“I love deadlines. I
love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
Most humans would be able to detect the sarcasm in the quote
above, even if it takes them a moment or two. But imagine making a computer
understand the sentiment expressed in the above sentence.
That is the sort of challenge, Dr. Erik Cambria (Assistant
Professor at the School of Computer Science and Engineering at Nanyang
Technological University) and his team at SenticNet
are trying to tackle. They are
dealing with the fundamental problems of natural language processing (NLP) for
sentiment analysis. Natural language, which is the language we use for
communicating with each other, is rather different from the way we communicate
with computers. Natural language is ambiguous, complex, chaotic. Constructed
languages, such as programming languages, adhere to strict rules and logic.
Wikipedia defines sentiment analysis as the use of NLP, text
analysis, computational linguistics, and biometrics to systematically identify,
extract, quantify, and study affective states and subjective information.
Applications involve analysing the positive, negative and neutral
sentiments in online customer reviews, surveys, feedback, social media postings
and this has great utility in range of fields, from marketing to finance and healthcare.
is much more complicated than it seems. For instance, if a statement is
sarcastic, as the one above, something which looks positive is actually
negative (love is hate). Understanding this polarity (whether a sentiment is
positive or negative) is a core aspect of sentiment analysis. It involves the
use of deep learning, psychology, and also linguistics, demonstrating the
multi-disciplinary nature of the field.
learning helps detect some patterns, such as the usual occurrence of a big
shift in polarity in a sarcastic comment (positive followed by negative), linguistics
provide insights on sentence structure, while psychology is important because
whether a statement is sarcastic or not can be dependent on the personality of
another example, saying “This phone is expensive but nice” is not the same as
saying “This phone is nice but expensive.” In fact, the sentiments expressed
are polar opposites, though the words used are the same. Here, the
understanding of sentence structure based on linguistics is key. When the ‘but’
conjunction is used, positive followed by negative yields negative but negative
followed by positive yields positive.
understand the approach of SenticNet to dealing with such challenges and
improving sentiment analysis, we need to look at its origins.
Origins from a commonsense knowledge base
started as a project in MIT Media Lab in 2009.
this big knowledge base of commonsense and I thought, why don’t we use it
for sentiment analysis,” Dr. Cambria said, “back then, sentiment analysis was
not very popular but in the past few years, its popularity has increased
dramatically. Because of the research challenges, and also because of
the business opportunities. For instance, so many companies want to know
what their customers like about their products.”
research, commonsense knowledge is the collection of facts and information that
an ordinary person is expected to know. Facts so obvious, so trivial, that no
one would think of mentioning them explicitly, like a chair is for sitting
down, or that we drink water to quench our thirst.
Natural language is only
used to communicate knowledge which we don’t have based on shared experience. The
challenge is to get this general knowledge that most people possess,
represented in a way that it is available to AI programs.
base here refers to a semantic network with millions of nodes, connected by
links that encode the commonsense piece of information. For example, beer and drink
could be two nodes and connecting the two would represent the taken-for-granted
information that “beer is a drink”.
The MIT Media Lab has a portal called the Open Mind Common Sense
(OMCS), which collects pieces of knowledge from volunteers on the Internet by
enabling them to enter commonsense into the system with no special training or
knowledge of computer science.
the web would answer questions like– “what is a bed used for?”, “what is a
beer for?”, “where do you usually find the knife?”. Only those answers
which occurred more than a few times would be inserted into the semantic graph.
“If many people said that the bed is for sleeping, you take that as a good
piece of commonsense” Dr. Cambria said.
ConceptNet is a semantic
network based on the information in the OMCS database. SenticNet was built
based on ConceptNet, focusing on concepts that are either positive or negative,
because the eventual objective of SenticNet is to conduct sentiment analysis.
as just a knowledge base, then from there we went on into the fundamental
problems of natural language processing for sentiment analysis. While
before we were just focusing on knowledge representation, later we got more and
more interested in commonsense reasoning and linguistics. We went from having
just SenticNet to having Sentic patterns and other
reasoning techniques like AffectiveSpace and things that altogether allow us to
do sentiment analysis in a human-like way,” Dr. Cambria said describing
the evolution of SenticNet.
