The Philippine Digital Transformation Strategy 2022 has been created to prioritise the country’s national interests and ambitions. Known as e-government 2.0, it aims to achieve strong citizen engagement through institutionalising closed-loop, multidimensional and multidirectional communication channels.
Built on the foundations of infrastructure development, human capital development and bridging the digital divide, the strategy is based on three pillars: economic transformation, people engagement and innovation.
With the current advancement, there is agreement within the public sector that data science, analytics and digital transformation can help to make better policies and deliver better services as the Philippines moves toward a new and better normal, as shared by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Public sector agencies agree, across the board, that cloud computing is a wise option because it reduces the cost of purchasing, setting up, running and maintaining daily technology services. Cloud computing has been proven to empower the public sector with the ability to streamline technology operations and significantly improve efficiency in processing citizen-facing transactions.
Cloud computing enables the public sector to respond to citizen needs in a more agile manner and allows public services to be adapted as needed. It enables agencies to handle demand spikes without disrupting service because technology support can be appropriately scaled. For example, in cases where services may face peak demand periods, such as filing online tax returns just before a deadline.
Technically, cloud computing can boost public sector resilience by providing business continuity and disaster recovery services in the event of a natural disaster or other calamity affecting a country. Not only does cloud computing help mitigate cybersecurity risk, but it also provides stronger cybersecurity and privacy capabilities that would otherwise be difficult to resource and keep updated.
Cloud technology offers a system that simplifies operations and improves efficiency. With that edge, the public sector can reduce processes and streamline operations by using cloud-based tools. Additionally, cloud platforms can also provide the public sector with productivity tools to consolidate administrative and operational processes and exchange information with multiple stakeholders remotely.
It also offers methods for improving agility and scaling public services. The deployment of ICT resources is reduced from weeks to minutes when compared to traditional ICT infrastructure. Software solutions, data storage and computational capacity can be deployed in a cloud computing environment with a few mouse clicks, allowing agencies to be highly responsive to citizen needs. Cloud computing evens fosters a new collaborative approach, resulting in shorter development and improvement cycles.
Moreover, the advantages of the cloud in terms of business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) go beyond capital expenditure (CAPEX) savings. Using the cloud can improve resilience by enabling customised BCDR mechanisms to distribute or replicate data and workloads across multiple data centres in disparate geographic locations in near real-time.
In terms of implementation, the decree of a national cloud-first could signal the public sector’s willingness to embrace cloud computing but must be followed by a clear implementation plan or strategy, which can then be iterated to meet the needs of the country and incorporate lessons learned from previous implementations.
The OpenGovLive! Virtual Breakfast Insight on 2 March 2022 focused on providing the latest information on the benefits of a cloud-based model to enjoy cost savings and operational efficiencies with top public sector leaders from the Philippines.
Trends in a cloud-first future
Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia, kicked off the session with his opening address.
“Culture has shifted drastically,” Mohit claims. “If there is anything that COVID-19 has proven, it is that we can adapt quickly. Risks were taken because the world had no choice but to adapt.”
While some organisations have embraced the cloud-only policy, “all government is legacy,” Mohit asserts. Cloud is no longer an option but a must-have, especially in the prevailing culture of working from home.
Simple as cloud is to get on, Mohit opines, without a strategy, organisations will not know how to control it, use it correctly or maximise the benefits in their digital transformation journey.
Yet in its adoption, organisations are beginning to realise that security does not necessarily have to be compromised as they move to cloud. Security is not a reason to avoid cloud adoption, but a crucial aspect to be addressed in the inevitable move towards it.
Citizens and customers are moving faster, and services need to be available anywhere, anytime. This begs the question, “What will organisations do to drive that?”
In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, new technology, tools and platforms are being churned out often and regularly. These are great changes but do not represent paradigm shifts. Cloud-first is a major paradigm shift.
Cloud has given us the flexibility to rapidly respond to the changes demanded by digital-savvy citizens. Agencies now have a better ability to not only move workload between an on-premises data centre and public cloud but make changes and upload data instantly.
Agencies that embraced cloud services proved more responsive and were able to continue operating remotely and serving their citizens, demonstrating agility, scalability and speed even amid a pandemic.
“Let the experts keep your glass full,” Mohit concludes, urging delegates to investigate partnerships that will free them up to improve citizen experience, instead of being caught up with the technicalities of the journey of cloud adoption.
