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The ongoing pandemic caused much chaos and upheaval across the world – in personal lives, businesses and governments. Many organisations, especially those proving necessary goods and services, needed to rapidly transform and adapt to the challenges posed by COVID-19. In times like these, vision and agility of top leadership are what is needed the most.

To get a deeper insight into the challenges and opportunities of rapid digital transformation in an organisation attending to the everyday needs of an average Singaporean, OpenGov Asia spoke with Ramesh Munamarty, CIO Advisor at TBM Partners and former Group CIO (Digital and Technology) at NTUC Enterprises Singapore and International SOS.

Right off the bat, Ramesh credited the agility of the business, innovation culture and business processes enabled by the right technology for ensuring the survival and success of organisations in these unprecedented times. Beyond doubt, survival has been to a large extent because of an agile business mindset coupled with cutting-edge technology and the highly innovative solutions created from them.

On his organisation’s journey of transforming as necessitated by the pandemic and the tools and technology that came to rescue, Ramesh shared, like numerous other organisations, his prior organisation, too, had begun its digital transformation journey to an extent before the pandemic.

In any organisation working together in an obvious must. The pandemic could have put an end to this, and, indeed, it was the case for several organisations. In their favour, one powerful tool that had been in place, which significantly helped employees work together efficiently, in his opinion, was an effective collaboration suite. Facilitating simultaneous editing and doing away with the need for sharing multiple copies of the same document as attachments, these platforms immensely assisted employees to work collaboratively on documents and presentations from remote locations.

Another major factor to manage for efficient remote work was ensuring a safe and secure working environment for all employees. Without a plethora of tech-driven tools and solutions, it would have been nigh impossible for organisations to facilitate remote work or even to survive for long. Various digital strategies, platforms and applications allowed for safe remote access, data sharing and confidential communication between staff working from geographically diverse locations, on various devices, using different ISPs.

The third practice that significantly helped them better serve their customers was the adoption of cloud. Without doubt, it was their comprehensive cloud adoption that helped them manage the tremendous online traffic spikes. With people being forced to transition life almost entirely online – work, education, business, shopping, banking and entertainment – the load on the internet, and consequently businesses, shot up astronomically almost overnight.

Speaking from experience, Ramesh feels that the intelligent use of technology can help organisations and enterprises, not only survive, but thrive. With a range of agile, scalable and abundantly available technology at hand, organisations must decide what works best for them. They must determine which tools can help them work effectively and securely and invest in them wisely.

Expanding on some of the learnings from his experience that can help leaders and organisations be better prepared for the next critical event, Ramesh was of the view that leaders need to be more agile and prepare outside the box.

A good example to understand this better would be the concept of business continuity plans (BCPs). While most organisations, pre-COVID, had business continuity plans in place, a number of them necessitated employees to be physically present in the office. The pandemic made short work of these contingencies, forcing organisations to scramble and come up with reactive, stop-gap arrangements.

The pandemic has taught us, as much a cliché as it may be, to expect the unexpected. Organisations must consider all different scenarios and look to make their BCP’s as comprehensive as can be. They need to have a growth mindset and learn from their mistakes. Enterprises need to constantly test their systems and processes to ensure that it is comprehensive and a number of different (including currently unexpected) scenarios are incorporated.

Ramesh observed that organisations that could not transition quickly, resorted to short cuts, throw away solutions or put together a patchwork of ad-hoc solutions which they later had to revisit and reinvest in, leading to wastage of time and resources.

With work, business and life moving online, data has become one of the most important assets of a company. But this resource is only as valuable as the actionable insights that can be derived from it. Data analytics can empower enterprises to be better informed about their customers, their markets and the environment at large – enabling better decision-making and creating customer-centric products and services. . Data can also be monetized to create an additional source of revenue. As technology becomes more accessible and cheaper, there really is no excuse for organisations to digitally lag.

In addition to having the agile mindset, innovation culture and the right technology, Ramesh felt that the boards of the organisations should enhance their role from being focused on fiduciary and compliance to broader technology oversight and assessing the risk associated with the digital transformation. This will necessitate the directors to be more digitally savvy and potentially have a technology committee where they can dive deeper into the transformation initiatives and provide oversight to reduce risks and align them to the broader strategic objectives.

