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The Assurance, Care and Engagement (ACE) Group, in partnership with the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group, the Building and Construction Authority, the Economic Development Board and industry partners such as The Singapore Contractors Association, will be distributing more than 450,000 contact-tracing devices to all migrant and local workers living or working in dormitories, as well as those in the Construction, Marine Shipyard and Process sectors.

The distribution of the devices will be carried out in phases from 18 October 2020 and is expected to be completed by early November 2020.

Contract Tracing Devices purpose built for worksite environments

The contact-tracing devices, BluePass tokens, are purpose-built for the dormitory and worksite environment. They are compact and water-resistant, and can be worn at all times.

They will be interoperable with and complement the use of the TraceTogether app on migrant workers’ smartphones, as some workers may not always be carrying their phones at work and at the dormitories.

The ACE Group and sector agencies will trial and evaluate how these tokens function and perform in the rugged work environments, and how the data from the tokens can help improve contact tracing and the quarantine process when new COVID-19 cases are detected.

Tokens will help minimise COVID-19 transmission and work disruptions

This will benefit employers and workers because only close contacts will be isolated, thereby minimising any work disruptions.

Data can also be extracted from the tokens, to assess the extent of intermixing amongst the workers. This can help employers and workers better understand how preventive measures can be taken to minimise intermixing and potential transmission of the virus.

The contact-tracing devices will be distributed with the support of the Forward Assurance and Support Teams  to migrant workers living in purpose-built dormitories.

Workers living in other types of accommodation will be issued their devices at Regional Screening Centres for Rostered Routine Tests.

Self-collection points will be set up for workers residing in decant sites and other forms of accommodation. Employers and workers will be informed of the collection dates subsequently.


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The year’s end will see the number of digital consumers in Southeast Asia reach 310 million. Currently, Malaysia is the country with the largest population of digital users.

A new joint study from an American global management consultancy and the world’s largest social media platform entitled Digital Consumers of Tomorrow, Here Today reportedly surveyed online users in Southeast Asia (SEA) to study their purchasing behaviour. One of the noteworthy findings is that the events of 2020 have inadvertently accelerated the growth of Southeast Asia’s (SEA) digital economy.

SEA had been initially projected to reach 310 million digital users by the end of 2025, in two parties’ 2019 digital consumer report, Riding the Digital Wave. Instead, the pandemic and its consequent effects have seen online behaviour in the region far outstripping the initial forecasts, to the extent the five-year expectation is now set to be reached by the end of this year.

For the first time, this will place SEA’s collective online retail market penetration ahead of India’s. Moreover, seven out of every 10 (or 70%) consumers in SEA that is 15 years old or older will complete a digital transaction by the end of the year.

Of that online purchasing age group of 15 years and above, Malaysia has the highest percentage of digital consumers in one country, with a clear majority of 83% have bought at least one item online in the past year.

Additionally, social distancing and other limitations that prevent physical contact in 2020 have had the added impact of swinging 48% out of the 83% in Malaysia into becoming first-time digital shoppers, further propelling Malaysia toward being the SEA nation with the highest digital penetration.

The report also found that online retail gross merchandise value (GMV) in Malaysia is expected to double from US$4 billion (RM16.6 billion) to approximately US$9 billion by 2025. In the meantime, Malaysians are spending more online and are buying from more segments online with an average of 5 categories purchased from in 2020, up from 3.8 categories in 2019.

Further, for the first time since 2018, online grocery purchases more than doubled its growth (2.2x) in Malaysia in 2020, causing the country managing director of the social media platform’s Malaysia branch to remark that the upswing in Malaysian digital adoption had never been more pronounced as it was in 2020.

In Malaysia alone, the company is expecting approximately 4 million new digital consumers in 2020. Online is no longer just one of many channels, for many businesses, it has become their main channel. It is crucial for businesses to connect with consumers in frictionless ways and to replicate in-person interactions through social platforms, messaging, and short videos as much as possible to drive discovery and loyalty.

A partner at the global management consultancy firm noted that, on the other hand, the digital consumption behaviour in fast-growing SEA is developing quickly, with online spending now expected to triple by 2025 to close to US$150 billion.

The rise of digital consumers in the SEA region has accelerated at a white-knuckle pace, and their discovery habits are changing. Reinforcing brand reliability and standing out from the crowd matters now more than ever, as consumers are more open to switching brands and rely more on e-commerce platforms.