Machine learning is not enough
said, “We try to take inspiration from how the human brain actually understands
things, which is a very different approach from pure machine learning.”
difference between Sentic computing and other techniques is that Sentic
computing is a hybrid approach that uses machine learning alongside
knowledge representation, reasoning and linguistics.
With recent developments in machine learning methods like deep
networks, most researchers are pinning their hopes on feeding massive volumes
of data to algorithms. Dr.
Cambria believes that commonsense is key to improving AI. Simply relying only
on statistics, probabilities, co-occurrence frequencies is not enough.
He went on to highlight three big issues with machine
learning. The first is ‘Dependency’, as machine learning requires a lot of
training data and is domain-dependent.
The second issue is ‘Consistency’, as changes or tweaks in
the learning model may lead to different results. The third is ‘Transparency’,
that is, the way machine learning performs decision-making is a black box. We
do not know why the algorithms arrived at the conclusions they did. In fact,
this very same fact makes machine learning a powerful tool. Researchers don’t
need to understand the data. They
can just feed data to a neural network or whatever learning algorithm they are
using, this learns the features automatically, and then it takes decisions.
But we never know why the algorithm takes those decisions. This lack of
transparency can be a major problem if we are using AI to perform activities
that involves ethics like, say, selecting candidates for a job opening.
In the context of NLP, Dr. Cambria said that these issues
are crucial because, unlike in other fields, they prevent AI from achieving
human-like performance. AI researchers need to bridge the gap between
statistical NLP and many other disciplines that are necessary for understanding
human language, such as linguistics, commonsense reasoning, and affective
computing (affective computing is the study and development of systems and
devices that can recognise, interpret, process, human affects or emotions).
Coupling top-down and
Because of the reasons discussed above, Dr. Cambria
advocates a combination
of symbolic and sub-symbolic AI. Symbolic models, such as semantic networks,
represent a top-down approach to encode meaning. Sub-symbolic methods, such as
neural networks, represent a bottom-up approach to infer syntactic patterns
from data (syntax is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern
word order and sentence structure). The top-down approach helps gain
transparency, while data-driven deep learning enables the automatic detection
In a paper titled “SenticNet 5: Discovering Conceptual
Primitives for Sentiment Analysis by Means of Context Embeddings”, Dr.
Cambria along with his co-authors explores how the two approaches might
complement each other. The paper talks about the use of the bag-of-concepts
model (as opposed to bag-of-words in which a text is represented as a bag or
set of its constituent words) for sentiment analysis. The bag-of-concepts has
the advantage over bag-of-words of being able to deal with multiword
expressions like ‘pretty ugly’ or ‘sad smile’, which would be split up in the
latter model and hence lose their polarity, i.e., their positive or negative
meaning (as in pretty used as an adjective rather than an adverb). And it
avoids the blind use of keywords and word co-occurrence counts.
But now the problem is that the bag-of-concepts model cannot
achieve a comprehensive coverage of meaningful concepts, i.e., a full list of
multiword expressions that actually make sense. Models could be used to extract
concepts from raw data but such approaches are prone to errors due to the richness
and ambiguity of natural language. This is based on the idea that there is a
finite set of mental primitives for affect-bearing concepts and a finite set of
principles of mental combination governing their interaction.
