Photo credit: ADB
OpenGov spoke to Mr. Andrew McIntyre (above), Senior Urban Development Specialist at Asian Development Bank (ADB) about the Bank’s Future Cities Program (FCP). FCP seeks to meet the challenge of maintaining economic growth and environmental integrity, while creating liveable cities for all, across Asia and the Pacific.
Launched in early 2016, FCP could be described as a corporate technical assistance (TA) program. But it is much more ambitious than it sounds. FCP is an attempt to define a new integrated, multi-sector approach for ADB’s engagement with cities. Its aim is to build a network of relationships between all the stakeholders and to bring in new partners to organically achieve end-to-end infrastructure development.
The program has seen significant success to date. While originally a $1.5 million TA, FCP has brought in over $10 million through 9 other technical assistance programs, and over $30 million in grants and feasibility studies to identify a potential $1 billion worth of projects for enhancing ADB’s pipeline.
FCP is currently running in 6 cities, Tbilisi in Georgia, Makassar and Bandung in Indonesia, Suva in Fiji, Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, and Mandalay in Myanmar.
These cities were selected because the project officers and country directors were interested in doing more than individual projects. Mr. McIntyre explained, “They didn’t just want to build a road or a railway or a water supply system. They wanted to see value-added investments. They wanted a “One ADB approach.”
“It is about achieving end-to-end impact. When a road is built, it is assumed that it gets people to jobs, to health facilities, and to schools; that ticket transactions are seamless; that data and information are collected and used by planners and consumers to improve services and efficiencies – these are the fundamental assumptions for development effectiveness and sustainability – but are often not implemented. However, ADB can also ensure these areas receive investment and utilise world’s best practices; ensuring improved livelihoods and income and thereby ensuring leverage of the initial investment,” he said further.
Reworking the sector-specific approach
Typically, ADB focuses on sector-specific projects. It could be a water supply project in one city, road transport in another. In Tbilisi, there’s an ADB-funded sustainable urban transport project, which has been ongoing for over 8 years. In Kathmandu, ADB has been supporting water supply projects for more than 10 years. It was assumed that these big infrastructural projects would fit in with multi-sector activities undertaken by other donors or by the city administration and the benefits would be fully realised. Yet even within the same city, there needs to be improved integration and communication between projects from different sectors to realize synergies and mutual inter- and intra-effectiveness.
Start with a core project and build the jigsaw – the Tbilisi case study
Under FCP, existing ADB infrastructure investments are enhanced and used as an entry point to the city to build long-term relationships between the city, ADB, and other financing and knowledge partners. From this core project the engagement is broadened and a more integrated urban development is achieved.
Mr. McIntyre called it the jigsaw puzzle approach. He said, “What we are looking at here is enhancing the core project, and building that jigsaw. We don’t want to go into Tbilisi and start doing something that’s not aligned with what we have done before. It’s like building a jigsaw puzzle. You don’t take a piece and put it somewhere in the middle of the puzzle. You put it next to another piece you already got on the board.”
In Tbilisi it started with the aforementioned sustainable urban transport project. Now there are seven concurrent teams working harmoniously on different components of urban development.
One of these teams is the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) – an international partnership established in 2007 by ADB and the Government of Germany, with additional core funding support from the governments of Austria, Sweden, Switzerland and the Shanghai Municipal Government – which has recently completed a bus network improvement prefeasibility study and is now conducting another prefeasibility study on a metro rail rehabilitation and upgrade.
Other teams include an ADB-led digital finance team. They are currently exploring opportunities to leverage existing financial institutions to scale access to cashless transactions (to enhance ridership and reduce transport transaction costs), as well as digitizing payments for micro, small and medium enterprises – thereby broadening the investment around a transport core. Another team is the smart systems technical assistance team, who is looking at technologies that could improve efficiencies in transport, water supply, sanitation, education, health, building, and so on.
Third is the Future Women, Future Cities technical assistance team. They are looking at ways to mainstream gender throughout ADB and other projects. This includes ensuring transport decision making for station and vehicle design include the often forgotten 50% of the population – ie women – are fully involved. Women will be the focus of the small and medium enterprise work, and the focus of technological innovation. Having women drivers on the buses and looking at how to address gender-based violence on public transport links the work with the current core project and with the potential opportunities identified in the CDIA bus study.
