As the largest expressway service provider in the country and one of the largest in Southeast Asia, PLUS Malaysia Berhad (PLUS) plays a significant role in facilitating seamless connectivity for both individuals and businesses. Established in 1988, PLUS is the super highway arm of UEM Group, which holds the distinction of being the largest highway operator in Malaysia.
Recognised as a prominent entity in Malaysia’s toll road industry, PLUS remains committed to upholding and enhancing the quality, safety and efficiency of its extensive expressway network. The organisation acknowledges the pivotal role of a robust and interconnected infrastructure system in fostering the growth and progress of Malaysia’s economy.
With this understanding, PLUS strives to continuously maintain and improve its expressways to ensure seamless connectivity and facilitate the nation’s overall development. By leveraging advanced technology, PLUS aims to proactively address dangerous, life-threatening situations and provide timely interventions to ensure the well-being of individuals and maintain their safety.
In line with efforts to enhance safety, PLUS has implemented an AI system on the Penang Bridge that utilises cutting-edge technologies and surveillance mechanisms to detect and respond to suicide attempts. This system is specifically designed to continuously monitor multiple data points and promptly identify potential indicators of suicide in real-time.
Bridging Distances, Fostering Prosperity
Kang Yew Jin, the Chief Technology Officer of PLUS highlights that PLUS plays a pivotal role in the overall transportation infrastructure and development of the country, dedicated to providing essential services that facilitate seamless connectivity and contribute to national advancement.
Yew Jin reiterates that PLUS Malaysia operates an extensive network of expressways spanning 1,130 kilometres. This comprehensive network serves as a vital link, connecting major cities and towns throughout Malaysia.
Of particular significance is the North-South Expressway, the longest expressway in the country. Functioning as a crucial transportation artery for the entire peninsula, the North-South Expressway plays a pivotal role in facilitating efficient travel and commerce, further solidifying PLUS’ position as a key player in the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
PLUS is responsible for providing effective and safe operation of these roadways, as well as ongoing maintenance and upgrade activities to preserve the infrastructure in good shape and fulfil the needs of the travelling public. Highway operations, emergency response, traffic control, and other associated tasks are among the services provided by the organisation.
In managing Malaysia’s major highways, PLUS plays a key role in the broader economic development of the country. The motorway network, which provides a high-speed, dependable and safe form of transportation, helps to cut travel time and increase connectivity between major cities and villages, which is critical for economic progress.
By providing a dependable and efficient transportation infrastructure, PLUS facilitates the seamless flow of products and people across the nation. This, in turn, supports businesses and trade activities, contributing significantly to the overall economic growth and advancement of Malaysia.
PLUS’s broad use of technology to boost productivity and safety is one of its primary revolutionary characteristics.
“Our PLUSRonda Intelligent Management (PRIME) System is a built-in mobile application installed in all our PLUSRonda patrolling vehicles which replaces the previous manual logging of incidents,” Yew Jin explains.
PRIME enables rapid monitoring and real-time communication of all PLUSRonda actions to the Traffic Monitoring Centre (TMC). As a result, the incident processing time is reduced, allowing PLUSRonda to respond to highway users more quickly, especially in emergencies. Likewise, the digital storage of correct incident information on PRIME enables simpler retrieval of evidence, hence speeding up the relevant processes by respective enforcement agencies.
PLUS’ focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility is another novel characteristic. To reduce its environmental footprint, the company has launched several measures, including the use of solar energy to power rest areas, LED retrofitting across PLUS facilities, and the installation of motion sensor lighting.
The company’s efforts in efficient energy consumption have been recognised through various awards and accolades, Yew Jin reveals. In 2020, they were named as first runner-up for the ASEAN Energy Award and won the National Energy Award for Efficiency Building (Energy Management for Large Building Category). In 2021, they were named the first runner-up for both the National Energy Awards (NEA) and the ASEAN Energy Awards (AEA) for Energy Efficiency Building (Retrofitted Building category).
