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The Indian Railways has adopted an e-office system to make its operations paperless, efficient, transparent, and quick.

According to a press release, the implementation of phase-I of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) e-office suite has been completed ahead of time by the telecom infrastructure provider, RailTel.

The NIC e-office is a cloud-enabled software developed by NIC that is being deployed/hosted from RailTel Tier III certified data centres at Secundrabad and Gurgaon.

The suite is built as a single reusable system by bringing together independent functions and systems under a single framework to improve productivity and accountability in the workplace.

RailTel provides e-office solutions from planning to commissioning along with user training and support for a smooth transition from a manual to a digital workplace. It creates a reliable, efficient, and effective way to handle office files and documents.

The project was carried out under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the two sides in March 2019 with a mandate to complete the work by March 2020.

By October-end, RailTel created more than 50,000 users in 58 establishments of the Indian Railways, which have adopted a paperless work culture and trained their executives to handle the platform.

The release said there will be absolute transparency once written on the file is archived. There is also a monitoring mechanism to check where files are being held up.

This will enable the quick disposal of files and the systematic and timely monitoring of pending files. With these advantages, the Indian Railways will be changing the work culture to provide better services to the public.

The e-office fosters a paperless culture that will not only save operational costs but also reduce the carbon footprint.

It is based on the central secretariat manual of the e-office procedure (CSMeOP). Currently, four modules are part of the e-office system being implemented. This includes a file management system (eFile), a knowledge management system (KMS), collaboration and messaging services (CAMS), and personnel information management system (PIMS).

Indian Railways E-office implementation is a mission mode project (MMP) under the national e-governance programme. The project aims to usher in paperless, more efficient, effective, and transparent inter-government and intra-government transactions and processes.

An MMP is an individual project within the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) that focuses on one aspect of electronic governance. Within NeGP 2.0, “mission mode” implies that projects have clearly defined objectives, scopes, and implementation timelines and milestones, as well as measurable outcomes and service levels.

Earlier this month, the Indian Railway announced it is planning to adopt a new technology HOG (head-on generation) for trains. It will eliminate the rumbling sound of the railways, making trains silent.

Through this technology, the power will be drawn from the elevated electric supply and will assist rails to run. At present, trains run at the two power generator cars which emit fumes and produce noise. This power generator will not be operated after the arrival of HOG in Indian Railways.

The International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H) and The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote a deep technology special interest group.

According to media reports, the group will nurture next-gen products and companies in fintech, healthtech, medtech, and agritech.

The TiE deep tech special interest group (SIG) aims to become the catalyst to empower, enable, and provide profiting visibility for enterprises and exposure to global applications and markets.

IIIT Hyderabad will support this programme by offering a strong talent pool of engineers, deep tech knowledge base, technocrats, research, and development capabilities.

The deep tech SIG intends to identify, encourage, and showcase the leading deep tech products and companies to the domestic and global community of customers and investors.

The Professor of Co-innovation at IIIT Hyderabad and the Executive Director of TiE exchanged the MoU in the presence of the IIIT Hyderabad Director and the President of TiE.

The programme will identify about nine of the most innovative deep tech products or companies per group, that have to potential the grow.

They will get access to mentors and accelerator programmes. Their products and services will be showcased at TiE global summits and conferences, giving them access to the investor community. They will also be connected with customers and have access to global markets and TiE angel investor networks.

They will be introduced to over 15, 000 entrepreneurs through TiE’s global network of 61 chapters across 14 countries, the TiE Executive Director said.

IIIT Hyderabad is a higher-education institute that focusses on IT, computer science, electronics, and communication.

Last month, the researchers at IIIT Hyderabad used machine learning for the diagnosis and prognosis of cancer by the microscopic examination of tissue.

According to news reports, the computational models developed by the IIIT can classify subtypes of renal cancer and also predict the survival chances of the patients using digital images.

An expert said that the analysis of histopathological images (of sample tissues) was not something the team had done before. The aim was to see how a computer can interpret these images. Histological images contain markers of disease progression and phenotypic information that can have diagnostic and predictive values.