Modernisation of data and migration to the cloud to foster public-sector innovation
Mohit got the conversation going by first asking Julian about his thoughts on cloud services from a global AWS perspective. Julian remarked that the pandemic has changed the way people operate. IT (Information Technology) spending is on the rise because people realised that IT infrastructure is vital in the age of the new normal.
Governments need to deploy services faster and accelerate plans for digital transformation and cloud will become the default infrastructure for organisations. More than ever, governments are expected to rapidly improve and set up the infrastructure to support government e-services in weeks.
Focussing the conversation on Singapore, Mohit remarked that GovTech has been on a cloud journey and was keen to know what Bing Wan’s thoughts were on where Singapore is at on that journey currently.
Bing Wan shared that the cloud journey for the Singapore government started as early as 2016 when simpler websites were moved to commercial cloud through the Content Website Platform. GovTech subsequently announced in 2018 that they would migrate up to 70% of eligible government systems to commercial cloud in the next 5 years. They have learnt much from the process and some lessons include the following:
- Organisations have to stop thinking of cloud as pieces of infrastructure and hardware. Instead, infrastructure pieces should be understood as codes that can be implemented, changed and removed with agility.
- Organisations should also start to truly tap on cloud-native services and enjoy the efficiency, speed and agility offered by commercial cloud providers. The migration of systems should also shift towards re-factoring or re-architecting of systems towards using a more granular and microservices architecture.
- There is a need to move away from on-premises infrastructure thinking, as on commercial cloud, many offerings are in-built and offered natively as subscribed services – his advice is to tap on these capabilities and leave it to the experts who do it better rather than attempt to build and develop various infrastructure-constructs on their own.
As a result of the crisis, there were deep conversations with the social services about pivoting to cloud – one of the turning points for the sector. He adds that cloud adoption is a strategy that can prepare organisations for potential crises – no one knows when they are overprepared until the crisis happens.
Moving the conversation in the context of the Philippines, Mohit acknowledges that the nation is quite advanced in terms of options. He is keen to know what directional changes Julian sees in the Philippines.
In 2017, Julian explains, the Philippines had already declared a cloud-first policy. Compared to other ASEAN countries, the Philippines was visionary in that aspect and their understanding of the use of cloud services is fairly mature in comparison. When the pandemic struck, they used the cloud service to run mission-critical systems.
He added that putting workloads on cloud is not about internal or external-facing work but about enjoying lower ToC, better agility and scalability.
Mohit opines that even if governments have a cloud-first policy, it does not mean that it gets deployed because agencies need to trust it. On that note, he asked if Bing Wan had any “happy surprises” when GovTech started the journey on cloud.
Bing Wan first cautioned that organisations will not experience the full benefits of cloud if they merely go for a lift-and-shift strategy as they migrate to cloud. There is a need to constantly review and study cloud benefit realisation as part of the migration journey. An extremely proud moment can be seen in the speed and agility observed during the pandemic in which there was a need to scale the Ministry of Education Commercial-Cloud based system for Home-Based Learning. In a short span of about a week, the system was able to be scaled to support 300,000-400,000 concurrent users from the initial sizing of 100,000 concurrent users. All of which would not have been possible if the system is still running on-premise where hardware infrastructure may need to be scaled up.
As cloud is increasingly becoming a necessity, Mohit invited Bruce to share his thoughts on what should people be looking at to accelerate their cloud deployment.
Bruce remarks that cost is a concern in every organisation. When looking at the total cost of ownership, cloud will help in managing that better. Shortage of IT talent is something else that is faced across the board – something that cloud can mitigate.
“You have an entire army backing you so that your glass will be full,” Mohit concurs.
The move towards cloud adoption could be daunting, Mohit is clear and wants to know what AWS can offer to help the Philippine government.
Julian believes that cloud provides all the software for digital infrastructure so that agencies can focus on their business or services. With cloud technology, agencies will be able to deploy systems in a short span of time and enjoy a faster time to market. Apart from that, AWS has a team in the Philippines to support organisations in their shift in their move towards cloud architecture.
Bing Wan’s final thoughts on cloud adoption were that the use of commercial cloud for government digital services will continue to grow.
He emphasised that there is a need to change mindsets to focus less on infrastructure management to the creating ability for better quality digital application that creates more value to citizens. The way of looking at the ecosystem of IT has changed, he believes. Organisations must design architecture patterns differently and start to fully tap on services and capabilities that commercial cloud has to offer.
