DNA is the blueprint of life. The sum total of DNA within a single cell of an organism is
the genome, and genomics is the study of the entire genome. It is a field which
can have a transformative effect on our lives, in health and beyond. And
progress in the field happens to be closely interlinked with developments in computing
technologies. Enormous volumes of data being produced by sequencing, mapping, and analysing
genomes fall within the domain of big data.
Recently, on the sidelines of the AWS (Amazon Web Services)
Public Sector Summit, OpenGov had a conversation with Dr. Swaine Chen, Assistant
Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Senior Research
Scientist at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), about genomics and data
analytics. GIS is an institute of The Agency for Science, Technology and
Research (A*STAR), Singapore's lead public sector agency that spearheads
economic oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop
From 3,000,000,000 to
In his keynote address at the summit, entitled “The Future
of Analytics to Enable the Future of Genomics”, Dr. Chen used a famous example to
demonstrate the importance of the data
Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy procedure because
she took a test that found sequence
differences in her DNA, specifically in two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2, that
meant that her risk of getting breast cancer was up to 50%, as compared to a 2%
risk of getting breast cancer by the age of 50 for an average person.
The entire human genome is 3 billion base pairs. Analysing 3
billion base pairs is too difficult and too expensive to do as part of a
regular test. So, in order to have a test like the one Angelina Jolie took, we
need to know where to look for the genes associated with breast cancer.
Narrowing down that 3 billion down to a space of 10 million
took 17 years of work. 10 million was still too big. It took 4 years after that
to winnow that 10 million down to 5000, which was the key region where the
BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were.
“5,000 is around the kind of size we can do relatively
routinely in the lab, where we are looking specifically at a very small region
for BRCA 1 and BRCA2,” said Dr. Chen.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 were found to be important for breast cancer
largely using pre-genomics techniques. The promise of genomics is to accelerate
21-year process for other diseases. To achieve this acceleration, we need advances
in both data acquisition and data processing.
For fields such as
imaging or financial data, Moore’s law (the doubling of computing power every
18 months) has simultaneously lowered the costs and boosted capabilities for
both data acquisition and data analytics.
genomics, data acquisition is a bit different. Genomes are in the cells of our bodies,
as opposed to sitting on a computer or a digital device somewhere. The data
acquisition problem therefore can be further divided into two parts. The first
is about getting a sample from a person, which is difficult to scale up. The
second issue is getting the sequence data from that sample onto the computer.
This second part has been benefitting from Moore’s law.
around 10 years ago, genome data acquisition costs started dropping even faster
than Moore’s law; in other words, sequencing is progressing at a hyper-Moore
rate. However, computing power is still progressing at the rate of Moore’s law.
Therefore, computing power is falling exponentially behind the rate of data
acquisition. Dr. Chen called this the “Hyper-Moore gap”.
Because of the Hyper-Moore rate of progress in acquiring
sequencing data, the amount of data is only going to increase in the
near-future. At the moment, researchers are able to handle the analytics, due
to continued advances in computing and because it’s only recently that researchers
have started amassing massive volumes of data. But if current trendlines
persist into the future, Dr. Chen said the Hyper-Moore gap will create a
serious problem with analytics. Cloud computing is one of the key technologies
that can enable individual institutions like GIS to bridge the Hyper-Moore gap
(GIS is working with AWS), and more and more of the processes at GIS are being
moved over the cloud.
understanding infectious disease mechanisms and synthetic biology
Dr. Chen talked about three main areas of work at his lab.
One is outbreak analysis. He explained, “We help with a lot
of the infectious disease outbreaks in Singapore, using genomics to track and
manage those outbreaks.”
Today, genomics is the international standard for tracking
and monitoring outbreaks, and Singapore is at the forefront of this trend as
well. For instance, in 2015, there was an outbreak of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) in Singapore, coming from
raw fish that was being sold in some hawker centres. Sequencing of genomic DNA
was used to tell the difference between strains (like different individuals) of
GBS. The genomics analysis gave a single clear result: the GBS that was
infecting the patients was the exact same strain that was found on fish that
was being sold at the same time and in the same place during the outbreak.
Genomics gave the tools to track that outbreak and manage it, and to monitor
and make sure it doesn’t come back again.
We asked Dr. Chen as to how do the researchers know what
analysis to perform, and how genomics can further improve outbreak analysis. He
gave one example of how the additional data from genomics helps scientists understand
how outbreaks happen.
