On the morning of November 3rd, OpenGov Asia and its partner Raytheon|Websense held an informative breakfast dialogue. The topic covered was on the new era of cyber security and Singapore’s journey towards a more secured and protected government. Twenty delegates from fourteen Singaporean public sector agencies were represented in this dialogue. Each gave insight into their own experiences with cyber security and what they consider to be formidable security strategies. The speakers included Mr. Mohit Sagar, Managing Director and Editor in Chief of OpenGov Asia, Mr. Anurag Madan, Head of IT Digital Services at Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand and Mr. David Barton, Chief Information Security Officer for Raytheon|Websense.
The breakfast dialogue began with Mr. Mohit Sagar, Managing Director and Editor in Chief of OpenGov Asia. He opened up the discussion by saying, “We know where we are in the current threat landscape, we are getting attacked every minute, and these attackers are not going away. There are many things we need to be considering when it comes to security. What’s most shocking is: most of these threats are internal, the shortage of skilled workers is increasing, and in 2017 there will be a 47% shortage in security personnel.” He went on to ask the delegates, “What are we securing? Is it our perimeters? Is it our borders?” Singapore is on the right track to becoming the world’s first smart nation. Making sure that the nation is secure will help make for a smooth transition towards being fully connected.
Mr. David Barton, Chief Information Security Officer for Raytheon|Websense, joined the discussion as a fellow CISO facing some of the same threats as the delegates sitting at the table. “Attackers have tools to send a lure into your organisation. Typically, if they are unprepared for this, an employee will respond to the email and be led to a compromised website. They are able to access your data. That data now leaves your network,” he said, “We are also studying the concept of ‘dwell time’, where the attacker is inside the network without being detected.”
Mr. Anurag Madan, Head of IT Digital Services at Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand, took the floor to share his experience introducing new security strategies in his organisation. He talks about the context of security within New Zealand and how it has put pressure on organisations to put further protection measures in place. Mr. Madan is running a project on simplification within MSD. This project drives digital uptake, reducing manual labor at the back end, using analytics to support risk mitigation, and taking on a cloud first strategy for speedier time to market. “With Mobile, Cloud, and IoT, there are more chances for attacks. The risk exposure is exponentially rising, we need to start thinking differently about security,” stated Mr. Madan. Getting reactive to adaptive security is a great vision for Mr. Madan and he says this can be attained by looking at security as a managed service.
We opened up the discussion by addressing the security threat landscape as it stands today. On this topic, Mr. Sagar stated, “Data security, means where ever the data goes… we have to protect where it lands.” The poll results show that when the delegates were asked: “What security threats worries you most?” 50% of delegates responded with Advanced and Targeted Cyber Attacks and 28% responded with Data and Identify Thefts. Mr. Chai Chin Loon, Director for Security Tech, Advisory, and Projects Division, Infocomm Development Authority, believed this question was difficult to answer, and explained, “The way the various security threats are presented, they are all important. A breach in any one of them is already enough to cause a major incident to occur.” Mr. Madan adds that as a public sector organisation, most of the concerns are around the vulnerabilities of the people. Governments are constantly under watchful eyes of attackers; this creates many worries for these organisations.
When it comes to challenges in security architecture, the growing threat landscape has created new challenges for those tasked with protecting their organisations. When delegates were asked: “What do you think is the biggest challenge in your security architecture?” the room was split, as 44% responded with Lack of Collaboration between Various Security Products and 44% responded with Lack of Data Awareness and Visibility. Mr. Sagar said, “I see that many consider a lack of collaboration between various security products as their main challenge… and I agree, but how do we manage this?” Mr. Chng Ho Kiat, Director for Preparedness and Resilience Division, Ministry of Communications and Information, answered Mr. Sagar’s question, and said that, “When it comes to having various products, we have to think about what are the things we want to keep and what can we do without.”
