Around 99.5% of Thailand’s 67 million population enjoys health protection coverage. Majority of it, nearly 70%, is provided by the public sector. Universal Health Coverage was launched in 2002, leading to falls in infant and child mortality and rise in life expectancy. Thailand has good healthcare indicators, compared to peers. IT has played a crucial role in these developments.
OpenGov speaks to Dr. Polawat Witoolkollachit, Director of Information Technology and Communication, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand to learn about the journey till now and the path ahead. He has been involved in many public health related IT projects, including the setting up of an inter-connected data centre network across Thailand.
Could you please describe your current areas of focus?
In the next three years, our focus is on E-Health strategy and adapting it to our policy. We follow the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. The WHO has the Health Systems Framework, which consists of six building blocks. Their main objective is to improve the delivery and quality of healthcare to the people. Some of these blocks involve the use of health information technology to improve health care.
Now we are in the phase of implementing the E-health policy in our healthcare system.
What are the projects your department is working on?
Our department is involved in many projects about developing the infrastructure of health IT in Thailand. First, we try to get our service units in place. We have over 10,000 units all over Thailand, connected together. The connection was completed 2 years ago.
Now, every single unit in Thailand can send and receive information from the Ministry of Public Health (MPH). We can monitor and deliver the report of the individual service units, tracking the quantity and quality of services delivered.
We have about 76 provincial health offices. Every provincial health office has their own data centre. They are connected to each other and to the central data centre. After we implemented health data centres, we have to implement big data tools (Axis MOPH: Bigdata project). When we collect the data from all the provincial units and try to get a holistic view, we need to use big data analytics. To manage the data at the ministry level, we are using big data servers.
Can you please give some examples of big data use in public health sector in Thailand?
If we want to get a report from some province, now we can easily access a pre-prepared report on regular matters of interest, we can get the result instantly (http://hdcservice.moph.go.th). If we want to know something different from the regular issues, we use our big data server to retrieve that information.
For example, earlier if we wanted current statistics on pregnancies, you would have to call and get the data from every province and tie it all together into a report. With big data, you can get the information in nearly real-time. It is almost instant, taking less than 30 minutes.
Previously, we were trying to find how many Outpatient department (OPD) cases we had from January till now. Even after the implementation of provincial data centres, we had to go to every data centre, submit the query and collate the results. Now we can go to the AXIS big data server, and get the instant report.
What kind of training program was used for enabling stakeholders to utilise data centres?
We have a 3 level training structure. The first one is for the users at the ground level. They are trained to use the Health Data Centre Service to generate regular reports.
Users in the service units all over Thailand are trained, so that they can use their health data centre reports and compare them to others. They can also check the history of their actions and numbers.
The second rung of training is for administrators at the provincial level. They can monitor the data, extract any data they need from the provincial data centres, and check its integrity before sending it to the ministry.
The third one is for administrators at the ministry level. We train them how to use the data.
Because Thailand has health care service data sets from 20 years, now we have the fourth generation of data sets, administrators at the ministry level can analyse the data. They can check gaps and defects in the data and work towards making it complete. They are also taught and trained how to use big data.
Earlier, we never know the impact of a policy till we were done, or at least till the end of the year. Now, we can monitor what’s going on.
How do you evaluate the success of these projects?
The key to success for us is the number of users and the number of reference reports they generate using our service. As you know, if we implement advanced technology applications but if they don’t use it, then it is futile. There is no value go it. Finally, if people do not use it saying it is unreliable, then it is a failure of the system.
But our systems are becoming more popular day-by-day because reports from our applications are being widely used to monitor and evaluate results.
Can you please give some examples of the use of big data in public health care in Thailand?
In referral cases, when a patient is sent to a specialist hospital, they don’t need to re-enter the data at the hospital. The patient does not need to answer the same questions over and over again. We can identify the people and send some of the personal data through our systems to the other hospital.
The information transferred is kept within the bounds set by our laws. We can use our product to connect to the Ministry of Interior in order to check the integrity of data. When we want to do something with personal information of the patient, we have to authenticate the data first, check the identity of the persons.
