Digital Transformation

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As banking becomes more increasingly online, and with the data touchpoints on the rise, AI and ML have become an integral part of a bank’s DNA. It is a natural outcome that the more the data touchpoints, and the wider the data exposure, the greater the chances of things going wrong. Understanding this vulnerability, banks and financial institutions are keen on deploying AI/ML to keep a check on fraud incidents.

To get a better insight into how banks are adopting and adapting new technology and what is the future looking like for them, OpenGov Asia had a conversation with Dr David Hardoon, Senior Advisor for Data and Artificial Intelligence, Union Bank of Philippines.

David acknowledged that the rise in digital data points, as a result of increased online banking, has necessitated leveraging technologies like AI and ML to derive actionable insights. Additionally, more financial institutions see the benefits of adopting technology to keep fraud in check. The headway in security has encouraged them to scale it to other core functions like floor management, compliance, and regulation.

This is an almost-radical departure as historically there has been a reluctance in adopting technology among financial institutions due to unfamiliarity and the stern regulations around it. The pandemic has driven this paradigm shift, forcing organizations to think beyond their existing boundaries and comfort zones.

David noted that even the support office is catching up with the front office in terms of robustness, scalability, and capability to know when something is wrong. This is driven by the need to ensure a smooth and secure online experience for the customer.

On being asked about the notion that online malls and shopping sites are leading the way in customer experience and engagement over online banks and financial institutions, David agreed the banking industry is lagging but highlighted an important issue. The pandemic has driven people online but there is a fundamental lack of trust among customers engaging with such e-commerce sites.

“Trust is an equity financial institutions have, he opined. But it needs to be leveraged appropriately to build customer engagement online.”

Speaking about fraud and risk management in financial institutions in the post-COVID-19 era David shared that there has been a tremendous increase in the adoption of technology among banks. The strategy has been to use existing systems and adopt/adapt more sophisticated data techniques to achieve operational efficiency.

Banks are also focusing on taking the marketing mantra of hyper-personalization to compliance. David shared that data is the tool that equips banks with the ability and capacity of seeing and engaging individuals as individuals. Adding to this, he believes that such technologies can only be deployed in an institution when the top management believes in its power.

Elaborating on the future of AI/ML in fraud, David believes that the conversation is going to shift from digitizing the front office to bringing in the latest technology in the middle and back office in financial institutions. Apart from focusing on driving top-line growth, companies will need to get a better handle to know if anything wrong or irregular is happening.

David is confident that discussions around using AI/ML to manage fraud and risk will convert into action. The implementation might not be uniform across all institutions, but will it will move forward. Bigger institutions who have focused teams and resources will look to develop in-house fraud and risk management systems initially. A major reason behind it is the need to understand the complexities and difficulties associated with this process. Once they have familiarized themselves with it, they might partner with experts who champion the field.

All in all, David is an optimist who believes in the power of AI/ML, in risk and fraud management, and believes that conversations around it will get more operational.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has announced it will establish a Quantum Computing Applications Lab, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), to accelerate quantum computing-led research and development and enable new scientific discoveries.

The MeitY Quantum Computing Applications Lab will provide quantum computing as a service to government ministries and departments, researchers, scientists, academia, and developers. It will enable advances in manufacturing, healthcare, agriculture, and aerospace engineering.

According to a press release, AWS will provide hosting with technical and programmatic support for the ab. The initiative aims to provide scientific, academic, and developer communities access to a quantum computing development environment aligned with the government’s science and technology priorities.

Quantum computing is an emerging field that harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to build powerful tools to process information. It has the potential to solve computational problems that are beyond the reach of classical computers and lead to breakthroughs that can transform chemical engineering, material science, drug discovery, financial portfolio optimisation, machine learning, and much more.

The lab will identify quantum computing problem statements for experimentation from among central and state governments, research institutions, and academia. It will work with subject matter experts from the government sector to define the problem statements, and make them public, inviting applications from researchers, academia, and organisations to address them. The lab will then provide select applicants with free access to quantum computing hardware, simulators, and programming tools, on-demand. This will help scientists and developers to build algorithms, conduct advanced simulations, and run experiments.

