OpenGov Editor-in-chief Mohit Sagar with Speakers from the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2017
The Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2017 in Kuala Lumpur on March 16 brought together over 200 delegates from national and state government agencies and departments and the healthcare and education sectors to exchange ideas and experiences. It was a day of stimulating, free-wheeling round-table discussions, engaging panels and insightful talks by local and international leaders in public sector ICT.
OpenGov Asia Editor-in-chief, Mohit Sagar, started proceedings with a call to action for ICT executives to start small, pilot fast, iterate and scale up. Pockets of experimentation can be created within organisations, snapping them out of inertia. You start small, and gradually, initiatives become bolder, and change agents seek support for new resources and technology. As insights are shared and the power of collaboration is recognised, dedicated digital transformation teams form to guide strategy and operations based on business and customer-centric goals. Finally, digital transformation becomes a way of business. A new ecosystem is established to identify and act upon technology and market trends in pilot and, eventually, at scale.
Digital First, Citizen Focused Government Services
Dato’ Dr. Mazlan Yusoff (above), Director General of the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation And Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) delivered the keynote address on the theme of ‘Riding the Transformation Wave: Digital First, Citizen Focused’. He sketched out the evolution of Malaysia’s digital government, from static information delivery in eGov 1.0 during the 90s to fluid transactions in eGov 2.0 to the next ongoing step of shifting to dynamic information and using online services to create opportunities for public participation.
Dato’ dr. Mazlan highlighted four key ongoing initiatives at MAMPU, 1) GAMMA (Gallery of Malaysian Government Mobile Applications), 2) 1MOCC or the Malaysia One Call Centre, 3) Government Online Services (GOS) Gateway , which is being implemented in four clusters, Business, Education, Health and Welfare and 4) the Government Information Exchange Hub.
Dato’ Dr. Mazlan talked about targets the Malaysian government is setting for itself, to move into the top 15 ranking in the Online Services Index (OSI) under the United Nations E-Government Survey to 15 by the year 2020 from its current ranking of 40 in 2015 and of being in the top 30 in the Open Data Barometer (ODB) by 2020, up from its 2015 ranking of 51.
‘Digitisation in and as of itself is not transformative’
Edwin Lau (above), Head of Reform of the Public Sector Division, Public Governance and Territorial Development at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that Digitisation in and as of itself is not transformative. There is a fork in the path, one leading to utopia, with improved well-being and productivity, citizens needs being anticipated and enhanced citizen engagement. The other leading to a dystopia, where there is loss of jobs, loss of privacy and risks of insecurity and fraud, with no discernible offsetting benefits. It is up to government to ensure that we end up at the right destination.
OECD members are the most advanced, developed countries in the world. With advances in digital technology the richest countries in the world no longer have a monopoly on best practices. An exchange of ideas with nations in different stages of development would be mutually beneficial for everyone. Echoing Dato’ Dr. Mazlan, Mr. Lau said that citizens’ expectations are much greater than ever before, not only in terms of real-time service delivery but also in terms of their ability to participate in the conversation.
Mr. Lau went on to discuss the three pillars of the OECD Recommendation on Digital Government Strategies, namely building openness and engagement into the way ICT is built, governance and coordination to create the ability for government to come together as a platform, externally and internally (improved collaboration can help solve wicked problems such as obesity, which is no longer the responsibility of the Ministries of Health but also of Taxation) and capacities to support implementation.
Like many other speakers through the day, Mr. Lau underlined the importance of citizen engagement. But simply opening a Twitter account or waiting for a new generation of digital natives to come of age is not enough. Governments need to find out who uses new channels and how and prepare engagement strategies accordingly. He gave the example of 89% of young Germans using social media but less than 20% using it for discussing political or civic issues.
He also posed the important question that governments are becoming more open but for what purpose? Are they linking it up to the other strategic objectives of the government. Not enough governments, including those in the the OECD are thinking about how openness can make their governments and their private sector more efficient.