Mr. John Yong, Director of Integrated Operations and Preparedness, Infocomm Development Authority added on, “I do not think anyone in the room dares to say we have built enough security. The problem will become more complex but these security companies become more complicated, meaning they become less standardised. Thus, products are overlapping. I am challenged by lack of collaboration between various security products, as I see it is the most common pain points to my fellow CISO.” One delegate disagreed with the others, saying that they see lack of data awareness and visibility as their greatest challenge, because they felt this is the weakest link in an organisation. The delegate relayed to the rest of the delegates that awareness programs are very difficult to move forward within their organisation.
Each organisation will have a different security measure that is most important within their organisation. The poll results show that when delegates were asked: “Which of the following security measures do you think is most important to you?” 38% of delegates responded with Data Protection and Data Loss Prevention, 44% responded with Insight and Real Time Protection against Security Threats and 11% with Insider Threat Detection and Prevention. Mrs. Agnes Lim, Head Army CIO Office HQ Signals & Command Systems, Ministry of Defense, stated, “I picked Data Protection and Data Loss Prevention as most important, because the outcome is important and I want to ensure that data is protected.” The room of delegates agreed that all of the security measures considered are of great importance to ensuring the organisation is protected against all threats.
In discussing the security of mobile apps, we must remember how the data is being shared between the network and the endpoint. During this journey, information has the potential to be compromised and networks can be breached. Mrs. Geraldine Chin, Deputy Director for Corporate Systems Department 2, JTC Corporation, is especially concerned about this, she said, “I am responsible for more the application side, so I am frightened about data loss. We are wondering if there is some area we should pay especial attention to. There are certain measures in place but we must look at a holistic level to prioritise which are most important to the organisation.”
Mr. Madan responded, “With respect to apps, we could be looking to predict the data in transit. This will give us the benefit of knowing how the data is traveling.” To this, Mr. Yong said, “First off, understand your risk. With apps there is a risk in information exchange transaction, within that transaction you want to know what is going on. Do you have the visibility to manage this? Security design in most of the apps is built for the risks considered. Our challenge is whether or not we understand what the risk is.”
It can be believed that whoever is tasked with the responsibility of securing the network within the organisation is burdened with the blame of when something goes wrong. We found that many delegates believe that this responsibility should be shared. When asked about who within the organisation ultimately owns the responsibility for security, our delegates had a variety of answers. Mr. Chng Ho Kiat said, “Based on the intent of the question, it should be everyone. As much as we want to assign responsibility, it is a shared responsibility.”
One delegate thought that it is up to the senior management when something serious happens. Mr. Sagar prompted the question, “Rather than responsibility, it is about ownership, is this correct?” Mr. Yong responds saying it depends on the specifics of the situation, “There are different responsibilities so it is about who has been assigned the responsibility to protect the system…We must think how to assign the task clear enough otherwise there will be gaps.” If these gaps are left alone, this is where organisations are left most vulnerable.
Within the security community, it is known that there is potential for each organisation to have a number of internal attacks. When this was brought up, one delegate said, “We have so many employees and each employee is a security threat to themselves.” Mrs. Chin adds on to that, by saying, “I believe that the greatest threats lie inside, there are a lot of risks that we unintentionally create. In designing the app we must consider how we and others treat the data.” Mr. Darren Chan, CIO, Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, disagreed with both, and stated, “I picked outside as the range of threats available, range is wider from the outside.” The risk from outside can be seen as much harder to control, which is why some are more worried about what external threats are coming their way. It is worth considering the permissions and access granted to employees, as internal attacks are still possible.
We see a world where everything is changing towards more modern and digital processes. This requires us to revalidate our security strategies. We must make sure that people are protected from threats and consequences of cyber-attacks. It is thought that raising the security IQ of the employee base in an organisation will decrease our threat profile exponentially. Mr. Barton helps close out the conversation by saying, “What see trending in the security sphere is, it is not a matter of if you get attacked, but when.”
