Citizen engagement is always a top priority
for governments, and a high
level of citizen engagement is considered to be an indicator of a developed
The ladder of participation introduced
by Sherry R. Arnstein in 1969 shows three different zones of citizen
participation. The two bottom rungs describe a zone of non-participation where
governments are manipulating different ways to cure and educate participants instead
of enabling and empowering citizens to participate.
The second zone is where governments
allows citizens to have a voice and be heard. Informing and consultation are the
rungs where governments inform citizens about their decisions and directions
and request consultation from powerholders and citizens. Here a voice is heard
but with no muscles, with no real change or right to decide.
The third zone represent the highest level
of power, where the relationship between governments and citizens is more of a partnership and
the level of citizen control is developed with increased degrees of
Ladder of citizen engagement
Governments around the world have experienced
one or more of the stages above; from informing to empowering; from providing
citizens with objective information on the government plans to the highest
possible level of customer engagement where the government opens all doors to
hear customers’ voices (suggestions and complaints) that can drive the change.
Crowdsourcing is an effective tool
for citizen participation. It first appeared as a business practice in which an
activity is outsourced to the end customers or the crowd. The word crowdsourcing
also reflects efficiency by involving a low cost solution, the customer
centricity by involving large numbers of people and the fact that it has a benefit as a business model.
Crowdsourcing is a type of smart/online
activity in which an individual, organisation or a private business proposes to
a group of individuals of varying knowledge and different interests, through a call
to the contact center, a text message, or even a photo or a video. It is
completely a voluntary work of undertaking a certain task.
Crowdsourcing is a practice that
should complement the efforts of building smart cities. It is a tool that ensures
services are provided in a satisfactory manner and the element of smartness with both citizens and
Collecting customer feedbacks via traditional methods,
including websites, long emails and phone calls, is no longer relevant to our
smart era nor convenient to the smart customer. Rather, social media, WhatsAPP,
twitter and Facebook became more convenient channels for customers and not for governments.
Most Crowdsourcing solutions include the following
a mobile application (customised to meet different needs and scenarios) to
gather information (customers’ complaints or feedback) from individuals and public
or private parties.
properly solve the problem in a very systematic manner, the application will be
equipped with tools to identify the location and assign the issue to the
concerned department will take a corrective action and address the issue within
a well-defined timeline.
the end user (the customer) with the update and sustain customer satisfaction.
Crowdsensing = Crowdsourcing + Analytics + IoT.
Crowdsensing is simply the next generation of
Crowdsourcing, where you add two more components to the above-mentioned steps in
order to back your solution with the Analytics arm and the IoT flavor.
5. Use the power of data to analyse the customer voice with other complaints from the same location and correlate customer demographic information with customer insights.
6. To sustain the solution and maintain proactivity, innovative IoT solutions are used to monitor the location and sustain the solution.
As the pandemic shifted more work online and remote work became the norm, government agencies move to a multi-cloud environment quickly. However, many agencies are realising that not all apps and workloads are suited to the cloud. Skyrocketing costs due to data egress, poor performance from lack of in-house skills to manage workloads in public clouds and security complications related to compliance demands have made many cloud workloads problematic.
This year will be “the year of multi-cloud strategy” when federal IT leaders take a step back and prioritise creating a comprehensive plan for deploying multicloud environments. There are three critical phases to thoughtful deployment that will allow agencies to reap all the benefits that multicloud has to offer. These three stages include assessing the current IT system, determining where workloads belong and mapping out plans and achieving business goals set out in those plans.
Phase 1: Assess the current IT ecosystem
Throughout this process, agencies may determine that some apps must be repatriated, or moved back from the cloud to on-premises. For best decision-making, this is the time to examine data egress (when applications send data back and forth from clouds or downloads and files are moved to external storage).
This is especially important for agencies that have experienced unforeseen cloud costs due to unanticipated egress costs and misunderstanding how chatty their on-premises apps would be with apps in the public cloud. The key to success for this phase will be less about applications and more about where workloads and corresponding data reside.
Phase 2: Determine where workloads belong and map out a plan
After thoroughly vetting the current IT environment and app workloads, it’s time to map out getting from an “as-is” state to the “to be” state. This process will encompass gauging what workloads need to be containerized and ported, which refactored and which rewritten entirely.
Phase 3: Achieve goals set out in the plan
This phase should also be iterative, never stopping after implementation, and aim to reduce time to value, minimize risk and manage costs more effectively. Navigating multicloud is not simply a matter of technology. Successful transitions involve people, processes and technology. Agencies will have to prepare for a cultural shift, process changes and be equipped with the necessary technologies and training to enable successful multi-cloud deployment.
To effectively manage costs, agencies will need automated continuous monitoring that focuses on instances. Too often, organizations have been surprised by shadow IT where employees knowingly or unknowingly use cloud services that contribute to exhausting the cloud budget. Actively managing instances and services in the multi-cloud environment is vital to monitoring costs.
