OpenGov interviews Mr. Tim Occleshaw, Government Chief Technology Officer, Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), New Zealand (NZ) to learn about developments in public ICT transformation in the country and future plans.
Mr. Occleshaw tells us about pan-government software framework agreements with major suppliers (which is on track to deliver a target of $100m of sustainable annual savings this year) and collaborative implementation of the Government ICT Strategy. He talks about initiatives such as RealMe, which can be used in both the public and private sectors to verify identity at a customer’s request and SmartStart which provides integrated digital service across multiple agencies for new and expectant parents.
Can you tell us about your role as Government Chief Technology Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Service and System Transformation?
I’m responsible for leading the development and implementation of the Government ICT Strategy, implementing system-wide ICT Assurance, and developing and transforming how government accesses ICT capability. In my role as the Government Chief Technology Officer (GCTO), I provide key support, capability and implementation functions to the Government Chief Information Officer, Colin MacDonald. As the Deputy Chief Executive, Service and System Transformation at the Department of Internal Affairs, I lead a branch that plays a critical role in managing government-wide digital transformation.
What is the current status of implementation of the government ICT strategy? How is implementation tracked and success evaluated?
We have achieved notable successes to date in transforming ICT across the New Zealand public sector. More than 170 state sector organisations are consuming and are now benefiting from the all of government focussed capabilities we’ve established in the market.
Around 2/3 of these agencies are not covered by GCIO mandate; they are using them because they are attractive. The move to these capabilities has improved resilience, as we saw after a major earthquake late last year.
We have pan-government software framework agreements with major suppliers – Microsoft, Oracle and HPE, with more in current negotiation. Establishing government as a single customer entitles eligible agencies to substantial discounts and benefits, delivers significant efficiencies in terms of procurement, and allows agencies to extract greater value out of their existing licences. They are also attractive for the suppliers as they reduce their sales cycle and allow greater focus on the value of their services rather than a continual procurement process across up to 400 organisations of government.
All of these are delivering significant savings and cost avoidance to government. We’re on track to deliver our target of $100m of sustainable annual savings this year. Perhaps more significantly, it is transforming how government is consuming ICT which is the critical catalyst for digital transformation.
These market interventions have been performed using a co-design approach involving multiple agencies of government in the establishing, steering and then supporting the required outcomes.
We also have an integrated programme of work that supports delivery of our strategy, which we monitor and report on progress to Cabinet every six months. This integrated programme includes investments in information, digital services and technology.
What will be the high priority areas for the next 2-3 years? Can you tell us about ongoing or planned initiatives and projects?
We are developing a vision for the future and what government might look like in 2027. This is more than just a replacement for the ICT Strategy.
Our GCIO has also been asked to lead Digital Services Transformation across Government, as part of a wider state sector reform initiative. Our role – leading digital government – needs not only to change the way the public service delivers transactional services, but it sits at the intersection of growing a digital society and powering up our digital economy.
What steps are being taken with regards to open data and for enhancing citizen engagement and participation?
The New Zealand government’s move towards open data is led by the Open Government and Data Programme, DIA and Statistics NZ. New Zealand is a founding member of the Digital 5 (D5) group of advanced digital nations which includes UK, Estonia, Israel and South Korea. Open government is one of our D5 commitments. We’re currently working on improving open data access and principles, and tracking progress and outcomes of government open data release.
The private sector appears to be playing an increasingly bigger role in public sector transformation. What is the involvement of the private sector in New Zealand in public sector innovation and delivering services?
We have the view that government does not have to do or even integrate everything. There is a key role for the private sector in innovation and delivery.
There are nearly 29,000 tech sector firms which contribute $16.2 billion to the New Zealand economy, around eight percent of our GDP. ICT is New Zealand’s fastest growing sector, with the top 200 tech firms generating around $6.5 billion in offshore revenue.
The recently established Digital Economy Work Programme, developed by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment in collaboration with tech sector groups, ensures agencies are collectively focusing on the right initiatives, in the right areas, to support the growth of New Zealand’s digital sector and uptake and smart use of ICT across the economy.
One of our key roles is to understand agency needs and connect these with supplier capabilities. Our approach has been to establish government as one customer. We’ve worked with the private sector to build and offer shared capabilities for agencies to consume, expose market innovation and make it easy for agencies to change the way they manage their ICT so they can focus on their core business.
We have three channels to market: the shared capabilities, Software Framework Agreements and marketplaces. Each is focused on making it easy for the market to address government needs through open and transparent engagement and a transformed procurement process. Making it easy for the market to engage with government, especially smaller organisations, is critical to access innovation and provide choice.