The paper goes on to propose the generalisation of concepts
with related meaning, such as ‘munch toast’ and ‘slurp noodles’, into the
conceptual primitive ‘EAT FOOD’. Sub-symbolic AI could now be used to automatically
discover the conceptual primitives that can better generalise SenticNet’s
This approach would also help in tackling the symbol
grounding problem. Our understanding of language is grounded in the physical
world, in sensations, in memory. A computer does not learn meaning like that. A
meaning of a word on a page or computer screen is ungrounded. And looking it up
in a dictionary would not help.
explains the problem like this: “If I tried to look up the meaning of a word I
did not understand in a (unilingual) dictionary of a language I did not already
understand, I would just cycle endlessly from one meaningless definition to
another. My search for meaning would be ungrounded. In contrast, the meaning of
the words in my head — the ones I do understand — are
"grounded" (by a means that cognitive neuroscience will eventually
reveal to us). And that grounding of the meanings of the words in my head
mediates between the words on any external page I read (and understand) and the
external objects to which those words refer.”
In the approach presented in the paper, several adjectives
and verbs are defined in function of only one ‘primitive’ item thereby
grounding those meanings in that one primitive. It does not solve the symbol
grounding problem but reduces it.
research is being applied in several projects spanning from
fundamental knowledge representation problems to applications of commonsense
reasoning in contexts such as big social data analysis and human-computer
instance, a project in collaboration with Prof. Roy Welsch from MIT
Sloan School of Management focuses on natural
language based financial forecasting (NLFF). Markets are driven by
sentiments. Understanding those sentiments from data can be used for predicting
is also developing tools that allow patients to easily and efficiently measure
their health related quality of life and improving human-computer interaction (HCI) by developing dialogue systems
project, called PONdER (Public Opinion of Nuclear Energy) aims to
collect, aggregate, and analyse opinions towards nuclear energy in different
languages and across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Understanding how the public perceives nuclear energy in the region enables
policymakers to make informed national policies and decisions pertaining to
nuclear energy, as well as shape communication strategies to inform the public
about nuclear energy.
said that personally he is more interested in the fundamental problems of
AI and sentiment analysis. For example, solving the symbol grounding
problem or building machines that can really understand language (IQ),
emotions (EQ), and culture (CQ).
still don’t have machines that really understand natural
language. Siri does not understand natural language, Watson is an amazing answering
machine but it does not understand language. At SenticNet, we want to go beyond
rule-based and stats-based systems. What we are working on is
not really NLP research anymore; it is natural language understanding.”
Chronic wounds are a severe public health issue that affects more than 25 million people in the United States alone. They are easily infected and are the biggest cause of nontraumatic limb amputations around the world. Although the wound environment is always changing, the rate of healing can be accelerated by administering therapies at the proper moment. This method necessitates continuous wound monitoring and on-demand drug delivery in a closed-loop system.
In Singapore, a breakthrough smart wearable sensor with a platform that combines an electronic chip, and a mobile app has been developed that could assess chronic wounds in real-time. A research team from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Institute for Health Innovation and System (iHealthtech), as well as clinical collaborators from Singapore General Hospital, developed the technology.
Our smart bandage technology is the first of its kind designed for chronic wound management to give patients the freedom to perform the test and monitor their wound conditions at home.
– Professor Lim, Director of iHealthtech, National University of Singapore
People with chronic wounds, such as venous leg ulcers, will benefit from the smart bandage. Within 15 minutes, it can detect temperature, pH, bacteria type and inflammatory markers specific to chronic wounds, allowing for quick and precise diagnosis. The bandage assesses the wound’s micro-environment as well as its infection and inflammation state through biomarkers from the wound’s fluid using an electrochemical system.
For real-time wound assessment, a chip connected to the sensor provides data wirelessly to the mobile app. This allows doctors to monitor the patient’s recovery and assess whether additional therapy is required. The smart bandage works in conjunction with the patient’s current medical therapy, allowing for rapid medical intervention in wound healing processes.
The next stage of development for the smart bandage will involve clinical tests on about 50 to 100 patients spanning one to two years before it is rolled out to other patients in around two years. The team will explore the incorporation of other appropriate biomarkers suitable for other wound types and utilise data in existing clinical workflows to improve diagnosis and treatment. Ultimately, they hope to test the technology on a larger prospective randomised clinical trial with different types of non-healing chronic ulcers such as diabetic foot and pressure ulcers.