By incorporating a more thoughtful approach to multi-cloud, federal agencies stand to glean more of its benefits in the coming year, including increased agility, flexibility, efficiency, performance, security and cost management.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, a report titled “Government Cloud Platforms 2021–2022 RadarView” evaluated 15 providers based on product maturity, enterprise adaptability and future readiness. The report identifies four trends that are shaping the market. The first is the increasing compliance needs that are accelerating the shift to the cloud. The cloud helps agencies address sensitive workloads, such as those involving health care data while complying with requirements.
The second trend is the emergence of tailored cloud regions for communities such as defence and intelligence. Such regions can address the level of sensitive data that these communities work with, and these users can look to these isolated cloud resources to deploy workloads securely and compliantly.
The third trend is the fact that convergence with emerging technologies is driving change. Fourth, government cloud providers are expanding their influence by growing into new regions and helping the public sector shift to cloud while maintaining data governance and sovereignty.
Singapore continues its journey as a Smart Nation where people are empowered to live meaningful and fulfilled lives, offering opportunities for all and enabled by digital transformation. Technology is integral to Singapore’s next phase of smart nation-building. It has been acknowledged that for Singapore to continue to prosper and stay relevant, it needs to embrace digitalisation.
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to gain key insights and perspectives from Chan Cheow Hoe, Government Chief Digital Technology Officer, Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and Deputy Chief Executive, Government Technology Agency (GovTech) of Singapore, on the initiatives and milestones of Singapore as a smart nation.
Cheow Hoe has more than two decades of extensive experience in senior management positions overseeing organisation-wide IT development and systems. He also has a strong track record of leading IT professionals in global companies and large corporations, to deliver efficient and effective IT systems and solutions. His expertise includes leading organisations through transformational change and connecting IT to the needs of the organisation.
Without a doubt, Singapore is a leading tech power in the region and considered a model and benchmark for a smart nation. While most Smart Nation initiatives have been on track, the last couple of years has put a damper on progress in some areas like the ‘Smart Lamp Post’ project.
Cheow Hoe explains that the Lamppost-as-a-Platform (LaaP) project is part of the broader efforts to transform Singapore into a smart city by embedding smart technology into its urban infrastructure, to improve lived experiences.
No doubt the pandemic has had an impact on the initiative. Trials began in early 2020 and the aim was to complete them in a year. The onset of the pandemic reduced activities and more time is needed to assess its viability. With things under control, trials should be completed next year.
Besides LaaP, the agency is experimenting with sensor data to improve the running of estates. For example, for the JTC building, sensor data is being used to adjust air-conditioning output automatically to save energy. It is also employed for predictive maintenance of any component failure in the system such as the fan coil unit and compressor.
Singpass is another great example. Cheow Hoe says almost 97% of Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents aged 15 and above have a Singpass account, amounting to a user base of more than 4.2 million users.
There are also over 3.2 million Singpass app users transacting with over 460 Government agencies and private sector organisations across more than 1,700 services. With about 300 million personal and corporate Singpass transactions in a year, Singpass is among the most pervasively-adopted national digital identity systems in the world.
The government plans to continue to build up Singpass as an all-in-one gateway for secure access to all Government services. The Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG), which comprises SNDGO and GovTech, aims to get more private sector companies and services onto Singpass and encourage the use of Singpass and the Digital IC as a way of life in Singapore.
Today, all Government agencies accept the Digital Identity Card (IC) on the Singpass app as a means to prove an individual’s identity for in-person agency services. Users can present their Digital IC at Government service counters for identity verification or scan the Digital IC barcode at kiosks, such as in public libraries or polyclinics. Businesses can also use the Digital IC as an alternative method of identity verification.
SNDGG has also expanded Singpass features to the private sector to provide more efficient services. For example, Myinfo business enables businesses to pre-fill digital forms with entity data from government sources. It has facilitated more than 120 Government-to-Business (G2B) digital services to date, such as applying for a grant on the Business Grants Portal and invoicing agencies. This service has also been extended to private sector services like opening a corporate utility account and applying for SME loans. Currently, more than 60 private sector digital services have been onboarded to Myinfo business.
To facilitate business transactions, users can digitally sign documents on their Singpass app. This provides convenience and increases productivity and business efficiency as citizens no longer need to be physically present to sign documents and agreements.
The next plan is for Singpass to be used as a trusted digital ID beyond Singapore. Singapore has signed Digital Identity MOUs with Australia, UK and Shenzhen to explore cross-border recognition. For a start, the agency is exploring the use of Singpass for the filing of university applications at selected Australian universities.
Smart Nation Vision
Cheow Hoe touched on his personal view of a Smart Nation. For him, the Smart Nation vision is about transforming Singapore through technology to improve the lives of citizens and businesses and to make Singapore an outstanding city where people can live, work and play. SNDGG applies technology in a systematic and integrated manner nationwide and ensures that the benefits of digitalisation are experienced by all.
To achieve this vision, the agency has been focused first on digitalising itself; to make government work smarter. This means delivering public services more effectively through the use of technology, improving the efficiency of government operations and developing data science capabilities for data-driven policy-making.