The threat landscape is fluid. It is clear that security strategies need continuous focus and improvement. “We are constantly saying that this threat landscape is constantly changing, constantly evolving, and this must keep us on our toes,” said Mr. Sagar. When it comes to security collaboration, Mr. Madan said, “You have to start looking at innovation, which is starting to take priority over standards. We have not solved the problem but we are trying to think out of the box. I hope this leads to collaboration within the security industry.”
Moving towards a more secure government requires responsive movement to meet a growing threat landscape. While working towards becoming a more secure government, although there are many solutions already in place, we must believe we are always vulnerable. Government plays a big role in dealing with security as they are at the forefront of attacks. “Government can play a role in helping organisations to wake up to this new threat landscape,” said Mr. Chng Ho Kiat. Delegates must now think about what they can do in their organisations to make improvements to their security infrastructure.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan recently addressed the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit, shedding light on Singapore’s unique relationship with the oceans and its proactive approach to addressing the challenges nowadays. He highlighted the significance of the digitalisation of the maritime sector as a critical component in fostering sustainability.
Singapore’s history, culture, and economy are inextricably intertwined with its maritime surroundings. This small but dynamic city-state relies heavily on maritime trade, with a trading volume that is three times its GDP. This unique ratio underscores the vital importance of maritime routes and the sea itself to Singapore’s prosperity and well-being.
Minister Vivian highlighted the global movement toward the decarbonisation and digitalisation of the maritime sector as a significant opportunity. According to him, the shipping industry is a substantial contributor to carbon emissions, releasing one billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually. However, there is immense potential for abatement through innovative strategies.
One such strategy involves the establishment of green and digitally empowered shipping corridors, such as the partnership between the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore, the Port of Los Angeles, and the Port of Long Beach.
This corridor, initiated in April 2023, is part of the green shipping challenge, jointly launched by the United States and Norway. These corridors serve as vital nodes in the transition to lower and zero-emission fuels for ships, creating growth opportunities for businesses and promoting low-emission technologies in maritime port operations.
Minister Vivian added that the decarbonisation and digitalisation of the maritime sector represent a profound transformation that goes beyond mere industry trends; they are significant opportunities that can revolutionise the way shipping and maritime operations are conducted. These two interrelated processes are not just advantageous; they are pivotal in shaping the future of the maritime industry and addressing some of its most pressing challenges.
The synergy between decarbonisation and digitalisation holds great promise, with each complementing the other to produce amplified benefits. One of the key advantages of this partnership lies in the realm of data-driven decarbonisation. Digital tools and technologies offer the means to collect, analyse, and interpret vast amounts of data related to energy consumption, emissions, and environmental impact.
This data serves as the foundation for informed decision-making regarding the implementation and effectiveness of decarbonisation measures. By leveraging digital resources, organisations can ensure that their efforts are both cost-effective and environmentally impactful, directing resources where they are needed most while minimising wastage.
Besides, the fusion of decarbonisation and digitalisation leads to the concept of continuous improvement. Digital analytics tools excel in identifying areas where further decarbonisation efforts can be deployed. This iterative process creates a feedback loop that is indispensable in an industry marked by rapid technological advancements and changing environmental regulations.
In addition, Minister Vivian stressed the importance of international law in guiding the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) plays a pivotal role in this regard, providing a comprehensive legal framework for all activities in oceans and seas. Recent accomplishments, such as the “Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction” (BBNJ) treaty, represent significant milestones in global ocean governance.
The Minister is calling for collective commitment and collaboration across public, private, and civic sectors to create a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world. “As we navigate the digital seas of the future, Singapore stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who share a commitment to safeguarding our oceans and securing a brighter tomorrow,” he concludes.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) and the Hospital Authority (HA) have joined forces to create the HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab, set to launch in October 2023 at Hong Kong Science Park. The facility will grant over 1,400 Park companies and their partners direct access to de-identified clinical data sourced from HA’s extensive patient database, comprising around 200,000 patient records.
