February 29, 2024

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In the dynamic realm of cybersecurity threats, organisations face the formidable challenge of recognising, assessing and addressing system vulnerabilities. This underscores the essential need for adopting a pragmatic prioritisation framework.  

Existing vulnerability assessment processes within organisations often offer less-than-optimal resource allocation and heightened vulnerability to security risks with substantial consequences and, as such, require a systematic overhaul. 

Amidst the surge in digital business transformation, organisations face significant changes in their daily IT operations. This transformation brings about a proliferation of new applications, services, and tools, thereby escalating the complexity of digital assets. In the current landscape of helpdesk operations, various challenges pose a threat to overall productivity. 

From an IT operational standpoint, service desks bear a significant burden in addressing increasing queries, requests, incidents, service tasks, and change request tasks. In instances where automation is present, it may be confined to silos, lacking reusability and standardisation across teams. 

Additionally, a robust knowledge management system is necessary to avoid the loss of valuable tacit knowledge exacerbated by high employee attrition rates. This dependence on human expertise introduces inconsistencies and variabilities in operational quality due to potential human errors. 

Organisations require efficient mechanisms to promptly address vulnerabilities, yet there exists a significant misalignment in the goals, tools, and processes between security and IT operations. This misalignment results in delays in resolving critical vulnerabilities, thereby posing a risk to the overall security of the enterprise. 

To overcome these challenges, it is essential to implement a resilient and flexible vulnerability prioritisation framework. This framework should include thorough criteria, account for resource limitations, integrate real-time threat intelligence, utilise dynamic assessment methods, consider business impact, and foster collaboration across departments.  

Under these circumstances, the helpdesk ecosystem demands advanced AI solutions to mitigate delayed response times, relieve agents of repetitive tasks, and guarantee an optimal customer experience. The goal is to establish a proactive and risk-aware approach to vulnerability management, aiming to minimise exposure to potential security threats. 

The OpenGov Breakfast Insight at the Voco Orchard Singapore on 22 February 2024, explored cutting-edge security capabilities and recent AI-powered IT automation to enhance customer experience. IT experts and decision-makers were invited to gain insights into fortifying the digital realm against cyber-attacks. 

Opening Remarks 

Mohit Sagar∶ AI offers pertinent suggestions and recommendations, elevating response accuracy and efficiency

Singapore, as a prominent digital nation and technological force in Asia, stands out with its resilient and vibrant IT sector. The country’s strategic geographical location, business-friendly ecosystem, and dedicated initiatives for digital transformation have enticed numerous global tech companies and startups to establish their operations in Singapore. Through its Smart Nation Initiative, Singapore has demonstrated a pivotal role in fostering connectivity and innovation to enhance various aspects of society. 

Mohit Sagar, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia underscores that in today’s complex technology landscape, success relies heavily on digital transformation, with a strong emphasis on security. Whether reinforcing cybersecurity or augmenting infrastructure with artificial intelligence (AI), the goal is to prevent organisations from incurring irreversible damage. AI facilitates thorough system scans, early threat detection, and more efficient streamlining of security tasks compared to human counterparts. 

Mohit explains that addressing vulnerabilities and implementing efficient patch management is crucial for safeguarding organisations against cyberattacks. Studies reveal that leaving well-known vulnerabilities unpatched and delaying remediation heightens cyber risks, increasing the likelihood of data breaches and ransomware attacks. 

“Utilising AI enables support organisations to offer pertinent suggestions, recommendations and solutions during customer interactions, enhancing response accuracy and efficiency,” elaborates Mohit. “This enhances the help desk experience, leaving customers satisfied with the prompt assistance they receive.” 

In the financial sector, considered one of the most critical industries in a country, maintaining resilience during the transition to the digital landscape is imperative. Mohit believes that prioritising customer experience in the Financial Services Industry (FSI) is crucial, given its direct influence on customer satisfaction and loyalty. In an era with numerous consumer choices, providing a seamless and positive experience is essential for retaining existing clients and attracting new customers. 

The key to gaining a competitive edge lies in the effective collection, breakdown and comprehension of customer data. AI algorithms are adept at analysing vast amounts of customer data, deciphering individual preferences and behaviours, and empowering FSIs to enhance the overall customer experience. 

By harnessing the power of AI to comprehend, shape, customise and optimise the customer journey, financial service institutions (FSIs) can provide individualised offerings like tailored product recommendations and customised financial advice.  

AI’s impact extends to customer interaction with the deployment of chatbots and virtual assistants. These AI-powered entities offer instant and efficient customer support, addressing queries, managing routine transactions, and guiding users through various processes.  

Such tools, solutions and platforms not only ensure a smooth and seamless experience for customers but also showcase the transformative potential of AI in enhancing service delivery, personalisation and safety in an increasingly digital financial sector. 

 The OpenGov Breakfast Insight will highlight Singaporeans’ commitment to merging proven tradition with cutting-edge technology to navigate the dynamic digital realm more effectively. This shift reflects a forward-looking approach, embracing the opportunities presented by the ever-evolving cyber landscape. 

“Singapore’s pioneering efforts in smart governance, the digital economy and citizen experience reflect a paradigm shift in approach to the digital era. The global community stands to learn from its journey,” Mohit shares. 

Welcome Address 

Saranga Rajan∶ Navigating an evolving threat landscape requires continual adaptation and enhancement of cybersecurity protocols

Saranga Rajan, the Associate Vice President & Head of BFSI Endpoint Security at HCL Software, warmly welcomed the participants, speakers, and OpenGov Asia to the valuable discussion. 

Digital security and digital transformation are intricately linked, with one significantly influencing the other. As organisations leverage advanced technologies to enhance operations, streamline processes, and improve overall efficiency, the need for robust digital security becomes paramount.  

