According to a press release, now, court case information from all computerised districts and subordinate courts in the country will be accessible through eCourts in Common Service Centres for citizens that aren’t connected to the Internet.
Initiated in 2005, the eCourts project aims to integrate ICT with the judiciary courts in India, making for an affordable and effective legal system.
The available court case information includes judicial proceedings and decisions, case registration, cause list, case status, daily orders, and final judgments.
In 2014, the Government through the Department of Justice initiated the second phase of the project with a total outlay of approximately US $235.2 million. Under it, 16,845 courts (district and subordinate) were IT-enabled.
Additionally, the Government provided desktops or laptops to judges. Systems were installed to keep data up-to-date and for the provision of e-mails and digital signatures for court staff.
The Government also installed case information software, hardware, and local area networks. These are connected to a wide area network through a circuit that offers bandwidth up to 100 Megabits per second (Mbps).
The eCourts services also make use of SMS, email, and mobile applications.
Not all citizens that get involved with the legal system have access to the Internet, making it important that case information is available through other mediums. Therefore, the Department has decided to deliver eCourt services through 200,000 Common Service Centres (CSCs) across the country.
CSCs function as access points for the delivery of national e-services.
The rural reach of CSCs is extensive. The Government plans to set up one CSC in each village council (gram panchayat) in India.
The eCourts database contains over 100 million case files and more than 70 million orders and judgments.
eCourts related services that are delivered through CSCs are free. However, CSCs have been authorised to charge IN ₹5 (US $0.07) to customers that use any of the 23 services available on the portal.
The eCourts online committee is working with the Chief Justice of India to develop a national policy on the computerisation of the Indian judiciary system. It also offers advice on technological communication and management related changes.
According to the eCourts website, the online analytical processing and business intelligence tools help summarise multiple databases into tables with reports, contributing to an efficient management system and dashboards for an effective court and case network.
The Judicial Management Information System will be helpful in litigations and adjudication pattern analysis and the impact analysis of any variation in governing factors relating to law. It will also serve as a judicial performance enhancing measure for policymakers.
Earlier this month, the Law Minister said that the eCourts project has gained popularity with more than 1.64 billion electronic transactions recorded through its eTaal portal, it is one of the most accessed services of the Indian Government, after agriculture and the public distribution system.
The Government plans to computerise and equip all high courts and district courts with a digital library. It also proposes to use solar energy as an alternate energy source, covering 5% of the total court complexes.
These courts will also facilitate cloud computing to reduce the need for individual servers and technical manpower at court complexes.
The Science Park at Thailand’s Khon Kaen University held a special event to train people in the industrial sector in “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology”. The “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology” training program was held on 2 and 3 April 2021, including both theoretical and practice sessions.
The opening ceremony was presided over by Assoc. Prof. Charnchai Panthongviriyakul, M.D., President of Khon Kaen University, who conveyed the opening address. Dr Apirachai Wongsriworaphon, Director of Khon Kaen University Science Park made a welcoming speech and reported about the objectives of the event.
Participants included personnel from the industrial sector, both governmental and private. The event was also under preventive measures against Covid-19 at the Main Building of the Northeast Science Park, Khon Kaen.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rawee Hanpachoen, a full-time professor of the Faculty of Architecture; an expert and researcher from the Smart City Operational Centre; Khun Pongpat Kangkong, Manager of the Smart City Operational Centre (SCOPC); and Khun Suchat Prommee, a Drone Technology expert, were the trainers of the program.
The Northeast Science Park at Khon Kaen University, as the network node for the operation of the Northeast Science Park, organized this event under the mission to develop technological competency of personnel in the industrial sector (Brain Power Skill Up) and under the Regional Future Manpower and Skills Creation Project, which answer the national innovation development plans.
The event was supported by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation and was aimed at increasing skills for personnel in the industrial sector to accommodate the changes of technologies that will arise in the future.