After the informative presentations, delegates participated in interactive discussions facilitated by polling questions. This session is designed to provide live-audience interaction, promote engagement, hear real-life experiences and impart professional learning and development for the participants. It is an opportunity for delegates to gain insight from subject matter experts, share their stories and take back strategies that can be implemented in their organisations
In the first poll, delegates were asked about the current state of their cloud strategy. More than half (61%) say they have adopted hybrid cloud while slightly over a third (35%) currently have everything on-premise for data protection and security. Only 4% of the delegates are currently on multi-cloud.
Julian remarks that cloud adoption is not an “all-or-nothing decision,” which is why there are hybrid cloud models. When organisations become more mature, they might use a multi-cloud strategy to deploy different cloud services which depend on the use cases.
The main platform is not cloud-based for one delegate, although there is hybrid cloud development. They have a big and fully integrated system, so the journey of cloud adoption is an ongoing project.
Mohit added that in a case where an organisation is facing a highly integrated legacy system, it is a slow and steady journey instead of a quick destination.
Another delegate highlighted cost concerns when it came to cloud adoption while others shared that they want to move to the cloud but are hindered by cloud facilities that are not within the Philippines.
Julian feels that data classification to distinguish the sensitive and highly sensitive data will allow organisations in the Philippines to store their sensitive data through Hong Kong’s data centre. He added that there are services where AWS can put their services within the data centre of organisations so that they can run their public cloud in their data centres.
Regarding cost, cloud offers not only the hardware but a host of other offerings like automation. If delegates are interested, Julian confirmed that AWS will be able to help organisations calculate the true cost of running workload.
On the topic of cost, Bing Wan echoed Julian’s point that cost is important but there is a myth that the key reason to migrate to cloud is to achieve cost savings. It is equally critical to recognise the other benefits that commercial cloud has to offer – which is faster time to market and agility. Organisations need to start realising that the conversation on cost savings would also need to be complemented with other advantages of moving on cloud and one shall not only use cost as the only metric to measure the benefit of cloud migration.
On how to measure the quality of their organisation’s cloud adoption, a majority (43%) measure the quality of cloud adoption through high availability/downtime management. Over a third (35%) evaluate the quality of their cloud adoption through customer/citizen satisfaction. The remaining determine it through resource productivity (13%) and efficiency or cost savings (9%).
For a delegate from a government agency, the aim is to improve the services to the public which is why customer satisfaction is a yardstick. Another delegate echoed the same sentiment and she believes that moving to cloud is not an option anymore. It might not have been an issue pre-pandemic, since citizens could still access services in person. However, without the option of in-person services, cloud services are critical in ensuring that her organisation can continue to service their customers.
The reliability of the organisation during downtime is important for customer satisfaction, shared a participant, while, for an executive from the defence industry, time is of the essence in decision-making.
For Bing Wan, customer satisfaction is one of the key considerations and he believes that migration to cloud will lead to a higher quality of all digital products that government agencies develop for citizens – which will be faster, better, more efficient and more reliable. However, he cautioned against thinking that merely moving to cloud would resolve all the issues. The quality of cloud adoption programme and overall migration strategy will also affect actual benefit-realisation.
To allay participants’ concerns, Mohit confirms that high availability and downtime management is not a problem for AWS.
Concerning the criteria used to choose cloud providers, more than half (56%) select their providers based on security. The others chose performance (20%), compliance with regulatory standards (20%) followed by innovation (4%).
In response to the poll results, Mohit emphasised that all the options need to be secured – the entire breadth of a cloud providers’ offering.
Asked what they saw as the biggest challenge in digitalisation and cloud migration, well over a third (38%) found people and skillset to be the biggest issue while 19% opted for executive support/top management strategy. Two options got equal responses – data classification/data sovereignty/data residency concern (14%) and budgets (14%). The rest were shared between legacy infrastructure (10%) and security and compliance risks (5%)
On their plans for modernising applications and legacy systems, most (39%) felt that they require application assessment to move to the cloud. Over a third (35%) plan to work with a cloud service provider while the others will look to outsource to a system integrator (17%). About a tenth (9%) have no plans currently.
Regarding the external assistance that delegates believe is the most critical for cloud migration, 40% believe that technical expertise to execute the cloud migration plan is the most critical. About 20% were looking for technical expertise to plan and project-manage while 15% thought leadership influencing to change the government leader mindsets from traditional Data Center Operations to DevOps in the cloud would be vital.
A delegate remarked on the importance of having experts in the organisation to build capacity. To that, Mohit emphasised that organisations across the board are experiencing a people challenge. To that Bruce commented that the desire, ambition and motivation must come from the top. In addition, organisations need to build competency, sell a vision to the people in the organisation.