They intend to stimulate green mobility for highway users by building a nationwide network of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations (EVCS) through the implementation of an EV Charging Station Development Roadmap in 2025. This is consistent with the Low Carbon Mobility Blueprint 2021-2030 (LCMB) and the Malaysian Green Technology Master Plan 2017-2030.
They now have 22 Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) electric vehicle charging stations installed along roadways at selected rest and service areas, with additional 18 DCFC stations planned for 2023.
“We are assisting this national goal by constructing infrastructure to facilitate the adoption of EVs in Malaysia,” Yew Jin explains. “Moving forward, we hope to assist Charge Point Operators (CPOs) in utilising renewable energy to power their EVCS, such as by outfitting our charging stations with solar rooftops and solar farms.”
AI-empowered Safety Solutions on Roadways
AI technology enables the development of advanced systems capable of identifying potential warning signs of suicide attempts and taking prompt and appropriate action. These systems can be equipped with a range of sensors, including audio and video cameras, to monitor the traffic on roads and detect signs of suicidal intent.
Yew Jin clarifies that the Penang Bridge AI system’s overall goal is to enable early detection and prevention of suicide attempts, which could save lives and contribute to the safety and well-being of the public. This proactive approach enables swift intervention and appropriate actions to be taken to prevent harm and ensure the safety of individuals on the Penang Bridge.
By utilising advanced technologies and surveillance mechanisms, the system aims to detect early signs of potential suicide attempts and promptly alert the relevant authorities.
“The method uses cameras that are strategically placed along the bridge to monitor the area and detect potential suicide attempts,” Yew Jin elaborates. “The AI system uses machine learning algorithms to analyse live video feeds from the cameras in real-time.”
The algorithms are trained to detect patterns of activity indicative of suicide attempts, such as individuals scaling bridge railings or lingering in specific locations for extended periods. Once the system identifies a potential suicide attempt, it promptly alerts the appropriate authorities, enabling swift intervention to prevent the attempt.
The AI system demonstrates a high level of sensitivity and specificity in identifying potential suicide attempts, ensuring accuracy and dependability. Moreover, the system is designed to be expandable, allowing for its extension to additional areas when needed and enabling the installation of extra cameras to enhance surveillance capabilities. This adaptability ensures that the system can effectively address evolving needs and provide comprehensive coverage for the safety and well-being of individuals in various locations.
Firstly, the system offers early detection and warns authorities of probable suicide attempts before they happen, which can save the need for emergency services to respond to a life-threatening scenario. Authorities can take preventative action, such as talking to the person and offering support, by becoming involved before an actual situation arises.
Second, the solution enables emergency services to allocate their resources more effectively. Early detection of prospective suicide attempts allows authorities to respond with the proper degree of personnel and resources, as opposed to sending out a big emergency response team to handle a crisis.
Thirdly, the AI system can alleviate the psychological burden on emergency services professionals who are often called upon to handle distressing and emotionally challenging situations. By enabling early intervention and preventing suicide attempts from occurring, emergency services personnel may be spared from witnessing or dealing with the aftermath of such events.
The AI system implemented for the Penang Bridge incorporates three alarm levels that are activated based on specific triggers detected by the system.
- Low level (Alarm 1) – This will be triggered when a vehicle is stationary by the shoulder or the lay-by of the bridge. Vehicles detected include motorcycles, cars, vans, buses, trucks/lorries. An alert will be sent if the vehicle is stationary for more than 10 seconds.
- Medium level (Alarm 2) – This will be triggered when 1 or more people walk within the lay-by. An alert will be sent if the person is in the frame for 10 seconds. Another alert will be sent if the person remains in the frame after 30 seconds.
- High level (Alarm 3) – Triggered when one or more individuals are in close proximity to the bridge parapet, exhibiting behaviours such as placing hands on the edge, leaning over, or attempting to climb the parapet. Upon detecting such situations, an immediate alert is generated and sent to the relevant authorities.
