Dr. Eric Rasmussen has spent decades dealing with disasters and working with vulnerable populations. His 25 years on active duty with the US Navy included deployments to multiple natural disasters and three wars. During his time there, he pioneered the speciality of humanitarian medicine, while he occupied the positions of Chairman of the Department of Medicine within the Navy teaching hospital near Seattle, Washington, and Special Advisor in Humanitarian Informatics for the US Office of the Secretary of Defense.
He is a practicing Internal Medicine physician with an additional specialty in Disaster Medicine. Currently, he is the CEO of Infinitum Humanitarian Systems (IHS), a "Profit for Purpose" social business specializing in vulnerability reduction for systems and populations. IHS staff have been involved in over a dozen deployments all over the world, including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the earthquake in Haiti, the tsunami in Banda Aceh, Hurricane Sandy in New York, Supertyphoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and the earthquake in Nepal. IHS has led medical, public health and communications teams in war zones in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. IHS leads the Disaster Response Team of the Rodenberry Foundation.
Dr. Rasmussen’s other roles include Research Professor for Environmental Security and Global Medicine at San Diego State University, Affiliate Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington, Visiting Researcher in Disaster Management at the Institute for Disaster Preparedness in Beijing, China, Senior Lecturer within the International Disaster Academy in Bonn, Germany, and Core Faculty at Singularity University (SU) within the NASA Ames Research Center in California.
OpenGov had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Eric Rasmussen at the launch of the Singapore Chapter of SU to learn about his work. Dr. Rasmussen talks about the growth of citizen science, facilitated by open source tools. From biometrics in Syrian refugee camps to participatory mapping in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Dr. Rasmussen tells us how developments in information technology are enabling improved threat recognition, planning and delivery of care and relief. It is about providing the most basic of human needs, food, water and shelter, to those who are suffering in a disaster, whether natural or man-made.
What does humanitarian informatics mean?
Humanitarian informatics is the recognition that without adequate understanding of the circumstances that affect human security, you respond or prepare inefficiently. So, the more information that you can accrue about the state of a population, the threats that they face, the resources they have, the better you will be able to help them prepare and help others respond when that preparation fails, and they wind up in trouble.
We do that on several axes. I lead a disaster response team for when things go truly badly.
Before that, we work on information management in slums. We work in the Philippines, Mexico, Nepal. We help communities learn what resources they have internally and what threats they face that they may not know about.
For example, there is a chemical plant upstream in a village in Tajikistan. They had no idea that such a threat existed and that they ought to make arrangements for having second and third and fourth order responses to something happening at that chemical plant, an explosion, a leak, a loss of jobs, whatever.
So information around human security is what we talk about. A lot of that is Geographic Information System (GIS) based and the US State Department, along with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA), runs an open GIS system called the World-wide Human Geography Data Working Group (WWHG WG), which shares information about threats and opportunities in GIS for human security.
How is this information collected and processed?
There’s been a great deal of citizen science that has been developed over the years. There is a lot of open source software and open source tools that help people who are inside a community, who work within that community, to find leaders and to find those who care and to gather information that they can then analyse and visualise to the larger community to help share how things are working.
Those tools are, by and large, free. They get better every year. It requires an educational process that is now also free. So slowly but surely, many sections of humanity are getting safer than they were five years ago. This is despite the fact that nature is encroaching because of damages that we have wrought through climate change, loss of biodiversity, ecosystem degradation and others.
How is that information then used? Who is supposed to take the action on that? Is it the communities themselves? Is it the governments? Is it the NGOs?
One of the magical things about information, and knowledge in general, is that it is not diminished when it is shared. So, the more people that can be informed, preferably at the level that makes most sense to them, the better off generally speaking everybody is.
Communities are taking the initiative to say, “We need to know what that earthquake is going to do with us, what that upstream deforestation is going to do to our water supply”. They are beginning to collect information, free and open source tools, some of them apps, some of them lists, some of them spreadsheets, some of them visualisation tools like Kumu. They’ll collect that information on the street, on pieces of paper, they’ll enter it into free and open source software tools. Kumu will help them visualise what’s related to what. And out of that, they can go, as the UNICEF project did in Rio de Janeiro, to local civil authorities, and say, “people are getting hurt over here, until we looked at it, we hadn’t noticed that we have had 8 people hurt there, over the last 2 years. We would like you to fix that thing before somebody else gets hurt.”
“We’ll give you 30 days to fix that thing, and then we’re talking all of this information, these photographs, the photographs of the dead children, to the newspapers but we’ll give you 30 days first.” And that worked. That was in one of the favelas in Rio. They got that bridge fixed without having to go to the newspapers. Going to newspapers might have resulted in significant repercussions that would not have been positive to anybody, but the civil authorities recognised that it was more trouble than it was worth – they should just fix the bridge. And they did. That’s all community-driven, citizen science.
One of your specialty areas is in disaster medicine. Can you tell us more about the field in general?
Like every other topic associated with the care of humans, whether it’s food, water or health care, the advent of technologies that are capitalising on information improvements has done wonders to help us understand how we can take care of people better, including in disasters.
I led a team in the Kathmandu earthquake, where we wound up working both in Kathmandu and up in the village called Dharmasthali. Down in Kathmandu, I was present when the second earthquake hit with a magnitude of 7.3. We wound up setting up a roadside emergency facility because everything was already broken and then the second earthquake hit and collapsed things that were already partially collapsed and injured a lot of people.
