To improve brain-computer interfaces for people with disabilities, U.S. Researchers at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering are using generative adversarial networks (GANs) — technology best known for creating deepfake videos and photorealistic human faces.
In a paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, the researchers reported the development and use of a generative model—a model that synthesises a virtually unlimited number of new data distributions from a learned data distribution. The team successfully taught an AI to generate synthetic brain activity data. The data, specifically neural signals called spike trains, can be fed into machine-learning algorithms to improve the usability of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI).
BCI systems work by analysing a person’s brain signals and translating that neural activity into commands, allowing the user to control digital devices like computer cursors using only their thoughts. These devices can improve the quality of life for people with motor dysfunction or paralysis, even those struggling with locked-in syndrome – when a person is fully conscious but unable to move or communicate.
Various forms of BCI are already available, from caps that measure brain signals to devices implanted in brain tissues. New use cases are being identified all the time, from neurorehabilitation to treating depression. But despite all of this promise, it has proved challenging to make these systems fast and robust enough for the real world. Specifically, to make sense of their inputs, BCIs need huge amounts of neural data and long periods of training, calibration and learning.
In an experiment described in the paper, the researchers trained a deep-learning spike synthesiser with one session of data recorded from a monkey reaching for an object. Then, they used the synthesiser to generate large amounts of similar—albeit fake—neural data.
The team then combined the synthesised data with small amounts of new real data—either from the same monkey on a different day, or from a different monkey—to train a BCI. This approach got the system up and running much faster than current standard methods. In fact, the researchers found that GAN-synthesised neural data improved a BCI’s overall training speed by up to 20 times.
It is the first time we’ve seen AI generate the recipe for thought or movement via the creation of synthetic spike trains. This research is a critical step towards making BCIs more suitable for real-world use.
– Shixian Wen, Lead Author
Additionally, after training on one experimental session, the system rapidly adapted to new sessions, or subjects, using limited additional neural data. Creating fake spike trains that look just like they come from this person as they imagine doing different motions, then also using this data to assist with learning on the next person is the big innovation.
Beyond BCIs, GAN-generated synthetic data could lead to breakthroughs in other data-hungry areas of artificial intelligence by speeding up training and improving performance. When a company is ready to start commercialising a robotic skeleton, robotic arm or speech synthesis system, they should look at this method, because it might help them with accelerating the training and retraining.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, BCI can restore communication to people who have lost the ability to move or speak, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (NIH BRAIN). The BCI is designed specifically for people with spinal cord injuries and neurological disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
NIH BRAIN Initiative states that this study represents an important milestone in the development of BCIs and machine learning technologies on how the human brain controls communication processes. This knowledge is providing a critical foundation for improving the lives of others with neurological injuries and disorders. Therefore, the results open a new approach for BCIs and demonstrate the feasibility of accurately decoding rapid, dexterous movements years after paralysis.
The global spread of COVID-19 has been a disaster of unparalleled proportions. Not only has it halted the world economy, but it has also made even the most optimistic leaders reconsider how soon things would return to how they were before the outbreak.
Even as the pandemic disrupted businesses and services around the world, a sudden and dramatic increase in internet consumption was observed. Businesses had to shift to digital communications and tools as the key medium for maintaining productive and interesting relationships with their many stakeholders – internal and external.
While the private sector was quicker to alter procedures in the early phases of the pandemic, the public eventually successfully adapted and innovated to continue citizen service delivery. Of course, early on, most governments rapidly put into place digital communication and emergency response platforms.
By allowing users to access their data and applications from any internet-connected device, cloud computing expands the scope of digital transformation beyond simple technology adoption to encompass a comprehensive redesign of all related procedures, resources and user interactions.
The cloud and digital transformation are now inextricably linked. Organisations across the board need to adopt a cloud-first strategy if they want to ensure the longevity of their operations and realise their transformation objectives.
Most organisations and agencies have benefited from the digital change, but some industries are behind the curve. To keep up with the fierce competition in their industries, they must guarantee the reliable operation of the cloud communication platforms that serve as a direct line of contact between the organisations and their consumers and aid in the promotion of their offerings.
The OpenGov Breakfast Insight on 25 November 2022 at M Hotel Singapore provided Singapore’s public, education, financial and healthcare sectors with the advantages of the most recent cloud technology.
Simplifying Things via Cloud Communication
Mohit Sagar, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia believes that the cloud has transformed the way organisations communicate, cooperate and carry out many other critical business and service functions.
Cloud communications are voice and data communications solutions that organisations employ to manage cloud-hosted applications, storage and switching.
“Cloud communications services are becoming an increasingly intrinsic choice for organisations looking to streamline their operations and enable their remote workforces to stay connected and productive,” observes Mohit.
