18F is a digital services agency within the United States Government. The purpose of the agency is to deliver digital services and technology products throughout all levels of Government in the US. 18F partners with agencies to improve the user experience of government services by helping them build and buy technology.
Brian Whittaker has just completed 6 weeks as Head of the digital services agency 18F, within the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). 18F operates inside of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, and is part of the Technology Transformation Services, a service set up to innovate and improve government technology.
Brian’s role at 18F is not completely new territory for him as he has 10 years of experience leading IT transformation projects across the government. Previously he had been the Deputy Director at the Centres of Excellence, another IT modernization initiative within the Technology Transformation Services at the General Services Administration in the US.
Now he is heading up 18F, the digital consultancy with approximately 100 federal employees and projects spanning multiple partner agencies.
OpenGov had the opportunity to speak with Brian this week regarding his role, goals for the immediate future, the unique role of his agency within the government, as well as the unique business model of his agency within the government, providing government services for a fee to other government agencies.
Solidifying Business Operations and Refining Culture
In his new role, Brian said that for the remainder of 2020 and throughout 2021 “the goal is to mature as an organisation” by focusing on key priorities.
One priority is to focus on solidifying business operations by looking at ways to make it easier for agencies to engage with 18F, and to provide greater impact for partner agencies, and ensure that 18F services align with what they do well.
They also aim to provide greater impact by not only assessing how they operate internally but also how and who we partner with to make a more successful partnership.
“This year the intention is to form greater partnerships in the civic tech space and bring the strength of 18F’s network to solve the most complex challenges of our partner agencies.”
Another focus area for Brian in his new role is culture. He acknowledges that 18F is successful because of its people, that people come to work at 18F because of how they work, the problems they solve, and the investment they make into culture.
This year they aim to increase employee engagement, working on making diversity and inclusion a priority, growing skills and expertise, identifying mentors, building peer networks, and pursuing projects that stretch their capabilities.
Agility is the way forward
Agile work is more multidimensional than flexible working. Instead of focusing on when and where people work, agile work focuses on the efficiency of the work.
It helps deliver change when requirements are uncertain, helps build client and user engagement by focuses on what is most beneficial, changes are incremental improvements that can help support cultural change. Agile can help with decision making as feedback loops help save money, re-invest and realise quick wins.
And Agile working is something Brian Whittaker fully supports. He believes in agile working due to scenarios such as huge contracts sometimes leading to tech being outdated by the time the contract is completed.
He added that if projects are carried out in a modular way, an agile way, you will get value sooner from your investment.
Key personnel could be in another role by the time job is complete.
An agile working environment ensures business continuity and adapts a get things done effectively and efficiently approach rather than waiting for approvals for longer-term contracts.
As agencies are forced to do more with less, this approach allows it to show results sooner.
Agile projects allow the government to measure success at more regular intervals and if necessary make course corrections. The ability to measure and adapt reduces the overall risk to the project.
Government Paid Services Within Government
One of the unique things about the 18F agency is that it is a government agency that charges other government agencies for its services.
When asked if this model works well in government at all levels Brian said that this model provides a good sense of accountability and responsibility of the service you are providing.
In regard to the fee, he said it is a motivator to ensure clients get value. It also shows the level of commitment. It solidifies that both parties are invested in the project.
In response to how the agency overcomes resistance to their involvement in other agency work, he said that 18F has a robust network and that there is something to be said when you are in the trenches with an agency.
18F has the benefit of having relationships and past experience with other agencies to prove that they are successful. He said that it is much more powerful to hear success stories from partner agencies. Due to the nature of their work, they are always able to bring people together from all over government.
18F is currently working on multiple projects, they include platforms data.gov and Search.gov. Web hosting –Federalist which provides web hosting capability, scalability quickly, it can cope with large influx of hits and visitors without crashing – a lot of government transformation sites are hosted on it
Cloud.gov is another one, a platform that gives government teams the ability to develop, run and manage web applications without the complexity and cost of building and maintaining infrastructure.
Recommendations for Transformation leads and Agencies
Brian has a few recommendations for those leading transformation projects or for agency leads wanting to upgrade their technology or buy new technology.
Before embarking on sourcing new technology, he recommends researching tools that already exist and are out there, this will allow agencies to get a leg up very quickly without a whole new procurement process. There are a lot of advantages to not having to start from scratch when there are readily available open source tools.
Another key recommendation is to focus on service design – sometimes agencies put the focus on a specific tool than the people who will use it.
Upfront there should be a clear service model programme, IT and Acquisition should understand the service or develop a tool to adjust a process they already have.
HR and Acquisition team should be involved from the beginning. The right people need to be in place to manage the project.
For anyone involved in these government transformation projects he also said that focusing on continuous learning, being resilient and getting to know the owners of the processes will help in the transformation journey.
Organising Public Service Malls (MPP) in Indonesia represents an innovative approach to achieving more equitable and improved public services. Implementing MPP in Indonesia has significantly and positively impacted community public service performance. MPP integrates public services provided by ministries, agencies, provincial and municipal/regional governments, state-owned enterprises, regional-owned enterprises, and private entities, all in a unified location. This initiative aims to enhance the speed, convenience, accessibility, comfort, and security of services, ultimately contributing to global competitiveness and facilitating business operations in Indonesia.
The legal basis for establishing MPP is governed by the Regulation of the Minister of State Apparatus Empowerment and Bureaucratic Reform of the Republic of Indonesia Number 23 of 2017 regarding implementing Public Service Malls. This regulation is further strengthened by the Presidential Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia Number 89 of 2021 on implementing Public Service Malls.
