- Improvement in performance and response of automated self-service IVR
- Ensuring the integrity of the Census data by supporting increased confidence in the Census process
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) conducts a Census every five years to establish a comprehensive statistical picture of the Australian population. The Census counts each household and person in Australia on Census night which was held on Tuesday 10 August 2021.
The ABS encourages people to complete their Census online to ensure the process is convenient, accessible and easy for people to participate. However, some people still need or prefer a paper form and the ABS ensures these are available on request.
The ABS provides an automated IVR (interactive voice response) telephone service to request paper forms. A key challenge for this service is designing the automated platform to effectively scale to handle potential spikes in call volume.
When trialling the service during a 2019 Census Test, the ABS identified some system performance issues related to lambda cold starts which could produce delayed response times of up to 40 seconds, and limit the ability for the platform to scale to handle call volume spikes.
AWS, partnering with Shine, were engaged to assist and overcome the performance issues associated with the Lambda cold starts. In addition, AWS and Shine delivered an ‘offline-mode’ capability, enabling the system to remain functional for users if downstream systems were not available – ensuring uninterrupted service for customers.
The system worked well during operations however, the 40 second response times were the result of backend systems using unoptimized Lambda functions written with Java. AWS engaged Shine to assist with increasing the back-end processing of the automated requests, by applying its microservices experience to optimise the Lambda functions with Node.js for greater efficiency.
These improvements dramatically reduced the processing time of each request from up to 40 seconds to less than two. Having optimised the application with microservices using AWS Lambda, there is improved scalability, auto-recovery and auto-healing.
Additionally, the migration helped align this automated service with other elements of the Paper Form Request Service that are also written in Node.js.
Improving the response time of the underlying request service enabled a greatly enhanced service experience for callers. During the ten-week Census collection period, the service successfully processed almost one million calls and seamlessly scaled to handle a peak volume of 46,000 successful requests in a single day.
The combination of improved processing performance and auto-scaling provided a positive experience that helped ensure the quality and integrity of the 2021 Census.
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The Australian Bureau of Statistics is an agency of the Australian Government responsible for statistical collection and analysis, including a 5-yearly population census across the fourth largest collection area geography in the world.
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