The Digital Future Initiative was launched recently by the Australian Prime Minister, the CEO of an American multinational technology company as well as the tech company’s Australia & New Zealand Managing Director, CSIRO Chief Executive and Chargé d’Affaires from the US Embassy at the opening of the tech giant’s expanded Sydney office.
The initiative builds on the company’s existing work in Australia over the last two decades by investing in:
- The foundations of the digital economy including a major investment in digital infrastructure
- Australian-made technology and talent with a first-ever Australian Google Research Hub
- Partnerships to solve big challenges including a collaboration with Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO
The Digital Future Initiative aims to help accelerate the country’s progress to becoming a leading digital economy as well as bring significant technology resources and capabilities to Australia, invest in the infrastructure that benefits people and businesses, and help the best talent thrive in the country.
Analysis by a leading economist found that the tech giant’s Digital Future Initiative will support 6,529 new direct jobs and 28,057 total jobs across Australia and deliver $1.259 billion in direct investment and $6.716 billion in total economic impact.
The foundations of the digital economy
Digital infrastructure is a major driver of Australian productivity, and under this initiative, a significant investment is being made in cloud infrastructure to help build a digital-first future. This will provide Australian businesses with a secure and robust platform for business transformation, faster innovation and growth. Customers are already benefiting from the expansion of our cloud regions, to respond to ever-changing customer needs, quickly and efficiently.
Australian-made technology and talent
The tech giant has launched its first-ever research centre in Australia. Partnering with the research community across the country and research hubs around the world, the company is working to build a team of local researchers and engineers to explore ways AI can help tackle issues that are important in Australia – and around the world.
Partnerships to solve big challenges
Through this initiative, collaborations across Australia are being expanded, starting with a multi-million research partnership with the CSIRO to bring forward solutions to challenges, like natural hazard management, energy and protecting the health of our unique Great Barrier Reef.
In addition, in a partnership with Macquarie University, the company’s investment in quantum computing in Australia is being deepened. This work to advance quantum computing has broad future implications – such as improving batteries and producing fertilizer more efficiently.
While the problems that are being worked on are of global significance, this investment will ensure that we contribute to Australia’s ongoing leadership in quantum computing research.
The CEO of the tech giant stated that Australia can help lead the world’s next wave of innovation, harnessing technology to improve lives, create jobs, and make progress on shared challenges. To help, the company has made a five year, $1 billion commitment to launch the Digital Future Initiative and help bring the benefits of technology to more Australians.
The Managing Director of the Australia & New Zealand branch of the company noted that with the Digital Future Initiative, the company’s has made its largest single investment ever in Australia, aiming to strengthen local capabilities and help build Australia’s digital economy for the future.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of CSIRO noted that the agency solves Australia’s greatest challenges through innovative science and technology, but its partnerships with industry are what makes those solutions real – because when industry innovates Australia grows.
CSIRO’s science makes life better for every Australian, and when amplified by the company’s technology, it will catalyse collaborative projects across our entire national innovation system, driving opportunities for businesses of all sizes across every market.
The country’s think tank, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog, has announced that it has prepared a draft policy for the Indian Railways to set up electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure at railway stations across the country. The move is an attempt to promote the use and development of the EV sector. The draft policy, which has been shared with the Ministry of Railways, also proposes the supply of renewable energy to the charging facilities in line with Indian Railways’ aim to become a net-zero carbon emitter by 2030.
According to a news report, the policy is under discussion with the Ministry of Railways. NITI Aayog has suggested that while the railways can plan to put in place EV charging facilities at all stations in a phased manner till 2030, the facility can be immediately provided at 123 redeveloped railway stations. The NITI Aayog CEO, Amitabh Kant, explained that railway stations are landmark locations, and they play a unique role in the entire transport sector, which makes them strategic locations to provide public charging solutions for EVs.
