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The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-G) has announced it will launch a school for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in data science and artificial intelligence (AI). The programme will be established under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that IIT-Guwahati signed with the Mehta Family Foundation (MFF), USA.

The Mehta Family School of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence at the Institute will usher in new opportunities for students, and the first batch of B. Tech students will be admitted through Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) in the 2021-2022 academic year. The curriculum has been developed to provide students with a strong theoretical foundation as well as highlight different interdisciplinary application areas.

According to a news report, the MoU was signed virtually by Professor TG Sitharam, the Director of IIT-Guwahati, and Rahul Mehta, the MFF Chief Executive Officer. The Director was hopeful that the school would attract the best tech talent in the country. Also, under the MoU, MFF will provide support to develop the school’s infrastructure and programmes at the Guwahati campus. The school will offer programmes for visiting students and faculty between the school and institutions in the United States. It will host conferences and establish chairs as well.

Highlighting the collaboration between IIT-Guwahati and MFF, Mehta noted, “The explosion of data across all fields of knowledge continues unabated. Just like computer science changed the world, data science and artificial intelligence are poised to do the same. These fields will shape the methods used in education and research across the spectrum of human knowledge.”

“Global interdisciplinary collaborations as envisioned in this new school will lift our understanding of society and nature. Bringing together global talents such as Professor Shankar Subramaniam, Professor Rajesh Gupta (both Univ. of California, San Diego), and Professor Ananth Grama (Purdue Univ.) can accelerate the expansion in these fields. IIT-Guwahati has the vision of the new talent India needs. Together we will build the framework for the future,” Mehta added.

Apart from providing time and expertise for academic and research activities in the new school, professors from top universities in the United States will also act as strategic advisors. A government official noted that the school will be the foundation for IIT-Guwahati to set up data collection sites in the eastern region of the country for healthcare, climate, transportation, and security. It could convert huge amounts of data into effective knowledge and understanding to serve society.

Professor R Bhattacharjee, the Head of Mehta Family School of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, explained that the school will be an abode of academic excellence imparting state-of-the-art teaching, supported by research and technology development in frontier areas of data science and artificial intelligence. One of the objectives of the school is also to take up targeted multi-year interdisciplinary research projects and solve problems to benefit society at large, a deep-rooted vision of IIT-Guwahati, he added.

Recently, IIT-Guwahati’s Robotics Club collaborated with Practically, India’s first experiential learning app, to launch an exclusive, free, and one-of-a-kind Robotics Certificate Course. The five-week course will commence this month.

The Robotics course aims to train students in building a smart bulb that can be controlled using Google voice assistant. Students will learn about the amplification of various software and equipment, which will help them understand emerging technologies in automation. During the course, students will get hands-on knowledge in Robotics and receive a participation certificate from IIT-Guwahati.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused havoc in the economic, social, societal and health systems around the world. Controlling such a crisis requires insight into a community’s characteristics and behaviour which can be identified by collecting and analysing related data. Data analytics tools play a vital role in building the knowledge and understanding required in making decisions and precautionary measures.

However, due to the vast amount of data available on COVID-19 from various sources, there is a need to improve on the role of data analytics and data sharing in

  • controlling the spread of the virus
  • presenting the main challenges and directions of COVID-19 data analysis
  • providing a framework on the related existing applications and
  • studies to facilitate future research

OpenGov Asia had an opportunity to speak exclusively to Dr Ian Oppermann, Chief Data Scientist, New South Wales (NSW) Government and Industry Professor at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to discuss how data analytics and data sharing helped them in their COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Ian has 27 years of experience in the ICT sector and has led organisations with more than 300 people, delivering products and outcomes that have impacted hundreds of millions of people globally. He has held senior management roles in Europe and Australia. Ian is considered a thought leader in the Digital Economy and is a regular speaker on big data, broadband-enabled services and the impact of technology on society.

When talking about analytics from an NSW perspective during the pandemic, the first thing that comes to Ian’s mind was how the community and organisations began to appreciate the “art of the possible”, the power of predictive data analytics and what they could with it. People were starting to realise that their activities could be supercharged by having access to data.

For example, the NSW authorities started exploring data that showed the movement of people in the community whilst still protecting individual privacy. The government needed to know if people were following COVID-19 movement restrictions, if they were staying at home or if they were going out. If they were venturing out, how far did they move away from their home region (SA2)? This insight could help them make decisions on community-related restrictions based on the level of compliance.

The pandemic also changed the timeframe on which people operate. By understanding these different timeframes using data analytics, authorities could determine initiatives and guidelines that matched people’s routines and tailor-fit them to different communities and individuals.

As an example, the NSW government launched an AI Strategy programme to improve service delivery and government decision-making. Undeniably, AI and data analytics played a key role in automating inefficient and manual processes to deliver better services to citizens and freed up staff time for more critical or frontline work. The programme also assisted in decision-making around resource allocation based on community need.

NSW has been working on privacy-preserving data sharing frameworks for quite a long time but there was not a lot of traction even though they incorporated more deliberate and strategic ways of sharing data.  When COVID-19 struck, suddenly all these data-sharing frameworks were in great demand from a range of entities. People looking for these frameworks realised they were readily available with the government and were eager to use them.

In the hour of need, a lot of data sharing happened; but there remained concerns about sensitive data and personal information in data being shared. Knowing this, the NSW government started to implement modified versions of the data-sharing frameworks which had been developed. Extra restrictions were put in place to protect sensitive data including the use of the Personal Information Factor (PIF) tool[1].

Another NSW government programme is the Smart Places Strategy that has been designed to deliver outcomes to benefit the citizens, businesses, employees and partners. With a citizen-centric view, it builds on years of work and enhanced by digital twins, data sharing, security and privacy.

The outcomes span six key areas and were developed using insights from engagement with communities across regional and metropolitan NSW. The Smart Places Strategy focuses on:

  • Skills, jobs, and development: grow knowledge capital of people and businesses in NSW to benefit from the transition of the global economy
  • Safety and security: provide safer places for people and increase a sense of security
  • Environmental quality: (increase sustainability by reducing emissions, resource consumption and environmental impacts
  • Equity, accessibility, and inclusion: will improve physical and digital access for the people of NSW to participate in economic and civic life
  • Health and well-being: improve the quality of life and well-being for the people of NSW
  • Collaboration and connection: bring people, businesses and governments, their data, and services together in a seamless way

Data analytics played a role regarding the cultural shift of working from home/remotely during the pandemic, Ian felt.

Undeniably, the remote working setup was beneficial for society and it perfectly showed that could be done to adapt to a situation. The pressure of working continuously along with the constant struggle of adopting technologies took a toll. As time went by, other challenges started emerging. Employees not in close contact with each other daily experienced an erosion of interpersonal relationships and team dynamic started to fray.

In its bid to aid economic recovery, some parts of the NSW government are starting to mandate its workers to return to the offices at least three days a week. However, recent analysis from NSW’s Productivity team[2] has highlighted that there is indeed an increase in productivity associated with working remotely. So, to reap the benefits of both working setups, a split schedule between working on-site and working remotely was recommended. Adopting a hybrid working environment can help in terms of mitigating the spread of the virus, building back the economy, and improving the camaraderie and welfare of the workforce, all at the same time.

