OpenGov spent some time with Mr. Brandon Swafford, CTO, Data Protection and Insider Threat, Forcepoint. Mr Swafford shared on topics such as data sovereignty, dealing with data privacy and security, as well as insights to data protection and managing insider threats.
Could you tell us more about your role as CTO of Data Protection and Insider Threat at Forcepoint?
The CTO role is relevant to Forcepoint in a couple of ways. The company is broken up into several business units, one covers our core technologies business in cloud security, one covers our protection firewalls, one covers global governments and one is data protection and insider threat. I’m a CTO of a business unit that houses our DLP tools and insider threat tools, and I coordinate with the other CTOs as far in assuring that the technology choices that I make for my products don’t conflict with theirs. I work a lot in understanding customer requirements, understanding the trends of architecture and insider threat security issues as well as work with our partner groups.
Forcepoint leverages partners internationally, I work with them for training purposes, products and getting their requirements for their services. So my job is a lot of different things but right I’m really focused on maintaining our international presence and opening it up, essentially. Only recently did the products that I work with became available outside of the United States. Previously, our insider threat tools were restricted because of defence reasons. I came to Asia, Middle East and Australia primarily because it’s a whole new world and I have to make sure that people understand how insider threats are supposed to work and products that can ease it if possible.
What are your thoughts on data privacy and security, given your experiences both with the US government and in the private sector?
So those two things are very different, if we use the United States as an example, if you’re an employer in the US, you have a pretty broad access to people who work for you, in Asia, it’s different in respect to how they handle privacy. In the United States, honestly, if I were a business owner and I think about how much I know about my people, I have to ask myself the question, between myself, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google, who knows more? It’s probably not me. Google and Facebook probably know way more about my employees than I probably ever will, so the pervasivess of the social media concept makes the idea of privacy a lot more difficult to understand.
So the privacy laws in the United States are different and probably less mature than they are compared to the EU. The EU, if you think about data privacy, has a more mature process, things like GDPR are enforcing that a lot more harshly. And so when I think about data privacy, I think about how do I legally and ethically collect the data that I need to have good outcomes and not sacrifice security and at the same time, how do I think about processes that allow me to broad scope monitoring without violating a lot of these laws?
When you think about the competition between privacy and security, it’s going to continue forever. When you think about lots of mature organisations, there’s a lot of focus on maintaining good security and then after that fact they think about, “what happens to these people’s data?” And if you’re a company owner, maybe your source of income is data and so one of the problems right now –if you think about the income that Google and Amazon make, they’re making it off your personal data, they’re making it off through crafting shopping carts for you to buy, which is based on your buying habits.
So the data that they have on you is actually pretty valuable. My world is complicated, I think about things like how do I make sure I don’t collect their banking information, how do I make sure I don’t collect information of them talking to the doctor, those are real issues I have to contend with. Even though the United States has a different approach to privacy, there are still things we have to be concerned with.
It’s about balancing accessibility versus control.
Both public and private sectors are migrating their data to cloud or possess some kind of hybrid cloud system. What are some of the biggest challenges or concerns in determining data sovereignty?
In my previous line, I dealt with data sovereignty in respect to the legal community, so I did a lot of legal forensics investigation work where we had to be concerned with things like EU Safe Harbour so if you have a litigation that’s taking place for a US company but the data’s in Germany, you have to go to Germany to get the data, which can only reside there, so there’s a lot of onward transfer and data sovereignty issues – who really owns it?
And depending on the country, you can claim that any particular email is private, there’s a lot of variance, so data sovereignty is a really complicated problem. Every country handles it differently, so that’s one issue. The issue with the cloud really is that, the cloud is nothing magical, it’s just somebody else’s computer. The complexity, though, is that, since these systems are operating at a superlarge scale, and they want to have redundancy and availablity – companies like AWS and Google have to basically spread their data across huge sloths of data centres.
One of the problems we have to contend with is ensuring that. When you think your data’s going to reside in a particular country, that it’s maintained and there’s controls that ensure that when you say, “this data’s going to reside here then it does.” I think the cloud providers are being more and more diligent about ensuring those are available, so that part of this is the cloud providers responding, the other part about it is not just blindly signing up.
So companies if they truly want to comply with data sovereignty, then it’s really their responsibility to ensure when they sign up for these that it’s part of the conversation and that there’s meaningful controls both the providers are going to have and that the companies are going to provide. For instance, if I’m a big bank, it’s not just Microsoft’s, Amazon’s or Google’s job to satisfy those, it’s also me and how I deploy them, so that when I build these systems, I’m not building a situation where I have a region in EU that is set up to communicate and relies on a system in the United States to do its work.
It’s not AWS or Google’s job to make sure I set up correctly, it’s their job to agree to what they agree to so part of it is that companies need to be educated to build those systems and build them in a compliant manner.
What are the implications in the variances of regulatory frameworks across borders, especially when some cloud services may occur beyond national geographical boundaries?
The question becomes what regulatory framework do you use – some people say the source of the data is relevant and some say it is the destination of the data. So I think when you talk about data movement between countries, it’s an issue of…sometimes the laws are very clear and it says that once the data enters the country that its destination is, it’s owned by the country and the laws apply to it. Does that mean that the people who sourced it (data) give up that right or are forced to give up that right? How does that transfer of ownership really happen?
For example, when you think about some of the countries in Asia such as China, where things that happen in China, turns out not to be owned by them – once the data enters the country, sometimes it’s very difficult to leave, ownership is
retained by that destination country. That’s not something I have to contend with directly that often because most of what I do is in the United States and Europe. In Europe, it’s relatively clear and you have data custodians and the custodians of the data is typically the source country.
In your experience, how do you approach data protection and managing insider threats within organisations?
Insider threats come in 3 forms – the first form being malicious users, the ones that are truly intent on causing harm or interested in protecting themselves and hiding. The second form will be accidental insiders, people that make mistakes, click a button they don’t mean to and the outcome is the same. Maybe they accidentally sabotage systems – the outcome is roughly the same but the mindset is different. For instance if I open up Outlook and I send an email, type in addresses and it autocompletes when I don’t need it to, maybe to a company that I didn’t want the data to go to and I just click send. I mean, I think everyone has done that in some point of their lives and it’s an accident, then what happens?
So the question is, did I try to recall it? Did I tell the person to delete that email? How did I react to that? Did I even notice? And so understanding the mindset of the person and the reaction is critical to know the difference between accidental and malicious. That’s probably the hardest job that I have, it’s understanding the context and intent of the person.
And then the third category is called the compromised insider, which is a hybrid between cybersecurity and insider threat. What I mean by that is the way malware operates is malware implants on the machine, it compromises an account and then it starts to move laterally, exfiltrate data or accomplish its mission. Doing that via an account that is compromised and that is accountable to a person typically and it’s trying to deal with accesses the person has in his/her account.
So from an insider threat monitoring and analysis perspective, it still appears to be a person but the way you attack that problem is very different. And I think one of the ways to look at that is if you think about malicious and accidental people, they tend to operate in a human time concept versus a machine time. So human time is like minutes, hours, days, weeks. Machine time is seconds and milliseconds, these actions take place very quickly, move in a lot places all at once, things that are out of the ordinary for the typical user so understanding compromise is a different problem than the other two. Because the mindset is largely irrelevant.