We stopped bleeding using shrimp shells, which are composed of chitin. People were sending text messages from inside the rubble to their friends saying, “This is where I am.” That helped us understand where people were located, so that we were able to direct the earthquake search and rescue teams.
When there were many families gathered at one location, say a park, there will be many many, many dots. Those all went over cell phone back to the Kathmandu Living Labs Group which at the time was working out of a parking lot because their building had collapsed. They got mapped and that’s what allowed us to understand where to put water filtration, where to put up a food kitchen, where to put extra medical facilities because we could see where the community were gathering in the open.
It was the people, it was kids, junior high school kids that went out and just texted where they saw people, how many and when. It was citizen science. Out of that information collection came much more efficient delivery of care and probably a reduction in the loss of lives.
How is technology changing disaster medicine?
Every single human needs a gallon of water a day. The WHO standard is 4 to 6 litres for survival and basic hygiene, every 24 hours. If you look at a place like Yarmouk, which is a displacement centre in Damascus, Syria, trying to provide clean water is extremely difficult. Trying to provide clean water in any place which doesn’t have readily accessible surface water is very difficult. Trying to clean water that might be present or contaminated with fertilisers, metals, bacteria, viruses is very difficult.
On the list of things that Singularity helped show us about 5 years ago is that there are a number of technologies that are being developed to help people do better in cleaning water. Some things clean better than others. We found one in particular, that is a spun quartz nano filament that is coated with titanium dioxide and energised by 3 frequencies of LEDs, very high intensity light and a mirror chamber as the water trickles across the mesh, the mesh looks a lot like mycelium, the mushroom-like fungi in soil. And the result of that photocatalysis on that biomimicry nanomaterial, results in eradication of viruses, bacteria, fungi, pharmaceuticals, fuels like diesel and gasoline, pesticides and removal of heavy metals like arsenic, lead, selenium and mercury.
It all takes place at the rate of a thousand gallons a day, in something about 2.5 feet tall, 10 inches in diameter, and it only consumes about 570 watts, which is about one third of a hair dryer.
So that kind of capability builds on enormous sophistication and science and yet is very simple, is relatively low cost, will last a long time and is completely portable, with very little power requirement. That’s the kind of capability that exponential technologies, as they come together, can do for humanity.
You also mentioned (in a pre-interview chat) there were some work going on in Syria. Can you give us some example of how is technology being used there?
This was back in 2014 in the Yarmouk displacement camp, Damascus, just before the barrel bombs began to fall. Part of what we recognised then is that every single one of those humans needs that gallon of water a day, about 1500 calories a day, shelter, because the heat and the cold are substantial in Damascus and an identity.
We didn’t think very much about that last bit until we saw what we needed to do because keeping track of who has already received care, who has already received the daily ration is very difficult. Gangs form and vulnerable people get suppressed, while other people take advantage of that, so it turned out that we could put together a biometric recognition like Aadhaar, so when you couple that with a distributed ledger, and you link that hashed biometric to a unique ID that flows into a distributed ledger, you wind up with the ability to recognise who has received how many rations. And it turns out to be a very low overhead. It’s something easy to do, you can do it on any smartphone. Then it gets synced in the cloud. So, you can keep track of refugees in ways we’ve never able to do before.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), World Food Programme (WFP), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save The Children, International Medical Corps, my own company IHS, iRespond, which is the biometric people and the blockchain integration people. All of them came together and naturally enough it gets better and better, almost by the month. Because the software learns, the lessons get accumulated and we keep track of these things far better than we used to. The feedback loops are tighter.
You can also go out with people who are young and untrained, and they can identify, here’s a water spot, there’s a case of measles, here’s somebody who’s got bad diarrhoea, might be cholera, you want to be very careful here, incredibly contagious like the measles, particularly when you’re malnourished.
And as a consequence, information technologies are pushing the boundaries of where we can deliver effective, reliable care, which means that donors who are giving at the national level money to support these relief operations, feel reassured that less and less is wasted. Most of that driven by the kind of computational capacity that leads to better everything.
The Philippines, situated within the Pacific Ring of Fire, is uniquely susceptible to a range of natural disasters stemming from its geographical location, including typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions, which render it particularly vulnerable. Nevertheless, in response to these formidable challenges, the nation has embarked on an impressive trajectory of resilience enhancement, strategically emphasising the convergence of technology and preparedness as key focal points in their efforts.
As the impact of climate and its cascading effects intensify, the Philippines’ exposure to natural hazards and the significance of resilience has surged. Recognising the limitations of traditional disaster responses, the country has shifted focus. Instead of relying solely on those methods, they’re embracing forward-thinking strategies that integrate proactive measures and technological advancements to effectively confront these challenges head-on.
The core of this transition lies in the effectiveness of the integration of technology with disaster preparedness. This fusion of innovation and readiness is indispensable in the face of ever more frequent and severe natural calamities. In an era where data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and early warning systems have reached new heights, the Philippines is leveraging these technologies to build a nation better equipped to withstand and rebound from disasters.
The Philippines’ journey towards resilience is characterised by progressive solutions built on technology. From early warning systems that provide timely alerts to communities, to advanced data analytics aiding in disaster risk reduction, the country is pioneering approaches that safeguard its people, infrastructure, and economy.