From 2021, Vietnam plans to provide digital transformation ranking to ministries and provinces each year, measuring the extent to which national and local authorities have developed online activities in all areas of the society and economy.

The country’s administration is prioritising e-government as a central pillar of its ambitious national digital transformation strategy to increase digital infrastructure, solutions, and capacity in the government, industry, and society.

The aim is to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with every branch of government operating in a digital technology environment. Two important national databases will digitise information about the population and land, enabling e-identification and authentication to be in place by the end of 2021.

Other measures include capacity development and digital skills training for both government and businesses. Vietnam is set to rank among the top four ASEAN countries on the United Nations (UN) e-government rankings by 2030 – and among the top 70 worldwide.

With a population of about 100 million and a consistent GDP growth rate of around 7% over the past 30 years, Vietnam is rapidly digitising its infrastructure. The national broadband rollout and 4G/5G deployment are keys to digital transformation and international economic competitiveness.

Starting in major urban centres such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, affordable 5G will be critical in building smart cities and powering the fourth industrial revolution to increase economic growth, generate jobs, and work towards achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Scientific and technological innovation, including new applications like artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR), underlie this strategy. They are dependent on international cooperation in research, development, and the transfer of new technologies and commercial models in Vietnam.

According to a press release, all of this will be on display at ITU Virtual Digital World 2020. It is an online three-day event from 20 to 22 October. The first-ever virtual event from ITU Telecom, Virtual Digital World 2020 will build the foundations for the next physical event, ITU Digital World 2021 in Hanoi, next year.

Vietnam has hosted high-level virtual conferences before, including the online 36th ASEAN Summit earlier this year. The focus was on cooperation and unity in recovering from the health, social, and economic impact of the pandemic – a theme expected to underpin discussions at ITU Virtual Digital World 2020.

This October, the emphasis will be on how national digital strategies have changed or are changing in the era of COVID-19. The critical importance of digital technologies to governments, economies, society, and individual lives has never been clearer, and neither has the digital inequality gap, the release stated.

The event will explore questions that will be discussed during the roundtables and forum debates, including:

  • How can governments and private sector players work together with the help of the international community to invest in network deployment, redirect resources and refocus strategies to close the digital divide?
  • Which new or emerging technologies might be the most cost-effective or fit-for-purpose?
  • Will the pandemic stimulate sufficient demand, or are other demand-side initiatives needed – and who should then take the lead on developing them?

India’s ‘KAPILA’ Kalam Program for Intellectual Property Literacy and Awareness campaign was virtually launched on the 89th birth anniversary of former President and Scientist, Late Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and marked as the ‘National Innovation Day’.

Speaking on the occasion, Union Education Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal said that it is necessary to invent for the self-sufficiency of the country but it is as important to patent these inventions. Patenting of inventions will help India towards self-reliance and India needs to take a giant leap in the field of patents.

For India to become a $5 trillion economy, it is critical to have more awareness of protecting intellectual property. Research students and scientists of India engaged in research and development must apply to preserve and safeguard their inventions, he added.

Under this campaign, students pursuing education in higher educational institutions will get information about the correct system of application to patent inventions and will be made aware of their rights.

Controller General of Patents, Design and Trademarks Sh. O P Gupta said, “The country can benefit from its inventions only if the country’s researchers and inventors are aware of the proper system of patenting. This campaign will create awareness among students for filing applications for patents.”

Colleges and institutions need to encourage students to file patents. With ample talent in the country, the nation needs to move towards patents. He appealed to the youth to go full steam ahead with their inventions.

The Institution Innovation Council (IIC 2.0) annual report was also presented on the occasion and the launch of IIC 3.0 was announced. It has also been decided to celebrate the week of October 15th to 23rd as ‘Intellectual Property Literacy Week’. The IIC 3.0 website was also launched.

The Institution Innovation Council was established by the Ministry of Education in 2018 and IICs have been established in about 1700 higher educational institutions. The aim is to established IICs in 5000 higher educational institutions under IIC 3.0.

India has been aggressively pursuing excellence in the area of IP and trademark. Recognition of international standards of copyright protection and incentives for intellectual property have helped India jump eight places in 2019 to 36th position on the International Intellectual Property (IP) Index, the highest gain for any country this year.

The index, which analyses the IP climate in 50 global economies, is brought out by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC). “The improvement reflects important reforms implemented by Indian policy.