The lab will be the first portal of its kind, offering non-academic research and development (R&D) access to HA’s data, opening up exciting opportunities for the tech industry to leverage clinical data for groundbreaking biomedical and healthcare innovations.
HKSTP’s CEO highlighted the lab’s transformative potential within the innovation and technology (I&T) ecosystem. He highlighted how seamless data collaboration between hospitals, academia, and industry will drive Hong Kong’s healthcare transformation and digital economy aspirations. The lab is expected to catalyse the development of breakthrough technologies by Park companies, aimed at positively impacting global lives.
The Chief Executive of the Hospital Authority underscored the significance of this partnership in facilitating industry access to clinical data and fostering collaboration and innovation. It aligns with the shared goal of accelerating healthcare transformation and enhancing healthcare quality across Hong Kong.
The HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab, situated in Building 19W of Hong Kong Science Park, will provide robust infrastructure, enabling exclusive access to HA’s Self-service Data Platform. This platform encompasses clinical data from a randomly selected group of 200,000 patients spanning 2007 to 2017, categorised by age and gender. The data covers various aspects, from patient demographics and hospital/clinic attendance records to clinical diagnoses, procedures, medication records, and laboratory/radiology results.
Data security and privacy are paramount, with HKSTP implementing rigorous measures. These include on-site personnel, surveillance systems, an isolated network, and restrictions preventing data download, saving, or printing. Additionally, all personal information is anonymised in the database. Governance committees, namely the HKSTP Clinical Research Ethics Committee and the Data Governance Committee, ensure compliance with data protection, privacy, and clinical research ethics.
The official launch of the HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab is scheduled for October 2023, following a pilot phase. During this time, all 1,400+ HKSTP Park companies (primarily in biotech and healthcare), their partners, and academic researchers can apply for access, with each application granting a five-day exploration window.
This collaboration stems from Hong Kong’s 2021 Policy Address, which tasked HKSTP and HA with promoting enhanced collaboration and data sharing between the R&D and healthcare sectors. The Self-service Data Platform was initially restricted to academic research and publications at select secure locations.
The establishment of the HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab at Hong Kong Science Park marks a significant milestone in HKSTP’s journey to strengthen collaboration across government, industry, academia, and research sectors, positioning Hong Kong as a global I&T hub.
The establishment of the HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab aligns with the goals of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government, as outlined in its policies and initiatives. One of the central objectives of the HKSAR government is to transform Hong Kong into an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub.
This initiative aims to foster collaboration between government, industry, academia, and research sectors to boost technological advancements and economic growth. The lab directly supports this goal by facilitating seamless data sharing between the healthcare and tech sectors, driving innovation, and advancing healthcare quality—a key component of the HKSAR government’s vision for a thriving and competitive knowledge-based economy.
OpenGov Asia reported on the Chief Executive of Hong Kong’s 2021 Policy Address which aimed to bolster the development of innovation and technology (I&T) to transform Hong Kong into an international I&T hub. The CE had noted, before delivering her final Policy Address, that the address would focus on economic integration with the Chinese mainland, housing and land supply, and resumption of quarantine-free travel with the mainland.
The upgrade of the Vietnam-US bilateral relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership has created opportunities for Vietnam to attract more high-quality investments in the fields of innovation and advanced technology.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh recently attended a meeting with chief executive officers of leading United States enterprises in the semiconductor industry in Washington DC. According to a report, American business representatives spoke highly of Vietnam’s semiconductor industry’s potential, noting the presence of high-quality human resources and the continuously advancing capabilities of local enterprises and training establishments in the country.
They believed that the possibility for cooperation between the two countries in the semiconductor industry is substantial and holds great significance for the development of bilateral relations in the new era. During the meeting, participants explored investment prospects in Vietnam and put forth collaborative strategies to nurture a semiconductor ecosystem. They suggested that in the long run, American companies could consider establishing chip factories in Vietnam.