To reinforce and expand the MPP initiative in Indonesia, 39 regions are prepared to offer integrated, convenient, and fast services through Digital MPP. The national count of Digital MPP locations has now increased to 60 pilot projects. It is hoped that these selected regions will uphold their commitment to leveraging Digital MPP in the future.
The assistant Deputy for Public Service Digital Transformation at the Ministry of PANRB, Yanuar Ahmad, emphasised the serious oversight of Digital MPP implementation across various regions by the Minister of PANRB. The directives given are particularly stringent, especially for inactive regions. “Failure to commit to utilising Digital MPP may result in reevaluating their status as Digital MPP locations,” he asserted.
The selection of regions as Digital MPP locations involves a process where 115 regional leaders have proposed the utilisation of Digital MPP to the Ministry of PANRB. The selection process includes an assessment of the readiness for Digital MPP implementation, focusing on regions that have already planned the establishment of MPP.
Yanuar explained that in November 2023, 115 regional leaders submitted requests to utilise Digital MPP. The evaluation process considered several reference variables, such as Digital Population Identity (IKD) and the Human Resources Information System for Health (SISDMK). Additionally, the readiness for physical MPP construction was taken into account. Subsequently, 39 districts and cities were designated as new Digital MPP locations.
The selected regions include Soppeng District, Pasuruan City, Bantaeng District, Sawahlunto City, Purworejo District, Morowali District, Wonogiri District, Pemalang District, Banjarbaru City, Hulu Sungai Utara District, Palopo City, Way Kanan District, Banjar City, Bangli District, Muaro Jambi District, Temanggung District, Penukal Abab Lematang Ilir District, Sabang City, Barito Utara District, Jombang District, and Kotawaringin Barat District.
Furthermore, there are Kapuas District, Cianjur District, Dharmasraya District, Hulu Sungai Tengah District, Tojo Una Una District, Lampung Timur District, Bintan District, Ponorogo District, Tegal City, Gowa District, Sukabumi City, Bangka Barat District, Pesisir Barat District, Tanggamus District, Morowali Utara District, Lampung Barat District, Banggai Laut District, and Jembrana District.
It is worth noting that the soft launch of the Digital MPP took place in June 2023 by Vice President KH Ma’ruf Amin, and it has been operational in 21 regions. During this event, Yanuar envisioned regions already implementing MPP could learn best practices and adopt new features of the Digital MPP platform.
“For regions that are not yet active, it is recommended to enhance and improve the performance of Digital MPP management promptly,” he added. The hybrid event also included a Digital MPP Technical Guidance. Siti Rafika Amalia Dina, the analyst for Public Complaints at the Ministry of PANRB, highlighted the significance of Digital MPP as an integrated digital service. Several key features of Digital MPP were outlined, including service application submission, service tracking, connection with service complaints, user service profiles, and notifications.
Integrating Digital MPP with Digital Population Identity (IKD) and the Human Resources Information System for Health (SISDMK) demonstrates a cohesive and efficient ecosystem. Additionally, the opportunity for regions without physical MPP to participate through Digital MPP reflects an inclusive and adaptable approach to public service solutions in the digital era.
The recent MSC Malaysia Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Awards (APICTA) 2023 witnessed the success of the Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) with their pioneering creations, MAVIHUB and SMECollab. These innovations secured national acclaim, positioning themselves to represent Malaysian ingenuity at the imminent APICTA International competition in Hong Kong, China.
MAVIHUB and SMECollab, spearheaded by teams from APU, emerged victorious in the Industrial (Manufacturing) and Student (Tertiary) categories, respectively. These wins underscored APU’s standing as a leading hub for technological excellence and set the stage for its global prominence at the forthcoming APICTA competition.
MAVIHUB, led by Prof. Ir. Eur. Ing. Ts. Dr. Vinesh Thiruchelvam, Ir. Narendran Ramasenderan, and Mr. Krishna Ravinchandra, garnered attention with their innovative machine vision and deep learning solution, showcasing its potential to revolutionise manufacturing processes. Their debut victory at APICTA marked a milestone, emphasising their dedication to innovation and practical application.
“We showcased innovation in machine vision and robotic autonomy, demonstrating scalability and the potential impact of our project,” explained Ir. Narendran, representing MAVIHUB.
MAVIHUB is strategically charting its course for the international competition in Hong Kong. The team is meticulously evaluating whether to enhance their current project or embark on a new endeavour, aiming to align with the competition’s criteria and engage a broader audience.
Similarly, SMECollab, comprising Computer Science students specialising in Data Analytics, showcased their solution which addresses contemporary challenges faced by SMEs. Guided by mentors Prof. Vinesh and Georg Chmiel, their AI-based collaborative platform evolved through continuous refinement, culminating in their national accolade.
Participating in APICTA unveiled a realm of learning opportunities, exposing the teams to diverse perspectives and fostering their growth within the industrial and technological landscape. It catalysed their growth, enabling networking opportunities, skill development, and exposure to potential partnerships.
In another triumph for the university, Shah Faisal, an Electrical and Electronic Engineering student at APU, attained the Second Prize in the individual category of the esteemed IEM Student Research e-Poster Competition 2023, organised by the Marine Engineering & Naval Architecture Technical Division of the Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM).
The competition, themed around Sustainability and Integrated Engineering, drew participants from diverse educational backgrounds, engaging graduates, undergraduates, and community college students alike.
Challenging and multi-staged, the competition involved rigorous rounds where participants crafted comprehensive research posters elucidating problem statements, objectives, methodologies, results, and the potential impact on enhancing sustainability.