The NSW government is continuously moving forward with data sharing as it is increasingly becoming a part of daily life. However, Ian confirmed, there is a long way to go in this journey. One area they work on consistently is gaining public trust concerning the use and sharing of data by increasing their level of transparency.

Ian firmly believes that efficiency, wider access and keen insights are all to be had with data and data analytics, “Data sharing makes things smart and we should never let a good idea go unborrowed”.

The end goal is, after all, he says, to use the data for the improvement of public services and the benefit of the citizens.

[1] See for example

The global pandemic caught everyone by surprise, accelerating the digital transformation plans of both governments and private organisations. As the world enters what will hopefully be the home stretch of the pandemic battle – the vaccination stage – both sectors are still looking for ways to efficiently deliver and implement their programmes.

Dr Steve Bennett, Director for Global Practice, SAS

OpenGov Asia had a chance to speak exclusively with Dr Steve Bennett. With deep experience in biosurveillance gained from the various leadership roles during his 12 years at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Steve was able to share rare perspectives in managing disruptions on a global scale such as COVID-19.

He also brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the hat he current wears as Director, Global Government Practice, SAS. A global leader in analytics for organisations seeking immediate value from their data, SAS has a deep toolbox of analytics solutions and broad industry knowledge. Through SAS’ offerings, organisations gain actionable insights from their data and make sense of it all. Identify what is working and fix what is not, make more intelligent decisions, and drive relevant change.

Steve acknowledged that they have known for a long time that the world was susceptible to a pandemic be it in any form. He said that when the news came from China, the first global news in pro-med, they hoped that it would be contained, but, alas, that was not to be.

For SAS as an organisation, the urgent focus was on safety and continuity of operations. Their initial thought went to what the negative effects of the pandemic would be on their global team. A multinational company with 14,000 engaged across the globe, there were incredible ramifications for employees and other staff.

At the same time that continuity of operations was being managed, SAS was working hard to find ways to get in the fight against COVID-19 and help.  Initially, the company’s efforts and ideas, while valuable, were uncoordinated.  For Steve, with his experience in dealing with disruptive events, he was able to bring rationale and calmness to the situation. Familiar with a way to manage such scenarios – the Incident Command System (ICS) – he proposed its deployment within SAS. It can orient and deliver information in an efficient manner that cuts through bureaucracy and red tape. This system is globally recognised and is widely used by governments as they manage natural disasters, as well as many industries.

The ICS was SAS’s initial answer to the pandemic, and for them, it changed the way they function and to further adapt to the new normal. After the recommendation, Steve found himself leading SAS’s global response. He spearheaded the development of a system that could cater to the needs of the healthcare sector and government as it rallied to meet the pandemic head-on. With the intention of getting software and tools into the hands of people on the front line that needed it as quickly as possible, the team had to work overtime.

Steve highlighted critical areas where SAS could make a significant difference amid the crisis. Optimising the use of medical resources, dashboard and data visualisation and helping governments distribute benefits. Intentionally, they focused on a handful of things to develop the right applications to support these areas efficiently rather than tackling hundreds of use-cases.

The development of systems to manage limited medical resources, such as ICU beds and ventilators for several countries, proved to be vital. Added to this were their data visualisation and situational awareness programmes. These solutions helped bring a snapshot perspective for governments trying to determine their stock of masks for distribution, available beds, ventilators to deploy, etc. SAS’ simple data dashboards helped connect such critical information, for the first time, in an easy-to-view map. It worked wonders for senior government leaders, allowing them to see all the relevant data in one place; and that led to making better, data-driven, informed decisions.

Beyond a doubt, Steve feels, the real challenge for governments is that their data is spread across multiple channels which is compounded by a lack of process (or desire) for integration. This deadly combination hinders the process.

Public sector agencies should welcome the idea of utilising a system that would take all that disorganisation, duplicity and disinclination and make it work together in one platform. The idea of shared value goes a long way, not only for its citizens but also for the agency – those who recognise that that the visualisation of data will enable them to function better.

Big advocates for using data analytics to aid government benefits programmes, Steve confirmed that they championed a process called “Saving Lives and Livelihoods”. While they wanted to cater to the health sector, they also wanted to incorporate data analytics to protect precious resources.

The company helped governments to distribute benefits – quickly and effectively – prioritising needs. Their solutions helped agencies differentiate between those who needed the benefits immediately and were qualified and those who were not. This not only allowed for significant savings but provided efficient triaging – saving lives and livelihoods.

Steve touched on the role that AI plays in all these initiatives and conceded that artificial intelligence is an essential part of all of their platforms and solutions. Not merely in managing the current pandemic but efforts are underway to leverage AI and machine learning to detect and prevent the next one.

The accepted theory for how the COVID-19 pandemic originated is the close contact between people and animals in a particular environment. Fed with the right data and appropriate parameters, AI can be used to predict hotspots in the world which could be the source of the next pandemic. While it may not prevent one, it can provide lead time to pre-deploy health resources in places where a contagion could break out.

Essentially for SAS, AI can aid pandemic prevention and early detection efforts. The key in this high-stakes situation is all about being early – Steve talked about examples from his time in government in which AI and machine learning helped detect very faint signals and trends in the data much earlier than the post-facto, large signal from hospitals three weeks later when everybody is showing up sick.

As vaccination programmes are being rolled out across the world, the pandemic seems to be on its tail-end. However, the implementation of a vaccine rollout is “the greatest logistics mobilisation since World War II and (we are) trying to move things on an unprecedented scale”.

For SAS, their contribution to these initiatives is developing tools that optimise the roll-out of limited vaccines, that manage logistics and supply chain and programmes on data analytics that will drive better decisions on how to roll out the vaccine in a secured manner.

Steve recommends governments augment their large amounts of internal data with non-traditional data sources like telecommunications and consumer data, (while at the same time valuing privacy), to understand what populations are at risk. SAS empowers the government with the data sources and links that data together for them. They also advise governments to offer citizens easy to use options for vaccination registration.

Steve and SAS are optimistic about the future as vaccine rollouts are commencing worldwide. While it may take longer than everyone would like, they believe that countries can turn the tide in their favour sooner than later. Steve mentioned that preliminary modelling for COVID-19 seems to indicated that about 50%-80% of the population need vaccination to achieve “herd immunity,” where the spread of the infection beings to plummet. At the same time, there are concerns that COVID-19 might turn into something like the seasonal flu where people must get shots all year round and live with it.

In the end, Steve believes that everyone should be ready for the next outbreak. Governments and organisations must learn lessons on the development of vaccines and solutions for viruses using various technologies available.

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted lives across the world and will continue to do so for a considerable time to come. Multiple waves of the infections, new lockdown and fresh mitigation measures seem to be the order of the day. In this context, it is important to try and get a semblance of normalcy where possible. One way forward is digitally enabled solutions.

OpenGov Asia and SAS have partnered to create content-rich and engaging online interactive and engaging virtual events across ASEAN via OpenGovLive! – OpenGov Asia’s in-house, dedicated platform. Aimed at providing senior digital executives access to cutting-edge technology and solutions, the sessions are invitation-only.

