Government Digital Services (GDS) was established in April 2011 to implement a 'Digital by Default' strategy for the UK Government. It is the ‘expert centre for the delivery of digital, technology and data services’. GDS collaborates with departments across central government to build platforms, define standards, and operate digital services.
GDS is widely considered to be one of the leading public sector digital transformation agencies in the world, its approaches being adopted as a template by others. The UK was ranked at the top of the United Nations E-Government Survey 2016, up from its tenth position in 2008.
Stephen Foreshew-Cain, Former Executive Director (September 2015 to August 2016) and Chief Operating Officer (April 2014 – September 2015) at GDS UK discusses the milestones from his time at GDS. He tells us about the evolution of strategy and its implementation and building services in such a way users would opt in.
Developing and implementing Government-as-a-Platform (GaaP)
Inception of the idea
Government in the UK, like many governments, is a very siloed organisation with departmental services, defined more often by what differentiates them than by what is common. The tax department is separate from the benefits and pensions department, which is separate from the environment department. There is a lot of duplication and replication across government and new services are coming online all the time.
Mr. Foreshew-Cain said, “We recognised early on that if we try and transform each individual service one by one, we would never be done. So, in 2015 we re-focused our strategy on building common platforms, build them to a very high standard and make them available to all parts of government to consume. These platforms provide important services but they are not necessarily big or complicated. For example, we would have a payment platform that would be available for the whole of government to use. That was a transitional pivot point for GDS.”
Understanding needs and building the case
"One of my proudest moments at GDS was finding support across government to buy into the platform strategy as a way of accelerating digital transformation. For departments to support it and, most importantly, to see HM Treasury fund it in the 2015 Spending Review and Autumn Statement, was a major step forward for digital government in the UK," Mr. Foreshew-Cain said while discussing the process of getting the platform strategy off the ground.
Early on in GDS’ evolution a leadership forum was established, where digital, technology and data leaders from departments come together and share what it is that they needed.
This wasn’t GDS at the centre alone deciding to build a notifications platform (GOV.UK Notify) or payment platform (GOV.UK Pay). The departments were telling GDS what services they operate, what services they intend to build in the future and working together to find the common components. GDS explored if they could be made available centrally at a lower cost. The mantra was ‘Build Once, Build Well, Use by All’.
The initial list included around 40 or so potential platforms. It included payment, notification, identity verification, publishing content (some of which GDS has already built) and potential platforms such as a platform for managing biometric data, which is going to be a growing need in the future. Licensing was another very common component.
Describing duplication and redundancy, Mr. Foreshew-Cain said, “With something like payment, there were very few variations around how that could or should be done. And yet government approached it as a unique problem each time a service needed to take payment. And really, if you are doing the same thing more than once, there has to be a very good reason for that.”
The entire government-as-a-platform business case is predicated on delivering savings by moving to shared platforms. Not necessarily from individual transaction costs (although there were savings to be delivered there too) but the avoidance of duplication and building replicated systems and then having to operate, change and maintain them.
If a provider makes a change to their backend system, you might need to dedicate staff up to enable your services to adjust to those changes. If you go to a centralised platform, that is accessed on an trust and consent basis (via open APIs) it should be much easier to make changes. The cost to department is reduced to onboarding to the platform as opposed to cost of designing, developing and operating common technologies.
However, there were challenges and concerns raised relating to the platform approach which we worked through as we sought HM Treasury approval.
“There is no value for me now”: Some of the large departments said we don’t need these platforms. We have funding, we already have integrated our systems with payment providers. You are not saving us any money. That’s true perhaps in the early evolution of these platforms. Also, large departments have agreements with platform providers, which are cost prohibitive to move off. They get locked into one platform provider. So, there might not have been immediate value for them but there was a long argument for the whole of government over the long-term value. This is at its heart the siloed departmental view versus a connected cross-government view.
Who’s setting the agenda: There was a natural concern expressed by departments as to who is going to set the agenda for the platforms, as we go forward. It is important that departments deliver and operate digital services, not the centre. And at times, it may be that a specific departmental need is not as important as the collective need of the other departments. But that doesn’t make it any less important for the department. There was a lot of discussion and negotiation to come to a consensus about which platforms we build and in what order, and how to accommodate those departmental specific requirements which a platform may not immediately support.