Now things get really complex when you think about malicious users using malware to exfiltrate data – when you have a person using malware to do that job, it’s like inception, you have to think about, “Now, here’s an exfiltration activity that looks like malware but is that malware being implanted by someone in the company or captured via phishing email, or does it come through an attachment? You have to start asking and know how to react to it.
When it comes to behaviour, I think about three basic emotions for people – sad, angry and stressed. What’s important there is that sad people wants to hurt themselves which means for whatever reason they are upset, they are going to be less secure, I should worry about them being an accidental insider. They’re probably going to care less typically and also they maybe likely to depart the company. And then I have other concerns like angry people who want to hurt others which means now it’s a matter of malicious intent: “the company is hurting me and I want to hurt them back”, “I deserve that promotion, I didn’t get it, I’m going to take the data somewhere else”…that happens.
For stressed people, they want to escape, they want to stop whatever it is that’s causing the problem. So stressed people tend to make irrational decisions out of a goal of getting out of a locker –so if there’s too much work, maybe they do less work. If they’re stressed because their contract is going to end and they need to get their next contract, maybe they take the work they made from one company and give it to the next one to get a contract, they’re worried and stressed. Those are the key emotional indicators that tend to come up.
What is cloud security and what role does behaviour analytics play in the area of cloud security?
Behaviour analytics take on 2 forms in cloud – there’s machines and people. The cloud security behaviour analytics as far as people goes, it’s a lot of the same responses I gave you earlier, so there’s basically going to be use cases say about someone who tries to log in to the same account at 2 different places. People try to steal credentials and maybe limit their 2 factor authentication. When you talk about the cybersecurity side of cloud security, the reality of that world is, once you compromised a cloud service, they’re so big that now you have access to a huge swathe of people. Normally if you just compromise one company, you just get one company but if you compromise a cloud service provider or one of their applications, it’s a vast number of people and companies. So the reality is that those are very important targets for most malicious actors because the reward from compromising one is so high.
And the opportunity for them to capture across lots of different types of information, lots of different types of people, different types of companies having access to lots of different things, it’s really attractive. A lot of the behaviour analytics technologies are roughly the same because the destination isn’t quite as relevant – it doesn’t matter whether I am accessing data on the cloud, the only question really is can I have visibility and if there are some visibility problems in the cloud. So for instance, if I’m on my premise I can collect hacker captures, I can see the network traffic really granuarly on my own data centre, once I go to the cloud I lose visibility, I can’t see some of the more intimate network traffic that happens beween the different systems that I have.
There’s a little more risk because the visibility is different.
As a vital arm of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) holds a pivotal role as one of the three sectoral planning councils within the organisation.
Founded on 29 June 2010, PCIEERD is distinguished by its unique commitment to driving research and development initiatives, particularly in the industries, energy, and emerging technology sectors.
Functioning as a pivotal agency, DOST-PCIEERD takes a central role in crafting policies, plans, and programmes, along with implementing strategies in the designated sectors. The execution of these initiatives is facilitated through a spectrum of Science and Technology (S&T) programmes designed to promote innovation and progress.
Encompassing a broad spectrum, DOST-PCIEERD extends research and development (R&D) support across 21 sectors, broadly categorised under industry, energy, emerging technology, and special concerns.
The council plays a crucial role in disseminating and promoting S&T information, undertaking sustained programmes for information dissemination. This proactive approach aims to enhance the accessibility and utilisation of information and research results by the diverse array of customers and stakeholders associated with the sectors.
In its commitment to fostering growth, DOST-PCIEERD dedicates efforts to developing and enhancing R&D and support capabilities. This forward-looking perspective ensures the fulfilment of present and future human resource and institutional requirements.
Moreover, the council actively contributes to technological advancement by adopting, transferring, and commercialising available technologies. In doing so, DOST-PCIEERD plays a vital role in propelling the nation’s scientific and technological landscape towards greater heights.
Driving Innovation and Industry Development
In an exclusive interview with OpenGov Asia, Dr Enrico C. Paringit, Executive Director of DOST-PCIEERD, sheds light on compelling projects that underscore the council’s significant influence on research and development in the realms of industry, energy, and emerging technology.
At the forefront of catalysing research and development in the Philippines, DOST-PCIEERD has been a driving force behind diverse programmes and initiatives. Launched in 2015, the Infrastructure Development Programme (IDP) has emerged as a cornerstone, playing a pivotal role in the expansion or modernisation of academic and research institutions.
Under the Infrastructure Development Programme (IDP), DOST-PCIEERD has actively spearheaded initiatives encompassing the acquisition of cutting-edge laboratory facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, and specialised software. Between 2015 to 2023, this strategic investment, totalling Php234.4 million (S$6.31 million), has yielded transformative outcomes, facilitating the establishment and enhancement of 49 laboratories across the nation. This concerted effort reflects the commitment to fortify research capabilities and foster innovation within academic and research institutions.
In line with the DOST Halal Policy, the DOST Halal S&T Programme was initiated to support the development of the Halal industry. This programme focuses on research and development, technology transfer, human resource development, and Halal verification through laboratory testing. Additionally, efforts have been directed towards fortifying the Filipino Halal sector to meet global benchmarks, enhance competitiveness, and improve research and development.
Dr Enrico explains that the Food Safety Programme, Food Innovation Centres, and Natural Dyes facilities have been established to strengthen the food industry and improve the living standards of Filipino people. The commitment extends to bolstering the country’s manufacturing industry by providing cutting-edge facilities for specialised testing, designing, and research and development in key sectors like food, electronics, and materials.
Under the OneLab Programme, regional testing facilities have been consolidated into a unified network, providing easy access to a global network of public and private laboratories for analytical and calibration needs. This initiative promotes collaboration among students, researchers, and industry stakeholders, with information accessible through the onelab.ph website.
The National Metrology Laboratory (NML) leads metrology efforts in the Philippines and has achieved international recognition. However, continued support is required for the expansion of Calibration and Measurement Capabilities (CMCs) to maintain competence globally.
Dr Enrico reveals that the establishment of the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory (ADMATEL) marks the country’s first electronics design facility, aimed at reinforcing and upgrading failure analysis and materials testing facilities to attract potential investors and promote a conducive business environment.
The Electronics Product Development Centre (EPDC) serves as the national testing facility, providing design, prototyping, and testing facilities for printed circuit boards. The goal is to support companies and schools in developing hardware and software for electronics products.
The Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMCen), on the other hand, has been established as the national centre of excellence in additive manufacturing, focusing on areas like Aerospace and Defense, Pharmaceutical/Healthcare, Novel Electronics, Agriculture, and Automotive.
In addition, the renewable energy projects include a micro-hydro turbine research and testing facility in Morong, Rizal, supporting off-grid electrification for communities. The Mindanao Renewable Energy Centre (MREC) focuses on Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Ocean Renewable Energy (ORE) facilities, aiming to harness energy from solar power and simulate tidal and wave characteristics.