The second step is to build digital infrastructure for businesses and citizens, such as digital identity (Singpass), digital forms (FormSG) and encouraging the adoption of e-payments among the population. These include platforms such as Smart Urban Mobility to enhance the public compute and the Smart Nation Sensor Platform, which will enable a smarter and greener city by collecting data such as environment and traffic data.
There is a range of other consumer-facing projects such as LifeSG and GoBusiness to improve the government’s delivery of services to citizens and businesses respectively.
Cheow Hoe is proud of what Smart Nation has achieved so far. In five years, SNDGG has built up significant in-house engineering capabilities. This was tested during COVID-19 where, because of in-house capabilities, the government could roll out digital tools quickly to support public health needs.
More than 90% of the government services are now delivered online in a cashless, paperless and presence-less way. This has significantly improved citizens’ and businesses’ satisfaction with Government Digital Services over the last few years.
According to the Survey on Satisfaction with Government Digital Services for Citizens and Businesses 2020, 85% of citizen respondents and 76% of business respondents were very or extremely satisfied with Government Digital Services.
Despite the achievements, Cheow Hoe explains several areas in which SNDGO can still improve:
- Drive economic growth and impact: Building tools, platforms, services and capabilities to support the Digital Economy, and to help raise productivity to grow the economy.
- Need for deeper transformation: Digitalising faster and driving deeper transformation. This requires not just technology adoption but also changing operating models, processes, policies and even mindsets.
- Being digitally inclusive: Making sure that digitalisation benefits all, not just some. Everyone must have access and skills to use basic digital services. During the pandemic, some people (e.g. seniors, low-income families) risked being left behind. The digital divide must be closed and products for all segments of society must be developed.
- Growing the talent pool: As with all countries, Singapore is short of engineering talent and the demand is going to grow even more. The number of fresh graduates each year would not be sufficient to fill this gap. Hence, the nation has to upskill the workforce so that more people can contribute to the digitalisation efforts, including in modern technologies like cloud and Agile software development.
Singapore’s International Collaboration
The digital realm offers small countries, like Singapore, opportunities to transcend their physical constraints. In terms of international collaboration, Cheow Hoe explains that SNDGG is keen to contribute to global conversations, collaboration and action. That is why the agency has open-sourced the codebase for both TraceTogether and the underlying BlueTrace protocol – allowing other countries to build on them for contact tracing needs.
SNDGO is exploring the mutual recognition of each other’s digital identity with several countries and is also keen on exchanging best practices in areas like Artificial Intelligence, data, cybersecurity and digital government with other nations. Cheow Hoe gave several examples of how the agency participates actively in regional initiatives within ASEAN.
Singapore is a member of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN). Beyond sharing best practices, there is potential for closer collaboration. During the pandemic, there were several interactions and discussions with regional and international parties, to exchange and share information and best practices in managing the pandemic through the use of digital tools, such as digital vaccination certificates.
ASEAN must facilitate interoperable and trusted digital tools and infrastructure to drive inclusive growth. Countries in the bloc should work together to build trust and support interoperability to enable an integrated regional economy. This can be done by supporting businesses and consumers to connect digitally beyond borders.
ASEAN can facilitate cross-border digital utilities such as e-invoicing, e-trade documents, digital identity and digital payment. For example, Singapore and Thailand launched the world’s first linkage of real-time payment systems. Customers of participating banks in Singapore and Thailand can transfer funds instantly and securely, using their mobile devices.
Singapore is facilitating these processes even further with Digital Economy Agreements (DEA), both bilateral and multilateral. They are taking it further and building online platforms like the Networked Trade Platform to aggregate players and facilitate trade. These efforts will be increasingly salient in driving its economy forward in the post-COVID-19 world.
AI Adoption in Singapore
Artificial Intelligence represents the next frontier as the government continues on its digital transformation journey. The amount of value that AI can unlock in government is tremendous – not only in terms of providing more personalised and responsive services to citizens but also in strengthening policymaking and planning and optimising government processes for the benefit of citizens and businesses.
Singapore has made early strides for AI, such as using speech to text technologies to transcribe parliament speeches, computer vision to detect drowning in public swimming pools and AI-powered chatbots to simplify the provision of municipal feedback.
The nation has also invested in setting up a capability centre for Data Science and AI to hone its capabilities to develop and deploy AI. Over S$500 million is estimated to be spent in FY21 to accelerate the adoption and deployment of AI for the public sector.
Two years into the National AI Strategy, which comprises ambitious projects aimed at catalysing AI adoption across key sectors, Singapore launched the National AI Programme in Government in November 2021. This is a holistic strategy to drive more widespread adoption of AI and build AI capabilities in the government.
The programme has identified projects that will act as pathfinders to show how AI can be leveraged in the public sector. For instance, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is developing an AI smart planning assistant to help urban planners achieve greater adaptability and sustainability in land-constrained Singapore. Another key project is JumpStart, an AI-enabled platform with recommendation engines to complement the work of career coaches and offer job seekers more personalised and effective jobs and skills recommendations.
