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The Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (DOST) renewed their call to universities to avail the agency’s assistance programme for them to build new niche centres or research and development (R&D) centres.

The agency’s Science for Change Programme (S4CP) was created to accelerate science, technology and innovation (STI) in the country to keep up with the developments wherein technology and innovation are game-changers. Through S4CP, the DOST can significantly create a massive increase in investment in science and technology, human resource development and R&D.

S4CP focuses on Accelerated R&D Programme for capacity building of R&D institutions and industrial competitiveness which is composed of four (4) programmes namely:

  • Niche Centres in the Regions for R&D (NICER) Programme,
  • R&D Leadership (RDLead) Programme,
  • Collaborative R&D to Leverage PH Economy (CRADLE) for RDIs and Industry Programme,
  • Business Innovation through S&T (BIST) for Industry Programme.

The agency hopes that through S4CP, the disparity in R&D funding that used to be Luzon-centric will now be spread to different parts of the country. The programme aims to give opportunities to other regions to pursue meaningful and impactful R&D.

In the NICER (Niche Centres in the Regions for R&D) programme, over 70% of the funding goes to the regions outside of NCR (National Capital Region), Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) and Central Luzon. New R&D centres will begin construction this year, while others will commence next year.

About USD 11 million was allocated for these new centres:

  • Centre for Advanced Batteries for renewable energy storage and batteries for electric cars
  • Coastal Engineering Research Centre for disaster mitigation against storm surges and coastal flooding
  • Centre for polymers that aims to create industrial materials like foam and modified concrete from wastewater
  • Centre for vector-borne disease to study the insecticide resistance of mosquitos
  • Smart Water Infrastructure and Management (SWIM) R&D Centre
  • Centre for Lakes Sustainable Development
  • Centre for Environmental Technologies and Compliance

These seven new NICERs tackle energy, water resources management and polymers. The Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) evaluated these centres and will monitor these projects.

Launched in 2017, NICER enables higher education institutions (HEIs) to make a significant improvement in regional research by integrating development needs with existing R&D capabilities and resources. HEIs can submit proposals and chosen ones will be provided with institutional grants for R&D capacity building and improvement of infrastructure. The DOST said that they are expecting more proposals which will be guided and monitored by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) next year.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, similarly, the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology – National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) – initiated its call for R&D proposals for 2023 funding. NRCP will start receiving project proposals at the DOST Project Management Information System (DPMIS) portal.

The NRCP continuously provides financial support to relevant fundamental/basic research and policy research with socio-economic benefits for the people to ensure that new knowledge and information are generated. NRCP has 13 areas for research which are clustered in six (6) priority areas under its National Integrated Basic Research Agenda (NIBRA). Aside from generating new information or new research areas for further development, it is expected that projects also strengthen governance through the fusion of science and the arts, technology and innovation and subsequently increase productivity and ensure efficient processes in the delivery of research results for the public good.

The priority research areas and programmes of the council should be aligned to the NIBRA which is part of the existing Harmonised National Research and Development Agenda (HNRDA) of DOST. The six components of NIBRA are:

  1. Sustainable Community (SAKLAW Programme),
  2. Food and Nutrition Security (SAPAT Programme),
  3. Water Security (TUBIG Programme),
  4. Clean Energy (ALERT Programme),
  5. Inclusive Nation Building (ATIN Programme) and
  6. Health Sufficiency (LIKAS Programme).

An Indonesian EdTech firm announced the launch of its virtual mobile app which provides university students with rapid access to universities as well as one-click campus services as well as options for student finances. After enrolling at a local university, students can use the app to plan and manage campus events, as well as acquire sponsorships for a range of activities.

The platform now has about 150,000 registered users and has partnered with 150 universities across Indonesia. Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck Indonesia, it has seen an increase in sign-ups and queries on the platform. By the end of the year, the EdTech firm aims to have at least one million registered students and 500 university collaborations.