The Prime Minister urged the United States semiconductor enterprises to increase their investment in Vietnam across all stages of the semiconductor industry, including infrastructure development, technology transfer, design, production, distribution, and manpower training. The collaboration should involve businesses, research institutions, and training establishments from both countries.
This approach will pave the way for enhancing the quality of human resources and the capabilities of Vietnamese companies, enabling the country to further engage in the value and supply chains of the global semiconductor industry.
Developing Vietnam’s semiconductor industry aligns with the current global trend and harnesses the potential and resources available in the country. Moreover, it brings about tangible benefits for people, therefore, the Minister noted that Vietnamese citizens will actively participate and contribute to the process.
He claimed that the government and relevant ministries and sectors are committed to creating an equal and healthy business environment. They will offer optimal conditions for foreign enterprises, including United States semiconductor companies, to operate in Vietnam stably, effectively, and sustainably.
At the event, three significant memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed by Vietnam’s National Innovation Centre (NIC) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MoPI) with American partners. The agreements aim to bolster design capabilities, advance product development, and enhance the training of human resources dedicated to the semiconductor industry.
One of these MoUs signed with an electronic design automation company, is geared towards providing support for the establishment of a chip design incubation centre. The second agreement was formulated to foster the growth of Vietnam’s semiconductor and electronics sector. Within this partnership, NIC will offer Vietnamese universities, training centres, and startups the necessary technology and training programmes to design and develop semiconductor products.
Under the third agreement, NIC will work with an American university to engage with Vietnamese research institutes and educational organisations to develop training programmes and share research in the domains of semiconductors and related fields. Additionally, they will actively seek and leverage appropriate sources of funding to enhance the capacity of the workforce in the semiconductor industry.
Founded in 2019, NIC supports and develops Vietnam’s startup and innovation ecosystem. Its mission is to modernise the country’s economic growth model by harnessing the power of science and technology. In October, NIC will inaugurate its new research centre located in the Hoa Lac High-Tech Park in Hanoi. This facility will include a chip design incubation centre equipped with cutting-edge technologies from key partners of NIC.
Breakthrough Victoria has unveiled investment partnerships totalling AU$ 87 million with five universities, geared toward facilitating the transition of transformative research from the laboratory to the marketplace. Swinburne University of Technology is set to co-invest AU$ 9 million, a sum reciprocated by Breakthrough Victoria, aimed at fostering the creation of novel ventures that will accelerate the commercialisation of research endeavours. This investment bolsters Swinburne University of Technology’s capacity to propel innovation and instils confidence among its researchers that their pioneering ideas can be translated into tangible realities.
Under these partnerships, each entity will funnel investments into startup companies originating from research initiatives, with pre-seed and seed funding capacities of up to AU$ 1 million per venture.
The official announcement was made by the Minister of Industry and Innovation during the inauguration of the Global Entrepreneurship Conference in Melbourne, a gathering that drew more than 4,000 investors and entrepreneurs from across the globe.
These alliances are being established as part of the ambitious AU$100 million Breakthrough Victoria – University Innovation Platform which was designed to elevate the level of commercialisation of pivotal research, characterised by its real-world applicability and benefits from Victorian universities.
The capital injections into startups during this critical nascent stage will serve as pivotal financial support, facilitating the development of product concepts, prototypes, and trials that are essential for research with strong commercial viability. Moreover, researchers and academics will receive dedicated support to enhance their ability to identify and effectively translate innovative ideas into commercially viable opportunities, thereby augmenting their entrepreneurial capabilities. The specifics of these partnership agreements have been tailored in collaboration with each respective university, thereby addressing the unique needs and the specific stage of their research commercialisation journey.