Can you tell us about working with agencies and departments across government, inter-agency collaboration and data sharing? Do you face challenges from conflicting priorities or policies?
Our mantra is: centrally led, collaboratively delivered. We’ve established a Partnership Framework made up of nearly 60 senior leaders from 21 agencies across government to lead the implementation of the Government ICT Strategy. Working across agency boundaries is challenging because we all still have our vertical accountabilities. However, collaboration is the key and this approach has delivered our first cross-agency integrated service based on a life event – SmartStart. SmartStart provides support and information for expectant parents in one place – they no longer have to go to multiple agencies.
What measures have been taken to ensure security and privacy while conducting digital transactions with government? We read about the RealMe service which can be used with both government and private businesses. What are the plans for it going forward?
Establishing a Government Chief Privacy Officer who reports to the GCIO is one of our key steps to maintain and ensure privacy and security. The GCPO sets the vision for privacy across government and develops standards, issues guidance and provides assurance to support the public service in building capability in privacy and security management. The GCPO engages with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and citizens.
Early-on we recognised that digital identity is fundamental for digital services and invested in RealMe, which can be used in both the public and private sectors to verify identity at a customer’s request. New Zealanders are now using RealMe to access 90 services. We continue to work with agencies and use their feedback to improve the service.
What is being done for developing or attracting and retaining the right kind of talent and building leadership?
One of the workstreams in the Digital Economy Work Programme is ensuring New Zealand has the digital skills it needs to grow. This includes investing in ICT graduate schools to build connections between tertiary education providers and high-tech firms, connecting with industry associations to collectively address challenges in attracting, retaining and making best use of domestic and international talent, and reviewing the positioning and content of digital technologies in the NZ curriculum.
We have worked with international experts to hold digital masterclasses for chief executives and senior leaders. We (DIA) have also co-created and piloted an ICT and digital graduate programme together with six other agencies. This year we welcomed our first 15 graduates, who will gain experience across several agencies over the next two years to develop their skills in digital, data and technology.
What would you say have been the biggest challenges you have faced till now in the digital transformation process? How can those be overcome?
Steering from siloes to a coherent government ecosystem is a very different way of working, and it’s hard. In New Zealand our whole system owns – and steers – the process which leads to the success of the entire government system. It is less directive and encourages agencies to see the benefits. And those benefits are theirs, not ours.
But we are now seeing results like SmartStart, which had 65,000 visits in its first few months and excellent feedback from users. We’ve published the learnings so they can be used for the other life event initiatives currently in the pipeline.
We will need to continue to foster and drive collaboration and co-creation and identify and tackle roadblocks, but we’re well placed to do it.
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.
New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel have participated in a multinational exercise led by the United States to advance and fortify the military’s cyber capabilities. This collaborative effort is driven by the necessity to shield the nation and its assets against the relentless and ever-evolving array of cyber threats in the contemporary digital landscape.
The exercise underscored the commitment of New Zealand to staying at the forefront of cybersecurity and serves as a testament to the strong international partnerships. By engaging in this exercise, the NZDF personnel have had the invaluable opportunity to exchange insights, strategies, and best practices with their counterparts worldwide. This cross-cultural collaboration enhances cyber readiness and fosters a spirit of cooperation and solidarity in confronting the common challenges posed by the modern cyber domain.
The bi-annual Exercise Cyber Flag, orchestrated under the auspices of the US Cyber Command, is designed to cultivate the capacity for executing Defensive Cyber Operations beyond the conventional IT network boundaries. Beyond this primary objective, it serves as a crucible for developing, assessing, and validating cyber skills within the milieu of multinational cooperation.
The NZDF actively engaged in this exercise in a collaborative spirit and commitment to cyber resilience. This involvement transcended geographical constraints, with contributions from NZDF personnel stationed within the United States, specifically the State of Virginia, and remotely from New Zealand. The endeavour was characterised by two highly proficient Cyber Protection Teams comprising a dynamic ensemble of Regular Force, Reserve Force, and civilian professionals.
The first of these teams constituted a fusion of talents from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Navy and NZDF civilians affiliated with the Defence Cyber Service Centre. The second team was a composite unit representing the NZ Army, bolstered by the inclusion of Special Forces personnel. Furthermore, the exercise ecosystem was enriched by dedicated individuals who assumed the role of opposing forces, simulating a spectrum of cyber attacks and exploitation scenarios.