Nearly 30% of all people have GBS, and it doesn’t cause a
problem. Then, suddenly one strain causes an outbreak. When that happens, the outbreak
strain grows faster, because now it can grow somewhere that other GBS couldn’t
grow before. Previous research has developed evolutionary theories which
predict characteristic sequence changes when there is rapid growth and
expansion of one strain. Dr. Chen’s lab, in addition to helping track and
manage the outbreak in the short term, later reuses the genomic information to
test these evolutionary theories to find evidence if they are true. This
research would help to understand why a given outbreak happened, which could
lead to better predictive tools, better strategies for managing future
outbreaks, and also provide at least some closure for those affected.
This kind of thing is one reason for the hunger for data.
“We have a lot of theory regarding what we should see in the DNA sequence, and
we are only just recently getting the data we need to go take a look.”
The second area of work in the lab is trying to understand
mechanisms of infectious disease.
“We can have a lot of correlation data but if we want to
develop treatments or new ways to control or prevent infections, we need to
understand how they happen at a molecular level. That leads to new drug targets
that can then lead to new drugs. So, a big part of my lab tries to understand
molecular mechanisms and identify novel strategies to prevent and treat urinary
tract infections. Those are infections which affect any part of the urinary
tract, usually the bladder. Half of all women get a urinary tract infection at
some point in their life,” Dr. Chen elaborated. He added that underlying both
of these pieces of his lab is a lot of computation.
The third area is synthetic biology, which involves the
creation of tools for manipulating bacteria. Dr. Chen’s expertise in synthetic
biology arises from his work in understanding the genetics of bacteria causing
urinary tract infections (UTIs).
The standard way to understand why a certain bacterium is
causing a disease is to change specific regions of the DNA and see if that
affects the disease. If that is true, then maybe the genes or proteins encoded
by that region of DNA can be targeted with a drug.
“The ability to make a specific, desired change in an
organism’s DNA is one of the foundational tools for synthetic biology. This
capability is needed to achieve the big synthetic biology goal of fully designing a bacterium to do specific things,”
said Dr. Chen.
Dr. Chen’s lab has developed some of those tools as part of
their work in understanding mechanisms of how Escherichia coli cause UTIs, but
the same tools are widely applicable to other non-UTI causing bacteria.
All these three areas of research (outbreak analysis, UTIs, and
synthetic biology) flow into antibiotic resistance.
presents a serious threat to public health globally. It occurs when bacteria
undergo changes following exposure to an antibiotic and the drug becomes
ineffective against that bacteria. This could compromise the ability to treat
common infections and infections arising from complications of medical
procedures, such as surgery and chemotherapy. In fact, the Singapore Government
recently launched a National
Strategic Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).
UTIs are probably the second leading cause of antibiotic
prescriptions. So, it’s a huge contributor in terms of antibiotic usage and
therefore to antibiotic resistance. So Dr. Chen’s work in finding better ways
to treat UTI could help reduce antibiotic usage which would hopefully help us
reduce antibiotic resistance rates. In addition, his work on synthetic biology can
be applied to understand how different bacteria have different ways of being
resistant. “You may have heard of resistance getting transferred from one bacterium
to another; this is largely due to antibiotic resistance genes. However, sometimes
two different bacteria have the same resistance genes but they seem to be
different in their resistance for unknown reasons. Figuring out why there is a
difference in resistance requires the synthetic biology tools we are building,
and this could lead to exploiting these differences to reduce antibiotic
resistance in other bacteria,” explained Dr. Chen.
Today genomics is highly resource-intensive. But Dr. Chen
said that it will eventually become pervasive and costs will be lowered,
supported by the Hyper-Moore rate of progress in the field, developments in
computing, and a balance between basic science and translational research.
As Singapore proceeds towards its Smart Nation vision,
genomics will become ubiquitous in fields ranging from health to crime
investigation, food security and safety and the health of the environment. Genomics will help with precision medicine, enabling
diagnosis of the right ailment and picking the right treatment. As genomics is
scaled up to the entire population, it will enable predictive healthcare. And Dr.
Chen believes that GIS has a leading role to play in that journey.
In a groundbreaking move that promises to usher in a new era of innovation and sustainability, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has joined forces with the Mandai Wildlife Group in a visionary two-year partnership.