Details of the various events can be found below:

Federal, state and territory leaders have agreed to create an intergovernmental agreement to facilitate greater data sharing between all levels of government. The plan for the high-level agreement, which is still to be developed, was endorsed at a meeting of the national cabinet on 9 April 2021.

The Prime Minister stated that the national cabinet agreed that jurisdictions will work together to capitalise on the value of public data to achieve better outcomes for Australians. He noted that to achieve this, first ministers [and state and territory premiers] committed to developing an intergovernmental agreement which will be considered at a future national cabinet meeting.

While details are limited, the pact will likely make it easier for federal, state and territory government to share data, building on efforts with health and travel data during Covid-19.

The planned agreement would likely work alongside the Data Availability and Transparency Bill, which is currently before federal parliament. The legislation aims to streamline data sharing between governments and the private sector, overriding some 500 provisions in 175 pieces of existing legislation.

However, it faces calls for amendments from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Australian Medical Association and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

The Australian Financial Review is also reporting that the agreement can be expected to lay the foundations for linked-up government services around key life events or journeys.

It means citizens could interact with government services across all tiers using one-stops shops like the federal government’s myGov or the NSW government’s MyServiceNSW.

myGov is already undergoing a major overhaul – for $35 million to date – to align services more closely with life events while offering a personalised view of interactions.

Data sharing has long been a focus of discussion for federal, state and territory digital ministers at the data and digital minister’s meeting.

At the last meeting in February, discussions centred on “how to meet the data needs of decision-makers across jurisdictions, including through better data sharing”.

The communique notes that improved data sharing can boost the economy and lead to better service design and delivery.

One dataset that is advancing the conversation is the national disability data asset, which is paving the way for a federation-wide view of the disability sector.

The asset – which digital ministers agreed to established in September 2019 – incorporates datasets from the federal, NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australian governments. Other areas front of mind for data sharing include emergency services, with the recent commitment to develop a national multi-hazards warning service for natural disasters.

Demand for smart city initiatives rising

Enhanced data sharing capabilities between various governmental levels and departments is key to creating smart cities and a smart nation overall.

An earlier article notes that despite posing significant hurdles to cities worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a wave of innovation that will continue after the crisis, according to research from a global think tank.

The ‘Smart City Solutions for a Riskier World’ study underscores the vital role that technology, data, cybersecurity and public-private partnerships play to ensure a healthy, safe and prosperous future for citizens after the pandemic.

The research, conducted in August and September 2020, included a survey of senior officials from 167 cities across 82 countries, including Asia, North and Latin America, MENA, Europe and Africa. The cities represented 526 million people or 6.8% of the world’s population; 53% of these cities are in emerging markets and 47% in developed countries.

The survey categorises cities based on progress in two categories: progress in applying smart solutions, with cities classified as either ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’ or ‘leader’; and progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with cities classified as either ‘implementer’, ‘advancer’ or ‘sprinter’. Cities that excelled in both areas were considered Cities 4.0 — hyperconnected cities that are sustainable and well ahead in the use of technology, data and citizen engagement.

For 65% of city officials, the pandemic underscored the importance of smart city programs, while 43% learned the importance of operational continuity and agility. For 37% of city leaders, the pandemic also highlighted the need to invest more in upgrading core infrastructure.

For 88% of city leaders, investing in cloud platforms is urgently needed to deliver critical and non-critical citizen services. The survey also found that 66% of cities are investing heavily in AI, with 80% forecast to do so over the next three years, especially in the area of digital assistants and chatbots. Meanwhile, 30% of cities will invest in digital twins, marking a 300% increase from the 11% currently investing in this technology. Research also indicates that 100% of Cities 4.0 have already invested in cloud; based on reported ROI estimates, the average return on digital infrastructure investments made by Cities 4.0 is 5.74%.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 2 here.

COVID-19 has advanced digital transition by years and has foundationally altered the way both the public and private sector across the world deliver services, products and programmes. Government agencies and institutions have fast-tracked digitisation of internal operations and delivery of citizen services. Businesses made temporary solutions, that are morphing into more permanent ones, to meet changing and new demands – far more quickly than was thought possible before the crisis.

Yet, to stay relevant, competitive and, indeed, survive,  in this new business and economic environment, requires adopting new technologies, formulating evolving strategies and deploying best practices. In this increasingly VUCA world, governments and businesses across the globe are looking to ramp up their digital transformation to better citizens and clients in the post-COVID-19 era. This was the focal point of the discussion during the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition Day 1 that brought the key decision-makers and influencers together for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most.

Convening the brightest digital minds for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most, the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum offered a unique way of tackling challenges in its virtual edition. Intentionally planned, every activity and facet of the event was designed to let delegates garner exclusive insights from the digital leaders as well as demonstrate their thought-leadership.

As always, the forum provided intimate interaction between key ICT leaders from the Public Sector and the Financial Services Industry who influence and determine digital strategies across agencies and organisations.

Apart from informative presentations from renowned speakers, this year’s Forum continued its award-winning OpenGov Gamification Table (OGT) format in the new OpenGov Gamification Virtual Rooms (OGVRs). Every OpenGov Gamification Virtual Room was a virtual heuristic exercise allowing delegates to learn from varying decision-making scenarios just as they would in the physical world.

Digital transformation in the new normal

Mohit Sagar: Keep your glasses full and always find the right partners for your Digital Transformation journeys

To kickstart the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia delivered his opening remarks.

As early as 2018, there was consensus on the benefits of remote working and discussion on how to bring this about effectively and securely – but it did not happen in any significant way. Then, at the end of 2019 came a crisis so debilitating that it forced the world to come to a grinding halt almost overnight. Hit by COVID-19, the virus respected no borders, industries or community – devastating all with equal ferocity.

The public and the private sectors worked independently and together to fight the pandemic, coming up with a slew of ad-hoc solutions. Digital initiatives and tech platforms were launched left and right. The demand on the public sector shot up dramatically as citizens, forced to stay at home, looked to the government for necessities to survive.  Compounding the situation was the need to urgently manage the sick, the vulnerable and the inaccessible population.

In the early stages, people were excited at the opportunity to work from home, a shift that had been in the offing for a while. Interestingly though, the step was considered a “pivot” – with the connotation of reaction rather than strategic. People and organisations were said to be “pivoting” to manage and mitigate the issues the pandemic brought.

Beyond a doubt, both sectors did their jobs in terms of providing relevant programmes and initiatives throughout the age of COVID-19. But the question remains, were those initiatives innovative and intentional? Was enough done with the available tech? Additionally, as the initial euphoria of remote working wears thin, people, once happy about the shift, realise that the new normal disrupts their work-life balance and their well-being.

The good brings with it the bad, the unsafe and the difficult.  Deployment, in normal circumstances, of technology like AI, Cloud and Data Analytics are accompanied by cybersecurity challenges.  In the pandemic where almost everything has moved online, cybercrime has mushroomed astronomically.

Knowing this, Mohit challenged the delegates, if you put digital transformation at the heart of your plan, is everything going to be magically in place? Or do we need to take technologies more seriously?