In addition, through FCP, there is a knowledge partnership with the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT). The team from AIT is looking at big data in the context of digital finance, smart systems, gender, and the existing transport projects and how that could be utilised.
“They are looking at ways that we may be able to harvest data off our transport project such as vehicle and pedestrian movements around stations and interchanges (using digital cameras and smart phones) and even digital sensors in new LED street, walkway and station lighting sensing movement, pedestrian/vehicle volumes, air and noise pollution – all providing more complete information to enable better planning and design; and to real time information for consumers and citizens. This will enhance planning within the city of Tbilisi and promote citizen engagement, which will enable long-term development effectiveness and sustainability” Mr. McIntyre said.
AIT is also embracing its role as a knowledge partner with the city by helping to facilitate city twinning with Vienna, planning capacity exchanges and further research partnerships with other institutions. It provides a justification for other financiers, such as the Austrian Government in this case, to consider further capacity, financial and research support into Tbilisi over the next few years.
The contribution of all the 7 teams is expected to lead to concrete projects that will enable the city and its residents to thrive. A key component of the ADB FCP approach is that not all outputs are for ADB investment – with many possibly attracting funding from European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); Agence Française de Développement (AFD), a French development agency; and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Tbilisi sees ADB as an honest broker in the urban space, providing leadership and non-proprietary project concepts that focus on improving livability for Tbilisi, rather than discrete infrastructure projects that represent traditional financing approach.
Future Cities is an organic approach to building relationships and knowledge and financing partnerships. Akin to a jigsaw puzzle, it builds a base for future investments in the city – investments that are integrated and generate more positive impact for people. The essential elements of the puzzle are the following:
Having a core ADB project in place is important to get work off the ground. It provides the initial institutional linkages allowing the time and space to enhance the relationship and leverage existing impacts. It takes significantly longer to gain traction in the absence of a core project, according to Mr. McIntyre.
Building off the existing project and relationship with the local government enables ADB or other potential partners to broaden engagement into other sectors within the city, such as water, governance, education, and health.
The core project also helps broaden relationships within ADB, since bringing in teams from different sectors and knowledge groups builds cooperation and takes advantage of better synergies – functionally achieving a One ADB approach. The private sector is involved as the program expands and other donors are linked to focus on overall development for the city as a whole – there is enough demand for investment for everyone’s capability – its about coordination, opportunity and thinking more broadly at what a city wants to and can achieve.
National urban planner
One of the advantages of FCP consists of national urban planners that are appointed for each of the cities. The planner, who has undergone significant familiarity training with ADB HQ and its resident mission, is usually based out of the mayor’s office and acts as a two-way conduit of information between the city and ADB, relaying needs and ideas; and potential resources, capacity and knowledge support.
All ADB and other donor teams, not just FCP, are encouraged to utilise this person as a focal point of contact with the city.
Mr. McIntyre said that this has been one of the most successful aspects of FCP in all the cities.
One of the ways in which FCP is connecting the dots and building relationships between knowledge partners and financing partners, both private and public, is through city twinning. Edmonton in Canada is twinning with UlaanBaatar, while Vienna is considering developing a program with Tbilisi. Through this exchange, cities can pick up relevant best practices and lessons that can enrich their institutional capacity and improve city management.
For Tbilisi, in particular, the twinning opportunity with Vienna will be done through the support of AIT. This will allow the exchange of urban planning personnel between Tbilisi and Vienna for one month; and hopefully evolve into a much closer relationship between urban planners and practitioners.
Knowledge partners are a key piece of the puzzle. An ongoing water-sensitive slum revitalisation project in Suva demonstrates this well.
Monash University and the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC), has pioneered successful water management programs in Australia, China, Israel, and Singapore. But these haven’t been applied in slum areas. They started looking at opportunities in Suva and Makassar to fit in their approach with ADB’s ongoing water and sanitation projects in the cities.