Cloud communications enable organisations to interact with their employees and customers over many channels, including email, audio calls, chat and video. All of these leverage internet-based connectivity to minimise faulty connections and lag in communication.
This communication model has become the go-to option for addressing the growing need for efficient internal communications in the hybrid workplace. As numerous workers are returning to the office, and for many of those who have remote work capabilities, hybrid work arrangements are swiftly becoming the new standard.
Organisations are figuring out ways to make hybrid work as interesting and effective as they can. Leaning into what is working, changing what is not working and adapting as lessons are gained are the first steps in creating an effective hybrid strategy, work environment, and culture.
Employee access to the system from anywhere on any device is the need of a mixed work environment. Regardless of the apparatus they are using or their location, employees need to be able to connect to the system.
“User-friendly features in cloud communications make it simpler for staff to become used to the technology,” Mohit explains. “Up until now, better work-life balance, more effective time management, control over working hours and location, prevention of burnout and higher productivity have been the main benefits of hybrid work.”
Having the appropriate tools to be productive at work, feeling less a part of the organisation’s culture, poor cooperation and relationships, and disturbing work processes are some of the biggest obstacles to hybrid work.
Apart from the initial expenditure, virtual meetings result in reduced expenses because of the decline in maintenance and transportation costs. Moreover, integrations of cloud telephony enable companies to place and receive calls from any device that is connected to the Internet.
This means that cloud communications can potentially maximise resources for organisations. Procedures, implementation and adaptability can all be accelerated with a cloud communications strategy, which also offers limitless high-volume information transmission.
According to Mohit, cloud communications must have robust security components to ensure compliance with data privacy laws and the security of all stakeholders. “To assist in safeguarding data in the cloud, emerging cybersecurity tools should also be taken into account.”
These include Artificial Intelligence (AI) for IT Operations (AIOps) and Network Detection and Response (NDR). Both programmes gather data on the security and stability of cloud infrastructure. After data analysis, AI notifies administrators of any unusual behaviour that might represent a threat.
Ultimately a well-thought-out cloud communication strategy with strong security features can serve organisations and gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly digital landscape and VUCA environment.
According to Lucas Lu, Head of Asia, Zoom, if communication fails to give the greatest possible experience, everyone suffers – from employees to consumers to investors. And neglecting to address this essential avenue has ever-worsening implications.
Organisations are going through some significant changes, he explains. The first is in the general business environment. Organisations are under tremendous pressure to boost efficiency, adapt fast as competition rises and keep up with the rapid pace of innovation and technological advancements.
This problem is becoming even more pressing because of economic uncertainties. Furthermore, solving these problems requires effective communication between consumers, prospects and staff.
The workforce is likewise seeing a paradigm shift. People desire the option of remote employment and are asking for the cutting-edge equipment and communication systems they need to do their jobs.
HR managers concur that a high-performing workplace’s future requirements would include collaboration, regular communication and a mentorship culture between managers and teams. “You run the risk of losing the ‘War for Talent’ if you don’t deliver,” Lucas asserts.
With every new tool and software that is made available, communication becomes more difficult and complex. Employees, clients and potential consumers are just a few of the stakeholders who have preferences and expectations about how, when and where they conduct business.
Due to this, many businesses choose their battles carefully when it comes to facilitating communication. They follow a variety of routes, including:
- Maintaining already-established systems that are deemed adequate
- Making use of the fundamental, built-in communication capabilities that are provided with other software packages, even if they don’t entirely satisfy the organisation’s demands
- Using different approaches based on the circumstances. You might, for instance, employ one communication tool for internal cooperation and another for clients, investors, and outside events
“All these strategies are meant to provide organisations with fundamental communication,” says Lucas. “These methods provide some flexibility, but they also change the environment for prospects, employees and consumers. People are compelled to alternate between various options based on their needs as a result.”
This causes unneeded annoyance, rework, expenditures and misunderstanding. Employees may feel alienated and impatient. Customers’ interactions with the brand are disorganised and unprofessional. And various instruments frequently make business slower.
In this uncertain business environment, organisations that can move beyond basic communication into universal communication have extraordinary potential. They can develop intuitive connections to all parties, employees, customers and investors, regardless of location, technology or business activity.
This will be accomplished by integrating the individual and organisational connection demands that will result in a) Delivering a consistent and quality experience for all participants, b) Making human connection effortless, and c) Enabling rapid innovation to maintain relevance.
These results may:
- Satisfy both the primary business requirements and the consumers’ expectations
- Redirect internal resources from managing communications to new services and capabilities; and
- Increase the marketability and perceived agility within the organisation and in the market.
An organisation’s reputation is directly related to the quality of its communication services. In addition to the fact that employees, clients and customers can work remotely, those returning to the office do not t want to compromise on the at-home office environment to which they have grown accustomed.