Organisations and institutions must find the right balance in their digital transformation journey using technology. They must also find leadership to achieve the ultimate end goal of a complete digital transformation in the new normal.

In closing, Mohit emphasised the need for agencies and organisations to find the right partner in this digital journey. Not just from the tech sector, but also the government, banking and FSI, to ensure that everyone is on the right path to an ideal digital transformation.

Public services at the centre of digital transformation in the post-COVID-19 era

Encik Azih Bin Yusof: Setting a vision for the future is a key factor in ensuring a sustainable Digital Government

After Mohit’s opening remarks, the forum heard from Azih Bin Yusof, Deputy Director-General, Information and Communication Technology, Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit.

Confirmed by the World Health Organisation on January 12, 2020, Azih acknowledged that the pandemic took the world by storm. In Malaysia, the government enforced a Movement Control Order that started on March 18, 2020, to break the chain of COVID-19. As of February 28, 2021, the nation reported two waves of COVID-19, with the first wave being successfully suppressed in less than 2 months.

Right from the start, as would be expected, there was increased demand for services and rising expectations of virtual services. As remote working became a necessity, there was an urgent need to test the resilience of working virtually and the need to protect data. Additionally, other disrupted sectors were looking to the government to provide adaptive and dynamic regulatory models.

Making the best of the situation, the Malaysian government took the crisis as an opportunities to move towards digital technology to enable government service in the future, fundamentally reshaping the government’s workforce and reinventing the future of regulations.

Azih shared the various initiatives taken by his government to combat the effects of the pandemic. MySejahtera is an application to assist in monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. It allows users to assess their health risk against COVID-19 and provides the Ministry of Health with the necessary information to plan for early and effective countermeasures and registering for vaccination. The government also launched a National Data Analysis Centre (DOSM) and the Public Sector Data Sharing Policy.

The government has been strong on adopting emerging technologies such as Facial Recognition tech, AI and Automation, a National Digital ID system and big data analytics to improve efficiency and productivity. They improved the government service delivery system through increased digitisation of services.

Malaysia is also focused on digital infrastructure, including their Hybrid Cloud collaboration between private cloud and public cloud systems. The Cloud Service Provider (CSP) services cover Infrastructure as A Service (IAAS), Platform as A Service (PaaS), and Software as A Service (SaaS). MAMPU also implemented a Cloud-First Policy where the value of cloud computing is magnified by requiring agencies to evaluate safe, secure, cloud computing options before making any new investments.

Malaysia aspires to compete and succeed in this new world by ensuring ‘Kemakmuran Bersama’ (Shared Prosperity). The nation firmly believes that digital government plays a critical role in the new normal and should focus on its digital leadership, data, services, infrastructure, and innovation. To this end, it has empowered MAMPU as the sole agency to drive the public sector digital transformation agenda.

Azih conceded that a viable digital government must provide platforms for small scale innovations, improve existing business process, new solutions, develop talent and disperse capabilities. It must have a vision for the future that defines the leadership and collaboration needed between all stakeholders.

COVID-19 impacts on Data Collection, Digitisation and Analytics

After the informative presentation from Azih, the forum moved to a presentation from J.R Helmig, Innovation Lead Global Security Intelligence SAS Institute on how the pandemic affected data collection, digitisation, and analytics.

J.R started by confirming that people, processes, tech, and data make up the ecosystem of data analytics. Analytical foundations, practical outcomes and future-focussed mindsets must take the helm in an effective ecosystem. While not all analytical opportunities apply to all locations, organisations or agencies every time, they are critical to success overall.

COVID-19 accelerated the need for a viable ecosystem of data analytics – not only in terms of healthcare, workforce, and public services but also to combat the rise of online fraud and cybercrimes. Data standardisation and modernisation with proper training would be key to combat these crimes in addition to automating investigative responses.

It was pertinent to note, pre-COVID problems still exist in current analytical efforts. Challenges such as the high volume of incoming data, low quality of incoming report data, a wide variety of data sources being manually integrated, inefficient ways to investigate and handle suspicious cases, limited resources with increasing pressure to perform more efficiently and effectively, manual checks of technical matches to identify the right business match, limited analytics capabilities to identify and analyse networks and relationships and so on.

Organisations must go from being reactive to being observant of what is happening to shape future outcomes. J.R and his team help create an analytical pathway that helps organisations identify their analytical baseline. This analytic continuum acts as the knowledge hub or library for organisations. This greatly reduces tech implementation risks as well as costs.

J.R suggested that organisations should adopt a case management system. An effective case management system must generate solutions whether be it automatically or manually. It must also be populated with any of the data available in the solution that is needed to successfully the desired result.

J.R encouraged everyone to predict and plan their new normal. They should be proactive with ongoing issues such as facial recognition efforts, fake personal protective equipment, news to manipulate stock prices, threats to military readiness or asymmetrical national security threats, just to name a few. Every organisation must anticipate criminality during COVID – both near term and long term – for both direct and indirect impacts, document and improve business processes during the recovery period, and plan for ongoing change – in business operations and consumer behaviour.

What makes Digital Transformation Successful and Sustainable

Dr Dzaharudin Mansor: COVID-19 has pushed us to transform and moved us forward

Moving on from the informative presentation of J.R Helmig, the delegates had an opportunity to hear from Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Malaysia.

AI and Automation kick-started during the 4th industrial revolution, and digital transformation is right at the centre of that change, was his opening premise.  In today’s day and age, the competition between tech companies and organisations have changed because various transformative technologies are now democratised. Smartphones, drones, sensors, 3D printers, industrial robotics, solar-powered systems, mixed realities, and DNA sequencing are all made available to each user given by different companies, regardless of their structure.

With the increased adoption of these technologies, there are socio-economic trends that drive the need for digital government. The increase in expectations of digital culture is such that everyone expects the ability to interact and receive services in a fully digital operating model.

Cultural migration and urbanisation, where personal mobility creates multi-cultural urban centres, require new models to communicate and serve diverse populations. Citizen trust in government s fundamental – if citizens perceive a lack of digital maturity as an issue of competence it generates distrust in government.

Local and regional economies failing to effectively maintain public systems and infrastructure, create hurdles in attracting businesses and residents. Knowing all these factors, governments need to embrace digital transformation to stay relevant. To be efficient and effective in today’s complex, interlinked and fast-changing environment, governments need to redesign their structures and processes to capitalise on a new set of actors and tools.

Dr Mansor mentioned six tech trends that can enable an open digital government.

  1. Cloud provides an agile, flexible platform with unlimited scale for innovating quickly, maintaining compliance, and adapting to the latest security threats.
  2. Open data and advanced analytics paves way for new capabilities for analytics allowing significant improvements in decision making, performance analysis, policy development and financial management.
  3. AI maturity presents the capability to deliver and govern new models for community living, ranging from transportation optimisation to environmental stewardship.
  4. Service architecture with new design models allows rapid improvement of services by creating small applications that leverage an integrated data platform (moving away from silos).
  5. Cybersecurity implies governments can be trusted with public data.
  6. Mobility, where hardware tools and software platforms support the ability for many jobs to be performed in remote locations and with virtual communications.