Besides these signature AI projects, SNDGG has developed a suite of Central AI Products that can be used across the government. An example is the GovTech developed Video Analytics System (VAS) that can support government agencies in the deployment of video analytics models. The platform was recently used to develop the Safe Distance@Parks portal in less than 4 days, providing live crowd density information for residents planning to visit national parks, gardens and nature reserves during COVID-19.
To empower and enable government officers to fully reap the benefits of AI, SNDGG curated a training roadmap for officers based on their varying levels of AI literacy, organised talks and courses and released an AI Playbook as a supporting resource for them. Through training and education, the aim is to raise the overall level of AI literacy in the government.
The Singapore Government has developed guidelines for organisations to use AI responsibly. Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has published the second edition of the Model AI Governance Framework in 2020, the Implementation and Self-Assessment Guide for Organisations (ISAGO) and two volumes of the Compendium of Use Cases to guide organisations in implementing Responsible AI. The Model Framework is being adapted for sector-specific use, e.g. in healthcare and government.
Additionally, IMDA is working on an AI governance testing framework to help owners and developers be more transparent about their AI systems to build trust with stakeholders. Further, Singapore is participating in global platforms on AI governance, such as the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) and OECD expert groups, to exchange perspectives and establish global norms.
Cheow Hoe acknowledges that while Singapore has made some progress in its signature AI projects and central AI products, there is certainly more to be done. Singapore continues to make investments in AI, drive AI adoption, raise AI literacy and develop Responsible AI within the government to unlock its potential to the fullest.
In closing, Cheow Hoe shares key moments and milestones in his journey thus far. First, he is happy about the progress that he and his team has made. Today, 95% of all transactions with the government are digital from end-to-end. He is proud of the improvement of the delivery of digital services to citizens, businesses and public officers.
Second, the contributions SNDGG has made in harnessing technology to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He is amazed at how his teams rolled out a suite of digital tools within a matter of weeks and helped to streamline operational processes using technology. From timely and accurate informational updates to contact-tracing efforts such as TraceTogether and SafeEntry, the foundations that have been laid for Smart Nation efforts have allowed agencies to respond effectively and quickly.
Third, the recognition from citizens and businesses that their lives have improved. The agency has done relatively well based on various smart city surveys. For example, Singapore retained its No.1 spot in the 2021 IMD-SUTD Smart Cities Index, marking its 3rd consecutive year at the top of the index. Singapore scored very well in most components of the index, especially in areas like health and safety, work and education opportunities and government efficiency.
From a Smart Nation perspective, respondents rated Singapore highly for the accessibility of information, free public Wi-Fi, internet speed and reliability, online tools to access public services or information (e.g. booking health appointments, monitoring of air pollution, traffic congestion).
Last but not least, he is grateful for the commitment of his Smart Nation team of policy officers and engineers in building Singapore into a Smart Nation.
According to a new report, although 90% of state and local government agencies have improved their use of data analytics in the past two years, four out of five say the gap between how much data they collect and how much they use for meaningful analytics is widening.
A study also found that 89% of respondents agree that data analytics is “the lifeblood of modern government,” but 63% are still in the early to middle stages of analytics maturity, and only 36% grade their agency’s use of analytics to create meaningful information an A. What’s more, 78% of respondents said the amount of data their organisation collects is growing faster than their ability to keep up.
The biggest roadblock that they’re seeing is the lack of available resources — mostly as it relates to the workforce and talent — that can actually do something with the data. Specifically, 41% of respondents cited lack of staffing and workforce expertise as the biggest challenge to meaningful use of data, followed by a lack of data prioritisation from leaders outside the IT shop (37%), poor data quality (33%) and an inability to share information (27%).
To help close the gap and help identify a potential group of data management and analytic experts, more customers invest in training opportunities and increase automation to help take some of the pressure off an already overworked IT department.
The Chief Data Officer role is becoming more respected and important, too, with 74% of respondents saying their agency has one; 37% of them added the job in the past two years. CDOs can help forge a data-first mentality, look at problems from a data perspective and get buy-in from non-IT stakeholders. In fact, organisations with a CDO are twice as likely to say data management is their top priority, the survey found.
Although these challenges are consistent across large and small agencies — the fundamental need for meaningful data is the same — smaller ones more often lack budget or resources. Resources are needed both from a technical expertise perspective, but also culturally. It needs to fit into the initiatives that are set out and correlated back to the business of running the government.
The other side of that is leveraging that expertise to focus on expanding into opportunities where the experts can maximise the use of the data. Agencies expanding on AI and big data capabilities is a great example of being able to harness data to enhance the mission, to help solve the business problems and to provide constituents with a better end-user experience.
Agencies of all sizes are struggling to see a return on investment in data management and analytics, the survey shows. The biggest benefit respondents report seeing is improved security (39%), while the smallest, at 32%, is improved accuracy and effectiveness in decision-making, although 53% of respondents noted improved data use for key decisions as an improvement in the past two years. Agencies are also looking to analytics to help them evaluate their cloud choices.