Setting spend controls
In addition to working closely with departments, GDS continues to administer the Technology Spend Controls and apply the various service standards that had been established from the very beginning. GDS, as the expert centre, has a responsibility that government is spending public money well. If a department wants to spend significant money on a developing a digital service or implementing technical infrastructure, they continue to seek approval from GDS to do so.
GDS is also the owner and administrator of the digital service standard, which is the shared definition of what “good” looks like when it comes to government digital services. No service could be made available to the public without passing the service standard. The service standard defines principles which inform practice. Whilst there is no explicit platform standard, the service standard continues to evolve to ensure that GDS are building platforms that meet user needs and not for government convenience.
Development and Adoption
GOV.UK Pay and GOV.UK Notify were delivered in a relatively short period. Those two platforms were just getting started a year ago. They are now in Live Beta and are being used by live services across government. An identity assurance platform for the individual, called GOV.UK Verify, was brought to a live status.
GOV.UK Pay and GOV.UK Notify are both in Beta. They are in a live public test, which means that they are being used by services which helps provide feedback for building better platforms. (According to the GOV.UK Pay website, Pay is currently being tested in partnership with Companies House, the Environment Agency, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice).
GOV.UK Notify is a platform which provides for communicating status to users. It covers SMS, email as well as physical post. Now it has savings targets associated with the platform and it has a strong and healthy pipeline of government services coming online.
Mr. Foreshew-Cain talked about the opt-in from the users, “We didn’t mandate use of the platforms. The entire take-up is people opting in. I think that’s the big success of the platforms.”
Delivery teams on the ground recognised that having to build these things for themselves is difficult and risky. GDS took away some of that risk by having a proven, implemented platform service that they can simply integrate with. They don’t have to build it or buy it anymore. There will only be an knowable onboarding cost for coming to the platform, and the more services they bring on, the lower that onboarding cost as it shared across government.
A key measure is how many people can interact with government simply, easily and fast. With digital services, you can easily see how many people go from point A to point B. Who’s dropping out, why are they dropping out.
During the first three years of GDS, GDS saved around 3.56 billion Pounds for the government.
“Building simpler, better, faster services for users also delivers significant cost-reduction in servicing that demand”, Mr. Foreshew-Cain said.
Last year in the 2015 Spending Review and Autumn Statement, GDS was allocated 450 million pounds to continue the work of transforming government. Mr. Foreshew-Cain saw it as an affirmation of the GaaP approach.
When things go wrong
Mr. Foreshew-Cain said that extensive testing, with alternatives available, is the way GDS deals with this.
"That’s why we have alphas, that’s why we have prototypes. When we are in Beta, we always have a contingency . If something goes wrong, there is somewhere else to go.
“The electoral register went down 2 hours before the close of registration for the Brexit referendum. That was highly visible and very painful. There was an unexpected and truly unprecedented surge of demand. But when something like that happens, we are open and transparent about what went wrong and what we are going to do to fix it.
We work with an assumption that something at some point is going to go wrong. We prepare our ministers, senior civil service leaders and our teams to view failure as learning and ensure we don’t fail when it matters – when users are relying on us for critical services. It can be managed, as long as that is not the only option, and we have other ways of servicing demand”, Mr. Foreshew-Cain said.
This is a part of the culture of GDS, and it’s in the design principles – make things open, it makes things better. Historically, we might expect that government would be slow to react. Recently during a recent DDoS attack on Dyn (an organisations which provides DNS services for many large websites) GOV.UK was unavailable.
GDS restored the service by removing Dyn from the infrastructure for 'www.gov.uk' and moving to an alternate provider. GDS one of the first to switch. But GDS was able to act quickly, because they were prepared for it. GDS blog and publish whenever there are outages on GOV.UK. That engenders public trust; that when things go wrong the team behind GOV.UK are on it.
Attracting the right talent
During last year, GDS took a serious look at the approach to attract, develop, and retain digital talent within the Civil Service.
GDS had done some work in our first few years in advising departments and agencies on the skills and capabilities they needed to develop. That was stepped up to talk about the professional structures and career models required to make government a desirable destination for people with the highly-competed digital skills.
The first step was understanding the capabilities needed. A lot of these people had been hired, but the structures weren’t there within government for them to continue to develop and grow and thrive in government.
