OpenGov was at EmTech Asia 2017 (14 Feb-15 Feb) where Mr. Steve Leonard (above photo), founding Chief Executive of SGInnovate, gave a presentation on the theme of innovation in Singapore. SGInnovate was launched in November 2016 with the aim of helping ambitious and capable people to build ‘deep-tech’ products borne out of science research, utilising the full power of the Singapore ecosystem to achieve the said mission. Mr. Leonard spent some time with OpenGov as he shared more about the goals, challenges and ongoing projects at SGInnovate.
How would you describe SGInnovate in one sentence?
It’s our goal to work with ambitious and capable men and women to build globally relevant products and companies. The other thing I need to do is probably insert the word “technology” in there somewhere because clearly it’s not our goal to build a cosmetics company or food company.
What is your mandate as the Founding CEO of SGInnovate?
That, which is to help ambitious and capable men and women to build globally relevant tech-bases products and companies. So the mandate is to make that possible so I try, together with the team, to bring together those people, those resources to make that possible: investors, mentors, corporates and governments. The answer is how we can use the assets and resources available to us to pursue that mission.
SGInnovate was launched in November 2016. It’s such a new organisation – in the next 1-3 years, what are some of the goals of SGInnovate?
So, two things, even though we only launched in November last year, we’ve been working for months and months before that in the build-up. Number two is that we’ve been building up from the work from the former Infocomm Investments, so we’re not starting from scratch. A lot of what we’re trying to do now is continue bringing the networks together.
Here’s the way I would describe it. If you think about all the students who are in universities and polytechnics, that represents a community. If you think about the corporations, that represents a community. Researchers, are a community. So without getting too granular, it’s not like we only need computer science graduates out of NUS, we need all kinds of great university students, right? So part of what we want to do is to bring these communities into closer contact, because from those contacts, intersections, which is a lot more challenging than it might sound, we see some exciting things happening. Quick example – we will have a researcher from one of the universities, we’ll have a professor from maybe a different university, we’ll have an investor that likes to put money into some of these early stage technically-founded companies. We’ll have a few people that might be designers or social thinkers, like how does the technology become adopted. We try to put these different people and say, “Let’s try and build this.”
Singapore does not lack anything, I think that’s the real important point. So if I can do one thing in my time at SGInnovate, it’s to try to make a contribution to the belief that Singapore has the capabilities and the resources to build globally relevant technology-based products. It’s quite amazing to me – how many people are looking for where’s the gap?
A lot of people start off assuming they don’t have a lot of money – we do, or assuming they don’t have enough ambitious people- we do, but sometimes those people may not know how to start it. We actually have no excuse, I’d say. We just need to say, “Let’s go.”
If I can do anything, it’s trying to make a positive contribution in that.
You spoke a lot about the public and private sectors coming together. In your experience, how do you think the models of collaboration and public-private partnerships are changing in the current age of digital innovation and disruption?
When I think of the public sector and governments around the world, they have always played an important role in the advancement of science and technology because government tends to be a big investor, governments tend to be big buyers. Governments tend to have the needs that perhaps private sector doesn’t have. When you think of the military, when you think of big issues like water purification or food safety, that’s not really a private company’s concern. Food safety for a nation, that’s government. So governments anywhere have played a really important role.
But it’s changing now, sometimes citizens anywhere in the world are like, “What have I got for this money?” or “Speed up, what’s happening now?” I think in the past, there was this idea that governments in the world knew what was good and would take some time to ultimately do big things, like the example I shared about the space programme. That was a huge part of the US government federal budget but at the end of the day, citizens were like, “Let’s go for it, sounds amazing.”
Now, probably will be harder, people would say, “Sounds wasteful, what’s the real purpose?” So I think that’s changing somewhat but I think it’s important that we don’t lose the ambition on any of these things. Smart Nation for Singapore was outlined by Prime Minister Lee a few years ago as big things – how do we do big things? So I think governments still have this “let’s go for it” mentality but of course, some of the “how”, in fact the large part of the how comes from private sector. If you think of it, it’s how the government build the roads but all the shops, petrol stations and hotels…if you think of it as one motorway – government might build the waterway but all the value-add and everybody around that, it’s private sector. That’s where we want to try to bring people together.