This collaboration seeks to drive digital transformation in Singapore’s wildlife parks, with a focus on three pivotal areas: Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), sustainability, and immersive experiences. This bold initiative was formally launched with the signing of a Memorandum of Intent (MoI) at the iconic Singapore Zoo, setting the stage for Mandai Wildlife Group’s parks to become a veritable “living lab for innovation.”
“Our partnership with Mandai Wildlife Group expands on our existing digital transformation and innovation efforts, with the parks serving as a ‘living lab for innovation’ to support this endeavour,” said Leong Der Yao, Assistant Chief Executive, Sector Transformation, IMDA.
The IMDA-Mandai Wildlife Group partnership is not merely a symbolic gesture but a commitment to co-develop innovative solutions that will have real-world applications. At its core, this collaboration aims to tackle pressing challenges and identify untapped opportunities within the realm of wildlife conservation and entertainment. It’s a partnership that envisions a future where technology and nature converge to create a harmonious and sustainable coexistence.
One of the primary focal points of this collaboration is the development and deployment of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). These robots are poised to revolutionise the way wildlife parks operate, enhancing both efficiency and visitor experience. Unlike traditional AMRs designed for flat surfaces, the challenge here lies in adapting these robots to navigate the intricate and often uneven terrains of outdoor environments.
The IMDA and Mandai Wildlife Group are initiating a Call for Proposal that specifically targets outdoor AMRs equipped with tele-operation capabilities. This ambitious endeavour seeks to address existing industry challenges and technology gaps, with the ultimate goal of making these AMRs an integral part of daily park operations.
The identified use cases for these outdoor AMRs are diverse and compelling. A central operations platform, powered by tele-ops, will facilitate the management and coordination of multiple AMRs throughout the park premises. This not only streamlines operations but also ensures that these robots can work seamlessly together, enhancing overall efficiency.
Additionally, the introduction of AMRs for F&B delivery both to staff and visitors within the parks promises to revolutionise the dining experience. Visitors can now enjoy the convenience of ordering meals through a dedicated app, further enhancing their overall enjoyment of the park.
The collaboration also aims to automate and streamline visitor management services, such as location and ticketing services. This will significantly enhance the guest experience by reducing wait times and providing more personalised assistance. Moreover, the implementation of AMRs for surveillance purposes promises to improve security within the parks. These robots can navigate dimly lit and challenging terrains with ease, enhancing staff’s ability to respond swiftly to any guest needs or emergency incidents.
While these innovations are exciting on their own, they are part of a broader initiative by IMDA to enable the large-scale deployment of AMRs for commercial use. This partnership with Mandai Wildlife Group represents a critical step in achieving this vision.
By fostering collaboration between enterprises, technology partners, and the AMR community, IMDA aims to drive the adoption and interoperability of AMR systems across both indoor and outdoor environments. This initiative is poised to bring about tangible benefits for businesses in Singapore, ranging from increased productivity to the creation of new, high-value jobs.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) announced a partnership with the Hong Kong Insurance Authority (IA) to spearhead the Open Insurance movement. This initiative is being realised through the launch of the OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector, often referred to as the Central Register.
Open insurance revolves around the concept of facilitating the exchange of insurance-related information among insurance companies and third parties using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), thus fostering innovation in insurance products and services.
The OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector serves as a trusted repository that houses open insurance APIs. Its primary function is to connect authorised insurers, licensed insurance intermediaries, and their third-party service providers, allowing them to seamlessly display and manage their product and service information. By granting public access to this valuable data, this central hub serves as a catalyst for enhanced connectivity, further fuelling the development of groundbreaking insurance products and services.
The Head of the STP Platform at HKSTP expressed her enthusiasm for this initiative, stating that it is a significant step toward the realisation of Open Finance. By harnessing the potential of open APIs, businesses can unlock new avenues for growth through enhanced connectivity, collaboration, and innovation. The OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector empowers both insurance companies and tech ventures to leverage open APIs, thereby delivering transformative financial experiences to the industry.
The Associate Director of the Policy and Development Division at the IA urged the insurance industry to embrace the OpenAPI Platform as a driver of innovation and collaboration. He emphasised that the establishment of this platform underscores IA’s unwavering commitment to fostering greater cooperation among market players, while also promoting the application of Insurtech both within and beyond the insurance sector. IA remains dedicated to working in tandem with HKSTP and other stakeholders to nurture a dynamic Insurtech and Open API ecosystem.
HKSTP has been at the forefront of catalysing Hong Kong’s thriving API ecosystem by enabling businesses to undergo transformative changes through data and technology. The recent introduction of the API Hub further solidifies its role as a dependable source of data and functional APIs for a wide range of industries.