To serve as a bridge between R&D and commercialisation, the Funding Assistance for Spin-off and Translation of Research in Advancing Commercialisation (FASTRAC) Programme supports technologies such as USHER, CharM, FISH_I, Smart Surface, CATCH-ALL, Marine Nanocoat, Monascus Red Colorant, Fruitect, HormoGroe, Gitara ni Juan, X-LIPAD, MapX, Vigormin, and others.
Embedded in the ethos of DOST, a circular economy mindset takes centre stage, underscoring a dedication to initiatives that champion environmental stewardship and optimal resource utilisation. Positioned as a key tenet within the DOST framework, this pledge manifests in the backing of projects geared towards converting waste materials into valuable and sustainable resources.
A notable example is the successful initiative led by the Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI), wherein an in-depth analysis of dredged material from the Tullahan River was undertaken to investigate alternative applications. This project exemplifies a forward-thinking strategy in tackling environmental issues by repurposing materials that would otherwise contribute to waste, showcasing a commitment to sustainable solutions and resourcefulness.
The University of Mindanao is leading another remarkable sustainable initiative, centring on the transformation of durian rinds into 3D printing filaments. This inventive project not only addresses waste reduction but also taps into the potential of agricultural by-products, underscoring a steadfast commitment to sustainability and resource optimisation.
“At the core of our mission, we prioritise environmental sustainability, ensuring that our operations, activities, and programmes are conducted with a steadfast commitment to minimising adverse impacts on the environment,” Dr Enrico states.
Recognising the importance of ecological responsibility, PCIERRD incorporates environmental considerations as a pivotal metric in the assessment of proposals. This approach underscores its unwavering commitment to nurturing initiatives that adhere to the principles of environmental conservation and responsible stewardship.
Dedicated to environmental stewardship, the agency proactively pursues a science and technology roadmap for tackling and mitigating challenges related to waste management. Under the leadership of Dr Enrico, PCIERRD aims to assume a pivotal role in shaping sustainable practices that advocate for the responsible use and disposal of resources.
Demonstrating a responsible use of resources through its life cycle, PCIERRD fulfils its mandate to actively support the Clean Air Act (RA8749). By championing the implementation of this key legislation, the agency contributes significantly to promoting clean air standards and mitigating air pollution, aligning its efforts with broader initiatives that prioritise the health of both the environment and local communities.
“Through these multifaceted approaches, we strive to be proactive stewards of the environment, integrating sustainability principles into the fabric of the industrial operations; thereby promoting responsible practices within the realm of science and technology,” Dr Enrico emphasises.
The success of PCIERRD can be attributed in part to its ability to develop talent and inspire upcoming researchers and innovators to advance the country’s technological frontiers. In 2017, the country witnessed the launch of the Young Innovators Programme (YIP), designed as an inclusive platform for highly talented high school students aspiring to gain research experience.
The programme invites these young minds to gain experience in research under the guidance of mentors, facilitating hands-on learning and fostering a spirit of scientific inquiry. The objective of YIP is to equip and prepare these young researchers to undertake independent research endeavors, supported by funding allocated to innovative research projects.
Since its inception, the Young Innovators Programme has made significant strides in cultivating a new era of scientific exploration and inventive breakthroughs within the country. A total of Php37 million (SG$1 million) in funding has been disbursed across 56 approved projects, providing vital resources for these young innovators to bring their ideas to fruition.
The programme’s impact extends beyond financial support, contributing to the development of a vibrant community of budding scientists and researchers who are poised to make meaningful contributions to the scientific landscape in the years to come.
Nurturing Ingenuity Through Partnerships
According to Dr Enrico, engaging with diverse stakeholders is at the core of their approach as they strive to meet the evolving needs of the 21 sectors under its support. Through focused initiatives such as focus group discussions and consultation, they actively seek input from industry stakeholders, research institutions, and government agencies.
“This collaborative process allows us to gain valuable insights into the specific requirements and challenges faced by each sector, informing the direction of our research and development endeavours,” Dr Enrico explains.
Beyond external engagement, PCIEERD places considerable emphasis on internal feedback mechanisms. Tools such as the Research Fairness Survey and the R&D Customer Preference Survey serve as valuable means to directly collect insights from researchers. This two-way communication approach ensures that the perspectives and experiences of those actively engaged in the research process are taken into account, fostering an environment of continuous improvement and responsiveness within the organisation.
Collaboration remains a cornerstone of their strategy, and they actively cultivate partnerships with industry stakeholders. Through a range of programmes, such as the Expert Intervention for Scientific Engagement (ExperTiSE) programme, Regional Research Institutions (RRI), research attachments and expert visits, PCIEERD creates avenues for meaningful cooperation.
These collaborative initiatives not only enhance the effectiveness of the research but also contribute to the broader goal of fostering innovation and sustainable development across diverse sectors.
Furthermore, DOST-PCIEERD recognises the pivotal role of international alliances and partnerships, strategically emphasising their significance in advancing research and development in the fields of industry, energy, and emerging technology.
This concerted effort is driven by a commitment to contribute to the growth of scientific knowledge, facilitate technology transfer, spur economic development, and enhance the capacity to address global challenges effectively.
International partnerships provide a crucial avenue for knowledge exchange, where foreign counterparts and experts bring expertise that exposes Filipino researchers to cutting-edge technologies, methodologies, and the sharing of best practices.
Such exposure not only enhances the skills of local researchers, rendering them more competitive on the international stage but also unlocks new opportunities for commercialising innovative technologies in the global market. Consequently, it bridges the gap between research and market application, facilitating technology pathways that contribute to economic growth through income and job creation.
Several notable international engagements exemplify the commitment of DOST-PCIEERD to fostering global collaborations. Among them, the e-ASIA initiative stands out – a multilateral international joint effort involving public funding organisations from East Asia Summit (EAS) member countries.
Additionally, the Southeast Asia-Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Research and Innovation (SEA-EU JFS) facilitates joint funding of bi-regional, multi-lateral research and innovation projects, fostering cooperation between Southeast Asia and Europe.
Joint efforts such as the UKRI-NERC initiative address specific challenges, exemplified by the “Sustainable Mineral Resources in the Philippines” programme. This collaborative effort aims to fund research that offers a comprehensive perspective on mineral production in the Philippines and address environmental issues associated with legacy and abandoned mines.
Another noteworthy effort is the UKRI-JST-DOST ‘Science, Technology and Action’ Nexus for Development (STAND) Collaboration, which seeks to foster international research interaction and exchange among researchers in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Southeast Asia. This collaboration focuses on projects contributing to sustainable development in Southeast Asia, aligning with the broader goals of knowledge sharing and capacity building on a global scale.
Public-private partnerships have also contributed to the advancement of industry, energy, and emerging technology in the country. In June 2023, PCIEERD took a significant step forward in fortifying its collaboration with the mining industry by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
This partnership encompasses three key areas aimed at fostering advancements and sustainability within the mining sector.
Firstly, there is a focus on the collaborative drafting of a nickel roadmap, with active consultation involving both mining industries and key government agencies. This initiative aims to chart a strategic course for the nickel industry, ensuring alignment with industry needs and national development goals.