Then the research consortium received an AUD $14 million grant, from the Wellcome Trust, a UK-based global charitable foundation. The funding, combined with ADB grant resources and financial and capacity support from utility companies in Australia, will be directed towards a seven-year development grant and research project in Fiji and Makassar, Indonesia, to advance human health and well-being in slums or informal settlements, by transforming water infrastructure, water management, and sanitation practices, in collaboration with ADB.
Traditional centralised, energy-intensive ‘Big Pipe’ solutions used to pump water from reservoirs into cities, and sewage to centralised treatment plants, often bypass slums. The water sensitive approach opts for modular, decentralised infrastructure instead.
Initiatives include individual site assessment and surveys including modelling flood risk and identifying mosquito supporting habitats, conveying faecal-contaminated water to biofilters and surface wetlands for cleaning, building rainwater tanks and communal septic tanks and capturing and cleaning storm water and waste water for use in urban agriculture.
The project is about to be implemented in Suva and Makassar, aiming to transform 24 settlements over 5 years. It brings together researchers in medicine, architecture, engineering, ecology, economics and social sciences, from Monash, CRCWSC, Stanford University, Emory University, the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Water and South East Water, World Health Organisation, Oxfam International and WaterAid.
Mr. McIntyre said that this is a significantly faster and cheaper approach, can cover more people and the benefits are expected to be comparable to those from piped water and sewage. Once the concept is demonstrated successfully in Suva and Makassar, it will be scaled up across slum developments in Asia.
Finance Plus Plus
The FCP process starts with funding from ADB on the core project. When the project expands into related sectors and knowledge partners start stepping in, additional finance starts flowing in. Sometimes, knowledge partners bring in new sources of funds. Other donors working in the city begin to get involved. Mr. McIntyre described this as the Finance Plus Plus approach, which is championed by ADB’s President Takehiko Nakao.
Grabbing hold of opportunities
The FCP approach could be seen as chaotic. But it is about grabbing the right opportunities and using them as openings into a city to start building the relationship, broadening impact and embracing and managing complexity and change. It is about re-energising practitioners in ADB, the cities and other stakeholders to their passion and potential for achieving development results and sustainability.
For instance, ADB’s Smart Systems technical assistance Program is preparing smart system feasabilities for Bandung. One of ADB’s knowledge partners, Singapore-ETH Centre (a collaboration between ETH Zurich – the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and the National Research Foundation in Singapore) has also been mobilized by FCP to work on areas that are aligned with its own research program and that of the smart systems RETA. This led the two organizations to start working together to ensure a more cohesive and synergised approach. AIT has now also expressed interest in working in Bandung, complementing the others’ work program and hoping to source funding from the Austrian government.
While there are projects being considered, it is the approach that is generating the synergy, and broadening the potential investment opportunities. Perhaps, there will be scope for smart city investments; citizen-led data agglomerations for public transport planning and development; or even potential financing through public-private partnerships with Bandung’s excellent universities and research units for developing Bandung as a regional IT research and knowledge hub.
While cautioning that the Future Cities approach is not going to be a panacea, Mr. McIntyre said that there are great benefits to be derived from wider adoption. The future of these cities has not been written yet. By coordinating and synergising resources, we can achieve a lot more than otherwise. Plans are out of date before they are developed. Cities and their partners need to be agile, responsive, dynamic and dedicated to managing complexity and change, using world's best practices and sourcing the myriad of opportunities and resources available. It takes a lot of effort to coordinate and to maintain those relationships. But that’s part of the challenge. I have seen the payoff and I think it is exciting.”
The 13th Singapore-US Strategic Security Policy Dialogue (SSPD) was convened, and co-chaired by Permanent Secretary of Defence, Chan Heng Kee and United States Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Sasha Baker. This dialogue, embedded within the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement and Defence Cooperation Agreement, serves as a cornerstone for shaping the future of Singapore-US defence relations.
Beyond the traditional domains of defence, Singapore and the US are venturing into uncharted territory – cybersecurity and critical emerging technologies. This signifies a strategic shift that acknowledges the evolving nature of security threats in the digital age.