It’s not so much that the private sector just “does” but the “do” is largely private sector. That’s why it’s so great for the economy because government can say, “Let’s do this thing and here’s some funding I want to commit,” then companies grow and get that business. The space program spawned thousands of companies that went on to have their own inventions and own work. When we use this expression of public and private partnership, sometimes that’s misunderstood as some sort of welfare, like government gives money to private sector but there’s actually this energy, new ideas, debate and best outcomes. So I think governments always have a role to play because they can take a longer, more strategic view than sometimes, say private companies can take. And government can fund things that are harder and less certain than a private company can take.
Are there any ongoing projects or developments which are happening at SGInnovate that you can share about?
We’re, today, working with early stage founders on computer vision, on natural language processing, on machine learning, so if you take those three together, it adds to the Artificial Intelligence tag. We’re working with people on virtual reality, we’re working with people in communications and satellite communications. We’re also working with people on biomedical too. We don’t worry much about new ideas, we find so much already in Singapore. I lived here 16 years, I know a lot of people but every single day I meet somebody I didn’t know and they say, “I’m working on this.”
“That sounds amazing, who’s working with you on this? Why doesn’t anybody know about it?” Frankly, I don’t think our problem is trying to dream up something, there’s lots of people who have little things they’re been trying to work on but not necessarily know where to take them and where to go. It’s fine when you say here’s a big giant government programme but that’s sometimes hard to know how to relate.
So we’re trying to do is to be the partner or teammate of the entrepreneur, which means to say we try to know all the entrepreneurs and we try to be entrepreneurial, which is, we understand what you’re going through… SGInnovate is the same thing in a way, which is, we’ve been working on getting our funding tied down, working on who do we take as our first and second customers, how do we think about our product fit, are we doing the right things for a startup? Should we change what we are doing? These are the things a startup does and it’s the same thing for us. What we’re doing is saying, we’re not a government agency listing a long programme or whatever, we’re saying, what do you need for your company?
What does innovation mean for you in the context of Singapore?
From my perspective, innovation is a really difficult term to define because some people think of it as anything that’s different from what’s happened before, whether it’s 1% different or 98% different. I tend to think of innovation as something that’s more ambitious and I would like for us as a team and for us as Singapore, to be thinking about that ambition of innovation – it may not have to be one giant leap, it might have to be done in steps, that’s fine. Ambition doesn’t have to be one giant thing but if we set our ambition too low, that to me is not the innovation we strive for. For us, innovation is, “Think big and try.” Our biggest challenge is being open to try.
You spoke about startups. What are your thoughts on the tech startup scene in Singapore?
It certainly changed a lot in the last few years – a lot more activity, a lot more people. It really was something where Block 71 was the main show in town and now there’s spaces everywhere: The Great Room, Collision 8…a lot more activity, investors and awareness. It has changed a lot in that sense but we have a lot more to go and a lot more to do, which is not so much Singapore building a great ecosystem within Singapore but how do we have people say, “I need to go to Singapore if I want to build this amazing company.”
Today, all roads lead back to Silicon Valley but I would like them to do is to say, “I really want to build an outstanding global company and I think Singapore is a great place from which to do that.”
Our challenge is sometimes our entrepreneurs say, “How can we build great company for Singapore?” But we don’t think about how we can build great companies for the world.
There’s a lot more activity in the startup scene as I mentioned earlier, that will continue and we have already seen that change. Now the question is if we can do it in the sciences area that has historically been in the domain of the universities and professors. We’re seeing plenty of activity in e-commerce and fintech but this idea of deep tech, advanced tech or science-based tech, not so much yet. That’s the part we’re trying to push hard.
Visiting China has just become more convenient for Singapore residents, thanks to an innovative feature added to the Changi Pay digital wallet. Launched in 2021 by Changi Airport Group (CAG), a wholly-owned subsidiary under the purview of Singapore’s Ministry of Finance. This digital wallet has introduced a game-changing collaboration with a fintech company and an innovative technology provider.
One of the most significant benefits of this collaboration is the ability for Changi Pay users to make secure payments at a wide range of merchants in China. The focus is on leveraging a third-party mobile and online payment platform in China, where mobile payments through QR codes have become vastly more popular than traditional methods involving cash or conventional bank cards.
Lim Peck Hoon, CAG’s Executive Vice President for Commercial, expressed her enthusiasm about the collaboration and its positive outcomes, stating, “We have been turbocharging our digitalisation efforts to enhance the travelling experience for our passengers, and we are proud to see this collaboration bear fruit.”
