As governments work around the clock to try and stop the spread of COVID-19, they are using all resources possible, turning more and more towards technology solutions to speed up their efforts in battling the spread of the virus. This includes large surveillance networks, mobile phone tracking, accessing and sharing health records, AI and facial recognition.
Tech Solutions to Beat Coronavirus raise Data Privacy Concerns
Although these efforts are being used for public health and safety, and it makes sense for Governments to use everything possible to fight this virus, it does raise concerns about data privacy.
Some of those tech solutions being implemented have a direct impact on people’s privacy. In certain cities, the entire population is under intense surveillance, while in some places the medical data of those infected with the virus is being shared between organisations and countries. It’s a fine line between using data for good and infringing on personal data rights.
Surveillance: external monitoring and personal data
Cameras or drones monitoring or ensuring people stay at home, tech solutions to screen crowds for people with elevated temperatures, facial recognition technology to track activity and movement are all ways governments are trying to curb the spread of coronavirus.
It is not just external sources that are being used for surveillance, governments are looking at citizens digital footprints to track their activity from their credit cards activity or tracking their movements from their smartphone data.
Governments all over the world looking to mobile data to help combat COVID-19
Singapore Government has launched a contact-tracing smartphone app last week to help identify those who have been exposed to the coronavirus and to aid contact tracing nationwide
BT, owner of UK mobile operator EE, is in talks with the UK government about using its phone location and usage data to monitor whether coronavirus limitation measures such as asking the public to stay at home are working.
Similar measures have already been carried out much further in South Korea, which has used apps to monitor the spread of the disease.
Israel also recently passed an emergency law which allows the government to track the spread of the virus using data from mobile phones.
Government Data Usage needs to be transparent-
Privacy and data protection laws cannot and should not get in the way of government strategy to saving lives. But even at times of crisis, data privacy should still be respected, and frameworks put in place for emergency situations like this and for also what happens once the crisis has been resolved. This should be clearly communicated to all citizens to maintain government transparency and trust, and good government-citizen relationships.
The Second Minister for Trade and Industry, Tan See Leng, and the Republic of Korea (RoK) Minister for Trade, Dukgeun Ahn, have signed the Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA).
Under the agreement, the two sides will work to establish digital trade rules and norms to promote interoperability between digital systems. This will enable more seamless cross-border data flows and build a trusted and secure digital environment for businesses and consumers. A government press release wrote that KSDPA will also deepen bilateral cooperation in new emerging areas such as personal data protection, e-payments, artificial intelligence, and source code protection.
The Ministers also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Implementing the Korea-Singapore Digital Economy Dialogue, which will act as a platform to promote digital economy collaboration between industry players and academic experts from both sides. The MoU is part of bilateral efforts to develop cooperative projects to implement the KSDPA. Key features of the KSDPA include:
Facilitating end-to-end digital trade
Electronic Payments (e-payments): The two sides will adopt transparent and facilitative rules (e.g. encouraging open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)) to promote secure cross-border e-payments.
Paperless Trading: Singapore and RoK will accept electronic versions of trade administration documents to support the digitalisation and seamless exchange of key commercial documents.
Open Government Data: Both countries will ensure that government data will be publicly available in a machine-readable and open format, with easy-to-use and freely available APIs.
Enabling trusted data flows
Cross-border Data Flows (including for financial services): Businesses in Singapore and RoK will be allowed to transfer information, including those which are generated or held by financial institutions, across borders if the requisite regulations are met and with adequate personal data protection safeguards in place.
Prohibiting Data Localisation: The two nations will establish rules against data localisation requirements so that businesses can choose where their data is stored and processed, and their cloud technology of choice.
Facilitate trust in digital systems and participation in the Digital Economy
Artificial Intelligence (AI): The countries will promote the adoption of AI governance and ethical frameworks that support the trusted, safe, and responsible use of AI-based technologies.