Moreover, as systems become more interconnected and reliant on digital platforms, ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data becomes a critical aspect. In this transformative journey, the critical role of digital security in the evolving digital landscape cannot be overstated 

Collaboration between diverse entities, spanning both the private and public sectors, is essential for fostering knowledge exchange and addressing the challenges and opportunities presented by the ever-changing digital ecosystem. This collaborative approach recognises the interconnected nature of the digital landscape and emphasises the need for a unified front in navigating its complexities.  

“Partnerships are vital in confronting today’s issues amidst technological advancements,” Saranga believes. “Collective efforts across sectors are crucial for developing robust cybersecurity frameworks, policies, and strategies that can effectively mitigate risks and bolster the overall resilience of the digital ecosystem.”

Singapore has placed a significant emphasis on enhancing the cybersecurity resilience of its banks and financial institutions (BFSI). The industry has introduced “second-generation” cyber regulations to deal with the evolving landscape of cyber threats. These regulations signify a proactive response to the escalating challenges, underlining the importance of cyber resilience and the timely reporting of incidents within the financial sector. 

Saranga shares that HCLSoftware’s expertise in delivering enterprise software solutions, coupled with a focus on driving the digital economy and addressing transformative client requirements through AI and Automation, positions the company as a key player in fortifying organisations against cyberattacks. 

Acknowledging the heightened vulnerability within the Financial Services Industry (FSI), HCLSoftware is dedicated to addressing the need for robust resiliency and stands ready to provide tailored solutions to address these specific challenges. 

With a commitment to cutting-edge technologies and comprehensive security measures, HCLSoftware aims to empower FSI organisations with the capability and adaptability to navigate and mitigate cyber threats effectively. 

The importance of adapting security measures to the evolving threat landscape and the necessity for continuous improvement in cybersecurity protocols must be stressed. By remaining vigilant and responsive to emerging threats, the financial sector can proactively fortify its defences and maintain a resilient posture against cyber adversaries. 

In this VUCA environment, next-gen AI becomes a powerful ally in fortifying cyber resilience by offering enhanced threat detection, rapid response, and continuous adaptation to emerging cyber threats. 

Saranga was confident that the discussions and insights shared would significantly contribute to enhancing digital security practices and strategies. These knowledge-sharing forums play a pivotal role in shaping the future trajectory of digital security, particularly within the dynamic realm of digital transformation. They create an environment where industry experts, thought leaders, and practitioners can exchange valuable perspectives, innovative ideas, and best practices.  

“Cyber resilience can be enhanced by adopting a holistic and proactive approach that combines technological solutions, employee education, and collaboration within the industry,” concludes Saranga.  

In Conversation With 

Mohit, alongside Dr Chandra and Saranga, looked at strategies to bolster cybersecurity that would ultimately enhance consumer satisfaction. They explored innovative techniques, best practices and industry insights to create a resilient framework that not only safeguards digital assets but also fosters a heightened sense of trust and satisfaction among consumers.  

Addressing the dynamic challenges within the cybersecurity landscape yields valuable insights and practical solutions. These outcomes serve as a guide for organisations, offering implementable measures to ensure a secure and satisfying experience for consumers in the ever-changing digital environment. 

Dr Ashish Chandra∶ Businesses can leverage cutting-edge technologies to achieve smooth integration and streamline workflows

In the rapidly evolving landscape of massive digital technology transformation, Saranga concurs that addressing vulnerabilities in cybersecurity must be an ongoing priority. Strengthening these aspects not only provides security for the organisation’s systems but also enhances consumer satisfaction. 

Through the analysis of extensive data, AI empowers highly tailored and context-specific interactions for customers engaging with businesses. GenAI, with its capacity to anticipate and respond to user needs in real-time, ensures a seamless and intuitive experience, setting new standards for service excellence.  

While integrating these capabilities empowers businesses to receive personalised recommendations, predictive support, and unprecedented responsiveness, the primary challenge revolves around security concerns when incorporating GenAI into the customer experience.   

Dr Ashish Chandra, Head of Technology Innovation and Group Functions at Standard Chartered Bank, emphasised the vulnerability of Singapore’s FSI sector to a range of cybersecurity threats. This susceptibility is attributed to the growing digital and technological integration within the industry. 

In 2023, key security challenges within the Financial Services industry included: 

  1. Cloud-based attacks: The cloudification of FSI systems has resulted in risks from malware and advanced threats. 
  2. Island hopping: Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting the interconnectedness of the financial system and turning to island hopping campaigns, which involve infiltrating an organisation’s more vulnerable third parties 
  3. Remote work risks: The shift to remote work has introduced new risks for FSI companies, such as implementing safeguards in outsourcing arrangements, security controls, and cybersecurity measures for remote working infrastructure, including personal devices. 

To address these challenges, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) have issued guidelines on managing remote work risks for businesses in the FSI. These guidelines emphasise the importance of implementing safeguards in outsourcing arrangements, including personal devices. 

Within the business context, leveraging cutting-edge technologies offers various avenues to achieve seamless integration and streamline workflows, ultimately resulting in more efficient and cost-effective operations. Some of the key approaches encompass: 

  1. AI and ML for Process Optimisation: Chatbots enhancing customer support and predictive analytics optimising supply chain management are examples of how AI and ML can play a pivotal role in streamlining workflows and enhancing efficiency 
  2. Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs): Implementing DAPs can help businesses streamline customer management, ensure smooth digital transformations, and protect data assets, ultimately leading to greater scalability and efficiency 
  3. Cloud, AI, and Automation for Operational Resilience: Leveraging cloud, AI and automation technologies can improve business resilience, operational efficiency, and client engagement, ultimately leading to optimal business outcomes 

“By harnessing the power of interconnected emerging technologies, businesses can unlock unprecedented opportunities for growth, efficiency, and competitiveness,” he says. “The integration of technologies such as AI, blockchain, and the IoT forms a synergistic ecosystem that not only streamlines operations but also paves the way for innovative business models.” 