“Along the Penang Bridge, the immediate objective is to extend the system’s reach to areas with a high incidence of suicide attempts,” Yew Jin points out. “Currently, the PLUS team has identified a total of six locations, all of which will be covered by this system.”
Continuously improving and optimising the performance of the AI system designed to detect suicide attempts along the Penang Bridge is a crucial next stage. This involves conducting routine maintenance and implementing necessary upgrades to ensure the system operates with the highest level of precision and dependability.
The system could be integrated with additional technologies and data sources, enhancing its capability to detect and respond to potential suicide attempts. Coupling it with other emergency response systems, like ambulance services, can result in a more coordinated and efficient response to suicide attempts.
The introduction of AI into road infrastructure holds the potential to revolutionise transportation systems, making them more efficient, responsive and tailored to the needs of individuals. Roadways are expected to become more interconnected and intelligent.
These advancements will enable motorists to access real-time information and communication capabilities, leading to increased safety, optimised traffic flow and the facilitation of context-aware and personalised services.
Yew Jin believes that the future of AI in roadways is characterised by its dynamic and constantly evolving nature. AI systems possess the remarkable ability to learn and adapt continuously in response to real-world conditions.
This unique attribute empowers them with scalability and the capability to address evolving challenges in roadways and transportation systems. As a result, AI can play a pivotal role in finding solutions to the ever-changing needs of the transportation sector.
“I am confident that forthcoming generations will reap the advantages of AI-powered transportation systems that are increasingly efficient, secure and sustainable, all thanks to continuous research and innovation efforts,” Yew Jin concludes.
The 16th Ministerial Meeting of the Global Governance Group (3G) convened on the sidelines of the recently concluded 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which brought together the Troika of the Group of Twenty (G20), representing Indonesia, India, and Brazil, to discuss collaborative approaches to addressing pressing global issues.
As India, in its capacity as the 2023 G20 Presidency, shared the outcomes of the G20 Summit held in New Delhi, there was recognition and applause for the successful Summit, which included the adoption of a consensus Leaders’ Declaration. This achievement underscores the importance of international cooperation and dialogue in tackling complex global challenges.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong emphasised the significance of sustaining a rules-based multilateral trading system, embodied by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). He stressed the need for WTO rules to evolve with digital transformation to remain relevant in the modern economy. Additionally, he urged G20 participants to support negotiations on WTO reform, particularly the restoration of a fully-functioning dispute settlement system.
Digital transformation is at the forefront of these discussions, with a recognition that technological advancements require corresponding updates in international trade regulations. As nations leverage digital transformation to foster economic growth, the need for inclusive and equitable trade policies becomes imperative.
Likewise, the commitment of the G20 to sustainable development, low-carbon emissions, and climate resilience aligns with the global community’s efforts to combat climate change. The 3G’s support for these commitments underscores the importance of addressing environmental crises, especially those that disproportionately affect developing countries.
The 3G Ministers highlighted the strain on the rules-based multilateral system amid geopolitical tensions and rising protectionism. They reiterated the importance of upholding international law and human rights principles as embodied in the United Nations Charter. This commitment ensures that the multilateral system remains open, inclusive, and adheres to established rules.
The collaborative approach of the G20, including engaging non-G20 members like the 3G, reflects the importance of broader dialogue and perspectives when addressing global challenges. This approach enhances inclusiveness, coherence, and complementarity in setting global standards and mobilising collective action on shared challenges.
The collaboration also promotes innovative approaches to growing global concerns, ensuring that international governance stays relevant in a continuously changing world. It advances fair trade practices and reduces economic inequality, which benefits a country’s overall economic health.
Further, this partnership enhances international cooperation and diplomacy. It emphasises the value of diplomatic solutions to international problems and strengthens the notion that cooperation and diplomatic communication are essential for resolving difficult global issues.