Cryptography: Neither country will require the transfer of or access to private keys and related technologies, as a condition of market access.
Source Code Protection: To ensure software developers can trust the market within which they operate and ensure that source code is protected, neither country will require the transfer of, or access to, source code as a condition of market access. This includes the algorithm expressed in the source code.
Online Consumer Protection: The two sides will adopt laws that guard against fraudulent or deceptive conduct that causes harm to consumers engaged in online commercial activities.
Small and Medium Enterprises Cooperation: Singapore and RoK will promote jobs and growth for SMEs. They will also encourage their participation in platforms that help link them with international suppliers, buyers, and other potential business partners.
Digital Identities: The countries will promote interoperability of digital identity regimes, which can lead to reliable identity verification and the faster processing of applications. This will enable businesses and consumers to navigate the digital economy with ease and security.
Information and communication technology (ICT) is used in a smart city to improve government efficiency, public engagement and the standard of living for its residents.
Advanced technologies and data analytics are at the heart of the concept of a “smart city,” whose primary goals are the enhancement of city services, the promotion of economic growth, and the betterment of residents’ quality of life.
The recent pandemic and other critical events have forced the citizens of the Philippines, as it has in other countries, to rely on their government for a wide range of services to be offered innovatively.
Agencies moved rapidly to digitalise services and set standards for data storage, security and workflow. Central and local governments have implemented a wide range of ICT strategies to lessen the impact of these catastrophes.
For instance, Makati City, the business capital of the Philippines, launched the Makatizen Card and the Makatizen App to offer financial help and services, such as online legal assistance, teleconsultations, and online learning, to its residents.
Challenges Turn Inspiration: Embarking on Smart City Projects
“We will be able to increase our revenue and service efficiency through innovation,” Charles asserts, citing the recently launched “MakaTurismo” website to underscore his point, which was made to help the local tourism sector.
The website is Metro Manila’s first travel website focused on attracting tourists into a post-pandemic environment. Apart from the lifestyle centres, eateries, and hotels, the City of Makati is home to numerous undiscovered treasures, such as special historical sites.
Since it includes details about the city’s tourist attractions, lodging options and free walking tours, the project could significantly assist businesses in attracting clients and customers.
While discussions of digital transformation typically centre on improvements to remote working capabilities, Makati City has instead begun investing in infrastructure upgrades. As a result, they are modernising their server infrastructure by switching from a physical to a software-defined network (SDN) and merging various data centres.
Charles noted that Makati City is concerned with project implementation and database consolidation. In addition, they integrate analytics into all projects and increase automation to improve their functional services.
Makati City opened the Makatizen Hub in 2021, to further assist its citizens in their transactions during the ongoing pandemic. The local government has set up satellite offices so that everything can be done online.
Charles emphasises that, as they integrate technology in a variety of ways, they are centralising a strategic approach to planning and managing the direction of the city government’s use of technology.
To accommodate its diverse population, Makati provides a wide range of publicly available services. In addition, there are services designed exclusively for residents, catering to their unique requirements based on factors such as age, health, education and overall satisfaction with life.
The city has been able to successfully manage these programmes, but officials are always looking for ways to improve efficiency. This is made possible in large part by technological advancements. As the population of Makati expands, so do the city’s needs and the hopes and dreams of its residents.
The responsibility of the administration lies in anticipating the wants and needs of the people. By bolstering them with cutting-edge tech, agencies can reimagine service delivery and foresee what people will need in the future.
As an example of a programme designed for the future but implemented today, the Makatizen Card is a useful tool. The Makatizen Card is an innovative programme that provides residents of Makati with access to a variety of new social, informational, identifying and financial services.
For more than half a million people living in Makati, this single government-issued ID card unifies access to a wide range of economic and social services.
Charles is one of the authors of IT Security – the Security 3.0 book, published by Mithra Publishing in London. It discusses the infrastructure framework’s fundamentals that underpin the city’s primary data centre and the local government information system that has recently undergone upgrades.