The bandage’s developers anticipate that more patients will be able to monitor their chronic wounds at home, minimising hospital visits. The project’s primary researcher is Professor Lim Chwee Teck, director of the NUS Institute for Health Innovation and Technology.
“Point-of-care devices coupled with telehealth or digital health capability can play a significant role in transforming the healthcare industry and our society, which is catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic requirements for safe distancing,” said Prof Lim, Director of iHealthtech at NUS. He further added that the smart bandage technology is the first of its type for chronic wound management, allowing patients to undertake tests and monitor their wound status from the comfort of their own homes.
OpenGov Asia reported that NUHS will also launch an updated My Health Map initiative to boost residents’ access to preventative health services by providing health screenings to residents on-site when appropriate and holding community health lectures. They can also get suggestions for health exams and vaccines based on their demographics and health status using the app’s My Health Map function. Patients can also use the app to schedule in-person visits, register for a queue number, and view the number of patients ahead of them in the queue.
“The launch of the teleconsultation feature is extremely opportune considering the Covid-19 scenario,” said Clara Sin, Chief Operating Officer of NUH and NUHS’ group service transformation and medical records offices. The agency aims to ensure that all patients receive consistent care and that they do not have to travel to the hospital, especially the elderly.
The India Internet Governance Forum (IIGF) curtain-raiser, a precursor to IIGF has concluded. The curtain raiser ended with an insight into a roadmap for digitisation in India. IIGF will be jointly organised by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY), and the National Internet Exchange of India. The theme is ‘Empower India through Power of Internet’ and will include discussions on the road to digitisation in India. The salient feature of the event will be the three plenary sessions: India and Internet- India’s Digital Journey and Her Global Role, Equity, Access, and Quality; High-speed Internet for All; and Cyber Norms and Ethics in Internet Governance.
As per a government press release, the IIGF has been constituted in conformance to IGF-Paragraph 72 of the Tunis Agenda of the United Nations-based Internet Governance Forum (IGF). Through an open and inclusive process, IIGF will bring together stakeholders in the global Internet governance ecosystem, including the government, industry, civil society, and academia – as equal participants of the larger Internet governance discourse.
The objective of the curtain raiser event was to discuss the roadmap for digitisation and reaffirm India as an essential participant on the global stage by highlighting its role in international policy development on Internet governance. A government official explained that IIGF comes at an important time in the history of the evolution of the Internet in India. As the world is emerging from a pandemic, it is becoming increasingly visible that there have been disruptions and reinventions of businesses, governance, and governments across the world. The rate of digitalisation has increased and accelerated tremendously, he said.
India has around 800 million internet users at the moment, making it the largest connected nation. The press release stated that the government is committed to covering 1.2 billion people. The country still has about 400 million people outside the network and it’s important for the government to ensure that Internet connectivity is available for all. The intersection of policy framework, the emergence of cutting-edge technologies, and initiatives by private players present an exciting time for the evolution of the digital economy, an industry expert explained. The IIGF will be a step ahead in ensuring the inclusive participation of all stakeholders in harnessing the power of the Internet for economic growth.
Earlier this month, MeitY organised a workshop to create a roadmap to accelerate Internet access in currently unconnected parts of the country. The workshop, Connecting All Indians, invited public and private stakeholders, including India’s largest Internet service providers and officials from MeitY, the Department of Telecommunications, and the Ministry of Communications. As OpenGov Asia had reported, the workshop provided a platform for all the participating stakeholders to put forward their solutions to expand Internet penetration to remote corners of the country.
The event was chaired by the Minister of State for IT who laid out the government’s objectives to connect all Indians with open, safe, and trusted Internet connectivity. He noted that it is the Prime Minister’s vision through the Digital India initiative to empower all citizens with the Internet and simultaneously expand the digital economy and generate jobs.