Singapore believes that in an era of digital transformation and interconnectedness, the collaboration between the 3G and the G20 offers a promising path towards addressing the multifaceted challenges facing the international community.
By leveraging digital transformation, fostering inclusive trade policies, and upholding the principles of international law, these groups are contributing to a more resilient and equitable global governance framework.
As the world grapples with evolving global challenges, the commitment to inclusive and accountable global governance remains essential. The partnership between the 3G and the G20 exemplifies the spirit of international cooperation, where nations work together to navigate the complexities of the interconnected world, ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of a better future for all.
Recently, the Digital Government Development Agency (DGA) and the Thailand Digital Government Academy (TDGA) have joined forces to provide training to raise awareness about cybersecurity. This collaborative effort is designed to enhance participants’ knowledge and comprehension of the fundamental principles and the significance of cybersecurity laws, regulations, and announcements. Moreover, the training seeks to promote awareness of information systems’ safe and secure use.
Panithan Khennanuay, Director of the Cyber Security Department, emphasised the increasing prevalence of cyberattacks in today’s digital landscape, affecting many sectors. As organisations transition into the digital realm, they become more susceptible to cyber threats. These threats can range from data breaches and hacking attempts to ransomware attacks and other malicious activities that can compromise sensitive information and disrupt essential services.
Recognising the evolving nature of these cybersecurity challenges, the collaboration between the DGA and TDGA underscored the importance of equipping individuals and organisations with the knowledge and skills to safeguard their digital assets. The training initiative aims to empower participants to proactively identify and mitigate potential cyber risks, thereby enhancing the overall cybersecurity posture of both the public and private sectors.
Panithan Khennanuay further emphasised that as digital transformation continues to reshape the governance, commerce, and communication landscape, it is imperative to prioritise cybersecurity as an integral component of this evolution. By fostering a cybersecurity-conscious culture and ensuring that individuals and organisations stay well-informed and vigilant, Thailand can better protect its digital infrastructure and sensitive data. “Ultimately, it will contribute to the country’s resilience in the face of cyber threats and bolster its position as a leader in the digital age,” he expressed.
Additionally, Khomkrit Khamsawat, Head of the Service Operations Team, added that the workforce and citizens are crucial to any cybersecurity strategy’s success. As the Head of the Service Operations Team, Khomkrit Khamsawat recognises that a well-informed and cyber-aware workforce is the first line of defence against cyber threats. Employees and citizens alike play pivotal roles in maintaining the security of digital systems and data.
In the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats, individuals within organisations and the broader public must be educated and trained to recognise and respond effectively to potential security risks. It includes understanding the latest cyber threats, practising good cybersecurity hygiene, and adhering to best practices for secure digital behaviour.
Moreover, citizens and employees should be aware of cybersecurity laws, regulations, and guidelines. Compliance with these measures is essential for protecting critical infrastructure and sensitive information.
The collaboration between the DGA and TDGA not only aimed to equip individuals with the technical knowledge needed to defend against cyber threats but also strives to cultivate a cybersecurity mindset. This cultural shift toward cybersecurity awareness can help foster a safer digital environment for all.
Thailand is taking proactive steps to fortify its defences against cyberattacks by focusing on workforce and citizen education. These efforts will ultimately contribute to the country’s ability to harness the full potential of digital technologies while safeguarding its digital assets and interests.
“Cybersecurity is not just a technical issue but a shared responsibility. It requires collaboration across sectors, proactive measures to stay ahead of emerging threats, and a commitment to ongoing education and awareness,” Mr Khomkrit emphasised. “We are optimistic that with the concerted efforts of organisations, government agencies, and individuals, Thailand can build a robust cybersecurity ecosystem. This ecosystem will not only protect critical infrastructure but also promote innovation, trust, and economic growth in the digital age.”
In a proactive move to bolster digital resilience, Taiwan’s Ministry of Digital Affairs (moda) recently conducted its first-ever “disaster roaming” drill in collaboration with the nation’s three major telecommunications providers.
