global public sector at Snowflake.
Frazier explained the impetus behind this latest offering: “Snowflake is organized by industries, and the largest category in the world is the public sector. Government and education touch every life in every part of the world.”
The public sector is less competitive than other fields, he noted, and is typically driven by a common mission to serve, educate, and protect. “There’s a natural desire to want to share, to learn, and to achieve,” he said.
Siloed data impacts the real-time decision making process, as the secure exchange of data and collaboration is challenging for organizations that often must share data in an ad hoc way.
“The barrier that the customers are dealing with is they have data that is situated in very different pockets, and they’re unable to make meaning of it because they’re only getting pieces of it, like a mosaic,” said Frazier.
Fully leveraging data can improve citizen and student outcomes, but many institutions struggle to unify institutional data including institutional research, student retention, human resources, finance, and student services data. Combining data sources can give a holistic view of citizen and student data that enables a better understanding of the efficacy of services, as well as monitoring for fraud, waste, and abuse.
The City of Tacoma, Washington has already adopted the Snowflake Government and Education Data Cloud. Frazier explained that the city has 21 different organizations, including public safety, power, water, and environmental services, that each has its own way of keeping data, making it difficult to collaborate: “You can’t get a common picture of what’s going on in Tacoma and you can’t share it with citizens, you can’t improve services you can’t see, because they’re all in packaged groups,” said Frazier.
With Snowflake’s Data Cloud, the City of Tacoma has been able to effectively leverage data for uses such as publishing monthly updates on the budget or identifying citizens who might be experiencing hardship to quality for utility relief programs.
Frazier says this is just one example of how organizations are using the unified platform to address their most important issues: “Now they’re putting that across one layer to look at: ‘What’s the impact? How can I help a student? And how can I help childcare? How can I help the policing organizations and health? How do I get a license faster?’ All that is going to be much more efficient and so much faster. The distance between data access and data value is shrinking. And that’s our core.”
Apart from acting as an integrated cross-cloud data platform, the Snowflake Government and Education Data Cloud also addresses the high level of data security and governance needed in the public sector with FedRAMP, DoD, and StateRAMP authorizations, as well as support for regulated customer workloads subject to safeguarding requirements related to Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 1075, and Family Education and Privacy Act (FERPA), to name a few.
Frazier notes that technology companies often must decide between serving the commercial sectors or the public sector due to various market rules, certifications, and investments required. The public sector can sometimes miss out on advanced technologies because of the significant effort required to meet these strict requirements.
Snowflake has made considerable investments to meet the public sector’s rules and requirements, Frazier says, and has focused on categories like disability services, learning and education, information sharing for criminal justice and intelligence services, and other basic government services. The company’s commitment to security, privacy, and compliance has allowed it to invest and refine its product to better serve citizens, he says.
Frazier said he’s seen a pattern of evolving data management strategies being employed in the education sector, from higher education institutions to K-12 schools. These institutions have unified their siloed data into a single layer to make it “uniquely addressable.”
This new data management approach has broken down barriers, Frazier says, enabling institutions to leverage data in ways they previously could not. Institutions can now gain a more detailed understanding of broader issues such as student engagement, risk of dropout, access to free lunches, healthcare access, and more.
New York University (NYU) is another use case for Snowflake’s newest data cloud, where data is being used not only to understand students better but also to engage donors and alumni more effectively. NYU previously used a learning management system that lacked the ability to deliver analytics at scale, but after consolidating its data on the data cloud, the school was able to collect and share data and reports in a timely and user-friendly way with easy faculty access.
“Snowflake’s Government and Education Data Cloud has enabled New York University to centralize our data across various Learning Management Systems into a predominantly self-service data platform,” said Satya Kunta, chief data architect & senior director at NYU, in a release. “With Snowflake, we have seamlessly transitioned to utilizing real-time data, enabling simplified access to student engagement metrics for efficient identification of necessary student interventions.”
A number of partnerships also enhance the new Government and Education Data Cloud, including one with PowerSchool, a K-12 education technology provider. PowerSchool’s learning management system, paired with Snowflake, gives institutions a 360-degree view of students.
Frazier’s extensive travels and relationships with different institutions have led him to witness data being used in sometimes surprising ways. An example of this was during Hurricane Ian, the devastating storm that made landfall on the west coast of Florida last year with winds just shy of category five.
Merit is a Snowflake partner with a data platform that uses a SOC2-compliant knowledge graph to verify the identities of those involved with emergency response and recovery. Merit’s identity verification capabilities combined with Snowflake’s ability to move and organize data across clouds enabled a better view of supply chain, logistics, and skills needed to address the emergency situation.
“When Hurricane Ian hit, they had thousands and thousands of people who wanted to help. And they came in from all over the world to help. And it was difficult to credential people, track their hours, track who they are, track where they should go, what their skills are. It would normally take months to do that. You know what it’s like when you’re in hurricane conditions, how much speed-to-knowledge is super critical to save lives and to help people.”
Snowflake has launched several new industry-specific data clouds this year, including its Telecom Data Cloud and Manufacturing Data Cloud. As each industry has its own ecosystem of software and tools, Snowflake’s approach aims to support the specific outcomes of these sectors by enabling organizations to access data they previously could not.
Frazier says Snowflake is just getting started with mobilizing the world’s data: “This is a commitment to how we’re going to help the world, how we’re going to de-risk, how we’re going to help diplomacy, how we’re going to help to learn and share,” he said. “There are 800 million people every day in the world who wake up and go off to protect, serve, and educate. Our promise is to help them achieve. They deserve that.”