Drone tech in Thailand
According to an earlier article, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) plans to roll out an artificial intelligence (AI) university project and drone academy this year, as part of the agency’s plan to drive digital skills and support the digital economy.
The AI university project is meant to provide AI knowledge to learning programmes and workshops at designated universities, while the drone academy is set to help Thais learn how to use drones for their businesses, particularly in the agricultural sector.
Depa President and Chief Executive said the projects are part of the agency’s strategic cooperation plans aiming at digital economy development, which covers digital transformation, manpower skill enhancement and start-up incubation.
About 200 million baht will be used to develop the AI university project, with half the amount budgeted by Depa and the remainder by private entities through a matching fund. For the drone academy, Depa plans to set aside THB50 million to develop the project and a matching fund will earmark another THB50 million. Universities are being considered for the AI project, with Mahidol, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat the main contenders, he said.
“Drones are a new technology for Thais in terms of business use, especially big drones, which are very useful in several sectors, including agriculture and logistics,” said the Depa President. When the drone business approaches maturity, international tech companies will come and invest in this segment in Thailand, he said.
The global pandemic caught everyone by surprise, accelerating the digital transformation plans of both governments and private organisations. As the world enters what will hopefully be the home stretch of the pandemic battle – the vaccination stage – both sectors are still looking for ways to efficiently deliver and implement their programmes.
OpenGov Asia had a chance to speak exclusively with Dr Steve Bennett. With deep experience in biosurveillance gained from the various leadership roles during his 12 years at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Steve was able to share rare perspectives in managing disruptions on a global scale such as COVID-19.
He also brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the hat he current wears as Director, Global Government Practice, SAS. A global leader in analytics for organisations seeking immediate value from their data, SAS has a deep toolbox of analytics solutions and broad industry knowledge. Through SAS’ offerings, organisations gain actionable insights from their data and make sense of it all. Identify what is working and fix what is not, make more intelligent decisions, and drive relevant change.
Steve acknowledged that they have known for a long time that the world was susceptible to a pandemic be it in any form. He said that when the news came from China, the first global news in pro-med, they hoped that it would be contained, but, alas, that was not to be.
For SAS as an organisation, the urgent focus was on safety and continuity of operations. Their initial thought went to what the negative effects of the pandemic would be on their global team. A multinational company with 14,000 engaged across the globe, there were incredible ramifications for employees and other staff.
At the same time that continuity of operations was being managed, SAS was working hard to find ways to get in the fight against COVID-19 and help. Initially, the company’s efforts and ideas, while valuable, were uncoordinated. For Steve, with his experience in dealing with disruptive events, he was able to bring rationale and calmness to the situation. Familiar with a way to manage such scenarios – the Incident Command System (ICS) – he proposed its deployment within SAS. It can orient and deliver information in an efficient manner that cuts through bureaucracy and red tape. This system is globally recognised and is widely used by governments as they manage natural disasters, as well as many industries.
The ICS was SAS’s initial answer to the pandemic, and for them, it changed the way they function and to further adapt to the new normal. After the recommendation, Steve found himself leading SAS’s global response. He spearheaded the development of a system that could cater to the needs of the healthcare sector and government as it rallied to meet the pandemic head-on. With the intention of getting software and tools into the hands of people on the front line that needed it as quickly as possible, the team had to work overtime.
Steve highlighted critical areas where SAS could make a significant difference amid the crisis. Optimising the use of medical resources, dashboard and data visualisation and helping governments distribute benefits. Intentionally, they focused on a handful of things to develop the right applications to support these areas efficiently rather than tackling hundreds of use-cases.
The development of systems to manage limited medical resources, such as ICU beds and ventilators for several countries, proved to be vital. Added to this were their data visualisation and situational awareness programmes. These solutions helped bring a snapshot perspective for governments trying to determine their stock of masks for distribution, available beds, ventilators to deploy, etc. SAS’ simple data dashboards helped connect such critical information, for the first time, in an easy-to-view map. It worked wonders for senior government leaders, allowing them to see all the relevant data in one place; and that led to making better, data-driven, informed decisions.