“The data centre’s IT capabilities can only be improved through upgrades. By upgrading ageing or inefficient IT assets, they improve reliability, performance, efficiency, cost, security, and uptime -which resulted in serving the public efficiently,” Charles explains, further elaborating on the steps taken by the municipal government to improve flood and earthquake early warning systems.
Makati was named the first-ever Resilience Hub in the Philippines and the Southeast Asian Region by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in the third quarter of this year.
According to the UNDRR, a resilience hub is a city, municipality, or local authority with the political will and expertise to take action to reduce vulnerability to disasters and climate change. With the help of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign (MCR), which Makati joined in 2010, the city has successfully integrated disaster risk reduction into all its strategic plans and programmes. The region’s cities have joined several international networks to learn from and implement its DRR best practices.
Additionally, in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry – Board of Investments (DTI-BOI), Digital Pilipinas officially launched its Innovative Cities initiative to technologically advance one city at a time. It does this by bringing together local government agencies, academic institutions and the private sector to establish numerous centres of excellence.
In association with the Resiliency Innovation Sustainability & Entrepreneurship (RISE) Certification Programme, the City of Makati was selected as the programme’s pilot location. With a focus on making the Philippines relevant in digitalisation and Web 3.0 conversation, the Innovative Cities initiative seeks to increase the Philippines’ innovation and technology quotient to support local economies and expand their industries.
The city’s digital transformation journey in local government has been completed at minimal or no cost. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been used to implement larger-scale projects and some solutions have been provided for free in exchange for Makati serving as a model for the adoption of these technologies by other LGUs and institutions. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, Makati was still able to serve its citizens efficiently without endangering their health.
A true and effective digitalisation strategy entails a fundamental rethinking of the traditional organisational structures of industrial activities and business models to make them significantly better.
With the help of Makati Mayor Abby Binay, who is very encouraging of digital transformation, these initiatives were able to come to fruition. Charles believes that the use of technology and innovations is merely a tool to accomplish this goal, so it’s critical to pick the approaches that can most effectively help an application achieve its objectives.
“Digital transformation is, at its core, a mindset. It is a long-term, ongoing journey rather than a single undertaking or endpoint. As the business changes and appropriate technologies become available, iteration is necessary.”
The National University of Singapore (NUS) School of Computing recently hosted the inaugural Critical Infrastructure Defence Exercise (CIDeX), which was organised by the Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS). Over 100 people from the DIS and 16 other national agencies working in the Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) sectors took part in the cyber defence exercise.
The largest Operational Technology (OT) Critical Infrastructure defence exercise, CIDeX is supported by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), iTrust/SUTD, and the National Cybersecurity R&D Laboratory (NCL).
CIDeX is designed to train and strengthen the Whole-Of-Government (WoG) cyber capabilities to detect and address cyber security threats to Information Technology (IT) and OT networks that control the operations of critical infrastructure.
Over the course of the two days, members of the Blue Teams, which included individuals from the national agencies acting as cyber defenders, guarded the exercise’s digital infrastructure, which included an enterprise IT network and three OT testbeds that replicated a water treatment plant, a water distribution plant, and a power grid system, from real-time simulated cyber-attacks launched by a composite Red Team made up of DIS and CSA personnel.
Attacks on the IT network and OT testbeds were included in exercise scenarios. These attacks included poisoning the water treatment plant, stopping water distribution, and cutting off the power supply—all of which intended to disrupt operations and have a negative impact on the way of life. By using cyber tools to track, identify, and block Red Team cyberattacks, participants improved their technical knowledge and intuition for defending cyber networks.
In order to strengthen and perfect their cyber defence competencies prior to the exercise, the participants completed a three-day hands-on training course at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAFexpanded )’s Cyber Defence Test and Evaluation Centre (CyTEC) at Stagmont Camp.