Both nations have recognised the enduring strength of their bilateral defence relationship. Singapore’s unwavering support for the U.S. regional presence, outlined in the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Regarding the U.S. use of Facilities (1990 MoU), remains a crucial pillar of their alliance. Simultaneously, the US continues to bolster the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) capabilities through overseas training and technology access. This includes the RSAF’s acquisition of the cutting-edge F-35 fighter aircraft.
The dialogue marked a significant milestone by introducing discussions on cybersecurity. In an interconnected world, where information is power, securing digital infrastructure cannot be overstated.
By engaging in collaborative efforts to enhance their cyber defences, Singapore and the US are not only safeguarding their interests but also contributing to global cybersecurity resilience. This proactive approach sets a precedent for other nations to follow suit and collectively combat cyber threats.
Also, the emphasis on critical and emerging technologies highlights the foresight of both nations. In today’s fast-paced technological landscape, advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, and biotechnology can tip the scales of national security.
By pooling their expertise and resources, Singapore and the US are positioning themselves at the forefront of innovation, ensuring they are well-prepared for the security challenges of the future.
The dialogue also featured discussions on regional developments and the continued engagement of the US in the Asia-Pacific region. The ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus framework serves as a platform for constructive dialogue and cooperation among ASEAN member states and their partners. Singapore and the US both recognise the significance of this framework in promoting regional stability and security.
Regular bilateral and multilateral training exercises form another vital facet of this partnership. Exercises like Tiger Balm, Pacific Griffin, Commando Sling, Red Flag, and Super Garuda Shield serve as platforms for joint training and skill development. These exercises not only enhance the operational readiness of both armed forces but also foster greater cooperation and understanding between Singapore and the US.
One noteworthy aspect of this collaboration is the US’s support for SAF’s overseas training, exemplified by Exercise Forging Sabre. This training, conducted at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, has played a pivotal role in honing the skills of RSAF personnel.
In 2023, two RSAF detachments, Peace Carvin II (F-16 fighter aircraft) and Peace Vanguard (Apache AH-64 helicopters), marked their 30th and 20th anniversaries of training in the US, respectively. These milestones are a testament to the enduring nature of the Singapore-US defence relationship.
The 13th Singapore-US Strategic Security Policy Dialogue not only reaffirmed the steadfast commitment of both nations to their long-standing defence partnership but also showcased their readiness to adapt to the evolving security landscape.
As reports cited the inclusion of cybersecurity and critical emerging technologies in the discussions reflects the forward-thinking approach to safeguarding the national interests of both nations. As they continue to train together, exchange knowledge, and invest in cutting-edge technologies, Singapore and the US are poised to navigate the complex challenges of the future, hand in hand.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced the initiation of the Green Fintech Competition, which will serve as a pivotal step towards promoting the integration of innovative green fintech solutions within the Hong Kong banking sector. The primary objective of this initiative is to bolster the resilience of the banking industry against the looming climate risks.
The competition is a call to action for both local green fintech companies and their international counterparts. It invites these innovative firms to participate and demonstrate how their technological solutions can be harnessed effectively within the banking industry. The competition centres around four key themes, each addressing a crucial aspect of sustainable finance:
- Net-zero Transition or Transition Planning: This theme emphasises the pivotal role of fintech in facilitating the transition towards a net-zero economy. It aims to uncover innovative solutions that can assist banks in their journey towards carbon neutrality.
- Climate Risk Management: Climate risks have become a central concern in the financial sector. Fintech solutions are sought to help banks better understand, assess, and manage these risks effectively.
- Green and Sustainable Finance: The theme of green and sustainable finance underscores the importance of fintech in enabling financial institutions to channel their resources towards environmentally responsible investments.
- Sustainability or Climate-related Disclosure and Reporting: Transparency and disclosure are critical components of sustainable finance. Fintech solutions that enhance the disclosure and reporting of sustainability and climate-related information are in high demand.
These themes were carefully crafted in response to industry feedback, reflecting the pressing challenges faced by the Hong Kong banking sector. The competition encourages participating firms to develop market-ready solutions that align with at least one of these themes. Detailed problem statements for each theme can be found on the official competition website, offering valuable guidance for prospective participants. Firms are also free to propose alternative problem statements that they believe are relevant to the overarching themes.