Organisations must adapt to this new hybrid environment to guarantee that everyone receives high-quality service regardless of circumstance or location. Expectations are simply greater and it is unacceptable if a session fails due to dropped participants or subpar audio or video.
“With Zoom, you may use a top-notch infrastructure that is specially made to prevent failures to safeguard your company from communications disruptions. You eliminate a work-limiting unpredictability risk by doing this,” Lucas says confidently.
When communications are down nowadays, it is impossible to conduct business. Hence, organisations may provide a controlled experience by enabling their staff to work without being concerned about the underlying technology. Additionally, they can analyse the underlying cause of any problems in their surroundings and take preventative measures.
With this, employees can concentrate on their work without unneeded interruptions or ambiguity and will have faith that the communication solution their organisation has deployed will work as planned.
“Partnering with Zoom enables quick innovation to keep up with the times. You can take advantage of a constant flow of fresh features that correspond to actual user requirements,” Lucas says. “Moreover, by frequently communicating with their support group, organisations will rapidly realise what is possible.”
Fireside Chat: How to Prepare for the Transition to the “Cloud Culture”
Geetha Gopal, Head of Infrastructure Projects Delivery and Digital Transformation, Panasonic Asia Pacific believes that every day, new technologies emerge and the culture of change is driving a paradigm shift for which an organisation must be prepared.
“As the COVID-19 outbreak rocked the world and we were unsure of what to do, our investments in technology became our strength,” says Geetha.
As the trend toward digitisation of remote work transforms the traditional office culture, a cloud culture has evolved. Likewise, cloud computing has become a competitive advantage for these organisations.
Every step toward better efficiency in the manufacturing sector increases competitiveness. Because of this, the industry’s embrace of cloud communications has become a crucial turning point. Cloud communications have changed the game for manufacturing by enabling increased efficiency while lowering IT expenditures.
“Cloud computing is the future, and organisations are successfully transitioning from the traditional office culture to the cloud culture,” Geetha says firmly.
Streamlining operations using scalable technological solutions for essential tasks and process optimisation not only helps reduce costs but also frees up time for businesses to devote to value-adding endeavours.
This is crucial now more than ever as operations teams struggle to keep up with the quickening speed of product and investment strategy development being observed among clients.
The new service-focused, client-centric operating model for investment operations will be made possible by technology, data and scalability. Organisations need to realise that the greatest way to prepare for the future is to create it as they deal with this period of constant innovation.
As a result, operations leaders who are taking steps to redesign, reinvent and adapt their operations may ultimately be in a stronger position.
Geetha emphasises that collaboration, communication and connectivity are crucial for success in today’s work environment. The key to maximising these contacts is digital communication. “For efficient communication and productivity, your company primarily depends on specific systems, platforms, and applications.”
More organisations are understanding the enormous advantages of migrating their systems to the cloud as technology continues to progress. In addition to allowing organisations to remain relevant in a competitive market, innovation plays a vital role in economic growth. Innovations are required to solve key problems.
One of the tactics that may be employed to save money while maximising organisational resources and extending communication skills and reach is advance planning.
An advantage of cloud communications for aiding staff members in a hybrid workforce is the reduction in time spent travelling to the workplace. Employees can save time travelling with the hybrid model simultaneously offering the chance to be more productive.
Despite the importance of enabling technology, it is the human workforce that will not only execute the organisation’s digital transformation strategy but also ensure its long-term success.
Guaranteeing that personnel are up to the task, however, needs not only technical training but also a radical transformation in thinking and decision-making.
It is important to focus on organisational culture by changing the management programme and making concerted efforts to close the gap between the internal aspect and employees.
Organisations that are unable to develop and achieve new goals that will assist their employees and business to thrive are those that are unwilling to alter existing practices.
“The pandemic can no longer be an excuse or the reason – remote work is here to stay. If we want skilled employees then we need to concentrate on their needs – we must empower our employees,” Geetha concludes.
Lucas believes that every problem has a solution since most organisations fail to connect their strategy to their innovation objectives. “Change is a constant process, and what we say today might leave a legacy tomorrow. Any plan for digital transformation, in our opinion, must be built around digital innovation.”
The road of digital transformation must involve a competitive advantage that can only be sustained by introducing innovations and contemporary methods if it is to stay modern and please clients with cutting-edge goods and services.
For every change, there is a call for managerial backing to be successful and transformative. Zoom is happy to discuss how digital transformation budgets differ from traditional business or IT budgets to meet the demands of any organisation.
Lucas believes that cloud computing is transforming not only how many organisations access and store data, but also how many of these businesses run. It provides greater protection, flexibility, data recovery, minimal to no maintenance and ease of access.
“Although many people used to hesitate the cloud computing, they have now realised how important it has become to organisations,” Lucas has observed.