Governments can adapt and become more resilient in the new normal by thinking in three basic phases. The first is to respond and navigate the flow of events. Adapt and respond to immediate challenges in real-time, enable remote work, maintain productivity and business continuity. The second is to recover and plan the comeback. Return business to scale quickly, adapt products, services, and business models, focus on value and cost reduction, restart customer demand. The third is to reimagine and shape the new normal. Reimagine and position people, processes, and technology for growth and new opportunities to build resilience post-COVID-19.

Artificial Intelligence and Automation

Peter Buckmaster: COVID-19 accelerated us to the future and boosted tech adoptions allowing innovation

Taking over, Peter Buckmaster, Director of Digital Experience Design Department of Education New South Wales discussed how Artificial Intelligence has now a part of normal life and specifically education – where traditional methods are changing drastically.

Peter started by saying that AI began in classical philosophy to describe human thinking in a symbolic system. In Jungian psychology, symbols, (and is by interpreting these), symbols were a primary method for making sense of the world. They represented meaning, information and actions. In technology, AI is a machines’ ability to simulate natural intelligence (NI).

AI changing the way we interact and AI changing the way education is delivered. The evolution of AI and Automation has influenced the education sector in many ways. Cognitive Intelligence now plays multiple roles in the sector including grade assessments, improving personalised learning, facilitating connected analytics and programming.

Peter agreed that the academic world is becoming more convenient and personalised thanks to the numerous applications of AI for education and as educational material becomes accessible to all through different technologies.

The usage of bots and automation in the education sector has become widespread while AI and automation are being increasingly used in transcription. AI automates administrative duties, minimising the need for staff to complete mundane, repetitive tasks thus freeing educators to spend more quality time with students.

Customers, (citizens, customers or students), in the new normal expect to engage with service providers 24/7. Digital transformation is the way to be always on and its efficiency is moving us past simple automation to RF and cognitive intelligence. It changes the way education is developed and redefines the way we teach.

Increasing Your Agility with Multi-Cloud Flexibility

Ryan Tassotti: The future is hybrid and multi-cloud

After Peter Buckmaster, the delegates were given a presentation from Ryan Tassotti, Enterprise Architect and Principal Engineer, Dell Technologies on how organisations can increase their agility by utilising multi-cloud systems.

Ryan defines the cloud as an on-demand self-service that has broad network access, resource pooling capability, rapid elasticity and can measure services. The cloud has four deployment models – private cloud, community cloud, public cloud and hybrid cloud. The Top 3 objectives driving cloud spending for Asia Pacific’s customers are New technology, Digital Transformation and Cloud-First Strategy.

As an example of Cloud-first policies, Ryan pointed to Malaysia’s MyDigital blueprint. This framework accelerated innovation in the country, allowed eCommerce imperatives for micro and SMEs and promoted better experiences for its citizens.

The fact is, Ryan noted, that the pandemic ushered the world into a new era. The new normal brings new demands and the cloud is set to provide solutions to these new necessities. The world has made a paradigm shift and digital transformation must accelerate with it. Close to three-quarters (74%) of all organisations are investing in on-demand digital services, two-thirds ( 65%) of global GDP will be from digital by 2022 and on-demand models by 2023 will be 15%, up from less than 1% in 2019.

A recent survey of 900 IT leaders across verticals and regions found that 96% of organisations have an executive mandate to leverage cloud technologies. While 89% plan to deploy private cloud infrastructure in the next 12 months, 76% of organisations will leverage multiple clouds environments over the next two years.

Utilising a multi-cloud strategy caters to different workloads. Some organisations value performance, some prioritise data services, while some look at costs and data sovereignty. While hybrid-cloud seems to be the way forward,  a hybrid-cloud platform must bring stability. It must stabilise workloads, apps, and data spread across multiple clouds – all in all, a consistent cloud experience for everything.

Ryan advised organisations to find partners in cloud adoption. “There are experts who can help you migrate without pain – why do it alone?”

Cloud adopters must ensure that the platform is consistent throughout. They must avoid hiccups throughout an application’s lifecycle with platforms that extend seamlessly, End-users do not want to be surprised by a new management interface so they must be informed.

Ryan and his team in Dell Technologies promote consistency. They facilitate consulting services, deployment services that accelerate technology adoption, managed services realising digital transformation value for client systems, storage, backup, and converged infrastructure, and education services that develop and retain valuable IT talent through continuous learning.

Ryan is firmly convinced that the future is hybrid, the future is multi-cloud and the Malaysia MyDigital blueprint embraces these advancements.

Cloud Computing for Service Innovation

Prof. Eric Tsui: The cloud is the perfect knowledge storm

Ryan Tassotti’s presentation was followed by one from Prof Eric Tsui, Professor and Co-Chair on Deployment of E-Learning, Hong Kong Polytechnic University who discussed how organisations must use the cloud for service innovation.

Using the cloud to manage data is no longer an option, it has become imperative for organisations today.  This is more so for the public sector that is striving to stay agile and ensure seamless service delivery to the citizens while continuing to innovating concurrently.

Prof Eric felt that the cloud was the perfect knowledge storm; meaning, data growth from IoT and social media, application and tools in the cloud are growing as time goes by. However, software and hardware alone are not enough to create a successful cloud system. Organisations must know that the people accessing services via the cloud are as important as the tech itself. A trusted network of people and computational resources must be integrated to mix to make the cloud the best digital business model available.

Pertinently, there are different types of cloud connections. First is the machine-to-machine, where hardware is king; second is people-to-machine, where people are utilising services; and lastly is the people-to-people connection where users create their networks using the cloud.

Eric reiterated that The Knowledge Cloud is more than just hardware and software. It encompasses people that invest their trust in the technology and involves the storage of data vital to organisations conducting their digital transformation. People build communities for problem-solving, utilising social media for marketing, exploring, and building new business models, executing strategies at low risk and in real-time, and delivering personalised services.

In light of this, organisations must think outside the box. Cloud technology is disruptive. Adopters must perceive the cloud as a massively scalable backend resource with low upfront costs. They must perceive the cloud as an intelligent knowledge centre with massive data and problem-solving skills such as processors and human integration needs, that has a dynamic computational power.

Eric stressed the key concepts in service innovation – the co-creation of value, dynamic capabilities, enabling vs disruptive, open business models and customer experience. Cloud technology is the perfect digital adjustment to these key concepts.

Organisations use the cloud for cost reduction and data integration, innovation and transforming new segments using the knowledge cloud. But there must be a collaborative effort to achieve higher rewards from the tech. The integration of humans to solve complex problems using the cloud, letting the computer do the problem solving that it is capable to do, and the integration between humans and computers to create solutions.

Eric concluded his presentation by sharing various cloud service providers that organisations could partner with on their journey in cloud adoption and digital transformation in the new normal.

Embracing Big Data and Analytics Today for a Resilient Tomorrow

Brett Aimers: Big Data and Analytics save lives and drive economic recovery

Brett Aimers, Adjunct Associate Professor, James Cook University Australia followed Eric with a presentation about Big Data and Analytics, exploring how to embrace big data and analytics today for a more resilient tomorrow.

