Two Singapore-headquartered fintech companies have received approval from the Philippines’ Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to operate digital banks in the country.
One of the digital banks said that they are aiming to help bridge the financial inclusion gap in the Philippines and eventually Southeast and South Asia. The BSP’s vision and foresight to digitise the local banking industry is future-forward and apt because ultimately it will help align the Philippines as a modern banking centre for the region said the digital bank’s top executive.
The other digital bank, on the other hand, recently secured over US$ 20 million in retail deposits in under one month and said to be a historic record for any new bank launching in the Philippines. The bank stated that securing a digital banking license is one of this year’s anticipated milestones for them.
In December 2019, the digital bank said it received its initial rural bank license from the BSP, allowing the “Neobank” to provide retail banking services focused on retail deposits, card payments and consumer loans. A year later, the BSP issued Circular No. 1105 on The Guidelines on the Establishment of Digital Banks, clearing the way for the digital bank to scale up and apply for a formal digital bank license.
“Neobank” is the global term for digital-only banks, which offer the same services as traditional banks but without the need for physical branches. “Neobanks” can cut fees and offer better interest rates because of the savings they incur for not having physical branches.
An official digital bank license from the country’s central bank will enable these digital banks to offer more products and services to narrow the gap between the banked population and the huge, underserved segment in the Philippines. As more digital-based solutions develop in the market, Filipinos are more open to innovations that make payments and banking more convenient, accessible and seamless.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, new research from a global digital payment firm has found that over 8 in 10 Filipinos (83%) are aware and interested (81%) in using digital banking services. However, only 32% of respondents are currently using services offered by a digital bank.
Top interest drivers for Filipinos to use digital banking services include access to banking services any time of the day (68%), time saved from not having to queue at bank branches (68%) and convenience (67%). The study also showed that Filipinos are most keen to work with a financial services brand for digital banking services (93%) and traditional banks (92%), followed by new start-ups with digital banking services (72%). Filipinos interested in banking with digital banks are keen to use services such as paying bills (84%), transferring money locally (78%), making deposits and withdrawals (76%), and making payments for purchases at local retail locations (71%). However, the preference of using digital banking for traditional bank services such as investments (52%), international transfers (48%) and loans (46%) is lower.
In addition, 86% of Filipino respondents would switch current banking services to digital banking services if the bank provided better rewards and 85% would do so if they can benefit from lower costs for their banking transactions. Filipinos’ interest to use digital banking services increased to 80% compared to 70% in the previous year when the same research was conducted.
There is an opportunity in the Philippines for traditional banks and new players to launch digital banking services in the country that will better serve the needs of underserved and underpenetrated segments, said the digital payment giant. They believe this will transform the banking and payments landscape in the country and they are keen to work with all their partners to help them create a better user interface and experience when they create and enhance their digital banking solutions.
The Indian Institute of Technology Mandi (IIT-Mandi) and online learning solution provider WileyNXT have collaborated to launch post-graduate certification programmes in applied artificial intelligence/machine learning and full-stack development. The curriculum has been designed to bridge the skill gap and prepare a workforce for the future.
When the candidate completes the programme, they will receive a joint certificate from IIT-Mandi and WileyNXT. The programme focuses on contextual learning to complement conceptual learning with skilling exercises. It offers projects based on real-life business problems, according to a news report. The students will be taught by top IIT-Mandi faculty members and industry leaders based on content from Wiley Network.
The full-stack development course is an online seven-month-long programme. Applicants that have graduated with a minimum score of 50% and who know at least one programming language are eligible. The applied AI/ML course will also be online and will run for six months. Candidates that have one year of work experience in engineering or programming are eligible to apply. Scholarships are offered for both programmes for qualified individuals, the report noted. The programmes come at a time when India is witnessing a surge in demand for AI-enabled automated customer service agents. It was the top AI use case for Indian organisations last year. This was due to the pandemic, which kept millions at home and face-to-face interactions diminished across industries, a report has said. The AI use cases gained momentum in the country, driven by the need to ensure timely product development, facilitate better customer experience, improve higher employee productivity, and achieve high competitiveness in the market.