Beyond a doubt, Steve feels, the real challenge for governments is that their data is spread across multiple channels which is compounded by a lack of process (or desire) for integration. This deadly combination hinders the process.
Public sector agencies should welcome the idea of utilising a system that would take all that disorganisation, duplicity and disinclination and make it work together in one platform. The idea of shared value goes a long way, not only for its citizens but also for the agency – those who recognise that that the visualisation of data will enable them to function better.
Big advocates for using data analytics to aid government benefits programmes, Steve confirmed that they championed a process called “Saving Lives and Livelihoods”. While they wanted to cater to the health sector, they also wanted to incorporate data analytics to protect precious resources.
The company helped governments to distribute benefits – quickly and effectively – prioritising needs. Their solutions helped agencies differentiate between those who needed the benefits immediately and were qualified and those who were not. This not only allowed for significant savings but provided efficient triaging – saving lives and livelihoods.
Steve touched on the role that AI plays in all these initiatives and conceded that artificial intelligence is an essential part of all of their platforms and solutions. Not merely in managing the current pandemic but efforts are underway to leverage AI and machine learning to detect and prevent the next one.
The accepted theory for how the COVID-19 pandemic originated is the close contact between people and animals in a particular environment. Fed with the right data and appropriate parameters, AI can be used to predict hotspots in the world which could be the source of the next pandemic. While it may not prevent one, it can provide lead time to pre-deploy health resources in places where a contagion could break out.
Essentially for SAS, AI can aid pandemic prevention and early detection efforts. The key in this high-stakes situation is all about being early – Steve talked about examples from his time in government in which AI and machine learning helped detect very faint signals and trends in the data much earlier than the post-facto, large signal from hospitals three weeks later when everybody is showing up sick.
As vaccination programmes are being rolled out across the world, the pandemic seems to be on its tail-end. However, the implementation of a vaccine rollout is “the greatest logistics mobilisation since World War II and (we are) trying to move things on an unprecedented scale”.
For SAS, their contribution to these initiatives is developing tools that optimise the roll-out of limited vaccines, that manage logistics and supply chain and programmes on data analytics that will drive better decisions on how to roll out the vaccine in a secured manner.
Steve recommends governments augment their large amounts of internal data with non-traditional data sources like telecommunications and consumer data, (while at the same time valuing privacy), to understand what populations are at risk. SAS empowers the government with the data sources and links that data together for them. They also advise governments to offer citizens easy to use options for vaccination registration.
Steve and SAS are optimistic about the future as vaccine rollouts are commencing worldwide. While it may take longer than everyone would like, they believe that countries can turn the tide in their favour sooner than later. Steve mentioned that preliminary modelling for COVID-19 seems to indicated that about 50%-80% of the population need vaccination to achieve “herd immunity,” where the spread of the infection beings to plummet. At the same time, there are concerns that COVID-19 might turn into something like the seasonal flu where people must get shots all year round and live with it.
In the end, Steve believes that everyone should be ready for the next outbreak. Governments and organisations must learn lessons on the development of vaccines and solutions for viruses using various technologies available.
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted lives across the world and will continue to do so for a considerable time to come. Multiple waves of the infections, new lockdown and fresh mitigation measures seem to be the order of the day. In this context, it is important to try and get a semblance of normalcy where possible. One way forward is digitally enabled solutions.
OpenGov Asia and SAS have partnered to create content-rich and engaging online interactive and engaging virtual events across ASEAN via OpenGovLive! – OpenGov Asia’s in-house, dedicated platform. Aimed at providing senior digital executives access to cutting-edge technology and solutions, the sessions are invitation-only.