A panel of judges will evaluate the submitted solutions, comprising representatives from the public and private sectors. This panel includes experts from the banking and technology sectors, professional associations, and academia. The winners of the competition will be granted a unique opportunity to fast-track their entry into the Cyberport Incubation Program. This program is designed to provide comprehensive business support, aiding in the development and growth of green fintech solutions.
Finalists will be invited to participate in and host exhibition booths at the HKMA’s “Green and Sustainable Banking Conference,” scheduled for December 2023, offering a platform for in-depth exchanges with industry professionals and an opportunity to showcase their solutions. It also serves as a valuable forum for exploring potential collaborations with key stakeholders in the financial sector.
In addition to these benefits, participants will have access to tailored consultation services provided by InvestHK. These services are designed to offer further insights into the Hong Kong market, ensuring that their fintech solutions are finely tuned to meet the specific needs and demands of this dynamic financial hub.
The initiative represents a significant step forward in embracing innovative fintech solutions to address critical environmental and sustainability challenges. By inviting participation from both local and global green fintech firms, the competition aims to harness the collective power of technology and finance to build a more sustainable future for the banking industry in Hong Kong and beyond.
Previously, OpenGov Asia reported on the recent bilateral meeting between the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) holds great significance for the Green Fintech Competition initiated by the HKMA. During the meeting, the central banks agreed to strengthen collaboration in key areas including financial infrastructure, financial market connectivity, and virtual asset regulations, all of which align with the competition’s objectives.
This collaboration, along with the establishment of a joint working group and knowledge-sharing initiatives, is set to amplify the impact of initiatives like the Green Fintech Competition by creating a more interconnected and sustainable global financial ecosystem.
The Centre for Memory Studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has introduced the ‘MovingMemory’ application, which harnesses both augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies to capture diverse moving models of memory through digital reconstruction. It was designed to enhance the tourist experience at cultural and heritage sites. It offers virtual tours of famous places in India.
The app’s features allow users to choose their preferred avatar and navigate through three-dimensional spaces. According to a statement from IIT-Madras, it is embedded with additional layers of video, audio, 3D images, and interactive elements which may be used as models for sustainable and heritage-oriented pedagogic and research approaches.
Once the app becomes available to the public, MovingMemory can be accessed from both Android and iOS devices, as well as through browser-based platforms, setting it apart as a uniquely inclusive application. It is a spatial app created with the capability to exist within the metaverse realm.
MovingMemory was introduced at the second annual conference of the Indian Network for Memory Studies, titled ‘Memory, Ecology, and Sustainability.’ It was organised jointly by the Indian Network for Memory Studies and the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT- Madras. It covers a wide range of human-centred technologies and policies related to cultural memory and sustainable development goals, both within India and on a global scale.
At the inaugural event, IIT-Madras Director, V. Kamakoti, said, “It is crucial that we foreground the urgent need to incorporate collective memory in our understanding and ability to anticipate policies related to ecological issues such as climate change. Human as well as non-human forms of memory (such as the memory of water and the memory of nature) such as the Spanish Flu and the 2015 Chennai floods may be studied through interdisciplinary and collaborative formats in order to further memory studies as a discipline.”
The conference aims to connect rituals of remembering and experiencing the environment to systems of sustainability, which assume material, cultural, and technological dimensions through significant events like disasters and floods and long-term processes of change.
The international conference attracted approximately 100 presenters and more than 500 attendees from across India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Morocco, Canada, Sweden, Bangladesh, and other countries.
An official at the event said that the conference, like all other research activities at the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT-Madras, seeks to bridge technology studies and humanities. Its purpose is to provide a more complex model of engaging with memory, ecology, and sustainability, while also connecting to issues such as disaster studies, anticipatory governance, and durability.
Another expert from IIT-Madras noted the importance of reexamining pre-modern modes of memory and resilience and integrating those with the post-modern modes through which ecology and sustainability practices may receive a more nuanced understanding. These interdisciplinary practices have triggered a paradigm shift in both humanities education and research.