Enterprises now have easy access to a vast array of market-ready data and digital solutions, while technology enablers can seamlessly connect with partners and customers. Additionally, HKSTP has established partnerships with 27 banks, providing access to over 1,200 Open Banking APIs, thereby enriching the API landscape and promoting further innovation in the financial sector.
The collaboration between HKSTP and the IA to launch the OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector marks a significant milestone in the evolution of Open Insurance. This innovative platform is poised to reshape the insurance landscape by facilitating the seamless exchange of information and fostering collaboration among industry stakeholders.
As businesses and tech ventures embrace open APIs, the insurance sector is set to experience a wave of innovation and transformation, ultimately leading to more impactful financial experiences for all stakeholders involved. The dedication of both organisations to nurturing a vibrant Insurtech and Open API ecosystem further underscores their commitment to driving positive change within the industry. With the groundwork laid by this partnership, the future of insurance in Hong Kong looks brighter than ever.
The partnership between the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) and the Hong Kong Insurance Authority (IA) to launch the OpenAPI Platform for the Insurance Sector aligns with key goals of the HKSAR Government. It promotes innovation and technology development in the insurance industry, enhancing the efficiency and accessibility of financial services while fostering the growth of Insurtech.
The platform also contributes to financial connectivity and regulatory cooperation, supporting Hong Kong’s status as an international financial hub. Furthermore, it exemplifies the government’s commitment to digital transformation across industries, collectively positioning Hong Kong for sustained economic growth and global competitiveness.
OpenGov Asia earlier reported that Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK) soft-launched the FintechHK Community Platform, a centralised fintech platform to connect local and global fintech companies with Corporate, Investor, and Service Champions.
The platform is fully supported by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB) and curated by InvestHK; the initiative comes as an extension of the Global Fast Track Programme, which garnered great industry participation in 2022.
In a bid to support startups struggling to train AI models in the country, the government plans to establish a major graphics processing unit (GPU) cluster. The move will also encourage investments in the field of chip design for AI applications, enhance domestic intellectual property, and improve the country’s global standing in the AI and semiconductor industries.
A GPU cluster is a network of computers with GPUs on each node to train neural networks for image and video processing. According to the Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekar, the GPU will be set up under the India AI programme. The government will help startups and foreign enterprises interested in developing domestic intellectual property in chip design for AI applications through the IN₹ 11 billion (US$ 132 million) – IN₹ 12 billion (US$ 144 million) design-liked incentive systems.
Chandrasekar noted that presently, most conversations about AI revolve around applications such as ChatGPT. However, the project’s main aim is to develop practical AI applications for the real world. The emphasis will be on developing AI-specific integrated circuits for real-use cases in healthcare, governance, and education.
Alongside this announcement, the Minister mentioned that construction for a semiconductor packaging and assembly plant has been started by a leading American semiconductor manufacturing company in Sanand, Gujarat. The project has a total investment of US$ 2.75 billion. The project will receive significant support, including 50% fiscal backing from the central government, along with additional incentives representing 20% of the overall project cost from the state of Gujarat. The facility will encompass 500,000 square feet of cleanroom space and will commence operations in late 2024.
Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unveiling of the semiconductor vision and the intended investment of IN₹ 760 billion to stimulate and develop India’s semiconductor ecosystem, significant advancements have been achieved in the past 18 months. The Sanand plant represents a significant milestone in India’s journey toward becoming a leading semiconductor industry.
The India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) is a distinct and autonomous Business Division operating within the Digital India Corporation. It aims to cultivate a dynamic semiconductor and display ecosystem, positioning India as a worldwide leader in electronics manufacturing and design. Spearheaded by international experts in the semiconductor and display sectors, ISM serves as a central hub for the effective and coordinated implementation of the Program for the Development of the Semiconductor and Display Ecosystem. This is achieved through close collaboration with government ministries, departments, agencies, industry partners, and academic institutions, ensuring a comprehensive and streamlined approach.
ISM is developing a comprehensive and long-term strategy to nurture sustainable semiconductor and display manufacturing facilities. It promotes the implementation of secure microelectronics and cultivates a reliable semiconductor supply chain, including raw materials, speciality chemicals, gases, and manufacturing equipment.