Setting the tone for his session, Brett said major disasters would occur more frequently as time goes by. While COVID-19 has, undoubtedly, been the most disruptive global event since World War II, climate and weather patterns are changing adversely. Therefore, thinking about a resilient society is simply not enough.

In 2019, 396 natural disasters occurred across the globe. Costing more than US$ 146 billion, over 12,000 people lost their lives in these disasters. In a more regional context, Asia experienced 40% of natural disasters and 45% of all attributed deaths in the same year.

With data and information on hand, organisations must utilise big data and analytics more effectively to predict critical events and their impact; and must share this information. Big data, analytics and information sharing are key to survival and economic recovery.

Major disasters lead to major disruptions, loss of life, a sense of helplessness and lack of trust. Big Data and Analytics can create countermeasures to help mitigate these – early detection, advanced warning, maps and layers, decision making and effective communication – creating confidence within the community.

Decision-makers get relevant and timely insights about possible disasters, enabling early decision making that can protect critical assets, (including relocation of their resources) contribute to impact assessment and support economic recovery.

Brett urged the public and private sectors to acknowledge the significant drivers for change. The first is that research indicates that two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by 2050. Another is that spending on disaster recovery is nine times higher than spending on prevention…literally, a stitch in time saves nine.

Brett concluded his presentation on a positive note. While COVID-19 may have an end date, climate change and natural disasters – of the scale critical events are inevitable. But big data, analytics and efficient information sharing can save lives and promote economic recovery.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 2 here.

This is Part 2 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 1 here.

In an increasingly VUCA world, governments and businesses across the globe are looking to ramp up their digital transformation to better serve citizens and clients in the post-COVID-19 era. This was the focal point of the discussion during the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition Day 2 that brought the over 100 key decision-makers and influencers together for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most.

Convening the brightest digital minds for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most, the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum offered a unique way of tackling challenges in its virtual edition. Intentionally planned, every activity and facet of the event was designed to let delegates garner exclusive insights from the digital leaders as well as demonstrate their thought-leadership.

As always, the forum provided intimate interaction between key ICT leaders from the Public Sector and the Financial Services Industry who influence and determine digital strategies across agencies and organisations.

Apart from informative presentations from renowned speakers, this year’s Forum continued its award-winning OpenGov Gamification Table (OGT) format in the new OpenGov Gamification Virtual Rooms (OGVRs). Every OpenGov Gamification Virtual Room was a virtual heuristic exercise allowing delegates to learn from varying decision-making scenarios just as they would in the physical world.

Digital Security Landscape in the Current Environment

Lauri Luht: We need to involve societies to create a collective brain in dealing with cybersecurity

Continuing the lively discussion of the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition, Day 2 started with a presentation from Lauri Luht, Head of National Situation Centre Estonian Government Office on the digital security landscape in the new normal.

Lauri opened by sharing some reasons why organisations may not be as resilient as they want to be. One issue is the gap between the advancement of technologies and policy. The fundamental disconnect between the position of the policymakers on why, how and what cyber resilience constitutes and the vision of technology innovators and disruptors.

Lauri felt for too many years there has been a lack of genuine focus on cybersecurity operations. Solutions involving operations, operational thinking, translations/explanations between tech and policy must all be implemented to improve overall cyber resiliency.

Additionally, governments must scale up critical security infrastructure. Even as organisations adopt a new culture with resiliency at its centre, all processes should be (re)designed to address different threats.

Another key to bridging the gap between tech and policy is education and awareness. Every stakeholder, from the policymaker to citizen must be aware of the importance of cybersecurity.

All in all, cyber defence is total defence.

Organisations can become resilient by focusing on practical organisational issues, expectations and roles of stakeholders, practical exercises and pieces of training that are scalable. The focus should be on:

  1. challenging themselves in areas prone to failure
  2. interdisciplinary measures to know which capabilities are needed
  3. inter-sectoral approach to determine who the stakeholders are and
  4. knowing the practical reasons on why and how these exercises help cyber resiliency

The end goal is to have a resilient community and a “collective brain”. Organisations must emphasise preparedness and not only prevention. It is essential to build an agile security organisation rather than following clumsy systems and principles – and innovation is the key to achieving true cyber resiliency.

Lauri acknowledged that the cyber attackers and cyber threats will not go away. Knowing this, organisations must exhaust all efforts in trying to mitigate the effects of these possible incidents. Those who are less prepared are more vulnerable.

He encouraged organisations to build international alliances and work with like-minded countries across the world. Alliances are built on practicality and not solely on declarations; further, organisations must practice transparency in all aspects.

Digital services are used by people and not by machines. Thus the goal of a transparent risk management system is to ensure that the whole of society understands the processes. If they do, they can act appropriately and with conviction. Policymakers must understand that digital matters are societal matters. Open and honest communication about risk and emergencies should be considered an asset, not a liability; problems need fixing, not hiding.

Lauri is adamant that leaders should involve stakeholders from the beginning of each process. They must do more for and ask more of their allies in the industry, build strong political engagement and commitment, and trust partners and society as nothing can be without them. Organisations need to work with society to properly tackle different threats and emergencies.

In a broader approach, cyber resiliency is not just about computer emergency. Cybersafety should be part of all security. Cyber initiatives must encompass the vulnerability of society, societal awareness and societal threats.

Concluding, Lauri acknowledged that there would always be growing complexities that result in challenges with society having growing dependencies and interdependencies. Organisations must understand that isolation is an expensive stagnation when it comes to resiliency. Knowing each other is important – as the best collective brain wins.

Smarter, Safer, and Resilient Cities: Re-opening Cities in the Face of COVID-19

Sameer Sharma: Think big, start small, and move fast

After the informative presentation from Lauri Luht, the forum welcomed Sameer Sharma, Global General Manager, Smart Cities, Intelligent Transportation & IoT, Intel Corporation. His session revolved around smarter, safer, and resilient cities and the re-opening cities in the face of COVID-19.

Data clearly shows there is an explosion in populations in major cities all over the world; 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. With this surge, governments have been striving to find ways to make urban systems and infrastructure more efficient and effective. However, with COVID-19 hitting the world at the end of 2019 Q4, it has created a major pause in city innovation in specific areas.

The rapid spread of the virus affected countries globally on a massive scale. It severely hit areas like trade where the value of global exports increased by 4,000% in the last century; and the travel industry where 4.5 Billion passengers boarded flights in 2019 pre-COVID. And on a personal level, human interaction was also reduced by the pandemic.

The pandemic made governments and policymakers looked at their vision for cities – such as better access to education, better healthcare and more opportunities for their citizens – in a whole new light.

Across the world, there are currently 33 megacities (>10 million people), 4,000 cities with 100K+ population and 2.5M towns. Serving this global population are 1.4 billion cars, 246 million trucks, 17 million buses, over 50,000 ships, 25,000 commercial planes and 1.3 million kilometres of railways.

All of these have to be and can be managed even in an ongoing crisis. Improving and strengthening cities where the working society is in will be the key and, in the age of COVID-19, Sameer is convinced, that resilience will be critical; new threats and challenges must be anticipated and planned for.

Agencies and organisations across the board have tried to mitigate the effects of the pandemic by using technologies and new operational frameworks. Sameer reminded the delegates that legacy infrastructure cannot scale but disruptive technologies can make everything possible. Digital technologies must overlay the physical world, especially cities.