This exercise, held as part of the “2023 National Disaster Prevention Day Large-Scale Earthquake Disaster Response Mobilisation Exercise,” showcased the critical role of cross-network roaming in ensuring citizens’ access to basic and secure communication during emergencies.
The concept of “disaster roaming” differs from commercial roaming mechanisms. It is a government-driven initiative designed to ensure uninterrupted communication services for the public during significant disasters or emergencies.
In essence, it allows individuals to connect to operational mobile communication networks of other providers, irrespective of their original contracts. This initiative addresses a fundamental need: maintaining communication rights when they matter most.
The recent disaster roaming exercise took place in the Hsinchu County Sports Complex area, strategically chosen due to its high population density. Notably, the exercise was conducted without disrupting nearby base stations, using a “manual network selection” method to facilitate cross-network roaming.
Participants engaged in practical scenarios, from connecting with loved ones to accessing real-time news updates and evacuation information.
One of the key takeaways from this exercise is the importance of cooperation between moda and telecommunications providers. By developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and studying international cross-network roaming frameworks, Taiwan aims to further enhance the disaster roaming mechanism.
This forward-looking approach will ensure that the nation’s communication networks remain resilient and robust, even in the face of major disasters.
The significance of disaster roaming extends beyond mere convenience; it’s about safeguarding citizens’ well-being and ensuring they have access to crucial information during emergencies. This initiative is particularly relevant nowadays as societies become increasingly reliant on digital communication networks for information dissemination, emergency alerts, and coordination during crises.
During her visit to moda, President Tsai Ing-wen underscored the importance of such initiatives in enhancing Taiwan’s overall resilience. In an era where digital connectivity is integral to daily life and critical infrastructure, the ability to maintain communication rights during disasters is paramount.
The disaster roaming programme’s continuation from 2024 to 2025 demonstrates Taiwan’s commitment to preparedness and resilience. By studying global best practices and working closely with domestic telecommunications providers, the country aims to establish a robust disaster response framework. This proactive stance will serve as a model for other nations seeking to enhance their digital resilience.
Reports cited that Taiwan’s disaster roaming initiative stands as a beacon of innovation and preparedness. It reaffirms the government’s commitment to safeguarding its citizens’ communication rights and ensuring that vital information flows even when the unexpected occurs.
Many industries and organisations are subject to regulatory requirements regarding data protection and cybersecurity. Digital resilience helps meet these requirements and avoids legal and financial repercussions.
Also, it ensures that critical government systems and communication networks remain operational during emergencies and can withstand cyber threats from adversaries.
As digital technologies continue to evolve, so too must disaster preparedness strategies. Taiwan’s dedication to enhancing digital resilience through initiatives like disaster roaming demonstrates that the nation is not only adapting to the digital age but also leading the way in ensuring that no one is left disconnected when it matters most.
It is a testament to the nation’s unwavering commitment to the well-being and safety of its citizens, setting a commendable example for the world to follow.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and its federal agency partners have released new guidance concerning a cybersecurity risk posed by deepfakes, a type of synthetic media. This emerging threat poses cybersecurity challenges for National Security Systems (NSS), the Department of Defence (DoD), and organisations within the Defence Industrial Base (DIB).
They have jointly published a Cybersecurity Information Sheet (CSI) titled “Contextualising Deepfake Threats to Organisations” to assist entities in recognising, safeguarding against, and responding to deepfake threats. NSA developed the CSI with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
The term “deepfake” encompasses multimedia content that has been either artificially created or manipulated through machine learning and deep learning technologies, which are forms of artificial intelligence (AI). Other phrases used to describe such synthetically generated or altered media include “Shallow/Cheap Fakes,” “Generative AI,” and “Computer Generated Imagery (CGI).”