Moreover, this evolution is not contained within national borders. The Philippines acknowledges the interconnectedness of global resilience, actively participating in international collaborations and sharing its expertise to enhance global disaster preparedness.
Engr. Niñaliza H. Escorial, the Deputy Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) within the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), discusses their vision in response to the rapidly changing global landscape of emerging technologies with OpenGov Asia.
She highlights the agency’s commitment to fostering advancements in Quantum technology, agreeing that it is in a nascent development stage. In a bid to enhance capabilities, PCIEERD is actively seeking collaborative partnerships abroad, emphasising knowledge exchange and capacity-building initiatives. The first step in this endeavour involves establishing an innovation laboratory in collaboration with DOST-ASTI, dedicated to Quantum technology research and development.
Engr. Niñaliza underscores PCIEERD’s dedication to technological innovation, particularly in advanced manufacturing, which greatly supports industries engaged in prototype development. They know the significance of acquiring substantial equipment, considering it pivotal in fostering growth and bolstering competitiveness within the industrial sector.
Acknowledging the pivotal role of blockchain technology within the technological landscape, PCIEERD is actively embracing its integration into their initiatives. Their strategic adoption of blockchain aims to fortify and elevate capabilities, emphasising the assurance of heightened security, transparency, and efficiency across an array of applications and systems within their purview. This deliberate incorporation signifies a proactive step towards optimising technological frameworks and operations for enhanced performance and reliability.
Simultaneously, PCIEERD is delving into Artificial Intelligence (AI), moving beyond exploration to practical applications. The focus extends to improving administrative processes through diverse AI applications. The agency is actively seeking ways to enhance and streamline administrative functions, emphasising efficiency and effectiveness.
Engr. Niñaliza elaborates on PCIEERD’s expansive AI initiatives, spanning various sectors to highlight the transformative capacity of AI applications. The agency is actively leveraging AI to revolutionise weather forecasting, understanding the critical necessity for enhanced accuracy and timeliness in predictions. This strategic utilisation of AI underscores their commitment to addressing pressing needs through technological innovation.
“By integrating AI into weather prediction models, the agency aims to enhance preparedness and response to changing weather conditions, contributing to overall disaster resilience,” Engr Niñaliza explains.
The focus extends to the projection and management of river systems, where AI technology proves invaluable in analysing complex hydrological data. This initiative enables more accurate predictions of river behaviour, vital for mitigating the impact of floods and ensuring sustainable water resource management.
As they also see the pivotal role of AI in ensuring a stable food supply, PCIEERD is deploying innovative AI applications in agro-industry. This includes optimising resource allocation, enhancing agro-industry practices, and improving overall crop yield and quality. These initiatives align with the agency’s commitment to harnessing technology for the nation’s food security.
AI has emerged as a vital tool in traffic management systems, with PCIEERD harnessing AI algorithms for monitoring and controlling traffic. Their goal is to ease congestion, improve transportation efficiency, and play a role in creating sustainable, more livable urban environments.
Within the manufacturing sector, PCIEERD’s focus extends to the integration of sensors, a strategic move to expedite production processes. This innovative approach enhances efficiency and precision in manufacturing, ultimately increasing productivity and global competitiveness.
Engr. Niñaliza expands on PCIEERD’s deployment of AI in health monitoring projects, specifically tailored for students. This proactive strategy facilitates early intervention, fostering a healthier learning atmosphere. It underscores the convergence of technology and public health, prioritising well-being within educational settings.
She highlights their steadfast commitment to making science accessible and relatable, especially to diverse audiences, with a primary focus on students. PCIEERD’s engagement in science communication is evident in strategically designed initiatives that foster a deeper understanding of scientific concepts.
Curated exhibits and workshops serve as dynamic platforms where students actively engage with scientific principles in a hands-on and immersive manner. These initiatives aim not only to impart knowledge but also to cultivate a genuine interest in science, aligning with educational curricula while promoting curiosity and exploration.
Taking cognisance of the evolving landscape of communication, PCIEERD actively harnesses the power of social media as a dynamic channel for disseminating scientific information. Through various platforms, the agency strives to reach a broader audience, transcending geographical constraints and connecting with individuals from diverse backgrounds.
The approach to science communication on social media is characterised by clarity, simplicity, and engagement, ensuring that complex scientific concepts are presented in an accessible and understandable manner.
PCIEERD’s main objective is to democratise science communication, making it accessible to individuals at all levels of familiarity with scientific concepts. The agency aims to simplify science, translating intricate ideas into language and visuals that resonate with the general public. This approach fosters a culture of inclusivity, breaking down barriers between scientific knowledge and everyday understanding.
By prioritising science communication from the grassroots level, PCIEERD contributes to a broader societal understanding of the significance of science and technology. Through these initiatives, PCIEERD is actively bridging the gap between the scientific community and the public, fostering a more informed, engaged and scientifically literate society.
The efforts go beyond conveying information; they aim to inspire a sense of wonder and appreciation for the role of science in shaping the world.
PCIEERD’s international collaboration efforts extend to studying and benchmarking different food systems around the globe, particularly in terms of food technology. By exploring and learning from a wide range of methods, the agency seeks to integrate innovative food technologies that enhance productivity, reduce waste, and promote sustainability in agro-industry.