One of the immediate advantages that users will appreciate is the ability to transact in China without incurring the typical transaction fees associated with overseas credit card payments. This is a significant boon for travellers who often find themselves burdened by extra charges when making purchases abroad. Changi Pay has effectively eliminated this hassle, allowing users to enjoy their shopping and dining experiences without worrying about hidden fees.
Besides, Changi Pay has gone the extra mile by providing users with attractive exchange rates. This means that when making payments in China, users will benefit from favourable rates, ensuring that their money goes further. This is a practical advantage that can significantly enhance the overall travel experience, making it more affordable and enjoyable.
Further, Changi Pay has introduced an enticing incentive for its users. Those who opt to make payments in China using the digital wallet will receive e-vouchers. These vouchers can be redeemed for purchases at Changi Airport upon their return, effectively offering users extra value for their spending. It’s a win-win situation that adds another layer of appeal to using Changi Pay for international transactions.
This collaboration has not only streamlined international payments but has also aligned perfectly with CAG’s overarching mission to elevate the traveller’s journey through digital innovation. By addressing the pain points associated with overseas transactions, Changi Pay has demonstrated its commitment to making travel more convenient, cost-effective, and rewarding for its users.
Digital wallets streamline the entire travel payment process, eliminating the need to carry bulky wallets filled with cash and numerous payment cards. This convenience not only simplifies transactions but also enhances the overall travel experience by reducing stress and hassle.
Likewise, digital wallets often offer favourable exchange rates and eliminate or reduce transaction fees typically associated with foreign currency payments. This translates to savings for travellers, allowing them to allocate their budgets more efficiently.
Hence, digital wallets have evolved into tools that modern travellers simply cannot do without since they provide a streamlined, risk-free, and time-saving solution for them to manage the financial aspects of their trips.
Also, digital wallets increase the excitement and accessibility of exploration by making travel more comfortable, cost-effective, and rewarding. Because of this, digital wallets are quickly becoming an essential companion for travellers all over the world.
In a groundbreaking achievement for cancer treatment and multidisciplinary research, the Centre for Ion Beam Applications (CIBA) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been designated as an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Collaborating Centre for Research and Development of Accelerator Science and Multidisciplinary Applications.
This historic recognition, formalised through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was recently inked, distinguishes CIBA as the first of its kind in Singapore and elevates it to an elite echelon of global technical centres dedicated to nuclear science and technology.
At the heart of CIBA’s pioneering initiatives is the IAEA Coordinated Research Project (CRP), a visionary endeavour launched with a research coordination meeting in September 2023. This project, which focuses on single-cell imaging and irradiation utilising accelerator-based techniques, promises to be a transformative force in the fields of radiobiology and cancer treatment.
Digital technology serves as the backbone of the IAEA Collaborating Centre’s multifaceted operations. It assumes a pivotal role in data management and analysis, handling the extensive volumes of data generated by accelerator experiments and research endeavours. Advanced data analytics tools are deployed to extract valuable insights from this data, thereby propelling the advancement of accelerator science.
Another vital function of digital technology within the Collaborating Centre is simulation and modelling. These digital simulations are indispensable for optimising accelerator designs, forecasting outcomes, and assessing potential risks. Researchers can explore various scenarios and fine-tune their approaches, resulting in significant time and resource savings.
The integration of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) augments the Centre’s capabilities. These technologies expedite the analysis of complex datasets, facilitate pattern recognition, and optimise accelerator performance. Additionally, AI can automate routine tasks, freeing up researchers for more critical activities.
Documentation and reporting processes are streamlined through digital tools, aiding in the preservation of research findings, experiment protocols, safety procedures, and compliance with IAEA standards. This documentation is essential for transparency, regulatory adherence, and knowledge management.
Besides, digital technology bridges geographical divides, facilitating international collaboration among IAEA Collaborating Centres and partner institutions. Collaborators can effortlessly exchange information, share best practices, and jointly work on research projects. Digital technology serves as an enabler, fostering global cooperation and advancing accelerator science and multidisciplinary applications.
