Digital technologies are impacting every aspect
of our lives today. Great optimism regarding potential benefits exists alongside
escalating anxiety over the dark side of technology.
A new book written by experts in Singapore argues
that how we prepare for the future should not be based on a dystopian or
utopian view of technology’s influence on society. It takes a more balanced
view that technology can be helpful or harmful in different contexts.
The book explores four different future
scenarios in the areas of work, education and healthcare. For example, in the
area of work, the vertical axis ranges from rapid to incremental technological
disruption, while the horizontal axis moves from many people struggling to many
people thriving, creating four distinct visions of the future.
In view of these scenarios, the authors try to provide
practical answers to questions like: “How can people thrive as their lives are
disrupted and transformed?” “Will jobs be created or destroyed?” “Will digital
divides narrow or widen in education and healthcare?”
Published by World Scientific, Living
Digital 2040: Future of Work, Education, and Healthcare is
authored by Mr Poon
King Wang (Director, Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities or LKYCIC, SUTD), Dr Hyowon Lee (Assistant Professor,
Information Systems Technology and Design, SUTD), Dr Lim Wee Kiat (Research
Fellow, Asian Business Case Centre, NTU), Dr Mohan Rajesh Elara (Assistant
Professor, Engineering Product Development, SUTD), Dr Youngjin (Marie) Chae (Research
Fellow, LKYCIC), Ms Gayathri Balasubramanian (Research Assistant, LKYCIC), Mr
Aaron Yong Wai Keet (Senior Industrial Designer, LKYCIC), and Mr Raymond Yeong
Wei Wen (Research Officer, LKYCIC).
The multi-disciplinary team has experience and
expertise in design, sociology, human-computer interaction, human-robotics
interaction, analytics, wearables, IT in organisations, fashion design,
industrial design, telecommunications, banking, consumer products, and public
The team adopted a qualitative approach for the
project, using in-depth interviews, participant observation and group
discussions. During the interviews, the team ensured that while focusing on
specific domains and sub-areas, different domains were connected to each other
at various points.
OpenGov had the
opportunity to speak to Mr Poon (top right), the Principal Investigator for the project and Dr Lim (top left), a Co-Principal
Investigator, about LKYCIC, the origins of the project and the findings of the
LKYCIC was established
in September 2012, as a research
institute in the Singapore University of
Technology and Design (SUTD). Considering that cities are
becoming the dominant player for implementation of solutions and improving
people’s lives, the
Centre seeks to stimulate thinking and research on the critical issues of
cities and urbanisation and explore the integrated use of technology, design
and policy to provide urban solutions.
Like SUTD itself, LKYCIC adopts a multi-disciplinary approach, because the issues in cities are
One of the main objectives of the Centre
is the sharing of knowledge and experience. Mr Poon said, “As
the rest of the world is urbanising, we realise that Singapore’s experience is
potentially very useful as a reference, not necessarily a template, for other
cities. Not only should we consolidate what we know and have learnt about
Singapore, we should also be learning from other countries and sharing our
learning with other countries, so that we form a global learning community.”
Idea behind the project
This new book is an outcome of a project under
the Land and Liveability National Innovation Challenge (L2NIC)
funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Ministry of National
Development. The aim is to study the future of cities in 2040 and its
implications for Singapore.
the L2NIC, there are 7 projects, covering future economy, future diversity,
future urban forms, future transportation, sustainable futures, big data and
living with technology. All these projects are expected
to develop understanding of how trends are evolving and what Singapore should
do to prepare for the future.
But why 2040? Mr Poon explained, “It allows
us to think in a way that is not overly constrained by problems today. It is a
useful intellectual mechanism to transcend some of the constraints that might
otherwise hold back some of our imagination.”
This specific project is on living with
technology. With the idea that technology is a major disruptive force to
society, the researchers examined how technology is evolving and its impact on
how we live. They focused on three critical social institutions: work,
education and healthcare, because these are areas all of us will inevitably experience first-hand at various
points of our lives.
While talking about disruption, Mr Poon
emphasised that disruption does not
hit us overnight and blind side us.
To factor in the pace of disruption, ‘time’
is included in the conceptual equation presented in the book for the drivers of
Many of today’s technologies that are
deemed disruptive have been around for some time, at least a few years. For
example, artificial intelligence (AI) is in its third or fourth wave. The
building blocks that underpin big data have also been around for a few years.