The government’s FAME-II (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and EV) scheme targets boosting the adoption of EVs, particularly in public and shared transportation, in a big way. The aim is to support nearly 7,000 e-buses, 500,000 electric three-wheelers, 55,000 electric four-wheeler passenger cars, and one million electric two-wheelers through subsidies. To achieve this, providing a good and accessible EV charging infrastructure network is critical. Apart from the already-existing government initiatives to scale up EV charging facilities, railway stations can provide a secure and accessible charging infrastructure to city residents.
Earlier this month, researchers from several Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) developed new technology to charge EVs, which costs about half of the current onboard charger technology. It can help considerably reduce the cost of two-and-four-wheeler EVs. As per a report, the lab-scale development of the technology is complete and up-gradation and commercialisation are in progress. One of the country’s leading EV manufacturers has also shown interest in this new technology and is ready to develop a full-fledged commercial product that can be applied to existing electric vehicles, the team claimed without naming the company.
The technology has been developed at IIT (BHU), Varanasi, in collaboration with experts from IIT-Guwahati and IIT-Bhubaneshwar. A representative explained that amidst the rising cost of petroleum products and increasing pollution levels, EVs are the best alternative to conventional IC engines. However, the lack of a high-power off-board charging infrastructure forces automakers to incorporate onboard chargers into the vehicle itself.
In the proposed onboard charger technology, the team is reducing an additional power electronics interface required for the propulsion mode and, therefore, the components involved are reduced. The technology will cut costs of the onboard charger by almost 40-50% in comparison with the existing one. The cost reduction in the chargers will subsequently reduce the cost of the EVs as well. An official noted that the technology will be entirely indigenously developed and will have a significant impact on the EV market.
A team of scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a predictive computer programme that could be used to detect individuals who are at increased risk of depression. In trials using data from groups of depressed and healthy participants, the programme achieved an accuracy of 80% in detecting those individuals with a high risk of depression and those with no risk.
Powered by machine learning, the programme, named the Ycogni model, screens for the risk of depression by analysing an individual’s physical activity, sleep patterns, and circadian rhythms derived from data from wearable devices that measure his or her steps, heart rate, energy expenditure, and sleep data.
Activity trackers are estimated to be worn by nearly a billion people, up from 722 million in 2019. To develop the Ycogni model, the scientists conducted a study involving 290 working adults in Singapore. Participants wore devices for 14 consecutive days and completed two health surveys, which screened for depressive symptoms, at the start and end of the study.
Our study successfully showed that we could harness sensor data from wearables to aid in detecting the risk of developing depression in individuals. By tapping on our machine learning programme, as well as the increasing popularity of wearable devices, it could one day be used for timely and unobtrusive depression screening.
– Professor Josip Car, Director, Centre for Population Health Sciences at NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine
This is a study that can set up the basis for using wearable technology to help individuals, researchers mental health practitioners and policymakers to improve mental well-being. But on a more generic and futuristic application, the researchers believe that such signals could be integrated with Smart Buildings or even Smart Cities initiatives: imagine a hospital or a military unit that could use these signals to identify people at risk.
Besides being able to accurately determine if individuals had a higher risk of contracting depression, the researchers successfully associated certain patterns in the participants’ behaviours to depressive symptoms, which include feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, and changes in appetite or weight.
From analysing their findings, the scientists found that those who had more varied heart rates between 2 am to 4 am, and between 4 am to 6 am, tended to be prone to more severe depressive symptoms. This observation confirms findings from previous studies, which had stated that changes in heart rate during sleep might be a valid physiological marker of depression.
Over the next year, the team hopes to explore the impact of smartphone usage on depressive symptoms and the risk of developing depression by enriching their model with data on smartphone usage. This includes how long and frequent individuals use their mobile phones, as well as their reliance on social media.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, NTU Singapore has produced more advanced COVID-19 tools, hitting another milestone in the country’s efforts to combat COVID-19. A group of university scientists recently developed a laser-powered device that can trap and move viruses using light. Since it can precisely ‘move’ a single virus to target a specific section of a cell, the device, which can manipulate light to act as ‘tweezers,’ could contribute to the development of new approaches to disease diagnosis and virus studies.