Another crucial facet of the partnership involves an increased emphasis on research related to green minerals, particularly in anticipation of their translation into components for Electric Vehicles (EVs). This forward-looking approach aligns with the global shift towards sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies, positioning the mining industry to play a pivotal role in the emerging green economy.
Additionally, the collaborative efforts extend to the improvement of energy efficiency and the promotion of renewable energy within the mining sector. By addressing these critical aspects, the partnership endeavours to enhance the sustainability and environmental impact of mining operations, aligning with broader goals of responsible resource utilisation and energy conservation.
PCIEERD maintains an ongoing and fruitful partnership with the Philippine Technological Council (PTC), a non-stock, non-profit private organisation. The collaboration with PTC unfolds through its accreditation service, serving as a mechanism to facilitate capstone projects and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) initiatives.
This sustained partnership underscores PCIEERD’s commitment to advancing technological excellence, education, and innovation within the Philippines, fostering a collaborative ecosystem that transcends industry boundaries for the greater benefit of scientific and technological progress.
Unveiling Key Strategies
Dr Enrico reveals the key strategic priorities and initiatives he is focusing on as the Executive Director of PCIEERD to foster innovation and drive industry development in the Philippines.
“Guided by the Harmonised National Research and Development Agenda (HNRDA) for the period 2022-2028, our research initiatives are intricately woven into a framework that aligns with the broader vision encapsulated in AmBisyon Natin 2040,” Dr Enrico highlights.
Envisioning a promising future for Filipinos, the HNRDA is anchored in the pillars of Malasakit, Pagbabago, and Kaunlaran, which collectively advocate for inclusive growth, a resilient society, and the cultivation of a competitive knowledge economy.
In pursuit of these aspirations, PCIERRD has embarked on pioneering programmes aimed at revolutionising the local transport systems. Spearheaded by the ELECTROMOBILITY R&D Centre, and R&D Centre for Advanced Batteries, these initiatives focus on the development and implementation of electric vehicles and enhancing advanced battery technology.
These efforts align with the priorities of the Comprehensive Roadmap for the Electric Vehicle Industry (CREVI). Additionally, PCIERRD has several initiatives on maritime transport on the electrification of boats and ferries.
“This strategic move reflects our commitment to advancing sustainable and eco-friendly solutions in the domain of transportation,” Dr Enrico furthers. “Our commitment extends to the empowerment of local governance through the implementation of the Smart Cities initiative.”
Significant transformations have been realised in cities such as Baguio, Cauayan, Iloilo, and Butuan, where the integration of smart technologies has contributed to improved urban living. The success of these endeavours has prompted an expansion of the programme beyond cities, reaching into various communities as part of our ongoing efforts to create more inclusive and technologically empowered environments.
Recognising the critical role of startups in driving innovation, PCIERRD actively supports the startup ecosystem through the Startup Grant Fund. The comprehensive programmes assist startups throughout their journey, from the initial ideation phase to full commercialisation. By nurturing and facilitating the growth of startups, they contribute to the dynamism of the entrepreneurial landscape and the overall economic development of the region.
Dr Enrico underscores in the domain of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the DOST endeavours are guided by a comprehensive 2019-2029 R&D Programme Framework. This strategic blueprint delineates a path to ensure the Philippines remains a frontrunner in the global evolution of AI technologies.
The primary thrusts of this initiative span across National Infrastructure, where the DOST has distributed nine High-Performance Computing (HPC) machines to higher education institutions, catalysing the commencement of new AI projects.
The groundwork laid in 2014 with the establishment of the Computing and Archiving Research Environment (CoARE) further bolsters these efforts, providing free access to HPC and Cloud services. The overarching goal is to enhance connectivity and expedite digital transformation by 2024, with a specific target of elevating the PH e-government index to 0.85 by 2029.
The DOST’s dedication to AI extends beyond infrastructure to encompass Capacity Building, where initiatives are undertaken to nurture the skills and expertise necessary for meaningful AI contributions. Simultaneously, the focus on Research and Data initiatives accentuates the commitment to advancing the knowledge frontier in AI.
Additionally, the department actively engages in developing Policies and Stakeholder relationships, ensuring a holistic and forward-looking approach to AI development within the country. This multi-faceted strategy underscores the DOST’s commitment to positioning the Philippines as a key player in the dynamic landscape of AI innovation and progress.
“In our pursuit of ensuring the Philippines’ prominence in technological innovation and sustainable development globally, DOST-PCIEERD employs a multifaceted approach encompassing various strategic initiatives. One pivotal effort involves bridging the gap between academic research and industry through the establishment of Technology Business Incubators (TBIs),” Dr Enrico asserts.
With 54 members in the DOST TBI Network, including 32 industry-based and 22 agriculture- and aquaculture-focused TBIs across Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), the investments since 2018 have totalled Php411 million (SG$11.1 million).
These TBIs have incubated 1,359 startups, generated 5,696 jobs, attracted over Php1.87 billion (SG$50.49 million) in private investments, and produced Php907 million (SG$24.49 million) in startup revenue. Additionally, the TBIs themselves have secured Php118.3 million (SG$3.19 million) in private investments from various partners.
To promote science education in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA), they fund projects such as the Philippine Science Centrum Travelling Exhibit. This initiative, spanning 26 GIDA districts across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, has reached 300,000 students and instructed 4,000 teachers in basic science experiments, enhancing education in these remote areas.
Acknowledging the vital role of women entrepreneurs, initiatives like Women-Helping-Women: Innovative Social Enterprises (WHWise) aims to support and acknowledge women driving economic growth and sustainable development in their communities.
Strategic planning is another cornerstone of the approach, with formulated roadmaps and sectoral strategies for the 21 supported sectors. These roadmaps not only guide the development of specific research programmes but also contribute to the realisation of sustainable development goals.
Collectively, these strategies underscore the commitment to enhancing the country’s competitiveness and productivity in the global landscape of technological innovation and sustainable development, fostering a comprehensive and impactful approach to propel the nation forward.
Nexus of Innovation by 2040
“Our forward-looking vision is rooted in becoming the Nexus of Innovation by the year 2040,” Dr Enrico shares his vision for PCIEERD’s position in the global context in the next three years. “Positioned as a leader in the country’s competitiveness and productivity, we aim to enable science and technology solutions across the industry, energy, and emerging technology sectors, all while upholding the principles of good governance.”
To realise this vision, global collaboration stands as a cornerstone of this strategy. They envision strengthening international partnerships and collaborations with funding institutions worldwide. By engaging with global counterparts, they seek to foster knowledge-sharing, promote cooperation and teamwork, facilitate mutual learning, and collectively drive innovation in the realms of industry, energy, and emerging technologies.
An essential aspect of their approach involves a dedicated focus on investment in Research and Development (R&D). By prioritising R&D investment, they ensure that PCIEERD remains at the forefront of technological advancements in the Industry, Energy, and Emerging (IEE) sectors. This commitment contributes to global innovation efforts and positions the nation as a key player in addressing pressing global challenges through technological solutions.
Their commitment extends to robust mechanisms for technology transfer and commercialisation. By effectively translating the R&D findings and innovations into practical applications and marketable products, they strive to bridge the gap between research outcomes and real-world impact.