The primary focus lies in improving methods in agro-industry, streamlining supply chains, and strengthening a resilient food system capable of tackling the challenges presented by a swiftly evolving world. Insights gained will inform effective strategies, technological applications, and policy frameworks, tailor-fitted to strengthen the Philippines’ food security measures.
Acknowledging the environmental impact of waste, particularly its movement, PCIEERD is actively engaging in international collaboration on waste management. Through shared knowledge and best practices, the agency aims to minimise the environmental footprint of waste, emphasising sustainable waste disposal methods and embracing circular economy principles.
“One strategic avenue of international collaboration involves studying guidelines, especially during pandemics,” she elaborates.
They are keenly aware of the critical importance of understanding and adapting to global best practices in managing food systems amid pandemics, PCIEERD aims to examine diverse approaches worldwide. The emphasis is on collaboration to realise the goal of innovating food security initiatives through the use of advanced technologies.
Engr Niñaliza highlights the transformative potential of food technology as an essential in the fight against food hunger in the Philippines. The agency aims not only to develop solutions but also to craft comprehensive strategies that encompass both the preservation and consumption aspects of food.
By leveraging cutting-edge advancements in food technology, PCIEERD aspires to revolutionise the production, storage, and consumption of food, with the ultimate goal of significantly mitigating hunger on a large scale.
PCIEERD’s focus on preservation extends beyond traditional methods. The agency is actively seeking to harness innovative food preservation technologies to extend the shelf life of perishable goods, reduce post-harvest losses, and enhance the overall efficiency of the food supply chain.
“Through these efforts, PCIEERD aims to ensure that a greater quantity of nutritious food reaches those in need, contributing to the alleviation of hunger in local communities,” Engr Niñaliza asserts.
Simultaneously, PCIEERD recognises the crucial role of addressing consumption patterns as part of its strategy. The agency accentuates the importance of educating and engaging the public, particularly the youth, in a comprehensive awareness campaign.
This campaign aims to foster a deeper understanding of the role of food technology in daily life, making the public aware of the benefits of innovative food products and promoting sustainable and healthy dietary choices.
Considering the pivotal role of AI in shaping the future, PCIEERD is committed to fostering AI literacy, especially among the youth. Initiatives are underway to raise awareness among young stakeholders, ensuring they grasp the potential and responsible use of AI technologies.
PCIEERD aims to empower the younger generation with AI knowledge, cultivating a pool of innovators who can contribute to the development and implementation of AI solutions in diverse sectors, including addressing food security challenges.
In terms of AI, PCIEERD’s international collaboration efforts encompass discourses on AI guidelines. The agency aspires to ensure that its AI initiatives align with global ethical standards and technological norms. Addressing ethical concerns related to AI is paramount, and through international collaboration, PCIEERD aims to contribute to the development of comprehensive and universally applicable guidelines.
Engr Niñaliza envisions a unified roadmap for all DOST agencies, the goal is to harmonise efforts and resources, creating a symphony of innovation across science and technology.
This blueprint aims to streamline initiatives, eliminate redundancies, and optimise resource allocation. The strategy leverages the collective expertise of each DOST agency, fostering collaboration for a greater impact on a national scale.
“By aligning priorities, the roadmap addresses critical challenges, from industry development to energy security and emerging technologies,” she says emphatically. “The holistic approach ensures that advancements in one sector enhance progress in others, creating a ripple effect of positive change.”
This vision fosters interdisciplinary collaboration, breaking down silos to adapt swiftly to emerging trends. The goal is to position the Philippines as a dynamic force in the global scientific community.
Engr Niñaliza’s dream for DOST-PCIEERD is one of convergence, collaboration, and collective impact. Guided by a shared roadmap, the vision propels the nation forward into a future where the transformative power of science and technology uplifts every aspect of Filipino society. Through this unified approach, DOST-PCIEERD actively crafts a legacy of innovation for generations to come.
Being the first female deputy at PCIEERD, Engr Niñaliza sees her role as a testament to the agency’s strides in inclusivity and merit appreciation. With 35 years of dedicated service, her journey reflects a commitment to progress and witnessed significant improvements in the research and development system.
Rising through the ranks, she brings valuable insights, navigating the dynamic field with a comprehensive understanding of internal workings. Notable is the evolution in research and development, marked by a commitment to innovation. PCIEERD’s culture values forward-thinking approaches, staying at the forefront of technological advancements and expanding horizons in industry, energy, and emerging technologies.
PCIEERD embraces upskilling, ensuring the team remains adaptable and proficient in the latest tools and methodologies. Innovative processes, from project conceptualisation to execution, streamline approaches and position the agency as a dynamic entity within the DOST framework.
The collective journey strengthens PCIEERD, equipping it to fulfil its mandate with resilience. Engr Niñaliza takes pride in contributing to this positive trajectory and looks forward to advancements through continued innovation, upskilling, and excellence in research and development.
PCIEERD’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship is demonstrated by the ambitious goal of funding 20 startups annually with a dedicated budget of PHP5 million (SG$135,000). This initiative injects vitality into the local startup ecosystem, fostering technological advancements, economic growth, and job creation.
Inclusivity is a core focus, with dedicated programmes for women empowerment in entrepreneurship. Through Women Helping Women initiatives, PCIEERD addresses challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, providing support, mentorship, and financial assistance. Gender diversity is celebrated in STEM fields, breaking down barriers and inspiring the next generation of women.