Dr Lim brought up the example of chatbots.
The Singapore Government is using a number of chatbot applications – the
whole-of-government virtual assistant Jamie
in the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). But 20 years ago Microsoft
Word already had an animated paper clip Office Assistant performing similar
functions, though its interface was not as user-friendly and its abilities were
a lot cruder.
Cars have followed a similar development
path. Today we are talking about driverless cars. The various devices and
functions in cars are improving gradually, such as the shift from manual gears
to automatic. More and more functions have been computerised.
Dr Lim said, “There are a lot of micro changes
that accumulate, and it comes to a point where we realise it’s a big change.
Likewise, technology is creeping upon us, slowly but surely.”
“To us, the biggest disruption comes from
the inability to track and the inability to tackle – the failure to see what is
coming and even if you see it, the inability to act on it,” said Mr Poon.
But often individuals, societies and
governments tend to be aware of the technological change only when it has
reached a certain threshold or tipping point. We asked how the government and
society can have long-term thinking at a stage when changes might not be easily
New tools are required to track technology
trends and development. Part of the project was to determine and explore what
could serve as practical tracking tools.
For instance, the team found ‘tasks’ to be the
appropriate tracking tool for work. Academic studies from economists recognise
that many of the changes we see in the labour force and markets are related to
how tasks have been configurated by technology, both within the job and
globally, as a result of globalisation.
A report titled
Intelligence and Life in 2030’ from Stanford University which looked at
what AI can do and its impact on jobs, found that what we have now is narrow
AI, i.e. specialised AI which can only perform certain tasks. So, at least as
of now, AI will take over jobs task by task.
“As such, having
task databases or task-based strateies give us a better level of accuracy on
predicting the general direction of technology development. It gives you
perhaps a couple more years of lead time to think of what to do in preparation for
the future. We think that’s what governments and businesses increasingly have
to do,” said Mr Poon.
The UK and US
are already using or exploring task-based approaches. The book recommends a
task-based analysis of the city’s economy and the creation of an O*NET type database to help
government agencies, companies and citizens master tasks.
But how can individuals be motivated to
prepare themselves for all these changes caused by technology?
Mr Poon said that the same set of tracking
tools can be used to empower individuals. The team is now building a prototype
that can work off a laptop to help individuals plan their future. Being able to
see and plan one’s own future is expected to give them the confidence to make
The other aspect of this is
socio-psychological studies to help individuals be less fearful about change
and even job loss. The team is running a couple of such studies.
“One of the ideas related to the book is
that while most people focus on job loss as the major social disruption in the
future, there is little call for companies to improve their CSR practices to
focus more on job creation. Our assumption is that if we can take away some of
the fear, people will be more accepting to technology as they see the benefit
of it,” Mr Poon said.
The third approach is to cultivate the
willingness to be resilient in people, from when they are young. This enables
people to see what they can do, accept change, and use technology to their
But this raises another question. Those who
are more adaptive to learning new technologies and open to changes, or the
individuals who are labelled digital natives, tend to be the younger
generation. The young tend to be less risk averse. What about the older
generation, especially as Singapore is facing the challenge of an ageing
Dr Lim answered,
“We asked ourselves a similar question, when 2040 comes and we get older, will
we be equally fearful and risk averse as some of today’s elderly? We think
there is a generational and cohort difference. The population profile is
qualitatively different from the population from the past decades. Elderly in
the future will be considered almost digital native. It might take us some
effort to pick up new skills, but the change would not be as abrupt.”
Mr Poon also
noted that sometimes we underestimate what the comparatively older generations
can do. If you look at the augmented reality game, Pokemon Go, no generation
difference is visible in its avid fanbase. Whether it is the Government or a
business, the key question would then be whether they have created enough
motivation for people to change.
Another point is
that technology has to be designed in a way that is easy to use and inclusive.
This involves what our interviewees call universal design.
One of the themes of the book is the need
for collective effort from the society to deal with challenges. But for
collective capacity, changes have to be inclusive.