The technology would also benefit vaccine development as it allows scientists to identify damaged or incomplete viruses from a group of thousands of other specimens in under one minute, compared to present techniques that are time-consuming and inaccurate, according to the scientists.
Associate Professor from NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, a medical geneticist who co-led the research, said: “The conventional method of analysing viruses today is to study a population of thousands or millions of viruses. We only know their average behaviour as an entire population. With our laser-based technology, single viruses could be studied individually.”
Digital transactions in the Philippines are expected to further increase as regulators and other stakeholders continue to strengthen the system and put additional safeguards to thwart financial transaction-related cyberattacks. The central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), aims for 70% of adult Filipinos to have bank accounts by 2023 as part of its digital transformation and financial inclusion bid.
During a recent briefing, the BSP Governor, Benjamin Diokno, said that as of the first quarter of 2021, around 53% of adult Filipinos owned electronic money (e-money) accounts, higher than the 29% in 2019. He also said it was encouraging to see the rise in the use of digital payments after the central bank hit its target to have 20% of financial transactions be done digitally by 2020. The BSP continues to introduce innovations on electronic payment systems in the country, particularly for PESONet and InstaPay, the two electronic fund transfer facilities under the central bank’s National Retail Payment System (NRPS).
While the central bank has received more complaints pertaining to online banking transactions compared to those related to automated teller machines (ATMs) and credit cards, since the pandemic started in 2020, Diokno stated that he does not consider the lack of public confidence as a major constraint to the use of online transactions. The biggest challenges in encouraging Filipinos to adopt digital payments are financial exclusion, lack of substantial savings to put in an account, lack of awareness of the need to maintain an account, and inability to meet documentary requirements to open an account. He noted that these issues are aggravated by problems with Internet connectivity, which is among the primary tools needed for digital financial services.
Last week, the BSP, along with the Philippine Payments Management Inc. (PPMI), launched a multi-batch settlements (MBS) facility that will increase the allowed daily transactions through PESONet. The MBS increases to two cycles the PESONet settlements in a banking day instead of the previous one settlement at the end of the day. The feature aims to incentivise customers to use PESONet for greater convenience, faster settlements, and better liquidity management.
According to a report, the volume of PESONet transactions rose by 26% year-on-year by end-2021 to seven million amounting to around PHP502 billion (US$9.7 billion), up by 37%. During the same period, InstaPay transactions rose by 47% to 45 million, amounting to PHP289 billion (US$5.6 billion), higher by 64% compared to the end-2020. PESONet is for bulk and recurring transactions while InstaPay is for low-value payment transactions. The MBS for PESONet is expected to drive up both the volume and value of transactions.
The average monthly value of PESONet transfers in 2021 was around PHP380 billion (US$7.4 billion). Based on the government’s projections, this figure could increase by more than 50% as it implements MBS in the next 24 months. As of 2021-end, there were 94 BSP-supervised institutions that provide PESONet services, and these include thrift banks (TBs) and non-bank electronic money issuers (EMIs).
The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) in collaboration with a fintech group recently announced a strategic partnership to enhance initiatives aimed at scaling up Malaysian fintech companies. Their collaborative efforts will focus on three key areas, namely deal flows, fintech ecosystem support and joint amplification.
MDEC will curate deal flows and funnel potential Malaysian fintech companies to the fintech group. The group, through its regional network, will explore funding facilitation opportunities for Malaysian Technology companies, especially Fintech start-ups, for potential investment and acquisition.
The company is no stranger to the fintech world as they are a venture corporation led by former founders/operators or C-suites of successful technology companies. By building an Integrated Fintech Value Chain through innovation, network and scale across four verticals; Payments, Lending/BNPL, Insurtech and Digital Wealth Management, the company increases interoperability of its current and future businesses.