“Knowledge dissemination forms another crucial element of our strategy. We are committed to sharing our S&T outputs, technological advancements, and success stories in technology transfer and commercialisation, both locally and globally,” Dr Enrico says emphatically. “This proactive approach ensures that the benefits of our innovations reach diverse audiences, contributing to the broader global knowledge pool.”
In all aspects of their operations, sustainability is a guiding principle. They are committed to using sustainable practices in everything they do, from research to innovations, technology transfers, and commercialisation.
Through their actions, they actively support the preservation of the environment on a global scale and are consistent with larger sustainability objectives, exemplifying a responsible and comprehensive approach to scientific and technological advancement.
“Embracing the role of a scientist is to willingly confront the mysteries of the unknown, and it is this very challenge that captivates me,” says Dr Enrico, who completed his doctorate at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and served as the principal scientist for DOST Project NOAH and the DOST DREAM LIDAR Programme.
Seeking out interesting and meaningful challenges brought him joy. His work at PCIEERD is similar to a large-scale experiment in which he develops theories and verifies them against reality.
He believes that this dynamic process fosters continuous innovation by pushing boundaries and revealing new possibilities. The core values of high integrity, innovation, and excellence serve as guiding principles, propelling the entire PCIEEED led by him to strive for excellence in all that they do.
“We are committed to exploring new ground in science and are constantly looking for ways to offer significant discoveries and solutions that have a long-term impact for the benefit of the whole nation,” Dr Enrico concludes.
China has achieved a significant milestone in the advancement of its computing infrastructure with the official release of the national standard GB/T 43331-2023, titled “Internet Data Centre (IDC) Technology and Classification Requirements.” This strategic move underscores a steadfast commitment to propelling the robust development of the computing industry within the country.
Spearheaded by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), in collaboration with various enterprises and institutions, this achievement signifies a dedication to aligning with the evolving needs of the national computing infrastructure and ensuring the high-quality evolution of the computing industry.
The comprehensive scope of GB/T 43331-2023 spans six dynamic aspects, mirroring the complexity of the digital landscape it seeks to regulate. These aspects include greenness, availability, security, service capabilities, computing power, and computing efficiency, with an added emphasis on low-carbon practices.
At its core, this national standard is designed to serve as a guiding framework for the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of Internet Data Centres (IDCs). The creators envision a future where GB/T 43331-2023 acts as a catalyst, propelling diverse industries forward by facilitating a more profound integration of computing infrastructure.
The roots of this groundbreaking standard extend back to 2013 when the data centre team of the Institute of Cloud Computing and Big Data at the CAICT embarked on a mission to standardise the communication industry.
Over the years, several data centre rating standards have emerged, each contributing as a stepping stone towards the ultimate realisation of GB/T 43331-2023. This national standard has now come to fruition after years of collaboration with users, designers, and industry suppliers.
According to CAICT, the standard places a strong emphasis on energy efficiency, a longstanding concern in the development of data centres. No longer a vague aspiration, GB/T 43331-2023 outlines specific requirements aimed at elevating the energy efficiency levels of data centres through the application of green technology and adept operation and maintenance system management.
Beyond technology, the standard underscores a commitment to responsible and sustainable practices. It addresses service capabilities through a comprehensive evaluation of external services in data centres. This assessment isn’t a mere formality; it objectively gauges capabilities, fostering self-improvement within data centres and aiding customers in selecting facilities suitable for their business needs.
The newly released standard also focuses on availability, enhancing data centre resilience through improved equipment redundancy. This ensures data protection during emergencies, fortifying the foundational architecture of the digital world. Security, a paramount concern in the data-centric era, receives meticulous attention. Beyond conventional measures like firewalls and passwords, the standard aims to ensure the safety of both data centre equipment and personnel, adopting a holistic approach to fortify the guardians of the digital realms.
The CAICT added that the GB/T 43331-2023 is not merely a set of regulations; it is a guidebook signalling a future where computing infrastructure seamlessly integrates into daily life. It represents a collaborative effort among academia, industry, and innovation, shaping a digital landscape that is not only efficient but also sustainable, secure, and prepared for future challenges.
By establishing common guidelines, protocols, and specifications, these standards ensure that hardware and software components from different vendors can seamlessly communicate and function as part of an integrated system. This not only simplifies integration processes but also fosters a more open and competitive market.
Faculty, students, and alumni from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) have collaborated to create a mobile application to facilitate more convenient and efficient intra-city transportation of goods.
Named OptRoute, the mobile app connects drivers and consumers without charging commissions or onboarding fees. The consumer’s payment is directly transferred to the driver, eliminating the need for intermediaries.
The initial version of the app has been developed and commercialised by a startup incubated at IIT-Madras. It was co-founded by Professor N.S. Narayanaswamy, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, IIT-Madras, and Anuj Fulia, an IIT-Madras alumnus. Furthermore, the startup has developed methods for efficient packing and optimal utilisation of vehicle space, to be integrated into the application upon reaching a sufficient initial traction level.
The OptRoute application operates in two modes: Driver and Customer. In Customer mode, users can submit transport requests for various goods requiring a vehicle. In Driver mode, users can view available requests and choose to accept them.
As per a statement from IIT-Madras, key distinctions between OptRoute and existing services include:
- Zero-commission per transaction and nominal subscription-based service model
- Direct payment from the consumer to the driver
- High scalability of the software system and operational aspects
- A single app for both drivers and customers
OptRoute operates independently without relying on third-party services, enabling the startup to minimise operational costs and offer services with a zero percent commission. IIT-Madras alumni and students contributed significantly to the design and development of the application.
According to Narayanaswamy, OptRoute ultimately aims to solve connectivity issues between drivers and customers in the goods logistics and transport domain. Current challenges include the unavailability of return loads for transporters and the underutilisation of vehicle capacity. He characterised the existing market in this sector as being highly disorganised, which leads to inefficiencies.
The OptRoute app is operational on Android devices and available in the cities of Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Faridabad, Gurugram, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Noida, Panchkula, Pune, Mohali, Surat, and Zirakpur. The startup has plans to expand its service to over 500 cities by the end of this year.
“[OptRoute] is also ripe for the deployment of technology-based solutions to reach the goals set by the National Logistics Policy, 2022,” Narayanaswamy said. The National Logistics Policy aims to enhance economic growth and business competitiveness through an integrated, seamless, efficient, reliable, green, sustainable, and cost-effective logistics network. It intends to harness technology and skilled manpower to reduce logistics costs and improve performance.
The policy aims to increase the nation’s Logistics Performance Index ranking to be among the top 25 countries by 2030. It also aims to create a data-driven decision-support mechanism for an efficient logistics ecosystem. To achieve these goals, the government initiated the Comprehensive Logistics Action Plan (CLAP). It covers eight action areas including:
- Integrated digital logistics systems
- The standardisation of physical assets and benchmarking of service quality standards
- Developing human resources and capacity in the logistics sector
- Promoting state engagement
- The Services Improvement Framework
- Sectoral Plans for Efficient Logistics (SPEL)
- Facilitating the development of logistics parks
Since its launch, there have been notable advancements in the policy’s implementation through regional conferences, individual consultations, and inter-ministerial meetings.