Most governments have limited funding to direct to digital skills. In addition, there are restrictive covenants around civil service and public sector pay.
Mr. Foreshew-Cain contrasted the generalist vs specialist models, “A lot of the conventional wisdom regarding civil service careers was targeted at what we would call a generalist, somebody who gathers a general and broad toolkit of skills to be applied in different ways across government. A generalist could assume an administrative role at one time, might do some policy development at another. In the digital, data and technology professions, people develop very specific skills. The model for reward that we had for general civil service just doesn’t incentivise that, or respond to a competitive market.”
At the point Mr. Foreshew-Cain left government, GDS had started a dialogue within government on developing a grading and reward structure.
Private sector vendors must focus on Government’s needs
During last year, GDS defined supplier standards. Principles were set out by suppliers in the private sector would be expected to work with government. This was done in consultation with the private sector suppliers on how this would work.
Mr. Foreshew-Cain explained the primary change, “Private sector suppliers to government need to value the things that government values. GDS pivoted government to consider user needs first, not government needs. A similar transition needs to happen in the relationship between government and its private sector suppliers. We expect you as a supplier to put government’s needs first, in the same way that we in government have learnt to put citizens’ needs first.”
There were other things that materially shifted the relationship. For example, considering data to be a public asset and not something that the supplier gets to own. The services should be built on open standards. And if government uses components a certain vendor, they should have the opportunity to reuse them across government, if they see a need to do so.
And most importantly that vendors engage with GDS in being transparent, moving to transparent contracting and sharing of learning.
Defining Digital Transformation – Are our institutions designed for the 21st century?
We asked Mr. Foreshew-Cain what digital transformation means to him. In his words:
“Digital is about applying the culture, processes, practices and technology of the internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations. But we will get it wrong if people focus on the digital part of it and not the ‘transformation’ part.
Most importantly this is not about technology. We are talking about institutional reform. Is Uber just a taxi company with better tech? No – it’s a whole new business model that works fundamentally differently. The institutions that we have in the UK were designed around an administrative bureaucracy in the mid-19th century, not the networked 21st centrury.
For me digital transformation starts with a question. Are our institutions designed to operate in the 21st century? Taking a hypothetical, if I were to set the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) today, would it look anything like the administrative bureaucracy that we have evolved to today? The answer, again, is no. It would most probably have more in common with the platform-focused digital start-ups.
In the private sector the cycle time between strategy and implementation has been reduced dramatically. Government’s not there yet. We still have policy professionals that exist in a separate world, thinking about what are the choices we need to make to implement the political agenda of the government of the day.
Policy design should not be a big upfront intellectual exercise. Policy needs to adopt the design practices of the digital economy. Build something, test and learn over short cycle times. Test policy because the cost of change now is so low. That will drive a different shape of government.”
The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) has been on a remarkable journey of advancements in cardiovascular research, particularly in the prevention, diagnosis, and management of heart diseases. With the global rise in heart disease cases, NHCS’s dedication to scientific knowledge and innovation has become increasingly vital.
Since its establishment in 2014, the National Heart Research Institute of Singapore (NHRIS) at NHCS has positioned itself as a leading institution for cardiovascular research in the region. Over the years, NHRIS has achieved significant breakthroughs that hold the potential to transform patient outcomes.
NHRIS’s research encompasses a wide spectrum of disciplines within cardiovascular medicine, spanning basic, translational, and clinical research. Notable achievements include Heart Stem Cell Therapy and Preventing Fibrosis.
By studying patients’ heart stem cells, researchers have uncovered new treatments for heart diseases. For example, a breakthrough treatment using myeloperoxidase has been discovered for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an inherited condition characterised by thickening of the heart muscle.
Also, through the study of heart tissue from patients undergoing surgery, NHRIS researchers have identified a potential treatment involving interleukin-11 antibodies to prevent inflammation and fibrosis in the heart and other organs. This innovative therapy has the potential to improve outcomes for patients with various inflammatory and fibrotic conditions.
The next phase of NHCS’s research efforts over the coming years will focus on three key areas:
- Discovery of New Treatments: Ongoing research aims to develop new treatments for heart diseases, enhancing patient outcomes.