The study conducted by the researchers revealed that the models achieved over 90% accuracy in determining whether the histopathological images represented a tumour or not. It was 94% accurate in determining its subtypes.

Reports noted that unlike more time-consuming manual microscopic analysis, the machine makes the timely detection and diagnosis of cancer possible.

The model can also make survival predictions based on the shape and nuclei features of the tumour.

Apart from this, when a tissue sample is taken for biopsy, it’s known from where it is taken but the site of origin cannot be ascertained. Researchers have managed to show that there can be different sites of origin in renal cancer.

Reports also stated that the IIIT-H research team has been able to classify 33 different types of cancers using histopathological images from the United States government-funded, Cancer Genome Atlas Project. It now wants to work with Indian cancer data sets.

A Malaysian integrated property solutions provider recently entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a Chinese multinational technology company to jointly explore DevOps, cloud artificial intelligence (AI), big data and innovative technology knowledge-sharing projects.

In a Bursa Malaysia filing today, the property solutions provider said that the MoU aims to record its and the tech firm’s initial intent and that it is their intention to enter into definitive agreements on the planned cooperation.

It was noted that the MoU is governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Malaysia in all respects, including matters of construction, enforcement and performance thereof and the Malaysian courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction.

Upon expiry of the MoU’s initial period, the MoU will be automatically extended for a one-year period. The solutions provider said the company and the tech giant may terminate the MoU by giving appropriate written notice to the other party.

Malaysia is working to be a leading I&T hub in the ASEAN and, eventually, across the world. This means the structure of the economy must now be recalibrated to align with the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and digital economy.

With the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics expected to increase rapidly in APAC companies over the next few years, employees’ reaction to this development is crucial to determine, an article noted.

Growing Employee Interest in AI and Big Data

  • According to a recent report when it comes to automation, about a fifth of hiring managers and candidates across Malaysia (20%), Singapore (23%), Thailand (23%), Indonesia (17%), and Vietnam (22%) said that automation is available in their company.
  • Whereas adoption of artificial intelligence was slightly less – Malaysia (7%), Singapore (7%), Thailand (15%), Indonesia (11%), and Vietnam (9%).
  • Despite the current low adoption rates, about half of all respondents across the five countries estimated that their companies will increase investment in automation/AI in the next two years – Malaysia (49%), Singapore (38%), Thailand (46%), Indonesia (44%), and Vietnam (41%).
  • While employees see the benefits of automation and AI, many are also concerned that the technology will eventually take over their jobs in a few years, or that the technology is too expensive to ever be worth it.
  • The Regional Marketing Director for the APAC at the firm that conducted the study stated that automation and AI will infiltrate every industry across the region and employees are expected to welcome these due to the promise of improved efficiency and productivity.
  • However, not all employees are expressing optimism for automation and AI. It is imperative that companies in Asia proactively help their employees understand the value of automation and AI as a part of the workplace and integrate it effectively.

Government Agencies Urged to be More Proactive

  • Another article notes that larger government-linked companies are lacking ambition with regards to digital transformation and too content with where they are, according to the Deputy Managing Director at Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.
  • Large companies often struggle with digital transformation despite having better access to their markets.
  • For this, GLCs need to step up, and there are a lot of opportunities for large companies to accelerate growth. Malaysia is still behind globally, such as in the big data space.
  • There is a limited number of companies that are really adopting big data analytics, he stated.
  • It was noted that a shift in mindset is imperative; the telecommunications industry should not focus on just connectivity, but rather come up with value-added services to remain relevant.
  • Regulators also play an important role in innovating and accelerating the deployment of infrastructure, unlike the days of 3G deployment.
  • The road ahead is promising for entities that proactively invest in digital transformation and technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Australia’s University of Newcastle hosted a free event wherein businesses and organisations, which are interested in unlocking the value of cloud technology, were invited.