Candice Rockell Gerstner, an NSA Applied Research Mathematician with expertise in Multimedia Forensics, emphasised that while the tools and methods for altering authentic multimedia have been in existence for some time, the noteworthy shift lies in the ease and widespread adoption of these techniques by cyber actors. This evolving landscape introduces a fresh set of challenges to national security.
Gerstner pointed out that organisations, as well as their employees, must adapt to this changing environment. They need to identify the tradecraft and techniques associated with deepfakes. Moreover, it is essential to establish comprehensive plans to respond to potential deepfake attacks and mitigate their impact effectively. As cyber adversaries increasingly leverage these technologies, recognising and countering deepfake threats becomes paramount to ensuring national security and safeguarding sensitive information.
The joint Cybersecurity Information Sheet (CSI) provides valuable recommendations for organisations to address the challenges posed by synthetic media threats, particularly deepfakes. The CSI suggests implementing various technologies and strategies to counter this emerging threat.
One key recommendation is adopting real-time verification capabilities, which enable organisations to identify and respond to potential instances of deepfake content swiftly. Passive detection techniques are also emphasised for ongoing monitoring and early detection. Furthermore, the CSI highlighted the importance of safeguarding high-priority officers and their communications, as they are often the targets of deepfake attempts.
In addition to detection, the guidance underscores the significance of minimising the impact of deepfake attacks. This involves information sharing within and across organisations to stay ahead of evolving threats. It also advocates for comprehensive planning and rehearsing of responses to potential exploitation attempts, ensuring that organisations are well-prepared to mitigate the consequences of deepfake incidents. Personnel training is another crucial component, equipping individuals with the skills and knowledge to recognise and respond effectively to synthetic media threats.
The CSI underscores the diverse nature of synthetic media threats, encompassing techniques that jeopardise an organisation’s brand, impersonate its leaders and financial officers, and employ fraudulent communications to gain unauthorised access to networks and sensitive information. These threats highlighted the need for a holistic approach to cybersecurity.
Advancements in computational power and deep learning have facilitated the mass production of fake media, making it more accessible and cost-effective. This not only undermines brands and financial stability but also has the potential to incite public unrest by disseminating false information on critical issues such as politics, society, the military, and the economy.
The CSI draws attention to the concerning availability of deep learning-based algorithms on open-source repositories. These accessible resources pose a security risk, as their application requires minimal technical skill and can be executed using little more than a personal laptop. Consequently, the widespread availability of such tools amplifies the urgency of addressing synthetic media threats.
In light of these evolving challenges, the NSA, FBI, and CISA strongly encourage security professionals to adopt the strategies outlined in the report. By proactively implementing these recommendations, organisations can enhance their resilience to the growing threats posed by synthetic media and deepfakes. This collaborative effort among government agencies and security experts is vital to ensuring the integrity of digital information and safeguarding national security.
China Construction Bank (CCB) was recently commended by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat for reaching an important milestone in Singapore, which is evidence of the long-lasting collaboration that has developed between the two countries over the past 25 years.
The CCB is one of China’s four largest state-owned banks and is actively expanding its business abroad, with branch offices in Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore, among other places.
In 1998, when CCB made the bold decision to establish a presence in Singapore, the Asian economies were emerging from the depths of the Asian Financial Crisis. CCB’s move to set up shop in Singapore was a bold show of faith in the future of Asia and a belief that the region was poised for a resilient comeback.
Over the years, CCB has deepened its roots in Singapore, forming vital partnerships and emerging as one of CCB’s largest overseas nodes. DPM Heng Swee Keat, who once led the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), recalls productive meetings with CCB’s leadership regarding their expansion plans in the region.
This partnership led to significant milestones, including MAS upgrading CCB’s Singapore branch to a wholesale bank in 2010 and subsequently to a Qualifying Full Bank (QFB) in 2020.
The timing of this expansion is crucial, as it enables CCB to support Chinese companies looking to explore new opportunities while also contributing to the internationalisation of the renminbi.