Mohit stresses that even those at the top need to be educated otherwise cost would always be in the conversation. When making a use case, the language needs to be about efficiency and future growth so that it can resonate with top management. He added that implementation is an ever-evolving process.
For Bing Wan, limited resources and budget will always be a perennial problem. He suggests one of the ways to relook at options to achieve better efficiency is through a platform strategy. In Singapore, GovTech spearheaded a central platform (Singapore Government Tech Stack) containing a suite of shared software components and infrastructure that enables a higher level of efficiency and helps developers focus on building digital applications.
Julian brought the session to a close, acknowledging that digital transformation and cloud adoption is an important and ongoing journey. He does realise, however, that there are many concerns that must be planned for and addressed. AWS has the experience of assisting organisations on this journey to work out solutions for their concerns.
The importance of skillsets and having people who are about to savvy about cloud technology is another key consideration. On that note, he shares that AWS can offer training for employees for organisations who want to transform the competencies of their people.
Finally, he feels that cloud adoption can come in small steps. Through increments, organisations will be able to experience and learn all about cloud adoption. Mohit adds that it is important to select a few people to upskill to bring the knowledge back to the organisation.
In closing, Julian expressed his gratitude to everyone for their participation and highly energetic discussion. He invited delegates to reach out to him and his team to explore how they can work together on their cloud journey.
Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has recently updated its platform known as Chief Technology Officer-as-a-Service (CTO-as-a-Service). The platform enables SMEs to self-assess their digital readiness and needs at any time and from any location, as well as access market-proven and cost-effective digital solutions and engage digital consultants for in-depth advisory and project management services.
This is for any business entity that wants to know how to start going digital, understand what type of solutions to adopt for its specific business challenge, or choose the solution that best meets its needs.
An enterprise can benefit from CTO-as-a-Service through:
- Conduct a self-evaluation of its digital readiness and pinpoint its gaps and needs in terms of digitalisation;
- Study other Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) that have carried out digitalisation projects successfully;
- Receive digital solution suggestions based on the business’s needs and profile; and
- Evaluate the features and costs of various digital solutions.
There are more than 450 subsidised digital solutions available for selection, including those that address industry-specific or general business needs, as well as those that serve to streamline operations, increase business sales revenue, or ensure business resiliency.
The business can also work with digital consultants from the designated operators through CTO-as-a-Service, for digital advisory to assist:
- Seek a deeper comprehension of its business priorities and needs;
- Create training plans and digital solutions specifically for its businesses;
- Include fundamental data usage, protection, and cybersecurity risks in the digitalisation process.
The business may also ask digital consultants to assist with project managing the rollout of its digitalisation initiatives.
Eligible businesses can use digital advisory and project management services for free for the first time. Should the businesses want to keep using digital consultants, future usage or service enhancement will be based on commercial agreements.
Any company that satisfies the requirements below is qualified to use free project management and digital advisory services for the first time:
- Licensed and active in Singapore;
- A minimum of 30 per cent local shareholding;
- Enterprise’s group employment size is no more than 200 employees, or the group’s annual sales turnover is no more than S$100 million;
- Has never previously used CTO-as-a-Service digital consultants.
Meanwhile, SMEs are the backbone of Singapore’s economy. They employ two-thirds of the country’s workers and contribute almost half of Singapore’s GDP. Since digital technology is changing every part of Singapore’s economy, SMEs need to take advantage of digital technologies to grow and do well.
The SMEs Go Digital programme, which was started by the IMDA in April 2017, is meant to make going digital easy for SMEs. More than 80,000 SMEs have used the programme’s digital solutions.
Enterprises can also use advanced and integrated solutions to improve their capabilities, strengthen business continuity measures, and build longer-term resilience. Solutions that are supported by government agencies solve common problems at the enterprise level on a large scale, help enterprises adopt new technologies, and make it easier for enterprises to do business within or across sectors.
IMDA works with sector-led agencies and industry players to find advanced and integrated digital solutions that can be supported and are relevant to their sectors. Companies that want to use these solutions can check the IMDA website to find out when they can apply for each one.
Costs for hardware, software, infrastructure, connectivity, cybersecurity, integrations, development, improvement, and project management can be covered by funding support. With this, the agency has kept helping businesses, and the list of solutions that are supported will grow, with an emphasis on AI-enabled and cloud-based solutions.