None the less, there remain some areas that India needs to address. Among the current limitations, the index has cited barriers to licensing and technology transfer, including strict registration norms, a limited framework for the protection of biopharmaceutical IP rights, patentability rules outside international standards, lengthy pre-grant opposition proceedings and previously used compulsory licensing for commercial and non-emergency situations as key hurdles.

A recap of the patent statistics from 2019 and comparison with statistics from 2017 and 2018 show a remarkable upward trend.

A total of 83,226 patent applications were examined in 2019 surpassing the total of 81,406 patent applications examined in 2018. The total number of grants in 2019 also shot up by as much as 68% in comparison to the total number of grants in 2018. Interestingly, the registration of copyright for Computer Software went from 602 in 2017 to 2,172 the following year and hit 1,679 in 2019.

The patent office on an average examined and issued 228 first examination reports (FERs) per day and the pendency of patent applications have most certainly reduced.

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Vietnam has been eager to reinvent itself and key among its strategies is their digital transformation. The nation is are keenly aware of the decisive role perception plays in this.

Digital platform development is a breakthrough solution to promote faster digital transformation, reduce costs and increase efficiency. The country also recognises that people are at the centre of digital transformation and that institutions and technology are the driving force of digital transformation.

According to the report “Southeast Asia’s Digital Economy 2019”, Vietnam’s digital economy was valued at $12 billion in 2019. Over the past 5 years, Vietnam’s e-commerce market grew by over 25% per year. Vietnam’s digital economy is forecasted to contribute 5% to the country’s GDP and is expected to reach $43 billion by 2025.

Vietnam has made tremendous strides in its digital economy and tech-related industry and the country has managed to attract many big investors including numerous tech giants. The overall number of ICT firms in Vietnam (both domestic and foreign-invested) are a staggering 46,000 units. Vietnamese ICT industry’s revenue in 2019 was US$ 110 billion, the B2C e-commerce contributed about US$ 10.8 billion and the digital content industry’s revenue was pegged at US$ 850 million.

Much of the domestic revenue has been driven by a rapidly increasing national reliance on digital communication and internet-driven activity. Internet users account for nearly 80% of the nearly 100 million total population and 57% use social networks. The total telephone subscribers are 129.49 million, of which 126.09 million were mobile subscribers. There are 16 million fixed broadband Internet subscribers and nearly 67 million mobile broadband subscribers.

Another aspect of the country’s strategy has been to create national, in-house capacity in an effort to reduce foreign dependence on expertise. Vietnam currently has 149 universities with faculties offering training courses in IT, electronics and telecommunications and information security. The number of ICT students graduating from universities and colleges annually is estimated at 50,000 people.

Early this year, on June 3, 2020, the Prime Minister approved the National Digital Transformation Programme which is moving Vietnam towards a new development space – digital economy, digital society, e-government, opening up great opportunities for Vietnam. The NDTP has ambitious targets for the next 5 years and prioritises digital transformation in the fields of health, education, finance – banking, and agriculture.

By 2025, the programme is looking to drive Vietnam into the 50 leading countries for IT development. Strategies have been put in place to ensure Vietnam’s digital economy accounts for 20% of the nation’s GDP.  As part of the inclusive and comprehensive growth plans, the programme aims to have 50% of the population have electronic payment accounts. To do this, the country plans to ensure that 80% of households are covered with broadband fibre optic cable connectivity and that every citizen to have a smartphone.

Targets to 2030 are even more aspiring and Vietnam wants to be in the group of 30 leading IT countries in the world, universalise fibre and 5G cables, have 100,000 digital technology businesses and have digital technology human resources of 1.5 million people.

The Ministry of Information and Communications is promoting Vietnam’s digital transformation process, bringing together Vietnamese digital technology businesses to form a large community to perform a national digital transformation, creating digital life and a driving force for the country’s socio-economic development.

OpenGov Asia has been regularly reporting on Vietnam’s digital journey and recently chronicled the nation’s telecom decisions that paved the way for digital growth.

With a focus on becoming the best place for technology firms, Vietnam has made an intentional shift from doing outsourcing to making its own products. A part of its digital infrastructure creation, the nation plans a second software park in Da Nang.

Vietnam is taking the security of its digital landscape seriously and has taken significant steps to safeguard itself including cooperation with regional partners. Most recently the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security and the Singaporean Ministry of Communications and Information held a virtual ministerial meeting to discuss bilateral cooperation on cybersecurity.