The CEO of MDEC stated that by working closely with fintech ecosystem partners, MDEC is optimistic that the partnership will create more opportunities for these companies to advance their businesses with access to regional markets and funding.
The ‘synergistic partnership’ with MDEC will provide an opportunity for the tech company to propel start-ups and add value to the robust Malaysian fintech network through efficient capital provision, tech, infrastructure support, and an extensive network of key decision-makers and industry leaders from various sectors and companies.
The Executive Director of the company stated that Malaysia presents a conducive investment environment, backed by an abundance of talents and infrastructure and a thriving start-up ecosystem filled with high-potential ideas, products and services.
In addition, Malaysia recently launched its latest financial sector blueprint for 2022-2026 at MyFintechWeek 2022. Held virtually, the event themed “Advancing Digitalisation for Recovery, Sustainability, and Inclusion” was hosted by Malaysia’s central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia.
The blueprint’s implications are wide as it would affect both financial and non-financial sectors, particularly enterprises and businesses doing business in or with the country. The blueprint identified three broad themes that influence desired outcomes and targets for 2026 — finance for all, finance for transformation, and finance for sustainability.
Importantly, it proposes five strategic thrusts for 2022-2026. They include:
- Funding Malaysia’s economic transformation
- Elevating the financial well-being of households and businesses
- Advancing digitalization of the financial sector
- Positioning the financial system to facilitate the transition to a greener economy
- Advancing value-based finance through Islamic Finance leadership
Malaysia’s Finance Minister stated that the Malaysian government is committed to supporting local businesses through the Program Semarak Niaga Keluarga Malaysia (SemarakNiaga), worth RM40 billion; strengthening public healthcare facilities in managing COVID-19; and continuing the sustainability agenda, including the issuance of ringgit-denominated Sustainability Sukuk later this year.
Under Budget 2022, measures include:
- RM700 million for the nationwide digital connectivity initiative, JENDELA;
- RM1 billion under Bank Negara Malaysia’s SME Automation and Digitalisation Facility
- RM150 million for digital content creation for the creative industry
- RM200 million under the MSME Digitalisation Grant
Additionally, the MyDIGITAL Corporation has also been tasked to implement Malaysia’s Digital Blueprint with an emphasis on public sector digitalization efforts and nurturing digital talent. Further, the minister urged the financial sector to continue the inclusivity agenda while supporting the nation’s aspirations.
The key expected outcomes of the blueprint include:
- advancing digitalization of the financial sector;
- providing meaningful choice and access for consumers;
- increasing the vibrancy of the funding ecosystem to meet Malaysia’s economic needs;
- wider adoption of green finance and sustainability practices.
The Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (IIT-Madras) is collaborating with a private player to research 5G technology. Through the partnership, the two sides will innovate in the 5G space and enable 5G frameworks validation. They will promote research towards the development of a low-cost and low-frequency 5G network setup for better connectivity in far-flung parts of the country. The objective of this partnership is to create a 5G base station and a single-box solution to enable better connectivity in rural areas. The private player, a global technology consulting company, will provide its expertise on the research capabilities and offer relevant infrastructure to support this initiative.
An expert stated that 5G promises to facilitate the next level of innovation to build a smarter society, but it is important to ensure that these benefits reach every part of the country. The partnership aims to leverage the technology to connect people from remote parts of India in a better way. An official from IIT-Madras noted that the Institute’s 5G testbed project is an effort to encourage Indian start-ups and the industry to take an early lead in 5G. The goal of the project is to build a testbed that closely resembles real-world 5G deployment.
A representative from the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT-Madras said that the 5G technology has immense potential and could prove to be the best option to bridge the digital divide in India. For evolved urban areas, it will help advance and enhance the benefits of digital technologies over a faster connectivity network. The partnership will build and validate use cases leveraging the 5G testbed for application in domains like smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0, smart cities, and media.