Simultaneously, it provides invaluable support to Singaporean companies with aspirations in the Chinese market. Singapore’s status as an international financial centre ensures a plethora of growth opportunities for both CCB and Singapore.
Financial cooperation has been a cornerstone of the enduring relationship between Singapore and China. Recent upgrades in their partnership have expanded the scope of activities, going beyond traditional corporate and commercial lending to include green financing solutions, offshore debt raising, and even FinTech and innovation research in Singapore.
Regulators from both nations have joined hands to explore emerging areas like sustainable and digital finance, aiming to strengthen cross-border collaboration and deepen capital market connectivity within the region.
This is due to the rise of digital technology which has transformed the financial landscape, leading to the emergence of digital finance. This encompasses a wide range of innovations, including mobile banking, digital payments, blockchain technology, and digital currencies.
By exploring digital finance, Singapore and China are not only embracing financial technology (FinTech) but also revolutionising the way financial services are accessed and delivered. This shift has the potential to enhance financial inclusion, streamline transactions, and increase the efficiency of capital markets. Also, it opens doors to cross-border collaboration in developing and adopting cutting-edge FinTech solutions.
By strengthening capital market connectivity, these nations are not only boosting their own financial sectors but also attracting foreign investments, promoting regional economic stability, and potentially positioning themselves as hubs for sustainable and digital finance in Asia.
Innovations in digital finance and technology have revolutionised access to banking services and improved efficiency. CCB’s Fintech innovation lab in Singapore offers a platform for research, technology sharing, and the forging of new partnerships. These innovations are poised to enhance resource allocation, promoting real growth and job creation.
The collaboration between Singapore and China in these emerging areas is a strategic move to shape the financial landscape of the future, where sustainability, innovation, and cross-border cooperation will be key drivers of success.
The Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, and Minister for the Public Service of Australia provided updates on technology and digital identity-related legislation. The Minister delved into the topic of Digital ID and its significance for Australia’s future.
The primary focus of the address was the introduction of the draft Digital ID legislation, marking the commencement of consultations for the exposure draft. She highlighted that Digital ID is akin to an online version of presenting one’s passport or driver’s license to verify their identity but without relinquishing the physical document. It aims to provide a secure and convenient way to verify identity online.
The draft Digital ID legislation, now open for consultation, represents a significant milestone in Australia’s efforts to create a national Digital ID system. The Minister outlined four guiding principles for this system: security, convenience, voluntariness, and inclusivity. She stressed that Digital ID would remain voluntary, ensuring alternate channels for those who prefer not to use it.
Moreover, Digital ID is seen as a means to enhance inclusion by bringing government services online and extending their accessibility to underserved communities, including individuals with disabilities. However, the Minister emphasised that those unable or unwilling to obtain a Digital ID would still have access to government services through traditional channels.
The current system, which operates without legislation, allows individuals with Digital IDs to verify their identity without repeatedly providing sensitive documents. Nevertheless, it has limitations, as it is not yet a nationwide system and private sector providers cannot verify individuals against government-issued ID documents. The government envisions a national Digital ID system as an important economic, productivity, and security reform, and efforts are underway to address these shortcomings.
To ensure trust, data protection, and choice in the Digital ID system, the draft legislation establishes governance arrangements, a regulator (with the ACCC as the interim regulator), and privacy safeguards. Senator Gallagher emphasised the need for explicit consent for sharing identity information, the secure deletion of biometric data, and the prohibition of using identity data for direct marketing purposes.
Additionally, the Minster announced the formation of an AI taskforce, in collaboration with colleague Ed Husic, to ensure responsible and safe usage of AI across government agencies. AI has the potential to improve productivity within the APS and enhance government services, but it also requires careful management to mitigate risks.
The government is committed to creating boundaries and safeguards for emerging technologies like AI. The AI Taskforce will assess the risks and benefits of different AI systems within the public service.