IIT-Mundi is also collaborating with the HCI Foundation (iHub) to host a six-day weekend workshop on a Deep Learning crash course for executives and working professionals. The workshop will be held between 3 July and 18 July. As per reports, it will cover extensive theory sessions and lab sessions scheduled every weekend. An assessment will be done at the end of the workshop, and based on this assessment, certificates will be provided to participants. During laboratory sessions, support will be provided by specifically trained teaching assistants. The workshop mainly targets software engineers and executives. However, final year undergraduates, masters, PhD-level, and faculty members may also apply. A basic understanding of linear algebra, Python, machine learning, and probability theory is expected as a prerequisite for the event.
Extensive learning materials will be provided through comprehensive sessions organised by various experts. Most importantly, the specially designed hand-on sessions will be a boon to completely novice learners. According to an official, the organisations hope the workshop will “effectively democratise AI/ML learning”. The workshop will explore:
- The basics of machine learning and neural networks
- Convolutional neural networks
- Object localisation and detection
- Autoencoders and variational autoencoder
- Generative adversarial networks
- Recurrent neural network and long short-term memory, Siamese networks
- Transformer networks
A key speaker of IIT-Mundi noted that the workshop is the first of its kind sponsored by the iHub and IIT-Mandi. The entire workshop series includes six similar workshop events that will happen this year. The current workshop would provide students, academics, and industry personnel with hands-on sessions on AI/ML topics that span several domains, including the human-computer interaction area. Interested participants can register through the official portal. The workshop will have a selected batch of participants and the applications will be shortlisted on a first-come-first-serve basis. This workshop will cover state-of-the-art AI/ML techniques in detail with extensive hands-on tutorial sessions for the participants. The workshop may pave the way for a research internship opportunity at the iHub and IIT-Mandi.
A company spun out of the University of Wollongong (UoW) to commercialise breakthrough Australian hydrogen electrolyser technology, officially opened its doors today with $5 million in funding led by a British-based Intellectual property firm, with support from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
The company is developing a new hydrogen electrolyser that has the potential to significantly shift the economics of green hydrogen production, bringing the Australian Government’s $2/kg target within reach.
The technology has been proven at lab-scale and the company, which has strong scientific, engineering and commercialisation experience, is now focused on developing and commercialising a full-scale system. The firm is based at UOW’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials.
Electrolysers, which use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, are the key technology for producing green hydrogen. The electrolyser is based on breakthrough Australian technology developed by a team from the UOW headquartered ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), led by chemical catalysis and characterisation expert Professor Gerry Swiegers.
Professor Swiegers has an outstanding track record in commercialisation, as the inventor of over 50 patent families and the founder of six start-ups, which have received an estimated $100 million in investment.
Inexpensive green hydrogen is needed for the decarbonisation of multiple industries to put Australia on a path to net-zero by 2050. Years of work from a great team at the University of Wollongong, along with great facilities and government funding are coming to fruition in a company that has the potential to have a global impact, he added.
The Head of Physical Sciences at the Australian branch of the IP firm and the Interim CEO at the tech company stated that the firm represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape an industry. “I’m delighted to be working with Professor Swiegers and the team at the University of Wollongong to bring this technology to market. This will have an impact both economically and environmentally on our path to net-zero” he said.
The Managing Director of the IP firm’s Australian arm noted that they have been looking globally for new technology that can unlock the trillion-dollar opportunity in hydrogen. He added that the UOW spin-off firm’s technology is truly world-leading and that the IP group looks forward to helping the team in their mission to make green hydrogen a reality for Australia and the world. These developments are based on significant fundamental research that is taken from the translational pathway by a team with technical and commercial skills fully integrated.
The UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) noted that the innovative technology developed by Professor Swiegers and his team exemplifies the University’s ambition to deliver fundamental research that leads to impactful change. “UoW’s research and innovation strategy is focused on creating knowledge for a better world, underpinned by our prioritisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include the goals of affordable and clean energy, and climate change mitigation,” he said.
Green hydrogen is widely acknowledged to be a crucial part of reaching net-zero emissions globally, with the potential to meet up to 20 per cent of energy demand in a net-zero global economy. It enables deep decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors, with potential applications including steel, heavy transport, shipping, aviation, chemicals, seasonal storage in the electricity sector, and gas grids.
It also presents an enormous economic opportunity, with the global demand of trillions of dollars expected by 2050. Hydrogen and derivatives like ammonia represent a multi-billion-dollar export opportunity for Australia, due to its excellent renewable energy resources, ample land and established status as a leading energy exporter.
What is The Digital Academy?