ISM will also provide essential support through Electronic Design Automation (EDA) tools, foundry services, and other suitable mechanisms for early-stage start-ups. It will enable cutting-edge research, including evolutionary and revolutionary technologies, through grants, global partnerships, and mechanisms involving academia, research institutions, and industry stakeholders. It actively promotes collaborative initiatives with national and international agencies, industries, and institutions. These efforts accelerate commercialisation and skill development, enabling the transfer of technologies (ToT) to foster innovation and growth.
New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel have participated in a multinational exercise led by the United States to advance and fortify the military’s cyber capabilities. This collaborative effort is driven by the necessity to shield the nation and its assets against the relentless and ever-evolving array of cyber threats in the contemporary digital landscape.
The exercise underscored the commitment of New Zealand to staying at the forefront of cybersecurity and serves as a testament to the strong international partnerships. By engaging in this exercise, the NZDF personnel have had the invaluable opportunity to exchange insights, strategies, and best practices with their counterparts worldwide. This cross-cultural collaboration enhances cyber readiness and fosters a spirit of cooperation and solidarity in confronting the common challenges posed by the modern cyber domain.
The bi-annual Exercise Cyber Flag, orchestrated under the auspices of the US Cyber Command, is designed to cultivate the capacity for executing Defensive Cyber Operations beyond the conventional IT network boundaries. Beyond this primary objective, it serves as a crucible for developing, assessing, and validating cyber skills within the milieu of multinational cooperation.
The NZDF actively engaged in this exercise in a collaborative spirit and commitment to cyber resilience. This involvement transcended geographical constraints, with contributions from NZDF personnel stationed within the United States, specifically the State of Virginia, and remotely from New Zealand. The endeavour was characterised by two highly proficient Cyber Protection Teams comprising a dynamic ensemble of Regular Force, Reserve Force, and civilian professionals.
The first of these teams constituted a fusion of talents from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Navy and NZDF civilians affiliated with the Defence Cyber Service Centre. The second team was a composite unit representing the NZ Army, bolstered by the inclusion of Special Forces personnel. Furthermore, the exercise ecosystem was enriched by dedicated individuals who assumed the role of opposing forces, simulating a spectrum of cyber attacks and exploitation scenarios.
The bi-annual Exercise Cyber Flag, orchestrated by the U.S. Cyber Command, is a pivotal and meticulously crafted undertaking. Its central aim is to cultivate the expertise required for the execution of Defensive Cyber Operations, a domain that extends far beyond the conventional confines of IT networks. However, this exercise serves a multifaceted purpose, functioning as an invaluable for developing, assessing, and validating cyber skills, all within the multinational cooperation.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) actively participated in this exercise as a collaboration and commitment to cyber resilience. What is particularly noteworthy is the NZDF’s ability to transcend geographical boundaries in its contribution. Personnel from the NZDF were positioned within the United States, specifically in the State of Virginia, and worked from remote locations in New Zealand. This dynamic engagement showcased the NZDF’s adaptability and dedication to the exercise’s objectives.
Cyber Protection Teams represent a blend of talent from the Regular Force, Reserve Force, and civilian professionals. The composition of these teams was diverse and inclusive, with the first team comprising individuals from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Navy, and NZDF civilians affiliated with the Defence Cyber Service Centre—the second team representation from the NZ Army was further augmented by the inclusion of Special Forces personnel.
Furthermore, the exercise ecosystem was enriched by the indispensable contributions of individuals who assumed the roles of opposing forces. Their expertise lies in simulating a spectrum of cyber attacks and exploitation scenarios, providing an invaluable testbed for the teams to hone their defensive capabilities.
SmartSat has approved Project P2.59 led by the University of Sydney’s AMME School, aiming to develop an advanced robotic satellite system with AI, sensing, and control capabilities. Collaborating with Sydney-based robotics startups, this project addresses challenges in close proximity satellite operations, driven by the harsh space environment and increased space debris.
The focus of Project P2.59 is on enhancing onboard autonomy, sensing, perception, and control systems. It will culminate in a ground-based ISAM mission demonstration showcasing satellite proximity operations, docking, and maintenance tasks. This project aligns with the growing ISAM industry, attracting government and private sector investments, and aims to establish Australia’s capabilities and unique advantages in this space.
Advanced Robotics and AI
The project aims to create autonomous robotic satellites empowered by cutting-edge robotics and AI. These satellites can make real-time decisions, adapt to dynamic conditions, and operate without constant human intervention, improving efficiency, especially in close-proximity scenarios.