The co-investment partnership is expected to fuel innovation across a spectrum of industries, with a particular focus on aerospace, healthcare, sustainability, and manufacturing. These sectors, all intricately linked with technology, stand to benefit significantly from the injection of capital into startups that are on the cusp of technological breakthroughs. Such investments will not only drive product development but also foster technological advancement and drive economic growth.
One of the key benefits of this collaboration is the ability to transform research concepts into tangible products and services. Often, groundbreaking research remains confined to the academic realm due to a lack of resources for development and commercialisation.
However, with this co-investment initiative, researchers will have access to the funding necessary to bring their ideas to life. This is particularly relevant in the tech sector, where rapid innovation is critical, and timely investment can be the difference between an idea’s success and its stagnation.
Furthermore, this initiative acknowledges the pivotal role that universities play in fostering innovation. Universities are often hubs of research and development, where cutting-edge ideas are born. However, bridging the gap between academic research and commercial viability can be challenging.
With the partnership between Swinburne University of Technology and Breakthrough Victoria, there is a concerted effort to facilitate this transition. This not only benefits the university but also the broader tech ecosystem by ensuring that innovative ideas reach the market.
Moreover, the support provided to researchers and academics to enhance their entrepreneurial capabilities is a crucial aspect of this initiative. In the tech sector, it’s not just about having a great idea; it’s also about understanding how to bring that idea to market successfully.
This includes aspects like intellectual property management, market research, and business development strategies. The co-designed partnership agreements consider the specific needs and stage of research commercialisation, ensuring that the support provided is tailored to maximise the chances of success, especially in tech-related ventures.
The new Centre for Paramedicine, housed within the dedicated capability hub at Victoria University in Sunshine, is a testament to the commitment of the government to provide top-notch training for paramedics, OpenGov Asia earlier reported.
The Minister for Ambulance Services inaugurated the pioneering capability hub, a first of its kind in Australia. During the event, she met a group of 54 recently graduated paramedics who will receive training at the hub before embarking on their missions to provide essential care to the people of Victoria.
Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of transforming the boundaries of digital reality, promising to take simplicity and turn it into complexity through the creation of patterns in images, sounds, and text. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) have delved deep into this realm, introducing an innovative AI model that bridges the gap between two unrelated physical principles: diffusion and Poisson Flow. Their work has led to the development of the “Poisson Flow Generative Model ++” (PFGM++), which is poised to redefine digital content creation across various applications.
The PFGM++ model represents a leap in generative AI, offering the capabilities to generate a wide range of content, from images to audio. Its potential applications span from the creation of antibodies and RNA sequences to graph generation. At its core, PFGM++ extends the foundation of the Poisson equation, a concept from physics, to enhance its data exploration and generation capabilities. This breakthrough underscores the power of interdisciplinary collaboration between physicists and computer scientists in advancing the field of AI, as highlighted by Jesse Thaler, a physicist at MIT.
Thaler emphasises the remarkable progress achieved by AI-based generative models in recent years. These models have generated photorealistic images and coherent textual content, challenging the boundaries of artificial intelligence. Notably, some of these powerful generative models draw inspiration from well-established physics concepts such as symmetries and thermodynamics. PFGM++ builds upon a century-old notion from fundamental physics—the existence of extra dimensions in space-time – and transforms it into a versatile tool for crafting synthetic yet authentic datasets. The infusion of ‘physics intelligence’ is revolutionising the landscape of AI.
In the PFGM model, data points take on the role of minuscule electric charges within a multidimensional space, shaping an electric field that extends into an extra dimension, ultimately forming a uniform distribution.
This process is akin to rewinding a video, starting with charges and retracing their path along electric lines to recreate the original data distribution. This process enables the neural model to grasp the electric field concept and generate new data that mirrors the original.
The PFGM++ model takes this concept further by expanding it into a higher-dimensional framework. As these dimensions continue to grow, the model’s behaviour unexpectedly begins to resemble another crucial category of models known as diffusion models. This work aims to strike a balance, as PFGM and diffusion models occupy opposite ends of a spectrum: one is robust yet complex to handle, while the other is simpler but less sturdy. The PFGM++ model introduces a balanced middle ground, combining robustness with user-friendliness, revolutionising image and pattern generation and marking a significant technological advancement.