Mohit believes that changes in computers and how technologies are distributed are altering the ecosystem, especially for those who work in a hybrid environment. He encourages delegates to start establishing a strategy to utilise the cloud’s benefits for their businesses and services. “Organisations should determine the types of cloud services for which you require solutions, then meet with cloud service providers to determine the best long-term match.”
Both public and private organisations benefit from the adaptability, efficiency, scalability, security, improved collaboration and cost savings that cloud computing offers. “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption, but it is anticipated that cloud computing is here to stay, especially since hybrid work assumes a central role,” Mohit concludes.
India ranked 61st in the recently released Network Readiness Index 2022 (NRI). The report ranks a total of 131 economies that collectively account for almost 95% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). The United States ranked first place as the most network-ready society. The report is titled ‘Stepping into the new digital era: how and why digital natives will shape the world’.
According to a press release by the Ministry of Communications, this year, India jumped six places. It ranked 11th within Asia and the Pacific. Further, the country not only increased its ranking but improved its score from 49.74 in 2021 to 51.19 in 2022. Apart from placing first in AI talent concentration, the country has done well in mobile broadband Internet traffic within the country, international Internet bandwidth, and annual investment in telecommunication services and domestic market size. Its ICT services exports ranked fourth, followed by FTTH/building Internet subscriptions and AI scientific publications. The country’s weakest indicators were happiness, online access to financial accounts, and the gender gap in Internet use.
As per the report, India has greater network readiness than expected, given its income level. The nation scores higher than the income group average in all pillars and sub-pillars. It said the country’s main strength relates to people and the greatest scope for improvement concerns governance.
Major progress was made by Singapore, which jumped from the seventh position to ranking second in this year’s index, pushing Denmark (6th) and Finland (7th) out of the top 5. The other five countries that made up the top ten included Sweden (3rd), the Netherlands (4th), Switzerland (5th), Germany (8th), the Republic of Korea (9th), and Norway (10th). The ranking is based on each country’s performance in technology, people, governance, and impact, covering 58 variables.
Recently, to secure digital data, the government, through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY), announced it would discuss various aspects of digital personal data and its protection. It has formulated a draft bill titled ‘The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2022’. As OpenGov Asia reported, the purpose of the draft Bill is to provide for the processing of digital personal data in a manner that recognises both the right of individuals to protect their personal data and the need to process personal data for lawful purposes.
The Ministry has invited feedback from the public on the draft Bill. The submissions will not be disclosed and held in a fiduciary capacity, to enable people submitting feedback to provide the same freely. The government has said no public disclosure of the submissions will be made. The government said the draft Bill uses simple language, allowing citizens to understand it easily. It is accessible on the Ministry’s website, along with an explanatory note that provides a brief overview of its provisions.
At the Launch Ceremony of the national system of Policy Research Centre for Innovation and Technology (PReCIT)” as one of the PolyU’s 85th Anniversary celebratory events, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) hosted the “Forum on Integrating I&T into GBA. PReCIT is a University-level interdisciplinary policy research centre with the aspiration to be the leading I&T think tank in Hong Kong and the region.
Some 300 staff, students, alumni, leaders from I&T, finance, academia and guests gathered to exchange views on how Hong Kong can proactively integrate into the Nation’s development plan.
The Secretary for Innovation, Technology, and Industry, HKSAR Government stated that the new Policy Research Centre for Innovation and Technology will play a key role in facilitating interdisciplinary collaboration for more impactful research, in the I&T field.
PolyU’s President stated the establishment of PReCIT is just another timely step taken by the University to respond to key national strategies that unleash unlimited opportunities for Hong Kong’s future development.
The Vice President (Research and Innovation) and Director of PReCIT introduced the Centre’s background and three major research foci – carbon-neutral cities, the Greater Bay Area I&T development, and the Belt and Road Initiative development in Southeast Asia, with a view to dovetailing with the National 14th Five Year Plan in supporting Hong Kong to develop into an international I&T hub.
He stated that the respective strengths of Hong Kong and the mainland must complement each other in deliberation on cross‑boundary integration proposals which aim to foster R&D commercialisation to unleash the potentials of the GBA and Belt and Road economies as well as the opportunity associated with re‑industrialisation. To achieve this, a cross‑boundary policy on I&T cooperation including regarding the flows of I&T material, capital, data and people between Hong Kong and mainland provinces is needed. PReCIT, as the advocacy body of PolyU, endeavours to formulate strategies that support Hong Kong’s participation in the national pioneering technology missions.