PCIEERD’s commitment goes well beyond financial support, creating networking opportunities, mentorship programmes, and platforms for knowledge exchange. By addressing gender disparities and championing diversity, PCIEERD enriches the overall fabric of innovation and progress in society.
The advice given by Engr Niñaliza to anyone aiming for success, regardless of gender or background, is based on the conviction that dedication to ongoing learning and personal development is necessary to realise one’s greatest potential.
“It’s imperative to align your efforts with your strengths and passions, doing what you excel at and what truly ignites your enthusiasm,” she asserts. “Success often follows when we are dedicated to refining our skills and staying open to new knowledge.”
Engr Niñaliza has seen firsthand the transformative power of setting clear goals and persistently working towards S&T, as she progressed from a technical role to becoming the first female deputy of DOST PCIEERD. It emphasises the significance of having a clear direction and a road map for professional and personal goals.
Learning, according to her should be an ongoing process that is not limited by age or stage of career. The pursuit of knowledge and skill enhancement should be constant, whether in technical or administrative roles. Individuals who adopt this mindset are better able to adapt to changing challenges and remain relevant in their respective fields.
Engr Nializa understands the importance of recognising burnout and the need for periodic recovery. In the pursuit of success, it is critical to pay attention to one’s well-being and know when a break is required. Recovering from burnout enables rejuvenation and renewed focus, laying the groundwork for long-term success.
Her experience exemplifies the philosophy of pursuing excellence through passion alignment, continuous learning, and resilience.
“By maintaining a clear goal, staying dedicated to improvement, and understanding the importance of self-care, individuals can navigate their unique paths to success, contributing meaningfully to their fields and making a lasting impact on their personal and professional journeys,” Engr Niñaliza ends passionately.
In a pioneering move to strengthen the capabilities of future robotic professionals, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) has teamed up with seven esteemed local Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) to align and elevate learning outcomes in robotics courses.
This strategic collaboration aims to equip students with consistent knowledge and skills essential for their integration into the workforce and engagement in robotics work. The partnership, formalised through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed during the ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific Annual Summit, underscores a commitment to harmonising educational approaches in response to the dynamic landscape of Singapore’s growing robotics ecosystem.
This collaborative effort, led by Professor Quek Tong Boon, Chief Executive of the National Robotics Programme, addresses the imperative of cultivating a workforce adept in the Robot Operating System (ROS), an open-source framework pivotal in the development and control of robots.
According to Professor Quek, robotics courses are instrumental in shaping the skills, mindset, and capabilities of individuals, preparing them for impactful and rewarding careers in technology and innovation.
As ROS gains prominence in industrial robotics applications, facilitating seamless communication among robots with diverse manufacturers and user interfaces, the collaboration seeks to bolster the future workforce’s relevance and competitiveness. Likewise, it envisions empowering professionals to undertake higher-value tasks, aligning with the evolving demands of the robotics industry.
At the helm of this educational convergence is the ROS-Industrial Consortium Asia Pacific (ROS-I AP), managed by A*STAR’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC). The consortium spearheads collaborative endeavours with Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), National University of Singapore (NUS), Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), Republic Polytechnic (RP), Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), Singapore Polytechnic (SP), and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
The ROS-I AP has been instrumental in adapting ROS capabilities to suit the hardware requirements of industrial applications. Traditionally, robots were programmed using proprietary solutions, constraining innovation.
Leveraging ROS’s open-source architecture, ROS-I AP catalyses the industry’s adoption of ROS by fostering collaboration, pooling resources, and sharing knowledge to drive ROS applications in manufacturing automation. The consortium also plays a pivotal role in training and outreach to cultivate a talent pool aligned with the increasing deployment of robots.
The MoU signifies a pivotal phase in a broader Train-and-Place programme championed by ROS-I AP, responding to the escalating demand for robotics-related skills in the Singaporean industry landscape. This initiative seeks to cultivate a skilled workforce capable of contributing to ROS-related projects within companies.
The collaborative efforts between ROS-I AP and IHLs aim to establish a standardised curriculum for ROS-based courses, ensuring a consistent quality of education delivery. The collaboration will also include monitoring the efficacy of course content through piloting in IHLs and assessing students, with a commitment to updating content to align with industry developments.
According to A*STAR, this holistic approach ensures that graduates across IHLs possess a baseline competency, instilling confidence in employers regarding the proficiency of these future robotic professionals.
Likewise, this collaboration signifies a concerted effort to shape the future of robotics education, ensuring that students receive a cohesive and advanced learning experience. As the robotics landscape continues to evolve, this strategic partnership not only meets current industry needs but also prepares the workforce for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the dynamic field of robotics.
In a thorough report by the National AI Centre, Australia is poised to solidify its stance as a global frontrunner in Artificial Intelligence (AI) by strategically transforming cutting-edge AI research into lucrative commercial prospects.
Termed “Australia’s Artificial Intelligence Ecosystem – Catalysing an AI Industry”, the report delves into a comprehensive analysis, empowering businesses, investors, government bodies, and research institutions with the latest insights to propel Australia’s AI landscape forward.
Published during the inaugural AI Month in Australia, the report, commissioned by the National AI Centre, housed within CSIRO (Australia’s national science agency), highlights a significant revelation: while Australia contributes 1.6% of global AI research, only 0.2% of global AI patents originate from within the country. Securing patents for indigenous research becomes pivotal in harnessing Australia’s innovations, amplifying its global competitiveness on the AI frontier.