The Digital Academy by the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech Singapore) is a “Practitioner for Practitioner” academy that operates at the unique intersection of technology and public service. The Academy aims to groom future-ready digital leaders to be well-versed in the technology ecosystem to accelerate the public sector’s digital transformation.
The Academy offers a robust suite of information and communications technology (ICT) programmes that are contextualised to the public service, anchored on the ICT & Smart Systems (ICT&SS) Competency Framework and guided by competency gaps identified by ICT&SS practice leads and agencies’ needs through Digital Maturity Index and Ministry Family Digitalisation Plan. The curriculum will start with 55 programmes in various categories including Applications Development, Data & Analytics, Digital Leadership and Technology & Operations Management, with another 40 to be available by end of FY2021 (March 2022).
Why The Digital Academy?
While there are many learning providers offering technical programmes in the market, The Digital Academy sets itself apart by offering programmes specially curated by a strong in-house team and delivered by reputable content partners for public service officers and leaders, particularly those in the ICT&SS profession seeking to advance their current skills. Industry partners who work frequently with the Public Service may also benefit from these programmes, as they work in tandem with the Public Service to strengthen the skills and know-how of the tech ecosystem supporting Singapore’s digitalisation efforts. The Academy will focus on both Workforce Transformation and Capability Development.
Who is The Digital Academy for?
The Digital Academy is designed to raise the digital literacy of all public service leaders and officers, particularly those in a tech capacity, by:
- Deepening their ICT skills to achieve digital excellence in various innovation pillars, such as agile development, artificial intelligence & robotics, cybersecurity, sensors and Internet of Things, and more.
- Equipping them with the necessary knowledge and skills required to deliver digitalisation outcomes and lead digital transformation in their agencies.
- Enabling them to be digitally confident by building up their capabilities.
How does Digital Academy work?
Driven by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group, The Digital Academy is supported by an operations partner, currently the Institute of Systems Science at the National University of Singapore (NUS-ISS). The curriculum is curated by an in-house team, in close partnership with nine leading industry players – Amazon Web Services, Coursera, Google, Microsoft, Qlik, Secure Code Warrior, SingTel TrustWave, Tableau and ThoughtWorks – as content partners. More will be onboarded in due course.
All public service officers and leaders would be able to access up-to-date information and course offerings via The Digital Academy website (thedigitalacademy.tech.gov.sg).
Courses at The Digital Academy are designed to be both blended and hybrid – delivered using multiple formats; beyond the typical in-person or virtual lectures, participants can expect to attend instructor-led workshops, tech talks, exchanges with the Community of Practice, hackathons and even be offered opportunities for on-the-job training. The programmes will be constantly refreshed to address the fast-changing tech landscape and equip officers with current skills to help them be digitally confident.
Amid the social restrictions and quarantine policies imposed during the global spread of COVID-19, human mobility patterns changed dramatically. To better understand the relationships between human mobility, government policies and cases of COVID-19, U.S. researchers have developed an interactive web application that illustrates the connections between human mobility, government policies, and cases of COVID-19.
The app was built with data from three independent sources: a map, which provides data on human movement via walking, driving and public transportation; COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, which provides data on government policies implemented during the pandemic; and global cases of COVID-19. Users can select a specific state or county in the U.S. as well as another country and see how mobility and COVID-19 cases changed over time or in response to government policies or social circumstances.
At a macro level, understanding movement patterns of people can help influence decision making for higher-level policies, like social gathering restrictions, mask recommendations, and tracking and tracing the spread of infectious diseases. At a local level, understanding the movement of people can lead to more specific decisions, like where to set up testing sites or vaccination sites.
Since the initial launch, the researchers have continued to update the application with appropriate data at regular intervals. The web application produces interesting visualisations that can reveal fascinating trends specific to a given area that might otherwise not be recognised.
During their exploration of the data, the researchers found a handful of case studies that suggested interesting trends. For example, in New Orleans, the application shows a spike in human mobility at the end of February 2020, which coincided with Mardi Gras celebrations. Coincidentally, there was a corresponding spike in COVID-19 cases almost a month after the event.
Although the application is specific to the pandemic, the framework could be modified rather easily to create a similar application for natural disasters as long as appropriate data sets are available. Understanding historic mobility patterns are needed for policymakers to make informed decisions regarding transportation systems and other areas both under normal circumstances and in response to extreme events like a pandemic or a natural disaster.