In addition to its adaptable dimensions, the research team has proposed a novel training approach that enhances the model’s understanding of the electric field, further boosting its efficiency.
To bring this concept further, the research team tackled a pair of differential equations detailing these charges’ motion within the electric field. They evaluated the model’s performance using the widely accepted Frechet Inception Distance (FID) score, which assesses the quality of generated images compared to real ones. PFGM++ excelled in demonstrating enhanced error tolerance and resilience regarding the step size within the differential equations, solidifying its position as a game-changer in the realm of AI-generated content.
In the future, the researchers are committed to refining specific aspects of the model through systematic approaches. They aim to identify the optimal value of D, customised for distinct data sets, architectures, and tasks, by closely analysing the behaviour of neural network estimation errors. Moreover, they plan to leverage PFGM++ in contemporary large-scale endeavours, particularly in text-to-image and text-to-video generation.
MIT’s PFGM++ stands at the forefront of a digital content revolution, bridging the gap between AI and reality. By integrating physics principles and advanced AI techniques, this innovative model promises to reshape the way we create digital content, opening up new horizons for creativity and application across various industries.
According to Dr Juanito Batalon, OIC, Office of the Executive Director for Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD), digitalisation in the Philippines’ agricultural sector ushers in a new era of innovation and efficiency.
“Due to the nation’s reliance on agriculture for food security and livelihoods, the incorporation of digital technologies is transforming the way agriculture is practised,” Dr Juanito explained.
Precision agriculture is one of the primary areas that will benefit from digitisation. Farmers are optimising agricultural planting, irrigation, and pest management by employing GPS technology, drones, and satellite imagery. This not only enhances crop yields but also saves resources and has a lower environmental impact.
Dr Juanito emphasised that precise farming methods like drip irrigation and controlled-release fertilisers reduce waste, save water, and have less of an effect on the environment. Farmers can also get information about market prices and trends through digital platforms. This helps them make smart choices about how to sell their crops, which increases their profits.
He highlights the Project SARAi, a research programme designed to deliver important information to local farmers in order to improve their yield. He has explained that SARAi specifically supports farmers by informing them about the weather, what crops they should plant for the season, what soil type they should employ to optimise crop quality and yield, and what pests and illnesses their crops are prone to.
He added that the project team also created drones that allowed them to see if their crops were still healthy or if they needed extra attention. With SARAi’s continual innovation, they were able to use satellites to estimate rainfall for the week, as well as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to find farmlands that cater to various crops.
Dr Juanito also stressed that they are actively promoting the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in agriculture to improve productivity and sustainability citing that the DOST-PCAARRD has been involved in various initiatives related to the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, in agriculture with the help of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Besides, digital solutions give farmers the real-time data they need to make smart, data-driven choices. This includes decisions about planting, harvesting, and getting rid of pests, all of which lead to better crop management in the long run.
Drones and sensors are also very helpful for keeping an eye on crops and finding diseases early, which lets farmers target their efforts and lower production losses. Besides these useful advantages, digital technology is also very important for rural development because it helps rural communities get training, education, and knowledge, which makes their lives better.
Also, blockchain technology makes it possible to track crops, which improves food safety and quality control and helps farmers adjust to changing weather conditions, eventually making Philippine agriculture more sustainable.
“Digital technology is changing the Philippines’ farming industry, which is good for food security, economic growth, and the environment,” Dr Juanito said.
Further, DOST Secretary Renato Solidum, Jr highlighted during the 9th Balik Scientist Programme Annual Convention the importance of addressing the brain drain in the Philippines and retaining scientific talent through various initiatives like the “Balik Scientist Programme.” It discusses the country’s increasing global innovation index and government spending on research and development.