A collaboration between agricultural research entities, Curtin University’s Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM), and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development in Western Australia is poised to change farming practices through the development of a decision support tool known as the ‘Agri-analytics Hub.’ With a budget of AU$ 4 million, this technological initiative aims to significantly enhance farmers’ profitability and optimize risk management by employing a scientifically rigorous approach.
In the realm of precision agriculture, where data-driven insights play a pivotal role, the Agri-analytics Hub is slated to address a critical gap. While current practices enable producers to generate maps for precision agriculture using their farm data, the existing methods lack scientific robustness. Furthermore, there is a noticeable absence of tools designed for creating or analysing on-farm trials, leaving agronomists and skilled growers without a dedicated solution for this crucial aspect of their work.
The aim of the project lies in the ambition to empower farmers and their advisors with a state-of-the-art tool that can analyse the variability in crop performance and profitability at an in-paddock scale. Dr Julia Easton, the project leader and researcher at the Centre for Crop and Disease Management (CCDM) at Curtin University, stressed the significance of the Agri-analytics Hub.
Drawing on next-generation agribusiness research developed by the Curtin for Agribusiness Profitability Initiative, this tool is envisioned to give growers the confidence to make informed decisions supported by scientific analysis.
For farmers contemplating management changes – such as altering fertilisation rates or adjusting inputs to enhance profitability and sustainability – the Agri-analytics Hub aims to be a game-changer. Dr Easton highlighted that the tool ensures such decisions are grounded in science, offering a robust foundation for agricultural practices. This becomes particularly crucial in an era where sustainability is gaining prominence, and farmers are increasingly under pressure to demonstrate evidence of environmentally conscious and efficient practices.
The Director of CCDM explained the collective capabilities that this tool brings to the agricultural landscape. Farmers will now have the ability to visualise, analyse, and experiment with their own data and equipment, thereby driving profitability and managing risks effectively, even in the face of a variable climate.
The Agri-analytics Hub is designed to analyse existing data and facilitate on-farm experimentation, allowing farmers to test solutions and estimate the likely economic impact of adopting specific practices based on their own production systems.
This initiative represents a significant leap forward in agricultural data analytics, with CCDM taking the lead in advancing the way farming is approached. By empowering farmers with tools to leverage their own data and equipment, the project aims to usher in a new era of evidence-based decision-making in agriculture.
The CEO of one of the industry partners noted the importance of evidence-based decision-making, especially in proving sustainability credentials. The global demand for food and fibre produced in a sustainable manner has been on the rise, necessitating producers to provide tangible evidence of their commitment to sustainability. The significance of a scientifically rigorous digital tool that is not only cost-effective but also designed in collaboration with Australian farm businesses and their advisors was underscored.
Such a tool, when seamlessly integrated into existing systems and processes, holds the promise of being a substantial step in the right direction, with implications reaching far beyond Western Australia. It is anticipated that the Agri-analytics Hub will have significant national relevance when delivered, contributing to the ongoing global discourse on sustainable and efficient agricultural practices.
The Agri-analytics Hub project in Western Australia stands as a beacon of technological advancement in agriculture, promising to equip farmers and advisors with a powerful decision support tool. The amalgamation of scientific rigour, precision agriculture, and on-farm experimentation positions this initiative at the forefront of modernizing farming practices.
As the demand for sustainable and evidence-based agriculture grows, the Agri-analytics Hub represents a crucial step forward in meeting these evolving expectations and contributing to the broader landscape of agricultural innovation.
The government has granted its approval, Resolution No. 175/NQ-CP dated 30 October, for the National Data Centre project, aiming to elevate Vietnam’s standing in global e-government, information technology, and cybersecurity rankings. It wants the centre to serve as a tool to resolve and remove bottlenecks while fostering the development of current national databases and any prospective database systems in the future.
The government will construct, manage, use, and run the National Data Centre. The centre will integrate, synchronise, store, share, analyse, exploit, and coordinate data from various state agencies in compliance with legal regulations. It will establish two data warehouses, one focusing on people and the other gathering data from national databases.
The data housed at this centre will form the core of data-related service delivery. It will contribute to policymaking, aid in development, and promote digital government, society, and economy. It will also enhance defence and security measures.
The centre will provide information technology infrastructure for socio-political organisations, national databases, and agencies with data requirements. It will leverage the collected and synchronised data to simplify and streamline administrative processes, improve the services provided by state agencies to citizens and businesses, and carry out in-depth analyses to help the government issue and manage social security policies. This includes policies for insurance, healthcare, and education.
Some of the data stored at the centre will include details on populations, insurance, healthcare, social security, education, and training, as well as staff data, including civil servants, public employees, identification records, civil status, and financial transactions. It will also store activity from the databases of ministries, government branches, and localities.
The centre will function as a hub to connect with international partners to exchange information, collaborate on research, and jointly create development strategies, particularly in the field of science and technology.
The centre is slated to be operational in 2030. It will aid in Vietnam’s deeper integration into the global digital economy. Apart from storing and connecting data from national databases and domestic information systems, it will contain data from governments across the world to support various activities in cyberspace while safeguarding Vietnam’s interests.
It is anticipated that by 2023, more than 90% of administrative activities involving the sharing of information between state agencies will be replaced by sharing digital data from the centre’s warehouses.
The government wants Vietnam to achieve several significant rankings by 2030, aiming to be among the top 50 countries in the E-Government Development Index (EGDI), the top 30 in the ICT Development Index (ID), and the top 30 in the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI).
The country is recognising the significance of data infrastructure due to its data growth rate, which exceeds the global average.
Earlier this month, the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) launched its largest data centre, VNPT IDC Hoa Lac, in Hanoi. As reported by OpenGov Asia, the centre spans 23,000 square metres and is designed to house 2,000 racks. With equipment from G7 manufacturers, it offers speeds up to 2Gbps per rack for domestic connections and 0.5Gbps per rack for international connections.
It is equipped with an N+1 backup system, which promises stable operation, even during maintenance events. Furthermore, its Data Hall features a 6-layer security monitoring system, adhering to international standards, and guaranteeing the highest level of data safety for clients.
The state-run Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT) has inaugurated VNPT IDC Hoa Lac, its largest data centre at Hoa Lac High-Tech Park in Hanoi. The centre spans 23,000 square metres and is designed to house 2,000 racks. Using state-of-the-art equipment from renowned G7 manufacturers, it can provide impressive speeds, offering 2Gbps per rack for domestic connections and 0.5Gbps per rack for international connections.
VNPT IDC Hoa Lac is equipped with an N+1 backup system, guaranteeing stable operation, even during maintenance events. Additionally, its Data Hall features a 6-layer security monitoring system, adhering to international standards and ensuring the highest level of data safety for clients.
The centre has achieved Uptime Tier III Certification for Design Documents (TCDD) and the Constructed Facility (TCCF) and is also on track to obtaining the Certification of Operational Sustainability (TCOS) in the future.
VNPT currently runs eight data centres across the country, including in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Each of these centres complies with rigorous domestic and international standards. “Our data centre in Hoa Lac is the largest and most advanced in the country and is poised to offer the nation’s premier data services, tailor-made to meet the diverse requirements of both domestic and international clients,” said Huynh Quang Liem, CEO of VNPT.
