robots follow human (Ico Maker/

RPA helps CBP migrate 30TB of email in one day

When Customs and Border Protection had to migrate 30 terabytes of email to a new system, it planned to rely on a team of employee volunteers who expected the job to take two months. But with  robotic process automation (RPA), the agency moved the equivalent of 350 million archived emails from one system to another in one day, IBM Homeland Security Client Lead Jonathan Riksen said.

Agencies are increasingly leveraging RPA, according to Riksen, as they comply with the President’s Management Agenda, which looks to shift human workers from low-value to high-value work. Although the agency has been investigating how to use robots for mission work, he said, the big email transfer job helped open CBP managers’ eyes to everyday, back-office applications for the technology.

Other technology vendors are seeing similar effects, as agencies look to simplify tedious processes and free up humans for more-substantive, mission-oriented work.

Cloud computing, said Dave Levy, federal government vice president at Amazon Web Services, also is a “huge enabler” for the federal workforce. It has allowed federal IT workers to move away from having to maintain physical servers in data centers to more important mission-oriented tasks.

“The federal workforce is hungry for new sets of technologies,” such as RPA, artificial intelligence and machine learning, he said in an interview.

In a presentation at the AWS federal cloud summit in Washington, company consultants described a project to help a federal agency transfer its internal “media wiki,” which housed its administrative processes, from agency servers to the cloud.

The agency, which AWS consultants didn’t name, chose to strip the application down, “refactoring” the source code to make it cloud native instead of just re-platforming as-is.

The process used for the app transfer, said Cole Hubbard, a consultant at AWS, has become a model to move hundreds of other apps to the cloud at that agency.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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