Saranga Rajan∶ Real-time tracking and improved prediction capabilities driven by AI facilitate faster and better decision-making

Saranga Rajan, Associate Vice President & Head of BFSI Endpoint Security at HCLSoftware, recognises that AI empowers businesses to enhance decision-making through various avenues.  

Firstly, real-time tracking and improved prediction capabilities, driven by AI technologies, facilitate faster and more informed decision-making by providing insights into various scenarios based on real-time data.  

Another crucial aspect where AI excels is Big Data Analysis, enabling the analysis of vast datasets to identify trends, patterns, and insights. This capability empowers businesses to make informed decisions that drive sustainable growth and maintain a competitive edge in dynamic market landscapes. 

Furthermore, AI facilitates scenario modelling and simulations, predicting outcomes for different choices. This capability allows businesses to evaluate alternative strategies, optimise resource allocation, and minimise risks associated with decision-making.  

In strategic planning, AI’s proficiency in processing extensive data sets and identifying trends significantly enhances strategic preparation, enabling businesses to formulate data-driven decisions and develop winning strategies. 

Additionally, AI contributes to personalised customer interactions, optimising inventory management, and providing data-driven insights. It enables businesses to concentrate on strategic decision-making and foster growth by automating processes, reducing manual work, and increasing efficiency. 

“By embracing intelligent automation and adopting a strategic approach that prioritises efficiency, innovation, and cybersecurity, businesses can achieve seamless integration, streamlined workflows, and optimal business outcomes,” Saranga is convinced. “This can be achieved by investing in the right technologies, fostering a culture of innovation, and striking the right balance between AI insights and human expertise.” 

“With its expertise, HCLSoftware can enhance cybersecurity and elevate customer experience by leveraging AI, automation, and enterprise security.  HCLSoftware integrates AI-powered cybersecurity measures to detect and respond to cyber threats in real-time, embodying a proactive approach to safeguarding digital assets,” elaborates Saranga. “HCLSoftware analyses vast datasets to identify trends and patterns, facilitating informed decision-making for sustainable business growth.” 

HCLSoftware offers cloud-based solutions that optimise cloud usage, accelerate innovation, and enhance agility at scale, resulting in a superior customer experience. Through digital transformation solutions, the company aids businesses in adapting to the digital age, improving operational efficiency, deepening client engagement, and enhancing overall business resilience. 

“I believe that if companies prioritise cybersecurity, innovation, and customer experience, HCLSoftware can help ensure seamless integration, streamlined workflows, and optimal business outcomes,” Saranga opines. “This strategic approach involves investing in the right technologies, fostering a culture of innovation, and finding the optimal balance between AI insights and human expertise.” 

Closing Remarks 

Saranga expressed his gratitude for the active participation, as participants shared their experiences and ideas, enriching the discussion. Bringing together diverse entities to discuss the issue of cybersecurity vulnerabilities needs such collaborative efforts. Involving both the public and private sectors, along with other pertinent stakeholders, to collectively address challenges is vital for ensuring a safe digital landscape. 

He acknowledges that cyberattacks know no boundaries and can impact various sectors of life, ranging from government to business and the general public, and as such, the imperative for collective efforts to build robust cybersecurity resilience remains.  

Saranga encouraged all parties to actively share information about cybersecurity threats and their experiences in dealing with them. By fostering an environment of open communication and collaboration, communities can learn from each other’s insights and swiftly identify and respond to potential cyberattacks.  

This collective sharing of information plays a crucial role in building a united front against evolving cyber threats, promoting proactive measures, and strengthening overall cybersecurity resilience.  

A common understanding can lead to several concrete steps that can be taken to enhance cybersecurity: 

  1. Strengthening regulations governing data protection and information security 
  2. Increased investment in innovative and effective cybersecurity 
  3. Capacity, capacity building through training and development of human resources in cybersecurity 

Highlighting the importance of cybersecurity awareness across all layers of society, from ordinary internet users to IT professionals and decision-makers at the executive level, Saranga emphasises that a holistic approach is key to creating a secure ecosystem against cybersecurity threats.  

This inclusive awareness strategy ensures that individuals at every level understand their role in maintaining cybersecurity, contributing to a collective and proactive defence against evolving threats. 

 Saranga is convinced that any nation can attain a higher level of cybersecurity through strong collaboration and collective commitment. He foresees that forums like the one at hand will continue to serve as platforms for exchanging ideas and strategies, allowing people to collectively address the complex challenges posed by the continually evolving digital world. 

This is an era where inclusivity is a currency, and its value extends across various domains, from business and technology to social and cultural realms,” he explained. “Diversity and partnership foster innovation and better decision-making and inclusive approaches are more adaptable, creative and better reflect varied markets.” 

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is in the process of updating its electronic database of farmers and fisherfolk, who constitute the primary stakeholders of the agency. The individual data of these stakeholders is crucial for the effective planning, execution, and monitoring of agricultural projects and targeted interventions, valued at billions of pesos.

Image credit: Department of Agriculture

Enhancing the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture, the official electronic database is in line with the Department’s overarching strategy to digitise operations and reduce costs across the food value chain. The move will expand market access, enhance profitability in agriculture, and ensure a consistent and affordable food supply for consumers.

The Agriculture Undersecretary for Operations, Roger Navarro, announced that the Department will deploy approximately 16,000 personnel across the country to accelerate the collection, updating, and validation of stakeholders’ personal and farm data, which has experienced delays. “We were supposed to finish this update last year but we have so many islands to cover,” said Navarro.

Recent estimates indicate that there are about 10 million farmers and fisherfolk in the country, a significant portion of whom are considered among the poorest. Before the update started, the Department of Agriculture possessed an initial list comprising 1.4 million of these stakeholders. In addition to its internal staff, the Department is collaborating with local government units to aid in the collection and verification of data.