According to a page, this data shows the number of COVID-19-related policy responses taken by the government on a given day. Indicators include containment and closure policies such as school closures, workplace closures, public event cancellations, restrictions on gatherings, public transportation closures, stay at home requirements, restrictions on internal movement, and international travel controls. Other indicators include health system policies such as public information campaigns, testing policies, contact tracing, and facial covering policies.
Other U.S. researchers have also been using data by an online tool to provide insights into people’s online behaviour, specifically people’s response to COVID-19. As reported by OpenGov Asia, A research project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) develops an online tool called CitizenHelper. This tool can sort through millions of tweets to identify behaviours that could assist emergency agencies and give them an understanding of the population’s attitudes. The tool uses artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to filter the posts and then determine the relevance and information level of each tweet.
The tool helps these researchers to scale work that would be difficult for humans to do alone. The head of the research team says that humans are good at contextual understanding to filter content but they cannot scale. Machines, on the other hand, are good at scaling, but they do not deeply understand the context very well. Hence, a human-AI teaming approach is invaluable. The algorithms need humans to help them improve their accuracy. CitizenHelper allows this very seamless interactive mechanism for humans and computers. The humans can provide feedback to the machine on what the machine has predicted.
A tech firm operating under the Hong Kong Smart Government Innovation Lab announced that it has launched a new solution that is now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.
SOLUTION – DIGITAL BUSINESS PORTAL
The Digital Business Portal (“the Portal”) is an integrated knowledge solution designed to be used in tax, legal, and compliance matters. The platform can act as an online one-stop solution for internal knowledge sharing and support the daily operational needs of different departments within the HKSAR government.
There are three modules in the Portal, and the Learning Module is one of them. Through this module, users can access online learning videos that cover various professional business topics such as tax and legal updates to keep the staff and relevant individuals with up-to-date business knowledge.
A customised, secured training program can also be tailor-made for every Government department’s specific request and be provided via the Portal.
In addition to the Learning Module, there are two other modules in the solution that are commonly used by the users and could also be used by the government for their daily work. These include:
- Compliance Tool Module – provides Hong Kong tax compliance, company secretarial, and legal templates for general business use or to support staff with day-to-day operations.
- Business Information Module – provides useful information for Government departments that regularly interact with corporations
The solution was developed to be applied in the areas of 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.
The solution uses the latest in Low Code Development Platform.
The Portal’s learning module was used to successfully deliver an end-to-end training programme equipped with online video playback and FAQ to facilitate the relevant business users in conducting their daily work and receive updated professional training materials.
To facilitate staff’s daily work, the company has developed a set of FAQs and the FAQs will be uploaded to the Portal. It enables the staff to locate the right answers much faster and much easier for them to refer to the answers prepared.
The Portal’s virtual training facility is particularly useful as employees may be under flexible work arrangements and stationed in multiple locations. It can also be used for further use and revision. This could largely increase the efficiency of their daily work.
It is crucial to keep the knowledge up to date. The company has provided comprehensive onsite and online training to the staff, offering business and professional knowledge-sharing over a wide range of topics including legal, tax, cybersecurity, industry updates, etc.
The firm believes that their professional knowledge can also be shared with other Government departments via the Portal. The company offer both tailor-made training courses for a particular topic and general courses available on the Portal.
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 global economic impact has driven entrepreneurship with many women launching home-based businesses. That being said, the difficult economic environment and social distancing restrictions have had a negative impact on sales. Without a doubt, more tech skills are an entrepreneur’s best tool to develop their business to survive and thrive in these uncertain times.
An Indonesia-UK Tech Hub collaborated with a digital supply chain platform for Crafts Small Medium Enterprises (SME) and the Indonesian Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection to launch a women-based programme. The programme is designed to provide digital literacy and entrepreneurship training to support women-owned ultra-micro and micro businesses. The programme also serves as COVID-19 crisis response support for women and under-represented groups who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
Of the 370 applicants, 102 were chosen to participate in the training programme, which was delivered from November 2020 to this year, including launch and graduation events. To ensure that as many marginalised women as possible were empowered, 56 women were kept on a reserve list to allow for any dropouts, and all of them were eventually fully included in the training programme, bringing the total number to 158.
Training was delivered virtually, with the support of local facilitators in each of Indonesia’s 6 targeted districts namely, Central Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara, Rembang and Kendal in Central Java, Central Bangka in Bangka Belitung, Cilegon in Banten and Palembang in South Sumatra.