IIT-Madras has undertaken several initiatives in the field of AR/VR. In April, it announced it was developing instructional and educational models that use AR/VR technologies, aimed at assisting secondary schools in rural regions of the country. As OpenGov Asia reported, the initiative provides students with unique opportunities to engage in immersive and experiential learning through VR-enabled technology. Subjects like social science, history, sciences, and languages can be effectively taught using AR/VR world-building, digital storytelling, and educational games. An inaugural AR-based mobile app was launched to capture the history of the transnational Anglo-Indian community across 500 years.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi highlighted the digital dimension in the country’s counter-terrorism strategies during her recent address at the Ministerial Plenary Meeting of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) in New York.
Minister Retno emphasised the significance of comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration (R&R) efforts within Indonesia. Notably, these efforts extend beyond former terrorist inmates, encompassing strengthening communities and the environments that receive them. The focus on digital aspects of R&R is evident in Indonesia’s approach.
Indonesia has adopted a multifaceted strategy to counter extremism, as outlined in its National Action Plan for Prevention and Countering Extremism. This strategy underscores the “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approaches, highlighting the collaborative roles of the government and civil society. Combining hard and soft approaches, Indonesia actively engages communities and fosters international cooperation in its counter-terrorism efforts.
The digital dimension is also prominent in Indonesia’s second pillar of counter-terrorism strategy, which aims to harness technological advancements while ensuring they are not misused for extremist purposes. The rapid evolution of technology has created opportunities for disseminating extremist ideas, demanding constant vigilance. In response, Indonesia introduced the “Pusat Pengetahuan Indonesia (I-KHub),” or the Indonesian Knowledge Hub.
I-KHub is not merely a digital repository of information but a dynamic platform that actively contributes to Indonesia’s counter-terrorism endeavours. Integrating data systems and facilitating evidence-based decision-making empowers policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and community leaders with actionable insights.
One of the critical features of I-KHub is its ability to analyse trends and patterns in extremist activities. Leveraging advanced data analytics, it can identify emerging threats and hotspots, allowing for proactive measures to be taken. This early warning system is instrumental in preventing extremist ideologies from taking hold in vulnerable communities.
Moreover, I-KHub is a collaborative space where experts, researchers, and stakeholders from various sectors can share knowledge and best practices. This collective intelligence enriches the understanding of extremist narratives and recruitment tactics and facilitates the development of effective counter-narratives.
The platform’s outreach extends to educational institutions, where it supports curriculum development aimed at countering extremism. I-KHub is vital in promoting digital literacy and critical thinking among students by providing educators with relevant resources and insights. This proactive approach helps inoculate young minds against the allure of extremist ideologies.
In the digital realm, I-KHub monitors online spaces where extremist content proliferates. It can promptly identify and report such content through advanced algorithms and data analysis. This collaborative effort with tech companies and social media platforms contributes to removing extremist material from the internet, disrupting the digital recruitment efforts of extremist groups.
The third aspect of Indonesia’s counter-terrorism strategy focuses on creating a secure environment to counter extremism. This includes digital-driven educational programmes targeting women and children. Minister Retno highlighted that extremist ideologies thrive in environments rife with hatred, emphasising the role of digital tools in promoting understanding, tolerance, and peace.
In her closing, Minister Retno expressed that GCTF member countries would firmly commit to ensuring the inclusive implementation of the R&R strategy. The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum is a vital international platform for global cooperation and information exchange on counter-terrorism and violence-based extremism.
Indonesia underscores the country’s commitment to harnessing technology for a safer and more peaceful society. Indonesia’s multifaceted counter-terrorism approach, particularly its emphasis on digital knowledge sharing through I-KHub, reflects its dedication to addressing the global challenge of extremism with modern tools and strategies.
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing emphasised China’s resolve to promote high-level openness in the digital sphere at a time when global digital cooperation was at a turning point. This announcement was made during the second high-level digital conversation between China and the EU which Zhang and Vera Jourova, Vice President of the European Commission, co-chaired.