OECD has published an index called the Open-Useful-Re-Usable Government Data Index (OURData Index) which evaluates countries on the criteria of Data availability, accessibility and government support to re-use.
Mr. Lau concluded his presentation listing initiatives undertaken by the OECD for supporting governments, including the Observatory of Public Sector Innovation and Digital Government Toolkit. The OECD is also in the process of preparing a report on South-east Asian government and citizen-centric services, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank. It will be published by end 2017.
‘We will keep sharing what we have built, and learning from best practice in other countries’
Olivia Neal (above), Deputy Director, Government Digital Service (GDS), UK talked about ‘Transforming the relationship between citizen and state’. She said, “It is about putting users at the heart of services. It has been fundamental to the approach we take in the UK.” Saying that we will do it is easy but doing it is difficult. Because you have to find actual users who are using the services, understanding what their needs are and then continually testing your services, ge
tting your developers and the whole team on board the process.
There are nearly 400,000 civil servants in the UK and it is not impossible for the GDS to do everything at the centre. So the GDS set Digital Services Standards, a set of 18 criteria to help government create and run good digital services. Describing how GDS ensured that the standards are actually adopted, Ms. Neal said, “Too often standards are written, put in a drawer and forgotten.” GDS would not give a domain for a new digital service, until they will sure that it met the high standards.
To track performance and boost transparency, all new digital services were required to track and publish four metric: cost per transaction, completion rate, digital take-up and user satisfaction.
Similarly, standards have been set up for digital technology procurement. Traditionally, government IT needs in the UK have been outsourced in the form of long-term monolithic contracts with a handful of London-based large suppliers. Sometimes smaller, innovative businesses might offer better solutions. To enable civil servants to go on to a platform for procuring IT and for suppliers to register, GDS created the Digital Martketplace. The Australian government developed its own version and now the UK and Australian teams now have a shared backdoor so that both benefit from future improvements in the service. This is an exemplar of how governments can share and collaborate.
Ms. Neal said that the focus for the next few years will be on creating common components which can be used across government. Examples, would be Verify and Notify. The latter sends emails and text message alerts to users from across departments. The former plays a critical role as there is no single citizen identifier in the UK. But for delivering good services, authenticating user identity is essential. So a federated identity assurance model has been developed. Identity is assured by a number of providers and users can choose which ones they want. The government does not hold any information identifying the individuals.
GDS published the Government Transformation Strategy 2017-2020 in February 2017. Ms. Neal highlighted an important point from it: ‘We will keep sharing what we have built, and learning from best practice in other countries, to make our services better’. She explained, “We certainly don’t have all the answers. But we hope that by sharing some of the knowledge we have, we can arrive at better solutions.”
‘Digitising within silos is not digital government’
Toshiyuki Zamma (above), Chair of the International Council for IT in Government Administration (ICA) and Executive Advisor to Government CIO, Chief Architect, Cabinet Secretariat, Japan went straight to the point about a common misconception about digital transformation in government. Digitising and automating processes within silos is not digital government.
Mr. Zamma also talked about a shift from eGovernment to Digital Government. While the traditional approach focused on One-stop services, Paperless, Standardisation and Static data and Amount of data, the future is going to be about Once only (government doesn’t ask citizens twice for the same information), Digital by default, Interoperability and Dynamic/Real time data.
He presented use cases of real-time data from the Vehicle Information and Communications System (VICS) in Japan, which collects, edits and transmits real-time traffic information to facilitate rescue and recovery in the event of natural disasters and reduce accidents.
Wrapping up his talk, Mr. Zamma stressed on the need to accurately identify customers before jumping to solutions. A user could be an office worker or a mother or an old person, and they would have diverse needs and expectations. While designing, and delivering government services, it would be critical to observe their activities, analyse issues, collect facts and focus on improving satisfaction.
‘How many services are you offering?’