Thailand is different from other countries in the region, because nearly 80% of the 67 million population of Thailand rely on the public healthcare system and we have Universal Health Coverage. This makes us the family service provider for any citizen in Thailand. So, we have to take care of more citizens, compared to other countries. Private sector handles less than 35% of total health services.
What is the next step for IT in the Thai health care system?
The next step we are looking to is a Health Information Exchange (HIE) for personal health records. It is our goal to achieve that in the next three years. If you have health problems while living in one province, and then you move to another province, your record is not moveable. You have to ask them to send the record to the other hospital where you are using the service at present. With the HIE, the information of Thai citizens can follow them anywhere in Thailand.
There are several by-products or side-benefits of centralised personal health records. You can use it for administration, you can use it to improve health care services, citizens can use it for their own health-related purposes.
Without personal records system, medical history is very difficult to access. You might not remember something for your own child, from when they were young. You might not know something related to your parents.
If you can monitor yourself, then it good for the overall health care system. If you can do more prevention, it will reduce costs for the system in the long term.
We have a Personal Health Records Board. It also includes many of the health care providers and all professional councils. Participation is voluntary but they are all coming together to make it happen, to make the HIE a reality.
In relation to centralised personal health records, there is a lot of concern over cybersecurity? How are you managing those risks?
We include the Attorney General and representatives from the ETDA (Electronic Transaction Development Agency) in the working council. We factor in security in the design and planning. This gives us confidence that we can establish a secure HIE.
What are the key challenges in ICT-related projects in the public health sector?
The key is always leadership. First is leadership, which flows into strategy and policy, and then comes collaboration between stakeholders.
Leadership has to be aligned with the people, with the citizens in Thailand, with their needs. Communication needs to happen with every level of top leadership and administrators, regarding the importance of IT and what we need to do in the next few years.
External pressure by the people and internal pressure within the government will move Thailand towards not just a digital healthcare sector but also a digital government and digital economy.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) released the MICE Sustainability Roadmap, which outlines specific goals and plans for raising sustainability standards throughout the MICE sector in Singapore over the coming years.
The Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) industry is a type of tourism travel in which groups of people are brought together for a specific reason, usually well in advance. On the other hand, the MICE market refers to a subset of people who plan, arrange, and facilitate conferences, seminars, exhibitions, and other events.
Part of STB’s overarching plan to develop a sustainable tourism sector is the use of such roadmaps, which direct businesses in the sector to achieve specific sustainability goals. Following the launch of the Hotel Sustainability Roadmap earlier this year, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap is the second such project.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN) serve as the roadmap’s guiding principles. Three goals are listed in the MICE Sustainability Roadmap to help Singapore become one of the most environmentally-friendly MICE destinations in Asia Pacific:
- By 2023, create a set of industry-acceptable sustainability standards with the goal of having them recognised internationally by 2024.
- For all six purpose-built MICE venues and 80% of SACEOS members to get internationally or nationally recognised sustainability certification, or both, by 2025.
- To attain net-zero emissions by 2050 in accordance with the country’s net-zero aim, the Singapore MICE sector must first track waste and carbon emissions by 2023, reduce waste in line with the Singapore Green Plan by 2030, and reduce waste overall by 2050.
The MICE Sustainability Committee (MSComm), established by STB and SACEOS in August 2022 to advance sustainability capabilities and create awareness of sustainability initiatives and best practices, will help the industry adopt sustainable practices and meet these goals.
The dedication to sustainability follows a robust MICE rebound in the wake of Singapore’s borders being reopened in April this year and a rising desire for environmentally friendly business travel. More importantly, the industry is aware of how crucial it is to lessen the environmental impact of MICE events.
With STB and SACEOS leading the charge and offering support as necessary to further develop a sustainable business events landscape in Singapore, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap will ensure that MICE players move forward in pursuing relevant and achievable sustainability goals that are tracked at appropriate milestones.
Meanwhile, OpenGov Asia recently reported that the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore is working with a large American technology company to address climate change-related challenges and enhance the sustainability of digital technologies.
The cooperation aims to hasten the local and international development of software applications and solutions to assist businesses in using their resources more efficiently.