The registration and ongoing updating of records and profiles for farmers, farmworkers, fisherfolk, and agricultural youth are crucial steps in verifying the accuracy of these estimates. Furthermore, this process aids in identifying individuals who genuinely require assistance from the Department.

Navarro emphasised that farmworkers should not be included in the list of beneficiaries under the Department since they do not own the farms or crops. Given that farmworkers are typically employed seasonally on farms, Navarro suggested that they should instead be included in the lists managed by other government agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, to ensure they receive appropriate support and assistance.

Navarro stressed the importance of distinguishing between farmers and farmworkers, stating that the differentiation is crucial for optimising resource allocation. Labour statistics indicate that agriculture employs one in every four Filipinos, underscoring its significant role in the country’s workforce.

Two years ago, the Department initiated the upgrading of its management information system, aiming to improve project and intervention monitoring while enabling real-time recording of agricultural and fishery data. Agriculture Secretary Francisco P. Tiu Laurel, Jr., a staunch advocate for the digitalisation of operations, has issued two memoranda delineating the latest guidelines for the registry update.

The agriculture chief has given his full support to the digitalisation project, expressing confidence that it will enhance efficiency across the Department’s operations, as well as project implementation and monitoring. Additionally, he is exploring the establishment of an agricultural statistics office to bolster the department’s capacity to manage food demand and production, with the aim of maximising returns for farmers and reducing the need for importation.

Because of the country’s dependence on agriculture for both food security and livelihoods, the integration of digital technologies is revolutionising agricultural practices. Precision agriculture stands out as a key domain poised to gain from digitisation. Farmers are leveraging GPS technology, drones, and satellite imagery to improve agricultural processes such as planting, irrigation, and pest management. This not only boosts crop yields but also conserves resources and minimises environmental footprint.

Farmers can also get information about market prices and trends through digital platforms. This helps them make smart choices about how to sell their crops, which increases their profits.

In a bid to streamline trade processes and bolster economic growth, the General Department of Customs in Vietnam is intensifying efforts towards digitalisation in customs activities in 2024.

This strategic move aims to enhance efficiency in customs policies and procedures while laying the groundwork for the deployment of digital customs systems. By leveraging cutting-edge technology, Vietnam aims to create a conducive environment for import-export businesses, facilitate trade promotion initiatives, and propel the nation’s economy toward its growth targets.

Image credits: Vietnam Plus

Despite facing challenges stemming from global economic fluctuations, the General Department of Customs is entrusted with a significant state budget revenue target of 375 trillion VND, with a substantial portion of 204 trillion VND expected from import and export activities.

To fortify the legal framework essential for implementing customs reforms and modernisation, the customs sector is diligently preparing documents for the electronic and digital implementation of customs administrative procedures. Notably, recent regulatory advancements include the issuance of Circular 33/2023/TT-BTC by the Ministry of Finance, which delineates guidelines for determining the origin of export and import goods.

Furthermore, the customs sector is expediting the finalisation of crucial decrees pivotal for administrative reform. These decrees encompass regulations on quality and food safety inspection for imported goods, customs management for e-commerce trade, and amendments to existing customs laws to streamline procedures and enhance efficiency.

Emphasising the significance of digitalisation, Nguyen The Viet, Deputy Director of the Division on Customs Supervision and Management at the General Department of Customs, highlights ongoing efforts to develop the digital customs and smart customs project. This initiative aims to seamlessly manage customs activities in the digital realm, spanning the entire process from pre-clearance to post-clearance stages for goods and transportation means.

Moreover, the General Department of Customs is actively advocating for reforms in the management and specialised inspection of import and export goods. Efforts are also directed towards optimising the National Single Window and ASEAN Single Window platforms through digital transformation, ensuring streamlined operations and enhanced trade facilitation.

Currently, core customs procedures are conducted via the VNACCS/VCIS system across all customs offices nationwide. The General Department of Customs has also expanded online public services to levels 3 and 4, facilitating smoother administrative processes for stakeholders.

In 2023, Vietnam’s total goods import and export value amounted to 683 billion USD, albeit experiencing a 6.6% decline from the previous year. Despite market challenges, the General Department of Customs remains proactive in implementing resolutions to support trade activities, alleviate business hurdles, and meet state budget revenue targets.

One notable initiative is the issuance of Decision 123/QD-TCHQ, which underscores administrative reforms, simplification of customs procedures, and enhanced trade facilitation efforts. As a result, customs clearance and goods handling times have been reduced by 10%, with a notable uptick in electronic documentation certifying goods’ origin.

Moreover, customs authorities are prioritising the swift clearance of agricultural and perishable goods, collaborating with local authorities to streamline customs processes at key border gates. Notably, border gates in Lang Son province have extended customs clearance hours, contributing to a substantial increase in import-export turnover and ensuring the smooth flow of goods across borders.

Vietnam’s commitment to digital transformation in customs operations underscores its proactive stance in fostering a conducive business environment, promoting trade, and fortifying its position in the global market landscape.

OpenGov Asia reported that In Vietnam’s drive towards digitalisation, the nation emphasises the imperative of collective action to propel the nation’s digital transformation agenda forward. Minister Nguyen Manh Hung emphasises the vital role of collaboration in leveraging technology for economic prosperity, mobilising specialised teams to lead transformation initiatives across sectors, and positioning Vietnam as a leader in the global digital revolution.

As technology advances, privacy and surveillance concerns are becoming more pronounced. In a recent development, a retail company proposed using facial recognition technology in its North Island stores. They are adopting facial recognition technology to provide employees secure access to business premises, improve the customer experience, and check and monitor store stock popularity and layout performance.

However, the use of facial recognition technology in retail environments must be done responsibly, with a commitment to data responsibility principles based on security, privacy, transparency, control, accountability, and integrity to scan and create biometric templates of shoppers, checking them against a watchlist of individuals with a history of harmful behaviours. While this initiative aims to enhance security and deter theft, it has sparked a debate on the ethical implications of such technology.