The workshop also reviewed BharatNet, the world’s largest fibre-based rural broadband connectivity project. The workshop deliberated upon strategies to immediately cover left-out geographies, regions, and villages. BharatNet is a mission of national importance, aiming to establish a highly scalable network infrastructure that provides on-demand and affordable broadband connectivity for all households and on-demand capacity for all institutions, in partnership with state governments and the private sector.
Hing Kong’s Under Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury noted that as a leading international financial hub in Asia, Hong Kong is an ideal place for the development of fintech business. Fintech companies enjoy tremendous access to potential clients, investors and business partners in Hong Kong, where many financial institutions and multinational companies have set up their Asia regional headquarters or their biggest business presence in Asia.
The Director-General of Investment Promotion at InvestHK stated that the essence of Hong Kong Fintech Week is one of collaboration: the government’s Hong Kong Inc and the private sector will work together to showcase the vibrant fintech ecosystem here, and its relevance to Asia and the world, putting forward the case for fintech enterprises to fast-track their success in the city. Collectively, we will enable a unified vision of a bigger and better fintech future.
Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK) recently announced that Hong Kong Fintech Week 2021, themed “Scaling Fintech Future Together”, will be held in hybrid form, comprising both physical and virtual formats, from 1 November to 5 November 2021. This edition of Fintech Week was organised by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB) and InvestHK, and co-organised by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) and the Insurance Authority (IA).
The event will provide a platform for information technology companies, fintech firms, and financial institutions, investors, regulators and more, from all over the world to explore how emerging technologies and innovative advances can power the future of financial services to maximise benefits for consumers, business and society at large.
Vision for Hong Kong’s fintech future
The Head of Fintech at InvestHK noted that Hong Kong’s fintech success is in large part due to the breadth and depth of its financial services industry and entrepreneurial culture. Together with supportive government and regulator policies, substantial pools of private investment and rising fintech adoption rates, the region’s ecosystem has become a magnet for global start-up and scale-up companies. The next wave of opportunities will bring deeper collaboration in the Greater Bay Area financial services ecosystem.
The winners of the 2021 Global Fast Track programme led by InvestHK to promote fintech business adoption and scaling opportunities in Hong Kong will be announced during Hong Kong Fintech Week. In addition to the multi-track conference with prominent speakers, the event will also feature exhibitions, a deal floor, networking and satellite events, demo shows, over 50 workshops and more. Selected keynote sessions will also be live-streamed via the official Hong Kong Fintech Week social media channels and Mainland-based tech news platform 36Kr.
FinTech in Hong Kong
A recent article noted that over the last ten years, Hong Kong has developed significantly in the fintech industry. As the Covid-19 pandemic has changed consumer behaviour, start-ups have been pushed to go beyond innovation and digital transformation. The rise of fintech is now coming into the limelight than ever for financial institutions.
With well-developed information and communication technology, Hong Kong has ramped up its efforts and made its way to becoming an international fintech hub despite its small size. One of the reasons why Hong Kong stands out as a top fintech hub with its fintech development is due to abundant government funding.
The report notes that in addition to progressive regulatory policies, Hong Kong’s government offers multiple grants to help start-ups establish, grow and expand. From R&D support, favourable tax deductions, waived fees and financial hiring assistance to offering matching funds for development, fundraising and even overseas expansion, Hong Kong offers unmatched opportunities for fintech innovation.
The Hong Kong government has taken the initiative to boost the development of fintech by launching an aggressive plan of setting aside $500 million HK to increase its competitiveness and support its financial services industry, fintech included.
The Hong Kong government has also earmarked $10 million HK on the launching of the Fintech Proof-of-Concept Subsidy Scheme to provide “through-train” vetting and funding. The abundant provision of financial assistance enables fintech companies to check the box of capital and proceed with the expansion.
In addition, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), in 2016, launched the Fintech Facilitation Office (FFO) which facilitates the healthy development of the fintech ecosystem in Hong Kong and promotes Hong Kong as a fintech hub in Asia.