- Utilising Artificial Intelligence: NHCS is at the forefront of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into cardiovascular care. AI holds promise in predicting, diagnosing, and monitoring heart diseases with greater precision and efficiency. The APOLLO study, initiated in 2021, is building an AI-driven national platform for coronary angiography analysis, offering detailed reports on patients’ conditions and future cardiovascular disease risk.
- Clinical Trials and Population Health Studies: NHCS’s research agenda includes conducting clinical trials and population health studies to prevent the onset of heart disease.
NHRIS is pioneering innovative approaches, including Visualising Energy Pathways and AI Applications.
Disturbances in energy-producing pathways in heart muscle contribute to heart conditions as Hyperpolarised magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a novel imaging technology available only in a few centres worldwide, allows the measurement of these metabolic pathways, potentially leading to new treatments for heart disease.
On the other hand, AI accelerates research in the field of cardiovascular science. By processing vast datasets and identifying patterns, AI systems assist researchers in identifying novel treatment methods, risk factors, and disease mechanisms. These insights lead to breakthroughs in treatment and prevention methods, advancing the overall understanding of cardiovascular diseases.
With this, NHCS is leveraging AI to detect, predict, and diagnose heart diseases by analysing complex imaging data. AI provides clinicians with invaluable insights, enabling personalised care and early intervention.
In addition, NHCS collaborates with other heart research institutes and hospitals through CADENCE (Cardiovascular Disease National Collaborative Enterprise), a national platform that combines heart research capabilities in data science, clinical trials, and AI. This collaboration ensures a collective effort to advance cardiovascular research and improve patient care.
NHCS’s groundbreaking research initiatives in AI applications, clinical trials, and collaborative efforts underscore its commitment to enhancing patient care. As NHCS continues its pursuit of research excellence, its impact extends beyond Singapore, benefiting individuals across the region and around the world. The institution is poised to make substantial progress in preventing, diagnosing, and managing cardiovascular diseases, ultimately reshaping the future of cardiovascular medicine.
An innovative microscope developed by a research team at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is poised to revolutionise the field of cancer surgery. This cutting-edge microscope, powered by artificial intelligence, has the potential to transform the way surgeons detect and remove cancerous tissue during operations, thereby sparing patients from the distressing prospect of secondary surgeries.
Lung cancer, a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, has been a focal point for this ground-breaking research. Professor Terence Wong Tsz-Wai, the principal investigator of the project and an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at HKUST, highlights the urgency of their work.
He notes that between 10% to 20% of lung cancer surgery cases require patients to return for a second operation due to incomplete removal of cancer cells. This uncertainty has long plagued surgeons, who often struggle to determine if they’ve successfully excised all cancerous tissue during the initial surgery.
The HKUST research team, led by Prof. Wong, is eager to see their innovation make a significant impact. Collaborating with five hospitals, including Queen Mary Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong, and three mainland Chinese hospitals, they have embarked on a large-scale clinical trial involving around 1,000 patient tissue samples. The goal is to have the microscope officially in service locally by 2024 and on the mainland by 2025.
The current methods for imaging cancer tissue offer either accuracy with lengthy delays or speed at the cost of accuracy. Traditional microscopy, considered the gold standard, is highly accurate but can take up to a week to generate results. This means patients must endure a week of anxious waiting to know the outcome of their surgery. In cases where the operation is deemed unsuccessful, patients face the daunting prospect of a second surgery to remove the remaining cancer cells.
The alternative, known as the frozen section, provides quicker results within 30 minutes but sacrifices accuracy, with an estimated accuracy rate of only around 70%.
The HKUST research team’s breakthrough technology, termed “Computational High-throughput Autofluorescence Microscopy by Pattern Illumination” (CHAMP), has changed this landscape. It can detect cancer cells in just three minutes with an accuracy rate exceeding 90%, rivalling the gold standard but with significantly faster results.
CHAMP employs ultraviolet (UV) light excitation to image tissue surfaces at a specific wavelength. Subsequently, a deep learning algorithm transforms the obtained greyscale image into a histological image, facilitating instant interpretation by doctors. This real-time feedback empowers surgeons to ensure they have completely removed all cancer cells during the operation.
CHAMP’s potential has garnered local, regional, and international acclaim, leading to the establishment of a start-up supported by HKUST and funded by the Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU). Beyond developing the technology, the company plans to manufacture CHAMP microscopes for medical institutions in Hong Kong, mainland China, and overseas markets.