Dr Kate Bower, an AI regulation specialist at the UTS Human Technology Institute in Australia, compared facial recognition technology with DNA data collection. Unlike standard CCTV cameras that capture video footage, facial recognition technology goes further by capturing biometric data, including various data points from a person’s face to create a unique face print. While this technology offers the ability to identify individuals in a crowd and match them to a database, it also raises significant privacy concerns due to its invasive nature and potential for misuse.

Bower highlighted the potential for wrongful identification, particularly among people of colour. Studies have shown that facial recognition technology is less accurate for individuals with darker skin tones, leading to a higher rate of false accusations. This raises concerns about racial bias and the risk of innocent people being wrongly identified and accused.

Māori data ethicist Dr Karaitiana Taiuru has also voiced concerns about the technology’s accuracy, particularly for Māori and Pacific people, who may be more likely to be falsely accused. He emphasised that it is not a matter of “if” but “when” the system mistakenly identifies an innocent person, leading to distressing situations.

Another concern is the storage of biometric information by private companies. Bower emphasised the importance of knowing where and how this information is stored and the ability to request the deletion of data. Questions also arise about the accessibility of this information to law enforcement agencies, both in New Zealand and overseas.

The issue of children’s data being stored is also troubling. Bower questioned the fairness of capturing and storing children’s biometric information and raised concerns about the long-term implications of such practices.

These concerns highlighted the need for public discussion and oversight of facial recognition technology. Bower urged the public to speak up before this technology becomes more widespread in public spaces. She emphasised the need to consider the implications for us and future generations who may be subjected to constant surveillance.

To address these issues, a retail company has engaged with the Privacy Commissioner and enlisted an independent assessor. The company has affirmed that it will promptly delete all customer images unless they are involved in criminal activities or exhibit aggression, violence, or threats toward employees or customers. Images of offenders will be retained for a maximum of two years, while those aiding offenders will be retained for up to three months. Nevertheless, concerns persist regarding the broader implications of this technology and the possibility of its misuse.

As facial recognition technology expands, it is essential to balance security needs with privacy rights. Public oversight and transparency are crucial to ensure these technologies are used responsibly and ethically. Regulations and guidelines will likely evolve to address concerns such as data protection, consent, and algorithm bias. Collaboration between governments, technology developers, and civil society will be vital to establishing these frameworks. Additionally, ongoing research and dialogue on the ethical implications of facial recognition technology will ensure its responsible use in various contexts.

The Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) announced a comprehensive set of new measures aimed at bolstering the management of large-scale and high-risk information technology (IT) projects across various stages of the project development cycle within government bureaus and departments.

With a commitment to advancing the digital transformation of government services, bureaus and departments are actively leveraging IT to deliver more accessible e-government services to citizens and businesses. To foster public trust in the government’s digital initiatives and ensure the smooth implementation and operation of government IT systems, the OGCIO has introduced a series of initiatives.

These measures encompass project initiation, procurement, system development, pre-launch cybersecurity, and stress testing.

At the project initiation phase, bureaus and departments are tasked with evaluating whether their IT projects qualify as large-scale or high-risk endeavours. In the procurement process for relevant system development services, the emphasis on technical assessments in tender evaluations is raised to 70%.

During the system development stage, the OGCIO collaborates with bureaus and departments to engage independent consultants possessing relevant expertise and experience. These consultants conduct regular third-party reviews and assessments of system design and development progress.

Moreover, bureaus and departments must subject their respective systems to additional tests arranged by the OGCIO before system rollout. These tests aim to evaluate the system’s resilience to abnormal or extreme loads, as well as potential cyberattacks.

The OGCIO reaffirms its commitment to closely collaborating with all bureaus and departments to ensure that the preparation for the rollout of large-scale digital services aligns with the service needs of the general public. By implementing these measures, the government aims to enhance its capacity to deliver robust and secure IT solutions that meet the evolving demands of the digital landscape.

Furthermore, these initiatives underscore the government’s proactive approach to mitigating risks associated with IT projects, ensuring accountability, and promoting transparency throughout the development and implementation phases.

Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government is committed to leveraging information technology (IT) to enhance the welfare of the community and solidify Hong Kong’s standing as a premier digital city. The Government has outlined its strategy and initiatives aimed at fostering the adoption of IT in both public and private sectors, with potential benefits for stakeholders.

An extensive IT infrastructure has been established, interconnecting all bureaux and departments through the core Government Backbone Network. This infrastructure aims to promote the use of common applications and services such as the Government Communication Network, the Central Cyber Government Office, and central Internet services, all designed with significant enhancements to improve government services for the public.

Additionally, the Government has introduced methodologies, standards, and guidelines to facilitate the implementation of integrated e-government services. These efforts are geared towards enhancing productivity and elevating the quality of products and services provided to the public.

The series of new measures announced by the Government to strengthen the management of large-scale and high-risk IT projects by government bureaus and departments is part of a broader effort to leverage information technology for the benefit of the community and enhance Hong Kong’s digital infrastructure. These measures, including rigorous assessment during project initiation, enhanced procurement processes, and regular third-party reviews during system development, reflect a proactive approach to ensuring the reliability, security, and quality of government IT systems.

By emphasising pre-launch cybersecurity and stress testing, as well as implementing methodologies and standards for e-government services, the Government aims to improve service delivery, streamline operations, and enhance cybersecurity measures. These initiatives underscore the Government’s commitment to advancing Hong Kong’s position as a leading digital city and demonstrate its dedication to harnessing IT for the betterment of society.