Sensing and Perception
Project P2.59 emphasises advanced sensing and perception. It deploys state-of-the-art sensors to capture real-time data, enabling informed decisions based on the satellite’s surroundings. This capability is crucial for safety and mission success.
Robust control mechanisms are essential for reliability and safety in satellite operations, navigating challenges in the space environment. These mechanisms provide precision and agility for close proximity, docking, and maintenance tasks.
Demonstration of Capabilities:
A key milestone is the ground-based ISAM mission demonstration, showcasing various operations, including proximity manoeuvres, docking, and simulated maintenance tasks. It highlights the project’s expertise and commitment to advancing Australia’s ISAM capabilities.
Significance of ISAM:
ISAM is a burgeoning sector globally, attracting substantial investments. It extends satellite lifespan and opens new mission possibilities. Australia’s strategic position in this field is reinforced by Project P2.59.
Australia’s Strategic Position
The project positions Australia as a key player in the evolving space industry. It seeks to meet sovereign space needs and provide unique technological advantages as space technologies evolve.
Project P2.59, led by the University of Sydney’s AMME School, in collaboration with Sydney-based robotics startups, focuses on developing advanced robotic satellite capabilities through AI, sensing, and control technologies. It addresses challenges in close-proximity satellite operations and aligns with the growing ISAM industry, enhancing Australia’s position in the global space sector.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that the Queensland Earth Observation Hub (QLD EO Hub) convened a workshop in Brisbane that served as a significant step in harnessing the potential of Earth Observation (EO) technologies, data, and workflows for the benefit of Australia.
The initial findings from a comprehensive market engagement study were presented. This study spanned a diverse range of EO and industry sectors and aimed to illuminate both the challenges and opportunities that Queensland, and by extension, the broader Australian landscape, faces in embracing EO technologies not only in the present but also in the foreseeable future.
This market study embarked on an extensive consultation process, engaging with stakeholders across urban and rural Queensland. It encompassed the entire spectrum of the EO ecosystem, from data and service providers to end-users, as well as those contemplating the utilisation of EO in the years ahead.
The core objective was to gain profound insights into the current capabilities, hurdles, and potential avenues for growth within Queensland’s EO community. Additionally, it sought to cultivate a vision of what the future could hold in terms of EO technology deployment.
Minister of Digital Affairs Audrey Tang of Taiwan made her mark at the high-level meeting of the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. This prestigious gathering brought together government leaders and digital and diplomatic heads from 38 countries to collectively address the challenges posed by rapidly evolving technologies and establish measures to ensure the security and well-being of their citizens.
Minister Audrey’s presence at this international forum was a testament to Taiwan’s commitment to championing the principles of legality, responsibility, and compliance with both domestic laws and international norms in the development of science and technology.
She echoed the sentiments of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, emphasising that technological progress should never come at the expense of privacy and human rights. In an era where digital innovations have the potential to shape the future, Taiwan remains firmly aligned with its democratic partners, standing united to protect the core values of freedom, democracy, and online human rights.
Taiwan’s dedication to this cause is exemplified by its upcoming commitment in 2022 to sign “A Declaration for the Future of the Internet” alongside allies from over 60 countries. This declaration represents a collective pledge to transform the internet into a digital public domain that safeguards human rights, freedom, and mutual trust.
Minister Tang’s participation in the FOC high-level meeting underscored Taiwan’s honour in joining hands with its allies to defend these fundamental values on the global stage. One of the key takeaways from this meeting was the valuable exchange of experiences. French digital ambassador Henri Verdier shared insights on France’s efforts to promote transnational public programmes.
Highlighting the potential of information systems created through collaboration between civil society and government, Ambassador Henri emphasised France’s ongoing commitment to invest in digital innovation infrastructure.
Minister Audrey, in response, highlighted Taiwan’s efforts in open-source localisation operations and the field testing of communication software like Element in Matsu. This innovative approach ensures resilient digital communication, even in the face of challenges such as submarine cable failures.
The Freedom Online Coalition, established in 2011, has been at the forefront of safeguarding online human rights and promoting the values of freedom and democracy. Comprising member states like the US, Japan, the United Kingdom, and France, the FOC has played a pivotal role in shaping global policies on internet freedom. Taiwan, in recognition of its commitment to these ideals, is set to join as an FOC observer in 2023, further solidifying its role in the coalition’s mission.