Cloud Immersion Day Australia

  • According to a recent press release, the Cloud Immersion Day included a series of informative, immersive and interactive stations.
  • Moreover, it also has keynote speakers and roundtable discussions that helped organisations understand the opportunities they can gain from cloud services.
  • Attendees had the opportunity to explore real and working proof concepts of how cloud technology can be used to solve key challenges and make organisations more productive and efficient.
  • The event was organised in collaboration with a company that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms; a multinational professional services network; and CSA.
  • According to the ‘Economic value of cloud services in Australia’ research report, which was conducted by both the multinational and the cloud computing company, 42% of Australian businesses have so far adopted cloud.
  • It reveals that while 76% of large businesses have adopted at least one paid cloud service, only 36% of small businesses are using cloud services.

Cloud Computing Technology in Higher Education

  • Cloud computing removes the need for data, applications, software, and other IT resources to be stored on hard drives or servers that are located on-premise.
  • Instead, they are made accessible seamlessly and rapidly over the Internet via cloud services.
  • For organisations, this means upfront investment in hardware while its ongoing management is no longer required. Additionally, they only have to pay for as little or as much as they use.
  • The University of Newcastle is making a shift in investment to a cloud-first strategy. This will see it exit from an on-premise data centre and migrate to the AWS cloud by September 2020.
  • According to the University’s Chief Information Officer, the higher education sector is as equally impacted by cloud disruption as other sectors.
  • The rise of any new technology can create disruption and require a shift in traditional business models and service offerings.
  • Digital transformation is the use of new, fast and frequently changing digital technology to solve problems such as Hybrid Cloud for Digital Transformation.
  • Leaders in this space recognise the significant opportunities presented by cloud technology and by implementing a cloud-first strategy at the University of Newcastle, students and researchers may gain several benefits.

Benefits of the Cloud Technology

  • The ‘Economic value of cloud services in Australia’ research report also reveals cloud technology has delivered AU$ 9.4 billion over the last 5 years in terms of productivity benefits to the Australian economy.
  • It is quite exciting that the University is transforming its campus management by adopting a cloud-first strategy.
  • This approach will enable the University to become more agile to free up precious IT resources to focus on critical areas of the university such as improving teaching and learning environments for students and educators.
  • This will also help to accelerate research and allow students to innovate and come up with solutions to tackle the biggest community challenges.

Cloud technology adoption is a journey that enterprises and governments alike have embarked on. Cloud adopters understand that the technology allows for the highly efficient access to technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, Internet of Things, and blockchain

As much as the cloud is being embraced widely across various industries and organisations, there still are few who remain adamant due to having to run a vast number of legacy applications on their premises.

Hybrid cloud model presents itself as the best solution to this, allowing for the ease of operations of several business processes on one platform.

This was the main drive of OpenGov’s Breakfast Insight on Thursday, 3 October 2019. It was an insightful discussion on Hybrid Cloud being the catalyst for digital transformation.

The insight session saw various enterprises from the manufacturing, logistics and pharmaceutical industries gathered together to have an exchange of knowledge on the benefits provided by hybrid cloud models and of the competitive advantages they come with.

Cloud is not just backup, it should be daily

Mohit Sagar: Cloud has endless possibilities

Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia gave the opening address.

He said that many businesses lack an understanding of digital transformation and of how technology can aid them in their journey ahead, specifically hybrid cloud for digital transformation.

He stressed that cloud is a highly misunderstood word. Using cloud in the right way to manage Big Data will be able to change the way businesses operate and provide a more competitive edge in the long run.

Hybrid cloud has endless possibilities- allowing for access to both public and private clouds on one platform. The correct placement of data is important to allow for a smooth process flow and transitions between applications on the cloud platform.

Mohit said that the lack of understanding, however, of how to classify the data accordingly poses as a challenge.

He said that successful hybrid cloud adoption is all about planning, quality of execution and attention to detail. “Cloud is not just a backup. It should be used for daily activity,” stressed Mohit.

Consistency is key to managing cloud

Michael Leung- sharing about customers’ views of cloud technology

Michael Leung, Director of Enablement Datacenter Solutions Group, Dell EMC Asia Pacific and Japan gave the welcome address of the event.