Among other things, the FFO acts as:
- a platform for exchanging ideas of innovative fintech initiatives among key stakeholders and conducting outreaching activities;
- an interface between market participants and regulators within the HKMA to help improve the industry’s understanding about the parts of the regulatory landscape which are relevant to them;
- an initiator of industry research in potential application and risks of fintech solutions; and
- a facilitator to nurture talents to meet the growing needs of the fintech industry in Hong Kong
According to New Zealand’s latest research virtual reality to address mental health issues is showing potential. The new study was headed by a computer science senior lecturer and co-authored by a PhD student. The lecturer-student team is also conducting a Massey Strategic Research Excellence Fund-funded research project on intelligent customised VR for depression treatment. The project was inspired by the realisation that there is little study on using virtual reality to aid in the treatment of depression and even less work on providing patients with a tailored VR experience.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Mental Health, and it has already gotten a lot of press. The researchers conducted a scoping assessment of studies published between 2017 and 2021 that examined the use of virtual reality (VR) as a treatment for anxiety. Most studies found that using virtual reality to help the treatment of anxiety in a variety of situations was successful, and they suggested it as a tool for use in a clinical setting.
The ability to view the inside of the human body in Virtual Reality is not only useful for doctors, but also for patients. VR allows patients to be taken through their surgical plan by virtually stepping into a patient-specific 360° VR reconstruction of their anatomy & pathology. Hence, enhanced understanding of the treatment and consequently higher patient satisfaction.
New Zealand’s Otago University Mental Health Clinical Research Unit, Auckland Institute of Studies, Otago Polytechnic Auckland campus, and Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University collaborated on the study. It examined the ways VR exposure and interventions have been used in the treatment of mental health conditions, the technologies used, and how effective they have been as a treatment method.
The project’s original concept and outcomes were presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2020) and the 13th ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction conference on Engineering Interactive Computing Systems, respectively (EICS 2021).
To increase the quality of psychological treatments and improve mental health outcomes for New Zealanders, the project draws on the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of researchers working at the intersection of mental health, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. The senior lecturer in computer science believes the initiative will pave the way for the use of virtual reality in the mental health profession in New Zealand. “We believe our contribution can pave the way for large-scale efficacy testing, clinical use, and cost-effective delivery of intelligent individualised VR technology for mental health therapy across Aotearoa New Zealand in the future.”
OpenGov Asia reported that while many individuals are eager to get their vaccinations and prevent the deadly COVID-19 virus from spreading further, trypanophobia, or a fear of needles, is believed to be causing problems for a significant number of people across the country. Researchers from the University of Otago have collaborated with a tech firm to develop new software that uses virtual reality (VR) to distract patients who are frightened of needles so they can receive the injections they needed.
The programme had been tested out by patients in Christchurch when receiving influenza shots while wearing the VR headset. A patient claim that he could “barely tell” when the injection was taking place and that he would recommend the app to anyone who is afraid of needles. People with phobias or anxiety over things like flying, heights, spiders, and social situations could also benefit from it.
The application of virtual reality in mental health is a cutting-edge field with a lot of potential and that it will be fascinating to see where the field goes. This is especially true as standalone VR headsets become more inexpensive and certain models allow researchers to collect and analyse physiological data from participants.
The Indian Institute of Technology Madras’ (IIT-Madras) Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RBCDSAI) is launching the ‘RBCDSAI Industrial Consortium’ to provide information resources on cutting-edge technologies to industries working on artificial intelligence (AI).
The consortium will help industry members learn about the scientific developments and latest trends in AI and data science through broad-based interactions with the centre and its faculty. According to an official at the Institute, RBCDSAI carries out high-quality AI research and the idea is to use the industrial consortium as a means to quickly disseminate the output of the research to industry partners so that they can work together towards launching applications in the field.
