Following a community call in 2020, Czech technology enthusiasts launched the eRouška tracking mobile app (eMask in English), which had a significant role in limiting the coronavirus pandemic spread. The app helped sanitation stations and the state infrastructure by involving residents-users themselves in managing the pandemic.
The mobile app alerted a potential contact with an infected person based on a BlueTooth connection and operated anonymously. If someone tested positive for the coronavirus, they received a code from health officials and entered it into the app. It then alerted phones that had the app installed and had been in contact with the infected person for more than 15 minutes. Thanks to its connection to the European federation gateway, eRouška communicated with similar apps from other EU countries and monitored high-risk contacts with foreigners in the Czech Republic and abroad.
“"In total, 1.7 million people downloaded it [eRouška app], of which 83,000 people entered the information that they were positive. In total, the app sent out almost 500,000 notifications. Even if just part of people adapted their behaviour based on the app's notifications (e.g. they did not go to visit their grandparents), the app would have made a lot of sense," said Vladimír Dzurilla, Head of NAKIT, for iRozhlas.
The National Agency for Communication and Information Technology (in this case study referred to as NAKIT) is a strategic partner of the state, providing communication and information services for emergency and security forces and public administration. NAKIT approached the technical solution of the eRouška application in the most modern way possible - through the public cloud. The NAKIT team already had experience with FireBase, which provides data synchronisation across different devices and helps developers edit and read data in real-time. The main reason for choosing Google Cloud was Google's reference implementation of the Exposure Notification server. Server running natively on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) allowed the team quickly implement eRouška 2.0 on the EN API.
"We assumed the application workload would be occasional, so it would need to operate in the cloud. I appreciate the modern and cost-effective approach of the eRouška team, who tried to get the application up and running as soon as possible," says Bohuslav Dohnal, founder of Revolgy.
Cost optimisation for fast deployment and operations
Ensuring a secure environment and the correct availability of the technical server capacity for current demand while maintaining costs was a key challenge for the application operator. The number of users was skyrocketing, and buying sufficiently secure physical servers through a lengthy tender process and worrying about their subsequent management and use was impossible. The eRouška team needed to secure the data as much as possible while minding the economic costs.
"The major milestones in the development of eRouška were the transition to the internationally standardised EN API protocol (the so-called Apple-Google Exposure Notification protocol) and joining the European system for the secure exchange of anonymised information on infected people. In both cases, we have advantageously used the Google Exposure Notification Reference Server implementation running in the GCP environment," says Jan Jiroušek, eRouška project manager
The team that took care of the development and operation of eRouška developed the application in a cloud-native model, where a large cloud operator - in this case, Google Cloud Platform - is used for its operation.
The Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is the world's most advanced public platform revolutionising data management and reducing the additional costs of infrastructure management, server support and network configuration. GCP is compliant with current legislation, and data in the cloud is backed up, encrypted, and protected against cyber-attacks, frequently better than when stored in the storage of one of the many public institutions.
"The cloud facilitates the team's work on several levels - it provides fast flexibility in capacity, top-notch security, availability from anywhere, and the cost of operation is based on its actual usage," explains Miroslav Vlasák, CEO of Revolgy.
The ability to increase capacity (i.e., scaling) is essential for the efficiency of the state's digital services. It allows institutions to react quickly when there is a sudden increase in demand for a particular service or vice versa.
Google Cloud Platform with premier partner
NAKIT has teamed up with us as a premium European Google partner to operate eRouška. By establishing this collaboration, the institution and the eRouška team have access to other extra benefits - we act as a facilitator for seamless billing and management of pre-defined expenses, as technical support for any questions and individually tailored consultations, or as a source of the latest cloud information for the future.
“"Working with Revolgy has been excellent. In addition to reliable operations, we have been able to get a consultation from an experienced cloud partner. Modern cloud technologies, such as Google Cloud, are essential for the successful implementation of digital state services for the general public", says Jan Jiroušek, eRouška project manager.
The eRouška application was moved "to the cloud" operated by top Google Cloud engineers, and the client only paid for the time he used the cloud. Migration solved the sudden load on the servers when the capacity had to be increased by peaks as the pandemic gathered momentum. Also, solving the subsequent slow reduction of its operation as the crisis in the Czech Republic improved while vaccinations became available.
While working with NAKIT, we created and implemented an automated solution for budget spending tracking and cost forecasting that uses GCP products - BigQuery, Google Sheet and AppScript. The eRouška team received notifications about the current usage of cloud services, so they could react promptly to changes and adjust the spending at any time.
"Google Cloud is not just a tool for high-end businesses. It's also a convenient tool for government and public institutions - when an infrastructure operator needs to scale up and down large amounts of capacity, GCP is available on the fly. When this computing capacity is no longer needed, infrastructure costs are reduced to an absolute minimum," says Miroslav Vlasák, CEO of Revolgy.
The eRouška team had access to servers, networks, and disks 24 hours a day, maintaining the highest security standards without concerns about security problems, amortisation, or power outages. With GCP, the application operator could easily configure the entire system, essentially at the click of a button. He could update the application at any time without worrying about the physical infrastructure - both during the application's peak usage and now that the application is winding down.
Is a public cloud a suitable solution for the state's needs?
Google Cloud Platform's cutting-edge technology helps public institutions like NAKIT to reach their full potential. Apart from benefits for the government or public institutions, the main beneficiary of cloud technology and online collaboration tools are the citizens. Advanced technologies, which are implemented to a much greater extent abroad, allow the citizens to solve everything necessary from the comfort of home.
We believe that using the public cloud for government operations and services is the right path for institutions to take as soon as possible.
If you are considering implementing a public cloud in your institution, please do not hesitate to contact us.