Amazon Braket provides a development environment to enable users to explore and design quantum algorithms, test and troubleshoot them on simulated quantum computers, and run them on different quantum hardware technologies.

The Secretary of Meity, Ajay Sawhney, said that India has a rich legacy in science, technology, and innovation. The government believes that India’s path forward will be driven by achieving world-class scientific solutions. Enabling the scientific community with advanced technologies plays a key role in scientific advancements and learning.

An early and successful foundation in quantum computing is important to achieve leadership in this emerging field. The MeitY Quantum Computing Applications Lab is the first of its kind initiative in the world and aims to enable India’s talented researchers to explore the unchartered applications of quantum computing, and pave the way for discoveries and disruptions, another government official noted.

A core mission of MeitY is to identify and deploy technologies to promote innovation and discovery to help India advance and achieve a more sustainable future. Quantum computing has the potential to help countries leapfrog technology generations, achieve scientific leadership, and deliver answers to complex economic and social challenges. This initiative will augment India’s ongoing efforts in developing quantum computing applications, the President and CEO of the National e-Governance Division (NeGD), Abhishek Singh, explained.

The MeitY Quantum Computing Applications Lab will help government bodies and the scientific community identify problems and opportunities rapidly and test real-world challenges through experiments and prototypes in a low-risk environment. Outcomes from these experiments will help researchers evolve problem statements, proofs-of-concept, and prototypes that will lead to the development of new applications, models, and frameworks in quantum computing.

For almost three quarters of 2020, the world was battling a pandemic of a magnitude that has never been witnessed in the history of humankind. Not only individual citizens, but large organisations and governments were caught off guard.

Apart from being surrounded by the threat of getting infected by the virus, citizens’ liberty to move freely in the community was completely lost due to national lockdowns and social distancing measures. There was a colossal drop in the volume of domestic and international air travel, starting in the first months and continuing to the present.

Picture credits: Business Insider

Distressed and perturbed by this captivity and the fast-changing – and sometimes contradictory movement restrictions – got Mohit Sagar, founder and CEO of Access Anywhere, thinking how he could address this problem. He envisioned a solution that would empower citizens to take responsibility for their wellbeing in their own hands.

Taking further steps to convert his vision into reality, Mohit Sagar partnered with industry leaders Microsoft, SAS and Confluent to create a cloud-based solution that gives people real-time risk assessment of their health: Liberty and Passage.

Liberty and Passage is a total outbreak management system application that offers users the ability to continue routine activities like going to work and socialising with friends without compromising their own or the health of those around them.

Mohit acknowledged that the application is based on a give and take relationship where the user gets the gift of liberty by willingly giving up personal health-related information to the app’s database. But significantly, in the current environment of scepticism, he highlighted something which is incredibly unique to this app and makes it more trustworthy – all information received from the user is anonymised at the source.

Mohit was firm in maintaining the privacy of the app’s users and ensuring that their information is secure is a non-negotiable for the team.

Taking about the structure of the app, Mohit shared that the app has three main pillars Liberty Open, Liberty Corporate and Liberty Passage.

Liberty Open in for individual citizens to help them monitor and manage personal risk.

Liberty Corporate offers corporate leadership an opportunity to share the government’s burden by taking the responsibility of their employees’ health. It is designed with the flexibility to be compatible with an organization’s existing infrastructure to check the COVID-19 spread.

Liberty Passage is a solution for travellers and the travel industry that can offer real-time alerts against infections, an immunity passport of sorts for travellers and assistance in immigration processing.

Elaborating on how this app stands out against the plethora of track and trace apps losing trust amongst citizens all around the world, Mohit shared that they are helping citizens retain their freedom during the pandemic by having a very transparent relationship with them. Mohit said “We are not here to police. We anonymise all information at source and make sure that our users are in control of what they want to do.”

He added, “We are not competing with governments but complementing what they are doing.”

About the app hitting the marketing and be available to the users, Mohit shared that they have successfully finished few rounds of Proof of Concept (PoC) with the Vagabond Club, Singapore at two of their locations while a third is underway. With the current success, Mohit is confident that they will be able to make the app available in the market by February 2021.