The bi-annual Exercise Cyber Flag, orchestrated by the U.S. Cyber Command, is a pivotal and meticulously crafted undertaking. Its central aim is to cultivate the expertise required for the execution of Defensive Cyber Operations, a domain that extends far beyond the conventional confines of IT networks. However, this exercise serves a multifaceted purpose, functioning as an invaluable for developing, assessing, and validating cyber skills, all within the multinational cooperation.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) actively participated in this exercise as a collaboration and commitment to cyber resilience. What is particularly noteworthy is the NZDF’s ability to transcend geographical boundaries in its contribution. Personnel from the NZDF were positioned within the United States, specifically in the State of Virginia, and worked from remote locations in New Zealand. This dynamic engagement showcased the NZDF’s adaptability and dedication to the exercise’s objectives.
Cyber Protection Teams represent a blend of talent from the Regular Force, Reserve Force, and civilian professionals. The composition of these teams was diverse and inclusive, with the first team comprising individuals from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Navy, and NZDF civilians affiliated with the Defence Cyber Service Centre—the second team representation from the NZ Army was further augmented by the inclusion of Special Forces personnel.
Furthermore, the exercise ecosystem was enriched by the indispensable contributions of individuals who assumed the roles of opposing forces. Their expertise lies in simulating a spectrum of cyber attacks and exploitation scenarios, providing an invaluable testbed for the teams to hone their defensive capabilities.
SmartSat has approved Project P2.59 led by the University of Sydney’s AMME School, aiming to develop an advanced robotic satellite system with AI, sensing, and control capabilities. Collaborating with Sydney-based robotics startups, this project addresses challenges in close proximity satellite operations, driven by the harsh space environment and increased space debris.
The focus of Project P2.59 is on enhancing onboard autonomy, sensing, perception, and control systems. It will culminate in a ground-based ISAM mission demonstration showcasing satellite proximity operations, docking, and maintenance tasks. This project aligns with the growing ISAM industry, attracting government and private sector investments, and aims to establish Australia’s capabilities and unique advantages in this space.
Advanced Robotics and AI
The project aims to create autonomous robotic satellites empowered by cutting-edge robotics and AI. These satellites can make real-time decisions, adapt to dynamic conditions, and operate without constant human intervention, improving efficiency, especially in close-proximity scenarios.
Sensing and Perception
Project P2.59 emphasises advanced sensing and perception. It deploys state-of-the-art sensors to capture real-time data, enabling informed decisions based on the satellite’s surroundings. This capability is crucial for safety and mission success.
Robust control mechanisms are essential for reliability and safety in satellite operations, navigating challenges in the space environment. These mechanisms provide precision and agility for close proximity, docking, and maintenance tasks.
Demonstration of Capabilities:
A key milestone is the ground-based ISAM mission demonstration, showcasing various operations, including proximity manoeuvres, docking, and simulated maintenance tasks. It highlights the project’s expertise and commitment to advancing Australia’s ISAM capabilities.
Significance of ISAM:
ISAM is a burgeoning sector globally, attracting substantial investments. It extends satellite lifespan and opens new mission possibilities. Australia’s strategic position in this field is reinforced by Project P2.59.
Australia’s Strategic Position
The project positions Australia as a key player in the evolving space industry. It seeks to meet sovereign space needs and provide unique technological advantages as space technologies evolve.
Project P2.59, led by the University of Sydney’s AMME School, in collaboration with Sydney-based robotics startups, focuses on developing advanced robotic satellite capabilities through AI, sensing, and control technologies. It addresses challenges in close-proximity satellite operations and aligns with the growing ISAM industry, enhancing Australia’s position in the global space sector.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that the Queensland Earth Observation Hub (QLD EO Hub) convened a workshop in Brisbane that served as a significant step in harnessing the potential of Earth Observation (EO) technologies, data, and workflows for the benefit of Australia.
The initial findings from a comprehensive market engagement study were presented. This study spanned a diverse range of EO and industry sectors and aimed to illuminate both the challenges and opportunities that Queensland, and by extension, the broader Australian landscape, faces in embracing EO technologies not only in the present but also in the foreseeable future.
This market study embarked on an extensive consultation process, engaging with stakeholders across urban and rural Queensland. It encompassed the entire spectrum of the EO ecosystem, from data and service providers to end-users, as well as those contemplating the utilisation of EO in the years ahead.
The core objective was to gain profound insights into the current capabilities, hurdles, and potential avenues for growth within Queensland’s EO community. Additionally, it sought to cultivate a vision of what the future could hold in terms of EO technology deployment.
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.