Adopting a hybrid cloud strategy requires agencies to have more in-house resources and expertise – a CDO, for example. With the flexibility of being able to move workloads back and forth from localised data centres into the cloud, it is going to be even more of a requirement that is going to be able to manage those workloads.
A modern data experience should be very simple. It should be API-defined and easy, common management tools so that organisations can derive proactive analytics that is actionable at scale. It should also be seamless, so the customers have the opportunity to leverage the technology without having a big strain on management.
An Asia Pacific (Jakarta) Company has officially launched a new cloud region in Indonesia. The new region is expected to enable developers, including start-ups, enterprises as well as government and other public sectors to run their applications and serve end-users from data centres located in Indonesia leveraging advanced technologies to drive innovation. The cloud provides organisations of all types and sizes – from businesses to educational institutions to government agencies – opportunities to transform their operations and reinvent experiences for their customers and end-users.
An estimated US$5 billion will be invested by the IT company in Indonesia over the next 15 years through the new region. This includes capital expenditures on the construction of data centres, operational expenses related to ongoing utilities and facility costs, and purchases of goods and services from regional businesses. The investment is also estimated to sustain an average of 24,700 direct and indirect jobs annually during this time.
These jobs will be part of the IT service management company’s supply chain in Indonesia, including construction, facility maintenance, engineering, telecommunications and jobs within the broader Indonesian economy. The construction and operation of the company’s infrastructure in Indonesia are also estimated to add over IDR 155 trillion to Indonesia’s GDP over the next 15 years.
According to the Vice President of Infrastructure Services at the IT service management company, the new region in the Asia Pacific can help Indonesian institutions, innovative start-ups, and world-leading companies deliver cloud-powered applications to fuel economic development across the country. Moreover, organisations across industries in Indonesia can now also take advantage of the new region to lower costs, increase agility, and drive innovation.
For the Governor of Bank Indonesia, the nation’s central bank, the IT service management company’s cloud technology will help them achieve their vision and goals outlined in the Indonesia Payment Systems 2045 blueprint, fully digitalising the nation’s payment systems and integrating a multitude of stakeholders and economic activities under the guiding principles of security and data protection.
The new Asia Pacific (Jakarta) Region is the latest in the IT service management company’s ongoing investments in Indonesia. In 2018, the company opened an office in Jakarta to support its rapidly growing customer base across the country with new jobs including technical experts, solutions architects, technical account managers (TAMs), partner managers, systems engineers, and professional services providers.
According to another article, new research has revealed that downloads of banking and alternative lending apps grew eight times over in the first nine months of 2021. Users in India, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam downloaded 7.8 times as many fintech apps in August as they did in January. In January, those countries saw 33,824 app downloads. By the end of August, that figure had jumped to 264,754. Other findings add to the picture, revealing that the number of venture financing deals in the financial services deals in the region has gone from 9 in 2011 to 473 in 2021.
The data highlights the boom in the Southeast Asian fintech sector. A possible explanation provided for this surge is the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as the coronavirus health crisis has accelerated the fintech sector in the West and the adoption of remote working solutions, it has also contributed to the fintech boom in Southeast Asia. It was noted that the growing popularity of apps that grant access to financial services is rooted in global digitalisation, bolstered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Concurrently, the population, mainly adults, had to purchase services and goods online, despite the uncertainty of technology. The combination of these two factors has translated into increased use of Internet applications and services.
While there are still several roadblocks in achieving greater digitalisation, Indonesia, like many other countries in the region, is seeing heavy investment in its internet infrastructure. Major companies are building new data centres and undersea cables.
The question nowadays is no longer whether organisations should migrate to the cloud, but how they can leverage the cloud for innovation, efficiency, and growth. According to the survey commissioned by more than half (51%) of respondents in Singapore said that their entire applicable infrastructure now resides in the cloud, while half said they plan to move more of their workloads into the cloud as possible.
In addition, close to two-thirds (64%) of respondents’ compute workloads are now supported by public cloud, colocation and managed hosting services. At the same time, IT infrastructure spread has reached an equilibrium and leaders expect it to hold steady over the next three to five years.
The survey also revealed business growth (36%), efficiency (23%), and improved security (8%) as the top three factors that drive decisions on where businesses should run their cloud infrastructure in Singapore. More than a third (35%) of respondents say IT executives play a key role in driving the direction of the company, as silos between functional areas continue to dissolve.
Driven in large part by the power of the cloud, today’s technology landscape is evolving at a breakneck pace, while IT is penetrating all areas of the organisation. In this environment, IT leaders have the power to help companies and organisations see around corners to solve both their short-term and long-term business challenges and provide critical guidance in the areas of business growth, security, efficiency, and customer experience.
Singapore and largely APAC are adopting both public and private cloud and many organisations are looking to do so even more in the next few years to boost digital transformation securely and sustainably. Organisations will be increasingly faced with complex considerations when employing hybrid and multi-cloud strategy which makes it more crucial for them to engage solutions experts to help them fully realise the value of the cloud.