As organisations become more flexible and cloud-based, the need to operate in a safe and secure network becomes even more important.  Data breaches are becoming more frequent and have become disproportionately more expensive. As digitalisation comes to the fore and takes centre stage from organisations, security becomes extremely critical. Enterprises must improve their information security maturity and make sure that not only are they protected, but the products and services they offer are secure and scalable. Organisations need to rethink their cybersecurity and more from a reactive to a proactive stance. This will allow them to quickly to roll out solutions for a diverse, remote workforce while simultaneously protecting data, client information and trade secrets.

With almost a full year behind, organisations now seem to be gradually adapting to the “new normal”.  Ramesh is optimistic that businesses will look to convert this crisis into an opportunity, tapping into the massive online market that the pandemic had created. One such opportunity is the ability of enterprises to harness and utilize global talent and the gig economy more easily. Remote working has enabled organisations willing and capable to source the best skillset at the most optimal price from across the globe.

As enterprises accelerate their digital transformations, it is also vital that organisations take a more outside-in approach to augment their current teams. This would mean getting a perspective from experts from in and out of one’s industry to provide an unbiased view and to help maximise the success of the initiatives. This will help the organisation become more disruptive and better equipped to take on challenges.

Finally, Ramesh emphasised the need to be more data-driven, a culture shift that needs to come from top leadership to and percolate across the organisation to all employees. In the past, decisions would be made by the leaders based on their instinct as they were not necessarily equipped with the right data. Significant advances have been made in the data analytics space now that enable organisations to get actionable insights in a proactive manner and also elevate to predictive analytics. This will not only enable organisations to make better decisions but will also prepare them for any unexpected eventuality.

The astronomical rates of transmission and a lack of a sure cure for COVID-19 till now has been reason enough for global leaders and citizens to have grave concerns. With the promise of a slew of vaccines, this panic has been somewhat assuaged but extreme caution is still the order of the day.

To their credit, many countries were quick to realise technology’s potential in effectively managing the impact of the virus. Tech giants across the globe supported governments by launching AI-powered solutions and applications to help citizens control risk.

Solutions had to be created under extreme pressure and absurdly tight timelines, leading to phenomenal creativity. Here are some of the significant ways in which technology has and can help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic:

Using AI to Identify, Track and Forecast Outbreaks

AI-based solutions have been designed to detect an outbreak with the premise that the better one can track the virus, the better chances of dealing with it. Such solutions can detect an outbreak by analysing news reports, social media platforms and government platforms.

Canadian startup BlueDot’s, San Francisco’s Metabiota, and Boston’s health map are few examples where the power of AI was harnessed to warn people of the threat days before the WHO issued its public warnings.

Liberty and Passage by Access Anywhere is a prime example of this technological application. Developed by Access Anywhere, it is a total outbreak management system that combines a plethora of cutting-edge technologies on a single platform. Liberty & Passage is an outbreak management solution for individuals, organisations and the entire travel industry.

Extremely versatile, it can be deployed across various sectors including airports, cruise lines, immigration and tourism boards. Its ease of use, flexibility and scalability means it can be a significant tool for organisations in almost any sector to restart their business safely.

Using AI to Help Diagnose the Virus

Infervision, an AI company had launched a coronavirus AI solution that helps front line healthcare workers detect and monitor the disease efficiently. It also has the capacity to improve the speed of a CT diagnosis. Alibaba has built an AI-powered diagnosis system, which is 96% accurate in diagnosing the virus in seconds.

Using Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies

Drone delivery is considered the safest and fastest ways to deliver medical supplies during a disease outbreak. For example, Terra Drones is using their unmanned aerial vehicles to transport medical samples and quarantine material with minimal risk. Additionally, drones are being used to patrol public spaces and track non-compliance of quarantine mandates.

Using Chatbots To Share Information

Chatbots are an effective way for people to get specific information and advice. For instance, Tencent operates WeChat, where people can access free online health consultation services. Similarly, the travel and tourism sector has immensely benefited from the use of chatbots.

Using AI to Identify Infected Individuals

As the COVID-19 virus transitioned from an outbreak to a full-on pandemic, China’s sophisticated surveillance system used facial recognition technology and temperature detection software from SenseTime to identify people who have developed a fever and were likely to have been infected by the virus.

Technological innovations like ‘Smart Helmets’ are also being used by officials in Sichuan province to identify people with raised temperatures. Additionally, the Chinese Government’s monitoring system, Health Code, uses big data to identify and assess the risk of each individual based on their travel history.