Within the purview of the Collaborating Centre, CIBA’s pioneering research initiatives encompass a wide array of applications. These include using ion beams to identify elemental composition and structural characteristics of materials, with applications ranging from advanced battery development for electric cars to microelectronics, environmental analysis, and biomedical research. Advanced ion beam techniques extend their relevance to space applications and integrated circuit (IC) fault detection, broadening their impact.
CIBA’s cutting-edge proton beam writing techniques have the potential to fabricate nanofluidic lab-on-chip platform technologies. These platforms enable molecular biology analysis, such as genetic sequencing, offering breakthroughs in understanding genetic and molecular processes.
In parallel, CIBA’s researchers are advancing single-ion fluorescence technology, a pivotal field in radiobiology and cancer research. This involves detecting light emitted by single ions, opening new avenues for studying cellular responses to radiation.
The Collaborating Centre’s focus also extends to optimising nuclear and X-ray (synchrotron-based) methods for analysing forensic and cultural samples. One of the most promising realms of research involves enhancing particle accelerators for radiobiology applications.
The ultimate goal is to elevate proton beam therapy, a cutting-edge form of radiation cancer treatment, to a new level of precision and effectiveness. This groundbreaking research endeavours to strengthen international collaborations, partnering with institutions such as the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative (SNRSI) and the Singapore Synchrotron Light Source (SSLS).
In a groundbreaking move that promises to usher in a new era of innovation and sustainability, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has joined forces with the Mandai Wildlife Group in a visionary two-year partnership.
This collaboration seeks to drive digital transformation in Singapore’s wildlife parks, with a focus on three pivotal areas: Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), sustainability, and immersive experiences. This bold initiative was formally launched with the signing of a Memorandum of Intent (MoI) at the iconic Singapore Zoo, setting the stage for Mandai Wildlife Group’s parks to become a veritable “living lab for innovation.”
“Our partnership with Mandai Wildlife Group expands on our existing digital transformation and innovation efforts, with the parks serving as a ‘living lab for innovation’ to support this endeavour,” said Leong Der Yao, Assistant Chief Executive, Sector Transformation, IMDA.
The IMDA-Mandai Wildlife Group partnership is not merely a symbolic gesture but a commitment to co-develop innovative solutions that will have real-world applications. At its core, this collaboration aims to tackle pressing challenges and identify untapped opportunities within the realm of wildlife conservation and entertainment. It’s a partnership that envisions a future where technology and nature converge to create a harmonious and sustainable coexistence.
One of the primary focal points of this collaboration is the development and deployment of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). These robots are poised to revolutionise the way wildlife parks operate, enhancing both efficiency and visitor experience. Unlike traditional AMRs designed for flat surfaces, the challenge here lies in adapting these robots to navigate the intricate and often uneven terrains of outdoor environments.
The IMDA and Mandai Wildlife Group are initiating a Call for Proposal that specifically targets outdoor AMRs equipped with tele-operation capabilities. This ambitious endeavour seeks to address existing industry challenges and technology gaps, with the ultimate goal of making these AMRs an integral part of daily park operations.
The identified use cases for these outdoor AMRs are diverse and compelling. A central operations platform, powered by tele-ops, will facilitate the management and coordination of multiple AMRs throughout the park premises. This not only streamlines operations but also ensures that these robots can work seamlessly together, enhancing overall efficiency.
Additionally, the introduction of AMRs for F&B delivery both to staff and visitors within the parks promises to revolutionise the dining experience. Visitors can now enjoy the convenience of ordering meals through a dedicated app, further enhancing their overall enjoyment of the park.
The collaboration also aims to automate and streamline visitor management services, such as location and ticketing services. This will significantly enhance the guest experience by reducing wait times and providing more personalised assistance. Moreover, the implementation of AMRs for surveillance purposes promises to improve security within the parks. These robots can navigate dimly lit and challenging terrains with ease, enhancing staff’s ability to respond swiftly to any guest needs or emergency incidents.
While these innovations are exciting on their own, they are part of a broader initiative by IMDA to enable the large-scale deployment of AMRs for commercial use. This partnership with Mandai Wildlife Group represents a critical step in achieving this vision.
By fostering collaboration between enterprises, technology partners, and the AMR community, IMDA aims to drive the adoption and interoperability of AMR systems across both indoor and outdoor environments. This initiative is poised to bring about tangible benefits for businesses in Singapore, ranging from increased productivity to the creation of new, high-value jobs.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) announced a partnership with the Hong Kong Insurance Authority (IA) to spearhead the Open Insurance movement. This initiative is being realised through the launch of the OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector, often referred to as the Central Register.