The tech giant and IMDA will exchange best practices, standards, learnings, and certification pathways for accurate measurement and reporting of carbon emissions resulting from software applications. Through this relationship, the nation hopes to speed up the application of the ideas and resources needed to create green technologies.
According to IMDA, Southeast Asia is well-positioned for the region to take the lead in digital sustainability. This collaboration will produce cutting-edge digital sustainability solutions that can be used by multinational corporations, bringing about positive change for the environment worldwide and ensuring a sustainable future for all.
The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and Tecnológico de Monterrey (Tec) through its Institute for the Future of Education, signed a research collaboration agreement to improve the cyber-physical learning of students and teachers in Singapore and Mexico.
The three-year agreement will see the two parties share practices and experiences in the configuration and usage of cyber-physical learning infrastructure to create new opportunities for educational innovation and research, resulting in new pathways for the future of education.
The SUTD-Tec’s Institute for the Future of Education agreement will foster the exchange and sharing of practices of cyber-physical learning and evaluation of the effectiveness of associated educational delivery models. Both parties will conduct joint experiments involving students and instructors to explore domains such as technology-enabled learning, translational pedagogical innovations, learning analytics, and personalised and engaging learning.
This research collaboration will have its focus on the SUTD campusX initiative, which focuses on the needs and experiences of students and instructors using data analytics and learning sciences with the purpose of creating a safe, inclusive, and enjoyable space for students to learn, interact and optimise their learning outcomes.
With regards to the campusX and its impact on the future of education, SUTD’s Provost stated that both Tec and SUTD share a common vision of cyber-physical learning, with similar interests and understanding of the challenges in areas of applying human-centric technology and design to the practice of pedagogy and andragogy in actual higher learning environments. This forms a strong basis on which many more projects can be conducted between Tec and SUTD. The current research collaboration is an important start and SUTD looks forward to furthering the partnership with Tec in years to come.
He noted that, similarly, SUTD also looks forward to working with more like-minded partners across academia and industry and from local and global landscapes to make cyber-physical learning a reality.
Speaking about the research collaboration between the two renowned higher education institutions, the Rector for Higher Education of Tecnológico de Monterrey expressed his satisfaction with the signing of the agreement and said that to advance in current-day education challenges and design the future of education, collaboration is key.
He noted that Tec has pioneered educational innovation in Mexico and Latin America, and they aim to expand their projects and initiatives to have an increasingly global relationship and impact. An initiative aimed at strengthening links with Asia is being developed; these collaborations with them will extend to the areas of research, education, and technology.
Furthermore, the Executive Director of the Institute for the Future of Education of Tecnológico de Monterrey emphasised the importance of this kind of agreement between both universities. He noted that conducting joint experiments to evaluate innovative cross-border educational models will be key to developing effective cyber-physical learning environments.
The collaborative project with SUTD’s campusX initiative will increase learning opportunities for global higher education audiences, capitalising on the intercultural exchanges between Singaporean and Mexican students and professors, and developing best practices with an international perspective, he added.
The research activities framed in this agreement are slated to begin in the first quarter of 2023 and the experimental and simulated learning environment trials will result in the identification of best practices in digital education delivery models supported by effective cyber-physical technology platforms.
The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has launched an online masters in technology (MTech) course for working professionals, allowing candidates to pursue the educational qualification while working. According to a statement, the tailor-made online programme for qualified engineers is gaining popularity and over 600 working professionals have already enrolled for the three-year course.
The MTech degree includes programmes on communications, VLSI and analog circuits, microelectronics, multimedia signal processing, software security, automotive engineering, mechanical design, interdisciplinary programmes in quantum technology, and data sciences.
IIT-Madras is the first IIT to offer an MTech course in a distance learning mode through its Centre for Continuing Education. “The students of this programme have the same rights and privileges as regular students. The working professionals can carry out the project work at their workplaces. They do not need any residency as compared to sponsored candidates,” a representative from the IIT-Madras said. From only 14 candidates in 2020, the number has shot up to 605 this year.