Innovation in technology is helping to mitigate the impact of the current pandemic by keeping people informed and abreast with the latest developments and encouraging them to take all the necessary precautions.

With the discovery of the new COVID-19 strain and experts declaring the pandemic to be a recurring feature in the future one can only see technologies like AI and Machine learning playing a pertinent role in keeping people and organisations up and running.

Two tech firms operating under the Hong Kong Smart Government Innovation Lab recently announced that they have launched a new solution which is now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.

Solution one – Gekko Eye

The first solution, called Gekko Eye, is a powerful data analytics platform to detect risks and monitor news events. It is a one-stop solution from data collection, data processing to data analytics.

The platform allows aggregation of various data sources from the Internet, integrates the data and transforms them into the well-structured format. The user interface features a dashboard for data analytics, supporting not only filtering and sorting of the data but also advanced analytics such as relationship search and alert functions.

Gekko Eye is unique with the following features:

  • Supports the granular data extraction process for mining unstructured text.
  • Adapt to varying layouts of different websites and standardise the results.
  • Built-in data analytics modules support analysis from multiple perspectives.
  • A user-friendly alert function for users to easily set up criteria for tracking events and to keep them informed of the event monitored.

Application areas

The solution was designed to be applied across the various areas including Broadcasting, City Management, Climate and Weather, Commerce and Industry, Development, Education, Employment and Labour, Environment, Finance, Food, Health, Housing, Infrastructure, Law and Security, Population, Recreation and Culture, Social Welfare as well as Transport.

Technologies used

The solution employs Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Computing, Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing and Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Use case

The key use case for Gekko Eye is for data intelligence purposes, with the following benefits:

  • Help users answer critical questions from the multiple data sources for decision making.
  • Save time by receiving notifications from the relevant information.
  • Automate processes involving data collection from a large number of websites at scale and low cost.

Solution two – Social Power Intelligence

The second solution, called Social Power Intelligence, specialises in social listening, brand page analysis and crisis detection with its in-house proprietary system. The system was designed by analysing over 100 million of public pages and accounts of major social media platforms.

Applications areas

The solution was meant to be applied in the area of Development.

Technologies Used

The solution employs mainly Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics.

Use case

The solution’s Social Listening feature could be used to research and determine netizens’ opinions and suggestions regarding government policies and public services. This could help policymakers understand citizens’ feeling about and reactions towards new policies and services. Also, it could be used to find out trending topics recently to closely stick with citizens.

About the Smart Government Innovation Lab

In 2018, the Government established the Smart Government Innovation Lab to explore hi-tech products such as AI and relevant technologies, including machine learning, big data analytics, cognitive systems and intelligent agent, as well as blockchain and robotics from firms, especially local start-ups.

The Lab is always on the lookout for innovation and technology (I&T) solutions that are conducive to enhancing public services or their operational effectiveness. I&T suppliers are encouraged to regularly visit the Lab’s website to check on the current business and operational needs in public service delivery and propose innovative solutions or product suggestions to address them.

The Viettel Data Mining Platform, developed by the military-run telecoms group Viettel, was launched by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) at a ceremony in Hanoi, earlier this week.

The launch is part of a chain of events to introduce Made-in-Vietnam digital platforms to serve the National Digital Transformation Programme to 2025 with a vision to 2030 approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in June.

According to a news report, the Viettel Data Mining Platform, the first developed by the Vietnamese people for businesses in Vietnam, aims to help governments and businesses make decisions through their own data understanding, at a more affordable cost than foreign platforms.

The platform provides real-time information or reports instead of having to synthesise information from many different sources, increasing employee productivity by 30% in terms of extracting information and making a report.

In addition to the application of artificial intelligence technologies, the Viettel Data Mining Platform also integrates specialised knowledge from sectors such as marketing, asset management, finance, and risk management, to help optimise operations in an enterprise.

The Viettel Data Mining Platform has been designed according to the specific data demands of each business to ensure in-depth analyses, in line with the goal of creating a digital society in Vietnam.

Further, to provide a reporting system that helps governments and businesses make smart decisions and recommends sales based on data science, the platform also features anomaly detection and warns of risks or abnormalities in the transaction data of units.