Open insurance revolves around the concept of facilitating the exchange of insurance-related information among insurance companies and third parties using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), thus fostering innovation in insurance products and services.
The OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector serves as a trusted repository that houses open insurance APIs. Its primary function is to connect authorised insurers, licensed insurance intermediaries, and their third-party service providers, allowing them to seamlessly display and manage their product and service information. By granting public access to this valuable data, this central hub serves as a catalyst for enhanced connectivity, further fuelling the development of groundbreaking insurance products and services.
The Head of the STP Platform at HKSTP expressed her enthusiasm for this initiative, stating that it is a significant step toward the realisation of Open Finance. By harnessing the potential of open APIs, businesses can unlock new avenues for growth through enhanced connectivity, collaboration, and innovation. The OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector empowers both insurance companies and tech ventures to leverage open APIs, thereby delivering transformative financial experiences to the industry.
The Associate Director of the Policy and Development Division at the IA urged the insurance industry to embrace the OpenAPI Platform as a driver of innovation and collaboration. He emphasised that the establishment of this platform underscores IA’s unwavering commitment to fostering greater cooperation among market players, while also promoting the application of Insurtech both within and beyond the insurance sector. IA remains dedicated to working in tandem with HKSTP and other stakeholders to nurture a dynamic Insurtech and Open API ecosystem.
HKSTP has been at the forefront of catalysing Hong Kong’s thriving API ecosystem by enabling businesses to undergo transformative changes through data and technology. The recent introduction of the API Hub further solidifies its role as a dependable source of data and functional APIs for a wide range of industries.
Enterprises now have easy access to a vast array of market-ready data and digital solutions, while technology enablers can seamlessly connect with partners and customers. Additionally, HKSTP has established partnerships with 27 banks, providing access to over 1,200 Open Banking APIs, thereby enriching the API landscape and promoting further innovation in the financial sector.
The collaboration between HKSTP and the IA to launch the OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector marks a significant milestone in the evolution of Open Insurance. This innovative platform is poised to reshape the insurance landscape by facilitating the seamless exchange of information and fostering collaboration among industry stakeholders.
As businesses and tech ventures embrace open APIs, the insurance sector is set to experience a wave of innovation and transformation, ultimately leading to more impactful financial experiences for all stakeholders involved. The dedication of both organisations to nurturing a vibrant Insurtech and Open API ecosystem further underscores their commitment to driving positive change within the industry. With the groundwork laid by this partnership, the future of insurance in Hong Kong looks brighter than ever.
The partnership between the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) and the Hong Kong Insurance Authority (IA) to launch the OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector aligns with key goals of the HKSAR Government. It promotes innovation and technology development in the insurance industry, enhancing the efficiency and accessibility of financial services while fostering the growth of Insurtech.
The platform also contributes to financial connectivity and regulatory cooperation, supporting Hong Kong’s status as an international financial hub. Furthermore, it exemplifies the government’s commitment to digital transformation across industries, collectively positioning Hong Kong for sustained economic growth and global competitiveness.
OpenGov Asia earlier reported that Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK) soft-launched the FintechHK Community Platform, a centralised fintech platform to connect local and global fintech companies with Corporate, Investor, and Service Champions.
The platform is fully supported by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB) and curated by InvestHK; the initiative comes as an extension of the Global Fast Track Programme, which garnered great industry participation in 2022.
In a bid to support startups struggling to train AI models in the country, the government plans to establish a major graphics processing unit (GPU) cluster. The move will also encourage investments in the field of chip design for AI applications, enhance domestic intellectual property, and improve the country’s global standing in the AI and semiconductor industries.
A GPU cluster is a network of computers with GPUs on each node to train neural networks for image and video processing. According to the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekar, the GPU will be set up under the India AI programme. The government will help startups and foreign enterprises interested in developing domestic intellectual property in chip design for AI applications through the IN₹ 11 billion (US$ 132 million) – IN₹ 12 billion (US$ 144 million) design-liked incentive systems.
Chandrasekar noted that presently, most conversations about AI revolve around applications such as ChatGPT. However, the project’s main aim is to develop practical AI applications for the real world. The emphasis will be on developing AI-specific integrated circuits for real-use cases in healthcare, governance, and education.