The firm also recently launched a fundraising drive to raise funds for scholarships that will be awarded to students in need of financial assistance. For its education loans, the company collaborates with a number of banks and fintech firms and has received over 12,000 loan applicants through the mobile application.

Millions of Indonesian workers have been placed on unpaid leave or have lost their employment because of the pandemic resulting in students’ education being impacted. With the declining family income, many students are now forced to seek loans, grants or scholarships to continue their education.

Through the mobile app, students are able to find and get scholarship efficiently and quickly by browsing local universities in their region. Students can apply for loans hassle-free through the simple, intuitive app process. Going forward, this mobile application will improve its instant approval services and incorporate promo deals through various participating merchants.

After the pandemic, private universities have seen a steep reduction in enrolments and the number of university dropouts is on the rise. The pandemic situation in Indonesia has resulted in university students being unable to enrol due to financial constraints; others are dropping out are they are unable to pay the remainder of their tuition fees with the decrease in family incomes across the board.

Private university closures mirror a wider trend in the country and have expedited the closure of several institutions, including some that were already in trouble before the pandemic. Last year, the Directorate of Higher Education of the Education and Culture Ministry (DIKTI) of Indonesia announced that 12 private universities in Jakarta had closed down due to a lack of students and other problems.

These significant challenges for the nation’s university system, some fear, could lead to massive closures of more institutions. In this backdrop, Indonesia is keen to improve its education sector but various assessments indicate that it still has a long way to go before achieving that objective. Nonetheless, the country is aggressively pursuing a strategy towards development and, by 2025, the Indonesian government intends to have created a world-class education system.

OpenGov Asia recently reported on the plans of Indonesia’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology to make digital start-ups a compulsory subject in Higher Education starting in 2022. In collaboration with the Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kominfo), the Director-General of Higher Education formed the National 1000 Start-up Movement with a target of 100,000 students involved in start-up development by 2022. Later, the team that passes the start-up development selection will receive more intensive guidance so that they can last long and can enter the Kedaireka platform or campus business incubator.

Valenzuela City, Philippines’ local government signed a memorandum of agreement with an international business machines and technology corporation to ensure a career-ready future for students in the city.

The city government committed to provide funds and materials to support students through the tech company’s Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) programme. It also targets to bring partners in local industries on board, ensuring employment for its younger population.

The city mayor said the partnership would strengthen the city government’s existing programmes on education, particularly on emerging technology learning. He said that the P-TECH programme is strongly aligned with their Education 360 Degrees Investment Programme, which aims to deliver holistic quality and inclusive education to citizens.

The tech company will provide technical assistance to the city government’s P-TECH Model involving Skills Mapping, Work-Based Learning, Mentoring, and Internships. It will also launch a free online learning platform, called Open P-TECH, for students and teachers.

The city government is looking forward to how this programme will help ignite the youth’s interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and improve their local education system’s capacities to produce the much-needed, job-ready talents required by industries, added the mayor.

The programme will cover students from Grades 11 to 14 and help the graduating students get an advanced level national certification from the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for free. It also targets to support students with an associate degree in college across in-demand jobs, such as Advanced Manufacturing, Packaging, Electronics, Automotive, or HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industries.

According to the tech company, working within the industry while learning helps students gain early exposure and credentials to be competitive in STEM and new-collar careers, which are some of the fastest-growing fields in technology requiring more than a high school diploma but not necessarily a university degree.

To date, the P-TECH model can be found in more than 266 schools in 28 countries. More than 600 businesses in technology, health care, advanced manufacturing, and other industries across the world are participating as P-TECH industry partners.

The city government added that the P-TECH programme would complement the objective of Valenzuela’s Senior High School-to-College-to-Industry Programme to increase the pool of skilled talents in STEM.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, The Philippines’ Department of Education (DepEd) announced that the agency is currently harnessing different technology-based projects as part of education’s new normal that is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking during the first Asia Pacific Public Sector Digital Summit, the agency’s undersecretary underscored the government’s initiatives to ensure learning continuity amid the pandemic, including DepEd TV, DepEd Commons, and DepEd Radio. If there are no face-to-face classes, then the education department must devise all means to reach out to learners and to bring basic education to them, said the agency.