“Keeping our hotel operating during the pandemic has meant we have had to put in place measures to ensure the safety of our staff and that of our guests that stay here. Liberty Corporate has given us the added confidence and assurance, through its health logs, location software, data insights and risk notifications, that we are doing our utmost to prevent transmission in our hotel.”

Ms Harpreet Bedi, CEO and General Counsel at The Garcha Group

Mohit reiterated, in light of the still increasing number of infections, the discovery of new strains and the absence of an effective cure, the pandemic is here to stay. Their objective is to empower citizens and assist governments in making sure that an individual’s ability to move and mingle freely – the very essence of social beings – is not compromised by any this pandemic nor any future ones.

Digital technology has accelerated aggressively during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to safety restrictions and health protocols, drastic changes in the workplace, including the adoption of remote workstations, have been implemented. As consumers began to shift to e-commerce and other online platforms from traditional methods of carrying out transactions, enterprises had to be on the lookout for innovative means to cater to the public’s demand. 

The same scenario is seen in the public sector, with governments across the globe laying out various initiatives to mitigate the economic impacts of the health crisis. One of these initiatives is by ramping up the ease of doing business through the implementation of new technology. 

Early on, the Indonesian government has been at the fore of amplifying its digital initiatives. According to an earlier report by OpenGov Asia, the Ministry of Industry is reforming its operational models by putting a premium on technology. Under this innovative framework, the Ministry undertakes to provide technical training as part of goals to improve investments and foster human resource development through tech. This comes as a support for efforts aimed at decreasing the unemployment rate and boosting the competitiveness of human resources. 

The Ministry of Agriculture is innovating along the same vein. In a statement, Agriculture Minister Dr. Syahrul Yasin Limpo encouraged the Agricultural Research and Development Agency to step up its game in developing innovative techniques to improve methods employed in agriculture. 

During a workshop with the theme “Implementing the Use of Innovation and Provision of Superior Seeds”, the Minister underscored the importance of utilising technology to streamline the agriculture sector, one which has long relied on traditional methodologies. 

He added that the Agency is an important unit under the Ministry in introducing innovation. The Minister also said that they are looking at “being able to discover new engineering and breakthroughs, those that are currently unavailable. There must be innovative engineering.” 

The Minister also expressed his enthusiasm over the strides that the Agency has made last year despite challenges recorded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He stressed that the Agency was able to show its resilience during that period and was able to create new programmes and to develop policies to accelerate in the new normal. He said he is hopeful that the same momentum will be sustained this year, as the country continues to anticipate economic recovery. 

He emphasised that: “in 2021 it must be better, even faster. This is the momentum that must be used to actualise our research and development. This is the time for research and development to produce work that breaks through existing engineering, technological research and applications.” 

The Ministry likewise announced that it has given a directive to the Agency to conceptualise and formulate its targets by the end of the first quarter of the year. It added that it anticipates to see commodity targets such as those for soybeans, garlic and corn, increase to achieve goals of producing 6 to 8 tonnes of these products per hectare. 

This target, the Ministry said, can be achieved through a multi-tier approach –by looking at targets from upstream to downstream. To jumpstart this initiative, researchers were urged to start developing and building on existing agricultural varieties of crops. The next step would be finding ways on how to maximise post-harvest processing to hit targets. 

By re-strategising, the Ministry hopes that the Agency will be able to streamline agricultural processes through innovative techniques. This directive is in line with commitments earlier made by the Indonesian government to meet the increasing food demands of about 273 million citizens and to make farmers more innovative in their craft.

Economies across the globe are streamlining their blueprints in a bid to foster economic recovery despite the challenges brought by the new normal. To do this, they are amplifying their digital initiatives faster than anticipated. Likewise, they are embracing a change in the cultural mindset to enhance their processes. 

Key economic sectors are getting support from the government in terms of technological advances. This is evident in the manufacturing and retail industries. Exports are likewise getting a boost from tech as governments strive to make their products more globally competitive and in the long term, be a growth pillar for the economy. 