This is the fourth technology product in a series of nearly 40 Made-in-Vietnam technology products tested, selected, and introduced by the MIC in 2020. According to Dang Duc Thao, Deputy Director of the Viettel Cyberspace Centre, with the digital platforms, Viettel’s technology products will participate in promoting the development and application of artificial intelligence and other new technologies across all fields, creating breakthroughs in the national digital transformation programme.

The programme aims to get Vietnam to rank in the top 70 and 50 countries in the E-Government Development Index (EGDI) by 2025 and 2030, respectively. It also expects to rank among the top 40 and top 30 in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) by 2025 and 2030, respectively.

As OpenGov Asia reported, the government aims to have as many level-4 online public services as possible. Ministerial and provincial-level work dossiers must be processed online, and inspections should be carried out online as well. All reports and statistic indicators will be digitally connected.

By 2025, the country plans to have fibre optic Internet infrastructure that covers more than 80% of households and 100% of communes. Also, over half of the population should have digital checking accounts, the figure is expected to be more than 80% in 2030. By 2030, fibre optic Internet should be available nationwide, along with 5G networks and services.

The increase in digitalisation has also drawn attention to the need for cybersecurity. More than 1.6 million cyberattacks over the first half of 2020 targeted small and medium-sized enterprises in Southeast Asia. For Vietnam, healthcare and education are the two most-targeted sectors for cyberattacks, which is why the government has prioritised securing these segments first.

A 2019 study, which polled companies regarding data insights, revealed that despite the drastic shift worldwide from traditional to modern methods of running a business, only 31% of respondent companies said that they are data-driven. This number is a notable slide from 37.1% in 2017 and 32.4% recorded in 2018.

The benefits of a data analytics strategy for businesses are many and self-evident today. The core of data analysis is to obtain actionable information. If one organisation can collect, understand and transform data, these insights can be used to make regular administrative processes more efficient. In essence, it’s about efficiency and efficacy. Companies can reduce workaround time and, in turn, allocate manpower and resources efficiently for other tasks, bettering service and driving the bottom line.

In such data-driven strategies, there is a key role for analytics process automation programmes. These strategies help transform data and use the same information to make the APA software smarter and more adept in handling business operations.

To explore these concepts, distinguished speakers engaged digital executives in a thought-provoking discussion during the OpenGovLive! Virtual Breakfast Insight held on 11 December 2020 on the topic Revolutionising Organisational Efficiency and Relevance for the Digital Era.

The session aimed to impart practical knowledge and solutions to participants and encourage an in-depth discussion regarding data automation processes.

Changing the cultural mindset

Mohit Sagar: Changing the cultural mindset may be difficult but it must be done

The discussion started with an overview of the current mindset most businesses tend to have and what must be done to implement a major upscale in business.

Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia, elaborated on the principle of initiating progress by changing the mindset of each member of the workforce. This act, he stressed, will subsequently allow any company to build on traditional methods and lead to scaling of operations.

In upscaling organisational processes, many factors are at play. According to Mohit, the key tool to hasten progress is deciding to make the shift to more efficient platforms like automation process applications which apply to various industries. To do this, there must be a cultural paradigm shift.

Mohit went on to discuss the common practice of relying on traditional methods in the gathering, storing and dissemination of data still evident in many organisations today. Empowering and re-training staff is, he believes, is the solution is to this challenge.

The rewards of making the shift are many. These include a streamlined procedure of data gathering and sharing, a more speedy turnaround of work processes and an efficient flow of operations. In the end, there is still wisdom in the adage that the success of one means the success of the whole business.

Mohit summed up his discussion by acknowledging that changing a cultural mindset is easier said than done. It is tedious and requires a constant string of efforts to bring it to fruition. However difficult, it must still be done to welcome progress.

Progress through organisational transformation

Philip Madgwick: Agility and sustainability are key to digital transformation

There are many facets to upscaling any business, but the core pillars any strategy must be built on are agility and sustainability.

Philip Madgwick, Regional Director, ASEAN, Alteryx, talked about the importance of data in relation to the current state of the digital analytics market and the role of APA in bridging the gap between these two.

Transformation of digital outcome is critical and is becoming more prevalent in businesses. However, many of these processes fail. The culprit is a lack of purpose and failure to transform data into actionable insights.

The best place to start the automation, according to Philip, is with the community. In truth, no sector in the economy can stand alone. Everything is changing. This is where sustainability and agility come in the picture.