Stela Solar, Director of the National AI Centre, emphasises the imperative to capitalise on the immense $13 trillion AI opportunity. Solar advocates for patenting, commercialisation, and application of Australia’s groundbreaking research towards solving domestic and global challenges.
She believes, “This strategic move could elevate Australia’s international standing, entice investments, foster talent development, and cultivate nascent sectors and employment avenues.”
Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, Chief Research Consultant at CSIRO’s Data61 and lead author of the report, identifies a critical strategy: pinpointing and fortifying Australia’s AI specialities to bolster its global market edge.
Hajkowicz asserts, “Australia’s AI ecosystem is rapidly evolving, presenting opportunities for specialisation and diversification. Our focus should revolve around applying innovative AI in domains where Australia already leads on a global scale.”
The report delineates 31 potential application domains, pinpointing areas for Australia to become a prominent AI innovator and exporter. Notably, these areas span diverse sectors such as livestock production, medical technology, horticulture, optometry, and dermatology.
Dr Alexandra Bratanova, Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO’s Data61 and report co-author, emphasises the significance of nurturing AI innovation hubs tailored to specific industries. “Domestically nurtured AI solutions often align more closely with our values of safe and responsible AI products. These solutions can be customised to domestic needs and uphold higher quality standards compared to those offered by large international AI providers,” says Dr. Bratanova.
The report uncovers compelling findings:
- Australia hosts 544 AI companies, placing it on par with global AI leaders like Canada.
- Over the past decade, 396 AI companies have emerged, with 204 established in the last five years, representing a 7.7% year-on-year growth.
- Predominantly, these companies focus on data services, developing and optimising AI capabilities, particularly in data analysis and management.
- The AI companies exhibit geographic clustering, with eight prominent hotspots across cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth, housing 54% (296) of these enterprises.
Moreover, the report includes insights gleaned from consultations with 28 stakeholders within Australia’s AI ecosystem. Representatives from companies pioneering AI technologies, government agencies, and research institutions have contributed valuable perspectives.
Australia stands at a pivotal juncture, armed with cutting-edge AI research and burgeoning industry clusters. By strategically harnessing these strengths, the nation can propel itself to the forefront of global AI innovation, fostering economic growth, job creation, and technological advancement.
The report arrives amid escalating apprehensions regarding AI’s potential misuse. The widespread impact of AI raises pressing copyright concerns that encompass various facets, including the data utilised for training AI models, the transparency surrounding AI’s inputs and outputs, the emergence of imitative works generated by AI, and the intricate discussions regarding copyright safeguarding for creations produced by AI.
To address challenges posed by AI on copyright issues, the Australian government launched a dedicated copyright and AI reference group. This initiative aims to proactively anticipate and navigate the intricate web of copyright concerns brought about by the proliferation of AI technology.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s National e-Governance Division (NeGD) is conducting the 40th Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Deep-Dive Training Programme from 4-8 December.
It is being conducted under the Ministry’s Cyber Surakshit Bharat initiative, which aims to raise awareness about cybercrime and enhance the capabilities of CISOs and frontline IT personnel in government departments. Through it, the government ensures there are adequate safety measures in place to combat the increasing threat of cybercrimes.
The programme is held at the Indian Institute of Public Administration in New Delhi and is attended by 31 participants from Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and New Delhi.
The programme’s objectives include raising awareness, enhancing capacity, and empowering government departments with the necessary steps to establish a cyber-resilient ecosystem. It seeks to sensitise and orient participants on cyber safety and security, advancing the Digital India programme for the integrated delivery of diverse government services to citizens. The programme aims to provide comprehensive information and knowledge about cybersecurity, fostering awareness, building capacities, and enabling government departments to effectively manage their cyber hygiene, safety, and security.
Emphasising the significance of cybersecurity in the face of escalating cyber-attacks, MeitY Secretary, S. Krishnan discussed the vulnerabilities prevalent in the digital era. He highlighted the pivotal role played by CISO officials in formulating cybersecurity strategies for organisations, particularly for information security.
Krishnan said that it was important that CISOs should keep pace with technological advancements and encouraged CISO officers to adopt innovative and forward-thinking approaches in supporting the cybersecurity initiatives of their organisations. During his address, he acknowledged the Department of Telecommunication for its role in tackling challenges presented by emerging technologies such as 5G and 6G.
Officials including the Director General of the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), S. N. Tripathi, and other officers from NeGD and IIPA attended the inaugural session of the programme. Since the initiative was launched in June 2018, NeGD has successfully organised 40 batches of CISO deep-dive training programmes, benefiting more than 1,523 CISOs and frontline IT officials.
Cybersecurity has been a top priority for the government given the increasing reliance on technology across all sectors of the economy. Last month, the Ministry of Finance spearheaded a comprehensive discourse to strategise against the burgeoning threats of cybercrime in the financial services sector, particularly the surge in online financial fraud incidents.
Stakeholders discussed the need for enhanced coordination among police, banks, and financial entities for real-time tracking and blocking of defrauded funds. They also put forth strategies to tackle the proliferation of mule accounts, augment response times to handle alerts on online financial frauds and establish regional/state-level nodal officers.
As OpenGov Asia reported, it was agreed that a central registry for merchant onboarding and KYC standardisation is required and the importance of whitelisting digital lending apps through stakeholder consultation was highlighted. Progress updates on implementing recommendations, such as setting up the Digital India Trust Agency (DIGITA) and the proposed legislation known as the ‘Banning of Unregulated Lending Activities (BULA) Act,’ were also on the agenda.