Alongside the exercise, Defence Cyber Chief (DCC) Brigadier-General (BG) Edward Chen and CSA’s Deputy Chief Executive (Development), Gaurav Keerthi, inked a Joint Operations Agreement (JOA) between the DIS and CSA. A framework for collaboration and cooperation in joint operations and capability development is established by the CSA-DIS JOA, which will help create a secure national cyberspace.
The DIS is aware of the need of cultivating close cooperation with CSA and other national agencies in safeguarding Singapore’s cyberspace, according to BG Edward, who emphasised the need for close partnership in securing Singapore’s cyberspace.
He acknowledged that the Joint Operations Agreement between the CSA and the DIS is a significant step in broadening their alliance and institutionalising their existing collaboration in areas like joint cyber training. They give the national cyber defenders a forum to practise together and improve their capacity to defend Singapore’s critical infrastructure systems by cooperating on massive cyber exercises like CIDeX.
Furthermore, CSA’s Deputy Chief Executive Gaurav remarked that cybersecurity is a collaborative effort, and the CSA welcomes the Digital and Intelligence Service to this team. The CSA has a long history of collaboration on national cyber defence with MINDEF/SAF.
Exercises like CIDeX guarantee that everyone is ready for cyber crises and emergencies. The CSA-DIS Joint Operations Agreement confirms SAF’s sustained assistance for Singapore’s cyberspace defence.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that the DIS had been launched by the Service of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). As the SAF’s fourth military service or branch, it is responsible for defending the nation from evolving and intricate digital and electronic threats in cyberspace.
The SAF’s existing command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) and cyber capabilities are combined and integrated into DIS, according to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). DIS consists of a Service Headquarters (HQ), a Digital Ops-Tech Center, four Commands, and a few Joint and Cyber Staff departments.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY) is deliberating on various aspects of digital personal data and its protection and has formulated a draft bill titled ‘The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2022’. The Ministry has invited feedback from the public on the draft Bill. The submissions will not be disclosed and held in a fiduciary capacity, to enable people submitting feedback to provide the same freely. The government has said no public disclosure of the submissions will be made.
According to a press release, the purpose of the draft Bill is to provide for the processing of digital personal data in a manner that recognises both the right of individuals to protect their personal data and the need to process personal data for lawful purposes and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The draft Bill employs plain and simple language to facilitate ease of understanding and is available on the Ministry’s website along with an explanatory note that provides a brief overview of its provisions.
There are presently over 760 million active Internet users and over the next coming years, this is expected to touch 1.2 billion. There is an increasing need to regulate content and data collection on the Internet.
The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill frames out the rights and duties of the citizen (Digital Nagrik) on one hand and the obligations to use collected data lawfully of the Data Fiduciary on the other. The bill is based on seven principles around the Data Economy.
The first principle is that usage of personal data by organisations must be done in a manner that is lawful, fair, and transparent. The second principle of purpose limitation is that the personal data is used for the purposes for which it was collected.
The third principle of data minimisation is that only those items of personal data required for attaining a specific purpose must be collected. The fourth principle of the accuracy of personal data is that a reasonable effort must be made to ensure that the personal data of the individual is accurate and kept up to date. The fifth principle of storage limitation is that personal data is not stored perpetually by default. The storage should be limited to such duration as is necessary for the stated purpose for which personal data was collected.
The sixth principle is that reasonable safeguards are taken to ensure that there is no unauthorised collection or processing of personal data. This is intended to prevent a personal data breach. The seventh principle is that the person who decides the purpose and means of the processing of personal data should be accountable for such processing.
The Bill will establish a comprehensive legal framework governing digital personal data protection in the country. The Bill provides for the processing of digital personal data in a manner that recognises the right of individuals to protect their personal data, societal rights, and the need to process personal data for lawful purposes.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) recently launched the fourth phase of the Digital Shakti Campaign, a pan-India project to digitally empower and upskill women in cyberspace. In line with its commitment to creating safe spaces for women and girls online, Digital Shakti 4.0 is focused on training women with digital skills and enabling them to stand up against any illegal/inappropriate activity online. NCW launched it in collaboration with CyberPeace Foundation and a social networking giant.