The Co-Founder of the Greater Bay Area Association of Academicians; the President of the Hong Kong Academy of Engineering Sciences; the Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries; and the Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Public Policy Institute, Our Hong Kong Foundation, were invited to share their insights, ahead of the announcement of the Hong Kong I&T Development Blueprint, in the panel discussion session moderated by
The Co-Founder of the Greater Bay Area Association of Academicians shared his experiences in cooperating with the innovation and technology sector on the mainland. He reiterated that it is important for the HKSAR government to work together with stakeholders, especially experts and the capital market, to advance I&T development.
The President of the Hong Kong Academy of Engineering Sciences called on the government to set an R&D policy direction that supports the Nation’s development. He also suggested Hong Kong and other cities in the GBA together establish an intellectual property exchange platform for university researchers to present their research outcomes and attract further funding.
Chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries explained how Hong Kong serves as an industrial and I&T headquarters in connecting the GBA and ASEAN for research commercialisation and empowering advanced manufacturing, capitalising on the City’s strengths in the industry chain and as a financial centre.
The Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the Public Policy Institute, Our Hong Kong Foundation stressed that joint cross-border policy initiatives are needed to overcome barriers to deepening market access and facilitating movements of factors of production.
Finally, the Head of the Department of Applied Social Sciences and Co-Director of PReCIT concluded that concerted effort from all sectors of the community is essential to provide a sustainable and supportive environment for high-calibre and potential I&T talents to be persuaded to stay in Hong Kong.
Hybrid networking took place in Hai Phong city earlier this week, connecting Vietnamese and Republic of Korean (RoK) businesses with the supply capacity and demand for technology. The event was co-organised by the municipal Department of Science and Technology and the Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA Hanoi). Many participants joined remotely from the RoK’s Incheon, Gyeonggi, Busan, and Seoul.
At the event, more than 50 networking sessions were scheduled to introduce a series of technologies such as dry ice blasting for industrial cleaning, product error detection technology to control and monitor the production process, and solutions for smart factories and machinery manufacturing.
According to the Department, the organisation of the networking was based on a survey of demand from more than 100 Vietnamese firms, most of whom lauded the RoK’s sci-tech products for their diversity and easy application. The Director of the department, Tran Quang Tuan, noted that applying science, technology, and innovation is an important role in business development, as the world and Vietnam no longer rely on available resources and advantages such as land and labour for economic growth.
This year, the department organised four networking events to connect Vietnamese enterprises to their peers from Taiwan, Israel, Japan, and the RoK. As a result, more than 200 working sessions between the sides took place and over 50 foreign technological solutions found customers in Vietnam.
In October, a Republic of Korea-Vietnam digital transformation forum was organised by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) and the RoK Ministry of Science and ICT (MIST), as part of Vietnam International Digital Week. Vietnamese and Korean information technology enterprises shared digital transformation solutions in manufacturing industries at the forum.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the Director of the Authority of Radio Frequency Management suggested that businesses from RoK share their experiences in the implementation of digital transformation with their Vietnamese counterparts. He said that digital transformation is one of the breakthrough strategic solutions implemented by the Vietnamese government. One of the key targets of the country’s digital transformation is to put peoples’ and businesses’ activities on digital platforms and encourage businesses to use digital technologies, especially those relating to artificial intelligence (AI) and digital platforms to improve productivity and operational efficiency.
Digital technology and digital transformation will enhance administrative reform, help people access public services more easily and conveniently, and bring the government closer to the people. That is the basic goal of Vietnam’s digital transformation.
In 2020, Vietnam approved a National Digital Transformation Programme by 2025, with an orientation toward 2030. The strategy helps accelerate digital transformation through changes in awareness, enterprise strategies, and incentives toward the digitalisation of businesses, administration, and production activities.
The programme targets businesses, cooperatives, and business households that want to adopt digital transformation to improve their production, business efficiency, and competitiveness. The plan aims to have 80% of public services at level 4 online. Over 90% of work records at ministerial and provincial levels will be online while 80% of work records at the district level and 60% of work records at the commune level will be processed online.
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) have created a method to transform wastepaper from cardboard boxes and single-use packaging into a vital component of lithium-ion batteries.
The NTU researchers used a process called carbonisation, which turns paper into pure carbon, to transform the paper’s fibres into electrodes that can be used to create rechargeable batteries for electric cars, medical equipment, and mobile devices.
Paper is used in many aspects of daily life, from gift wrapping and crafts to a wide range of industrial uses, including heavy-duty packaging, protective wrapping, and the filling of voids in construction, according to Assistant Professor Lai Changquan of NTU’s School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and the project’s coordinator.
However, besides incineration, which produces high levels of carbon emissions because of its composition, not much is done to manage it when it is disposed of. “Our method to give kraft paper another lease of life, funnelling it into the growing need for devices such as electric vehicles and smartphones, would not only help cut down on carbon emissions but would also ease the reliance on mining and heavy industrial methods,” says Ass Prof Lai.