The upcoming release of the first Long Term Insights Brief on AI and trust in public service delivery was also mentioned. Four key findings from the brief highlighted the importance of designing AI with integrity, preserving empathy in service design, enhancing public service performance, and investing in AI literacy and digital connectivity for all Australians.
The Minister expressed her determination to see the establishment of an Australian Digital ID system through legislation, despite the challenges and opposition. She acknowledged that it has been an eight-year work in progress, but she believes it is a worthy project with significant benefits for individuals, businesses, and the economy as a whole.
The address highlighted the importance of Digital ID legislation and AI governance in shaping Australia’s technological future. These initiatives aim to enhance security, convenience, and inclusivity while safeguarding individuals’ privacy and ensuring responsible AI usage within the public service.
Efforts to advance digital identification in Australia align with the country’s broader initiatives to establish a national Digital ID system, as discussed by the Minster. The focus of one pilot program, reported on by OpenGov Asia earlier, was on enabling individuals to prove their identity without the need for multiple physical documents corresponds to the principles of Digital ID outlined by the Minister, emphasising secure digital verification over physical information exchange.
Additionally, student volunteers from Deakin University demonstrated practical applications of digital identity within the education sector, mirroring the efficiencies mentioned by Senator Gallagher in her speech. These developments reflect Australia’s growing interest and innovation in the digital identification ecosystem.
Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia will cooperate in the digital economy. Experts have said that the substantial potential for trade and investment collaboration among the countries has not yet been fully realised.
The three governments jointly organised a conference to discuss digital economic development trends and their potential to enhance trade and investment among the countries, opportunities and challenges arising from digital transformation for the growth of trilateral ties, and strategies to advance their cooperative efforts in the digital era. The conference reflects the countries’ readiness to build digital-transformation-oriented socio-economic infrastructure.
Experts at the event recommended that the sides establish and improve institutional and legal environments that align with the demands of the international integration era within the context of the digital economy. Additionally, the nations should invest in developing digital infrastructure to foster their national digital economies.
The conference, which was organised by the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), Lao Academy of Social and Economic Sciences (LASES), and Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), saw the participation of over 100 experts, managers, and diplomats from the three countries.
According to a representative from VASS, prioritising the advancement of the digital economy is considered a key task in accelerating the restructuring of an economy. This approach is closely linked with innovation in the growth model and the enhancement of growth quality. The aim is to assist a nation in escaping the middle-income trap and progressing toward becoming a fully developed, industrialised country. The trend presents both opportunities and challenges for countries involved, as they work to develop and expand their investment and commercial partnerships.
An official from LASES noted that Laos is in the early stages of its digital transformation journey, encompassing multiple sectors, including commerce and investment. Consequently, Laos is eager to collaborate with experts from Vietnam and Cambodia, aiming to exchange knowledge and gain insight from their respective digital transformation efforts.
Highlighting the longstanding bond among the three nations, an official from RAC acknowledged that in the realm of digital transformation, Vietnam has been making swifter advancements compared to Cambodia and Laos, particularly in sectors like tourism, commerce, and investment. Collaborative efforts among these nations, particularly in the domain of the digital economy, hold considerable importance in advancing the development of each country.
In 2020, Vietnam kicked off a national digital transformation programme, under which the country would renovate the management and administration activities of the government, the production and business activities of enterprises, and the overall way of living and working. It is working to develop a safe, humane, and wide digital environment. The national digital transformation programme has the dual purpose of both developing the digital government and economy and establishing Vietnamese digital businesses with a global capacity.
In the second quarter of 2023, the digital economy contributed approximately 15.26% to the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Vietnam. Compared to 2021, the growth of Vietnam’s national digital transformation index did slow down, but the component indices of digital government, digital economy, and digital society still maintained a high growth rate of 45-55%.
Vietnam’s digital economy was valued at around $14 billion in 2020, showing remarkable growth of 450% since 2015. Projections indicate that it is expected to expand by roughly 30% between 2020 and 2025.