His winning research project, “Smart Health Monitoring System for Rural COVID-19 Patients”, project comprised three vital components:
Health Monitoring Device: Capturing a wide array of vital information such as body temperature, Blood Oxygen Levels (SPO2 levels), heart rate (BPM), room temperature, humidity levels, and Mental Health Index assessment.
Solar Charging Station: Employing dual-axis solar tracking technology for sustainability and independence from the conventional power grid.
Application: A platform displaying diverse vital readings to healthcare professionals and patients, featuring pre-diagnostic analysis and facilitating doctor-patient communication.
Reflecting on the intense competition that brought together Malaysia’s brightest minds, Shah Faisal expressed his excitement, stating, “I was thrilled to make it to the final round. Presenting and defending my research in front of the judges, followed by an extensive Q&A, was truly exhilarating.”
The triumphs of MAVIHUB, SMECollab and Shah Faisal are not only proof of APU’s technological prowess but also highlight Malaysia’s commitment to innovation on the global stage. Their journeys stand as a testament to the transformative power of innovation, collaboration, and the relentless pursuit of excellence in the realm of technology.
To enhance user experience and cater to evolving demands, the Customs Administration of the Ministry of Finance has transformed its Latest Infographics, originally launched in 2020, into an innovative Interactive Data Visualisation platform. This major update, implemented in September 2023, marks a significant shift from static graphs to a more dynamic and user-oriented interface.
The earlier version, Latest Infographics, served its purpose by providing static graphs that allowed users to comprehend and analyse trade statistics datasets. However, it was inherently limited by its producer-oriented approach and constrained by the size of the graphs and web pages. In response to the growing need for more intuitive and user-friendly tools, the Customs Administration decided to reimagine the system.
The Interactive Data Visualisation platform introduces a plethora of features aimed at elevating the quality of service for users. Unlike its predecessor, this cutting-edge platform employs interactive design to enhance the function of displayed information. Despite simplifying the layout from 10 static graphs to three sets of interactive visualisations focusing on trade trends, commodities, and trade partners, the volume and depth of information available have significantly increased.
One of the standout features is the ability for users to actively participate in shaping the information they seek. By selecting a target commodity or trade partner, users can dynamically alter the visualisations, providing a personalised and focused exploration of the data.
The platform enables users to access detailed insights, such as the distribution of trade partners for a selected commodity or the composition of import-export goods for a specific trade partner. Navigating through time scales has also become more seamless, with users easily visualising data for a specific reference month within the last 25 months or 15 years.
The flexibility to switch between monthly and yearly time scales, coupled with the ability to hover over trend graphs, ensures that relevant graphs for the chosen reference period are simultaneously displayed. This interactive approach makes data exploration more intuitive and adaptable to individual user needs.
The beauty of the new “Interactive Data Visualisation” lies in its simplicity and direct manipulation. Users can now filter data elements, change reference periods, and access detailed information with ease, all through simple pointing and clicking. This not only streamlines the exploration process but also empowers users with the ability to print and download specific datasets based on their requirements.
According to the Customs Administration, the transition to Interactive Data Visualisation represents a paradigm shift in how trade statistics are presented and explored. The move towards a more user-centric approach not only acknowledges the evolving needs of users but also underscores the commitment to delivering a seamless and enriching experience.
As businesses and individuals engage with trade statistics more actively, this innovative platform is poised to become an indispensable tool in navigating the complex landscape of international trade data.
The Interactive Data Visualisation platform is pivotal for data exploration, offering enhanced user experience by enabling dynamic interaction. It ensures increased accessibility to complex datasets, allowing users to customise visualisations for actionable insights.
Real-time capabilities enhance decision-making with prompt responses to evolving trends. The platform’s flexibility adapts to diverse user preferences, providing a comprehensive understanding of datasets, including trade partner distributions and goods compositions.
Streamlining data exploration, empowering users through direct manipulation, and fostering collaboration contribute to improved decision-making. Efficient reporting and documentation features facilitate streamlined record-keeping and reporting processes, making it an indispensable tool in data analysis.
As a vital arm of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) holds a pivotal role as one of the three sectoral planning councils within the organisation.
Founded on 29 June 2010, PCIEERD is distinguished by its unique commitment to driving research and development initiatives, particularly in the industries, energy, and emerging technology sectors.
Functioning as a pivotal agency, DOST-PCIEERD takes a central role in crafting policies, plans, and programmes, along with implementing strategies in the designated sectors. The execution of these initiatives is facilitated through a spectrum of Science and Technology (S&T) programmes designed to promote innovation and progress.
Encompassing a broad spectrum, DOST-PCIEERD extends research and development (R&D) support across 21 sectors, broadly categorised under industry, energy, emerging technology, and special concerns.
The council plays a crucial role in disseminating and promoting S&T information, undertaking sustained programmes for information dissemination. This proactive approach aims to enhance the accessibility and utilisation of information and research results by the diverse array of customers and stakeholders associated with the sectors.
In its commitment to fostering growth, DOST-PCIEERD dedicates efforts to developing and enhancing R&D and support capabilities. This forward-looking perspective ensures the fulfilment of present and future human resource and institutional requirements.
Moreover, the council actively contributes to technological advancement by adopting, transferring, and commercialising available technologies. In doing so, DOST-PCIEERD plays a vital role in propelling the nation’s scientific and technological landscape towards greater heights.
Driving Innovation and Industry Development
In an exclusive interview with OpenGov Asia, Dr Enrico C. Paringit, Executive Director of DOST-PCIEERD, sheds light on compelling projects that underscore the council’s significant influence on research and development in the realms of industry, energy, and emerging technology.