Mr Poon explained, “Different levels of
skills and abilities have to be accounted for, the design of solutions must
suit all different levels of skills and abilities, solutions and policy must
give a sense of motivation and the understanding that these capabilities do not
An important trend discovered in the study
is that instead of governments and large companies leading innovation,
individuals are now empowered to start something new. In this digital age,
innovation can come from anywhere. The question is how to create an environment
to encourage it to happen.
The team is continuing research and
conducting a survey on how people perceive change in the context of smart
cities and digital economies
The researchers also continue to examine
what the future of work means and understand the psyche of people who are
On the implementation side, schools have
approached the research team to explore further the ideas in the future of
education. Companies are also interested in the task-based approach. On a wider
scale, the team is building communities, be it communities of interest or of practice,
to further discuss the project.
 The O*NET database, containing hundreds of
standardised and occupation-specific descriptors on almost 1,000 occupations
covering the entire U.S. economy. It was developed under the sponsorship
of the U.S. Department of
Labor/Employment and Training Administration through a grant to the
North Carolina Department of Commerce.
 Universal Design is the design and
composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used
to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability
The Ministry of Education is collaborating with the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and a private chip manufacturing giant to launch an artificial intelligence (AI) skilling programme, AI for All. It aims to provide a basic understanding of AI for all Indian citizens.
According to a news report, the private player has launched a special, four-hour-long self-paced learning module that explains AI in a way that is suitable for a novice audience. The course is available in 11 Indian languages and is open to the general public. The course has two parts – AI awareness and AI appreciation. At the end of each stage, participants will be given personalised digital badges that can be shared on social media, the company said. The programme will build a digital-first mindset and expand access to the AI skills needed for current and future jobs.
The programme is in line with the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog’s National Strategy for AI, which focuses on leveraging the technology for inclusive growth and developing large-scale solutions for societal needs. NITI Aayog is the country’s think tank.
Further, the programme is also aligned with the National Education Policy 2020, which emphasises creating ways to prepare students for an AI-driven economy. An official from the Ministry of Education noted that the policy acknowledges the importance of AI. AI For All is one of the largest AI public awareness programmes worldwide and will help “demystify AI in an inclusive manner strengthening India’s position as a global leader for emerging technologies”.
A recent report on AI patents in India showed that from a vertical perspective, consumer electronics, personal computing devices, and healthcare are on the top of the AI patent filings list. With a 93% share, machine learning is the most popular AI technique while computer vision is the leading functional area with a share of 36%. More than 70% of the technology patents filed in India relate to one or more emerging technology domains. At an international level, patent filing grew by 4% in the year 2020. AI accounts for 6% of all emerging tech patents in India. Over 5,000 AI patents were filed over the last decade in India, out of which 94% of them were filed in the last five years.
AI patent filing in India will maintain an upward trajectory as the country is emerging as a key destination for AI innovation. Currently, the country is ranked 8th in the world for AI patent filing and 4th in terms of AI research papers.
It is estimated that AI has the potential to add over 500 billion dollars and 20 million jobs to the Indian economy by 2025. India has a diverse pool of talent working on innovative ideas in the space of AI to solve real-world problems. The AI domain attracted the highest investment in 2020 at US$ 443.8 million. It was followed by the analytics domain with a cumulative investment of US$214.8 million. The automation field received total financing of US$ 91.7 million, followed by the conversational AI and NLP domain with US$ 38.6 million. Robotics and IoT received 0.8% and 0.6% of the total funding, respectively.
The Geospatial Lab (GeoLab) officially opened on 30 July 2021. The establishment of the GeoLab is one of the major initiatives of the Common Spatial Data Infrastructure. The lab has “Geospatial” as its theme and is equipped with advanced technology and training facilities. Through the integration of education, experience and practice, it will help raise public interest in spatial data and explore together with the community the value and application of spatial data in support of smart city development.
The GeoLab is located at Millennium City I in Kwun Tong and has an area of 3,000 square feet. The Tung Wah Group of Hospitals has been selected as the operator through an open tender.
The GeoLab will provide fitted-out working space and coaching services to support experimental projects using spatial data and conduct activities such as competitions, workshops and talks. Complementing the Government’s emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, the GeoLab will regularly hold talks and practical classes for schools to help students master geospatial technology and knowledge, and to enhance their understanding of how to apply spatial data for innovative applications.