The meeting was a big step forward in the ongoing conversation between China and the EU. They talked in depth about many important issues in the digital world. The growing field of artificial intelligence (AI), communication technology standards, the moving of data across borders, and the safety of non-food items were some of the topics that people were interested in.
These discussions had positive results, highlighting the possibility of cooperation and understanding between these two significant figures on the international scene. The recognition of China and the EU’s complementary roles in the digital sphere and their common interests was a recurring subject in the talks.
To support the expansion of the digital economy, both parties were unwavering in their resolve to cultivate a cooperative spirit, further improve exchanges, and create an environment that is open, inclusive, impartial, fair, and non-discriminatory. This concerted effort has the ability to not only spearhead the global digital transformation but also make a major contribution to the ongoing global economic recovery process.
At the heart of this cooperative spirit is Zhang’s call to businesses everywhere, particularly those in Europe, to take advantage of the growing prospects China’s digital economy offers. This invitation highlights China’s willingness to interact with other countries and signals a new era in which win-win scenarios and cooperative relationships are not only welcomed but actively pursued.
Vera emphasised the solid basis and promising future of cooperation between China and the European Union in the digital domain affirming that the EU is keen to engage in practical cooperation with China in a range of pertinent topics, to facilitate more thorough interactions, and to expand conversation. A forward-thinking strategy that crosses boundaries and capitalises on the combined strengths of nations is exemplified by the reciprocal readiness to investigate opportunities for collaboration.
This conversation has far wider implications than just the meeting space. It represents a coming together of interests and an understanding of how interwoven the world’s digital landscape is. Partnerships like these have the power to influence the course of innovation and development in an era where digital technologies drive economies, industries, and communities.
China has led the way in developing cutting-edge technology and promoting digital transformation domestically. It expands its boundaries and enhances the global digital ecosystem by reaching out to international stakeholders and offering cooperation.
On the other hand, the EU is proud of its own innovation and knowledge pools. By working together, the EU can take advantage of the vitality of the Chinese digital economy and open up new markets. This conversation also reflects a larger trend: the realisation that digital cooperation is becoming a requirement rather than just a question of choice.
In a time where digital data is growing exponentially, AI is pervasive, and technological sectors are converging more and more, countries need to work across borders to solve problems and take advantage of possibilities. The two nations are eager that they can build a more affluent and connected digital future through communication and cooperation, instead of giving in to protectionism and divisive narratives.
New South Wales (NSW) is partnering with key stakeholders, including universities and businesses, to develop an Innovation Blueprint aimed at revitalising the state’s innovation sector. The backdrop for this initiative is the stagnation in university-industry collaboration and the lack of progress in commercialising research outcomes, as highlighted by the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council. Simultaneously, R&D intensity in the region has been declining, emphasising the need for strategic interventions.
However, the government is mindful of fiscal constraints while working to restore the state’s finances and essential services. As a result, all expenditures must align with the best interests of NSW residents. The Innovation Blueprint is designed to be a collaborative effort, drawing insights from sector leaders and experts to position NSW as a global leader in attracting investments, fostering innovation, and attracting talent.
To facilitate this process, the Minister for Innovation, Science, and Technology will lead roundtable discussions on various topics, including venture capital, government support, startup growth, innovation adoption by industries, and talent attraction. These discussions will be instrumental in shaping the final blueprint.
The Innovation Blueprint cannot be overstated and has the potential to spark innovation across emerging sectors and crucial enabling technologies like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, data science, cybersecurity, sensors, and robotics. These innovations are expected to have a profound impact across diverse sectors, including energy, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and agrifood, all vital for NSW’s future economic growth.
The Minister leading this initiative underscored the government’s commitment to nurturing a robust innovation sector. In his view, a thriving innovation sector not only creates high-value jobs but also enhances productivity within high-growth industries. The government believes that by fostering innovation and cutting-edge industries, it can secure the jobs of the future and attract top-tier talent to NSW.
Thus, the NSW Labor Government is working to revitalise NSW’s innovation sector through collaborative efforts with universities, businesses, and sector experts. This initiative addresses longstanding challenges in university-industry collaboration and the need to reverse declining R&D intensity.