Taiwan City Science Lab @ Taipei Tech demonstrated a series of cutting-edge AI applications. The lab exhibit advanced AI applications and their research and development results, such as the mobile robot, a AI robotic fish and Campus Rover.
The cross-disciplinary R&D and teaching laboratory aims to be a global technology and talent exchange platform. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Taipei Tech are coming together to jointly established City Science Lab @ Taipei Tech.
“Through developing advanced AI technology and big data system, we plan to make Taiwan the island of high-end technology,” said Yao Leehter, Taipei Tech Chair Professor of the Department of Electrical Engineering.
Yao indicated that Taipei Tech alums highly support the lab. The lab also collaborates with Kent Larson, the leader of MIT City Science Lab, the City Science Lab @ Taipei Tech aims to be an international platform for technology and talent exchange.
Taipei Tech adopts and jointly promotes with MIT to implement the Undergraduate Scientific Research Programme. Known as UROP, the programme provides sufficient resources for students and cultivates a new generation of scientific researchers. The collaboration was initially rolled out in 1969 by MIT’s first President, William Rogers.
For students to learn the most modern and state-of-the-art technology applications, the lab provides advanced equipment for R&D purposes, such as mobile robots. The agile, mobile robot can adapt to complex terrains and is equipped with LIDAR, infrared, and stereo vision sensors, which can draw 3D point cloud maps in real-time and detect and dodge obstacles. The mobile robot is used in decommissioned nuclear power plants, factories, construction sites, and offshore drilling oil platforms. Another mobile robot use case is for patrol, troubleshooting, and leak detection.
In addition, the lab also showcased its R&D results which are the AI robotic fish to the advanced instrumental equipment. The robotic fish is a streamlined robot designed to resemble a real fish. The fish robot comprehends and mimics the motion model of swimming fish through machine learning.
The robot can swim underwater in a simulated way. To perfectly mimic the fish movement, researchers have spent significant time collecting massive movement data from real fish, documenting, and analysing the swimming performance. Afterwards, they utilised AI technology and programme coding to control the motoric movement of the robotic fish.
The team then spent a year adjusting the robotic fish to make the swim movement look like a real fish. Machinery fish propulsion efficiency and excellent swimming performance are considered one of the most critical subjects in bionics.
“The robotic fish is useful for biological research and can also be used to carry out underwater operations and examine water quality,” said Yao.
Recently, the fish robot was involved in movie production. During the designing process, the production house team suggested adding a “cloth” on the fish with fish skin and fish scale to make it more lifelike. The company also came up with the idea to use a magnet to stick the fish scale on the body of the robotic fish. Taiwan Textile Research Institute and the local design research group joined the brainstorming and production process to finish the golden fish’s final look onscreen.
Moreover, The Campus Rover, developed by the team of Professor Yao in cooperation with the Taipei Tech Department of Industrial Design, demonstrated practical AI applications in real life. For example, campus or express hospital service can use the self-charging robot to ensure delivery safety.
In a process that could be compared to travelling through a wormhole, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and other institutions sent quantum information across a quantum system. The Sycamore quantum processor device was used in this experiment, which pave the way for more quantum computer research into gravitational physics and string theory in the future.
Calculations from the experiment showed that qubits moved from one system of entangled particles to another in a model of gravity, even though this experiment didn’t produce a disruption of physical space and time in the sense that might understand the term “wormhole” from science fiction.
A wormhole connects two far-off regions of spacetime. Nothing is allowed to travel through the wormhole in the general theory of relativity. But in 2019, some scientists hypothesised that an entangled black hole-created wormhole might be passable.
By introducing a direct interaction between the distant spacetime regions and using a straightforward quantum dynamical system of fermions, physicists have discovered a quantum mechanism to make wormholes traversable. This type of “wormhole teleportation” was also created by researchers using entangled quantum systems, and the outcomes were confirmed using classical computers.
In this experiment, researchers used the Sycamore 53-qubit quantum processor to teleport a quantum state from one quantum system to another to send a signal “through the wormhole.” The research team had to find entangled quantum systems that behaved as predicted by quantum gravity while also being small enough to run on current-generation quantum computers.
Finding a simple enough many-body quantum system that maintains gravitational properties was a key challenge for this work. The team gradually reduced the connectivity of highly interacting quantum systems using machine learning (ML) techniques to accomplish this. Each example of a system with behaviour that is consistent with quantum gravity that emerged from this learning process only needed about 10 qubits, making it the ideal size for the Sycamore processor.