About the Common Spatial Data Infrastructure
The vision of developing Common Spatial Data Infrastructure (CSDI) is to contribute to a liveable, competitive, innovative, sustainable and Smart Hong Kong through the provision of convenient, easily accessible, high quality, standardised and up-to-date spatial information and services.
According to the government website, “spatial data” refers to any data concerning a specific geographical location. In fact, “spatial data” has long been integrated into our lives. We can use the map applications in our mobile phones, for example, combined with Global Positioning System (GPS) to locate nearby restaurants, parking lots or bus stops by their addresses, streets or building names and more.
Geographical location is the bridge between information. It can associate relevant information of facilities that are above, on and underground levels to support the development of various smart city applications. According to overseas academic research, more than 80% of all data is location-related information.
Common Spatial Data Infrastructure (CSDI) aims to provide government departments as well as public and private organisations with an information infrastructure to promote the sharing of spatial data and support the development of various smart city applications.
It is envisaged that the establishment of CSDI standards to facilitate linkage and integration of spatial data from various government departments and that of the whole territory, and the provision of a common platform for integration and exchange of geospatial information will be conducive to the provision of reliable spatial data services for the efficient use of resources, development of a smart city and sustainable development.
Throughout the years, various government departments, as well as public and private organisations, have made use of the Geographic Information System (GIS) to facilitate the management of individual geographic related spatial data and/or the development of different map service platforms.
The spatial data thus generated, therefore, comes from different government in-house data systems and are without common standards. The development of the Common Spatial Data Infrastructure (CSDI) aims to provide a platform to link and integrate geospatial data across various government departments to facilitate easy sharing and use of high-quality spatial data by government departments, public and private organisations, academics as well as the general public.
Examples of spatial data applications
- Boosting digital economy: In this era of autonomous applications, the capability of a 3D digital map can be extended to support a wide range of applications (e.g. self-driving cars and drones) and foster the creation of a digital twin by leveraging the Internet of Things, building information modelling (BIM) technology and big data analytics.
- Enhancing data-driven decision-making in the Government: By collecting the Dengue Fever Ovitrap Index from 3 000 locations across the territory and presenting the index figures via an interactive map interface with trend data, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) can readily identify the more affected areas and accordingly deploy manpower to tackle priority sites.
- Spurring innovations and improving quality of life for the wider community: A retail chain store is considering opening a new shop. Socio-economic data such as age, income and housing type of residents, as well as information on traffic patterns, foot traffic and the number of residences in the area, can be helpful when choosing a location.
China issued a guideline that detailed measures to promote the region’s economic growth, scientific and technological innovation, urbanisation, green development, opening-up, and people’s well-being. By 2025, the comprehensive strength and competitiveness of the region should be further enhanced, and marked progress should be achieved in innovation capacity, with its proportion of research and development input in the regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reaching the national average.
Regarding promoting advanced manufacturing, the guideline urges the building of industrial bases focused on sectors including intelligent manufacturing, new materials, new-energy vehicles and electronic information.
China also facilitates the major technological transformation and upgrading of the manufacturing sector, attaching importance to fostering the intelligent, green, service-oriented development of traditional sectors such as the coal, construction and steel industries. It also underscores accelerating the construction of national logistics hubs in Zhengzhou, Changsha, Taiyuan, Yichang and Ganzhou, and increasing the listed products of the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange.
In terms of environmental protection and pollution control, the guideline says compensation mechanisms for ecological protection and damage should be implemented, while prominent environmental problems in the region should be addressed by developing technological solutions.
To achieve inland high-level opening-up, the country should speed up the development of transportation in the region, including building high-speed railways, promoting the construction of an international logistics centre and international airfreight shipping centre, and improving the international air-traffic network.
The guideline also urges continued efforts to develop pilot free trade zones in the provinces of Anhui, Henan, Hubei and Hunan to a high standard, and optimise a business environment that is market-oriented, rule-based and internationalised.
The central region should accelerate the standardisation of hospitals for infectious diseases and centres for disease control and prevention, and improve the ability of urban and rural communities to provide medical services.
The supply of high-quality public goods, such as world-class universities and large-scale medical institutions, should be increased in the region, the guideline says, specifying that world-renowned universities will be encouraged to run schools in partnership with local institutions and conduct research and develop technology to solve problems. Large-scale comprehensive medical institutions are welcome to set up subsidiaries in the region.