The Balik Scientist Programme, recognised as a significant national initiative, is emphasised for bringing back diverse Filipino scientists to contribute to the nation’s growth. The programme focuses on harnessing global science for sustainable development and innovation including digitalisation, AI, and robotics among others that are tailored to local challenges.
The University of Wollongong (UoW) has received a financial boost from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, to further support Indigenous students pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. This significant contribution underscores a commitment to fostering Indigenous talent in the technology sector and ensuring a brighter future for these students.
The CSIRO Indigenous STEM Scholarship was initially established in 2019 with an initial gift of AU$ 30,000 from CSIRO. This initial funding aimed to support two Indigenous STEM students throughout their academic journeys. However, this commitment has now been elevated to an even more profound level. CSIRO has pledged an additional AU$ 500,000, ensuring that the scholarship will be awarded in perpetuity. This signifies a long-term partnership between CSIRO and UOW in nurturing and empowering Indigenous students in their pursuit of STEM education.
The primary objective of this partnership is to empower Indigenous students who are undertaking full-time degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics by providing financial support. Each year, one deserving student will be awarded AU$ 5,000 throughout the duration of their degree. This financial assistance not only eases the financial burden on the students but also allows them to fully concentrate on their academic and career goals within the tech and science sectors.
The 2021 recipient of the CSIRO Indigenous STEM Scholarship serves as an example of the positive impact of this initiative. The recipient noted that the financial assistance provided by the CSIRO scholarship allowed her to reduce her work commitments and allocate more time to engage in meaningful activities that can positively impact her career and well-being.
The Director of Indigenous Science and Engagement at CSIRO who is also a Gamillaroi man emphasised the importance of growing an Indigenous STEM pipeline, which not only benefits the science and technology sector but also the broader community. He noted that the development of an Indigenous STEM pipeline holds the potential to facilitate the engagement of the science and technology sector, with a particular focus on CSIRO, in integrating Indigenous talent, incorporating Indigenous knowledge and expertise, and nurturing successful careers in science and research for individuals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.
UOW’s Vice-Chancellor and President highlighted the critical role that STEM fields play in shaping the future of communities, economies, and nations and praised the power of philanthropy in enriching the lives of Indigenous students.
CSIRO scholarships will provide students with the opportunity to delve deeper into their STEM interests, which are crucial for the future of communities, the economy, and the nation, all while alleviating the burden of financial stress. She underscored the profound and positive influence of this substantial investment, paving the way for Indigenous students towards a promising and prosperous future in technology and science-related domains.
The Vice-President for Indigenous Strategy and Engagement and Director of Woolyungah Indigenous Centre at UOW celebrated the increased financial support from CSIRO, recognising the importance of nurturing Indigenous students’ interest in thriving STEM industries.
CSIRO’s collaboration with UOW will authentically empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to reach their full potential, address the significant challenges of the future, and emerge as leaders in STEM disciplines. Sustained partnerships and scholarship commitments will open tangible avenues for Indigenous students to engage with ongoing projects and research, ultimately influencing their communities and shaping the nation’s future.
This partnership between CSIRO and the University of Wollongong signifies a remarkable commitment to fostering Indigenous talent in STEM fields. The significant financial support provided by CSIRO not only eases the financial burden on Indigenous students but also empowers them to pursue their passions and become leaders in technology and science-related fields. This collaboration highlights the tech sector’s dedication to creating opportunities for Indigenous students and recognising the essential role of Indigenous knowledge in advancing STEM disciplines.
OpenGov Asia reported that New South Wales (NSW) is partnering with key stakeholders, including universities and businesses, to develop an Innovation Blueprint aimed at revitalising the state’s innovation sector. The backdrop for this initiative is the stagnation in university-industry collaboration and the lack of progress in commercialising research outcomes, as highlighted by the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council. Simultaneously, R&D intensity in the region has been declining, emphasising the need for strategic interventions.