Janek Rozov (above), Head of Department of the Informational Society Services Development, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication of Estonia spoke about the importance of assigning responsibility for service quality. And the first step towards it would be answering the basic question of how many services are actually being offered by a department. And then moving on to how much the services cost to the government, what is the level of user satisfaction and how much time it takes to use them.
So, Estonia is mapping and describing public services and connecting them with life and business events and tracking service quality across different channels through KPIs. This is helping the government in trimming the number of services, reducing costs, cutting down on time spent by customers on interacting with government and raising customer satisfaction.
Where to next?
There appears to be a consensus about the next step in government’s digital transformation.
Terms such as citizen-centric services, citizen engagement, once-only, government as a platform have become ubiquitous in discourse. But how to move from theory to practice? There are variations within and between governments over the level of ICT capabilities. The barriers range from legacy infrastructure to legacy culture, from cybersecurity and data privacy to the fundamental issue of clearly defining requirements.
Not all answers can be found over the course of one day, but the conversation moved forward. Going forwards, through OpenGov will continue to provide a platform for all stakeholders to learn from each other and collaboratively come up with innovative solutions.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan recently addressed the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit, shedding light on Singapore’s unique relationship with the oceans and its proactive approach to addressing the challenges nowadays. He highlighted the significance of the digitalisation of the maritime sector as a critical component in fostering sustainability.
Singapore’s history, culture, and economy are inextricably intertwined with its maritime surroundings. This small but dynamic city-state relies heavily on maritime trade, with a trading volume that is three times its GDP. This unique ratio underscores the vital importance of maritime routes and the sea itself to Singapore’s prosperity and well-being.
Minister Vivian highlighted the global movement toward the decarbonisation and digitalisation of the maritime sector as a significant opportunity. According to him, the shipping industry is a substantial contributor to carbon emissions, releasing one billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually. However, there is immense potential for abatement through innovative strategies.
One such strategy involves the establishment of green and digitally empowered shipping corridors, such as the partnership between the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore, the Port of Los Angeles, and the Port of Long Beach.
This corridor, initiated in April 2023, is part of the green shipping challenge, jointly launched by the United States and Norway. These corridors serve as vital nodes in the transition to lower and zero-emission fuels for ships, creating growth opportunities for businesses and promoting low-emission technologies in maritime port operations.
Minister Vivian added that the decarbonisation and digitalisation of the maritime sector represent a profound transformation that goes beyond mere industry trends; they are significant opportunities that can revolutionise the way shipping and maritime operations are conducted. These two interrelated processes are not just advantageous; they are pivotal in shaping the future of the maritime industry and addressing some of its most pressing challenges.
The synergy between decarbonisation and digitalisation holds great promise, with each complementing the other to produce amplified benefits. One of the key advantages of this partnership lies in the realm of data-driven decarbonisation. Digital tools and technologies offer the means to collect, analyse, and interpret vast amounts of data related to energy consumption, emissions, and environmental impact.
This data serves as the foundation for informed decision-making regarding the implementation and effectiveness of decarbonisation measures. By leveraging digital resources, organisations can ensure that their efforts are both cost-effective and environmentally impactful, directing resources where they are needed most while minimising wastage.
Besides, the fusion of decarbonisation and digitalisation leads to the concept of continuous improvement. Digital analytics tools excel in identifying areas where further decarbonisation efforts can be deployed. This iterative process creates a feedback loop that is indispensable in an industry marked by rapid technological advancements and changing environmental regulations.
In addition, Minister Vivian stressed the importance of international law in guiding the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) plays a pivotal role in this regard, providing a comprehensive legal framework for all activities in oceans and seas. Recent accomplishments, such as the “Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction” (BBNJ) treaty, represent significant milestones in global ocean governance.
The Minister is calling for collective commitment and collaboration across public, private, and civic sectors to create a more resilient, sustainable, and equitable world. “As we navigate the digital seas of the future, Singapore stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who share a commitment to safeguarding our oceans and securing a brighter tomorrow,” he concludes.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) and the Hospital Authority (HA) have joined forces to create the HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab, set to launch in October 2023 at Hong Kong Science Park. The facility will grant over 1,400 Park companies and their partners direct access to de-identified clinical data sourced from HA’s extensive patient database, comprising around 200,000 patient records.