Alongside this announcement, the Minister mentioned that construction for a semiconductor packaging and assembly plant has been started by a leading American semiconductor manufacturing company in Sanand, Gujarat. The project has a total investment of US$ 2.75 billion. The project will receive significant support, including 50% fiscal backing from the central government, along with additional incentives representing 20% of the overall project cost from the state of Gujarat. The facility will encompass 500,000 square feet of cleanroom space and will commence operations in late 2024.
Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unveiling of the semiconductor vision and the intended investment of IN₹ 760 billion to stimulate and develop India’s semiconductor ecosystem, significant advancements have been achieved in the past 18 months. The Sanand plant represents a significant milestone in India’s journey toward becoming a leading semiconductor industry.
The India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) is a distinct and autonomous Business Division operating within the Digital India Corporation. It aims to cultivate a dynamic semiconductor and display ecosystem, positioning India as a worldwide leader in electronics manufacturing and design. Spearheaded by international experts in the semiconductor and display sectors, ISM serves as a central hub for the effective and coordinated implementation of the Program for the Development of the Semiconductor and Display Ecosystem. This is achieved through close collaboration with government ministries, departments, agencies, industry partners, and academic institutions, ensuring a comprehensive and streamlined approach.
ISM is developing a comprehensive and long-term strategy to nurture sustainable semiconductor and display manufacturing facilities. It promotes the implementation of secure microelectronics and cultivates a reliable semiconductor supply chain, including raw materials, speciality chemicals, gases, and manufacturing equipment.
ISM will also provide essential support through Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools, foundry services, and other suitable mechanisms for early-stage start-ups. It will enable cutting-edge research, including evolutionary and revolutionary technologies, through grants, global partnerships, and mechanisms involving academia, research institutions, and industry stakeholders. It actively promotes collaborative initiatives with national and international agencies, industries, and institutions. These efforts accelerate commercialisation and skill development, enabling the transfer of technologies (ToT) to foster innovation and growth.
Minister of Digital Affairs Audrey Tang of Taiwan made her mark at the high-level meeting of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. This prestigious gathering brought together government leaders and digital and diplomatic heads from 38 countries to collectively address the challenges posed by rapidly evolving technologies and establish measures to ensure the security and well-being of their citizens.
Minister Audrey’s presence at this international forum was a testament to Taiwan’s commitment to championing the principles of legality, responsibility, and compliance with both domestic laws and international norms in the development of science and technology.
She echoed the sentiments of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, emphasising that technological progress should never come at the expense of privacy and human rights. In an era where digital innovations have the potential to shape the future, Taiwan remains firmly aligned with its democratic partners, standing united to protect the core values of freedom, democracy, and online human rights.
Taiwan’s dedication to this cause is exemplified by its upcoming commitment in 2022 to sign “A Declaration for the Future of the Internet” alongside allies from over 60 countries. This declaration represents a collective pledge to transform the internet into a digital public domain that safeguards human rights, freedom, and mutual trust.
Minister Tang’s participation in the FOC high-level meeting underscored Taiwan’s honour in joining hands with its allies to defend these fundamental values on the global stage. One of the key takeaways from this meeting was the valuable exchange of experiences. French digital ambassador Henri Verdier shared insights on France’s efforts to promote transnational public programmes.
Highlighting the potential of information systems created through collaboration between civil society and government, Ambassador Henri emphasised France’s ongoing commitment to invest in digital innovation infrastructure.
Minister Audrey, in response, highlighted Taiwan’s efforts in open-source localisation operations and the field testing of communication software like Element in Matsu. This innovative approach ensures resilient digital communication, even in the face of challenges such as submarine cable failures.
The Freedom Online Coalition, established in 2011, has been at the forefront of safeguarding online human rights and promoting the values of freedom and democracy. Comprising member states like the US, Japan, the United Kingdom, and France, the FOC has played a pivotal role in shaping global policies on internet freedom. Taiwan, in recognition of its commitment to these ideals, is set to join as an FOC observer in 2023, further solidifying its role in the coalition’s mission.
Minister Audrey’s engagement extended beyond the FOC meeting as she participated in a symposium organised by the International Strategy Forum (ISF). Here, she engaged in discussions on global governance and emerging technologies with a diverse panel of experts and thought leaders.