In the Philippines, key areas of the economy are given priority following the onset of the global health crisis. From physical transactions, several government agencies are implementing online schemes to not just fast-track their correspondence with the public sector but to adhere to safety restrictions as well.  

Assistance to various sectors of the Philippine economy has been launched and made more convenient through digital tools. This is seen in the innovative measures used by the government not just in providing ease in public transactions but in key areas like social assistance. In an earlier report by OpenGov Asia, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said that it will be releasing livelihood settlement grants of LSGs to various households in strife-torn Marawi City through a mobile app. 

To promote ease in doing business for players in the agricultural sector, state-run Landbank of the Philippines (LBP) announced in a statement that it has installed its Digital Onboarding System or DOBS in its first Agri-Hub in the province of Ilocos Sur. 

The online banking system is intended to simplify account opening applications by reducing transaction turnaround time to 10 to 15 minutes. It is likewise anticipated to adhere to safety protocols implemented by the Inter-Agency Task Force during the new normal. It does this by minimising physical contact and promoting remote transactions. 

The bank was recognised for launching the DOBS, a web-based programme it launched two years ago to streamline account enrollment processes. This feat made the LBP one of the first lenders in the Philippines to offer a fully digital account application process for individuals, institutions and government agencies. The system was also set up with goals of promoting regulatory compliance in data quality through easy gathering, storage and retrieval of digital bank records. 

Launching a new Agri-Hub 

The Landbank, through Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar, stated that the banking scheme, as well as the Sta. Maria Agri-Hub, “are expected to bring financial services closer to more bank clients in the rural area.” This is in conjunction with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive that the LBP must cater to the needs of farmers, fisherfolks, agrarian reform beneficiaries and agriculture enterprises. 

During her speech at the inauguration of the Sta. Maria hub, LBP North Luzon Branches Group Head and First Vice President Ma. Belma Turla noted that the agri-hub is set to provide both financial and technical services to clients. These include account opening, withdrawal and cash encashment. Loan applications and handling of agrarian-related concerns may likewise be facilitated through the hub. 

The LBP’s Sta. Maria Agri-Hub is the fifth of its kind established in the country. The state-run lender said it has established these facilities in sites including Calabanga, Camarines Sur; Barotac Viejo, Iloilo and Sual in Pangasinan. Meanwhile, the Echague Agri-Hub in Isabela was earlier put up in a bid to cater to more than 2,500 farmers across 64 barangays in the municipality. 

The Sta. Maria hub is expected to speed up account-related transactions for farmers and fisherfolks not only within the Sta. Maria locality but to those from neighbouring towns and municipalities. 

In less than a year, the new normal has ushered in several years’ worth of innovation. Remote workstations have replaced the physical workplace, and office meetings are now held through online video conference calls. This is the scenario in many enterprises that have embraced the changing norms brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the public sector, governments are constantly on their toes while looking for innovative tools to help revolutionise their existing work blueprints. Digitalisation has shifted from being a mere buzzword to a reality that needs to be achieved. Accelerating towards digital transformation is the top priority for most economies looking at fostering recovery from the impacts of the pandemic while still maintaining the right balance of governance and transparency in dealing with the increased demands of the public. 

In the Philippines, several key initiatives have been launched to mitigate economic challenges. According to an earlier report by OpenGov Asia, the government announced it is injecting more funding this year in the National Broadband Programme (NBP) spearheaded by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). The NBP is the flagship project of the department which aims to improve internet connectivity in the country, particularly in remote areas. 

In line with such government efforts, government-owned and controlled Davao City Water District (DCWD) said in a media release that it is doing away with physical transactions and is leaning towards the adoption of online services to promote ease in doing business within the locality. 

The DCWD said it has adopted virtual chat support services to respond to customers’ queries on their billings. The service is available 24 hours and seven days a week to cater to the public’s needs, particularly regarding their Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) instalment bills. 

DCWD Spokesperson JC Duhaylungsod said that instead of sharing their concerns in private groups in social media where there is no participation of DCWD employees, consumers should talk about their concerns directly in the DCWD’s Facebook account. She added: “Just go straight to our Facebook page, we can immediately give the transaction record. We can explain where the payment went and if there are ECQ instalments remaining.” 