The DepEd intends to master distance learning, making all the necessary improvements and perfecting its processes for the DepEd Commons, DepEd TV, DepEd Radio, the DepEd Learning Management System, the DepEd Mobile App, and others, the agency added.

The education department’s undersecretary also hinted at a future DepEd project, which aims to update and pattern DepEd TV after streaming services to allow learners to study their learning materials at their own pace. Those who need more time and repetition can easily review and go back to all the lessons, while those who learn at a faster pace can access new lessons and other lessons outside of their grade levels, he said.

Meanwhile, in terms of re-imagining education in the new normal, the DepEd shared that they are advocates for the continuation of online and broadcast learning platforms post-pandemic since classroom shortage remains an issue in the country. With that kind of interface, the country’s education curriculum can adapt to the needs of the entire nation and even the world. Then, basic education becomes relevant and liberating for it serves what the nation needs and what the world needs.

Grid) and The Hongkong Electric Company, Limited (HK Electric) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to extend their joint collaboration in running the “Belt and Road Advanced Professional Development Programme in Power and Energy” (The Programme) for another three years.

The Programme aims to nurture senior management talent in power and energy-related fields through diversified, cross-regional, systematic and innovative training schemes to meet the rising demand for talent in the Belt and Road countries and regions, thereby promoting the sustainable development of infrastructure and facilitating economic growth in these countries and regions in line with the Belt and Road strategies of the Nation.

This cross-regional and multi-cultural university-industry collaboration programme is the first-of-its-kind in both Mainland China and Hong Kong.

The Silk Road International School of Engineering (SRISE) was set up jointly by PolyU and XJTU in 2017 and later partnered with State Grid and HK Electric to organise the first university-industry collaboration programme of this type, to nurture senior talent for the power and energy industry.

The Programme has attracted over 200 industry professionals from Belt and Road countries/regions and has generated nearly 5,300 contact hours through talks, seminars and field trips, achieving remarkable results in promoting knowledge exchange among the participants.

PolyU, XJTU, State Grid and HK Electric are joining forces again this year by contributing their knowledge, research findings and practical experience in the field of energy, to enhance technical cooperation and exchange across Belt and Road countries/regions. The renewed collaboration which is set for three more years will focus on short-term training and exchange initiatives.

Training programmes will be run by SRISE focusing on two major themes, namely the “Key Technologies of Energy Interconnection” and “Electricity Supply in International Cities”. Various seminars, field trips to energy facilities in the Mainland and Hong Kong as well as sharing sessions will be organised to facilitate learning on cutting-edge energy knowledge and understanding of the latest research findings in the field, as well as promoting sharing and exchange of practical experiences among industry players.

The signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding was held online in Hong Kong and Mainland China simultaneously.

A member of the Chinese Academy of Science, who is also the Dean of the School of Electronic and Information Engineering of XJTU, said, “The tremendous social impact of the programme has not only enhanced mutual understanding and technology sharing but also deepened the cooperation between industry players, academics and researchers. A training team has also been groomed through this programme.”

The President of the State Grid of China Technology College, also noted that the ‘Belt and Road Advanced Professional Development Programme in Power and Energy’ has become a university-industry alliance and a role model for Mainland-Hong Kong collaboration in serving Belt and Road initiatives.

The Managing Director of HK Electric said, “Despite the impact of the pandemic, HK Electric has set a new supply reliability record last year, achieving an impeccable rating of over 99.9999% and unplanned power interruption of less than 0.5 minutes on average per customer. To combat climate change, three new gas-fired generating units are expected to come on stream by 2023, while an offshore liquefied natural gas terminal will also be in operation by 2022.

By increasing the use of natural gas for power generation, from currently around 50% of total output to around 70% by 2023, we hope to reduce carbon emissions by 40% as compared to the 2005 level. We are happy to share our strategies and carbon reduction experience with our peers from the Belt and Road countries/regions.”