Philip noted that there can be no singular approach to automation. Instead, three elements must be prioritised: data, process and people. A misalignment of these three elements is often the root of failure in digitalisation and automation. When these are not in harmony, companies begin to struggle with data and outcome. When these three key elements are equally prioritised, organisational transformation is unlocked.

In terms of data, when companies democratise their informational resources and allow APAs to do tasks for them, they make company processes easier. Using these data, automation platforms become smarter and able to predict important changes in business processes. The result is a speedy turnaround time for administrative processes.

Data and universal access in transforming organisations

Kate Carruthers: Data analytics is key to digital transformationData, on its own, is not sufficient to spur progress. It is data insight which allows for transformation to grow. This was the main point made by Kate Carruthers, Chief Data and Insights Officer at the University of New South Wales.

She started her discussion with a look at why most organisations today are still not data-driven. The challenges, according to Kate, stem around the issue of how to spark change in the workplace or organisation.  To solve this, companies must rely on drivers of cultural change. This process begins by having a thorough understanding of how data generates insights of value which do not merely mean financial value. Another driver is knowledge of what critical assets are.

Kate emphasised that what is most often overlooked and underrated in the data ecosystem is people. In the whole data ecosystem, data capabilities include people who are knowledgeable and who constantly create and manage enterprise information assets.

There is also a need to fuel insight capabilities. This means upgrading tools and data processes for more efficient analytics. To avoid doing repetitive tasks that can be delegated to APAs, companies must scale up their action capabilities including automating the gathering and sharing of data insights.

Kate ended her discussion with a thought that attendees may consider for their organisations: try to do one thing better every day. This involves employing a data strategy that involves efficiency, agility and innovation. Focusing on delivering value to people and employing data democratisation techniques are likewise key to improving any type of business.

Polling questions

After the discussion led by the speakers, delegates participated in engaging polling and insight-sharing during the live session.

When asked how they would rate their company’s current use of data and analytics tools, more than half of respondents (57%) said that their data strategies are good but are still continuously learning on how to optimise these tools.

A delegate from the government sector explained that while they want to improve on their data analytics tools, concerns regarding costs are one of the challenges that they are currently trying to address. He added that one of the most crucial elements to possess, aside from automation tools, is oversight.

According to two-thirds of session participants (68%), the top driver of data and data analytics usage are methods of achieving better organisational decisions and outcomes.

An executive from the government said that while they have loads of data and sound infrastructure in place, the main driver that he considers is trying to help members of the organisation manage these data to come up with improved data insights.

For another participant, changing the way of doing things is just as critical and that technology should be at the end chain of the ecosystem.

In terms of areas for improvement, a quarter of attendees (25%) said that a non-data-literate workforce is a big challenge that needs to be solved.

Many people in the workforce lack the necessary understanding of data insights technology, opined a participant. The challenge is how to help them rethink and how to equip them with essential skills and knowledge to execute automation systems.

Conclusion

Before the session ended, Philip reiterated his call for companies to keep an open mind about changing the cultural mindset. According to him, getting every member of the company engrossed and hands-on throughout the whole automation process is not a new principle but is still important. Getting people to understand every stage of the digitalisation process is what will ultimately allow companies to open avenues for progress.

Philip urged the delegates to feel free to reach out to their team in case they have any queries about process automation strategies discussed during the session. He also encouraged them to explore partnering with them to kickstart their analytics journey.

Financial institutions are scaling up the utilisation of cloud services to enable innovation and new business models, as well as to meet the exponential need for and use of data.

Changing customer expectations, the rise of FinTech, and COVID-19 are accelerating banks’ digital transformation, forcing them to upgrade their infrastructure to meet the requirements of the data-intensive era.

Customer data protection is an absolute must. If the data gets into the wrong hands, it will cost the company greatly. It can engender a loss of customer’s trust, which can put the financial company’s reputation at stake.

OpenGov Asia organised a highly timely Virtual Breakfast Insight on 2 December 2020 to discuss enhancing multi-cloud data management, data availability, insights, protection, and compliance readiness to gain the coveted competitive edge.

The session saw active participation, engagement and full attendance from some of the leading financial institutions from Singapore.

Focussing on five pillars of cloud data management strategy

Mohit Sagar: Data management strategy needs to be revisited to orchestrate security, insights and availability

The session was kick-started by Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director, and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia. Mohit pointed to the fact that we have been inundated with data in the COVID-19 era. But he was quick to note that, in a bid to keep the lights on and sail through this difficult time, data strategy does not need to take a hit.