According to a press release, while addressing the audience the NCW Chairperson, Rekha Sharma, highlighted the efforts of the commission to empower women in every sphere across the nation. This new phase will prove to be a milestone in ensuring safe cyber spaces for women. Digital Shakti has been accelerating the digital participation of women by training them to use technology to their advantage and to keep themselves safe online. The project will continue to contribute towards the larger goal of fighting cyber violence against women and girls and making the Internet a safer space for them, Sharma said.
The launch was followed by an interactive panel discussion titled, “Safe Spaces Online Combatting Cyber-Enabled Human Trafficking and Combatting Other forms of Online Violence”. It offered a platform for experts from the industry, government, and academia to share opinions and address the issue of women’s safety online from several aspects and provide a holistic approach to ensure better cybersecurity for women.
Launched in June 2018, Digital Shakti aims to raise digital awareness among women in India and build resilience, and fight cybercrime in the most effective ways. Through this project, over 300,000 women have been made aware of cyber safety tips and tricks, reporting and redressal mechanisms, data privacy, and emerging technology. The third phase of the programme was started in March 2021. In this phase, a Resource Centre was also developed under the project to provide information on all the avenues of reporting in case a woman faces any cybercrime.
The government has launched several initiatives over the past few years to help increase the rate of digital literacy among all citizens as well as government officials. Earlier, OpenGov Asia reported that an e-learning portal for the Department of Posts was launched to enhance the competencies of about 400,000 rural postal service and departmental employees by providing them access to standardised training content online or in a blended campus mode. This will enable them to effectively deliver several government-to-citizen (G2C) services for enhanced customer satisfaction. The training videos and quizzes on the portal are available in 12 Indian languages.
After completing the final summative assessment, a system-generated course completion certificate will be sent to the trainee’s registered email ID automatically. Trainees can also submit feedback, ratings, and suggestions for all learning content.
To enhance digital-based governance, the government is getting ready to construct four National Data Centers (PDN). Hence, the implementation of data-driven policies is encouraged using digital government ideas and initiatives.
According to Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, Director General of Informatics Applications at the Ministry of Communication and Informatics, PDN is a strategic move by the government to advance effectiveness, efficiency, the sovereignty of state data, and the consolidation of national data within the One Data Indonesia framework.
He said during the “Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Development of the National Data Centre (Strengthening of E-Government), in Cikarang, West Java, “The PDN is one of the instructions of the President of the Republic of Indonesia in order to expedite digital transformation within government agencies.
The National Data Centre is expected to result in smart and contemporary governance because the installed technology in the PDN ecosystem comprises cloud computing, big data analytics and artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the metaverse.
Director General Semuel noted that the groundbreaking represented the introduction of the Bekasi Regency PDN development project to the central government, local government, the private sector, and the community.
The establishment of PDN is also one of the primary factors boosting Indonesia’s digital innovation. Especially in the context of effectiveness, efficiency, consolidation of national data, security, and sovereignty of state information, as well as encouraging the implementation of One Data Indonesia.
The Ministry has designed four PDN development locations, including the Deltamas Industrial Estate (Jabodetabek) region, the Nongsa Digital Park (Batam) area, the new National Capital City (IKN) in East Kalimantan, and Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara.
The Ministry indicated that the initial PDN was constructed in Cikarang, West Java, namely in the Deltamas Industrial Estate region, around forty kilometres from Jakarta. The second PDN will be constructed in the Nongsa neighbourhood of Batam City, Province of the Riau Archipelago. A fibre optic network capable of connecting the area and its environs to western Indonesia already exists at this site.
The decision to locate a data centre in Batam is based on the comprehensiveness of the supporting infrastructure, which includes fibre optic infrastructure, electricity supply, water, and direct paths to the global internet backbone. IKN and Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara are slated to house the second PDN development location.