The human resources employed at this facility are highly trained professionals with extensive experience in the field. They offer round-the-clock customer support and stand ready to assist clients with package upgrades whenever necessary.
During the inauguration ceremony, the Minister of Information and Communications (MIC), Nguyen Manh Hung, emphasised the ministry’s focus on advancing Vietnam’s digital infrastructure. He underscored the importance of data infrastructure and urged telecom carriers to invest in this domain to create further opportunities for development.
Vietnam is experiencing a data growth rate that surpasses the global average. Presently, the country hosts 39 data centres, and to meet the increasing demands of the community, it needs to establish approximately 5 new centres annually, akin to VNPT IDC Hoa Lac.
Hung noted, “Digital infrastructure must be super-capacious, ultra-wideband, universally accessible, sustainable, smart, open, and secure. It’s essential to prioritise investment in modernisation to stay ahead in the digital transformation race. Data infrastructure is the cornerstone of digital infrastructure.”
Telecommunications companies that were formerly at the forefront of telecommunications infrastructure must now take the lead in data infrastructure. Investing in data centres presents a fresh growth opportunity for these operators. Without such investments, they face the risk of being replaced by others in the evolving digital landscape, he said.
Hung encouraged local businesses to prioritise Vietnamese cloud computing and data services, particularly given that domestic providers have met the most stringent global standards and are able to offer competitive pricing. For more cost-efficient and secure services, ministries, state agencies, and local authorities should choose professional data service units over trying to run their own ineffective data centres or IT systems. He also highlighted that this presents an opportunity for domestic data service providers to further their growth and professional development.
According to MIC, VNPT’s strategic move indicates a well-defined vision for bolstering the country’s telecommunications capabilities and marks a transition from conventional telecom services to more advanced data and digital services.
The OpenGov Breakfast Insight held on 25 October 2023 at the Hard Rock Hotel, the first of a double-header day for OpenGov Asia, kicked off with a dynamic and insightful discussion that underscored the transformative potential of data in the education sector.
Singapore’s education system is at the forefront of digital innovation, with a focus on using technology and data-driven approaches to transform learning and teaching, while also emphasising the importance of data management and security in educational institutions.
In Singapore’s ongoing commitment to achieving educational excellence, the importance of reliable data management has become increasingly critical, underscoring the fact that data serves as the lifeblood of educational institutions in the digital age.
High-quality data serves as the foundation for informed decision-making and insightful analysis, essential for educational institutions to effectively fulfil their mission of delivering exceptional education, thereby underscoring the importance of accurate, reliable and up-to-date data.
To empower educators and administrators with essential insights, data should be readily accessible to authorised users, thereby laying the foundational step for informed decision-making and optimised learning experiences.
In this context, data governance stands as the bedrock for preserving data quality by implementing stringent processes that ensure data consistency and integrity, addressing not only quality concerns but also meeting the rigorous standards of audits and compliance mandates.
Integrity, confidentiality, and security must be protected at all costs when dealing with data. To ensure the preservation of crucial information, institutions must not only secure their data but also be vigilant about backup, replication, and archival procedures.
A unified approach to data usage enhances operational intelligence, streamlines decision-making processes, and creates a trusted data source throughout the institution. Simultaneously, ensuring data integrity, confidentiality, and security is not only vital for the institution’s seamless operation but also a mandatory compliance measure in today’s digital landscape.
Moreover, ensuring uniformity in the utilisation of decision-making data across various departments is of utmost importance, as untapped data that remains unanalysed or inconsistently accessed can impede an institution’s operational intelligence – a crucial element for making informed, strategic decisions.
As data-driven solutions continue to play a central role in education, all members of the organisation must be proficient in data management best practices. Essentially, an institution’s proficiency in data management is contingent on the expertise and competencies of its faculty and staff.
By embracing cutting-edge technologies that harness the power of data, educational institutions can unleash the potential for highly personalised learning experiences through the seamless integration of data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and other innovative solutions.
The OpenGov Breakfast Insight held on 25 October 2023 at the Hard Rock Hotel focused on the dissemination of invaluable insights concerning digital integration, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and data governance, uniquely tailored to the Singapore education sector.
In the rapidly expanding landscape of digital education, Mohit Sagar, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia, acknowledges the growing focus on humanising data management, aiming to enhance learning experiences through the incorporation of empathy, ethics, and efficiency in data systems.
This approach revolves around two core pillars: improving data accessibility and availability while maintaining data integrity and confidentiality. By doing so, educational institutions can foster a culture of excellence, providing students with a more personalised and efficient educational journey.
Mohit stressed that one of the foundational principles in modern education data management is enhancing data availability and accessibility. This involves ensuring timely access for educators, administrators, and stakeholders.
“Easy access to data is fundamental in the decision-making process, allowing educators to make informed choices and deliver the best possible learning experiences,” Mohit believes. “Real-time insights into student performance and behaviour can lead to more effective interventions and support systems.”
In this context, robust data governance is a cornerstone of educational evolution, where data quality and authenticity hold paramount significance. Standardising data collection approaches and formats, instituting validation procedures, and improving data accuracy are integral measures for safeguarding data reliability in contemporary education.
Educators and administrators are encouraged to base their decisions on data, fostering a more informed and efficient approach to teaching and management, while fostering cross-departmental collaboration to gain a comprehensive perspective on the institution’s data.
High-quality data is indispensable for accurate reporting, effective decision-making, and meaningful analysis. Through the sharing and analysis of data, educators can gain comprehensive insights that enable more effective interventions and support for students, all while acknowledging the paramount importance of data security in safeguarding data integrity and confidentiality.
Data management has assumed a central role as a crucial element in enhancing learning experiences and decision-making, with educational institutions now adopting regular security audits, comprehensive data backup and recovery strategies, as well as disaster recovery protocols to ensure the security and integrity of educational data. These measures are specifically designed to protect valuable information from unforeseen challenges, spanning from system failures to cybersecurity threats.
Maintaining transparency in breach response is of utmost importance, allowing educational institutions to address potential security incidents openly, rebuild trust among stakeholders, and take preventive measures to strengthen their data defences.
Mohit observes that leveraging cutting-edge data-driven technologies has become a game-changer in education. Tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) for data validation, machine learning (ML) for valuable insights, and predictive analytics for anticipating student performance are revolutionising the teaching and learning experience. They empower educators to make data-informed decisions, personalise learning, and optimise resource allocation for improved educational outcomes.
Transparent data governance, interoperability solutions, and shared data standards are instrumental in fostering trust and seamless integration across educational institutions, allowing for the free flow of insights and innovations.
“In an increasingly digital, data-centric world, education cannot afford to fall behind,” Mohit concludes. “Therefore, it is crucial to drive rapid innovation through data and cultivate an agile mindset among educators and stakeholders.”
Keith Sng, Senior Manager, Systems Engineering SEAK at Veeam acknowledges that rapid technological advances and continuous efforts to develop the education sector have made Singapore one of the countries that prioritise education.
Singapore is known globally for its superior education system, which places special emphasis on developing individual knowledge and skills. In addition, Singapore also hosts various international seminars, conferences and educational events that promote global collaboration in support of learning and research.