Details of the various events can be found below:
- Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021Virtual Edition on April 8th and 9th 2021
- Accelerating Digital Transformation and Innovation: Helping Government in Post-Pandemic Recovery and Resilience on April 15th and 16th 2021
- Leveraging Technology for Effective and Efficient Vaccine Distribution, Administration and Management on May 6th 2021
- Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition on May 19th and 20th 2021
- Indonesia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition on June 16th and 17th 2021
The following has been adapted from a speech by GovTech chief executive Kok Ping Soon to an audience of CIOs at a STACK-X event on 25 March 2021
Lessons from COVID
The past year has been marked by discontinuities and disruption in all aspects of our lives – work, home, school and social. In many ways, it has been a period of profound learning, adjustment and adaptation. Though the pandemic has been disruptive, it has also underscored the potential and value of digital technology in nearly every segment of society. More than anything else, digital technology has played a critical role in our fight against COVID-19.
For example, Singapore health authorities reduced the time taken by more than 50% to identify and quarantine a close contact, from 4 days to less than 1.5 days. This was achieved through the development and use of TraceTogether and SafeEntry, applications that GovTech developed to support manual contact tracing. The Gov.sg WhatsApp channel delivers regular updates to 1.2 million subscribers in their preferred language to keep them informed of the situation. And of course, technology has allowed us to keep in touch with loved ones and to conduct business, via virtual meetings.
However, it has not been an easy year for CIOs. On one hand, with demand shrinking, CIOs faced pressures to cut costs and stop new projects. At the same time, they need to rapidly scale up technology enablers to support remote working and new digital business models in order to survive. At the height of COVID-19 last year, many of us would have received an image on WhatsApp asking people who led the digital transformation of their company. COVID-19 may have forced CIOs to be reactive initially, but a year on I hope many will have shifted from a survival defensive mode to an opportunity-seeking offensive mode.
Locking in Gains
Such a shift is necessary because COVID-19 has helped reduce years’ worth of effort needed to drive digital transformation. A McKinsey study last year said that we have leapt five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in just a matter of eight weeks. CIOs should lock in these gains and resist the temptation to revert to old ways of doing things. Doing so requires three pivots that CIOs must spearhead in their organisations.
Firstly, be Digital First by shifting more physical business processes to digital delivery. Having experienced the convenience and understood the possibilities offered by digital technology, consumers and businesses will demand increasingly high-quality digital options.
Do more to make digital services easy to use and seamless. Avoid the temptation of applying a ‘digital lipstick’ on a legacy process. For example, many restaurants have stopped giving out menus for dine-in service to minimise contact. You are asked to scan a QR code for the menu which, as it turns out, is nothing more than a PDF copy of the old menu. You still need to get a server to take your order. This is digitisation and not digitalisation.
At GovTech, we are striving to digitalise all government services. Today, 95% of government transactions can be completed digitally from end-to-end – paperless, cashless and presence-less. Registering your newborn and getting the baby bonus is now fully digital. Getting a license to set up a business is also fully digital. Booking an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccination is done digitally. And when you are done, a digital copy of your vaccination certificate is in your HealthHub account.
Our Digital Platforms are open to support the private sector’s digitalisation efforts. SingPass, which is Singapore’s national digital identity platform, now provides seamless and secure access to over 1,400 digital services by 340 public and even private sector organisations such as Prudential (an insurance company) and OCBC (a bank). With SingPass’ MyInfo function, businesses can offer “one-click” registration and perform e-Know Your Customer (e-KYC). With its Login function, businesses can authenticate their users with high assurance, without the need to operate their own systems. And with Digital Signing, users can now electronically sign contracts and legal documents, allowing transactions to be completed in a presence-less environment.
Secondly, CIOs should lock in the use of cloud and microservice-based architecture in developing their applications. A cloud-first strategy has been instrumental in our ability to quickly roll out COVID-19 digital solutions. Postmaster, the backend platform for the Gov.sg WhatsApp channel, was built using Twilio’s SMS platform. Our COVID-19 chatbot uses Google’s Dialogue Flow. The TraceTogether App is built on Google’s Firebase mobile platform. And the series of GoWhere websites and SafeEntry were built on AWS to enable reusability and scalability.