Over the next 12 months, respondents anticipate their infrastructure spending will include on-site data centres (55%), managed hosting (52%), public cloud (51%), and colocation (34%). However, 60% of respondents also said they envision not owning a data centre in the next five years. Around 54% say legacy apps are the main factor keeping them from abandoning data centres.
As part of the Singapore government’s objective to harness the capabilities of commercial cloud computing platforms to governmental systems, many public sector agencies are migrating their IT systems to the Government Commercial Cloud (GCC).
GCC Service brings the modern innovations and capabilities of commercial cloud computing platforms to less sensitive Government systems. These leading ICT capabilities are augmented by robust cybersecurity measures and systems to protect the data that resides on commercial cloud platforms.
Multinational conglomerates are leading the cloud computing revolution, providing organisations with Commercial Cloud options that are scalable and customisable. Rather than being mired in the cost and hassle of racking, stacking and maintaining computing hardware on-site, developer teams can instead focus on what they do best—build and deliver digital applications that create value for stakeholders within and beyond their organisation.
Government agencies can tap on commercial cloud software to incorporate advanced functionalities into their digital services instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Application testing and deployment can be automated and done in real-time, speeding up the delivery of high-quality Government digital services to citizens and businesses.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, agencies require a reliable and secure data management platform that allows for quick migration to the GCC, high data quality and managed data access for users. As a result, choosing the correct data strategy and the long-term platform is even more crucial in their migration to the GCC. In light of this, Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) is upgrading the GCC service to make it easier for government agencies to manage and safeguard their use of public cloud services.
A report titled “Government Cloud Platforms 2021–2022 RadarView” evaluated 15 providers based on product maturity, enterprise adaptability and future-readiness. The report identifies four trends that are shaping the market. The first is the increasing compliance needs that are accelerating the shift to the cloud. The cloud helps agencies address sensitive workloads, such as those involving health care data while complying with requirements.
State and local governments are increasingly adopting cloud to lower IT and licensing costs. Cloud can help city councils manage and organise resources and foster communication and collaboration. It can help them securely store, analyse and process sensitive economic data, and they can more easily capture and process data from the internet of things and edge computing.
The second trend is the emergence of tailored cloud regions for communities such as defence and intelligence. Such regions can address the level of sensitive data that these communities work with, and these users can look to these isolated cloud resources to deploy workloads securely and compliantly.
The third trend is the fact that convergence with emerging technologies is driving change. Modern governments are working toward improving services by leveraging emerging technologies like 5G networks, blockchain and edge computing for greater speed, low latency, and high availability of verifiable data to enable use cases such as congestion monitoring and smart waste management. Additionally, cloud platform providers are helping government agencies and departments to streamline collaboration tools.
Specifically, cloud-based blockchain helps agencies move away from siloed systems while ensuring that any copy of data will be available, verifiable and trustworthy. The report points to the Health and Human Services Department’s Accelerate app for managing contract billing. It uses blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and process automation.
Additionally, 5G lets agencies send and receive information faster than other networks and with lower latency, and edge computing lets them process at or near the data source, which reduces latency. The U.S. Freight Transportation System uses Verizon’s multi-access edge computing solution to boost supply-chain efficiency and provide end-to-end near-real-time logistic controls, the report summary states.
Fourth, government cloud providers are expanding their influence by growing into new regions and helping the public sector shift to cloud while maintaining data governance and sovereignty. Moves toward modernisation, smart cities and a digital economy are driving governments to upgrade their IT infrastructure, and cloud is the best way to ensure that data is securely and readily available. In the past, strict data sovereignty requirements often complicated governments’ cloud adoption, but now providers are filling the need by setting up data centres to employ local workers in the countries they plan to serve.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the U.S. Department of Defence (DOD) outlined its goals that would help support service members outside of the U.S. by way of cloud computing. The agency establishes the vision and goals for enabling a dominant all-domain advantage through cloud innovation at the tactical edge. It identifies areas requiring modernisation to realise the potential of cloud computing, specifically: security, redundancy, reliability and availability.
The strategy is broken down into three parts: resilient connectivity, providing the right computing power, and training members to utilise the technology. Regarding the first goal, the agency is committed to providing robust and resilient connectivity all the way to the tactical edge. Right now, network connectivity is a problem when it comes to connecting to the cloud and getting people the information they need to carry out their missions.
The goals can be achieved, but some will take much longer than others, and accomplishing all three will require more than just the efforts of the Defence Department. The approach needs to be holistic that involves a whole government, members of Congressfederal partners, internal to DOD, also with the cloud service providers and developing a cohesive strategy that works for the department to be able to deliver these much-needed services, to where they are needed.
Data is increasingly at the core of any business or organisation and is underpinning digital strategies and initiatives more than ever. Data has become a key component of digitalisation and the driving force behind and fuel for analytics, machine learning, edge computing, cloud and other cutting-edge technologies.