Data would only be valuable if we could draw actionable insights from it.

He urged the delegates to focus on the five pillars of cloud data management strategy:

(1) Security

(2) Compliance and Governance

(3) Cost Management

(4)  Automation and Orchestration

(5) Performance Monitoring

Mohit emphasised that data strategy is not a zero-sum game, but it is about maintaining a delicate balance between data availability, security and insights. In the same vein, he also implored the delegates to not let governance and compliance hinder their cloud data management strategy as these should be the enablers of creating possibilities for them.

In conclusion, Mohit encouraged the delegates to incorporate a simple, secured and scalable data management system. He advised them to partner with experts in the field who can support them on this journey.

Reduce risk, optimise cost, strengthen ransomware resiliency, and manage multi-cloud environments at scale

Justin Loh: Leverage tech to drive automation,  efficiencies, agility, flexibility and scalability

After Mohit’s opening, Justin Loh, Country Director, Veritas Technologies shared his insights on Veritas’s Enterprise Data services platform with the audience.

Justin spoke about how the Veritas Enterprise Data service platform can help the delegates better manage, protect and simplify their data landscape.

Justin elaborated on the innovative features of their platform and how it helps customers reduce risk, optimise cost, strengthen ransomware resiliency and manage multi-cloud environments at scale.

The EDS platform allows organisations to get what matters to them most, namely: highly available apps, always protected and recoverable data, and insights that drive operational efficiency and regulatory compliance.

Justin concluded his session by sharing his observations that have been gleaned from his interaction with various business leaders. He mentioned that four key areas have been in the spotlight:

  • Sustaining the business
  • Cost optimisation
  • Risk management & compliance
  • Reinventing future business models

Infrastructure Automation, Application Modernisation and Operation Optimisation

Dr Amarit Laorakpong: Keeping Cloud security, compliance and governance on track

After Justin’s presentation, Dr Amarit Laorakpong, Executive Vice President, IT Strategy and Governance Bank of Ayudhya shared his organisation’s Cloud journey with the delegates.

Dr Amarit explained that cloud security is the linchpin of their digital transformation efforts. Bank of Ayudhya (Krungsri) leverages the cloud to transform its technology infrastructure to support its digital transformation.

Dr Amarit shared how his organisation built a secured and resilient cloud-enabled infrastructure to migrate to and managed a hybrid cloud environment which resulted in:

– Accelerated application development

– Extended security posture to applications running on cloud

– Optimised costs and utilisation

He further shared that at Bank of Ayudhya, there are over 300 applications on-premise which are being slowly migrating to the cloud. There are seven domains that Krungsri are building on the cloud which are as below:

  1. Identity and Access Management
  2. Cloud Risk Governance and Compliance
  3. Cloud Resiliency and Incident Response
  4. Monitoring risk of Cloud Traffic
  5. Cloud Applications Security
  6. Cloud Infrastructure and Platform Security
  7. Data Protection

Dr Amarit concluded his presentation by emphasising the importance of data protection. This has gained significance in the wake of Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). The act is in the process of being updated, and full implementation and compliance are expected by the middle of  2021.

Focusing on the three pillars – Data Availability, Protection, and Insights

John: Chose a reliable partner who can support you overcome data management challenges

After Dr Amarit’s thought-provoking presentation, John Abel, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Veritas Technologies shared his perspectives with the delegates.

John began by agreeing that this year has been topsy-turvy and the digital transformation efforts of most of the organisations have been disrupted due to the ongoing pandemic.

Many industries have been impacted like the travel and hospitality industry and the banking industry has had to rethink their strategy of how to serve their customers remotely and revitalising mobile applications.

He drew an interesting comparison and example of Ford Corporation and Airbnb. He spoke about how Airbnb has effectively utilised data and insights to create a better user experience.

He acknowledged the rapid transformation and the increased digital footprint of doing everything online,  especially in the current landscape.

The data explosion and rapid digital transformation have also exposed organisations to a lot of external risks like ransomware and dark data. All these factors together have increased the IT complexity, making it even more challenging for the organisations to stay resilient.

John concluded his presentation by saying that he could sleep well at night because he knows where his organisation’s data is sitting, readily available and secured and that he can draw insights to the benefit of his organisation. All this is possible because of the advantages of the Enterprise Data Platform.