We are not just developing new applications on the cloud but migrating 70% of Government ICT systems onto the Commercial Cloud. To support this migration, we have been developing the SG Tech Stack. Instead of having to develop a new application from scratch, agencies can now access a global ecosystem of ready-made applications to add advanced features to their digital services. Application testing and deployment can now be automated and done in real-time, increasing the cadence of delivery.
Cloud has become the foundation that enables organisations to transform, differentiate and gain a competitive advantage. The adoption of a cloud-first strategy will enhance organisations’ digital transformations; a reluctance to do so will mean an increased risk of being left behind.
Third, CIOs should lock in the centrality of Digital in their organisation’s business strategy. According to Gartner, organisations that seized the COVID-19 opportunity and increased funding for digital innovation are 2.7 times more likely to be a top performer, rather than a trailing one. CIOs and engineering teams are now uniquely positioned to influence not just how business is done, but what should be done. They should take advantage of this window of opportunity and digitalise their end-to-end business processes.
GovTech is reshaping the roles and responsibilities of CIOs in the Government. Our CIOs are now in the front seat when it comes to driving their agencies’ Transformation Plans. In the past, CIOs were primarily order-takers at the end of a value chain and were judged based on their ability to maintain cost-efficient and reliable infrastructure because IT was considered a cost centre. Now, CIOs are expected to demonstrate how IT can be leveraged to deliver transformational growth because it is accepted as a value-driver. This will require CIOs to develop new skills. It is not good enough for CIOs to simply keep abreast of the latest technologies. They need to hone their communication skills, develop relationships with other business leaders, and understand how IT can best serve their organisations’ needs and goals.
But while I encourage CIOs to take an offensive stance by being digital-first, cloud-first and locking in the centrality of Digital in their organisations, three defensive plays should not be forgotten. Not paying attention to these risks will set us back in the digitalisation agenda.
The first is cybersecurity. The SolarWinds cyber-attack, which affected 18,000 organisations, including US government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, is a reminder that cyber threats are real, trans-border and constantly evolving. To derive the benefits of digitalisation, we must be ever-vigilant against cyber risks. We need continuous and sustained efforts to strengthen our cybersecurity posture.
The second is data security and privacy. With greater digitalisation, the volume and value of data will grow in tandem. Data can yield valuable insights that improve business efficiencies. It can enhance products and services for consumers. But as more data is collected, the risk of data breaches also increases. If data is not used responsibly, trust can be eroded, even undermined. We must accord due protection to personal data and privacy by strengthening the accountability of organisations for the personal data we handle.
The third is third-party risks. The rapid pace of technology development and the skills gap mean many organisations will need to seek outside help. However, this can lead to reliability and security issues. Organisations need to have better governance and take a more intelligent risk-based approach. Develop standardised processes and proactive decision-making using analytics, instead of sliding into a “firefighting” mode and only tackling issues when they arise.
There has never been a better time for those of us in the ICT industry. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital tools, increased the appetite of organisations for digitalisation, and demonstrated new ways of working together. The impetus for digital transformation has never been stronger, and the tangible benefits that can be derived are clear for all to see. Let us seize this opportunity to lock in the digitalisation gains while watching out for the risks. There’s certainly a lot of work ahead for all of us, but the digitalisation momentum borne out of the pandemic will carry us through.
Vietnam’s National Power Transmission Corporation (EVNNPT) has operationalised its first digital transformer station in Thuy Nguyen district, the northern port city of Hai Phong, earlier this week. The 210kV station was built at a total cost of around VND348 billion (US$15 million) on an area of 40,100 square metres spanning the Dong Son and Kenh Giang communes.