As per a news report, currently, the centre offers two membership plans to the interested industries: platinum and silver. The membership plans will enable priority access to four RBCDSAI events, namely, colloquia, quarterly workshops, industry conclaves, and annual research showcases. The centre will organise two special half-day workshops on their voted topic of interest from a slate for its members. Additionally, platinum members will have a dedicated in-domain contact faculty at the centre for close interaction to seek suggestions on their industry’s plans. They will get to exclusively interact with the students to know more about their research and have early access to RBCDSAI publications, reports, datasets, and other research material.
The consortium membership will also provide enhanced interaction with the RBCDSAI research ecosystem and help develop a specialised workforce that can benefit member companies. It will act as a forum that leverages synergistic capabilities of the eventual users, solution providers, solution platform developers, and academicians, the report stated. An RBCDSAI Consortium membership is an opportunity for players to establish themselves as key players in data science and Al with the potential to secure new and significant revenue streams.
RBCDSAI is one of India’s preeminent interdisciplinary research centres for data science and AI, with 28 faculty spanning ten departments of IIT-Madras working on various aspects and applications of AI. The centre explores areas like deep learning, network analytics, reinforcement learning, natural language processing, theoretical machine learning, and ethics and fairness in AI. It also carries out applied research in multiple verticals such as financial analytics, manufacturing analytics, smart cities, systems biology, and healthcare.
In August, IIT-Madras inaugurated the country’s first consortium for virtual reality called the ‘Consortium for VR/AR/MR Engineering Mission in India’ (CAVE). The consortium comprises a group of academic institutions, industries, start-ups, and government bodies. It will enable members to create new advanced technologies and applications in virtual reality, augmented reality, XR, and haptics technology.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the consortium will promote best practices and create a dialogue with stakeholders, government policymakers, and research institutions. It aims to become a resource for industry, academia, consumers, and policymakers interested in virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. The key outcomes envisaged from CAVE include developing indigenous VR/AR/MR and haptics hardware and software and setting up a ‘VR Superhighway’ or ‘VR Corridor’ where many start-ups can work together to make India a global hub for XR and haptics needs.
Thailand’s cabinet, on 25 October 2021, approved a draft decree to regulate digital platform service businesses to maintain financial and commercial stability and to prevent damage to the public, a government spokesman said.
Such businesses, both in and outside of Thailand, will need to notify the government before operating, the spokesman said in a statement. The law will apply to various digital platform services including online marketplaces, social commerce, food delivery, space sharing, ride/car sharing and online search engines, he said. The spokesman also noted that they are all increasingly important to the economy and society, so there is a need to oversee them.
Since 1 September 2021, Thailand has followed in the footsteps of many countries in imposing a value-added tax (VAT) charge of 7% on non-resident digital service providers. It is a significant step for the country in capturing revenue created by the digitalisation of the economy.
The ‘e-service tax’ obliges non-resident digital service providers that earn over THB1.8 million per year to pay the VAT. The department expects around 100 foreign e-service providers to register to pay VAT in Thailand during the initial stage of tax enforcement.
So far, about 70 foreign e-service operators have registered, of which 20 are giant online platform operators. Since the tax is not a direct tax on income but an indirect tax via VAT, some e-service providers are likely to pass the tax burden onto customers. As such, those who pay the tax are not those e-platform operators but local end-users.
However, some doubt remains about how effective the tax scheme will be. The department is faced with several questions. How can the Revenue Department verify the amount of VAT that those foreign digital platform providers have to pay? What can the government do if they fail to pay the tax, especially when several operators have no physical presence?
E-service tax can ensure fairer treatment for local digital service providers who bear a higher cost burden as they are obliged to pay VAT. However, as the digital economy is growing, VAT collections alone might not ensure fair competition.
While other foreign businesses and investors including local digital service providers pay Thai corporate tax on income, non-resident digital service providers do not have to as they are not physically present in Thailand. So, these service providers still have an upper hand.