The women-based programme consisted of 8 training modules that addressed supply chain, digital literacy, digital marketing, the use of apps, market access in partnership with local marketplace, and financial literacy (in partnership with BTPN Syariah Bank) among other topics.
The United Kingdom government collaboration could share its experience and expertise in the digital and technology sector as England is the home to more than 600,000 digital start-ups and also the birth of some of the most successful and famous unicorns in the world.
OpenGov Asia reported in an article that the Ministry of Communication and Informatics is targeting digital literacy to reach all districts and cities in Indonesia by 2024. The Directorate General of Informatics Applications of the Ministry of Communication and Information is working with related partners.
“By 2024, the ministry and its partners will carry out digital literacy in all 514 districts/cities in Indonesia,” explained Plt. Director of Informatics Empowerment of the Ministry of Communication and Information, Mariam Fatimah Barata in the Digital Literacy Webinar Towards Indonesia Digital Nation.
Mariam acknowledged that the use of the internet is currently so massive that it cannot be separated from everyday life. Therefore, digital literacy plays an important role in the journey towards the Indonesia Digital Nation. In terms of the number, the goal is to have 50 million literate Indonesians. Going in a phase-wise manner, they plan to reach the first 12.5 million people by 2021.
Women have played a prominent role in the digital era, as evidenced by the growing number of female entrepreneurs in the past 3 years. According to IWAPI (Ikatan Wanita Pengusaha – Indonesia’s premier association of women’s enterprises), in 2015, women represented 60% of the total 49.9m entrepreneurs in Indonesia – that number continues to grow by 20% annually.
Therefore, personal initiative skills development is important for women. Nevertheless, exposure to male-dominated industries is also important. Another article said that implementing this provides an opportunity to find women in growth sectors and tell their stories, allowing women to see themselves in those shoes.
Focusing on these sectors also limits financial opportunities, as banks see these businesses as less of a risk to invest in. Grown explained that SMEs were particularly important because they play a significant role in job creation in all economies around the world. Thus, encouraging more women to own SMEs increases job prospects.
Vietnam has introduced an artificial intelligence (AI) application that issues warnings when facemasks are not being worn on public transport. The computer vision app alerts authorities of passengers who are not wearing or improperly wearing masks. The app is connected to surveillance cameras on public transport vehicles and can access image data and automatically analyse it. It sends appropriate notifications to the server of the transport company if it detects someone not wearing a mask or wearing one incorrectly.
The app, which was introduced earlier this month, was developed by the Binh Anh Electronic Technology Development Co. (BA GPS). The company’s Chairman said AI technology not only brings about many benefits to public transport owners but also helps improve safety for passengers. According to a news report, other apps developed by BA GPS are to be piloted on public transport soon. The country is promoting technology in the form of health declaration sites, contact tracing, and testing applications to fight against the virus. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh recently affirmed that technology is one of the three prongs of the COVID-19 response strategy in the new period.
The Deputy Minister of Science and Technology and head of the quick information response team at the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control said the team has continually applied technology to evaluate the situation. They use it to make a forecast on the pandemic’s developments in Vietnam and the world, set up mechanisms for monitoring people entering Vietnam and those under quarantine, and gear up response plans for special circumstances.
A group of scientists from the Medicine Faculty at the Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City has unveiled a technological solution that combined the internet of things (IoT) with AI to concurrently manage people in quarantine sites and crowded places. Further, medical and delivery robots have been put into use at quarantine sites to replace health workers in transporting food, medicine, and essential goods and collecting waste, thus minimising direct contact. Many other organisations have also created a number of high-quality scientific and technological products such as testing kits and vaccines and commercialised them to help with the pandemic combat.
BKAV, a cybersecurity and software company, developed Bluezone- a contact tracing application. Bluezone is believed to be the most effective tracking solution in the fight against the virus. The latest report of the Authority for Information Technology Application (AITA) shows that as of 24 May, there were 33.06 million Bluezone downloads, which meant an increase of 2.5 million Bluezone installations compared with 28 April, when the fourth wave broke out.
Of the 33 million Bluezone users, more than 20.58 million people have entered their mobile phone numbers on the app. As such, the number of people providing their phone numbers to state agencies had increased by 1 million. Hanoi and HCM City are leading the country in the number of Bluezone downloads, with 3.1 million and 2.83 million, respectively.