Topics ranged from artificial intelligence (AI) application standards to digital trust and the protection of human rights values. The Minister cited that through the Alignment Assemblies project, Taiwan is pioneering a groundbreaking approach to align AI values through citizen deliberation, setting a global precedent.
Taiwan’s overarching goal is to empower all citizens to contribute to the safe and sustainable development of AI while identifying and mitigating the inherent risks of this transformative technology. Minister Audrey pledged Taiwan’s continued collaboration with partners to advance digital development, with a keen focus on the three dimensions of participation, progress, and security.
Under the Government of Western Australia, the Carnarvon community, including growers, businesses, and residents, has experienced a transformative connection through the successful implementation of the Digital Farm Grants program.
A 63-metre tower was constructed and equipped with the necessary supporting infrastructure. This initiative has ushered in high-speed, enterprise-grade broadband internet access for agribusinesses and local communities within the Carnarvon Horticulture District and its adjacent areas.
The state government has awarded an AU$600,000 grant to a network company based in Bunbury. This grant was allocated as part of the second round of the Digital Farm Grants program, which has proven instrumental in bridging the digital divide in regional Western Australia.
In addition, the Shire of Carnarvon, local growers, and businesses have extended their support through both additional funding and in-kind contributions, underlining the collaborative spirit that has propelled this project to success.
This initiative will cover approximately 800 square kilometres, encompassing the entirety of the Shire of Carnarvon. Within this expansive coverage, over 180 agribusinesses and more than 2,900 private dwellings now have access to the newfound digital connectivity.
The Carnarvon Horticulture District is known for its diverse production of fruit and vegetable crops. Tomatoes, capsicum, table grapes, bananas, melons, eggplants, and mangoes are among the prominent crops cultivated in this district, contributing to an annual production value that exceeds AU$110 million.
The Regional Development Minister emphasised the pivotal role played by the Digital Farm Grants program in uniting businesses and communities in regional Western Australia. The program’s core objective of delivering fast, reliable, affordable, and scalable broadband services is particularly relevant in areas where conventional fixed-line and fixed wireless NBN services remain inaccessible.
The Carnarvon Horticulture District, a hub of irrigated agriculture, plays a vital role in supplying fresh produce to consumers in Perth and neighbouring regions. With the implementation of this significant infrastructure project, both local businesses and residents within the district and its surroundings stand to reap the benefits of a more dependable internet broadband service.
The Member for Mining and Pastoral stated that the construction of the new telecommunications infrastructure is set to usher in high-speed, enterprise-grade broadband internet access to approximately 180 agribusinesses and over 2,900 private dwellings in the region. This advancement represents a significant leap forward, enabling growers to harness the cutting-edge technology required to remain competitive and bolster profitability in today’s dynamic agricultural landscape.
The Government’s Digital Farm Grants program has ushered in a new era of connectivity and opportunity for the Carnarvon community.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that the Government of Western Australia is taking steps to promote the growth of small to medium-sized local businesses by offering grants totalling over AU$3 million. These grants are intended to enhance their capabilities and competitiveness, enabling them to pursue contracts from both the government and private sector.
Known as the Local Capability Fund (LCF), this initiative serves as a crucial resource for recipients looking to expand their capacity and improve their competitiveness in supplying goods, services, and works to the government, major projects, and other significant markets.
For the upcoming fiscal year of 2023-2024, the government has announced four new LCF rounds, collectively amounting to AU$2.2 million in funding, with individual grants of up to AU$50,000. These four rounds are designed to cater to specific needs and priorities:
- Supplying Key Projects Round: This round aims to support businesses across the state in supplying essential goods and services to key government and private sector projects within priority sector markets.
- Aboriginal Business Round: This round is dedicated to businesses with a majority of Aboriginal ownership. It seeks to assist these enterprises in supplying goods, services and works to both the government and the private sector.
- National and International Standards Compliance Round: To ensure businesses adhere to the highest industry standards, this round provides financial assistance for engaging external experts to implement and obtain third-party certification for seven specific national and international standards.
- Digital Transformation Round (Upcoming): Soon, the LCF will introduce a Digital Transformation Round to provide initial support to eligible businesses in adopting and leveraging digital technologies and data. This round aims to advance the government’s understanding of digital needs in the business landscape.