Digitalisation and the digital economy are continuing to grow. Figures by DataReportal show that there were 48.59 million internet users in Thailand in January 2021. The number of internet users in Thailand increased by 3.4 million (+7.4%) between 2020 and 2021. Internet penetration in Thailand stood at 69.5% in January 2021.
There were 55.00 million social media users in Thailand in January 2021. The number of social media users in Thailand increased by 3.0 million (+5.8%) between 2020 and 2021. The number of social media users in Thailand was equivalent to 78.7% of the total population in January 2021. Moreover, device ownership also grew and diversified.
These statistics highlight the fact that a growing digital economy requires a comprehensive and effective tax and regulation strategy, which is now in the works in Thailand.
Artificial intelligence is on the verge of radically altering our society and industry. The AI trend of technological singularity is rapidly growing, and it is being used in a wide range of human endeavours, including education, medicine, business, engineering, and the arts. This cutting-edge technology has been integrated into the government and business sector all around the world.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) emphasised that innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) can help the nation thrive in a post-pandemic environment. Global challenges can be better managed through innovative technologies, and Philippine companies cannot be left behind in this regard. In a post-pandemic world, the trade undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba stressed the importance of harnessing the power of emerging technologies for local businesses to remain competitive.
In a statement, the minister said, “while we recognise that collective efforts are instrumental in addressing challenges that are global in scale such as the pandemic, we acknowledge that innovative initiatives, like AI, must be harnessed and be placed at the core of all our endeavours to ensure that we will not only overcome overwhelming obstacles but also guarantee that our industries will remain adoptable amidst our ever-changing economic landscape.”
Innovative initiatives, for instance, AI must be harnessed and be placed at the core of all our endeavours to ensure that we will not only overcome overwhelming obstacles but also guarantee that our industries will remain adoptable amidst our ever-changing economic landscape and that they will thrive moving forward.
– Rafaelita Aldaba, Undersecretary, Department of Trade and Industry
The DTI noted that apart from being aware of innovative technologies, local firms would be able to embrace and adapt to new economic realities, which includes AI and other similar technologies. Continuing in this vein, the government through the DTI is working endlessly to reach a higher level of recent technological and innovative breakthroughs to propel the country’s economy forward and improve the competitiveness of its industries, particularly at a time when the global economy is being rocked by disruptions from all directions. DTI will host the Inclusive Innovation Industrial Strategy (I3S) to carry out its objective, which will bring together participants from government, industry, and academia.
The event will feature some of the country’s top AI experts, who will enhance and widen participants’ understanding and appreciation of this innovative technology. It will also focus on discussions surrounding the proposed National Centre for AI Research, as well as experiences and insights on the adoption of AI by businesses, particularly considering the lingering pandemic, and critical issues surrounding AI, particularly those related to ethics, governance, and regulations.
The Philippines was ranked 51st out of 132 economies in the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s (WIPO) Global Innovation Index (GII) study released last month, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 and a decreasing budget for research and development (R&D).
OpenGov Asia recently reported on the growth of the business process outsourcing sector in recent decades. The processing of artificial intelligence is expected to be an emerging industry for the Philippines. Reporting to the President and the Nation, Department of Trade, and Industry (DTI) Secretary stated that the government and private sector are working together to expand AI technology in the country. He was confident that the Philippines could be a big data processing hub and that AI would be the next centre for excellence after BPO – which the Philippines is known for
When the DTI released the industry blueprint last May, the Philippines became one of the first 50 countries in the world to launch a national AI roadmap. The national AI roadmap aims to transform the country into an AI powerhouse in the region. AI adoption, according to a research firm, has the potential to add USD92 billion to the Philippine economy by 2030. According to the national AI roadmap, the country will establish the government-initiated National Centre for AI Research, which will be led by the private sector (NCAIR).
The DTI’s AI roadmap also seeks to provide direction on the use of AI to sustain local industries’ regional and worldwide competitiveness, as well as identify priority areas for government, industry, and broader society to invest time and resources in both research and development and technology application.