At the forefront of catalysing research and development in the Philippines, DOST-PCIEERD has been a driving force behind diverse programmes and initiatives. Launched in 2015, the Infrastructure Development Programme (IDP) has emerged as a cornerstone, playing a pivotal role in the expansion or modernisation of academic and research institutions.
Under the Infrastructure Development Programme (IDP), DOST-PCIEERD has actively spearheaded initiatives encompassing the acquisition of cutting-edge laboratory facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, and specialised software. Between 2015 to 2023, this strategic investment, totalling Php234.4 million (S$6.31 million), has yielded transformative outcomes, facilitating the establishment and enhancement of 49 laboratories across the nation. This concerted effort reflects the commitment to fortify research capabilities and foster innovation within academic and research institutions.
In line with the DOST Halal Policy, the DOST Halal S&T Programme was initiated to support the development of the Halal industry. This programme focuses on research and development, technology transfer, human resource development, and Halal verification through laboratory testing. Additionally, efforts have been directed towards fortifying the Filipino Halal sector to meet global benchmarks, enhance competitiveness, and improve research and development.
Dr Enrico explains that the Food Safety Programme, Food Innovation Centres, and Natural Dyes facilities have been established to strengthen the food industry and improve the living standards of Filipino people. The commitment extends to bolstering the country’s manufacturing industry by providing cutting-edge facilities for specialised testing, designing, and research and development in key sectors like food, electronics, and materials.
Under the OneLab Programme, regional testing facilities have been consolidated into a unified network, providing easy access to a global network of public and private laboratories for analytical and calibration needs. This initiative promotes collaboration among students, researchers, and industry stakeholders, with information accessible through the onelab.ph website.
The National Metrology Laboratory (NML) leads metrology efforts in the Philippines and has achieved international recognition. However, continued support is required for the expansion of Calibration and Measurement Capabilities (CMCs) to maintain competence globally.
Dr Enrico reveals that the establishment of the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory (ADMATEL) marks the country’s first electronics design facility, aimed at reinforcing and upgrading failure analysis and materials testing facilities to attract potential investors and promote a conducive business environment.
The Electronics Product Development Centre (EPDC) serves as the national testing facility, providing design, prototyping, and testing facilities for printed circuit boards. The goal is to support companies and schools in developing hardware and software for electronics products.
The Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMCen), on the other hand, has been established as the national centre of excellence in additive manufacturing, focusing on areas like Aerospace and Defense, Pharmaceutical/Healthcare, Novel Electronics, Agriculture, and Automotive.
In addition, the renewable energy projects include a micro-hydro turbine research and testing facility in Morong, Rizal, supporting off-grid electrification for communities. The Mindanao Renewable Energy Centre (MREC) focuses on Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Ocean Renewable Energy (ORE) facilities, aiming to harness energy from solar power and simulate tidal and wave characteristics.
To serve as a bridge between R&D and commercialisation, the Funding Assistance for Spin-off and Translation of Research in Advancing Commercialisation (FASTRAC) Programme supports technologies such as USHER, CharM, FISH_I, Smart Surface, CATCH-ALL, Marine Nanocoat, Monascus Red Colorant, Fruitect, HormoGroe, Gitara ni Juan, X-LIPAD, MapX, Vigormin, and others.
Embedded in the ethos of DOST, a circular economy mindset takes centre stage, underscoring a dedication to initiatives that champion environmental stewardship and optimal resource utilisation. Positioned as a key tenet within the DOST framework, this pledge manifests in the backing of projects geared towards converting waste materials into valuable and sustainable resources.
A notable example is the successful initiative led by the Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI), wherein an in-depth analysis of dredged material from the Tullahan River was undertaken to investigate alternative applications. This project exemplifies a forward-thinking strategy in tackling environmental issues by repurposing materials that would otherwise contribute to waste, showcasing a commitment to sustainable solutions and resourcefulness.
The University of Mindanao is leading another remarkable sustainable initiative, centring on the transformation of durian rinds into 3D printing filaments. This inventive project not only addresses waste reduction but also taps into the potential of agricultural by-products, underscoring a steadfast commitment to sustainability and resource optimisation.
“At the core of our mission, we prioritise environmental sustainability, ensuring that our operations, activities, and programmes are conducted with a steadfast commitment to minimising adverse impacts on the environment,” Dr Enrico states.
Recognising the importance of ecological responsibility, PCIERRD incorporates environmental considerations as a pivotal metric in the assessment of proposals. This approach underscores its unwavering commitment to nurturing initiatives that adhere to the principles of environmental conservation and responsible stewardship.
Dedicated to environmental stewardship, the agency proactively pursues a science and technology roadmap for tackling and mitigating challenges related to waste management. Under the leadership of Dr Enrico, PCIERRD aims to assume a pivotal role in shaping sustainable practices that advocate for the responsible use and disposal of resources.
Demonstrating a responsible use of resources through its life cycle, PCIERRD fulfils its mandate to actively support the Clean Air Act (RA8749). By championing the implementation of this key legislation, the agency contributes significantly to promoting clean air standards and mitigating air pollution, aligning its efforts with broader initiatives that prioritise the health of both the environment and local communities.
“Through these multifaceted approaches, we strive to be proactive stewards of the environment, integrating sustainability principles into the fabric of the industrial operations; thereby promoting responsible practices within the realm of science and technology,” Dr Enrico emphasises.
The success of PCIERRD can be attributed in part to its ability to develop talent and inspire upcoming researchers and innovators to advance the country’s technological frontiers. In 2017, the country witnessed the launch of the Young Innovators Programme (YIP), designed as an inclusive platform for highly talented high school students aspiring to gain research experience.