According to EVNNPT Deputy General Director Luu Viet Tien, the station helped cut around 80% of the amount of copper cable, slash copper cable transport and installation costs, and reduce the risks of incidents caused by cable damage. The system will use artificial intelligence (AI) in monitoring and examining and make use of cameras and smart drones to repair lines.
He said the 220KV digital station will a ensure stable power supply for socio-economic development in Thuy Nguyen and regions in the vicinity, reduce power loss, and enhance connectivity, safety, stability, and flexibility in the operation of power systems.
EVNNPT will evaluate the efficiency of the station to select suitable technologies for transformer stations in the future. The Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN) plans to have all equipment on transmission lines and 80% of 110 kV circuit facilities digitalised from now to 2022.
By 2025, EVNNPT will have digitalised 100% of facilities on medium and higher-voltage power lines, according to EVNNPT Chairman Duong Quang Thanh. To that end, the group will continue to integrate other digital technologies like the Internet of Things, big data, and cloud computing.
It will continue research on building information models and digital worker platforms to serve its staff while developing AI applications for image analysis and data governance. EVNNPT said it has completed 61 of the 63 centres for the remote control of transformer stations and converted 670 of the 844 transformer stations into unmanned ones.
Tien said that the digital transformer station is a new technology in both Vietnam and many other countries in the world. He added that before the station was constructed, EVNNPT held several conferences with large equipment suppliers such as Siemens, ABB, and GE.
Recently the Minister of Information and Communications (MIC), Nguyen Manh Hung, claimed that digital transformation and innovation will turn Vietnam into a developed country by 2045. He said that innovation always has to start with awareness and thinking and has to be seen from different perspectives. Old infrastructure, old ways of doing things, old knowledge, old products, old business models are no longer suitable. The country needs new infrastructure, new ways of doing things, new knowledge, new products, new business models.
That is why many people say that digital transformation is more of a policy revolution than a technology revolution. Adopting new business models, new technologies that fundamentally change industries. “If we are open to accepting the new, then the new technology of the world will come, talent from all over the world will come, a new industry will emerge and the cradle of Vietnam will create exportable digital technology products,” he noted.
The New Zealand Growth Capital Partners’ (NZGCP) Elevate New Zealand Venture Fund is committing NZ$14 million (US$10 million) into the Finistere Aotearoa Fund, which will target agri-food technology companies needing Series A and B investment. The fund will match Elevate’s commitment at least dollar-to-dollar with private capital. At first close at least US$28 million will be available to invest into agri-tech investments in New Zealand-connected entities.
According to a news report, the Finistere Aotearoa Fund will focus on commercialising New Zealand’s robust technology and intellectual property pipeline. The Fund is a subsidiary of Silicon Valley venture capital fund managers Finistere Ventures.
The Economic and Regional Development Minister, Stuart Nash, welcomed the new Elevate commitment. “The government’s Agritech Industry Transformation Plan was launched last year. In that, we highlighted that investment was a key constraint for the sector, so we welcome the creation of this specialist fund and look forward to its productive contribution to New Zealand’s transformation.”
The New Zealand government’s investment and commitment to a zero-emissions national agriculture strategy has turned the country into a centre for agricultural excellence, according to Arama Kukutai, co-founder and partner of Finistere Ventures. The New Zealand operation will be managed by long-time investment manager Dean Tilyard and based in Palmerston North. Finistere Ventures has a global agri-tech focus with offices in the United States, Ireland, and Israel.
New Zealand has become a world leader in agricultural research and innovation focused on curtailing the environmental impact of agriculture. “Having a strong local presence in Aotearoa has long been on our agenda. We are excited to partner with NZGCP to support the global commercialisation of New Zealand’s most promising agri-food technology advancements,” Kukutai stated.
NZGCP was established by the New Zealand government. As per its website, NZGCP aims to stimulate a well-functioning capital market for early-stage technology companies. Its investment vehicles are designed to stimulate private investment into this space through fund of funds and co-investment models.