South Korea’s largest telecommunications company plans to enter the Thai data centre market by building a hyperscale facility with a Thailand-based telecommunication services company. The facility will be built by both the two telecoms’ subsidiary Jasmine Telecom Systems (JTS). When built, the data centre will be rolled into a new Internet Data Center (IDC) business.

The Head of the Korean telecom noted that the IDC business partnership with the Thai firm is a great opportunity to prove its business capability in the global market. The telecom’s team is ready to expand its outreach to global markets through this endeavour in Southeast Asia, which is a newly emerging IDC market.

In March this year, the Korean signed a $19 million contract with the Thai group’s other affiliate, 3BB TV Co, to provide commercial IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) services in Thailand. The President and Director of the Thai firm stated that the hyperscale data centre and cloud service business will be a foundation to add value to the Group’s network business. Through the joint development of the IDC business, the company looks forward to long-term cooperation with the Korean telecom giant.

The rise of data centres

Asia Pacific data centre and cloud providers are among the fastest-growing in the world, with cloud revenue far outstripping data centre revenue, a new study by specialists in data centre research reportedly notes.

In particular, forecasts by the firm pegged cloud revenue in the region at four times more than data centre revenue over the four years to the beginning of 2025, with cloud revenue projected to increase by 87 percent and data centre revenue by 22 percent.

Fast growth

The new report looked at the market landscape for data centres and cloud services in the region, namely Southeast Asia countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as Australia, China (and Hong Kong), Japan South Korea, and Taiwan.

According to the report, there is one sq m of data centre space for every 522 people in the Asia Pacific region, with hubs such as Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore having a notably higher data centre floor space “per head” than the rest of Asia.

China has the largest data centre space in the APAC (and second-largest globally), accounting for 43 percent of data centre space in the region with 1.7 million sq m of space forecast for 2021. Elsewhere, the next largest data centre market in APAC is Australia and Japan with 11 percent each, with Singapore in fourth place with 10 percent. Singapore is understood to be under a moratorium on new data centres that could last until 2021, though it is unclear if it is still in effect.

Smaller data centre markets are poised for further growth – with South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam forecast to have the highest increase.

The Ministry of Industry has launched the Startup4industry programme as another concrete step to implementing the Making Indonesia 4.0 roadmap. The nation is confident that this strategic initiative will bridge the needs of industry and the community with the role of startups as technology providers.

“Cooperation with startup players is expected to provide benefits to priority industrial sectors contained in the roadmap for Making Indonesia 4.0. To be able to excel in competition, innovation and technology are important investments that can be presented by the industry, one of which is the role of startups,” said Minister of Industry Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita at the Startup4industry 2020 launch event.

Since the launch of Making Indonesia 4.0 by President Joko Widodo in 2018, the roadmap has guided efforts to revitalise the industrial sector using digital technology. The main objective is to increase productivity and quality more efficiently to compete in the global arena.

The overarching theme of Startup4industry 2020 is “Indonesia Is Confident in Domestic Technology”. Utilising modern technology, the initiative has two main aims: positive social impact on citizens and mitigating the impact of the pandemic in the industrial sector. The Minister of Industry said they have identified seven sectors that would be pioneers in the implementation of industry 4.0 in the country. These sectors are food and beverages, textiles and clothing, automotive, chemical, electronics, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

The Ministry of Industry is determined not only to encourage efforts to substitute imports but also to use technology. This is expected to accelerate the national economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As an important first step, the government has set a target for an import substitution program of 35% by 2022.

Furthermore, the new normal requires social restrictions, remote and dispersed working, a transition to faceless transactions and increased online activity overall –  essentially all parts of the nation – life, work, economy – will rely heavily on technology.

As such, the industry is expected to exploit the new market potential that will emerge from the impact of the pandemic. This is in line with digital transformation efforts, where the need for technological innovation in society and industry will increase.

Indonesia has emerged as a potential market for digital technology development built on good coordination between the government, the private sector and the academic community. According to the 2020 Global Startup Ecosystem Report (GSER), Indonesia is ranked second in the Top 100 Emerging Ecosystem – a firm indication that the startup ecosystem in Indonesia has been well established. This means that Indonesia is one of the countries that investors are interested in investing in the startup sector.

The startup industry is dominated by players in the early stages primarily Medium and Small Enterprises (MSEs). This is in line with the Job Creation Law which has been designed to provide convenience for business actors with a scale of UMKM.