Last November, the Minister of Communication announced that the government would indigenously design and manufacture telecom software and equipment to run 6G networks. The technology will also be exported to other countries. Apart from 6G, the government also plans to launch indigenous 5G technology, with the development of core software for the technology to be completed by the third quarter of next year.
As OpenGov Asia reported earlier, the auctions for the 5G spectrum are also likely to happen in the second quarter of 2022. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reportedly started the consultation process for 5G spectrum auctions, and this is expected to be completed by February or March 2022. TRAI has granted an extension to the telcos for 5G trials, and the deadline has been shifted to 31 March 2022.
Earlier this year, the Cabinet had approved a set of nine structural and procedural reforms to address the short-term liquidity needs as well as long-term issues of telecom companies. As part of these reforms, the government had given the telcos an option to go for a four-year moratorium on payment of deferred spectrum and adjusted gross revenue dues. About 26% of the mobile subscriptions in India by 2026-end are expected to be 5G. 4G subscriptions could grow at a CAGR of 3%, going from 680 million in 2020 to 830 million by 2026. Currently, India ranks second in the average data usage in the world. The average data usage in India was 13 GB per month till the year 2019, which increased to 14.6 GB in the year 2020. By 2026, the average data consumption in India is expected to be 40 GB per month.
The Minister of Communications and Informatics Johnny G. Plate stated that the Government is preparing 4G as the backbone and 5G experience during the motorbike racing. This is part of the support for the telecommunications infrastructure sector to make the Mandalika 2022 motorbike racing sporting a success. In fact, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics has also increased bandwidth and prepared a 5G showcase.
At this time 4G will be the backbone of communication, but we are also preparing for a 5G experience. Some internet service providers are also ready for the 5G experience. In the Mandalika area, we have prepared and we will take good care of it. Also prepared for millimetre wave to showcase demo 5G high spectrum 26 and 28 GHz. Even then, we prepare for them to prepare a 5G experience.
– Johnny G. Plate, Minister of Communications and Informatics
Meanwhile, one telecommunications operator will also show a 5G case with fixed wireless access technology and immersive extended reality in the form of virtual racing. There will be a lot of 5G that will be placed in Mandalika for the experience using virtual reality that can be witnessed later. In essence, the cooperation between the Ministry and cellular operators as well as fibre optic operators is continuously coordinated.
To anticipate the increase in telecommunication users, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics has prepared an additional spectrum so that the Mandalika 2022 motorbike racing will run well. There will be 110 thousand visitors to Mandalika, which means the traffic bandwidth is high. We must prepare sufficient bandwidth so that the internet upload and download speeds are also smooth.
The average use of the lowest internet capacity between 2-3 Mbps speed must be prepared. Currently, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics has measured the availability in the Mandalika area above 10 Mbps. When a lot of people come, it will definitely have an effect. So that during the competition, everyone needs internet service, the Ministry will take care of this service properly so that they prepare 4G and 5G in massive areas.
With Indonesia set to become one of the world’s digital economic powerhouses, 5G will play an instrumental role in the economy going forward. To be among the world’s top five largest economies by 2045, the digital transformation is a crucial element for enterprises in speeding up growth to move away from a resources-driven economy to a knowledge- and digital-based economy. From smart factories to an AI-based new capital city in Kalimantan and digital-based agricultural businesses to the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), Indonesia has the potential to become Southeast Asia’s largest 5G market.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Indonesia has one of the world’s highest percentages of internet users. Nonetheless, when compared to other Asian countries, it has a low internet penetration rate. In 2021, mobile internet penetration in Indonesia is expected to be 68%. Its reach is expected to increase to 79% by 2025. The penetration rate is the proportion of the total population that has internet access via a mobile broadband connection.