The programme invites these young minds to gain experience in research under the guidance of mentors, facilitating hands-on learning and fostering a spirit of scientific inquiry. The objective of YIP is to equip and prepare these young researchers to undertake independent research endeavors, supported by funding allocated to innovative research projects.
Since its inception, the Young Innovators Programme has made significant strides in cultivating a new era of scientific exploration and inventive breakthroughs within the country. A total of Php37 million (SG$1 million) in funding has been disbursed across 56 approved projects, providing vital resources for these young innovators to bring their ideas to fruition.
The programme’s impact extends beyond financial support, contributing to the development of a vibrant community of budding scientists and researchers who are poised to make meaningful contributions to the scientific landscape in the years to come.
Nurturing Ingenuity Through Partnerships
According to Dr Enrico, engaging with diverse stakeholders is at the core of their approach as they strive to meet the evolving needs of the 21 sectors under its support. Through focused initiatives such as focus group discussions and consultation, they actively seek input from industry stakeholders, research institutions, and government agencies.
“This collaborative process allows us to gain valuable insights into the specific requirements and challenges faced by each sector, informing the direction of our research and development endeavours,” Dr Enrico explains.
Beyond external engagement, PCIEERD places considerable emphasis on internal feedback mechanisms. Tools such as the Research Fairness Survey and the R&D Customer Preference Survey serve as valuable means to directly collect insights from researchers. This two-way communication approach ensures that the perspectives and experiences of those actively engaged in the research process are taken into account, fostering an environment of continuous improvement and responsiveness within the organisation.
Collaboration remains a cornerstone of their strategy, and they actively cultivate partnerships with industry stakeholders. Through a range of programmes, such as the Expert Intervention for Scientific Engagement (ExperTiSE) programme, Regional Research Institutions (RRI), research attachments and expert visits, PCIEERD creates avenues for meaningful cooperation.
These collaborative initiatives not only enhance the effectiveness of the research but also contribute to the broader goal of fostering innovation and sustainable development across diverse sectors.
Furthermore, DOST-PCIEERD recognises the pivotal role of international alliances and partnerships, strategically emphasising their significance in advancing research and development in the fields of industry, energy, and emerging technology.
This concerted effort is driven by a commitment to contribute to the growth of scientific knowledge, facilitate technology transfer, spur economic development, and enhance the capacity to address global challenges effectively.
International partnerships provide a crucial avenue for knowledge exchange, where foreign counterparts and experts bring expertise that exposes Filipino researchers to cutting-edge technologies, methodologies, and the sharing of best practices.
Such exposure not only enhances the skills of local researchers, rendering them more competitive on the international stage but also unlocks new opportunities for commercialising innovative technologies in the global market. Consequently, it bridges the gap between research and market application, facilitating technology pathways that contribute to economic growth through income and job creation.
Several notable international engagements exemplify the commitment of DOST-PCIEERD to fostering global collaborations. Among them, the e-ASIA initiative stands out – a multilateral international joint effort involving public funding organisations from East Asia Summit (EAS) member countries.
Additionally, the Southeast Asia-Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Research and Innovation (SEA-EU JFS) facilitates joint funding of bi-regional, multi-lateral research and innovation projects, fostering cooperation between Southeast Asia and Europe.
Joint efforts such as the UKRI-NERC initiative address specific challenges, exemplified by the “Sustainable Mineral Resources in the Philippines” programme. This collaborative effort aims to fund research that offers a comprehensive perspective on mineral production in the Philippines and address environmental issues associated with legacy and abandoned mines.
Another noteworthy effort is the UKRI-JST-DOST ‘Science, Technology and Action’ Nexus for Development (STAND) Collaboration, which seeks to foster international research interaction and exchange among researchers in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Southeast Asia. This collaboration focuses on projects contributing to sustainable development in Southeast Asia, aligning with the broader goals of knowledge sharing and capacity building on a global scale.
Public-private partnerships have also contributed to the advancement of industry, energy, and emerging technology in the country. In June 2023, PCIEERD took a significant step forward in fortifying its collaboration with the mining industry by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
This partnership encompasses three key areas aimed at fostering advancements and sustainability within the mining sector.
Firstly, there is a focus on the collaborative drafting of a nickel roadmap, with active consultation involving both mining industries and key government agencies. This initiative aims to chart a strategic course for the nickel industry, ensuring alignment with industry needs and national development goals.
Another crucial facet of the partnership involves an increased emphasis on research related to green minerals, particularly in anticipation of their translation into components for Electric Vehicles (EVs). This forward-looking approach aligns with the global shift towards sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies, positioning the mining industry to play a pivotal role in the emerging green economy.
Additionally, the collaborative efforts extend to the improvement of energy efficiency and the promotion of renewable energy within the mining sector. By addressing these critical aspects, the partnership endeavours to enhance the sustainability and environmental impact of mining operations, aligning with broader goals of responsible resource utilisation and energy conservation.
PCIEERD maintains an ongoing and fruitful partnership with the Philippine Technological Council (PTC), a non-stock, non-profit private organisation. The collaboration with PTC unfolds through its accreditation service, serving as a mechanism to facilitate capstone projects and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) initiatives.
This sustained partnership underscores PCIEERD’s commitment to advancing technological excellence, education, and innovation within the Philippines, fostering a collaborative ecosystem that transcends industry boundaries for the greater benefit of scientific and technological progress.
Unveiling Key Strategies
Dr Enrico reveals the key strategic priorities and initiatives he is focusing on as the Executive Director of PCIEERD to foster innovation and drive industry development in the Philippines.