Finistere Ventures is aiming for a final close of NZ$42 million (approximately US$30 million), which if achieved would see Elevate’s contribution rise to NZ$21 million (US$15 million). James Pinner, the investment director of Elevate, said, “Finistere and Dean Tilyard established Sprout, a Callaghan tech incubator based in Palmerston North with a strong agri-tech focus, and the fund has a number of existing New Zealand investments including BioLumic, Invert Robotics, and CropX – all three have also been supported by NZGCP via our Aspire fund.”
The Aspire Fund is one of two NZGCP investment vehicles created to promote private investment. The Aspire Fund does this through partnering with other private investors to make direct investments into early-stage (proof of concept and seed stage) companies. The Elevate Fund does this through using best practice fund of funds management to invest into venture capital firms looking to fund New Zealand companies at the Series A and B stages.
The group is also involved in a range of market development initiatives alongside investors, New Zealand Private Capital, and the Angel Association of New Zealand. It has a market development mandate and seeks to partner and collaborate with a wide range of government bodies and private investors. It intends to help develop the early-stage New Zealand investment market and ultimately help early-stage New Zealand companies grow.
University of Queensland scientists have published the clinical trial data confirming their molecular clamp-stabilised vaccine technology was safe and potentially effective. The vaccine candidate developed by the team last year did not progress through to Phase 2/3 clinical trials, due to cross-reactivity caused by the protein fragment used to stabilise the clamp design.
Initial data from the clinical trial conducted in Brisbane was initially released last December and has now been published following peer review in the prestigious Lancet Infectious Diseases. Project co-leader Associate Professor Keith Chappell said 99% of vaccinated participants in the study produced a neutralising immune response.
“In 75 per cent of vaccine recipients it was above the average in recovered patients, and in 38 per cent it was more than twice the average for recovered patients,” he said. “Adverse events were comparable to those in the saline placebo, with the only exceptions being mild injection site pain and tenderness.”
Project Director Professor Trent Munro said the paper also discussed the cross-reactivity in HIV diagnostics that led to the decision not to proceed into later-stage clinical studies. “The design of the original molecular clamp excluded known antibody binding sites to reduce the potential, but unfortunately the antibodies registered a low response on some highly sensitive HIV tests.”
Project co-leader Professor Paul Young said the 2020 vaccine candidate was not an option for Australia’s current vaccine rollout. “The team understood the decision in December to shift the focus to other candidates that were showing promise. Some of these vaccines are now in the market and need to remain the immediate priority.”
It was noted that the study has strongly validated the Molecular Clamp technology as a promising rapid response strategy for vaccine development. “The team is continuing to work on alternative clamp constructs that could be used to respond to COVID-19 in the future or other viral diseases.”
The data published relates to the clinical trial involving 120 participants aged 18 to 55, 96 of which received the vaccine candidate. Collaborators on the clinical trial included CSL/Seqirus, Australian National University, Doherty Institute, CSIRO, Patheon, Cytiva and Nucleus Network.
In addition, to support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Queensland Government provided $10 million Advance Queensland funding for the vaccine project last year, the Federal Government contributed $5 million and more than $10 million was provided by philanthropic and other donors.
The research is published in Lancet Infectious Diseases.
What is clamp-stabilised vaccine technology?
A molecular clamp is a polypeptide used to maintain the shape of proteins in some experimental vaccines. On a virus, pre-fusion proteins on their surface provide an attractive target for an immune reaction. However, if these proteins are removed or made by recombinant technology, they lose their shape and form what is called a “post-fusion form”.
When part of a virus, these proteins maintain their form by forming a quaternary structure with other viral proteins. The pre-fusion state of the protein is a higher energy metastable state. The extra energy is used to overcome the activation barrier of the fusion to the cell membrane. The virus protein (or part of it) in combination with the clamp polypeptide is called a chimeric polypeptide.