IIT-Madras faculty, teachers from other premier academic institutions, and eminent industry professionals will be conducting the classes. Apart from online classes, which are held in the evening, students will also have live interaction with their faculty members. Students will give exams in the same city as their offices. In terms of the evaluation method, a problem statement will be evaluated and approved by IIT-Madras faculty. A mentor will guide the student at their workplace. The student’s progress will be jointly evaluated by faculty from IIT-Madras and the mentor. The faculty member will approve the problem statement and review the progress.
In September, IIT-Madras launched an industry-oriented Online Certificate Programme on e-mobility for working professionals. Four out of the nine modules in the programme are delivered by industry professionals. The programme was conceived with inputs from industry experts and would be continuously upgraded based on technology trends, market trends, and industry needs, the Institute noted.
The course is offered through IIT-Madras’ Centre for Outreach and Digital Education (CODE). It provides an overview of the e-mobility ecosystem and fundamentals in technical areas like vehicle development, power electronics, battery engineering, thermal management, power trains, and EMI/ EMC, among others. The programme contains 120 hours of video classes and 40 hours of online contact classes with the faculty. The candidates need to complete regular assignments and a final evaluation, after which they will receive a certificate. The first cohort started at the beginning of October.
In November, the Institute partnered with United States-based Purdue University to jointly develop a dual-degree programme in semiconductors. As OpenGov Asia reported, the programme focuses on an innovative, cooperatively developed curriculum to meet the growing needs of the industry. Undergraduate students with strong academic credentials and a deep interest in semiconductor devices, chip fabrication, and circuits and systems will be considered. The programme will enable a quick ramp-up of skilled talent, preparing the next generation of the semiconductor workforce. The partnership would also entail research collaboration in semiconductor supply-chain management, chip design, packaging, system architecture, and advanced manufacturing methods
Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, recently revealed details of an AU$15 million project to develop a national soil information system, aimed at improving the sustainable management of one of the nation’s most precious assets.
Supporting the National Soil Strategy, and funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Australian National Soil Information System (ANSIS) project is a collaboration between the government, research organisations, industry, the private sector and the community.
Using innovative processes and technologies, ANSIS will allow improved sharing of nationally consistent soil data and information through online access for users. This will help Australians to better understand their nation’s diverse range of soils and make better decisions about managing our important soil resources. Currently, soil data is collected using different methods, by different organisations, and at a range of depths in the soil. This makes it hard to access, compare and use data from diverse sources.
The Project Lead at CSIRO stated that improving access to the best soil data and information can help promote digital agriculture innovation and is key to sustainably managing Australia’s soils. By using ANSIS, farmers and agricultural advisors will have access to more soil data and be better placed to more sustainably manage the soil on which they rely.
Soil is vital to agricultural production and natural environments, as well as health and well-being. This information system will help everyone care for this important natural resource. Productive, healthy, and resilient soil means more economic, environmental, and social benefits to Australia. Monitoring soil also helps scientific understanding of how the natural world is changing.
This work will provide insight into biodiversity, water resources, landscapes and coastlines, fauna, climate, and geology. By harmonising Australia’s soil data, we can make it accessible across many fields of science and exploration. The project is being delivered under the Federal Government’s National Soil Strategy, which is about prioritising soil health, empowering soil innovation and stewards, and strengthening soil knowledge and capability. The new ANSIS system will be available for use in 2023.
ANSIS will provide improved access to nationally consistent soil data and information needed to help sustainably manage Australian soil. ANSIS will provide:
- More soil data
- More data sets are available that in other soil systems
- Enables more certainty in products developed
- Opportunity to develop new products
- Improved access
- Multiple data sets are now discoverable and accessible
- National coverage
- Most up-to-date data available
- Efficient provision
- Organised and standardised data for immediate use
- Can feed into many users’ requirements
- Consistent delivery
- Substantial reduction in time to prepare information products
- Trusted location
- Certainty that data is from an authoritative source, verified and satisfies standards.
The country has established the Indonesian Aviation Sector Computer Security Incident Response Team (IAS-CSIRT) to strengthen cybersecurity. The team will report to the Ministry of Transportation’s Director General of Air Transportation.
To anticipate system vulnerabilities, identify opportunities for bad actors to exploit, and reduce the risk of cyber incident threats, the aviation sector required a dedicated cybersecurity team. The CSIRT will regularly publish information on vulnerabilities, security, and new technology trends. The team is also prepared to face various escalating challenges. Members of the CSIRT will be trained through cyber drills and workshops.