Thailand is actively pursuing a digital transformation to enhance its digital economy and become a prominent player in the global digital landscape. The country has set targets, such as increasing its digital economy to 50% by 2030. This transformation is encapsulated in policies like “Thai 4.0” and “A National Digital Blueprint,” which focus on digital industrial-scale transformation and the development of the digital economy. Key initiatives include expanding the use of Digital ID, promoting e-government solutions and building high-capacity digital infrastructure.

Image credits: mdes.go.th

Although Thailand has advanced considerably in its digital evolution, obstacles such as insufficient private investment, inadequate digital infrastructure in specific regions, and the necessity to enhance ICT competencies persist. Nevertheless, Thailand’s endeavours in digital transformation underscore a committed dedication to utilising digital technology for economic prosperity and societal progression.

On this second month of the year, Mr Prasert Chandraruangthong, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, spearheaded the Thai delegation alongside Special Professor Wisit Wisitsaratha, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, at the 4th ASEAN Digital Ministerial Meeting (ADGMIN) held in Singapore.

Under the theme “Building an Inclusive and Trusted Digital Ecosystem,” ministers from 10 ASEAN member countries convened to address pivotal issues in the digital landscape, fostering collaboration and digital transformation.

In highlighting Thailand’s commitment to digital advancement, Mr Prasert outlined the “The Growth Engine of Thailand” policy to propel the nation towards a robust digital economy and a secure digital society. The policy delineates three key areas of focus:

Enhancing Competitive Potential: Thailand aims to bolster its competitive edge by prioritising the development of digital infrastructure, facilitating digital government services, and advocating for adopting cloud technology in the public sector to ensure heightened security standards.

Ensuring Digital Safety and Security: Efforts are underway to accelerate the deployment of cybersecurity tools to combat online threats and cybercrimes. Public awareness campaigns will play a crucial role in mitigating risks associated with digital platforms.

Fostering Digital Literacy: Embracing the ethos of “Digital for All,” Thailand seeks to nurture digital skills and competencies among its populace, ensuring inclusivity and equitable participation in the digital economy.

Acknowledging the burgeoning significance of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Mr Prasert emphasised the need for comprehensive guidelines governing its ethical and regulatory framework. Thailand has taken measures by instituting the Thailand AI Ethics Guideline to ensure the responsible and effective utilisation of AI within its borders.

Moreover, Mr Prasert underscored the imperative of addressing online threats, citing them as grave national security concerns and transnational crimes. Thailand proposed the establishment of the ASEAN Working Group on Anti-Online Scam (WG-AS) to foster regional collaboration in combating online fraud—a pervasive global issue. Additionally, the formation of the AOC 1441 Centre signifies Thailand’s commitment to tackling online crime and minimising its impact on citizens.

In his closing remarks, Mr Prasert reiterated the importance of ASEAN unity in confronting digital challenges head-on. He emphasised the urgency of concerted efforts to mitigate the adverse effects of online threats on the ASEAN populace, underscoring the imperative for collective action.

Despite that, Thailand has taken several measures to confront cyberattacks in previous strides. The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DE) has demonstrated commitment and steadfast dedication to eradicating cyberattacks. Based on the OpenGov Asia report, the DE Ministry has consistently been at the forefront of the battle against cyber threats through strategic initiatives, comprehensive policies, and cutting-edge technological advancements.

Mr Prasert Chandraruangthong, Thailand’s Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DE), unveiled the commendable results of the Anti Online Scam Operation Centre (AOC) 1441. Operating between November 1 and December 2023, AOC 1441 successfully handled 183,016 citizen contacts, frozen 20,204 accounts, and apprehended more than 400 criminals. Notably, the average time to freeze an account plummeted to 9 minutes in December, showcasing the centre’s efficiency.

The Anti Online Scam Operation Centre (AOC) is a one-stop service centre that offers knowledge, advice, and assistance to the public regarding cybercrime and online scamming. The centre is a collaboration between various government agencies, including the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, the Anti-Money Laundering Office, the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau, the Bank of Thailand, the Thai Bankers Association, the Department of Special Investigation, and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission.

The ADGMIN demonstrates Thailand’s dedication to utilising digital technology for the mutual advantage of ASEAN nations. Through collaboration and strategic measures, efforts are made to cultivate an all-encompassing, safe, and adaptable digital environment, driving sustainable digital progress throughout Thailand and the region.

Enhancing digital competencies among government personnel in Thailand is paramount. Mr Charin Teerathiyangkun, Director of TDGA Institute, along with Dr Suphawan Tharaphokakul, Senior Digital Advisor, welcomed Mr Damien O’Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of the ICDL Foundation from the European Union. The meeting aimed to foster and explore avenues for collaboration.

Image credits: dga.or.th

During the meeting, discussions revolved around identifying potential areas of partnership, such as training programmes, knowledge exchange initiatives, and capacity-building projects. Both parties expressed mutual interest in leveraging their expertise to empower government personnel with essential digital skills necessary for navigating the increasingly digitised landscape.

Additionally, they deliberated on strategies to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of their collaborative efforts in advancing digital literacy and proficiency across various sectors of the Thai government.

Mr Charin Teerathiyangkun said that embracing the digital revolution is imperative for Thailand’s progression in the global landscape. Thus, the discussion centred on adopting ICDL international standards to foster digital skills among government employees.

This collaboration aims to provide comprehensive guidelines for digital skill development, aligning with international benchmarks. By upskilling and re-skilling the digital workforce to meet these standards, Thailand aims to position itself as a digital hub within the ASEAN region.

The journey towards integrating the ICDL Foundation’s digital standards in Thailand commenced in 2012. Since then, several strides have been made, including the establishment of the ICDL International Standards Examination Centre. This centre serves as a hub for disseminating knowledge and best practices in accordance with ICDL standards.

Furthermore, Thailand boasts 19 ICDL-approved test centres, including governmental bodies like the Ministry of Education, the Office of the Vocational Education Commission, and the Office of the Civil Service Commission. Additionally, entities such as the Professional Qualification Institute, the Digital Council for the Economy and Society of Thailand, and eight key digital associations play pivotal roles in this initiative.