The first training programme of 2021 is planned to be conducted online in the fourth quarter of this year. More seminars for senior executives in the power and energy sector as well as exchange sessions for researchers and academics will also be held in the future.

Singapore’s Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) has launched a diploma course in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Engineering that will be co-developed and co-taught by its partners who are industry experts and professionals. Students will receive industry-grade certification from the partner companies on top of their diplomas, the learning institution said.

As per reports, the programme will adopt NYP’s professional competency model (PCM), which is aimed at mirroring workplace practices instead of the subject-based approach taken by most schools. This means students will not have to take mathematics as a separate subject, for example, but will instead learn how to apply the appropriate parts and statistics, together with software and technology, to accomplish tasks, such as collecting and analysing data from sensors.

The principal and chief executive of NYP said that this approach will result in a more responsive and relevant curriculum. NYP can quickly pick up changes or updates in skills because they are working with global leaders who can map out how technologies are changing. New developments can be easily plugged into the PCM, while obsolete technologies or areas are removed. This ensures that NYP’s learners will always be equipped with the most relevant skills to tackle any job task with ease, she added.

One of the learning institution’s partners said that they are working with NYP to develop a module on applied deep learning, as part of the course. The module will cover how fundamental concepts in AI and machine learning are applied to address specific industry problems that engineers face, they added.

Also, NYP lecturers will be given access to teaching materials used at one of their partner tech company’s Deep Learning Institute. The tech company’s researchers and engineers will train and guide the lecturers before the course commences and will also share their experiences with students as guest lecturers.

NYP students will also be taught how to use neural networks in areas like image classification and computer vision, for example, to allow a computer to visually recognise objects like animals and human beings in real-time. Tech experts say that the students need to understand industry problems and have hands-on experience. The internalisation of how they use the various tools to achieve the outcome is very important and that will help them when they go out and start working in the industry.

The diploma course, offered under NYP’s School of Engineering, will take in its first students next year. NYP said it will also convert its existing diploma course in game development and technology to the PCM, starting with next year’s intake. Applications for both courses will open during the early admissions exercise in June. NYP said its other diploma programmes will also be progressively converted to the new model over the next five years.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, AI front runners in Singapore include firms in sectors such as banking, e-commerce and logistics. Some of the AI implementations rolled out after the pandemic hit include those relating to:

Employee productivity

  • Conversational chatbots answer employee queries on medical claims or annual leave matters.
  • Resume robots sort, screen and rank job applications, at least during the first round of the hiring process.
  • Natural language processing capabilities in Web collaboration tools allow for automated notetaking and summarisation.

Data security

  • AI helps tech support staff spot problems before they happen, such as when employees have not applied security patches to their computers.
  • AI allows for the quick detection and blocking of unknown malware and threats based on Web traffic patterns.

Supply chain and logistics

  • Recommendation engines advise on supply options that deliver the best margins.
  • Optimised route planning based on distance and traffic conditions helps to minimise delivery costs.

Data processing

  • Processing capabilities for unstructured data such as drawings, handwritten notes and images allow, say, financial planning agents to recommend the best insurance policies or savings plans to clients.
  • These capabilities also allow the deluge of non-standardised data elements in paper-based trade documents issued by companies to be processed speedily.


  • Recommendation engines advise bank users on the right credit card for them based on their lifestyle and transaction history.

The Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (IIT-Madras) is collaborating with a tech giant on quantum computing education and research. The institute’s faculty, researchers, and students will get access to IBM’s quantum systems and tools over IBM cloud to accelerate joint research in quantum computing, and develop curricula.

The Quantum Computing Lab at IIT-Madras will host courses for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The Quantum Computing Lab courses, which will be taught by IIT-Madras faculty and the company’s researchers, include hands-on lab sessions on their quantum systems. The partnership will augment existing courses on quantum information and computing. The company will provide the learning resources, tools, and systems access needed by faculty and students.