The lab will be the first portal of its kind, offering non-academic research and development (R&D) access to HA’s data, opening up exciting opportunities for the tech industry to leverage clinical data for groundbreaking biomedical and healthcare innovations.
HKSTP’s CEO highlighted the lab’s transformative potential within the innovation and technology (I&T) ecosystem. He highlighted how seamless data collaboration between hospitals, academia, and industry will drive Hong Kong’s healthcare transformation and digital economy aspirations. The lab is expected to catalyse the development of breakthrough technologies by Park companies, aimed at positively impacting global lives.
The Chief Executive of the Hospital Authority underscored the significance of this partnership in facilitating industry access to clinical data and fostering collaboration and innovation. It aligns with the shared goal of accelerating healthcare transformation and enhancing healthcare quality across Hong Kong.
The HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab, situated in Building 19W of Hong Kong Science Park, will provide robust infrastructure, enabling exclusive access to HA’s Self-service Data Platform. This platform encompasses clinical data from a randomly selected group of 200,000 patients spanning 2007 to 2017, categorised by age and gender. The data covers various aspects, from patient demographics and hospital/clinic attendance records to clinical diagnoses, procedures, medication records, and laboratory/radiology results.
Data security and privacy are paramount, with HKSTP implementing rigorous measures. These include on-site personnel, surveillance systems, an isolated network, and restrictions preventing data download, saving, or printing. Additionally, all personal information is anonymised in the database. Governance committees, namely the HKSTP Clinical Research Ethics Committee and the Data Governance Committee, ensure compliance with data protection, privacy, and clinical research ethics.
The official launch of the HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab is scheduled for October 2023, following a pilot phase. During this time, all 1,400+ HKSTP Park companies (primarily in biotech and healthcare), their partners, and academic researchers can apply for access, with each application granting a five-day exploration window.
This collaboration stems from Hong Kong’s 2021 Policy Address, which tasked HKSTP and HA with promoting enhanced collaboration and data sharing between the R&D and healthcare sectors. The Self-service Data Platform was initially restricted to academic research and publications at select secure locations.
The establishment of the HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab at Hong Kong Science Park marks a significant milestone in HKSTP’s journey to strengthen collaboration across government, industry, academia, and research sectors, positioning Hong Kong as a global I&T hub.
The establishment of the HKSTP HA Data Collaboration Lab aligns with the goals of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government, as outlined in its policies and initiatives. One of the central objectives of the HKSAR government is to transform Hong Kong into an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub.
This initiative aims to foster collaboration between government, industry, academia, and research sectors to boost technological advancements and economic growth. The lab directly supports this goal by facilitating seamless data sharing between the healthcare and tech sectors, driving innovation, and advancing healthcare quality—a key component of the HKSAR government’s vision for a thriving and competitive knowledge-based economy.
OpenGov Asia reported on the Chief Executive of Hong Kong’s 2021 Policy Address which aimed to bolster the development of innovation and technology (I&T) to transform Hong Kong into an international I&T hub. The CE had noted, before delivering her final Policy Address, that the address would focus on economic integration with the Chinese mainland, housing and land supply, and resumption of quarantine-free travel with the mainland.
The upgrade of the Vietnam-US bilateral relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership has created opportunities for Vietnam to attract more high-quality investments in the fields of innovation and advanced technology.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh recently attended a meeting with chief executive officers of leading United States enterprises in the semiconductor industry in Washington DC. According to a report, American business representatives spoke highly of Vietnam’s semiconductor industry’s potential, noting the presence of high-quality human resources and the continuously advancing capabilities of local enterprises and training establishments in the country.