This endeavour represents the culmination of years of meticulous research, starting with Prof. Wong’s PhD training at Washington University in St. Louis and the California Institute of Technology. During this period, Prof. Wong, under the guidance of biomedical imaging expert Prof. Lihong Wang, developed a microscope capable of analysing breast cancer tumours with an accuracy rate comparable to the gold standard but with results in just one to two hours.
The shift in focus to lung cancer occurred when a pulmonologist approached Prof. Wong, recognising the potential of the technology to enhance precision during lung cancer surgery. This decision led to the development of CHAMP microscopy, which is approximately 100 times faster than Prof. Wong’s earlier work during his PhD training. This breakthrough makes CHAMP clinically useful and impactful.
The applications of CHAMP extend beyond lung and breast cancers. The research team is conducting tests on smaller scales for conditions such as liver, colorectal, kidney, and skin cancers, as well as prostate gland conditions. Prof. Wong is confident that CHAMP will elevate medical imaging and diagnosis to new heights, benefiting not only Hong Kong hospitals but also healthcare institutions nationwide and abroad. This pioneering technology represents a beacon of hope for cancer patients, offering the promise of quicker, more accurate surgeries and improved outcomes.
OpenGov Asia reported that the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) spearheaded an initiative aimed at promoting innovation and technology in the biotech sector, showcasing Hong Kong’s pioneering advancements and entrepreneurial spirit.
This initiative was part of the “Think Business, Think Hong Kong” event organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) in Paris recently. The event was a platform to underscore the potential for cross-border collaboration between Hong Kong and France in the field of biotechnology and innovation.
The government has unveiled the Intelligent Grievance Monitoring System (IGMS) 2.0 Public Grievance Portal and Automated Analysis in the Tree Dashboard portal under the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG). It was unveiled by Jitendra Singh, the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and Technology.
The IGMS 2.0 Dashboard was developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-Kanpur) as part of an agreement with the DARPG through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in 2021. It enhances DARPG’s Centralised Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System Information Systems (CPGRAMS) by integrating artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. CPGRAMS is an online platform available to citizens round-the-clock to lodge their grievances to the public authorities on any subject related to service delivery.
The dashboard offers instant tabular analyses of both grievances filed and disposed of. It provides data categorised by state and district for grievances filed, and it also offers Ministry-wise data. Additionally, the dashboard can help officials identify the root causes of grievances.
The CPGRAMS portal receives an increasingly high caseload of issues raised by the general public. Given the public’s expectations for the timely resolution of their grievances, the portal receives approximately 2 million grievances annually.
Due to the substantial volume of grievances received, the manual classification and monitoring of cases is not feasible. The IGMS portal will assist the DARPG in generating draft letters for specific schemes or ministries. This automation expedites the grievance redressal process carried out by the respective ministries and departments involved.
According to Minister Singh, the Prime Minister has repeatedly emphasised the significance of grievance redressal as a crucial element to keep the government accountable and promote citizen-centric governance. In alignment with this vision, a more robust human interface mechanism has been introduced, which includes counselling services provided after the resolution of grievances.
The Minister praised DARPG for ensuring that the CPGRAMS portal is accessible in 22 Scheduled languages, in addition to English, ensuring that the benefits of the portal are accessible to the common man. He also emphasised the importance of integrating state public grievance (PG) portals and other government portals with CPGRAMS for more effective and streamlined grievance redressal processes.
He claimed that thanks to the reforms implemented by DARPG in the CPGRAMS, the average time it takes for central ministries and departments to resolve public grievances has decreased. There has been a decline of almost 50% in the average disposal time for central ministries and departments from 32 days in 2021 to 18 days in 2023.
Minister Singh also launched the Swachhata Special Campaign 3.0 and unveiled the Precedent Book (e-book) developed by the department. He praised the DARPG for achieving the transition to a fully paperless office, where all communication is conducted through the eOffice portal.
During the past two Swachhata campaigns, an impressive 9 million square feet of prime office space has been successfully cleared and repurposed for productive use. Additionally, 456,000 public grievances have been effectively redressed, and 8,998 references from Members of Parliament (MPs) have been addressed. The Swachhata campaign has also played a pivotal role in promoting an eOffice work culture within the government, resulting in over 90% of file work being transitioned to an online format.