“Guided by the Harmonised National Research and Development Agenda (HNRDA) for the period 2022-2028, our research initiatives are intricately woven into a framework that aligns with the broader vision encapsulated in AmBisyon Natin 2040,” Dr Enrico highlights.
Envisioning a promising future for Filipinos, the HNRDA is anchored in the pillars of Malasakit, Pagbabago, and Kaunlaran, which collectively advocate for inclusive growth, a resilient society, and the cultivation of a competitive knowledge economy.
In pursuit of these aspirations, PCIERRD has embarked on pioneering programmes aimed at revolutionising the local transport systems. Spearheaded by the ELECTROMOBILITY R&D Centre, and R&D Centre for Advanced Batteries, these initiatives focus on the development and implementation of electric vehicles and enhancing advanced battery technology.
These efforts align with the priorities of the Comprehensive Roadmap for the Electric Vehicle Industry (CREVI). Additionally, PCIERRD has several initiatives on maritime transport on the electrification of boats and ferries.
“This strategic move reflects our commitment to advancing sustainable and eco-friendly solutions in the domain of transportation,” Dr Enrico furthers. “Our commitment extends to the empowerment of local governance through the implementation of the Smart Cities initiative.”
Significant transformations have been realised in cities such as Baguio, Cauayan, Iloilo, and Butuan, where the integration of smart technologies has contributed to improved urban living. The success of these endeavours has prompted an expansion of the programme beyond cities, reaching into various communities as part of our ongoing efforts to create more inclusive and technologically empowered environments.
Recognising the critical role of startups in driving innovation, PCIERRD actively supports the startup ecosystem through the Startup Grant Fund. The comprehensive programmes assist startups throughout their journey, from the initial ideation phase to full commercialisation. By nurturing and facilitating the growth of startups, they contribute to the dynamism of the entrepreneurial landscape and the overall economic development of the region.
Dr Enrico underscores in the domain of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the DOST endeavours are guided by a comprehensive 2019-2029 R&D Programme Framework. This strategic blueprint delineates a path to ensure the Philippines remains a frontrunner in the global evolution of AI technologies.
The primary thrusts of this initiative span across National Infrastructure, where the DOST has distributed nine High-Performance Computing (HPC) machines to higher education institutions, catalysing the commencement of new AI projects.
The groundwork laid in 2014 with the establishment of the Computing and Archiving Research Environment (CoARE) further bolsters these efforts, providing free access to HPC and Cloud services. The overarching goal is to enhance connectivity and expedite digital transformation by 2024, with a specific target of elevating the PH e-government index to 0.85 by 2029.
The DOST’s dedication to AI extends beyond infrastructure to encompass Capacity Building, where initiatives are undertaken to nurture the skills and expertise necessary for meaningful AI contributions. Simultaneously, the focus on Research and Data initiatives accentuates the commitment to advancing the knowledge frontier in AI.
Additionally, the department actively engages in developing Policies and Stakeholder relationships, ensuring a holistic and forward-looking approach to AI development within the country. This multi-faceted strategy underscores the DOST’s commitment to positioning the Philippines as a key player in the dynamic landscape of AI innovation and progress.
“In our pursuit of ensuring the Philippines’ prominence in technological innovation and sustainable development globally, DOST-PCIEERD employs a multifaceted approach encompassing various strategic initiatives. One pivotal effort involves bridging the gap between academic research and industry through the establishment of Technology Business Incubators (TBIs),” Dr Enrico asserts.
With 54 members in the DOST TBI Network, including 32 industry-based and 22 agriculture- and aquaculture-focused TBIs across Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), the investments since 2018 have totalled Php411 million (SG$11.1 million).
These TBIs have incubated 1,359 startups, generated 5,696 jobs, attracted over Php1.87 billion (SG$50.49 million) in private investments, and produced Php907 million (SG$24.49 million) in startup revenue. Additionally, the TBIs themselves have secured Php118.3 million (SG$3.19 million) in private investments from various partners.
To promote science education in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA), they fund projects such as the Philippine Science Centrum Travelling Exhibit. This initiative, spanning 26 GIDA districts across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, has reached 300,000 students and instructed 4,000 teachers in basic science experiments, enhancing education in these remote areas.
Acknowledging the vital role of women entrepreneurs, initiatives like Women-Helping-Women: Innovative Social Enterprises (WHWise) aims to support and acknowledge women driving economic growth and sustainable development in their communities.
Strategic planning is another cornerstone of the approach, with formulated roadmaps and sectoral strategies for the 21 supported sectors. These roadmaps not only guide the development of specific research programmes but also contribute to the realisation of sustainable development goals.
Collectively, these strategies underscore the commitment to enhancing the country’s competitiveness and productivity in the global landscape of technological innovation and sustainable development, fostering a comprehensive and impactful approach to propel the nation forward.
Nexus of Innovation by 2040
“Our forward-looking vision is rooted in becoming the Nexus of Innovation by the year 2040,” Dr Enrico shares his vision for PCIEERD’s position in the global context in the next three years. “Positioned as a leader in the country’s competitiveness and productivity, we aim to enable science and technology solutions across the industry, energy, and emerging technology sectors, all while upholding the principles of good governance.”
To realise this vision, global collaboration stands as a cornerstone of this strategy. They envision strengthening international partnerships and collaborations with funding institutions worldwide. By engaging with global counterparts, they seek to foster knowledge-sharing, promote cooperation and teamwork, facilitate mutual learning, and collectively drive innovation in the realms of industry, energy, and emerging technologies.