They believed that the possibility for cooperation between the two countries in the semiconductor industry is substantial and holds great significance for the development of bilateral relations in the new era. During the meeting, participants explored investment prospects in Vietnam and put forth collaborative strategies to nurture a semiconductor ecosystem. They suggested that in the long run, American companies could consider establishing chip factories in Vietnam.
The Prime Minister urged the United States semiconductor enterprises to increase their investment in Vietnam across all stages of the semiconductor industry, including infrastructure development, technology transfer, design, production, distribution, and manpower training. The collaboration should involve businesses, research institutions, and training establishments from both countries.
This approach will pave the way for enhancing the quality of human resources and the capabilities of Vietnamese companies, enabling the country to further engage in the value and supply chains of the global semiconductor industry.
Developing Vietnam’s semiconductor industry aligns with the current global trend and harnesses the potential and resources available in the country. Moreover, it brings about tangible benefits for people, therefore, the Minister noted that Vietnamese citizens will actively participate and contribute to the process.
He claimed that the government and relevant ministries and sectors are committed to creating an equal and healthy business environment. They will offer optimal conditions for foreign enterprises, including United States semiconductor companies, to operate in Vietnam stably, effectively, and sustainably.
At the event, three significant memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed by Vietnam’s National Innovation Centre (NIC) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MoPI) with American partners. The agreements aim to bolster design capabilities, advance product development, and enhance the training of human resources dedicated to the semiconductor industry.
One of these MoUs signed with an electronic design automation company, is geared towards providing support for the establishment of a chip design incubation centre. The second agreement was formulated to foster the growth of Vietnam’s semiconductor and electronics sector. Within this partnership, NIC will offer Vietnamese universities, training centres, and startups the necessary technology and training programmes to design and develop semiconductor products.
Under the third agreement, NIC will work with an American university to engage with Vietnamese research institutes and educational organisations to develop training programmes and share research in the domains of semiconductors and related fields. Additionally, they will actively seek and leverage appropriate sources of funding to enhance the capacity of the workforce in the semiconductor industry.
Founded in 2019, NIC supports and develops Vietnam’s startup and innovation ecosystem. Its mission is to modernise the country’s economic growth model by harnessing the power of science and technology. In October, NIC will inaugurate its new research centre located in the Hoa Lac High-Tech Park in Hanoi. This facility will include a chip design incubation centre equipped with cutting-edge technologies from key partners of NIC.
Breakthrough Victoria has unveiled investment partnerships totalling AU$ 87 million with five universities, geared toward facilitating the transition of transformative research from the laboratory to the marketplace. Swinburne University of Technology is set to co-invest AU$ 9 million, a sum reciprocated by Breakthrough Victoria, aimed at fostering the creation of novel ventures that will accelerate the commercialisation of research endeavours. This investment bolsters Swinburne University of Technology’s capacity to propel innovation and instils confidence among its researchers that their pioneering ideas can be translated into tangible realities.
Under these partnerships, each entity will funnel investments into startup companies originating from research initiatives, with pre-seed and seed funding capacities of up to AU$ 1 million per venture.
The official announcement was made by the Minister of Industry and Innovation during the inauguration of the Global Entrepreneurship Conference in Melbourne, a gathering that drew more than 4,000 investors and entrepreneurs from across the globe.
These alliances are being established as part of the ambitious AU$100 million Breakthrough Victoria – University Innovation Platform which was designed to elevate the level of commercialisation of pivotal research, characterised by its real-world applicability and benefits from Victorian universities.
The capital injections into startups during this critical nascent stage will serve as pivotal financial support, facilitating the development of product concepts, prototypes, and trials that are essential for research with strong commercial viability. Moreover, researchers and academics will receive dedicated support to enhance their ability to identify and effectively translate innovative ideas into commercially viable opportunities, thereby augmenting their entrepreneurial capabilities. The specifics of these partnership agreements have been tailored in collaboration with each respective university, thereby addressing the unique needs and the specific stage of their research commercialisation journey.