Key industry players presented their strategies for mitigating fraudulent activities. The State Bank of India (SBI) presented its Proactive Risk Monitoring (PRM) strategy, while representatives from companies dedicated to mobile banking shared their successful best practices.
Organising Public Service Malls (MPP) in Indonesia represents an innovative approach to achieving more equitable and improved public services. Implementing MPP in Indonesia has significantly and positively impacted community public service performance. MPP integrates public services provided by ministries, agencies, provincial and municipal/regional governments, state-owned enterprises, regional-owned enterprises, and private entities, all in a unified location. This initiative aims to enhance the speed, convenience, accessibility, comfort, and security of services, ultimately contributing to global competitiveness and facilitating business operations in Indonesia.
The legal basis for establishing MPP is governed by the Regulation of the Minister of State Apparatus Empowerment and Bureaucratic Reform of the Republic of Indonesia Number 23 of 2017 regarding implementing Public Service Malls. This regulation is further strengthened by the Presidential Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia Number 89 of 2021 on implementing Public Service Malls.
To reinforce and expand the MPP initiative in Indonesia, 39 regions are prepared to offer integrated, convenient, and fast services through Digital MPP. The national count of Digital MPP locations has now increased to 60 pilot projects. It is hoped that these selected regions will uphold their commitment to leveraging Digital MPP in the future.
The assistant Deputy for Public Service Digital Transformation at the Ministry of PANRB, Yanuar Ahmad, emphasised the serious oversight of Digital MPP implementation across various regions by the Minister of PANRB. The directives given are particularly stringent, especially for inactive regions. “Failure to commit to utilising Digital MPP may result in reevaluating their status as Digital MPP locations,” he asserted.
The selection of regions as Digital MPP locations involves a process where 115 regional leaders have proposed the utilisation of Digital MPP to the Ministry of PANRB. The selection process includes an assessment of the readiness for Digital MPP implementation, focusing on regions that have already planned the establishment of MPP.
Yanuar explained that in November 2023, 115 regional leaders submitted requests to utilise Digital MPP. The evaluation process considered several reference variables, such as Digital Population Identity (IKD) and the Human Resources Information System for Health (SISDMK). Additionally, the readiness for physical MPP construction was taken into account. Subsequently, 39 districts and cities were designated as new Digital MPP locations.
The selected regions include Soppeng District, Pasuruan City, Bantaeng District, Sawahlunto City, Purworejo District, Morowali District, Wonogiri District, Pemalang District, Banjarbaru City, Hulu Sungai Utara District, Palopo City, Way Kanan District, Banjar City, Bangli District, Muaro Jambi District, Temanggung District, Penukal Abab Lematang Ilir District, Sabang City, Barito Utara District, Jombang District, and Kotawaringin Barat District.
Furthermore, there are Kapuas District, Cianjur District, Dharmasraya District, Hulu Sungai Tengah District, Tojo Una Una District, Lampung Timur District, Bintan District, Ponorogo District, Tegal City, Gowa District, Sukabumi City, Bangka Barat District, Pesisir Barat District, Tanggamus District, Morowali Utara District, Lampung Barat District, Banggai Laut District, and Jembrana District.
It is worth noting that the soft launch of the Digital MPP took place in June 2023 by Vice President KH Ma’ruf Amin, and it has been operational in 21 regions. During this event, Yanuar envisioned regions already implementing MPP could learn best practices and adopt new features of the Digital MPP platform.
“For regions that are not yet active, it is recommended to enhance and improve the performance of Digital MPP management promptly,” he added. The hybrid event also included a Digital MPP Technical Guidance. Siti Rafika Amalia Dina, the analyst for Public Complaints at the Ministry of PANRB, highlighted the significance of Digital MPP as an integrated digital service. Several key features of Digital MPP were outlined, including service application submission, service tracking, connection with service complaints, user service profiles, and notifications.
Integrating Digital MPP with Digital Population Identity (IKD) and the Human Resources Information System for Health (SISDMK) demonstrates a cohesive and efficient ecosystem. Additionally, the opportunity for regions without physical MPP to participate through Digital MPP reflects an inclusive and adaptable approach to public service solutions in the digital era.
The recent MSC Malaysia Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Awards (APICTA) 2023 witnessed the success of the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) with their pioneering creations, MAVIHUB and SMECollab. These innovations secured national acclaim, positioning themselves to represent Malaysian ingenuity at the imminent APICTA International competition in Hong Kong, China.
MAVIHUB and SMECollab, spearheaded by teams from APU, emerged victorious in the Industrial (Manufacturing) and Student (Tertiary) categories, respectively. These wins underscored APU’s standing as a leading hub for technological excellence and set the stage for its global prominence at the forthcoming APICTA competition.
MAVIHUB, led by Prof. Ir. Eur. Ing. Ts. Dr. Vinesh Thiruchelvam, Ir. Narendran Ramasenderan, and Mr. Krishna Ravinchandra, garnered attention with their innovative machine vision and deep learning solution, showcasing its potential to revolutionise manufacturing processes. Their debut victory at APICTA marked a milestone, emphasising their dedication to innovation and practical application.