He started off with the question: Has anyone here ever managed a multi-cloud environment before?

Based on a survey, 91% of customers said that their organisation’s cloud strategy will include on-premises data centres. Michael said that organisations adopting multiple cloud solutions almost always include a private cloud.

He also shared that 83% of customers in a recent survey of 1,500 Dell Technologies customers had stated that they value consistency of infrastructure from the data center to cloud.

Since each cloud solution has its own management and operations tooling, own governance and automation frameworks, own application image format, and own set of value-added services, multi-cloud adoption often leads to the development of operational silos.

This is a reason as to why many are pursuing a hybrid cloud model infrastructure.

Michael said that with cloud users having different workloads, consistency is needed for them to know how to manage the use of cloud. The workload determines if a public or private cloud model in a multi-cloud platform is to be used.

Giving the example that mobile phone applications used today are mostly operating on a hybrid cloud system, Michael left delegates with the insight that as the adoption of public cloud and hybrid cloud has increased, businesses too should have their on-premise requirements set.

Hybrid cloud adoption for the journey ahead

Kristian Lee giving insights into the cloud adoption journey

Kristian Lee, Chief Technology Officer, Royale International gave a brief introduction about the services of his organisation- from providing courier services to warehousing, to specialised services such as time-critical delivery, e-fulfilment and financial research distribution.

He shared on the ways in which his organisation had incorporated cloud technology into their business processes.

With the goal of the “uber-ization” of capacities, Kristian said that the hybrid cloud model achieves this goal. It allows access and transition of services between anyone, to any location, and at any time.

Compliance is also achieved as privacy-sensitive data can be stored on a private cloud system while the public cloud can be used for the open sharing and communicating of information.

Acknowledging that the hybrid cloud allows users to reach out directly to various other platforms at once,

Kristian said that his organisation is focusing on developing an end-to-end platform that integrates and manages all their services at one place.

They are working on creating on-premise data centres that will be linked to the public cloud and which will ultimately go hybrid. They are currently operating on a public cloud system.

Kristian said that these projects are geared towards enhancing internal and external process managements, operational managements and the tracking of their courier services within their network.

These projects are a commitment to their adoption of the hybrid cloud and for exploiting the benefits of it to enhance their business processes.

Through leveraging on cloud-based AI and data analytics technologies, optimisations and quick decision-makings can be made.

Flex control is needed to scale at speed

Frederic Ducros, an experienced senior digital transformation expert, shared his hybrid cloud experiences.

The foundation of his hybrid cloud journey started with undertaking a comprehensive digital transformation initiaitve to bring coherence to existing processes.

He listed some key aspects of hybrid cloud usage which businesses may be unaware about:

  1. You are already using hybrid cloud

Frederic said that organisations are already using applications on the cloud systems, on-premise, for their processes.

  1. If there are any doubts, you are probably doing it wrong

The lack of skills and understanding of the system could be reasons as to why cloud adoption is not producing the best results.

  1. You want to be able to try, scale and be ready to fail

He said that the transformation process should not be made a difficult one, especially when working with legacy premises where it will be difficult for developers to access the environment.

A key learning that he stressed was that it is all about trying it out. If it works, it works big; If it fails, you learn from it and do better next.

Frederic emphasised that it is important to make the transition as painless as possible.

  1. None of the cloud providers has the same capabilities:

Frederic said that their services and provision of technologies such as (artificial intelligence) AI and machine learning (ML) are all very different and hence it is important to leverage on all of them.

“Organisations need flex control to scale at speed,” said Frederic.

Polling questions

On the primary definition of the cloud, 58% voted it to be an “infrastructure located outside of the datacentre which is managed by an external party”.

Some delegates, instead, had an opposing view that hybrid cloud as a provider of multi-function applications should be instead defined as a “location independent IT operating model”.

76.9% voted that “concerns on data privacy, security and compliance” is the primary concern when putting workload in the cloud. Cybersecurity was addressed to be the main point behind this.