The water utility’s spokesperson clarified that once concerns have been raised and the DCWD finds irregularities in billing amounts, it will automatically make a report to be endorsed to the appropriate departments. 

For other concerns, the DCWD mentioned that customers may contact the department’s call centre via their landline and mobile phones. 

This programme comes after the DCWD suspended its billing collections and offered a staggered payment scheme called ECQ instalments. The initiative was a form of assistance to households within the area from March to May last year when the government placed several parts of the country under community quarantine to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 

During this period, meter reading operations were suspended and as a result, the DCWD began to apply average consumption percentages in water bills. The three-month ECQ billing was spread into six instalments, each one added to water bills from July to December last year. 

The DCWD spokesperson noted that: “since it is already January 2021 and the instalment term is completed, we are reminding those still with a balance in ECQ instalments to settle on or before the due date of their December billing to avoid penalties in their ECQ instalments.” 

The water utility has earlier informed the public that those who are interested in availing their services may choose to submit their applications online by downloading and filling out a form available on their website and social media account. They can also browse through a list of requirements that need to be presented once they apply. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the world are standing their ground in capitalising on digital technology to provide seamless transactions during the new normal despite safety restrictions. In line with these efforts, government agencies and even state-owned firms are rethinking their operation models to be more equipped in providing services to the citizen base. 

This scenario is evident in Indonesia, where the government has early on committed to accelerating its digital transformation to boost public service and governance. In fact, according to an earlier report by OpenGov Asia, the Ministry of National Development Planning emphasised the role of information and communications technology to boost the country’s social capital index. This index is the measure of the whole population’s social stability and well-being. 

Building on this commitment, Indonesia’s state-owned electricity company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) announced that it has formulated a new innovative strategy to provide services to households across the country. In a statement, the company said that consumers can easily apply for a COVID-19 electricity stimulus package through the PLN Mobile application.  

The electricity firm ensured that they are distributing 450 volt-ampere (VA) and 900 VA subsidised electricity packages to 32 million household consumers. It added that this number excludes the 450 VA power packages to 459,000 business customers. 

Postpaid customers under the 450 VA group are entitled to a 100% electricity discount while a 50% power subsidy is given to postpaid consumers under the 900 VA power segment. PLN’s Executive Vice President for Corporate Communication and CSR Agung Murdifi said: “postpaid customers will immediately reduce the cost of electricity bills. Then for 450 VA, prepaid tokens can be obtained through the method described. Meanwhile, for subsidised 900 VA household customers, a stimulus is received when purchasing electricity tokens.”. 

The Executive Vice President added that they “see that the distribution process is running smoothly and customers have enjoyed the electricity stimulus.” 

The state-owned firm emphasised that using the PLN app is easy and convenient during the new normal. The application can be downloaded via Playstore and App Store. Once downloaded, customers can register for the power subsidy by clicking on ‘PLN Cares for Covid-19’ under the Info and Promos tab. They will then be prompted to enter their Customer ID or their electricity meter number. A free token will appear which can be entered by customers in their meter reading to avail of discounts. 

For those who have trouble accessing or downloading the PLN app, they can log on to the PLN website or send a message through WhatsApp. The company’s Executive Vice President stated that they have launched these additional services to provide as many alternative options to citizens who are in need of discounts on their electricity bills. He added: “PLN adds Channels through the PLN Mobile Application to make it easier because customers can just open the application on their cellphones, enter the Customer ID / Meter Number, and get the token number.” 

The introduction of subsidised electricity is part of the government’s IDR 695.2 trillion (US$ 49.4 billion) stimulus package during the pandemic. This government effort aims to shore up the country’s economy which has taken a hit since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Through this initiative, the government is also optimistic that the stimulus package will help maintain employment levels.  

Since August last year, over 30 million households, businesses and industries have been seeing lower amounts in their electricity bills following the release of an IDR 15.4 trillion (US$ 1.09 billion) funding for power relief measures. This amount is on top of the IDR 54.79 trillion (US$ 3.89 billion) yearly electricity subsidies set aside by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

Digital transformation in governance is not new and has been laid out early on in many governance blueprints. A decade ago, digitalisation became an effective strategy and continues to amplify business frameworks and trigger economic stability in many markets today. In fact, notable achievements in government transactions have been recorded as far back as 2009, thanks to a shift to innovative digital methods.