Notably, over 50,000 Thai digital professionals have undergone development and evaluation processes aligned with ICDL standards. This signifies a significant leap towards enhancing the nation’s digital workforce and ensuring they meet global expectations.

The strategic collaboration between TDGA Institute, ICDL Foundation, and various stakeholders underscores Thailand’s commitment to digital transformation. By leveraging internationally recognised standards, the nation aims to address the evolving demands of the digital economy. This collaborative effort is not merely about skill development but also about fostering innovation, efficiency, and competitiveness.

The implications of this collaboration extend beyond governmental institutions. As Thailand advances its digital agenda, there will be ripple effects across industries, driving economic growth and societal advancement. By equipping its workforce with advanced digital competencies, Thailand is poised to attract foreign investment, foster entrepreneurship, and propel innovation.

Moreover, the emphasis on digital skills aligns with the broader vision of sustainable development. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, nations must prioritise building a skilled workforce capable of navigating digital complexities. By investing in digital education and training, Thailand lays the groundwork for a more inclusive and resilient society.

The digitalisation of government services is another critical aspect of this collaboration. By adhering to international standards, Thailand aims to enhance the efficiency, transparency, and accessibility of public services. This digital transformation not only streamlines administrative processes but also improves citizen engagement and satisfaction.

Looking ahead, the partnership between TDGA Institute and ICDL Foundation sets a precedent for future collaborations in the digital realm. As technology continues to evolve, so too must our approach to digital education and skill development. By fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation, Thailand is poised to thrive in the digital age.

The meeting between TDGA Institute, ICDL Foundation, and key stakeholders marks a commitment to Thailand’s digital journey. By embracing international standards and fostering collaboration, the nation is well-positioned to lead the ASEAN region in digital innovation and excellence. This strategic partnership underscores Thailand’s consistency in building a future-ready workforce and driving sustainable growth through digitalisation.

In fortifying cybersecurity to be more resilient, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has announced a two-year extension of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) Task Force. This Task Force, chaired by CISA’s National Risk Management Centre (NRMC) in collaboration with the Information Technology (IT) and Communications Sector Coordinating Councils, constitutes a vital public-private partnership.

This initiative has brought together a diverse array of representatives from both public and private sector entities, entrusted with identifying challenges and formulating practical, actionable, and risk-based recommendations and solutions for managing risks inherent in the global ICT supply chain.

ICT supply chain management is a multifaceted endeavour crucial for the smooth operation of modern businesses and the security of critical infrastructure. As the digital landscape evolves, so do the complexities and risks associated with the ICT supply chain. To effectively manage these risks, collaboration among stakeholders is paramount.

Over the past two years, the Task Force’s working groups have invaluable products, resources, and tools aimed at mitigating risks within the ICT supply chain. Assistant Director of NRMC and ICT Task Force Co-Chair Mona Harrington emphasised the Task Force’s indispensable role in mitigating supply chain risks.

Renewing the charter ensures that the Task Force can continue to leverage its expertise in identifying solutions and mitigations for the significant ICT supply chain risks and threats facing the nation. The Task Force has addressed various challenging supply chain issues, producing products such as the Hardware Bill of Materials Framework and risk management guides tailored for small and medium-sized businesses.

One key aspect of this effort involves fostering greater transparency throughout the supply chain. This entails establishing clear lines of communication and information sharing among all stakeholders, from suppliers to end-users.

Previously, in 2023, the Task Force released three noteworthy products, including the Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (SMB) Resource Handbook, offering an overview of critical supply chain risk categories commonly faced by ICT SMBs. Additionally, the Empowering Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Resource Guide equips businesses with tools to develop actionable supply chain risk management plans.

The Hardware Bill of Materials (HBOM) Framework for Supply Chain Risk Management provides organisations with a foundational framework for constructing their own HBOM, incorporating a consistent naming methodology for component attributes and guidance on appropriate HBOM information based on its intended use.

John Miller, ITI Vice President of Policy and Senior Counsel and IT Sector Co-Chair of the Task Force highlighted the critical nature of solutions leveraging both public and private expertise. He underscored the recent establishment of an Artificial Intelligence Working Group aimed at identifying AI-related supply chain risks and mitigations.

Robert Mayer, Senior Vice President of Cybersecurity and Innovation at U.S. Telecom and Communications Sector Task Force Co-Chair, emphasised the increasing the frequency, aggression, and consequential nature of supply chain attacks on global ICT infrastructure. He praised the Task Force’s crucial support for stakeholders in mitigating such risks.

The Task Force’s renewal enables its working groups to continue developing valuable products such as the Software Assurance Buyers Guide and advancing the newly formed Artificial Intelligence (AI) working group. The AI working group endeavours to identify beneficial applications of AI in mitigating threats to ICT SCRM processes.

Additionally, the Task Force will host its inaugural ICT SCRM Task Force Conference, ensuring ongoing collaboration between government and industry members on public-private engagement efforts concerning supply chain issues.

Over the next two years ahead, until January 2026, the Task Force will focus on strengthening partnerships with stakeholders to broaden the applicability and utilisation of its products, tools, and resources. Given the interconnectedness of sectors and the scale of supply chain risks, private-public coordination remains essential for enhancing ICT supply chain resilience.

Understanding how the brain combines previously acquired skills to tackle new challenges remains a complex puzzle in neuroscience. Nanyang Assistant Professor Hiroshi Makino, from NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, sheds light on this intriguing process through a study involving mice and theoretical analyses with artificial intelligence (AI) models. The research not only unveils the brain’s ability to compose new skills but also holds implications for enhancing AI models.