Delegates from the pharmaceutical industry pointed out that their data requires high security and there are doubts if a cloud platform will be able to provide that.

44.4% of delegates voted that it “depends” when asked if workloads are more secure or less secure in the public cloud.

A delegate shared that when storing of information online, it depends on how the data is secured. That concern was addressed with the insight that security should not be a decision-making factor for using hybrid cloud.

Lack of control of the system, however, is a big contributor to the fear of public cloud not being able to secure workloads.

50% of delegates voted as having a fair understanding and knowledge about public cloud. Delegates shared that with the big providers of cloud constantly enhancing their technology and services, it becomes a race for them to catch-up with the changes while attempting to adopt the technology.

Be forward in your journey

Joseph Smith: Understand the plan, strategy and skills for cloud adoption

Joseph Smith, Chief Technologist and Advisory at Singtel concluded the event with food-for-thought and questions for delegates to reflect upon. He said that they should now have realised their transformation plan.

They should now be aware of how the transformation to the hybrid cloud will help them. He said that the delegates do acknowledge that skills are needed and are informed about the security concerns surrounding cloud adoption and of how they can be mitigated.

He said that it important for organisations to bring this out and take the step forward. They must ask themselves: Are you being a transformative force for the business?

Joseph said that businesses should understand what the plan is, what is the strategy to be used, and of what skills are needed.

“Be forward and think about it,” he said.

Conclusion

Delegates left the session with a better understanding of what a hybrid cloud can do for their business and of the questions they should be asking themselves during their journey of the adoption/use of it.

The AWS Public Sector Summit held at the Suntec City Convention Centre on 25 September is the latest cloud computing event in Singapore which saw more than 1500 attendees from Singapore and around the ASEAN region, to learn and gain deeper insights of how cloud technology has been used by government agencies, education institutions and non-profit organisations across the world, and of what they have achieved with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

The day was filled with a series of events from keynote speeches to track sessions, which discussed various topics such as threat detection with AI.

AWS and what it provides

Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector (WWPS) at AWS, shared about the journey of AWS in accelerating the public sector innovation and transformation.

She said that the public sector business focuses on two areas: paving way for disruptive innovation and making the world a better place.

The AWS Singapore Region was launched in 2010. AWS has since been launched in seven other regions across the Asia Pacific. She announced Jakarta, Indonesia, being a new addition to this list and to be launched in early 2022.

AWS provides services according to the requirements of customers. Some of these include data sovereignty, data backup and low latency.

Land Transport Authority (LTA), Networked Trade Platform under Singapore Customs, Singapore Land Authority (SLA), and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), are some of the customers in Singapore who employ AWS’s services.

Teresa laid out the top advantages of cloud technology: Speed, agility, security, ability to experiment, pay for what you use, and global deployment.

She explained in detail what helps customers move faster in the public sector space with cloud:

  1. Having a true definition of cloud computing

Eliminating up-front expense, spin up resources when needed, scale with demand, focus on innovation, and deploy globally in minutes. 

  1. Having a cloud-first policy

Agencies and ministries need to think that for any project, cloud technology will be employed first before others. Leadership is needed to drive this. Teresa shared that the USA was the first to start on this before other countries followed suit: Singapore, Japan, Australia, India, Philippines, Brazil, Columbia, United Kingdom, and Bahrain. She added that the UK has adopted a cloud-native policy.

  1. Security, Privacy and Compliance

Agency leaders should not be guessing what the controls are for a low, medium and high security workload. A regime which is easily understandable without room for doubts is needed. All of AWS’s services are GDPR-ready. AWS has achieved certification for Singapore’s Multi-Tier Cloud Security Standard (MTCS) Level 3 for hosting high confidential data.

She shared about a new service to be rolled out by AWS called “Threat detection using AI”. This service can be easily deployed across governments and public sector customers. It relies on deep learning algorithms to identify threats. 