In terms of technological advancement, as per Keith, Singapore has emerged as a prominent hub for innovation and technology within Southeast Asia. On the education front, both the government and educational establishments in Singapore have proactively incorporated technology into their educational programs, encompassing the utilisation of advanced educational software, digital libraries, and online learning platforms.
“Singapore’s commitment to education is reflected in its continuous efforts to improve the quality of education and ensure that its citizens have equitable access to learning opportunities,” observes Keith.
Nonetheless, Keith underscored that while significant infrastructure developments are unfolding in Singapore’s education sector, equal attention must be directed towards safeguarding the data of educators, staff, and students. “Data constitutes the foundation of everything in today’s world; let’s not jeopardise this valuable resource due to negligence in ensuring its proper and judicious protection.”
Keith pointed out that two universities, namely Parol University in India and Keio University in Japan, have already begun to recognise the significance of data protection. These institutions serve as exemplars in embracing data protection measures that can serve as guiding models for educational establishments worldwide.
He explains, “Their commitment to establishing a secure and safeguarded educational environment is a valuable attitude that should be collectively embraced.”
Veeam provides support to both universities in their efforts to protect their data. Collaboration with Veeam allows both universities to implement sophisticated and reliable data protection solutions. With the help of Veeam, their data becomes safer and protected from potential risks and security threats.
This successful collaboration illustrates how the application of technology in education can provide real benefits. When educational institutions prioritise the security and sustainability of their data, they create an environment that supports educators and students in achieving their academic goals.
Keith believes that the current rapid technological developments have advanced the world of education but also brought new risks related to data security and integrity. Therefore, the steps taken within the framework of this cooperation are very relevant and useful. When educational data is well maintained, not only students feel the benefits, but also educators and administrative staff can work more efficiently.
“In an era where data-driven technologies increasingly dominate, education leaders around the world need to consider investing in data protection and the latest technology,” Keith concludes. “The more educational institutions take proactive steps in protecting their data, the safer and more productive their learning environments will become.”
May Lit Mei Wan, serving as the Senior Associate Director for Learning Systems and Technologies at Singapore Management University (SMU), one of Singapore’s universities that has harnessed data within its academic institutions, underscored the intricacies involved in efficiently handling this data. She emphasised the necessity for a meticulous equilibrium between accessibility and security to address the manifold challenges it poses.
“In an era where technology increasingly influences the world of education, data is a key element that shapes the way we learn and teach,” she explains. “With the right data, educators can identify individual needs, measure progress, and create more personalised learning experiences. Apart from that, students can also see their progress and use it as a basis for improvement.”
However, managing education data is not a simple task. It requires strong infrastructure, wise policies, and reliable data protection. As data becomes more abundant and diverse, the challenges become more complex.
SMU has begun efforts to explore every angle of educational data management, from understanding basic concepts to practical applications. By collaborating with experts and practitioners in this field, SMU is aiming to outline the best strategies, innovations and solutions that can bridge the gap between the ease of access and data protection.
“Through a deeper understanding of how data can shape the future of education, we hope to provide useful insights and inspiration for educators, administrators, and anyone who cares about improving education,” May explains.
SMU is eager to delve into cutting-edge technological advancements that can propel educational data management to new heights. She shares specific instances of how data has been effectively utilised by SMU in various real-world scenarios, exemplifying the practical applications of data in diverse contexts.
For example, in measuring class engagement, SMU has integrated data from various sources, including online learning platforms and interactive systems in the classroom. This makes it possible to monitor student participation levels, engagement in discussions, and responses to learning materials. This data provides valuable insight for assessing teaching effectiveness and identifying areas where improvement is needed.
May believes that data is an essential device for measuring student results in online exams. This data tracks individual grades, class averages, and long-term trends. By gaining deeper insights into student performance in online exams, educators can adapt their teaching techniques and curriculum to bolster student achievement.
Besides, the data has helped in identifying suspicious behaviour that may be detrimental to the integrity of the exam. This includes monitoring response patterns, unusual turnaround times, and potential unethical actions. This data helps in taking precautions and maintaining honesty in the exam process.
Likewise, measuring student effort in take-home assignments is another area where data plays a key role. By monitoring the time students spend completing assignments, the level of complexity of the work completed, and the results achieved, it is possible to measure student effort in assignments outside of class. This data helps in providing better feedback to students and motivates them to improve their performance.
“All of these initiatives are concrete examples of how effective data management can support quality education and better decision-making,” May reiterates. “By utilising this data, we have a strong foundation to continuously improve the educational experience and provide maximum benefits for students.”
In his concluding statements, Keith emphasised the remarkable advancements in the education sector, stressing the crucial role of the intersection between technology, data management, and education in shaping the sector’s future.
“As we reflect on the insights shared during the OpenGov Asia event, it’s evident that the transformation of education through data humanisation is well underway,” says Keith. “The convergence of data, education, and technology is reshaping learning experiences and outcomes, setting the stage for a brighter future in the education sector.”
Keith underscored the significance of data security and governance, noting that transparency in breach response, defining data ownership and accountability, and accurate data capture during collection are indispensable elements of data security in education.
The incorporation of data-driven technologies was a central theme throughout the event. By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) for data validation, machine learning (ML) for valuable insights, and predictive analytics for student performance anticipation, the education sector is on the cusp of a major technological revolution.
Keith reiterated the vital aspects of data accessibility and availability, placing importance on user-friendly dashboards, mobile accessibility, and real-time interventions. He highlighted that transparency in data governance, interoperability solutions, and shared data standards serve as the foundational pillars for fostering trust and enabling seamless integration within educational institutions.
To drive rapid innovation in education, the need for fostering an agile mindset among educators and stakeholders, in today’s world, is non-negotiable. Encouraging experimentation and continuous improvement, as well as promoting data collaboration by standardising data formats, are catalysts for shared development in the sector.
Summarising the session’s discussion, Mohit concurs that data security and governance are of utmost importance in education. He emphasises the necessity of routine security audits, robust data backup and recovery strategies, and disaster recovery protocols. He underlines the significance of transparency in addressing breaches, defining data ownership, and maintaining the accuracy of data collection as essential elements in safeguarding the integrity and confidentiality of educational data.
“The integration of data-driven technologies in education was a standout theme,” observes Mohit. “The transformative potential of AI/ML and predictive analytics is evident, promising to revolutionise teaching methods and enhance learning experiences.”
The importance of data accessibility and availability was at the forefront, with a focus on user-friendly dashboards, mobile access, and real-time interventions. Transparent data governance, interoperability solutions, and shared data standards were acknowledged as essential pillars for fostering trust and facilitating seamless integration within educational institutions.
Fostering an agile mindset among educators and stakeholders was presented as a gateway to rapid innovation in education. Encouraging experimentation, continuous improvement, and promoting data collaboration through standardised data formats emerged as vital strategies for driving collective growth in the education sector.
“This event has renewed the passion for humanising data, propelling us closer to a future brimming with limitless learning possibilities,” Mohit concludes. “The world of education data management is set for remarkable transformations, and insights from this event serve as a beacon on the path forward.”