The team heated the paper to high temperatures to carbonise it, which turns it into pure carbon, water vapour and oils that can be used to make biofuel. As carbonisation occurs in the absence of oxygen and produces very little carbon dioxide, it is a more environmentally friendly method of disposal for kraft paper than incineration, which releases a lot of greenhouse gases.
The carbon anodes created by the research team also demonstrated superior durability, flexibility, and electrochemical properties. According to laboratory tests, the anodes are at least twice as durable as the anodes in today’s phone batteries and could withstand 1,200 charges and discharges.
The NTU-produced anode-based batteries could withstand physical stress better than their rivals, absorbing crushing energy up to five times better. In comparison to current industrial techniques for producing battery anodes, the NTU-developed method also employs less energy-intensive processes and heavy metals. This newest technique, which uses a cheap waste material, is anticipated to lower the cost of manufacturing lithium-ion batteries because the anode accounts for 10% to 15% of their overall cost.
Using wastepaper as the raw material for battery anodes would also reduce reliance on traditional carbon sources, such as carbonaceous fillers and carbon-yielding binders, which are mined and then processed with harsh chemicals and machinery.
In 2020, paper waste, which includes discarded paper bags, cardboard, newspaper, and other paper packaging, comprised nearly one-fifth of the waste generated in Singapore. A separate 2020 NTU study discovered that kraft paper bags, which account for most of Singapore’s paper waste, have large environmental footprints when compared to cotton and plastic counterparts, due to their greater contribution to global warming when incinerated and the eco-toxicity potential in their production.
The current innovation, which provides an opportunity to upcycle waste products and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels while accelerating our transition to a circular economy, green materials, and clean energy, reflects NTU’s commitment to reducing our environmental impact, which is one of four grand challenges that the University seeks to address through its NTU 2025 strategic plan.
The NTU team will carry out additional research to increase the material’s capacity for storing energy and lower the amount of heat energy needed to turn paper into carbon.
The Australian National University (ANU) is hosting a new training centre aimed at upskilling the next generation of researchers in cutting-edge 3D imaging and analysis technology to help repair bones, safely store CO2, deactivate viruses on surfaces and recycle car parts among a range of critical applications.
The ARC Training Centre for Multiscale 3D Imaging, Modelling and Manufacturing, M3D Innovation, is using a “disruptive” digital imaging, analysis, modelling and manufacturing technology developed at ANU for more than 15 years.
The micro-imaging technology provides users with 3D “supervision” into a range of materials at scales ranging from metres to 10 nanometres – a measurement 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
The technology was originally developed by a team of researchers with M3D Innovation Director, Professor Mark Knackstedt, who has won a Eureka Prize as well as an ENI award – the ‘Nobel prize’ for energy resources research – for his innovation.
He noted that the aim is to gather researchers from ANU and Queensland University of Technology, 15 industry partners and end users to harness the ‘super-power’ of advanced imaging and analysis technologies. He added that a vibrant research training environment is being built and a workforce that is expert in applying the new technology to a range of new industry sectors is being created. Moreover, PhD students and early career researchers in industrial collaboration and commercialisation are being mentored.
Already, incredible strides have been made through a range of exciting projects. This includes using the technology to investigate green steel production via hydrogen-based processes; safely storing CO2 in aquifers to fight climate change, recycling car parts for a circular economy, regenerating bones with biodegradable scaffolds and designing custom bone implants.
Partners at QUT have developed new technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, using etching techniques to roughen surfaces to deactivate bacteria and viruses. This is a technique that could be used to deactivate COVID-19 on metal surfaces in hospitals and clinical settings.
M3D Innovation is funded by the Australian Government under the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme. Professor Knackstedt said they are grateful for the Australian Government’s investment and support for this important field of science and for the translation to industry partners.
ANU and Australia are world leaders in this space. Their work at M3D Innovation will boost the country’s capacity and deliver new graduates and researchers with critical skills and knowledge across novel manufacturing, modelling and imaging.
The global 3D imaging market size was valued at US$25.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.2% from 2022 to 2030. 3D imaging is the procedure of rendering a three-dimensional image to create the optical illusion of depth.
During the 3D imaging process, two or more motion cameras are employed to capture a three-dimensional object for these 3D images to be produced. High-resolution images are created by combining 3D image sensors, cameras, and screens. As a result, 3D imaging is widely used in hospitals, the entertainment industry, architecture, construction, and automotive.
While the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted market growth, ongoing technological developments in the field of 3D imaging and the widespread adoption of and need for 3D imaging systems in different sectors are expected to drive the market in the coming future.
The growing prevalence of chronic diseases worldwide coupled with increased awareness of the benefits of 3D imaging technology are also factors contributing to the growth in demand for 3D imaging solutions.