With increasing mobile internet penetration in the country, there has been an increase in demand for lower data prices, greater coverage, and better service quality. As a key strategy to attract more customers, Indonesian internet providers have proposed attractive data pricing plans as well as optimised data-oriented mobile services.
Moreover, on the popularity of mobile internet, fixed broadband subscriptions in Indonesia have been increasing in recent years. As a result, broadband penetration rates among households in the country have increased.
After the transition of terrestrial television broadcasting from analogue to digital, the Ministry of Communications and Informatics anticipates a frequency spectrum allocation for fast internet. According to the Director-General of Information and Public Communication, the 700-MHz frequency band is a gold band for improving broadband internet.
The Digital Government Exchange (DGX) allows senior leaders from digital governments to discuss relevant issues related to digitalisation. Organised and hosted by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group Singapore, DGX is a one-of-its-kind international platform that has developed a community of like-minded leaders, facilitating information exchange, sharing of experiences, mutual learning, and exploration of potential areas for international collaboration and cooperation.
The platform also features technical Working Groups (WGs) where countries and cities deep dive into specific subject matters pertinent to governments’ drive for digitalisation. Designed with the intent of providing an open conversation yearly, the DGX WGs bring together international experts in their respective fields to conduct in-depth analysis. The 2021 edition saw representatives share experiences and opportunities on the topics of Cloud, Digital identity, Data governance, and Digital maturity.
The cloud WG dwelled on the momentous shift in the delivery of private/public information systems, where a new service delivery model provides benefits including agility and velocity, innovation, digital transformation, scalability, resiliency, cost-savings, data security, and transparency. Policy approaches and technology strategies were shared on risk management with cloud adoption.
The data governance WG focused on key trends in data governance policies, data governance regulations, and data organisational structures in supporting member countries’ broader big data ambitions. The WG also produced valuable insights on data stewardship and how processes, people, and technology are key enablers of data governance.
The digital identity WG produced insights on how countries utilise digital identity and models that might enable mutual recognition and/or interoperability. Given the pandemic, information was shared openly on respective governments’ experiences with leveraging digital ID for appropriate COVID-19 responses.
The digital maturity WG developed a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) framework for understanding different levels of digital maturity and conducted research interviews with member countries to validate the 7 elements of digital maturity in reimagining and redesigning governments’ digital estate. These elements are user-centred design, a culture of digital by design, data-driven approach, appropriate technology and infrastructure, senior leadership buy-in and appropriate governance, appropriate institutional funding and capacity, and digital capability.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, a special edition of the Digital Government Exchange Safe Travel Working Group was convened in 2021. Digital governments and smart cities discussed safe travel solutions such as the generation of digital health certificates, cross-border verification, and open-sourced technical specifications or frameworks.
Singapore’s National Digital Identity (NDI), is one of the Smart Nation strategic national projects. As a foundational digital infrastructure, the NDI is critical to achieving Singapore’s vision of improving the lives of citizens, creating opportunities for businesses, and transforming the capabilities of government agencies. Singpass offers Singapore residents greater confidence, convenience and accessibility when transacting with the Government and private sector, online and in person.
Moving forward, a wider variety of transactions will be conducted digitally, from verifying identity and health certificates to cross-border data transfers. The National Digital Identity is expected to support a growing range of use cases for digital identity. NDI is exploring new initiatives that build on the principle of adopting open standards which support interoperability with different digital services and international partners.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Singapore and the United Kingdom will work more closely to facilitate digital trade between the countries by signing three Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) in the areas of Digital Trade Facilitation, Digital Identities and Cybersecurity. The partnership will make digital transactions by businesses easier, safer and cheaper.
Under the Digital Identities Cooperation MoU, Singapore and the UK will work more closely to develop mutual recognition of digital identities between the countries. The MOU is an important step in the route to achieve interoperability of digital identity regimes between different jurisdictions, which can allow for more reliable identity verification and faster processing of applications, among other things.