As the need to respond more quickly, indeed in as near real-time as possible, data will rapidly become the key competitive advantage. A company’s capacity to compete will be determined by its ability to leverage data – apply analytics and generate intelligence.
Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia agrees that “data is the new oil”. But like oil, raw data is not particularly useful in and of itself. Information – processed data – swiftly becomes a decision-making tool that allows businesses to react to market dynamics and make proactive and intentional decisions. The real value of data offers timely actionable insights, trends and projections that can help organisations survive and thrive in a VUCA world.
Generating data is not really the issue at hand. Both the public and private sectors, for the most part, hold massive volumes of data and continue to add to it. Albeit, this has been fairly unorganised and siloed, making it difficult to access and process.
The question is: how can agencies and organisations best derive real value from these mountains of data, which are often distinct, distant and diverse? How do they collect, analyse and rationally build patterns and interconnections to improve decision-making and planning?
While organisations have been deploying AI and ML to gain and analyse insights from the data, a new platform has emerged that has the potential to offer deeper insights – Graph Data Platform.
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak with Nik Vora, Vice President, Asia-Pacific, Neo4j to gain his insights on the importance of a Graph Data Platform and how organisations can derive actual value from it.
Nik Vora is the Vice President of Asia-Pacific at Neo4j. Nik has over 12 years of expertise in the tech industry and joined Neo4j as the company was looking to grow its operations into the Asia Pacific area. In his present position, he oversees the APAC business, which develops solutions for businesses and communities to see the connections and linkages among massive amounts of data to make better decisions.
Genuine innovation or repackaging?
Mohit is keen to know, is this just old technology in new packaging or is there legitimate value-add? If yes, what do organisations gain from a Graph Data Platform?
Nik Vora is quick to clarify that the tool is important because it has the capability to extract the inherent value in the data itself. Data needs to be seen as a network and not merely discrete data points – and the best way to visualise these relationships is in graphs.
A Graph Data Platform considers the relationship between data to be just as significant as the data itself. The purpose of the technology is to store information without restricting it to a pre-defined model. The data is maintained in the same way that is initially collected, with each unique item connected to or related to others. In a native Graph Data Platform, accessing nodes and relationships is a speedy, constant operation that allows one company to traverse millions of connections per second per core.
Companies, agencies and any organisation in the ecosystem, according to Nik, are looking to exploit gain from data. Over the last 24 months, there has been a massive acceleration of digitisation – of supply chains, processes, services and transactions. This has pushed more information online and allows more data to be captured. In turn, businesses rely increasingly on data, leading to more optimisations, depending on how much value an organisation can create from data.
As data becomes more distributed, dynamic and diverse, it is important to capture it in real-time and process it to drive rapid action and feed into strategy, Mohit opines. This means that data needs to be on hand for those who need it. The importance of data availability and accessibility anytime and anywhere is even more pronounced in the current crisis. This is especially true for organisations engaged in providing mission-critical, customer-centric services.
Wholeheartedly agreeing, Nik says the greater the demand for data-driven insight and intelligence, the more important it is to grasp the importance of connectedness in existing data. A Graph Data Platform is uniquely positioned to do this. Since it is modelled as a graph and a network, a Graph Data Platform is the ‘most obvious approach’ to look at connections. “The value of relationships itself is the underlying drive for this technology,” he explains.
Investing in data analytics and technologies without first determining what your specific organisation need to succeed is indeed a waste. It is necessary to first build a big data strategy to get the most out of the data a company already has or plans to collect. A big data strategy lays out how data will be used in practice and what kinds of data a business needs to meet specific business goals.
However, does this means that all organisations should reconsider their entire data collection strategy, including how they acquire, store and distribute data? This, Mohit feels, would be markedly prohibitive.
The answer to this is actually a bit of both and while there is an investment involved it is not unreasonable, says Nik. Organisations do not need to modify their data, but they do need to change their perspective.
The key concern should be how data is connected and how it relates to other data sets and points. Organisations have spent many years building data lakes and data warehouses and that all the data that any organisation could need, already exists. What they need to do now is turn on the tab and start looking at the relationships between different data that are connected across silos, processes, networks and transactions.
The challenges and advantages are that it is a very dynamic world. And, given this new understanding of how interconnected everything is, if an organisation does not have a linked data strategy – where they look at data, how it connects and what relationships and dependencies exist – they are missing out on a huge potential.
Many businesses rely on data to assist rather than drive their operations. But why is that? After all, data is only valuable if it can be turned into actionable insights. Finding out what you want from your data and determining its worth is the first step in gaining these insights.
“We are all gaining insight from our existing data in some way,” posits Nik’s. “Organisations should be more intentional about it if they are to gain genuine advantages.”
Within an organisation’s ecosystem, there are many existing relationships and connections. With the plethora of technologies, ecosystems and capabilities available, Nik believes that the ideal time to start investing is NOW. But investment is not just in technology but in people!