COVID-19 created shifted the focus specific sector improvement to overall infrastructure upgrade – that is, transforming ‘spaces’ to ‘smart spaces’. It is imperative to learn how to adopt technologies like AI, Cloud, 5G and IoT.

With the re-opening of the economy, safety and sanitisation will take precedence. Automated air filtration systems will be the norm in offices, commercial spaces and industries where the physical presence of people is a must.

Organisations that use these spaces can utilise technology to upgrade their infrastructure. There is a plethora of tech-based solutions that enable smarter spaces: automated room access, keyless and touchless entry, touchless and on-demand elevators, ambient temperature control, fresh air circulation and quality monitoring, UVD disinfecting robotics, face mask and fever detection using AI, people-counting and spacing-analytics and digital contact tracing initiatives just to name a few.

With fears of the virus in public transport, for local, shorter commutes, most likely, people will use personal vehicles. Where longer travel is necessary by air, road, rail or sea, security agencies will add healthcare checks and screenings.

Schools and universities will opt to use online tools; hotels and restaurants will transition to digital menus, delivery models and contactless payments; retail will be increasingly driven online.

Intel’s Smart City Vision, Sameer shared, is built on effective policies, governance and financing. Transportation, buildings and energy, environment, healthcare, public services and homes stress citizen wellbeing and safety. Intel is a strong advocate for and champions the use of sensors and edge computing, wireless tech, access and core networks, cloud and analytics and AI and Automation to achieve their dreams of a Smart City.

Nations must understand that resiliency is the key and technology enables it. Decision-makers should think big, not just thinking about smarter cities, but better cities. The mantra is to start small and get going with obvious projects and opportunities; then learn, adjust, and iterate.

Sameer urges governments and organisations to the right partners across the industry to build sustainable cities for citizens. In closing, he quoted Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Interactive Discussion

After the informative presentations from distinguished speakers and sponsors, the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 entered into a time of discussion aided by polling questions.

This session is designed to encourage genuine audience participation, creating a platform where delegates can share real-life experiences and engage with subject matter experts to flesh out issues and untangle challenges. They get to take back strategies, best practices, learnings, insights and tips that they can implement in their organisations and agencies.

The opening poll inquired about delegates’ primary objective in their digital transformation journeys. Just under half (48%) of the delegates said their digital transformation is meant to improve their business processes while 41% said it is for the improvement of citizen and customer experiences.

Participants were asked how they measuring the success of their digital transformation efforts. Over half (53%) said that they are still looking for ways to measure it effectively while a third (33%) indicated they already have qualitative and quantitative methods in place.

The next question was about the biggest challenges the delegates face in implementing digital strategies. Just under a third (32%) said that legacy systems and technologies that lack integration capabilities were the biggest challenges.  About a quarter (28%) signalled that inflexible business processes and teams posed the biggest challenge.

Delegates were then asked about their most important IT priorities. More than half of the delegates said that digital transformation and innovation are their top priorities while 39% said that improving efficiencies and reducing maintenance costs were the most important aspects of their IT strategies.

In terms of IT structures, delegates were asked how AI and Data Analytics impact or improve their current digital transformation strategies. Again, more than half of the delegates said faster access to data to improve pre-emptive analysis can be achieved using AI and Data Analytics while 38% said that they need AI-ready infrastructures to manage large sets of data.

Participants were requested to share their organisations’ biggest pain points in the Big Data value chain. 41% of the delegates said data integrity was their biggest pain point while 33% said data accessibility and sharing were real problems for their organisations.

When asked to rate their organisations’ use of data and data analytics tools for decision-making purposes, 43% said that it needed improvement and better tools to analyse while 33% said it was doing good and adequate tools were in place.

Differentiating cloud providers for various workloads polarised the group, with voters almost evenly divided between price, service, performance and integration.

This led to delegates being asked how much of their organisations’ mission in critical / data-sensitive workloads is to be put onto public clouds this year. Over half (54%) said that less than 40% of their workloads are set to be put onto the public cloud while a little over a third (34%) said between 50%-70% of their workloads are set for public cloud adoption.

On the issue of cloud adoption, delegates were asked about the biggest challenge CIOs face when complying with the government’s direction to go on the public cloud. Almost half (48%) agreed that security poses the biggest challenge, a fourth (23%) said governance was an issue while 15% said proper information dissimenation and advisories from the government should be made for the digital migration to work.

Delegates again equally split over the main concern for security operations in their organisations. Votes were almost evenly divided among advance and zero-day attacks, difficulties in determining actual attacks due to noise, cybersecurity skills shortages, automating responses and actionable threat intelligence.

They were asked to rate their current level of security operations efficiency to detect and respond to attacks. 39% said it is very good in terms of a partial mapping of the prediction, detection, and response areas, but it needs improvement while 34% said their security operations are currently based on log management, correlation aggregation, and basic reporting.

Delegates were also polled on what drives their cyber resilience plans. More than half of the delegates said compliance and incidents were critical factors for their cybersecurity strategies and programmes.

With COVID-19 still making its presence felt in most parts of the world, the delegates were asked about the most impacted areas affected by the ongoing pandemic. 43% said their productivity was greatly affected, 28% said the well-being of their staff was hit, while 28% said they were able to launch new initiatives because of COVID-19.

Knowing that the pandemic accelerated the digital transformation especially for the working sector, delegates were asked about their perceived outcomes of a digital and automated workplace. 45% believed that there will higher productivity in the future. Other votes were divided into greater collaborations, greater digitalisation, improved employee engagement, and resource savings.

One being asked about the current challenges they face in the adoption of a digital workplace, 42% said the lack of executive leadership to drive a culture of process improvement and effective change management is their biggest challenge. 39% said the lack of effective technologies to optimise staff productivity and performance is an issue. Just under a fifth (19%) said no clear articulation of digital workplace benefits and a supporting business case hinder their adoption of the new working setup.

Lastly, the delegates were polled about their organisations’ capabilities in supporting a remote workforce. 42% said they already have the tools to implement seamless remote working setup. 40% said there is a lack of collaboration tools for seamless remote work, but they are looking for solutions. Only 18% said they are not looking to implement a fully remote workforce.

Public Services in New Normal: Time to Recharge, Reinvent, Reimagine and Reinvigorate

Mohit joined Ng Wang Peng, Koo Seng Meng and Brett Aimers in the Power Talk session to discuss how organisations and the public sector recharge, reinvent, reimagine, reinvigorate and reboot their services in the new normal.

Ng Wang Peng, Former Chief Operating Officer Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, believes that collecting a lot of data must be prioritised when moving to the digital space. She believes both the public and private sectors should be more responsible in terms of managing the data they are collecting because proper data collection and data integration will be key moving forward.

Koo Seng Meng, Senior Deputy Director, AI Innovation, Singapore said that organisations should never let a good crisis go to waste. With COVID-19, all sectors across the world have found new initiatives and new thinking that will help propel them in their digital transformation journeys.

Brett Aimers, Adjunct Associate Professor, James Cook University Australia said it was important to not forget the lessons learned in the COVID-19 era. That knowledge must be used to improve health responses, flexible working setups, as well as trying to find innovative ways to grow as a society.


The Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition ended with the closing remarks from Mohit. He strongly felt that organisations both from the public and private sectors should take care of their people – employees, citizens and customers should be at the top of their agendas.

Governments and organisations should be mindful of this new environment while finding the right balance between technology and innovation. Retaining lessons from the pandemic will be vital moving forward. Though there is a lot of unknown factors, COVID-19 taught us that we can provide platforms and programmes for us to adapt to new demands.

This is Part 2 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 1 here.

The Indian state of Punjab is set to integrate new crime and criminal tracking networks and systems (CCTNS) following the roll-out of two data analytic tools. The systems will enable police officials in the field to analyse data in a web and mobile-based application.

A vendor has already been awarded the contract to develop the app, according to a news report. 1,100 tablets have been given to police officials in the field. Further, 1,500 mobile phones providing access to a comprehensive database have been procured.

Last year, Punjab became the first state to roll out IBM-developed Cognos, a business intelligence tool used for big data collection. The tool was provided for free by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) but the states were required to purchase the hardware to make the tool functional.

Punjab Additional Director General of Police (Technical Services), Kuldeep Singh, under the Administration and Police Governance Reforms (ADGP), said that depending on the size of the state and the amount of data generated, the hardware costs more than IN 50 lakhs (US$66,912). Punjab was the first to roll out the tool, last year.

The Punjab police are also using ArcGIS, which is a big data mapping and analytics platform. The department has a fully loaded version of ArcGIS. It spent IN 3.5 crores (US$468,384) on the tool from police modernisation funds. The tool is not just about data analytics but is also used for locational intelligence. Singh also added that geo-fencing allows the department to digitally plot boundaries.

“We have done geo-fencing right up to police station level. It has been done fully in 18 districts. Geo-fencing is still in progress in big urban settlements,” he noted. “We now have last two years’ latitude and longitude-wise data of crime.” It helps identify hotspots such as road accidents. It can generate patterns of different categories of crime in any given area. For instance, if the police need to generate information on traffic needs, the tool provides comprehensive information about schools in the area. It is then able to generate traffic information by analysing peak hours while factoring in school timings.

After making the analytics tool functional, Singh noted that they are fully integrating it by creating the web and mobile app. The app will support artificial intelligence (AI), as well. Consequently, field staff will be able to access data, analyse it, and run inquiries. Mobile phones and tablets used to access the app come with a device management tool, which ensures the system is only used for official purposes.

The ADGP said the earlier CCTNS was elementary, and the broadband offered slow connectivity. “We had to tunnel our way through to access [the] internet,” he said, adding that the new system in place had upgraded connectivity based on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology, which increased the speed and offered a secure environment.

Last month, the Punjab police department launched a mobile application to find stolen and lost vehicles recovered by the police. The Punjab Police Vehicle Finder System or PP VFS addresses the problem of tracing recovered vehicles. Through it, the public will be able to find out whether their stolen vehicle has been recovered in any of the police stations across the state. There is also an advanced search system that allows a citizen to search their vehicle by uploading the make, model, and colour details.

A pregnant mother wanting to test for Down’s Syndrome in her unborn baby without invasive testing. A doctor trying to make a call on the optimal drug and dosage for a safer and more effective treatment. These are some of the people that the Singapore National Precision Medicine (SG-NPM) programme aims to help.

Established in 2017, the vision of this 10-year effort is to enable a healthcare strategy that is tailored to Singapore’s population diversity through precision medicine – a move that can revolutionise how healthcare is delivered.

Precision medicine takes individual variations in genetics, environmental and lifestyle factors into account, allowing doctors to more accurately predict which treatment and prevention strategies will work in different groups of people. Enabled by tools to analyse data on a large scale and with DNA sequencing becoming more affordable, precision medicine can improve healthcare by giving doctors a more detailed understanding of each patient.

Central to the effort is the Centre for Big data and Integrative Genomics (c-BIG), a collaboration between four A*STAR research institutes – the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), the Bioinformatics Institute (BII), the Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) and the Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R).

These efforts are coordinated under A*STAR’s Artificial Intelligence, Analytics And Informatics Horizontal Technology Programme Office (AI3 HTPO), which catalyses the development and application of A*STAR’s broad range data science, AI capabilities and technologies for a wide range of industry sectors.

“The first step was to build an IT infrastructure to securely store, analyse and share genomics data at scale to produce and distribute a reference catalogue that captures the genetic variation of 10,000 healthy Singaporeans,” said Dr Shyam Prabhakar, Associate Director, Spatial and Single Cell Systems at A*STAR’s GIS.

This first phase of the NPM has been completed, where the researchers have created the world’s largest genetic databank of Asian populations, which has three Asian populations: Chinese, Indian, and Malay represented. The time is now ripe for Phase 2, which will be to scale up the database.

“The next step is to extend the generation of genetic and phenotypic diversity data to 100,000 healthy Singaporeans in NPM Phase 2, drawing on the capabilities of A*STAR and our ecosystem partners,” said Prof Patrick Tan, Executive Director of GIS, and Executive Director of PRECISE (Precision Health Research Singapore).

“The richness of the data provided by the database, combined with our knowledge of Asian genetics accumulated over the years, means that the clinical applications of genomics are vast.”

This genetic databank is useful for analysis to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, and especially to identify millions of novel Asian-specific genetic variants. Understanding the actual genetic makeup of the Asian population allows the tailoring of products and medicines for this specific market.

For example, genomics can be found at the core of diagnostic tests, such as the use of non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) in pregnancy to identify children who may be born with debilitating or fatal genetic defects. Similarly, knowing the genetic variants that an individual carries can be used to estimate their likelihood of suffering from diseases such as diabetes or schizophrenia. Genomics can also be used to guide targeted treatments, such as administering the right drug in the right dose, relevant in pharmacogenomics (PGx), the study of how genes can influence responses to drugs.

Custom-built tech

The c-BIG initiative has contributed to delivering that vision through a variety of technologies and ecosystems. Leveraging the data storage and computing power capability from the National Supercomputing Centre, the team was able to deploy state-of-the-art genome analytics algorithms at an industrial scale to uncover the genetic variants of each individual.

A custom-built secured cloud-based big-data infrastructure has also been developed to enable and facilitate controlled programmatic and web-based graphical interface data access and analysis capabilities to Singapore’s biomedical research community. As the programme grows in the next phase, c-BIG will continue to scale by building on next-level data management, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).

“The custom data sharing services built by c-BIG will enable secure mining of the resource, and thus pave the way for the discovery of new research insights and actionable clinical findings,” said Dr Nicolas Bertin, Chief Architect of the c-BIG’s NPM infrastructure.

As the team looks to tackle the new scalability challenges posed in NPM Phase 2, researchers are already working to source new types of data to enable richer integrative analyses, including methylation and single-cell expression signals.

The addition of new data types and scaling up of the databank will empower researchers and medical professionals to better understand the inherited diseases in Asian populations. This would pave the way to develop new treatments and ways to predict and diagnose diseases and enable more effective and efficient healthcare services for both Singapore and Asian populations.

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