The co-investment partnership is expected to fuel innovation across a spectrum of industries, with a particular focus on aerospace, healthcare, sustainability, and manufacturing. These sectors, all intricately linked with technology, stand to benefit significantly from the injection of capital into startups that are on the cusp of technological breakthroughs. Such investments will not only drive product development but also foster technological advancement and drive economic growth.
One of the key benefits of this collaboration is the ability to transform research concepts into tangible products and services. Often, groundbreaking research remains confined to the academic realm due to a lack of resources for development and commercialisation.
However, with this co-investment initiative, researchers will have access to the funding necessary to bring their ideas to life. This is particularly relevant in the tech sector, where rapid innovation is critical, and timely investment can be the difference between an idea’s success and its stagnation.
Furthermore, this initiative acknowledges the pivotal role that universities play in fostering innovation. Universities are often hubs of research and development, where cutting-edge ideas are born. However, bridging the gap between academic research and commercial viability can be challenging.
With the partnership between Swinburne University of Technology and Breakthrough Victoria, there is a concerted effort to facilitate this transition. This not only benefits the university but also the broader tech ecosystem by ensuring that innovative ideas reach the market.
Moreover, the support provided to researchers and academics to enhance their entrepreneurial capabilities is a crucial aspect of this initiative. In the tech sector, it’s not just about having a great idea; it’s also about understanding how to bring that idea to market successfully.
This includes aspects like intellectual property management, market research, and business development strategies. The co-designed partnership agreements consider the specific needs and stage of research commercialisation, ensuring that the support provided is tailored to maximise the chances of success, especially in tech-related ventures.
The new Centre for Paramedicine, housed within the dedicated capability hub at Victoria University in Sunshine, is a testament to the commitment of the government to provide top-notch training for paramedics, OpenGov Asia earlier reported.
The Minister for Ambulance Services inaugurated the pioneering capability hub, a first of its kind in Australia. During the event, she met a group of 54 recently graduated paramedics who will receive training at the hub before embarking on their missions to provide essential care to the people of Victoria.
Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of transforming the boundaries of digital reality, promising to take simplicity and turn it into complexity through the creation of patterns in images, sounds, and text. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) have delved deep into this realm, introducing an innovative AI model that bridges the gap between two unrelated physical principles: diffusion and Poisson Flow. Their work has led to the development of the “Poisson Flow Generative Model ++” (PFGM++), which is poised to redefine digital content creation across various applications.
The PFGM++ model represents a leap in generative AI, offering the capabilities to generate a wide range of content, from images to audio. Its potential applications span from the creation of antibodies and RNA sequences to graph generation. At its core, PFGM++ extends the foundation of the Poisson equation, a concept from physics, to enhance its data exploration and generation capabilities. This breakthrough underscores the power of interdisciplinary collaboration between physicists and computer scientists in advancing the field of AI, as highlighted by Jesse Thaler, a physicist at MIT.
Thaler emphasises the remarkable progress achieved by AI-based generative models in recent years. These models have generated photorealistic images and coherent textual content, challenging the boundaries of artificial intelligence. Notably, some of these powerful generative models draw inspiration from well-established physics concepts such as symmetries and thermodynamics. PFGM++ builds upon a century-old notion from fundamental physics—the existence of extra dimensions in space-time – and transforms it into a versatile tool for crafting synthetic yet authentic datasets. The infusion of ‘physics intelligence’ is revolutionising the landscape of AI.
In the PFGM model, data points take on the role of minuscule electric charges within a multidimensional space, shaping an electric field that extends into an extra dimension, ultimately forming a uniform distribution.
This process is akin to rewinding a video, starting with charges and retracing their path along electric lines to recreate the original data distribution. This process enables the neural model to grasp the electric field concept and generate new data that mirrors the original.