In terms of fiscal and financial support, the central government will continue to increase transfer payments to the central region, and local governments can be allocated more bond issuance quotas on the condition that risks are under control.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology has played an important role in China’s efforts to build a moderately prosperous society. China has taken a host of practical measures to promote science and technology in socio-economic development, foster innovation, support the transfer and industrialisation of research results, and encourage more investment in scientific and technological infrastructure.
The ministry has also made breakthroughs in its reform of the research system, created a better environment for innovation, improved the resource allocation system and has inspired creativity in science and technology workers.
The ministry has also worked with multiple provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions to encourage institutes in economically thriving areas to cooperate with their counterparts in less-developed western regions, and has also helped technology-intensive east coast enterprises establish presences in the west. The introduction of investment, business and talented people has helped less-developed areas build their own high-tech industries, train local professionals, and create more jobs.
Regarding the ministry’s targets in core technologies, the ministry will continue concentrating on basic materials, essential manufacturing techniques and high-end chips as well as industrial software so these fields can catch up with current world leaders.
In addition, cutting-edge disciplines like Artificial Intelligence (AI), quantum information, advanced manufacturing, brain sciences and aerospace technology will remain at the top of the ministry’s support list.
Offshore wind is booming globally with the International Energy Agency viewing offshore wind as one of the big three sources of clean energy alongside solar and onshore wind. Australia is yet to fully capitalise on its potential to harness our capacity in this new energy resource.
Australia has abundant offshore wind resources and new developments in floating offshore wind turbines allow access to high-quality deeper water sites that are currently inaccessible with the current dominant technology. High-capacity locations have been identified across Tasmania, the Bass Strait, Western Australia and to a lesser extent, the coast of NSW and Queensland.
The advantages that Australia’s offshore wind can bring through higher capacity factors, a diverse energy supply that complements solar and onshore wind along and employment opportunities cannot be underestimated.
The Offshore Wind Potential for Australia project evaluated the feasibility and potential of offshore wind to contribute to Australia’s energy needs and identifies barriers to its large-scale development. The project undertook high-level mapping, investigating 12 locations around the Australian coast adjacent to energy infrastructure and demand centres.
Key findings included:
- A regulatory regime for the development of offshore renewable energy in Commonwealth waters needs to be established to enable timely permitting and leasing decisions and should consider including marine allocation of space for offshore renewable energy projects.
- Offshore wind should be incorporated into national and state energy planning as the project finds that across all states, offshore wind has the potential to provide a significant amount of energy at times that other renewable energy is not producing, along with higher capacity factors.
- Offshore wind should be incorporated into planning for the National Hydrogen Strategy and ‘Energy Superpower’ scenarios. If Australia is to become an ‘Energy Superpower’, offshore wind could be an important source of power located adjacent to many ports and industrial facilities to meet increased demand.
- Strategic investment in offshore wind should be considered by Federal and State Governments, as seen by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency to accelerate large-scale solar, to assist in de-risking and developing local offshore wind.
- Offshore wind can develop into a significant source of maritime employment.
- Detailed research is required to assess the cost-benefits of offshore wind to energy, environmental and social systems.
The Research Director from the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney highlights the employment potential and opportunities for fossil fuel industry workers. He said that offshore wind has been an important source of alternative employment as Europe transitions to clean energy, especially the offshore oil and gas sector where the skills are often highly transferrable. Offshore wind can play an important role in a ‘just transition’ in Australia.
With costs falling rapidly and the potential for large 10+ MW turbines to allow offshore scalability and single 2 GW single projects to providing valuable resources as coal plants close and the energy transition accelerates, warrants the need for reconsideration.
The Project Leader CSIRO and the Blue Economy CRC stated that offshore wind has the potential to contribute to the energy system through higher capacity factors and diversity of energy supply. This is particularly important under ‘energy superpower’ scenarios including mass electrification and hydrogen production.
The project brought together expertise from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency; the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney; Saitec Offshore; and the Maritime Union of Australia with contributions from the Electrical Trades Union, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The U.S. Commerce Department is utilising bots to cut the time it takes employees to correct inaccurate forms and process records from hours to minutes – a game-changer that’s giving employees in the Enterprise Services (ES) time to focus on more complicated customer service tasks.