Polling Questions & Discussion

After the presentations from the speakers, it was time to engage in discussion with the audience through polling questions.

On the first question about the requirement that is shaping their landscape to be agile with the business needs, a majority of the audience voted for speed of change for applications, data, and building/removing core business systems while 37% voted for adapting to changing customer demands.

A senior delegate from a leading financial institution shared that incorporating the needs of the customers is of paramount importance and banks have to overcome their legacy infrastructure to be able to serve the next generation of customers.

On the next question about the biggest challenge faced by organisations when looking at digital transformation, the delegates were divided between skill shortage to implement and operate technology (33%) and dependency on the need to integrate with legacy systems and/or technology (28%). Interestingly, 22% of the delegates voted for compliance with government regulations being the biggest challenge.

One of the delegates shared that compliance invariably becomes one of the biggest challenges when it comes to accelerating the digital transformation journey. There are a lot of legacy systems in place and integrating them into the new digital platforms is a very challenging task.

The third question on evaluating new technologies and considerations being taken as a priority, there were interesting answers from the delegates. Operational simplicity and product reliability were hands down the most preferred choice of answer from the delegates ( 69%).

On the final question about the area of interest for your organisation and what do they value the most, the audience overwhelmingly voted for ease of doing business through a simplified technology consumption model (50%).

There was consensus among the delegates that simplicity is the key and is the ultimate sophistication. A delegate said, when looking for a new solution in the organisation, they ensure that it supports the latest technology to bring ease to operations and processes.

After the hugely interactive and engaging polling session, John addressed the delegates to bring the informative session to its logical end. He whole-heartedly agreed that these thought-provoking discussions and sharing by prominent Singapore financial institutions undoubtedly provided food for thought for all the participants.

John acknowledged unequivocally that this is one of the best times for IT leaders. They have to push the envelope, they need to work around the data and make sure their organisations are cyber resilient.

Mohit added that these are exciting times despite the challenges; with the right partners, leaders can get assistance along their journey of digital transformation.

Big Data is a buzz word often used in conjunction with analytics, finance, statistics, or other information technology-related topics. But does it could it have any genuine relevance to the agriculture sector? New Zealand AgResearch senior data scientist, Jeremy Bryant, strongly believes that it does.

The research institute is using big data to explore new ways of working including a multidisciplinary programme called the New Zealand Bioeconomy in the Digital Age (NZBIDA). The programme will harness the power of digital technologies to enable the transformation of New Zealand’s food systems.

The Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) aids strategic investment in research programmes and scientific infrastructure that have long-term beneficial impact on New Zealand’s health, economy, environment, and society. Formed in December 2018, the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) approved a new SSIF platform for AgResearch, the NZBIDA.

The primary deliverable is a proof-of-concept that AgResearch will be both instrumental and necessary in helping transition New Zealand’s pastoral sector to one that is more agile, adaptive, and sustainable. AgResearch is developing up to 22 unique proofs-of-concept to demonstrate how digital technologies will enable this transformation.

“As a country, we recognise that we must transform our whole food production system,” said NZBIDA programme manager and Principal Scientist, Mark Shepherd. “AgResearch believes that digital technologies can help in a number of different and unique ways to achieve the move to high-value foods, diversified landscapes, the need for high-quality products with proven provenance, and much more.”

An objective of the programme is to encourage researchers to “fail fast or find early wins”. Jeremy Bryant explained that they previously had longer horizons for research. However, NZBIDA is about learning and being directed a little bit more by rapid proof of concept findings and using an agile way of working.

They are looking at novel ways to use data whether it be from the farm or a supply chain and figuring out the best way to organise and analyse it with big data technology. While people are familiar with gigabytes and megabytes; big data is getting into the range of peta and exabytes. Huge volumes of data that could extend into the billions or millions of records that need a lot of computing power.

Farm sensors are storing and sending an array of information and new technologies like virtual fencing technology need computing capacity. Big Data has the ability to help make informed decisions and change mindsets based on analytics, trends and information. But while it has enormous potential it comes with its own set of challenges. Key among this is the sheer volume of data.

Bryant said while regular satellite tracking might make it possible to capture numerous images and associated data “pulses”, a farmer would probably only want to see snapshots in time. “Typically, it comes in like a tidal wave and you can’t stop it. You’ve then got to say, okay, we’re getting this information every minute, so, really, I only want to aggregate it for an average for the day. That’s giving me the best insight for what’s happening for that animal at that time, or for the pasture.”