The PFGM++ model takes this concept further by expanding it into a higher-dimensional framework. As these dimensions continue to grow, the model’s behaviour unexpectedly begins to resemble another crucial category of models known as diffusion models. This work aims to strike a balance, as PFGM and diffusion models occupy opposite ends of a spectrum: one is robust yet complex to handle, while the other is simpler but less sturdy. The PFGM++ model introduces a balanced middle ground, combining robustness with user-friendliness, revolutionising image and pattern generation and marking a significant technological advancement.
In addition to its adaptable dimensions, the research team has proposed a novel training approach that enhances the model’s understanding of the electric field, further boosting its efficiency.
To bring this concept further, the research team tackled a pair of differential equations detailing these charges’ motion within the electric field. They evaluated the model’s performance using the widely accepted Frechet Inception Distance (FID) score, which assesses the quality of generated images compared to real ones. PFGM++ excelled in demonstrating enhanced error tolerance and resilience regarding the step size within the differential equations, solidifying its position as a game-changer in the realm of AI-generated content.
In the future, the researchers are committed to refining specific aspects of the model through systematic approaches. They aim to identify the optimal value of D, customised for distinct data sets, architectures, and tasks, by closely analysing the behaviour of neural network estimation errors. Moreover, they plan to leverage PFGM++ in contemporary large-scale endeavours, particularly in text-to-image and text-to-video generation.
MIT’s PFGM++ stands at the forefront of a digital content revolution, bridging the gap between AI and reality. By integrating physics principles and advanced AI techniques, this innovative model promises to reshape the way we create digital content, opening up new horizons for creativity and application across various industries.
According to Dr Juanito Batalon, OIC, Office of the Executive Director for Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD), digitalisation in the Philippines’ agricultural sector ushers in a new era of innovation and efficiency.
“Due to the nation’s reliance on agriculture for food security and livelihoods, the incorporation of digital technologies is transforming the way agriculture is practised,” Dr Juanito explained.
Precision agriculture is one of the primary areas that will benefit from digitisation. Farmers are optimising agricultural planting, irrigation, and pest management by employing GPS technology, drones, and satellite imagery. This not only enhances crop yields but also saves resources and has a lower environmental impact.
Dr Juanito emphasised that precise farming methods like drip irrigation and controlled-release fertilisers reduce waste, save water, and have less of an effect on the environment. Farmers can also get information about market prices and trends through digital platforms. This helps them make smart choices about how to sell their crops, which increases their profits.
He highlights the Project SARAi, a research programme designed to deliver important information to local farmers in order to improve their yield. He has explained that SARAi specifically supports farmers by informing them about the weather, what crops they should plant for the season, what soil type they should employ to optimise crop quality and yield, and what pests and illnesses their crops are prone to.
He added that the project team also created drones that allowed them to see if their crops were still healthy or if they needed extra attention. With SARAi’s continual innovation, they were able to use satellites to estimate rainfall for the week, as well as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to find farmlands that cater to various crops.
Dr Juanito also stressed that they are actively promoting the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in agriculture to improve productivity and sustainability citing that the DOST-PCAARRD has been involved in various initiatives related to the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, in agriculture with the help of Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Besides, digital solutions give farmers the real-time data they need to make smart, data-driven choices. This includes decisions about planting, harvesting, and getting rid of pests, all of which lead to better crop management in the long run.
Drones and sensors are also very helpful for keeping an eye on crops and finding diseases early, which lets farmers target their efforts and lower production losses. Besides these useful advantages, digital technology is also very important for rural development because it helps rural communities get training, education, and knowledge, which makes their lives better.
Also, blockchain technology makes it possible to track crops, which improves food safety and quality control and helps farmers adjust to changing weather conditions, eventually making Philippine agriculture more sustainable.
“Digital technology is changing the Philippines’ farming industry, which is good for food security, economic growth, and the environment,” Dr Juanito said.
Further, DOST Secretary Renato Solidum, Jr highlighted during the 9th Balik Scientist Programme Annual Convention the importance of addressing the brain drain in the Philippines and retaining scientific talent through various initiatives like the “Balik Scientist Programme.” It discusses the country’s increasing global innovation index and government spending on research and development.