Minister Audrey’s engagement extended beyond the FOC meeting as she participated in a symposium organised by the International Strategy Forum (ISF). Here, she engaged in discussions on global governance and emerging technologies with a diverse panel of experts and thought leaders.
Topics ranged from artificial intelligence (AI) application standards to digital trust and the protection of human rights values. The Minister cited that through the Alignment Assemblies project, Taiwan is pioneering a groundbreaking approach to align AI values through citizen deliberation, setting a global precedent.
Taiwan’s overarching goal is to empower all citizens to contribute to the safe and sustainable development of AI while identifying and mitigating the inherent risks of this transformative technology. Minister Audrey pledged Taiwan’s continued collaboration with partners to advance digital development, with a keen focus on the three dimensions of participation, progress, and security.
Under the Government of Western Australia, the Carnarvon community, including growers, businesses, and residents, has experienced a transformative connection through the successful implementation of the Digital Farm Grants program.
A 63-metre tower was constructed and equipped with the necessary supporting infrastructure. This initiative has ushered in high-speed, enterprise-grade broadband internet access for agribusinesses and local communities within the Carnarvon Horticulture District and its adjacent areas.
The state government has awarded an AU$600,000 grant to a network company based in Bunbury. This grant was allocated as part of the second round of the Digital Farm Grants program, which has proven instrumental in bridging the digital divide in regional Western Australia.
In addition, the Shire of Carnarvon, local growers, and businesses have extended their support through both additional funding and in-kind contributions, underlining the collaborative spirit that has propelled this project to success.
This initiative will cover approximately 800 square kilometres, encompassing the entirety of the Shire of Carnarvon. Within this expansive coverage, over 180 agribusinesses and more than 2,900 private dwellings now have access to the newfound digital connectivity.
The Carnarvon Horticulture District is known for its diverse production of fruit and vegetable crops. Tomatoes, capsicum, table grapes, bananas, melons, eggplants, and mangoes are among the prominent crops cultivated in this district, contributing to an annual production value that exceeds AU$110 million.
The Regional Development Minister emphasised the pivotal role played by the Digital Farm Grants program in uniting businesses and communities in regional Western Australia. The program’s core objective of delivering fast, reliable, affordable, and scalable broadband services is particularly relevant in areas where conventional fixed-line and fixed wireless NBN services remain inaccessible.
The Carnarvon Horticulture District, a hub of irrigated agriculture, plays a vital role in supplying fresh produce to consumers in Perth and neighbouring regions. With the implementation of this significant infrastructure project, both local businesses and residents within the district and its surroundings stand to reap the benefits of a more dependable internet broadband service.
The Member for Mining and Pastoral stated that the construction of the new telecommunications infrastructure is set to usher in high-speed, enterprise-grade broadband internet access to approximately 180 agribusinesses and over 2,900 private dwellings in the region. This advancement represents a significant leap forward, enabling growers to harness the cutting-edge technology required to remain competitive and bolster profitability in today’s dynamic agricultural landscape.
The Government’s Digital Farm Grants program has ushered in a new era of connectivity and opportunity for the Carnarvon community.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that the Government of Western Australia is taking steps to promote the growth of small to medium-sized local businesses by offering grants totalling over AU$3 million. These grants are intended to enhance their capabilities and competitiveness, enabling them to pursue contracts from both the government and private sector.
Known as the Local Capability Fund (LCF), this initiative serves as a crucial resource for recipients looking to expand their capacity and improve their competitiveness in supplying goods, services, and works to the government, major projects, and other significant markets.
For the upcoming fiscal year of 2023-2024, the government has announced four new LCF rounds, collectively amounting to AU$2.2 million in funding, with individual grants of up to AU$50,000. These four rounds are designed to cater to specific needs and priorities:
- Supplying Key Projects Round: This round aims to support businesses across the state in supplying essential goods and services to key government and private sector projects within priority sector markets.
- Aboriginal Business Round: This round is dedicated to businesses with a majority of Aboriginal ownership. It seeks to assist these enterprises in supplying goods, services and works to both the government and the private sector.
- National and International Standards Compliance Round: To ensure businesses adhere to the highest industry standards, this round provides financial assistance for engaging external experts to implement and obtain third-party certification for seven specific national and international standards.
- Digital Transformation Round (Upcoming): Soon, the LCF will introduce a Digital Transformation Round to provide initial support to eligible businesses in adopting and leveraging digital technologies and data. This round aims to advance the government’s understanding of digital needs in the business landscape.