It was crucial to find such tiny examples because larger systems with hundreds of qubits would not have been able to function on the quantum platforms currently in use. The team observed the same information on the other 10-qubit quantum system on the processor after inserting a qubit into one system and sending an energy shockwave across the processor after doing so.
Depending on whether a positive or negative shockwave was applied, the team measured how much quantum information was transferred between two quantum systems. The researchers demonstrated that a causal path between the two quantum systems can be established if the wormhole is kept open for enough time by the negative energy shockwaves. It is true that the qubit that was inserted into one system also appears in the other.
The team then used conventional computer calculations to confirm these and other properties. Running a simulation on a traditional computer is not like this. A conventional simulation, which involves the manipulation of classical bits, zeros, and ones, cannot create a physical system, even though it is possible to simulate the system on a classical computer and this was done as described in this paper.
Future quantum gravity experiments could be conducted using more advanced entangled systems and larger quantum computers because of this new research. This research does not replace direct observations of quantum gravity, such as those obtained through the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory’s detection of gravitational waves.
The Counter Ransomware Task Force (CRTF), which was formed to bring together Singapore Government agencies from various domains to strengthen Singapore’s counter-ransomware efforts, has issued its report.
Singapore’s efforts to promote a resilient and secure cyber environment, both domestically and internationally, to combat the rising ransomware threat are guided by the recommendations in the CRTF report.
According to David Koh, Commissioner of Cybersecurity, Chief Executive of CSA and Chairman of the CRTF, ransomware poses a threat to both businesses and individuals. Economically, socially, and even in terms of national security, it can be detrimental. Both internationally and across domains, ransomware is a problem.
“It requires us to collaborate and draw on our knowledge in a variety of fields, including cybersecurity, law enforcement, and financial supervision. It also necessitates that we work with like-minded international partners to identify a common problem and develop solutions,” David explains.
He exhorts businesses and individuals to contribute as well, strengthening the nation’s overall defence against the ransomware scourge.
Cybercriminals use malicious software known as ransomware. When ransomware infects a computer or network, it either locks the system or encrypts the data on it. For the release of the data, cybercriminals demand ransom money from their victims.
A vigilant eye and security software are advised to prevent ransomware infection. Following an infection, malware victims have three options: either they can pay the ransom, attempt to remove the malware, or restart the device.
Extortion Trojans frequently employ the Remote Desktop Protocol, phishing emails, and software vulnerabilities as their attack vectors. Therefore, a ransomware attack can target both people and businesses.
The ransomware threat has significantly increased in scope and effect, and it is now a pressing issue for nations all over the world, including Singapore.
The fact that attackers operate internationally to elude justice makes it a global issue. Ransomware has created a criminal ecosystem that offers criminal services ranging from unauthorised access to targeted networks to money laundering services, all fed by illicit financial gains.
Singapore must approach the ransomware issue as a cross-border and cross-domain problem if it is to effectively combat the ransomware threat.
Other nations should adopt comparable domestic measures to coordinate their financial regulatory, law enforcement, and cybersecurity agencies to combat the ransomware issue and promote international cooperation.
Three significant results were the culmination of the CRTF’s work. For government agencies to collaborate and create anti-ransomware solutions, they first developed a comprehensive understanding of the ransomware kill chain.
Second, it examined Singapore’s stance on paying ransom to cybercriminals. Third, for the government to effectively combat ransomware, the CRTF suggested the following policies, operational plans, and capabilities under four main headings:
Pillar 1: Enhances the security of potential targets (such as government institutions, critical infrastructure, and commercial organisations, especially small and medium-sized businesses) to make it more difficult for ransomware attackers to carry out successful attacks.
Pillar 2: To lower the reward for ransomware attacks, disrupt the ransomware business model.
Pillar 3: To prevent ransomware attack victims from feeling pressured to pay the ransom, which feeds the ransomware industry, support recovery.
Pillar 4: Assemble a coordinated international strategy to combat ransomware by cooperating with international partners. Singapore should concentrate on and support efforts to promote international cooperation in three areas that have been identified by the CRTF: law enforcement, anti-money laundering measures, and discouraging ransom payments.
The appropriate government agencies will take the recommendations of the CRTF under consideration for additional research and action.
An international team led by The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s Faculty of Medicine (CU Medicine) has successfully developed the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) model that can detect Alzheimer’s disease solely through fundus photographs or images of the retina. The model is more than 80% accurate after validation.
Fundus photography is widely accessible, non-invasive and cost-effective. This means that the AI model incorporated with fundus photography is expected to become an important tool for screening people at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the community. Details have been published in The Lancet Digital Health under the international journal The Lancet.