ES looks for a return on time, not necessarily a return on costs. As a shared-services contact centre, time is of the essence in responding to the customers and having folks available to respond to customers. ES is also providing Robotic Process Automation as a service to the whole department. RPA is the next level of basic automation that has been around for years.
The bot enables employees to take a business process and automate it from start to finish. I can have a bot that can do multiple functions, such as looking for things. One HR bot ingests 55,000 personnel records daily and processes them into ES’ service management system, which starts and ends employee services, updates information on employees, such as where they work, and drives workflows.
The bot also downloads data via an application programming interface from the Treasury Department’s HRConnect and looks for those records with differences. This “delta run” takes about 45 minutes to execute, while a full load takes about two hours. The bot stitches the information together and loads it into Commerce’s staging environment inside a ServiceNow platform.
The ability to focus on exceptions is crucial. ES is investing in automation that allows to put the routine stuff up on the shelf and let it run so that the team is really providing customer service toward those cases that are exception-based. Whereas many call centres have a goal of getting people on and off phones quickly, ES emphasises engaging in meaningful conversations because the routine stuff is taking care of itself. Employees in the call centres are now providing a much more personalised experience, which is what someone wants in an HR call centre.
The first bot ES built used screen-scraping technology to reduce the burden on employees who were reading service-request forms to make sure they were filled out correctly. One request can have five associated forms that must all have consistent data in fields such as name and contact information.
The bot can ensure the quality and accuracy of these requests in about 45 seconds, highlighting any forms with mismatched fields so that they can be copied and pasted from the log file, put into ServiceNow, and returned to requesters to fix within minutes or hours – a process that used to take two to three days.
Currently, ES is working on a bot that loads information coalesced across multiple systems and platforms into its service management platform. “This bot verifies every ounce of that data, so it’s coming from one system, being downloaded, loaded into a staging environment, transformed and hitting target destinations in our service management system. This bot quickly looks at that entire life cycle and validates that beginning to end.
The bot has looked through thousands of rows from a subsystem, verified the quality and will point to any failures in that process, allowing ES to quickly correct those exceptions. ES’ bot journey is not uncommon in the federal government, which is coming around to bots overall. Governments are starting to accept a lot more automation so they can use their resources more wisely.
To support human resources, a variety of digital tools have been created, such as workplace-experience apps. As reported by OpenGov Asia, with employees working in a variety of locations and varying their location day-to-day in some instances, simplifying their work experience and tools is critical. The goal is to give employees a great work experience regardless of their location. Hence, a workplace experience app does this and more by serving as a centralised hub to nearly all information and services employees need to do their job effectively.
Employees can use the app to reserve socially distanced desks, search for and book rooms that meet their spatial and audio/visual requirements, find and book seats near colleagues, navigate to colleagues and key destinations, order food, interact with news feeds and notifications, and submit a work order.
The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) recently approved a programme to build and test virtual assistants in selected government departments. Several state agencies, including the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City, MIC, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade will be the first to use the technology.
Virtual assistants are the next generation of search engines that provide information from a specific field to users when they ask questions. Virtual assistants offer a concise, direct answer to the user’s question. According to a press release, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee was the first state agency to use the virtual assistant, which was deployed on 1 August. Other agencies including the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuracy will apply the technology later in August and September.
MIC assigned the Vietnam Institute of Software Industry and Digital Content to lead and coordinate activities related to deploying and testing virtual assistants for state agencies. This institute will connect stakeholders to build requirements for each specific field to have the right virtual assistant.
Large domestic technology groups including Viettel, the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group (VNPT), FPT IS, VNG, and Vbee will coordinate with the government agencies to implement virtual assistants. The release added that the virtual assistant in this pilot programme will focus on specialised knowledge in a specific field. This is also the development strategy of Vietnamese virtual assistants: focusing on each area of specialised knowledge. Like any other AI-based computer system, the more virtual assistants are used, the more intelligent they become.
Apart from introducing virtual assistants, the government has explored other ways to digitise government operations and the delivery of public services. In June, OpenGov Asia reported that the country’s Prime Minister approved an e-government development strategy for 2021-25, with a vision to 2030. This was the first time that Vietnam had issued a strategy to develop the e-government.