While the term ‘digital technology’ may not have an exact definition, the term broadly encompasses technological advancement and its impacts on organisations. One of the goals of government agencies across the globe as information technology or IT gets more sophisticated, is to scale up procedures while decreasing costs.

Nonetheless, despite the plethora of benefits brought by technology, several key challenges continue to hinder digital transformation strategies. In a survey released in 2018, federal IT heads voiced concerns about security regarding the adoption of cloud technology. They also encountered difficulty in transferring legacy programmes to the cloud. Lack of skills in the workforce likewise constituted a major hurdle.

Necessity is the mother of invention, says the adage. In less than a year, the world saw the COVID-19 pandemic reshaping the digital landscape and accelerating digital transformation. The onslaught of the pandemic put governments on their toes to adjust their operational models and adapt rapidly to an innovative ‘remote everything’ mindset.

Pre-pandemic, the shift was meant to be gradual and incorporate standard change-management timelines. The reality today is that governments are trying to complete their digital journey, not within the coming years, but in months.

For this to happen, cloud computing and data sharing are necessary and irreplaceable lynchpins.  The scope expansion and speed needed to serve and meet the demands of their citizens in the new normal can only be done by strategies that rest solidly on these two pillars.

To get a deeper insight on cloud technology and its adoption by government organisations during the pandemic, OpenGov Asia spoke with top executives of cloud tech giants Microsoft and SUSE for an in-depth interview.

Sherie Ng: The pandemic has accelerated the digital shift and is driving governments to do things remotely to cope with the crisis.

Restrictions due to COVID-19 resulted in disruptions that fuelled the need for cloud technologies to ensure operational continuity. Sherie Ng, General Manager for Public Sector in the Asia Pacific at Microsoft, confirmed that digital technology is at its height with organisations accelerating their digital transformation in the last couple of months. This is particularly the case in public healthcare but is also being witnessed in other government sectors.

The pandemic accelerated the need for the digitalisation of public services for operational and business continuity. Governments needed to urgently cultivate a growth mindset, alongside efforts to ramp up relief operations and recover the economic landscape. The good news is that many governments have partnered with the company to move into the cloud platform.

In fact, in countries like Singapore, a billion-dollar increase in IT spending has been recorded. Similarly, government leaders in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines have been vocal about the need for e-government that is heavily backed by cloud solutions.

To allow rapid uptake and migration, Sherie explained that experts at Microsoft have deployed cloud solutions in different arenas to help governments transform their processes and services. One such area is ‘e-citizen services’, which deals with the tracking of critical resources and contact tracing for clients in the healthcare industry.

Microsoft has so far supported agencies in this area through a holistic and secure platform that enables businesses to configure patient profiles and incorporate them into the entire value chain. They have also organised envisioning workshops that help customers digitise current operational processes and transform their customer experience.

Sherie added that in healthcare, it isn’t just about adopting Microsoft Azure, but a re-evaluation of the entire digital infrastructure to ensure the organisation is able to manage the current crisis and become resilient to future incidents.

Sherie detailed the intricacies of cloud economics, quashing the misconception that upgrading to the cloud would have a massive impact on expenses. In fact, organisations save more from the flexibility provided by cloud technologies like Microsoft Azure. Organisations can optimise costs by seamlessly moving their existing on-prem investments, whether open-source software or proprietary, by leveraging a hybrid cloud model.

Sherie likened the concept of cloud economics to governments going up a ladder as improvements in the cloud are recorded. The cost decreases as agencies go up this ladder. The key is to think big but start small. The secret is not going all out at the outset but incremental investments in infrastructure as the needs of the organisation grow.

The most important thing, Sherie indicated, is for every business to have a paradigm shift in organisational perspective. Leaders must be stewards of innovation, with employees re-skilled and re-trained. Governments must also empower the next generation with the digital skills needed for a resilient economic future.