An essential aspect of their approach involves a dedicated focus on investment in Research and Development (R&D). By prioritising R&D investment, they ensure that PCIEERD remains at the forefront of technological advancements in the Industry, Energy, and Emerging (IEE) sectors. This commitment contributes to global innovation efforts and positions the nation as a key player in addressing pressing global challenges through technological solutions.
Their commitment extends to robust mechanisms for technology transfer and commercialisation. By effectively translating the R&D findings and innovations into practical applications and marketable products, they strive to bridge the gap between research outcomes and real-world impact.
“Knowledge dissemination forms another crucial element of our strategy. We are committed to sharing our S&T outputs, technological advancements, and success stories in technology transfer and commercialisation, both locally and globally,” Dr Enrico says emphatically. “This proactive approach ensures that the benefits of our innovations reach diverse audiences, contributing to the broader global knowledge pool.”
In all aspects of their operations, sustainability is a guiding principle. They are committed to using sustainable practices in everything they do, from research to innovations, technology transfers, and commercialisation.
Through their actions, they actively support the preservation of the environment on a global scale and are consistent with larger sustainability objectives, exemplifying a responsible and comprehensive approach to scientific and technological advancement.
“Embracing the role of a scientist is to willingly confront the mysteries of the unknown, and it is this very challenge that captivates me,” says Dr Enrico, who completed his doctorate at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and served as the principal scientist for DOST Project NOAH and the DOST DREAM LIDAR Programme.
Seeking out interesting and meaningful challenges brought him joy. His work at PCIEERD is similar to a large-scale experiment in which he develops theories and verifies them against reality.
He believes that this dynamic process fosters continuous innovation by pushing boundaries and revealing new possibilities. The core values of high integrity, innovation, and excellence serve as guiding principles, propelling the entire PCIEEED led by him to strive for excellence in all that they do.
“We are committed to exploring new ground in science and are constantly looking for ways to offer significant discoveries and solutions that have a long-term impact for the benefit of the whole nation,” Dr Enrico concludes.
In a bid to empower food manufacturers to embrace sustainability, Enterprise Singapore (EnterpriseSG) has unveiled the Sustainability Playbook for Food Manufacturers. Announced by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Grace Fu, this playbook is a key component of the Enterprise Sustainability Programme (ESP), aiming to equip companies with the tools and insights needed for their sustainability journey.
Jeannie Lim, Assistant Chief Executive Officer (Lifestyle & Consumer) at EnterpriseSG, emphasised the imperative for food manufacturers to navigate global supply chain challenges, evolving sustainability regulations, and the rising demand for climate-conscious food products. Jeannie introduced the playbook as a comprehensive guide, offering strategies and resources to help companies incorporate sustainability practices into their operations.
The playbook, part of the ESP series, presents a step-by-step approach for food manufacturers, featuring checklists with recommended starting points for core sustainability strategies and relevant resources. It outlines three fundamental strategies to enhance sustainability:
- Optimising Resources: The playbook advocates for a review of current manufacturing processes to identify opportunities for resource optimisation. Investments in energy-efficient equipment, on-site energy generation like solar panels, and digitalisation for increased efficiency and waste reduction are highlighted.
- Valorising Food Side Streams: Encouraging the repurposing of food manufacturing by-products into higher value-added products, such as plant-based cheese and probiotic beverages. The playbook identifies key side streams in Singapore, including okara, brewers’ spent grain, surplus bread, and fruits, offering innovative solutions to meet consumer demands for healthy and sustainable products.
- Adopting Sustainable Packaging: Recognising the importance of sustainable packaging for global market access, the playbook encourages the reduction of packaging and the use of recyclable or sustainable materials with enhanced shelf-life stability.
To complement the Sustainability Playbook, EnterpriseSG, in collaboration with the Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association (SFMA), announced the “Embracing Sustainability for Enterprise Growth in Food Manufacturing” course. This provides an introduction to sustainability concepts and equips food manufacturing companies with the necessary tools and support to take tangible steps towards sustainability.
The course, scheduled for Q1 2024, offers participants access to a sustainability assessment toolkit and personalised advisory sessions to kickstart their sustainability journey. EnterpriseSG will defray 70% of course fees for eligible businesses, making it an accessible and valuable resource for companies looking to enhance their sustainability capabilities.
According to Enterprise Singapore, their initiatives are poised to guide food manufacturers towards a future where environmental consciousness aligns seamlessly with business success. The playbook and course serve as inspirations, illuminating the path for companies to thrive in an era where sustainability is both a responsibility and a competitive advantage.
Digital tools are pivotal in advancing sustainable food manufacturing, revolutionising processes and fostering environmental stewardship. These tools optimise resource utilisation, emphasising energy-efficient equipment and digitalisation to enhance operational efficiency.
By identifying areas for improvement and implementing smart technologies, companies can minimise waste, reduce carbon footprints, and embrace eco-friendly practices. The integration of digital solutions allows for real-time monitoring, predictive analytics, and precision control, enabling precise resource management and minimising environmental impact.
Sustainable packaging initiatives, facilitated by these tools, further contribute to eco-conscious practices, aligning with global sustainability goals. The adoption of digital tools in food manufacturing not only improves operational effectiveness but also positions the industry as a leader in environmentally responsible practices, ensuring a more sustainable and resilient future.
One of the main challenges in addressing digital copyright infringements is the ability to detect and effectively combat such violations. Advanced technologies enable digital piracy and unauthorised content distribution through increasingly complex and difficult-to-monitor methods. Therefore, collaboration between the government, private sector, and relevant institutions is essential to develop efficient solutions and enforcement strategies to tackle these challenges.