Limitations of Alzheimer’s disease current detection methods
In Hong Kong, 1 in 10 people aged 70 or above suffers from dementia, with more than half of those cases attributed to Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is associated with an excessive accumulation of abnormal amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, leading to the death of brain cells and resulting in progressive cognitive decline.
The Clinical Professional Consultant of the Division of Neurology in CU Medicine’s Department of Medicine and Therapeutics stated that memory complaints are common among middle-aged and elderly people, and are often considered a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
It is sometimes difficult to make an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease based on cognitive tests and structural brain imaging. However, methods to detect Alzheimer’s pathology, such as an amyloid-PET scan or testing of cerebrospinal fluid collected via lumber puncture, are invasive and less accessible.
To address the current clinical gap, CU Medicine has led several medical centres and institutions from Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States to successfully develop an AI model using state-of-the-art technologies which can detect Alzheimer’s disease using fundus photographs alone.
Studying disorders of the central nervous system via the retina
The S.H. Ho Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Chairman of CU Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences explained that the retina is an extension of the brain in terms of embryology, anatomy and physiology. In the entire central nervous system, only the blood vessels and nerves in the retina allow direct visualisation and analysis.
Thus, it is widely considered a window through which disorders in the central nervous system can be studied. Through non-invasive fundus photography, a range of changes in the blood vessels and nerves of the retina that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease can be detected.
The team developed and validated their AI model using nearly 13,000 fundus photographs from 648 Alzheimer’s disease patients (including patients from the Prince of Wales Hospital) and 3,240 cognitively normal subjects. Upon validation, the model showed 84% accuracy, 93% sensitivity and 82% specificity in detecting Alzheimer’s disease. In the multi-ethnic, multi-country datasets, the AI model achieved accuracies ranging from 80% to 92%.
Accessibility, non-invasiveness and high cost-effectiveness of the AI model using fundus photography help the detection of Alzheimer’s cases both in the clinic and the community
A Professor of Medicine and Director of the Therese Pei Fong Chow Research Centre for Prevention of Dementia at CU Medicine stated that in addition to its accessibility and non-invasiveness, the accuracy of the new AI model is comparable to imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
It shows the potential to become not only a diagnostic test in clinics but also a screening tool for Alzheimer’s disease in community settings. Looking ahead, the team aims to validate its efficacy in identifying high-risk cases of the disease hidden in the community, so that various preventive treatments such as anti-amyloid drugs can be initiated early to slow down cognitive decline and brain damage.
The Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at CU Medicine said that in addition to applying novel AI technologies in the model, the team also tested it in different scenarios. Notably, their AI model retained a robust ability to differentiate between subjects with and without Alzheimer’s disease, even in the presence of concomitant eye diseases like macular degeneration and glaucoma which are common in city-dwellers and the older population.
Their results further support the hypothesis that the team’s AI analysis of fundus photographs is an excellent tool for the detection of memory-depriving Alzheimer’s disease. To move this research towards clinical application, the team is developing an integrated, AI-based platform to combine information from both blood vessels and nerves of the retina captured by fundus photography and optical coherence tomography for the detection of Alzheimer’s disease. Their findings should provide more evidence to move AI from code to the real world.
The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) announced it would roll out Internet advertising management measures at a conference in Hanoi earlier this week. Participants at the event discussed how advertising in cyberspace has become the norm. Domestic and foreign firms choose it because it is easier to access customers and it offers flexible costs and larger reach. However, the limited management of ads poses potential risks to the safety of brands, the Ministry has said.
According to a press release by MIC, ad agents affirmed that without the cooperation of cross-border platforms in modifying algorithms to filter and censor content, ad violations will remain rampant. The Ministry will penalise agents and brands that cooperate with platforms that do not fall in line with MIC regulations. On the other hand, the Ministry will support ads on domestic and foreign digital platforms that comply with domestic laws, MIC’s Deputy Minister, Nguyen Thanh Lam, noted. This will protect brands and build a healthy, safe, and fair ad business environment.
The Ministry will also increase inspection and clampdown on violations of Internet ads activities, he said. Cross-border ad firms that fail to comply with Vietnam’s laws will not be allowed to operate in the country. MIC has also generated a Whitelist consisting of licensed e-newspapers, magazines, general information websites, and social media. Other websites, registered accounts, and information channels are also in the pipeline for the list, the release said. The list will be publicised on the portals of the Ministry and Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information. Ad service providers, agents, and brands were also urged to use the list for their work.