Anil Prabhakar, Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT-Madras, noted, “Quantum computing offers us the opportunity to solve computationally intractable problems. We have played a leadership role in the indigenous development of quantum key distribution (QKD). Such QKD protocols form the building blocks for quantum networks that will secure our communications, and also enable new paradigms such as photonic quantum computing and distributed and blind quantum computing.”

The director of the company’s research arm in India said that Quantum computing is fast emerging as one of the disruptive technologies of current times. This collaboration with IIT-Madras is part of the company’s Quantum Educators programme that will help teachers in the quantum field connect with one another and provide learning resources, tools, and systems access they need to provide quality educational experiences.

According to a news report, IIT-Madras introduced the Interdisciplinary Dual Degree (IDDD) programme on Quantum Science and Technologies (QuEST) last July. The Quantum Computing Lab at IIT-Madras will host courses for undergraduate and postgraduate students and better prepare them for a career in quantum science and technology. Courses such as Quantum Integer Programming, conducted alongside a similar course at the Tepper Business School, Carnegie Mellon, emphasise the advantages of hybrid quantum computing to areas as diverse as bin packing, image classification, channel decoding, and quantum state tomography.

IIT-Madras recently collaborated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to grow human brain tissues called ‘organoids’ using a 3D Printed Bioreactor that they developed. As OpenGov Asia reported, the objective was to observe the brain tissues while they grow and develop, a technology that can potentially accelerate medical and therapeutic discoveries. The invention will help revolutionise treatment developments for diseases such as spinal cord injury, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and targeted cancer treatment. the organoid-based diagnosis is also useful for screening pharmaceutical compounds.

The current cell culture protocols involve separate chambers for incubation and imaging, requiring that cells be physically transferred to the imaging chamber, which poses the risk of false results and chances for contamination. However, the team has come up with a novel solution, which lets the cells grow uninterruptedly. A 3D-printed micro-incubator and imaging chamber was made into a single palm-sized platform, which was successfully demonstrated for long-term human brain cell culture and real-time imaging. The technology has been patented in India. The research team is exploring the feasibility of international collaborations. The project was executed with support from the Centre for Computational Brain Research (CCBR) at IIT-Madras for funding and Sur’s Lab at MIT.

The ramping up of digital inclusion for Māori people is more urgent and pronounced in the new norm. The onset of the pandemic has intensifying people’s ability to participate in, contribute to and benefit from the digital world. The findings are from a new qualitative research report Digital Inclusion User Insights – Māori by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).

The report suggests that up to 20%, or as many as 1 in 5, New Zealanders face difficulties in digital access while for Māori the risk is larger. For example, Māori households were less likely to have internet access (access was 16% less likely in Māori households, compared to non-Māori households).

The interviewees felt that that services need to be both culturally and digitally inclusive to support the increased digital inclusion of Māori people. Affordability – the cost of access to the internet and devices – is the greatest digital inclusion barrier per the Māori people who were interviewed. Digital skills training was a key consideration and an important factor in increasing digital inclusion.

Dianne Patrick, Programme Lead for digital inclusion, Digital Public Service, Department of Internal Affairs feels the research would be highly useful. She says garnered user insights and stories will offer foundational understanding to the far-reaching challenge of digital inclusion. The findings offer invaluable considerations for those designing services for different digital perspectives and population groups.

The research report ‘Digital Inclusion User Insights – Māori’ outlines their lived experience of digital inclusion. Emerging from the qualitative data of the user research are four key findings:

  1. Need for affordable internet and device access

Māori communities believe improved access to affordable internet and devices would bring a range of important social, economic and education-related benefits. Specifically, it would help them:

  • learn
  • communicate
  • access cultural information
  • work and do business
  • carry out cultural practices
  • do business on marae (a communal, sacred place that serves religious and social purposes)
  1. Strong leadership and power-sharing between government and iwi

Māori leaders want to work with others to address the digital divide. They believe strong leadership from the government on the issues related to digital inclusion, coupled with a genuine willingness to partner with iwi, will play a major role in achieving that goal.