Josefhin Mareta, a researcher at the Centre for Legal Research of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), revealed that there are still many digital copyright infringements in Indonesia. Examples of such cases include copyright violations of books in digital formats, such as scanning for e-books, file sharing, and unauthorised sales in online marketplaces. Additionally, there are copyright violations in digital music or songs, such as uploading cover songs to social media platforms without the copyright holder’s permission and bootlegging, such as recording concerts or performances on TV/film for personal or commercial purposes.
Copyright infringement refers to the unauthorised utilisation of copyrighted materials without the consent of the creators, holders, or authors. It constitutes an act of dishonesty and a breach of the economic and exclusive rights of the creators.
According to Josephine, the Indonesian government has taken several measures to address these issues, including actions by the Directorate General of Intellectual Property (DJKI) and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kemenkominfo). These agencies have attempted to create joint regulations requiring monitoring or blocking content or access rights for individuals who violate copyright.
However, in investigating such violations, the bureaucracy is still intricate. The complainant must submit several requirements, such as documentary shreds of evidence, to prove that the item in question is being sold illegally, for example, on an e-commerce platform. Despite these efforts, various issues persist, such as the presence of digital literary works related to copyright.
Josefhin expressed that the relevant laws still need a clear definition of literary and digital works. This ambiguity extends to books, music, performances, and other forms, raising questions about how the public can distribute the creator’s royalties using digital works.
Further, Josefhin added that literary works have evolved from physical to digital forms over time. She explained that this evolution reflects significant changes in how humans convey, consume, and interact with information.
In light of this, Josephine explained that there are two approaches regarding copyright violations. First, substantial duplication refers to replicating the core elements of a copyrighted work. It should be noted that there are legal limitations, indicating that this prohibition does not encompass the entire work or a substantial part of it. Moreover, duplication is acceptable if accompanied by actions that do not harm the reasonable interests of the creator or if there is an agreement among all parties involved.
The second approach involves a “causal connection,” where events or previous works inspire a newly created copyrighted work. In other words, there is a traceable connection between the work being made and a work produced at some point in the past.
To elaborate further, Josefhin mentioned three restriction methods to prevent misuse when someone uses another person’s work without permission:
- Based on specific conditions or cases, an individual can sometimes use someone else’s copyrighted work without permission.
- Duplication should not conflict with the normal exploitation of the owner or copyright holder. It relates to the substance of the work.
- It should not diminish the legitimate interests of the creator.
Josefhin reiterated these points, emphasising that copyright violations are not a new phenomenon in Indonesia. With the rapid and massive digital developments, the government has to conduct regulations to prevent and oversee copyright infringement and avoid harm to any party.
“Creating works is a challenging process, but for many individuals, it serves as a means to earn a living. We must recognise and value this effort,” she concluded.
China has achieved a significant milestone in the advancement of its computing infrastructure with the official release of the national standard GB/T 43331-2023, titled “Internet Data Centre (IDC) Technology and Classification Requirements.” This strategic move underscores a steadfast commitment to propelling the robust development of the computing industry within the country.
Spearheaded by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), in collaboration with various enterprises and institutions, this achievement signifies a dedication to aligning with the evolving needs of the national computing infrastructure and ensuring the high-quality evolution of the computing industry.
The comprehensive scope of GB/T 43331-2023 spans six dynamic aspects, mirroring the complexity of the digital landscape it seeks to regulate. These aspects include greenness, availability, security, service capabilities, computing power, and computing efficiency, with an added emphasis on low-carbon practices.
At its core, this national standard is designed to serve as a guiding framework for the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of Internet Data Centres (IDCs). The creators envision a future where GB/T 43331-2023 acts as a catalyst, propelling diverse industries forward by facilitating a more profound integration of computing infrastructure.
The roots of this groundbreaking standard extend back to 2013 when the data centre team of the Institute of Cloud Computing and Big Data at the CAICT embarked on a mission to standardise the communication industry.
Over the years, several data centre rating standards have emerged, each contributing as a stepping stone towards the ultimate realisation of GB/T 43331-2023. This national standard has now come to fruition after years of collaboration with users, designers, and industry suppliers.
According to CAICT, the standard places a strong emphasis on energy efficiency, a longstanding concern in the development of data centres. No longer a vague aspiration, GB/T 43331-2023 outlines specific requirements aimed at elevating the energy efficiency levels of data centres through the application of green technology and adept operation and maintenance system management.
Beyond technology, the standard underscores a commitment to responsible and sustainable practices. It addresses service capabilities through a comprehensive evaluation of external services in data centres. This assessment isn’t a mere formality; it objectively gauges capabilities, fostering self-improvement within data centres and aiding customers in selecting facilities suitable for their business needs.
The newly released standard also focuses on availability, enhancing data centre resilience through improved equipment redundancy. This ensures data protection during emergencies, fortifying the foundational architecture of the digital world. Security, a paramount concern in the data-centric era, receives meticulous attention. Beyond conventional measures like firewalls and passwords, the standard aims to ensure the safety of both data centre equipment and personnel, adopting a holistic approach to fortify the guardians of the digital realms.
The CAICT added that the GB/T 43331-2023 is not merely a set of regulations; it is a guidebook signalling a future where computing infrastructure seamlessly integrates into daily life. It represents a collaborative effort among academia, industry, and innovation, shaping a digital landscape that is not only efficient but also sustainable, secure, and prepared for future challenges.
By establishing common guidelines, protocols, and specifications, these standards ensure that hardware and software components from different vendors can seamlessly communicate and function as part of an integrated system. This not only simplifies integration processes but also fosters a more open and competitive market.