To address trust, security and confidentiality, Sherie added that Microsoft believes in the timeless value of privacy and preserves the ability for customers to control their data. She shared three areas that are paramount to boosting confidentiality.

  1. Compliance – Microsoft respects local laws and regulations and meeting compliance obligations in a dynamic regulatory environment is complex. Consulting a team of legal experts to oversee compliance is one of the methods used by the company to help businesses navigate this ever-changing landscape.
  2. Agility is essential – what started as a slow transition toward digital transformation pre-pandemic is now marked with speed, flexibility and adaptivity.
  3. Scale – although governments have proven that they can initiate a whole value chain of operations management in a few months, there must be a correlative obligation on governments to ramp up operations to scale responsibly and in line with sustainable development goals.

Studies have also shown that the transition to Microsoft Azure has resulted in 93% better energy efficiency, all thanks to a much-needed shift to automation and cloud tech.

Hak Beng: Innovation is about helping clients simplify, accelerate and modernise their digital transformation

According to Ng Hak Beng, Sales Engineer Manager, Asia at SUSE, COVID-19 is one of the major triggers for governments to fast-track their investments in cloud technology. However, this journey continues to be marred by challenges.

One of these issues is apprehension due to data security. To address this, Hak Beng stressed that some government agencies have taken the initiative in teaming up with expert public cloud service providers. He cited the current situation in Singapore, where agencies have banked on secure cloud infrastructure to streamline their transactions.

While Hak Beng admitted that issues on confidentiality may linger and that it may take a while before people change and trust the system, he emphasised that technology is gradually evolving into a hybrid cloud environment that can help address issues on confidential data.

There is now a marked improvement in the time it takes for applications to be developed. Application development used to take years when done through traditional application design methodologies. Today, native cloud programmes have enabled faster turnaround time.

The same is true in terms of scalability. Governments with large populations face scalability issues. The challenge has been addressed by cloud-native apps which are designed primarily to scale as demand increases.

In terms of costs, Hak Beng agreed with the points raised by Sherie. He dispelled the common notion that cloud technology will put a big dent in capital expenditure. The opposite, he said, is true. Cloud systems decrease operational costs because they adapt quickly to changes in the work environment. New features can be dropped and added at little to no extra cost.

This is especially true for clients of SUSE, who are reaping the benefits of using open source software for free and pay only for charges when the need arises. Hak Beng shared the advantages of open cloud technology through SUSE’s acquisition of Rancher Labs earlier this year. With this type of system, products are developed collaboratively. This makes open source technology applicable to a wide variety of industries, including the public sector.

Simplify, modernise and accelerate. Hak Beng added that this motto resonates as SUSE strives to lend a helping hand to governments who wish to simplify existing infrastructure while achieving agility and scalability to meet increasing demands.

To further explain, Hak Beng proposed that government entities consider shifting to Platform as a Service (PaaS). Agencies can dispatch non-core company functions to cloud service providers, allowing agencies to prioritise their core services. Software as a Service (SaaS) further boosts this agility by outsourcing software operation and maintenance.

OpenGov Asia also had the opportunity to get more insights from SUSE on deterring cyber threats. As cybercrime continues to take on new and more sophisticated forms, governments have become adamant about shifting to innovative operational solutions.

For SUSE, which has been at the fore of the cyber frontlines, the answer is simple. Organisations must embrace artificial intelligence which can help in detecting potential cyber threats. Additionally, security products that can scan software source codes for malware-installing multi-cloud programmes can help prevent critical cyberattacks.

When it comes to confidentiality concerns, cloud experts at SUSE believe a hybrid cloud model can assist in allaying these doubts. Under this system, data can be stored safely in one location while other applications can be stored in another cloud infrastructure. This way, the confidentiality of data can be preserved while allowing greater flexibility of services.

The enlightening conversation concluded with both SUSE and Microsoft strongly reaffirming the benefits of shifting to cloud technology in terms of agility, scalability, and flexibility. With the pandemic far from over, for now, the journey of governments across the world toward digitalisation must continue aggressively. The role of cloud service providers, then, remains critical to improving public service and sustaining economic growth.

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