Nearly 80% of the population in Vietnam are digital consumers, as OpenGov Asia reported earlier in October. Over the past year, the average contribution of e-commerce to total retail has continued to grow at 15%. Higher than growth in India (10%) and China (4%), with an online-to-total retail share of 6%. Now that the world is in the post-pandemic stage, regional consumers are prioritising an integrated shopping experience, combining online and in-person services. During the ‘discovery’ phase of their shopping, 84% of Vietnamese shoppers use the Internet to browse and find items. This is a period when they use more platforms than ever before, with the dominance of the e-commerce market accounting for 51% of online spending.
At the same time, social networking sites account for nearly half of online discoveries, including images (16%), social media videos (22%), and related tools such as messaging (9%). These tools were paramount channels for 44% of survey respondents. Consumers’ openness to interaction and experimentation has also led to behavioural changes, with 64% of respondents saying they have interacted with a business account in the past year. As customers seek more engagement, the content creation economy is able to grow exponentially.
In the context of digital consumption, Vietnamese users switch brands more often and increase the number of platforms they use to find a better value, with 22% of online orders made on various e-commerce platforms. The number of online platforms Vietnamese consumers use has doubled from 8 in 2021 to 16 in 2022. Therefore, it is important to put in place proper ad regulations as Internet usage grows.
The Indonesian government disclosed four potential uses of Big Data and AI to improve its e-government programmes. These two technologies, they feel, have the potential to support disaster identification and preventive action, prevention of illegal activities and cyber-attacks and increase workforce effectiveness.
The Director General of Informatics Applications, Semuel A. Pangerapan, explained several scenarios for Big Data. According to him, the government can use Big Data to improve critical event management and the quality of the response by identifying problem points through Big Data Analytics. For example, the agencies can be better prepared to prevent and mitigate natural disasters such as drought, epidemics or massive accidents occur.
In addition, Big Data can also enhance the government’s ability to prevent money laundering and fraud through better surveillance to detect such illegal activities.
Furthermore, Big Data significantly reduces the possibility of cyber-attacks. Cyber-attacks can come from external parties, data leaks or internally for a variety of reasons. An analysis of patterns and unusual activities can help in preventing or managing such cyber issues.
Big Data and analytics can contribute to workforce effectiveness by increasing monitoring. In addition, it can be used for policy design, decision-making and gaining insights.
Semuel stressed the importance of data analysis after collecting all data in the right fashion. Data is only valuable if it is collected correctly and then analysed – data will only provide benefits if processed in the right way. “In its implementation, AI helps analyse existing Big Data, providing data understanding or insight to help make decisions,” he explained.
Another advantage of AI is the ability to speed up new implementation services and corrections in real-time. At the evaluation stage, AI can also provide suggestions for adjustments and improvements to subsequent policies.
Currently, the encourages the improvement of the quality of Big Data and AI innovation through the development of e-government. The Indonesian government is also open to third parties to accelerate Big Data and AI use.
E-government has made progress in recent years and received appreciation from the United Nations in 2020. The UN said that Indonesia’s e-government development index rose to rank 88 from previously ranked 107 in 2018. Indonesia’s e-participation index has also increased from rank 92 in 2018 to 57 in 2022.
“The two rankings show an increase in the quality of Indonesia’s e-government and the level of community activity in using e-government services,” said Semuel.
However, the government faced challenges in implementing these two technologies. Overlapping and data replication is one of the main problems. “Regulatory obstacles in the procurement of government Big Data infrastructure also need to be overcome. Then compliance with international standards for the national Big Data ecosystem is also still the government’s homework.”
To optimise AI use, Semuel emphasised the need for a skilled workforce, regulations governing the ethics of using AI, infrastructure, and industrial and public sector adoption of AI innovations.
The government is implementing several solutions to overcome challenges. First, they have provided suitable facilities in the form of National Data Centres (NDCs) in four separate locations. The NDCs will accommodate Government Cloud and contain national data across sectors.
Optimisation of data centre utilisation needs to be supported by staff with qualified expertise. For this reason, the government is holding digital skills training on AI and Big Data through the Digital Talent Scholarship (DTS) and Digital Leadership Academy (DLA) programs.
Apart from facilities and upskilling, Indonesia is looking to develop a business ecosystem that utilises AI and Big Data. Support for this comes from the National Movement of 1000 Digital Startups, Startup Studio Indonesia (SSI) and HUB.ID.