In line with Making Indonesia 4.0, the Ministry of Industry has carried out various strategies to encourage the application of 4.0 technology in the country, including pilot projects for the implementation of industry 4.0, training for industry 4.0 transformation managers, socialisation and seminars on industry 4.0, assessment and assistance for INDI 4.0 (Indonesia Industry 4.0 Readiness Index), e-Smart IKM, and the Startup4industry program.

Director-General of Small, Medium and Miscellaneous Industry (IKMA) Gati Wibawaningsih explained that the Startup4Industry 2020 programme has a series of activities that will last until December 2020 including a problem-solving competition using industrial technology 4.0 to handle the impact of COVID-19.

The implementation of the Startup4industry program in 2018 and 2019 had several achievements, including 220 startup players, 15 implementation projects in the IKM sector and as many as 26 IKM using technology solutions from the startups.

Furthermore,  a finalist of 2018 Startup4industry competition went on to win the 2020 Hermes Startup Award, an international competition that was first organised by Deutsche Messe, organiser of the Hannover Messe.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is working with other government agencies to join efforts and initiatives in pursuit of an improved information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure landscape as the country continues to adapt to the new normal.

The need for an improved ICT infrastructure is still one of the major concerns of the government during this public health emergency as the demand for Internet connectivity surged among businesses, industries, students, workers and the larger public. In view of this, the Department of Information and Communications Technology is focused on promoting faster telecommunications tower buildup through reducing tower permitting requirements.

DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said that the inter-agency efforts are initiated with the recognition that ICT infrastructure improvements need to begin with the reduction of bureaucratic red tape that has long interfered with the mission of improving Internet connection in the country. With everyone stepping up, the department hopes to fast-track the buildup of telecommunication towers in support of President Duterte’s directives to fully address the Filipinos connectivity needs.

In July of this year, DICT, Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), along with other concerned agencies released a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) which aimed to streamline the process of applications for the requirements, permits, licenses, clearances, certificates, and other necessary documents for Independent Tower Companies (ITCs) and telecommunication companies to construct Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructures (PTTI) in line with DICT’s Common Tower Policy.

Shortly thereafter, by the end of August 2020, the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), a signatory in the JMC, confirmed that it had updated the guidelines for permit and documentary requirement application for ICT infrastructure projects, including permits to build towers.

These revised guidelines are contained in the DHSUD’s Department Order (DO) No. 2020-009 otherwise known as the “Revised Locational Guidelines for Base Stations and Other Infrastructure for Cellular Mobile Telephone Service, Paging Service, Trunking Service, Wireless Local Loop Service, and Other Wireless Communications Service.”

The provisions would allow telcos and ITCs to streamline the consent of the homeowners’ associations (HOAs), building owners, and concerned tenants’ consent in their application for permits, allowing for an expedited process in keeping with their commitments under the JMC.

Instead, for ICT facilities to be built in privately-owned land within residential subdivisions, the responsible officer of the company can submit a written certification executed under oath that states that there is no other available or suitable site within the coverage area and that the location is the best fit for connectivity purposes. The company should likewise submit an undertaking that promises the conduct of social preparation among the affected homeowners. Other documentary requirements are still in place, however, the Legislative branch has also taken notice of the pressing need for enhanced ICT infrastructure and is looking into possible solutions.

The Senate is also open to the possibility of suspending tower permit requirements for telcos altogether for three (3) years, per the government’s planned supplementary pandemic measure, Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or “Bayanihan 2”. These proposed provisions aim to suspend select tower permits, except the building permit.

Towards these efforts to ease permitting requirements, the Department launched an online portal which can be accessed at to facilitate the digital application and registration of interested ITCs.

Presently, the DICT has received letters of intent from thirteen (13) additional tower companies who wish to register as ITCs. This was a welcome improvement to the Department’s existing agreements with the twenty-four (24) tower companies, which are mostly foreign-owned.

The Philippines has been aggressively pursuing its digital transformation agenda. The country recently showed that its National Broadband Programme could save the Philippines US$ 15 million in 2021.

More recently, DICT was confident that data could help the government develop evidence-based projects and policies geared towards improving the lives of Filipinos, especially now as the country transitions to a new way of life.

Along the same lines, the Philippine Department of Finance has taken the lead in shielding GFIs and other agencies from cyber threats.

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