  1. Procurement vehicles

Example of procurement vehicles in use includes AWS’s Whole of Government agreement with the Commonwealth of Australia in June 2019.   The agreement enables Australian Federal, State and Territory agencies and departments, as well as government-controlled public universities and corporations, to access all AWS Cloud services, through a simplified procurement model. This centralised agreement lets agencies save costs from the day they sign up, due to the economies of scale achieved from the aggregated procurement – it removes challenges around raising individual tenders and complex contracting processes.

The Whole-of-Government agreement provides agencies with a steady approach to access and use all the AWS services in any of AWS’s 69 Availability Zones (AZs) spanning 22 Regions around the world, without having to discuss separate contract terms.

  1. Skills development

It is important to know how to use cloud, a lack of such skills will slow down the cloud-first policy.

Teresa said that experimentation is needed throughout the organizations, as “there is no compression algorithm for experience”.

  1. Speed and scale

Once the factors above have been refined as a framework in building the culture of cloud in the organization, users can move ahead much faster.  

Building a Smart Nation

Tan Kok Yam, Head of Smart Nation Programme, Prime Minister’s Office of Singapore, shared about the ways in which his office has benefited from the use of AWS.

He went into detail on the challenges, solutions and journey for “Building a Smart Nation” in Singapore.

Challenges

Mr Tan shared that the “evergreen problems” of countries are to make the economy more productive, create more jobs, serve businesses and citizens better, and allow innovation to thrive.

Solutions

Building a national digital identity (national digital ID) is one of the Smart Nation office’s plans for addressing these challenges. He mapped out the transformation of Singapore’s national IDs over the years: IC- Singpass- Corpass- MyInfo- National Digital ID.

He said that the formation of an National Digital Identity (NDI) stack is key for providing user-centric services. It will allow for trusted data and trusted identity which will be defined by the government, and for trusted access and trusted services which will be created by the private sector.

He also shared about CODEX (Core Operations Development Environment Exchange), a unified government data architecture, or technology stack, where services and high-quality data can be shared securely across multiple government agencies at a much shorter timeframe. An example close to this will be SingPass.

This allows the Singapore government to be more agile and to build solutions better, cheaper and faster. It also reduces duplicative work, improve delivery, enable compliance, and enhance cybersecurity.

Journey

On the journey ahead, Mr Tan reiterated how cloud is a key enabler of their ambitions. It provides scale and resiliency to governments, individuals and businesses. It also provides richness in services, ease of development, and reduces the need of duplicative work.

Mr Tan pointed out the anticipated challenges along the way, which are the new ways of operating (evolving processes and policies, mindset change needed), new forms of risk and risk management, and legacy systems.

Data mobility and migration

Peter Moore, Regional Managing Director for Asia Pacific and Japan, Worldwide Public Sector, AWS shared about the different services that AWS provides to customers for ensuring data mobility and migration. Some of these include AWS Snowball and AWS DataSync.

He also shared about how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are used for delivering citizen services faster, transform the way students learn, and solve some of our most pressing challenges. Some of these include AI services such as image and speech recognition, creating chatbots, forecasting and recommendations.

OpenGov had the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into AWS and of its cloud capabilities:

Adoption of cloud technology

Peter said that cloud technology is still at the beginning of adoption. He said that some organisations are still using relational database for everything and the technology silos. He talked about how AWS addresses this issue with its comprehensive suite of more than 165 services that range with compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), security, deployment, and management, that organizations can access to use any combination of services.

There is no need for organisations to create systems and services from scratch for each specific project but focus on using the cloud services to speed their delivery of projects. He reiterated the characteristics of cloud, which include not having to pay upfront capital, but only for what you use. This mandates the need for a hyper-scale structure which can be used across various organisations.

He added that this allows customers to experiment with ideas, run test and development workloads, develop new applications, and deploy critical applications and services quickly in their cloud adoption journey.  AWS provides the infrastructure and customers would just have to employ the services according to their needs.

He stressed about how some governments are still stuck on the traditional ways of managing data due to the lack of understanding and exposure to what cloud services can offer.   The lack of technical sophistication and skills are some of the boulders in the speed of these governments adopting cloud technology.