Meanwhile, Usman Kansong, Director General of Information and Public Communication at the Ministry of Communication and Informatics declared that the government intends to use metaverse technology to promote virtual tourism at the Borobudur Temple.
To safeguard the tourist attraction, Director General Usman claims that the discussion on the use of this metaverse technology began concurrently with the implementation of a ban or restriction on general visitors’ access to the Borobudur Temple edifice. According to the Ministry, using this technology allows tourists who visit the Borobudur Temple can still climb this ancient structure without being there with the help of the metaverse.
Led by the Minister of Communication and Informatics Johnny G. Plate, the Ministry is optimistic that the implementation of this cutting-edge technology will be realised. The government would also offer help and training for waste management as well as for distributing local handicrafts in the vicinity of the temple and growing tourist settlements. This tourist system has the potential to offset the pandemic’s significant economic impact on the travel and tourism industry.
To produce a consolidated database system for 3D visualisation and analysis of surface and subsurface information, the 3D Philippines Information System was created and led by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (DOST-PHIVOLCS) and the De La Salle University (DLSU).
This initiative is monitored by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) in collaboration with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
An output of the 3D Philippines Programme, the 3D Philippines Information System is a web-based application that was created as a platform to offer researchers from national government agencies, local government units, and other sectors a centralised database system for storing, accessing and facilitating hazards and risk assessment of surface and subsurface information. The 3D Philippines fully supports the government’s drive for digital transformation to simplify operations and integrate, among other things, risk and hazard assessments.
One of the goals of 3D Philippines, according to Dr Teresito C. Bacolcol, PHIVOLCS Officer-in-Charge, is to incorporate borehole information into the GeoRiskPH Platform so that researchers can view subsurface information and subsequently assess subsurface conditions for geotechnical designs. “Our engineers would benefit greatly from the three-dimensional image we obtain with the borehole information integrated into the system.”
The System supports GeoRiskPH in managing and analysing scientific data to support programmes for research, planning, and disaster risk reduction. The goal of PHIVOLCS is to create a 3D workspace where scientists, engineers, and planners may work together. The organisation is hopeful that they will be able to develop a system that allows users to move things in a virtual reality environment and has envisioned putting this 3D facility nearby.
Publicly accessible platforms like HazardHunterPH and GeoAnalyticsPH will make 3D visualisation available to the general population. To let concerned stakeholders know that information on boreholes is available, the platforms will also indicate the general location of boreholes at different zoom levels.
More than 100 participants from the National Housing Authority (NHA), National Irrigation Authority (NIA), National Water Resources Board (NWRB), and local government entities are expected to benefit from the training session.
Meanwhile, the people, communities, and local governments should not be complacent about the potential hazards and repercussions of tsunamis in their territories, according to officials and experts from the DOST-PHIVOLCS.
Diverse tsunami-prone localities have been receiving services from DOST-PHIVOLCS. To ensure that all LGUs are prepared to develop an appropriate and coordinated response action plan for the residents, it also entails monitoring, cascading pertinent information and warnings down to the local and barangay areas in various platforms and possible ways, and risk assessment.
The public, LGU officials, and responders can browse technology-based and mobile applications like Hazard Hunter, REDAS, and GeoRiskPH, which will eventually help them not only on the monitoring side but also to have a better understanding of various possible tsunami risks and hazards in particular areas.
The DOST-PHIVOLCS websites and social media profiles are among the channels that the agency has stressed as being useful in assisting every LGU in making better decisions. Since the Philippines is an archipelago and earthquakes frequently occur, it is crucial to have the proper knowledge regarding tsunamis and to be prepared for them.
The local government units in the nation are urged by DOST-PHIVOLCS to build and improve their tsunami warning systems and evacuation strategies to safeguard every Filipino, particularly those who live in coastal areas.