A digital government operates in a manner that is digital by design, focusing on the requirements of users and maximising data. Fundamentally altering the way the Australian government operates now, it offers enhanced social, policy and economic outcomes.
The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) of Australia believes that a digital government better prioritises the requirements of individuals and businesses. It entails investing in cutting-edge technology to deliver a personalised experience that is stable, safe and dependable and ultimately anticipates the demands of each user.
Australia’s Resilience and Growth Rely on Digital Government
“We cannot underestimate the impact of programmes and concepts such as ‘Tell us Once’ – not requiring customers to continue to re-tell their story as they access government services,” Lucy emphasises.
They are beginning to see both this de-duplication in service delivery and a side effect of more efficient investment through what they have dubbed the “Australian Government Architecture” (AGA).
The AGA is a vision to reduce the time agencies need to navigate the complexities of government in building digital and ICT-enabled solutions. It is designed to be a catalogue of applicable policies and standards combined with an index of repeatable patterns and capabilities for re-use.
Because of the increased speed-to-market, the Government can respond to priority needs using modern, best-of-breed approaches gaining “overall efficiency in how we digitally connect government services”.
“Silos of excellence” are a significant challenge. While Australia has some policies in place to reduce investment in duplicated capability, this is a difficult barrier. While some core functions of a platform may be the same, the needs of the service that uses that platform may be very different. “It’s always a struggle to strike a good balance.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to transforming government services, there are often legacy, disconnected systems that must be addressed and eventually decommissioned. This requires time, effort, and, most importantly, commitment. When compared to the release of a new system, it is more difficult to create a good-news story about turning off a system.
“Our people are at the heart of so much of what we do in the Public Service. This heart is often the dedication that the government requires of people who are passionate about serving citizens and businesses,” Lucy acknowledges.
The money available to the public sector, particularly in the digital streams of work, can make it difficult to compete with the private sector. This means that their best and brightest often leave for greater returns and better opportunities. “Our big challenge will be crafting our employee value proposition – across the Australian Public Service and all agencies.”
One of the most important technological advancements ever made, digital identification has enormous advantages for businesses, consumers, and governments. Australia is a pioneering nation in the field of digital identity. The Trusted Digital Identity Framework that supports the Australian Government Digital Identity System isn’t simply based on industry best practices from throughout the world; it’s also regarded as best practices in many other nations.
Underscoring her belief in the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF), Lucy says, “At the DTA, we’ve been building policy for Digital Identity – the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) – for several years.”
The DTA is responsible for the Whole-of-Government Digital and ICT Investment Oversight Framework – a six-stage, end-to-end framework that provides Government Agencies with direction for managing their digital and ICT investments across the full project lifecycle. Government Departments and Agencies are obligated to consult with the DTA on all digital and ICT investment plans throughout the framework’s numerous stages, per the Framework.
Moreover, the TDIF serves as the guiding principle for the Australian Government Digital Identity System. It is based on worldwide and industry best practices and standards and it establishes strict guidelines for privacy, security, transparency and trust.
The TDIF is regarded as a world-leading accreditation framework for digital identity providers. It has supported the implementation of best-practice digital identity policies in Australia’s government and corporate sectors.
The TDIF has evolved and continues to adapt in response to changes in the service delivery landscape and consumer expectations as digital identification technology quickly evolves. It has gone through four major revisions, with a fifth now in the works.
In addition to incorporating accrediting programme findings, the next version (release 5) aims to prepare the TDIF for the future of digital identity as verifiable credentials and digital wallets become more popular and technology continues to grow at a rapid pace.
More than 9 million Australians, on the other hand, have decided to create a Digital Identity (using myGovID to build a Basic, Standard, or Strong identity) to access over 125 government services online, with 26 services supplied by states and territories. Over the past year, 1.3 million people used their Digital Identity more than once while 12,000 people have used their Digital Identity more than 65 times.
“We also have more than 1.4 million businesses that use Digital Identity to access business services, like our tax agency. This makes it easier for them to do business by reducing the amount of paperwork they have to do,” Lucy reveals.
Identification fraud can be reduced using a digital identity. In Australia, Digital Identity is predicted to save the economy AU$3 billion per year from identity theft and online fraud. The Australian Government Digital Identity System also provides extra privacy and security safeguards, such as no central database where papers are held, the inability to trace or sell a person’s behaviour, and all information being securely encrypted.
On the surface, this looks to be a simple issue. But, a response must include service standards, service design, accountability systems, collaborative service delivery with other jurisdictions, feedback mechanisms, open data and open government.
The design of performance metrics to monitor end-user experience begins with the service design. That is, gathering baseline data, investigating what data is accessible and, most crucially, finding the questions that yield performance data to enable continual improvement.