Data and analytics leaders are often perceived as the gurus of graph technology, but the truth is, Mohit points out, many still don’t comprehend it themselves. This means that there has to be an upskilling of the entire workforce if a company wants to gain real value from data. So, how do companies get started?
The strategy, Nik believes, is two-pronged: training and staffing. Organisations must empower their existing workforce to understand the value of and how to use a Graph Data Platform. Above this, they need to bolster organisational capacity by hiring the right people. Although there is a lot of great talent in the market and a relatively large pool, Nik advises caution in recruitment as skills are relatively easy to fake.
“When you embark on a project or a journey, you have enough (and more talent) in the partner ecosystem, as well as the deployed developer ecosystem, where you can source people from,” Nik acknowledges.”However, it is essential to be careful that potential candidates go through a rigorous selection process.”
Big Data can have ‘infinite value’
There are a lot of one-line proverbs and truisms to push unnecessary products. One is “big data can have an “infinite value”. Is this factual or just another way to justify more expenses on the books.
“The simple answer is that it is up to an organisation to decide how they budget their funds. But it is better to look at it differently. It’s not intrinsically about just money,” Nik explains. “It’s the perspective organisations have of tech. Do they see it as an expense or an investment?”
Yes, companies, in the short term, and tangibly, invest their resources, time and effort, but, more significantly, they are investing their company’s future based on the decisions they make. A case in point is fraud.
“If you look at fraud detection alone, fraud detection has gone offline as well as online; it’s an omnichannel; it’s not just one Forster dealing with one credit card somewhere.”
Fraud detection and anti-money laundering depend enormously on exposing connections and patterns. With the new Neo4j Graph Data Platform, which incorporates both the Neo4j graph data science and the code database, detecting fraud is considerably easier now and Neo4j has discovered millions of new frauds from its technology.
So going in for a Graph Data Platform now does mean an expense in terms of investing in the technology, training people and setting systems; but it has massive RoI down the line, in addition to protecting a company’s most valuable assets – market reputation and customer trust.
There is a whole new thrust of marketing to customers personally – It’s no longer just a store or an e-commerce website. With people are on social media, rating platforms and a host of mobile apps, getting a complete customer 360 is much more difficult and complex than before. Organisations are increasingly relying on numerous consumers touchpoints to gain a more comprehensive picture of each customer.
To add to the complexity, an organisation can have a million customers or more, with data points spread across billions of records from transactions, events and sensors.
One of their customers AirAsia – one of the largest and most well-known airlines in Southeast Asia – saw a 300% spike in the test group after employing Neo4j’s craft data science. This was because Neo4j was able to gain a significantly deeper grasp of the customer from a single consumer perspective.
To do this, Neo4j did not discard any of the other company’s technology, but instead layered theirs on top of the existing ones, combining all the company’s assets such as data lakes, data warehouses, and data science notebooks, to the power of the Graph Data Platform. As a result, there was a massive performance improvement.
Proof of the pudding is in the eating
While claims are easy to make, the test of the effectiveness of a technology is the success it has in real-life applications. AirAsia apart, the company has a wide spectrum of financial organisations that deploy their solutions.
Neo4j counts a whole host of banks as their satisfied customers including Standard Chartered, prominent banks in Singapore and one of Australia’s largest banks. Most recently. Neo4j partnered with DBS for their hackathon – DBS’s flagship event.
At the same time, Neo4j has a big number of on-premises start-ups, as well as cloud and digital native accounts, all of which are using the Neo4j cloud experience in APAC.
These organisations represent the best in their sectors, and they are at the top because they invest in technologies that help them progress. Findings indicate that Graph Data Platforms were used in 50% of all Artificial Intelligence projects. This is because incorporating a Graph Data Platform into an organisation’s existing AI strategy offers significant improvement at a low cost. The investment is minimal and corporations can increase confidence scores and outcomes for a fraction of expenditure in other solutions.
Embarking on a new transformational journey
Graph analytics applications use algorithms to traverse and analyse graphs to uncover and potentially identify intriguing patterns that represent business prospects.
Business operators can have a better understanding of what they are doing efficiently and inefficiently within their businesses by analysing data. Professionals with an analytics background are capable of answering critical questions once a problem has been recognised.
While Mohit concedes that businesses are on the top because they invest in technologies that help them progress, the pertinent question is: what made them decide to use this technology and how did they get started?
Answering with another truism – the early bird catches the worm, Nik feels that in all likelihood the leading companies had a combination of higher risk appetite, vision and gut instinct. With trailblazers leading the way, the question now isn’t so much about how do companies get started but when do they get started?
With the gains seen in the companies that already deploy Graph Data Platforms, others are eager to climb on board. But they seem to be unsure about timing and the most opportune stage to do so.
“We are seeing a lot of other companies that are inspired by these pioneering companies’ successes and are putting a lot of faith and stock in our technology,” Nik acknowledges. “Leaders in any organisation have to understand that technology is an investment and that everyone must embark on. The time is always right to invest in such technology!”
For more information on Neo4j visit https://neo4j.com/