Six major viewpoints were highlighted in the strategy, which serves as directions and orientations for the development of the digital government, economy, and society. The first is developing a digital government with safe operations in the digital environment, a redesigned operating model, and operations based on data and digital technology. It will help deliver better quality services, make more timely decisions, formulate better policies, use resources more optimally, and aid socio-economic development and management.
Other tasks include operating specialised network infrastructure securely, connecting four administrative levels from central to commune level, and building a government cloud computing platform. Under the strategy, the government will develop the National Data Exchange Platform and application platforms on mobile devices for all e-government services. It will also complete the National Public Service Portal, build the National Data Portal, and a platform for collaborating on the digital environment. The strategy will develop and complete the government reporting information system, the National Document Communication Axis, and the national bidding network system. Further, it will build a system for analysing and processing big data to ensure national cybersecurity as well as a support system to coordinate and respond to cybersecurity incidents. The strategy outlines the roles and responsibilities of ministries, industries, and local governments in leveraging digital technologies like cloud computing, big data, mobility, the Internet of things (IoT), AI, and blockchain.
Taiwan is stepping up efforts to tap into the global aerospace market, with a particular focus on developing a specific kind of satellite. Among different market segments, those related to the development of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are particularly worth pursuing for Taiwan. Those satellites, often designed in constellations, have a shorter life cycle — between two to four years, compared with larger ones and therefore offer more of an opportunity for Taiwanese businesses.
In addition, LEO satellites are crucial to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), which has been pursued by global technology and communications heavyweights. That is because the relatively inexpensive LEO communication satellites can be launched in large enough numbers to economically provide sufficient bandwidth for the data transmission required by the IoT.
Thus, a sector in which there will be high demand no longer requires highly advanced technology that only the world’s superpowers can afford but has a relatively low market threshold that countries like Taiwan can explore. Taiwan eventually hopes to manufacture its own LEO satellites. The government launched a four-year, NT$4 billion (US$145 million) project this year intending to launch its first LEO communications satellite in 2025.
In the meantime, Taiwan could first capitalize on its years of experience as an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to become part of the LEO satellite supply chain. Around a dozen, Taiwanese tech companies are currently providing components and ground-based reception equipment for SpaceX, for instance. With maturer technology and experience in the future, Taiwanese companies could extend their reach to provide more comprehensive modules with more added value.
The space development promotion act that was enacted at the end of May is expected to help. The act, which will regulate the country’s space-based activities, shows the world Taiwan’s ambition to carve out its own niche in the space economy.
The act covers four areas — setting principles of development that are aligned with international space laws, regulating space-based activities to ensure safety, establishing rocket launch sites, and promoting industrial development. Under the act, Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) is designated as the competent authority and will establish a dedicated agency to deal with related affairs.
According to a page, the primary focus of Taiwan’s Long-term National Space Technology Development Program is satellite development. Having laid the foundation for indigenous space technology in the first and second phases of the program, the nation is now launching the third phase, which will run from 2019 to 2028.
The programme aims to push domestic aerospace technology to new heights and meet the challenges of cutting-edge space missions. At the same time, the program also aims to extend and spread the benefits of the aerospace technology industry, nurture space technology talent, and build an aerospace industry supply chain of Taiwan’s own.
The first phase of the programme began with fostering the talent and skills needed to build an organisation dedicated to the development of aerospace technology. The first phase also saw the successful completion of the FORMOSAT-1, 2 and 3 missions. The FORMOSAT-3 program put into orbit Taiwan’s first weather satellite constellation comprised of six micro-satellites. Altogether, eight satellites dedicated variously to remote sensing and the conduct of scientific experiments were operated during the first phase of the program.
The second phase was largely dedicated to the FORMOSAT-5 and 7 programs, with FORMOSAT-5 being Taiwan’s first domestically researched and produced high-resolution remote-sensing satellite. An emphasis on academic research and industry development led to across-the-board improvements in Taiwan’s aerospace technology development capabilities.
The goal of the third phase of the program is to launch one satellite per year to serve as a high-tech tool for national security and environmental monitoring. In cases of natural disasters, these satellites will be able to provide real-time imagery and rapidly track safety conditions on the ground and changes to the environment. Deforestation, land subsidence, and the scale and scope of natural disasters can also be monitored accurately. Finally, projects undertaken in the third phase will serve as a springboard for the promotion of deep-space exploration and scientific innovation.