The team is in charge of receiving, reviewing, and responding to cyber incident reports and activities with the function of providing reactive services by performing incident coordination, incident triage, and incident resolution.
During the IAS-CSIRT inaugural speech, the Deputy for Cybersecurity and Economic Cryptography of the National Cyber and Crypto Agency (BSSN), Markos, said that the aviation industry increasingly relies on digital technology for flight operations, ground services, communications navigation and surveillance, airport infrastructure, air traffic management, and supply chain.
Therefore, cybercrime prevention and management are crucial for many parties, including aviation service providers. F. Budi Prayitno, the Director of Aviation Security at the Ministry of Transportation, outlined the importance of cyber defence since cybercrime has resulted in considerable losses across sectors. “Effective cyber-crime prevention and management necessitate the collaboration of various cyber security stakeholders who already have a CSIRT,” said Budi. The BSSN contributed to the formation of the IAS-CSIRT.
Markos hopes that the IAS-CSIRT will be able to collaborate, synergise, and share information with various stakeholders and other cybersecurity constituencies in Indonesia, particularly in the handling and recovery of cyber incidents.
BSSN wants other sectors to form a CSIRT as well. The IAS-CSIRT was established for the first time (IIV) following the issuance of Presidential Regulation 82 of 2022 concerning the Protection of Vital Information Infrastructure. Sector IIV prioritises the CSIRT because it manages various strategic information assets related to community survival, national stability, and sovereignty.
Before the inauguration, BSSN signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and cooperation agreement with state-owned Aviasi Wisata Indonesia (InJourney Group) to support the tourism industry. In addition, cooperation on information protection and electronic transactions intends to improve the quality of information protection and electronic commerce.
The agreement’s scope includes information and communication technology security, the use of electronic certificates to improve electronic transaction security, the improvement and development of human resources, the exchange of information, and cybersecurity campaigns and literacy.
At the signing ceremony, the Head of the National Cyber and Crypto Agency (BSSN), Hinsa Siburian, emphasised the importance of synergy and collaboration to recover the Indonesian aviation and tourism industry through a reliable and safe digital transformation.
Furthermore, between January and November 2022, BSSN detected over 1.14 million traffic anomalies across all InJourney Group assets. BSSN said the most anomalies were discovered in August, with 235,742 events.
The collaboration is expected to make digital information transactions and exchanges more secure and leak-proof. The rapid advancement of digital technology presents an opportunity for Injourney to gain trust and confidence in the Indonesian tourism industry. However, as a result, it must be balanced with maximum data, information, and electronic transaction security.
China Provincial Development and Reform Commission announced the list of the second batch of digital transformation promotion centres in Liaoning Province. There are 13 additional provincial-level digital transformation promotion centres to help small and medium-sized enterprises improve transformation capabilities, reduce transformation costs, and shorten transformation cycles. There are currently 29 digital transformation promotion centres in the province, in addition to the previously announced first batch of lists.
The centres will assist the government in promoting digital construction in Liaoning and cultivating a digital transformation ecology. The programme is under the construction of the second batch of digital transformation promotion centres in Liaoning Province according to the Provincial Development and Reform Commission. The listed enterprises in this programme are based on self-declaration and recommendations from provincial and municipal departments. Experts then review the voluntary requests before being finalised and publicised.
According to the Provincial Development and Reform Commission, the digital transformation promotion centre should fully integrate resources to assist small and medium-sized enterprises.
The province government will provide transformation tools, products, technologies, and customised solutions to support business digital transformation and development. The centre promotes traditional businesses, internet platform enterprises, industry platform enterprises and financial institutions.
The government also promotes collaborative innovation in industries, education, medical care, employment, elderly care, and other fields. Companies participating in the programme will use the projects as a starting point to develop digital technology application scenarios. Participants in the programme are also permitted to complete personnel training with universities and colleges and vocational training and education.
The Provincial Development and Reform Commission will regularly evaluate provincial-level digital transformation promotion centres. The results will be used to recommend applicants for national-level digital transformation promotion centres.