Monitoring the performance of a service or product is frequently done through a lens other than digital. The annual Report on Government Services (RoGS), for example, provides an annual study of government services in terms of equity, efficiency, and effectiveness.
The RoGs must incorporate state and territory government services as well as those of the Australian Government because other similar service experiences can influence user satisfaction ratings.
All government services must pause and assess how well they are satisfying the requirements of their users. myGov, the largest platform for providing government services to citizens, is currently subject to an independent user audit. The audit’s recommendations are expected to have significant implications for government service delivery across the board.
The Australian Public Sector (APS), like many other organisations and institutions around the world, is reorienting and evolving to embrace digital transformation and harness the power of data. “Realising that these are critical to our ability to continue to effectively serve the interests of Australia and the Australian people in a world defined by increasing speed and complexity,” says Lucy.
She agrees that it’s hard to keep the momentum and focus needed for long-term digital transformation with all the other priorities and crises that the public sector has to deal with at the same time. A key part of this is recognising and emphasising the link between digital transformation and trust and satisfaction in government on the part of citizens.
Even though the pandemic forced people to rely on their governments more, the overall trend is obvious. Against this backdrop, the Australian Government has made it a top priority and a requirement for the APS to do its job to win back the trust of the people.
“In the DTA, we make it clear how the ongoing digital transformation and the whole-of-government reform agenda are linked and depend on each other,” Lucy asserts.
The agency continues to stress the importance of services that focus on people and are easy to use. They are also building strategies that support the transformation that is sustainable, efficient, and centred on people. She points out that Australians who are happy with government services are twice as likely to trust their government.
Paving the Way for the Future of Digital Transformation
Australia is experiencing the effects of the rapid rate at which the digital world is evolving. Its APS Reform, which has a 2030 perspective, provides the government with a clear vision for the transformation of the public sector. The main objective of this agenda is to revolutionise how digital is done by making the APS more effective and efficient.
Ensuring that people and businesses are at the centre of policy and services is a core tenet of APS Reform. To ensure that transformation meets and surpasses user expectations, early and meaningful interaction and co-design are given a lot of attention in the digital space.
Trust is an issue for governments everywhere and is closely related to citizen expectations. In Australia, as in many other nations, public trust in the government had been dwindling before the outbreak. Although COVID had a brief uptick, regaining the public’s trust remains a major problem facing the government and its institutions.
To ensure that the government puts its constituents at its centre, the digitisation of government is key to the endeavour to reestablish confidence. The Independent Review of the APS in 2019 recognised this priority, and the nation is already moving in the right direction.
The key will be to define who is responsible for delivering initiatives and to raise the transparency of the progress by publicising how well key metrics are performing. However, confidence is not just dependent on how well-run and open the government’s operations are. It includes safeguarding data as well.
Criminal and state-based actors are rapidly developing their offensive capabilities, which is causing the cyber threat landscape to change all the time. These more sophisticated cyber-attacks are aimed against Australia.
A big compromise of Australian Government networks is a matter of “when,” not “if,” without massive reorganisation and cyber upgrading. “In light of this, we are hardening the government’s own IT, through a centralised model of cyber security services, called Cyber Hubs. We’re currently testing the feasibility of the Cyber Hubs model through a pilot. So far the pilot has shown the centralisation of the provision of services can help improve cyber security,” Lucy explains.
The government and institutions have vast amounts of information about Australians. This data is the fuel that drives the progress of artificial intelligence. Over the next 5 to 10 years, there is a chance to harness this data and use AI to innovate and improve public service delivery, resulting in better efficiency and transformation. But AI’s use of this data comes with risks and challenges for everyone, including the public sector. These risks and challenges need to be handled morally and responsibly.
Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but its application could represent the next step in the digital revolution of service delivery. AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on. Large datasets are currently being used by governments and institutions to train AI models and make them more useful.
However, when these datasets become scarce, governments and industries will be forced to find new ways to improve AI programmes. Quantum computing is one such method. Quantum computing refers to a class of supercomputers based on quantum mechanics.
To process information, these quantum computers employ the laws of quantum mechanics. That is, they can detect patterns in data that are nearly impossible to detect using traditional computers. They are substantially different from today’s computers in this regard.
Lucy believes if these powerful AI capabilities are utilised responsibly and data is saved and maintained safely, confidence and trust in government and institutions will grow. “More will need to be done in the next 5 to 10 years to integrate human values like transparency and fairness with AI’s goals of efficiency.”
Lucy is optimistic about the future and the role the DTA will play in guiding the government on developments in digital and ICT. She sees great potential for the agency to act as a government advisory body for its tech-enabled initiatives going forward as well as to serve the country in its digital ambitions. In summary, that is what she believes the agency exists for – to aid the public sector to offer the best citizen experience possible and help the nation thrive.