While fiscal responsibility is paramount, the government recognises that strategic investments in innovation are essential for NSW’s long-term prosperity. Through the Innovation Blueprint, NSW aims to position itself as a global leader, attracting investments, talent, and industries that will define the future.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that the Government of Western Australia is offering over AU$3 million in grants through the Local Capability Fund (LCF) to boost local small to medium-sized businesses. These grants aim to enhance their competitiveness and capacity, making them eligible for government and private sector contracts.
This initiative aligns with the Minns Labor Government’s Innovation Blueprint in New South Wales (NSW), which seeks to drive innovation and economic growth. While the LCF focuses on empowering local businesses to secure contracts, the Innovation Blueprint in NSW takes a broader approach, promoting innovation across various sectors.
Both initiatives share the goal of fostering economic development. The LCF in Western Australia offers targeted support, including assistance for Aboriginal-owned businesses, compliance with national and international standards, and upcoming digital transformation support. These align with the Innovation Blueprint’s focus on innovation in sectors like energy, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.
Collaboration is key in both efforts. Western Australia partners with local businesses, while NSW collaborates with universities, businesses, and experts. These initiatives collectively contribute to enhancing Australia’s economic landscape by empowering local businesses and driving technological advancement.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has introduced an artificial intelligence (AI)-based Chatbot for the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Scheme. Under the Scheme, Indian farmers receive income support of up to IN₹ 6,000 (US$ 72) per year. The AI Chatbot will improve the effectiveness and reach of PM-KISAN, ensuring that farmers receive timely, clear, and reliable answers to their inquiries.
The chatbot has been incorporated into the PM-KISAN grievance management system. It aims to empower farmers with a user-friendly and easily accessible platform, the government said in a press release. In its initial development phase, the AI chatbot will aid farmers in obtaining information about their application status, payment details, eligibility status, and other scheme-related updates.
Accessible via the PM KISAN mobile app, the chatbot is seamlessly integrated with Bhashini, providing multilingual support that caters to the linguistic and regional diversity of PM-KISAN beneficiaries. This incorporation of cutting-edge technology not only improves transparency but also empowers farmers by enabling them to make informed decisions, the release noted. Presently, the chatbot can be used in English, Hindi, Bengali, Odia, and Tamil. Soon, it will be accessible in 22 languages spoken in the country.
During the launch of the chatbot, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Kailash Choudhary, claimed that the initiative aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to enhance the well-being of farmers and improve governance by leveraging technology.
He suggested expanding the service to link it with other related issues like weather information, soil conditions, and bank payments. Choudhary commended the Ministry officials for swiftly onboarding the technology, highlighting its potential to streamline the workload for agricultural officials at both the central and state levels. This is the first AI chatbot integrated into a major flagship scheme of the government. In the coming months, the technology will also be deployed for other significant initiatives of the Ministry.
Launched in February 2019, the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme supports the financial needs of land-holding farmers in the country. It offers an annual financial benefit of US$ 72 in three equal instalments to eligible farmers’ families through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode. Since its inception, over IN₹ 2.61 trillion (US$ 31.4 billion) has been disbursed to more than 110 million farmers so far, making it one of the largest Direct Benefit Transfer schemes globally.
India is reliant on its agricultural sector and modernising it is a pivotal step in improving the quality and reliability of its process and products. The government has launched several technology-based solutions across various segments of the sector. Earlier this month, the Unified Portal for Agricultural Statistics (UPAg Portal) was launched to tackle complex governance issues in the sector. It is designed to optimise and elevate data management within the agricultural sphere, contributing to a more efficient and responsive agricultural policy framework.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the portal standardises data related to prices, production, area, yield, and trade, consolidating it in a single location. This eliminates the necessity to compile data from multiple sources. The portal can also conduct advanced analytics, providing insights into production trends, trade correlations, and consumption patterns.
It can produce granular production estimates with increased frequency, improving the government’s capacity to respond swiftly to agricultural crises. Commodity profile reports will be generated using algorithms, reducing subjectivity and providing users with comprehensive insights. Users also have the flexibility to use the portal’s data for crafting their own reports, fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making.