Public transportation is a crucial service for enhancing the general satisfaction the government provides. In light of this, the Indonesian government has established high-speed rail infrastructure for Jakarta-Bandung mobility.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kominfo) fully supports the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Train (KCJB) WHOOSH operation. Kominfo’s Budi Arie Setiadi expressed continuous monitoring for the availability and reliability of digital connectivity, particularly telecommunications networks along the first high-speed rail route in Indonesia.
“We, along with the telecommunications ecosystem, conducted tests. Kominfo is tasked with supporting signal-related issues. We assessed the signal quality along our journey and found that we could use devices and frequencies for communication,” he explained.
Minister Budi Arie emphasised that KCJB, as a technological leap for Indonesia’s progress, needs full support from the latest telecommunications technology. With advancements in transportation paralleled by digital technology, it will undoubtedly facilitate more efficient access for the public.
“This is a technological leap for Indonesia’s progress. Because this train is solid, the tracks are seamless, and the signal is robust. Our duty and responsibility are to support it,” he added.
Kominfo assured that the quality of telecommunications services would sustain the overall KCJB service. According to them, the journey from KCJB Halim Station to KCJB Padalarang Station and vice versa proceeded smoothly.
“Overall, the management and governance of the high-speed train are excellent,” he noted.
At this trial event, Minister Budi Arie Setiadi was joined by Deputy Minister of Kominfo Nezar Patria and senior officials from the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. Minister Budi Arie encouraged the telecommunications service provider network to oversee and guarantee the quality of the network.
Ismail, the Director-General of Resources and Equipment of Posts and Information Technology at Kominfo, explained that the test conducted by Kominfo officials and telecommunications service providers is part of the initial process to support digital connectivity for KCJB. Kominfo has prepared radio frequency spectra for quality telecommunications signal transmission.
“And, fortunately, the signal used, or the frequency used, is now in collaboration with one of the biggest telecommunication companies in Indonesia. This cooperation began about two or three years ago. And, thank God, we witnessed today that the train’s communication system worked well. No signal interruptions,” he stated.
Director-General Ismail states that 5G telecommunication networks are available at Halim KCJB Station and Padalarang KCJB Station. This network supports connectivity and signifies that Indonesia is ready for full-scale and comprehensive digital transformation, even in minor details.
“For these two station locations here (Halim) and in Padalarang, the 5G signal has already been covered. Passengers at these stations can now enjoy 5G services. The remaining task is to improve the signal for passengers during the journey. So, from Jakarta to Padalarang and Bandung, we hope there will be no frequency or cellular signal interruptions,” he explained.
Next, Henry Mulya Syam, the President and Director of the Telecommunication company, stated that they would address several remaining telecommunications service challenges at various points along the KCJB route.
“There are several sites to be added, both outdoor and on the KCJB panel. We have conducted evaluations, so hopefully, within 6 to 9 months, because new towers need to be built,” he clarified.
Previously, together with President Joko Widodo and several members of the Indonesia Maju Cabinet, Minister of Communication and Information Technology Budi Arie Setiadi conducted a test journey on the KCJB from Halim Station, East Jakarta, to Padalarang Station, West Bandung Regency. The KCJB, WHOOSH, travels 350 kilometres per hour, making it the first high-speed train in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has introduced the Centre for AI Security Research (CAISER) to confront the existing threats stemming from the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence by governments and industries worldwide. This move concedes the potential benefits of AI in data processing, operational streamlining, and decision-making while acknowledging the associated security challenges.
ORNL and CAISER will collaborate with federal agencies such as the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Information Directorate and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate. Together, they will conduct a comprehensive scientific analysis to assess the vulnerabilities, threats, and risks associated with emerging and advanced artificial intelligence, addressing concerns ranging from individual privacy to international security.
Susan Hubbard, Deputy for Science and Technology at ORNL, emphasised this endeavour, “Understanding AI vulnerabilities and risks represents one of the most significant scientific challenges of our time. ORNL is at the forefront of advancing AI to tackle critical scientific issues for the Department of Energy, and we are confident that our laboratory can assist DOE and other federal partners in addressing crucial AI security questions, all while providing valuable insights to policymakers and the general public.”