The clamp is made from amino acid residues in a pattern that repeats after every seven residues and must be at least 14 residues in length. The clamp self-assembles into a twin helix with one strand going forward and the other in reverse.
The pairing of the amino acids in the strands is ensured by a pattern of hydrophobic and hydrophilic amino acids. The pattern is arranged so that none of the clamps will bind to the protein from the virus. The clamp self-assembles into a stiff rod. The clamp is linked to the desired part of the virus protein by a linker. The linker may serve other functions, such as allowing the chimeric protein to be purified from a mixture.
Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA) has issued an alert following the discovery of vulnerabilities in more than 100 million internet-connected devices globally. The CSA’s Singapore Computer Emergency Response Team (SingCert) said that administrators of the affected stacks are advised to apply security patches immediately.
Security patches have already been rolled out to address threats called Name: Wreck. These bugs are a set of Domain Name System (DNS) vulnerabilities that have the potential to cause either Denial of Service (DoS) or Remote Code Execution, allowing attackers to take targeted devices offline or to gain control over them. The widespread use of popular sets of rules called stacks and often external exposure of vulnerable DNS clients lead to a dramatically increased attack surface. Organisations in the healthcare and government sectors are the most affected, said, security researchers. Other sectors implicated include entertainment, retail, manufacturing, financial services, and technology.
A cyber-security firm’s report said that Name: Wreck affect these stacks, which govern how devices can “talk” to each other over a network such as the Internet. However, the firm said that not all devices running the affected stacks are vulnerable, but it conservatively estimated that if 1% of the more than 10 billion deployments are, then at least 100 million devices are at risk.
Potentially affected equipment and devices include consumer electronic products such as wearable fitness products, smartphones, printers and smart clocks, ultrasound machines, defibrillators, patient monitors and critical medical equipment such as magnetic resonance imaging, storage systems, industrial manufacturing robots, and energy and power equipment in industrial control systems.
Also affected are unmanned combat aircraft, commercial aircraft, self-driving cars, space exploration rovers and critical systems for aviation, and high-performance servers and network appliances in millions of IT networks. It is not clear how many devices in Singapore are affected by these bugs.
The cybersecurity firm added that unless urgent action is taken to adequately protect networks and the devices connected to them, it could be just a matter of time until these vulnerabilities are exploited, potentially resulting in major government data hacks, manufacturer disruption or hotel guest safety and security. The firm said that one way a cybercriminal could exploit Name: Wreck is to compromise ultrasound machines that connect to a website to get firmware updates. They could also use the bug to redirect the ultrasound machines to their sites to download fake firmware which is malicious. The infected ultrasound machines could then be instructed by the malware to upload all medical records to the cybercriminal.
Although security patches have been rolled out, the cyber-security firm said patching can be difficult in some cases. For instance, if affected devices are not managed centrally, it means each one must be manually patched. Some devices also cannot be taken offline for this because of their mission-critical nature, such as medical devices and industrial control systems.
If patching is not available, SingCert advised administrators to enforce segmentation controls and proper network hygiene measures such as restricting external communication paths and isolating vulnerable devices. They should monitor patches released, monitor all network traffic for malicious data, and configure devices to rely on internal DNS servers.
Accordingly, the CSA’s core mission is to keep Singapore’s cyberspace safe and secure, to underpin National Security, power a Digital Economy, and protect the country’s Digital Way of Life. To underpin National Security, CSA continuously monitors cyberspace for cyber threats and protects and defends Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) to ensure the continuous delivery of essential services to Singapore residents. The agency analyses the risks that the threats pose and take appropriate mitigation measures to prevent them from affecting users.
Nonetheless, despite its best efforts, cyber-attacks may still succeed. To deal with them, the CSA have incident response teams who stand ready to investigate, contain and remediate serious cyber-attacks on our CIIs. CSA also regularly conducts cybersecurity exercises to ensure that the critical sectors are ready to respond promptly and effectively in the event of an attack.