China is currently driving the country’s digital economy. In early November, the General Office of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued the “Guidelines for the Digital Transformation of SMEs.” The regulation aims to fully implement the Party Central Committee’s and State Council’s decision-making deployment to encourage SMEs to improve their overall strength and core competitiveness through digital transformation.
The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, stated that “small and medium-sized enterprises can do great things.” He also emphasised the importance of grasping the direction of digitisation, networking, and intelligence. Moreover, promoting the digitisation of manufacturing, service industries, agriculture, and other industries is also necessary.
The guidelines aim to implement Party Central Committee and State Council decision-making and deployment, strengthen policy coordination, strengthen scientific guidance, deepen transformation awareness, and gather work synergy. The report also needed to promote high-quality economic development through the digital transformation of small and medium-sized businesses. The effort also had to be consistent with the overall economic and social digital transformation trend.
Furthermore, China will use the guidance to increase specialisation and new development of small and medium-sized businesses. The government intends to expand the use of digital technology in various sectors, including research, production, supply, marketing, and clothing. They plan to empower and refine products, increase value, plus accelerate technological innovation and new development in small and medium-sized businesses.
Another role of guidance is strengthening the digital transformation system and the comprehensive path of small and medium-sized businesses. Digital transformation is a multifaceted, cross-cutting project. The guidelines thus aid transformation from the demand side, the supply side, and local governments at all levels. All interested parties can use the guidelines to clarify their positioning and path and strengthen the collective force of transformation.
Stakeholders in the payments industry were challenged to step up their technological advancement. The appeal was issued as a government effort to ensure that the country stays current in advancing the money and payments landscape.
“My overarching message is that we all work and live in a period of substantive change. (The change) offers enormous opportunity if embraced, but potentially greater risk if not,” Karen Silk, Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Ptea Matua, said at a conference in Auckland.
Silk emphasised the technological improvement needed because New Zealand does not yet have scalable electronic, instant, peer-to-peer payments and lacks real-time retail payment systems. She also encouraged speeding up the fintech developments in the country. She noted that the country could become more digitally competitive by nurturing home-grown fintech enterprises.
The government has recognised the importance of increasing domestic competition and efficiency savings in the payment space and the broader financial system. However, lingering reliance on legacy systems, failure to understand regulatory impetus and focus, and limitations in cohesion and provision of regulatory support for innovation are impeding real progress.
Nevertheless, Silk praised recent legislative changes. Financial regulators provide a one-stop shop for fintech firms and system-level work to improve cross-border payments. The positive movement makes domestic interbank payments available seven days a week.
Silk stated that challenges could arise from new players who “inadvertently” introduce design or technology risks. She called it a risk as the nature of the business avoiding New Zealand regulation or undermining the role of central bank money, whether cash or a possible Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Even though the Reserve Bank is still researching the CBDC.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand published a paper recently describing the current state of the country’s payments system. It will issue another next month, consulting on the potential need to regulate private crypto assets until March 2023.
The Reserve Bank remains committed to improving the cash system’s efficiency and resilience to ensure that it continued providing payment options for everyone and financial and social inclusion for those who rely on it, Silk said. Next year, the Bank has planned small live experiments to investigate various ways to expand merchants’ roles in the cash system.
This could include assisting merchants in recycling cash at the point of sale; compensating them for cash-out services; facilitating frequent, affordable cash delivery and collection for merchants; and consolidating the cash system through the creation of utility entities, Silk explained.
Payments represent the flow of money. Sooner or later, the global payment evolution will also impact New Zealand. Hence, the country demands better, smarter, and faster payment. As a result, the study of payments has come under scrutiny.
Only some understand the intricacies of New Zealand payments, and because they are complex and interconnected, creating a single view of the payments landscape takes time and effort. Furthermore, payment systems and services differ from country to country.
The Reserve Bank plays a multifaceted role in the payment landscape. The bank runs, participates in, regulates, and monitors core payment systems. It has also recently taken on the part of money steward in New Zealand. In addition, it is interested in supporting and ensuring that money and payment systems are efficient and reliable and supporting innovation and inclusion.