The Balik Scientist Programme, recognised as a significant national initiative, is emphasised for bringing back diverse Filipino scientists to contribute to the nation’s growth. The programme focuses on harnessing global science for sustainable development and innovation including digitalisation, AI, and robotics among others that are tailored to local challenges.
The University of Wollongong (UoW) has received a financial boost from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, to further support Indigenous students pursuing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. This significant contribution underscores a commitment to fostering Indigenous talent in the technology sector and ensuring a brighter future for these students.
The CSIRO Indigenous STEM Scholarship was initially established in 2019 with an initial gift of AU$ 30,000 from CSIRO. This initial funding aimed to support two Indigenous STEM students throughout their academic journeys. However, this commitment has now been elevated to an even more profound level. CSIRO has pledged an additional AU$ 500,000, ensuring that the scholarship will be awarded in perpetuity. This signifies a long-term partnership between CSIRO and UOW in nurturing and empowering Indigenous students in their pursuit of STEM education.
The primary objective of this partnership is to empower Indigenous students who are undertaking full-time degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics by providing financial support. Each year, one deserving student will be awarded AU$ 5,000 throughout the duration of their degree. This financial assistance not only eases the financial burden on the students but also allows them to fully concentrate on their academic and career goals within the tech and science sectors.
The 2021 recipient of the CSIRO Indigenous STEM Scholarship serves as an example of the positive impact of this initiative. The recipient noted that the financial assistance provided by the CSIRO scholarship allowed her to reduce her work commitments and allocate more time to engage in meaningful activities that can positively impact her career and well-being.
The Director of Indigenous Science and Engagement at CSIRO who is also a Gamillaroi man emphasised the importance of growing an Indigenous STEM pipeline, which not only benefits the science and technology sector but also the broader community. He noted that the development of an Indigenous STEM pipeline holds the potential to facilitate the engagement of the science and technology sector, with a particular focus on CSIRO, in integrating Indigenous talent, incorporating Indigenous knowledge and expertise, and nurturing successful careers in science and research for individuals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent.
UOW’s Vice-Chancellor and President highlighted the critical role that STEM fields play in shaping the future of communities, economies, and nations and praised the power of philanthropy in enriching the lives of Indigenous students.
CSIRO scholarships will provide students with the opportunity to delve deeper into their STEM interests, which are crucial for the future of communities, the economy, and the nation, all while alleviating the burden of financial stress. She underscored the profound and positive influence of this substantial investment, paving the way for Indigenous students towards a promising and prosperous future in technology and science-related domains.
The Vice-President for Indigenous Strategy and Engagement and Director of Woolyungah Indigenous Centre at UOW celebrated the increased financial support from CSIRO, recognising the importance of nurturing Indigenous students’ interest in thriving STEM industries.
CSIRO’s collaboration with UOW will authentically empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to reach their full potential, address the significant challenges of the future, and emerge as leaders in STEM disciplines. Sustained partnerships and scholarship commitments will open tangible avenues for Indigenous students to engage with ongoing projects and research, ultimately influencing their communities and shaping the nation’s future.
This partnership between CSIRO and the University of Wollongong signifies a remarkable commitment to fostering Indigenous talent in STEM fields. The significant financial support provided by CSIRO not only eases the financial burden on Indigenous students but also empowers them to pursue their passions and become leaders in technology and science-related fields. This collaboration highlights the tech sector’s dedication to creating opportunities for Indigenous students and recognising the essential role of Indigenous knowledge in advancing STEM disciplines.
OpenGov Asia reported that New South Wales (NSW) is partnering with key stakeholders, including universities and businesses, to develop an Innovation Blueprint aimed at revitalising the state’s innovation sector. The backdrop for this initiative is the stagnation in university-industry collaboration and the lack of progress in commercialising research outcomes, as highlighted by the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council. Simultaneously, R&D intensity in the region has been declining, emphasising the need for strategic interventions.