However, the push from citizens to go digital and the adoption of cloud technology by start-ups, and the benefits they enjoy from it, are some of the push factors for adoption amongst governments.

Peter stressed that it is crucial to start embarking on the cloud adoption journey, experiment with cloud services, run workloads, and understand how it functions to leverage the cloud capabilities and accelerate innovation for citizens.

Sharing data on cloud

It is important to acknowledge that cloud provides the platform for multiple environments that can share data amongst one another. While cloud does provide many benefits, it should also provide the security to users that their data will be protected.

Peter said that mindset has shifted from “Can we trust the security of cloud” to organizations are moving to the cloud because it improves their security posture.  Peter shared that with the breadth and depth of AWS services, including providing fine-grain security controls and tools for organizations to use in protecting their data and environment, agencies can leverage AWS as their first line of defence , much like a fortress in defending the government systems.

Currently, the world is eagerly watching as 5G networking technology is rolled out gradually. Its arrival is expected to spark a huge take-up of cloud services which are now becoming more affordable, better and faster. This will encourage more companies to begin their transition to remote computing.

Among cities in Asia, Hong Kong is well-placed in terms of its cloud readiness. The Asia Cloud Computing Association (ACCA) ranked the region second in the 2018 Cloud Readiness Index based on cloud infrastructure, security and regulation.

However, despite the support of the government, a significant portion of Hong Kong businesses have yet to embrace cloud technology.

A market study undertaken by a major international banking group in 2018 shows that only 28 per cent of companies surveyed said they had digital plans in place.

The need for cross-sector collaboration

The public and private sectors will need to collaborate and explore how cloud solutions can be deployed to enhance information sharing and more efficient management of data.

The Hong Kong government has invested in the city’s development as a smart city, outlining plans over the next five years and beyond to develop its infrastructure around innovation and technology.

The city has a competitive advantage when it comes to becoming the cloud technology hub of the region owing to its reliable telecommunications infrastructure, exceptional broadband quality and the free flow of information.

The government is taking steps to ensure this will happen, leading by example. It is currently developing its own next-generation GovCloud and big data analytics platform, expected to be launched in the third quarter of 2020.

The planned adoption is expected to streamline government services and save it and the city’s residents money and time through a more agile and cost-effective delivery of common e-government infrastructure.

Enabling more movement between software

Cloud models can be private, public or a combination, known as hybrid, and there are advantages and disadvantages to these models, depending on the prospective users’ IT infrastructure load and business objectives.

A major concern about adopting a single company’s services is “vendor lock-in” which can limit options, making firms unable to migrate data to another service once it is on a particular cloud.

However, this problem can be solved by choosing providers that use open-source software for developing and hosting cloud infrastructure, giving customers the freedom to move between software easily.

The finance industry, which uses huge amounts of data, stands to gain from the adoption of cloud technologies, and one of the world’s biggest banks is migrating petabytes of data to the cloud.

Other initiatives include greater cross-border collaboration with mainland Chinese financial authorities, a greater focus on local research and development, and other innovations for both the industry and customers.

The government has earmarked HK$45 billion (US$5.73 million) for tech-related projects, including high-school-level IT Innovation Lab programmes, improving universities’ research facilities and expanding Hong Kong’s technology and digital business park, Cyberport.

Cloud tech is for everyone

The benefits of cloud computing extend beyond banks. As the technology is adopted by the finance industry and beyond, it will help to ease the digitalisation of operations while redefining customer experiences and accelerate innovation.

SMEs are a natural fit for cloud computing services owing to their light IT infrastructure. They are also more eager to look into cloud offerings that can help them scale their business and incorporate innovative cloud compute products (including those that are AI and IoT related).

Start-up communities are industries that are extremely mobile such as transport and logistics, and automated manufacturing, with its high data load, are all in a position to benefit from cloud technologies.

Cyberport currently hosts a cloud computing centre to provide a community cloud infrastructure for start-ups. This allows entrepreneurs with smaller capital access to cloud technology in a cost-effective manner.