“We showcased innovation in machine vision and robotic autonomy, demonstrating scalability and the potential impact of our project,” explained Ir. Narendran, representing MAVIHUB.
MAVIHUB is strategically charting its course for the international competition in Hong Kong. The team is meticulously evaluating whether to enhance their current project or embark on a new endeavour, aiming to align with the competition’s criteria and engage a broader audience.
Similarly, SMECollab, comprising Computer Science students specialising in Data Analytics, showcased their solution which addresses contemporary challenges faced by SMEs. Guided by mentors Prof. Vinesh and Georg Chmiel, their AI-based collaborative platform evolved through continuous refinement, culminating in their national accolade.
Participating in APICTA unveiled a realm of learning opportunities, exposing the teams to diverse perspectives and fostering their growth within the industrial and technological landscape. It catalysed their growth, enabling networking opportunities, skill development, and exposure to potential partnerships.
In another triumph for the university, Shah Faisal, an Electrical and Electronic Engineering student at APU, attained the Second Prize in the individual category of the esteemed IEM Student Research e-Poster Competition 2023, organised by the Marine Engineering & Naval Architecture Technical Division of the Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM).
The competition, themed around Sustainability and Integrated Engineering, drew participants from diverse educational backgrounds, engaging graduates, undergraduates, and community college students alike.
Challenging and multi-staged, the competition involved rigorous rounds where participants crafted comprehensive research posters elucidating problem statements, objectives, methodologies, results, and the potential impact on enhancing sustainability.
His winning research project, “Smart Health Monitoring System for Rural COVID-19 Patients”, project comprised three vital components:
Health Monitoring Device: Capturing a wide array of vital information such as body temperature, Blood Oxygen Levels (SPO2 levels), heart rate (BPM), room temperature, humidity levels, and Mental Health Index assessment.
Solar Charging Station: Employing dual-axis solar tracking technology for sustainability and independence from the conventional power grid.
Application: A platform displaying diverse vital readings to healthcare professionals and patients, featuring pre-diagnostic analysis and facilitating doctor-patient communication.
Reflecting on the intense competition that brought together Malaysia’s brightest minds, Shah Faisal expressed his excitement, stating, “I was thrilled to make it to the final round. Presenting and defending my research in front of the judges, followed by an extensive Q&A, was truly exhilarating.”
The triumphs of MAVIHUB, SMECollab and Shah Faisal are not only proof of APU’s technological prowess but also highlight Malaysia’s commitment to innovation on the global stage. Their journeys stand as a testament to the transformative power of innovation, collaboration, and the relentless pursuit of excellence in the realm of technology.
Vietnamese and Japanese experts discussed potential solutions to enhance collaboration in their digital economies during a forum held in Hanoi. It covered shifts in Vietnam-Japan relations and explored international trends and developments influencing economic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
The forum, titled “Digital Economy Partnership under Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF): How should Japan and Vietnam Cooperate?” was organised by the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM) in collaboration with the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo. Participants explored Indo-Pacific perspectives and assessments on digital economic cooperation in the IPEF, and the next steps for the countries to strengthen digital economic cooperation in the future.
During the event, Nguyen Anh Duong, Director of the CIEM’s Department for General Economic Issues and Integration Studies, outlined Vietnam’s endeavours in advancing the digital economy and fostering collaboration in this area. The country is actively transitioning its growth model to rely more on innovation and boost labour productivity.
Reflecting the country’s strong commitment to advancing digital economic development, the Prime Minister has issued a series of pivotal decisions, including one in 2020 approving the National Digital Transformation Programme. In 2021, he endorsed the E-Government Development Strategy, focusing on digital government, and in 2022, he sanctioned the National Development Strategy for the digital economy and digital society until 2025, with an orientation to 2030.
Last month, Vietnam and Japan released a joint statement, officially elevating their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia and the world. In the statement, the Vietnamese President and Japanese Prime Minister affirmed their commitment to advancing collaboration in the digital economy and innovation, aiming to generate momentum for swift and sustainable economic development.
The Vietnamese community in Japan has experienced rapid growth, establishing itself as the second-largest overseas foreign community with a total of 520,000 expatriates. The Vietnamese human resources who account for about a quarter of all foreign workers in Japan, such as technical intern trainees, specified skilled workers, and engineers/specialists in humanities/international services, make significant contributions to the development of the economy of both countries.
Both leaders agreed to collaborative efforts to develop digital government, digital economy, digital society, and new potential core industries like semiconductors. Additionally, they recognised the significance of promoting the free flow of data across borders, fostering digital connectivity, and strengthening trust among consumers and businesses in the digital economy.
The two governments will also cooperate in smart power grids, smart cities, power market development, and localisation of the energy industry. Furthermore, they will work together on sustainable development goals, climate change mitigation, natural disaster risk reduction, green growth, resource management, environmental protection, and circular economy initiatives.
This collaboration extends to the ASEAN-welcomed Strategic Programme for ASEAN Climate and Environment (SPACE). Both leaders appreciated the consistent implementation of international agreements and commitments between their countries related to sustainable development, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
Additionally, Japan has pledged ongoing support for Vietnam in research, technology, and technique transfer, the training of health-related human resources, technical assistance in health policy development, and the promotion of bilateral cooperation programmes between medical facilities and research institutes. It will also support the development of a platform for cooperation through initiatives like Medical Excellence Vietnam (MEV) and the training of healthcare workers from both countries.