CAISER represents an expansion of ORNL’s ongoing Artificial Intelligence for Science and National Security initiative, which leverages the laboratory’s unique capabilities, infrastructure, and data to accelerate scientific advancements.
Prasanna Balaprakash, Director of AI Programmes at ORNL, emphasised that AI technologies substantially benefit the public and government. CAISER aims to apply the lab’s expertise to comprehensively understand threats and ensure AI’s safe and secure utilisation.
Previous research has highlighted vulnerabilities in AI systems, including the potential for adversarial attacks that can corrupt AI models, manipulate output, or deceive detection algorithms. Additionally, generative AI technologies can generate convincing deepfake content.
Edmon Begoli, Head of ORNL’s Advanced Intelligent Systems section and CAISER’s founding director emphasised the importance of addressing AI vulnerabilities. CAISER aims to pioneer AI security research, developing strategies and solutions to mitigate emerging risks.
CAISER’s research endeavours will provide federal partners with a science-based understanding of AI risks and effective mitigation strategies, ensuring the reliability and resilience of AI tools against adversarial threats.
They provide educational outreach and disseminate information to inform the public, policymakers, and the national security community.
CAISER’s initial focus revolves around four national security domains aligned with ORNL’s strengths: AI for cybersecurity, biometrics, geospatial intelligence, and nuclear nonproliferation. Collaboration with national security and industry partners is critical to these efforts.
Col Fred Garcia, Director of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate, expressed confidence in CAISER’s role in studying AI vulnerabilities and safeguarding against potential threats in an AI-driven world.
Moreover, as ORNL celebrates its 80th anniversary, CAISER embodies the laboratory’s commitment to solving complex challenges, advancing emerging scientific fields, and making a global impact. With its established cybersecurity and AI research programmes, ORNL is well-suited to pioneer AI security research through CAISER.
Moe Khaleel, Associated Laboratory Director for National Security Sciences at ORNL, highlighted the laboratory’s legacy of scientific discovery in various fields and emphasised CAISER’s role in scientifically observing, analysing and evaluating AI models to meet national security needs.
The Digital Government Development Agency (DGA) recently updated Thailand’s digital government progress to enhance nationwide digital services. They plan to expand their government application for all age groups, with over 400 million digital service usages, excluding infrastructure services.
The estimated economic value exceeds 8 billion baht. Their strategy focuses on more accessible, faster, and transparent access to government services, fostering a Smart Connector role. This enhances digital government levels, promoting a Smart Nation and Smart Life for Thai citizens, aligning with their quality of life improvement goals. Dr Supot Tiarawut, Director of DGA, presented these 2023 mission results, emphasising their commitment to effectively serving citizens, businesses, and government entities.
At the Government-to-Citizens (G2C) level, the DGA has linked over 112 government services via the government application, functioning as a comprehensive government SUPER APP. This app integrates services from various government agencies to address citizens’ needs effectively. It boasts more than 112 services, with over 7.5 million cumulative users and 607,041 downloads. This offers citizens a convenient single-channel solution for accessing government services, streamlining the process for all age groups and reducing the complexities associated with traditional government service usage. The plan for 2024 involves introducing critical services such as personal land tax checks, insurance information (Life/Non-Life), and interest payment services (pawning).
The Government Open Data Centre elevation aims to provide high-quality open datasets that cater to the populace’s needs and serve software developers, enabling their appropriate and optimal utilisation. This strategic move aims to enhance future competitiveness. Currently, there are 10,226 open datasets with 3,871,796 users.
The plan for 2024 includes boosting information exchange and utilisation among the public, private, and international sectors. Additionally, the Digital Transcript project, which offers digital transcripts, enhances convenience for students, reduces financial burdens, eases document verification processes for staff, and trims university expenditure on document issuance. This initiative has already produced over 1 million cards across 82 universities nationwide.
The DGA promotes transparency and public engagement through the central legal system, where the government seeks general feedback on law drafts and assesses their effectiveness. Over 1,000 regulations have been open for public comment, with 191,683 submissions. Additionally, the Tax Pai Pai system, providing government expenditure data, enhances public participation in monitoring corruption, with 16,187,604 projects disclosed.