  1. Digital-first and online-by-default strategies are marginalising vulnerable whānau

As traditional face-to-face customer services are replaced by online services, whānau (communities) that struggle the most with the digital world are concerned that the government and other organisations, such as banks, are leaving them behind.

On the other hand, many also believe that, if the cost barriers to the internet and devices were significantly reduced and digital skills training was readily available, this would help transition the most vulnerable whānau to the online world.

  1. Skills training for all ages

Māori of all ages and geographic locations recognise the need for skills training which should be provided by people they know and trust.

Whānau (community) and leaders want access to skills training in the education sector, in the community, at work and, ideally, in marae, for courses in:

  • basic literacy and computer skills
  • programming and design
  • business and technology skills
  • maintaining wellbeing.
  • Making digital inclusion a priority

The government laid out the Digital Inclusion Blueprint and Action Plan in 2019 – a vision and roadmap aimed at ensuring all New Zealanders can participate in, contribute to and benefit from the digital world.

The 2020 Digital Inclusion Action Plan outlines the range of government activities that are underway and planned to make a more digitally inclusive New Zealand. Part of the work is user experience research, which has been undertaken to more fully understand the perceptions and feelings about digital inclusion in vulnerable communities. With a more in-depth understanding of the key pain points for individuals of vulnerable communities, improvements can be made to make it a more equitable digital environment.

Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar launched the Directorate General National Cadet Corps (NCC) Mobile Training App Version 2.0 in New Delhi earlier this week. The app will help conduct countrywide online training for NCC cadets amid the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. It offers cadets easy access to training material by providing NCC-related basic information and entire training material (syllabus, précis, training videos, frequently asked questions) on one platform.

According to a press release, the DG NCC Mobile App Version 1.0 for training was launched in August 2020 to assist online cadet training. The DG NCC stated that regular feedback was obtained on the functioning of the app, based on which it was upgraded to make it more useful to the cadets.

Speaking on the occasion, the Defence Secretary said the NCC Training App Version 2.0 will be a useful digital learning tool, helping the cadets overcome the difficulties posed by pandemic regulations on physical contact. Using this app, the cadets will be able to attend online training, appear in certification exams, and prevent the loss of an academic year. Dr Kumar claimed it will be a positive step towards the automation of NCC training, in line with the government’s flagship Digital India programme. The Digital India vision is to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy.

Dr Kumar added that digital technology is a lifeline in these COVID-19 times, stating that now it is a way of life and way of training for NCC cadets. He listed out various steps taken by the Ministry of Defence to impart training to cadets through digital means, including the increase in different types of simulators in all NCC Directorates. Soon, NCC cadets will be trained in satellite imagery and GIS-based mapping. Also, direct benefit transfers (DBT) for uniforms will be made available wherein uniform allowances will be directly transferred to the bank accounts of the cadets.

The DG NCC Mobile Training App Version 2.0 will be bilingual (Hindi and English). New pages have also been included for ease of navigation on the app. Précis and frequently asked questions in Hindi have also been added. The DG NCC said 130 training videos have been added to make the classes more interesting. The app has been made interactive by including a query option. By using this option, a cadet can post their question related to the training syllabus, which will be answered by a panel of qualified instructors.

During the event, NCC cadets shared their experiences using Version 1.0 of the app and gave suggestions to further improve its services. Officers and cadets of all 17 NCC Directorates attended the event virtually from across the country. Senior civil and military officials of the Ministry of Defence were also present on the occasion.

Earlier this month, it was announced that NCC will be considered a General Elective Credit Course (GECC) among the graduation courses being run in educational institutes or colleges in the state of Haryana. The move is in line with the National Education Policy 2020, where students can select their choice of subjects rather than being confined to only those being offered by the institutions. This makes learning holistic and skill-oriented. After completing the course, students are awarded points, enabling them to qualify for their respective degrees.

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