The government is also assisting SMEs in procuring cloud-based solutions through its Technology Voucher Programme, which provides grants of up to HK$400,000 to businesses in the sector to help them adopt and access technological services and solutions to improve productivity or upgrade or transform their business processes.

Bridging the knowledge gap

Hong Kong companies are cautious by nature; this makes them unwilling to embrace the technology completely.

The biggest challenge of promoting cloud technology in Hong Kong is a preconceived notion that deploying cloud will mean incurring added security risks.

This worry is not unfounded; 2017 saw 61 per cent of SMEs in Hong Kong reporting a cyber breach in the previous three years, according to a survey.

Some common causes of the breach included use of non-company devices to access the company network, the risk from third-party service providers and – for smaller businesses – low budgets for cybersecurity.

The expert stated that there is a knowledge gap that providers are struggling to bridge. Many consumers do not know where and how the cloud operates.

To mitigate this, the HKMA founded the Cybersecurity Fortification Initiative, which is tasked with roles including developing the skills of cybersecurity professionals and encouraging them to share cyber intelligence. T

he Office of the Government Chief Information Officer also has implemented a practice of sending out real-time security alerts when it detects online vulnerabilities.

While SMEs may be at risk of a data breach with their limited resources, choosing a good cloud service provider will enable them to not only realise the benefits of cloud technology but also boost network security.

The Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) has recently updated its Cloud Computing Implementation Guide. It is catered towards financial institutions (FIs), to assist them in cloud outsourcing arrangements.

This 2.0 version of the guide explains the rationale behind it:

Technology and market practice has advanced rapidly since the guide was first released in June 2016.

It was felt an updated version was required to address these changes, as well as to further support the practice of migrating material workloads to the Cloud, including systems of record and those classified as Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Critical1.

Factors such as the advancement of technology and the evolution of market practices were taken into consideration in updating the guide.

The revised guide contains standards such as:

  1. A detailed framework that proposes ways for governing, designing, securing and running the cloud
  2. Highlighting of significant features for categorising material and non-material cloud outsourcing arrangements

Eg. Financial Risk management systems (material) versus staff data which does not include personal bank or credit card data (non-material)

  1. Deeper guidance for ensuring that Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) are following the ABS Guidelines on Control Objectives and Procedures for Outsourced Service Producers (OSPs) and the OSP Audit Report (OSPAR)
  2. In-depth regulations for securing material versus standard (non-material) workloads. These regulations are implemented for critical workloads as well

The guide suggests and explains in detail due-diligence activities for Cloud outsourcing arrangements:

  1. Governance
  2. Assessment of the cloud service provider
  3. Contractual consideration

It also comes with a breakdown of key controls which guide in the usage of cloud computing:

  1. Govern the cloud
  2. Design and secure the cloud
  3. Run the cloud

The updated guide is a product of an initial eighteen months of research which was continued by a three-month period of cross-industry consultation with CSPs, FIs and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).

All involved organisations and agencies reviewed and discussed three hundred and sixty-five pieces of feedback in full congregational meetings, ensuring that there was a consensus among them.

Mrs Ong–Ang Ai Boon, Director ABS, said, “As one of the top financial hubs in the region, it is crucial that the financial industry seizes the cost and risk reduction opportunities offered by cloud computing services.”

She expressed confidence that the partnership with CSPs would further strengthen the technology and operational resilience of individual institutions as cloud infrastructure can be scaled on-demand to accommodate varying workloads.

Revision of the Implementation Guide, she believes, is a major achievement that was only possible with the continued collaboration between and the commitment from the CSPs, the ABS’ Standing Committee of Cyber Security and the Outsourcing Advisory Committee.

Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer, MAS, said, “Financial institutions are scaling up the utilisation of cloud services to enable innovation and new business models, as well as to meet the exponential need for and use of data.”

He felt that the updated implementation guide is a clear reflection of industry good practices and that the recommendations are keeping in line with this shift.

The updated publication, he opined, establishes clear expectations for banks and cloud service providers; and will continue to facilitate and encourage responsible and safe adoption of cloud services.

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