In the G2B sector, the Biz Portal streamlines government-business interactions, benefiting SMEs. Over 124 government licenses have been obtained by 15,881 active operators, simplifying business startup processes. The Digital Entrepreneur Centre for Government Agencies (Me-D e-Marketplace) lists 595 digital technology entrepreneurs from various agencies for government procurement.
In G2G collaboration, the DGA enhances data sharing through the Government Data Exchange Centre (GDX), linking 13 agencies through 74 service data APIs with 133.44 million data exchanges. The Digital Government Personnel Development Institute (TDGA) has already benefited over 1,942,443 individuals, with plans to expand to local-level staff in 2024, offering region-specific digital courses and on-site training through the system with over 300,000 learners.
The Digital Local System is a crucial initiative, a cornerstone of local-level digital government adoption. It streamlines the administration and services of 659 Local Administrative Organisations, incorporating systems from 117 agencies. This enhances service provision, making it accessible and convenient nationwide, ultimately improving people’s quality of life in various regions.
During a visit to Bang Saray Subdistrict Municipality in Chonburi Province, the DGA observed the successful Digital Local System pilot project, which enables convenient access to services, reducing the need for physical visits to government offices and improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The initiative also established B-Buddy Bang Saray, a network of volunteers aiding those unfamiliar with digital systems to promote inclusivity.
In his closing remarks, Dr Supot highlighted these projects as examples of the DGA’s role in advancing Thailand towards becoming a Smart Nation, enhancing citizens’ quality of life. These efforts have consistently improved Thailand’s digital government development rankings assessed by the United Nations.
Government agencies in New Zealand are entering the digital age by launching their new Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS) and All-of-Government (AoG) collaborative contracts dashboards. These innovative digital tools are set to revolutionise procurement practices, offering unprecedented insights into spending patterns and benchmarking features.
The GETS and AoG dashboards have been developed with a digital-first approach to provide agencies with comprehensive insights into their procurement practices. One of the key goals of these dashboards is to enhance transparency in government spending, allowing agencies to make more informed decisions and facilitating strategic, intelligence-led procurement processes.
The GETS and AoG dashboards leverage cutting-edge data visualisation technologies to present complex procurement data in a clear and accessible manner. Interactive charts, graphs, and visual representations make it easier for users to gain insights from the data, promoting better decision-making.
Early agency feedback has been positive, with many highlighting the value of the benchmarking features. These features enable agencies to compare their procurement practices with others, fostering healthy competition and sharing best practices. This benchmarking capability not only improves transparency but also helps agencies identify areas for improvement.
One of the core objectives of this initiative is to make the dashboards even more user-friendly and comprehensive in future versions. The development team aims to streamline the user experience, making it easier for agencies to access and interpret the available data. Additionally, the dashboards will be expanded to include data from all participating agencies, further enhancing procurement data transparency.
In the pursuit of transparency and efficiency, government agencies actively seek input from users and stakeholders. They have invited agencies and individuals to share their suggestions and ideas on improving the dashboards. This collaborative approach ensures that the tools meet the needs of agencies and the broader public, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
Moreover, this new GETS commits to making the dashboards more user-friendly and reflects a user-centric design approach. Agencies will likely collaborate with UX designers to ensure the dashboards are intuitive and tailored to users’ needs, ultimately improving the overall user experience.
Implementing a user-friendly UX is not only making a profound statement about the New Zealand government’s commitment to improving public services but also acknowledging that the success of these dashboards hinges on their adoption and utilisation by a diverse user base. In government procurement, where various stakeholders, including procurement officers, administrators, and policymakers, interact with these tools, catering to their varied needs is paramount.
It will also employ artificial intelligence (AI) to provide intelligent insights. With the emergence of technology, the roles of AI algorithms can be analysed deeper and more accurately. It can generate historical spending data and suggest trends, helping agencies identify cost-saving opportunities and optimise procurement strategies.
The GETS and AoG dashboards represent a significant milestone as government agencies continue their digital transformation journey. These tools provide a glimpse into the future of procurement practices, where data-driven decisions and transparency take centre stage. With ongoing efforts to improve user-friendliness and expand data coverage, these dashboards will play a pivotal role in shaping the procurement landscape for years to come.
In the era of digital government, the commitment to harnessing technology for improved governance and public service is evident. As agencies embrace innovative digital tools, the government sets a precedent for other sectors, fostering a culture of digital innovation and data-driven decision-making for the New Zealand government.