Mice were trained in behavioural experiments involving tasks requiring the manipulation of a joystick to move an object towards a destination. Successful completion of the task resulted in a water reward. Subsequently, the mice were trained to associate licking a waterspout with receiving water. The complexity increased when the mice were challenged with a combined task – using the joystick to move the waterspout to a specific location and then licking it to obtain their water reward.

Assistant Professor Makino delved into the neural activity of both mice and AI models. The focus was on understanding how the mice integrated their learned skills to accomplish the composite task. The findings revealed a mechanism where the brain combines representations of pre-learned action values from constituent subtasks. This insight into the brain’s learning process holds potential for improving our understanding of cognitive functions.

The study incorporated theoretical predictions from the field of deep reinforcement learning, where agents learn to solve composite tasks by combining representations of pre-learned action values from simpler subtasks. AI models provided a theoretical framework that helped in understanding the learning process observed in mice. The theoretical predictions were validated through empirical testing on the mice, showcasing a convergence between artificial and biological systems.

Assistant Professor Makino believes that this research not only enhances our understanding of how the brain learns but also has implications for improving AI models in the future. The ability to compose new skills from a pre-acquired repertoire is a crucial aspect of biological intelligence, and the study offers valuable insights into this fundamental cognitive process.

The study draws parallels between deep RL algorithms, which leverage policy entropy to express stochastic policies, and the initial high variability observed in behaviour during pretraining. This algorithmic convergence between artificial and biological systems prompts further exploration into the mechanisms that promote exploration for future learning.

This groundbreaking study not only unravels the mysteries of how the brain combines learned skills but also establishes a crucial connection between artificial intelligence models and biological systems. As we delve deeper into the brain’s ability to tackle new challenges through the integration of existing knowledge, the study opens avenues for future research in neuroscience and AI, with potential implications for advancements in both fields.

NTU Singapore, under the leadership of President Professor Ho Teck Hua, has unveiled a new initiative to address global opportunities and challenges posed by artificial intelligence (AI). The university aims to boost AI education, research, and innovation, introducing new programmes such as the Bachelor of Science in AI and Society and the Turing AI Scholars Programme. These efforts align with Singapore’s national AI strategy and solidify NTU’s position as a leading global university.

Singapore is keenly focused on deploying Artificial Intelligence across various fields to enhance efficiency and drive innovation. Recognising the transformative potential of AI, the Singaporean government has been actively fostering an ecosystem conducive to the development and application of AI technologies.

Singapore proactively tackles safety and ethical concerns tied to AI technologies by investing in research and development to formulate guidelines and standards prioritising safety in AI deployment. This approach seeks to foster public trust in AI while minimising associated risks linked to its extensive adoption.

During the period from 2023 to 2024, the technological landscape continued to evolve rapidly, bringing forth significant advancements and transformations across various sectors. Thailand’s commitment to advancing its digital landscape took a stride as Mr Prasert Chandraruangthong, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, led the country’s delegation at the 4th ASEAN Digital Ministerial Meeting (ADGMIN) held in the Republic of Singapore.

Image credits: mdes.go.th

The meeting, held under the overarching theme of “Building an Inclusive and Trusted Digital Ecosystem,” brought together Digital Ministers from 10 ASEAN member countries, fostering collaboration and discussions on pivotal issues in the digital sphere. This meeting marks a significant milestone in the efforts to create a cohesive and forward-thinking digital landscape within the ASEAN community.

During the ADGMIN, Mr Prasert underscored Thailand’s strategic vision encapsulated in the policy initiative “The Growth Engine of Thailand.” This initiative aims to propel the nation towards a digital economy and a secure digital society, delineating three key developmental areas. Mr Prasert is optimistic about enhancing those strategies to elevate the digital standard in Thailand.

First, Thailand seeks to enhance its competitive potential by prioritising the development of digital infrastructure for seamless integration into the realm of digital governance. This involves elevating the standard of government digital services accessible to the public and advocating for the adoption of cloud technology within the government sector. The latter is particularly highlighted for its superior security standards compared to existing systems.

Second, Thailand is steadfast in boosting digital safety and security by expediting the creation of tools to combat cyber threats and online crime. The country also places a significant emphasis on public education to prevent potential dangers that may arise in the digital landscape. As the world grapples with the evolving landscape of technology, Thailand recognises the importance of addressing the ethical dimensions of artificial intelligence (AI).

In response to the rapid advancement of AI, Mr Prasert shared Thailand’s proactive stance in establishing guidelines for the regulation and ethics of AI technology, known as AI Governance and Ethics. The minister emphasised the importance of controlling the use of AI technology to ensure safety and efficiency in the country, citing the creation of the Thailand AI Ethics Guideline as a pivotal step in this direction.

“AI ethic is paramount. The ethical considerations surrounding AI have become a focal point as the technology continues to permeate various aspects of our lives,” added Mr Prasert.

Further, in highlighting the gravity of managing online dangers, Mr Prasert identified this as a pressing national security and transnational crime concern. Drawing attention to the ASEAN Working Group on Anti-Online Scam (WG-AS), proposed by Thailand, he stressed the need for collaborative efforts within the ASEAN region to prevent and combat online fraud, a global transnational crime issue. Additionally, he mentioned the establishment of the AOC 1441 Centre, which is tasked with addressing online crime problems and mitigating harm to the public.

Mr Prasert reiterated the urgency for ASEAN nations to work collectively and efficiently to address these challenges. He emphasised the need for integration to tackle online threats seriously, underscoring the importance of alleviating damage to people across the ASEAN region.

As Thailand takes strides toward becoming a digital powerhouse, its active participation in regional forums like the ADGMIN reflects its commitment to fostering collaboration, sharing expertise, and collectively addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by the digital era.

The three-pronged approach outlined by Mr Prasert demonstrates Thailand’s comprehensive strategy to not only enhance its digital capabilities but also to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. By addressing these three key areas simultaneously, Thailand aims to create a holistic and sustainable approach to digital advancement.


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