A paper in mid-2019 argues that with the increasing impact of climate change, the next revolution in precision agriculture and agriculture, in general, will be driven by Sustainable Precision Agriculture and Environment which could leverage past technologies combined with Big Data analysis.

Similarly, an article around the same time said that access to insights will make farmers’ lives easier and enable informed decisions, driving the next wave of productivity and sustainability improvements. Agritech companies around the world are taking notice and on-farm tech innovation is moving quickly, particularly as the cost of data capture and analysis reduces.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is launching the DataKITA initiative in conjunction with Malaysia Tech Month 2020 (MTM 2020) to catalyse a thriving national data ecosystem in Malaysia. The ongoing initiative will be inaugurated with DataKITA.Pulse virtual event taking place on 21-22 November 2020.

DataKITA is preparing Malaysia for a new world order of data, one driven by disruptive Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies that necessitate business openness and digital evolution. Through the initiative, MDEC will collaborate closely with enterprises and stakeholders within the nation’s data economy. They will do this to help businesses jumpstart their data transformation journey through a structured approach – leveraging data literacy, data analytics, governance, data sharing and artificial intelligence (AI).

Malaysia must gear up for a world beyond the new normal. To reach the next evolutionary level of our development, we must take charge of emerging 4IR technologies that will power the digital economy. As Malaysia transforms digitally towards Malaysia 5.0, businesses now must make the most of the ‘new gold’ that is data to better understand markets, increase revenues, gain new segments and raise their efficiency, the Chairman of MDEC said.

MDEC expects that, through DataKITA, it will empower digitally-skilled Malaysians, enabling digitally-powered businesses and driving investors in digital sectors to join this data-driven population, as it works with the ecosystem to realise the nation’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.

The DataKITA initiative will raise the availability, accessibility and usability of data in Malaysia’s society and economy via four strategic pillars:

  1. Knowledge: Promote Data Literacy
  2. Infrastructure: Foster a Data-Driven Environment
  3. Talent: Facilitate Development of Data Professionals
  4. Action: Accelerate business enterprises to be Data Driven and AI Ready

By fostering holistic data transformation between the Malaysian people, businesses and the government, DataKITA will be the key vehicle to help Malaysia grow a data-driven digital economy to become an advanced market that sets a global example in leading the data proliferation within society and the economy.

It will also help Malaysia’s economic actors tap into the US$13 trillion (RM53.2 trillion) revenue projected to be added by data-fuelled applications in the global economy by 2030, thereby reinforcing the nation’s position as the Heart of Digital ASEAN.

The aim is for organisations to recognise the importance of data transformation and to take the first crucial steps to embark on the data journey, such as training, using data for decision making, investing in technology or the cloud and setting up data roles within their organisation.

This is what MDEC’s DataKITA initiative is all about and we are calling on Malaysia’s businesses and tech talent to embark on this data journey at our DataKITA.Pulse event,” said Dr Karl Ng, Director, Data Ecosystem Development, MDEC.

DataKITA.Pulse – Jumpstarting data transformation journey for businesses

To be held on 21 to 22 November 2020, DataKITA.Pulse is a 25-hour non-stop virtual event that will inspire digitally powered businesses on their data transformation journey by connecting them to like-minded ecosystem stakeholders and industry thought leaders. The event is the first initiative under the broader DataKITA initiative. It will facilitate closer data ecosystem collaborations between society, businesses, governments as well as private- and public-sector entities to help more organisations in Malaysia embark on a structured and sustainable approach for their data transformation.

Held in cooperation with a global software engineer and data community seeking to empower and support with job opportunities across the world – DataKITA.Pulse will feature workshops, forums, business matching opportunities, product showcases by MDEC’s Data Technology Partners as well as one-on-one sessions with MDEC’s Chairman and the COO (Note that the recent leadership restructure at MDEC which abolishes the COO role is effective 1 December 2020). All of these are designed to help participating businesses link with leaders of Malaysia’s growing data ecosystem and better understand the value of data to power their respective data transformation.

In addition to encouraging data adoption between businesses, MDEC has also invited talented individuals to DataKITA.Pulse to take part in the Data Visualisation & Storytelling Challenge. Through this challenge, participants will create data visualisation based on the problem statements about data application in selected industry sectors. They will then work on the challenge overnight before presenting their submission to the judges the next morning.

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