Dr. John L. Gustafson is an applied mathematician and computer scientist. A pioneer in high-performance computing, he introduced cluster computing in 1985 and demonstrated scalable massively parallel performance on real applications in 1988 for the first time.
Currently he is a Visiting Professor at A*STAR-CRC (Agency for Science, Technology and Research- Computational Resource Centre) and at the National University of Singapore. He is a former Director at Intel Labs and former Chief Product Architect at AMD.
Dr. Gustafson proposed the Unum (Universal Numbers) number format as an alternative to the commonly used IEEE 754 format. He provided an introduction to Unums in his presentation at EmTech Asia 2017.
The Unum format has a “ubit” (rhymes with “cubit”), which determines whether the Unum corresponds to an exact number (ubit=0), or an interval between consecutive exact Unums (ubit=1), thereby covering the entire extended real number line.
Basically, the Unum format would specify that pi lies between 3.14 and 3.15, instead of rounding it to 3.14. In his presentation, Dr. Gustafson gave an example of how rounding errors can pile up. You divide 1 by 3 on a standard calculator, and you get 0.333…. You multiply the result by 3, you get 0.999… instead of 1. The errors can build up resulting in unreliable results with very real implications, such as the Pentium Divide Bug (loss of $475 million), the sinking of the Sleipner A offshore platform (loss of $700 million) and the explosion of the Ariane 5 launcher on its maiden flight.
According to Dr. Gustafson, Unums not only provide better answers but require fewer bits for storage and consume lower energy. Unum arithmetic has the potential to render current computer math obsolete. However, it won’t be easy switch due to the ubiquity of the IEEE 754 standard and the resulting inertia and resistance.
Prof. Gustafon discussed his work with OpenGov and talked about the slowing down of Moore’s Law and the current High Performing Computing (HPC) landscape.
What are you working on at A*STAR right now?
I am working on next-generation computer arithmetic, new ways to calculate, different from the ways we have been doing it for a long time. I am looking at ways to save energy and get better answers at the same time, by relooking at things we haven’t touched because we have assumed that we will always continue to do it in a certain way. It doesn’t have to be that way.
How is the uptake of the Unum format?
There has been a recent breakthrough. We had a hard time building hardware for it until only about 4 or 5 weeks ago. Then I realised that if I relaxed one of the design constraints very slightly everything suddenly fell into place and became even easier to build than the 1985 standard. So, it will actually take up less space on the chip than the floating-point math we use now.
People store 64 bit numbers, because they think they might need that much accuracy. Almost never do you need that much accuracy.
The analogy I give people is that it is like insuring your car for two million dollars and then you complain how high your insurance premiums are. You probably don’t need to insure your car for two million dollars. It is not worth that much. Similarly, if you insure your calculations with 15 decimals of precision everywhere all the time, then you are going to pay a severe price, in terms of how long it takes to run, how much storage it uses, how much the archives take up on disk, bandwidth. Everything is made harder to do, by that kind of over-insurance.
How is the processing speed for Unums as compared to floats?
The new breakthrough will be faster than floats. It will be superior in every respect.
But you have to understand that there are two ways to do computing, one is where it is pretty good and it is fast, and it is good enough for what you want to do, like a video game. You don’t mind if occasionally a pixel is wrong. It goes by at 60 frames per second.
But if you are trying to do something like design a nuclear reactor, you might want to make sure that you have got it right. You might want something as mathematically valid and provable. That’s a completely different mode of operation. That calls for a different kind of number.
I have covered both bases. The numbers that are fast and good enough but better than floats, I call them ‘posits’. Like you posit an idea as a kind of guess as to what might be true.
‘Valids’ are the other kind of number. If your numbers are valid, it is a rigorous mathematical bound for the true answer. It will take more time to calculate, it will run slower. Maybe you do that when you are debugging or you just do it for a mission-critical application. But a lot of the production for which we currently use floating point arithmetic, that will be completely superseded I believe by posit arithmetic.
It is surprisingly moving forward very fast. I have run into a number of geniuses in the silicon valley area and one of them is writing Verilog (a hardware description language used to model electronic systems, most commonly used in the design and verification of digital circuits.) He keeps sending me circuit diagrams for the new kind of arithmetic. There are several companies that have approached me about when can they start writing the code for this and building a chip. Because they can see the writing on the wall. This is going to replace floating point.
I was talking to the Square Kilometer Array team in Australia, who are doing radio computing. They are looking at using something better than 64-bit storage for all their images. They use a vast amount of storage, costing them millions of dollars. They looked at my format and realised it could save them two million dollars. Two million dollars at one site. Multiply it by the number of all the data centres in the world. CERN has extremely large data requirements for all their experiments and they spend many millions for that. This format could save them a lot of money as well.
What are the main trends that you see in HPC?
As Moore’s law is starting to slow down, people are starting to think a little bit harder about how they are doing calculations. Not just expecting to turn the crank and build more processors in a server room. I am seeing a lot more careful thinking and I am glad that we finally arrived at that. People are looking more at the applications and saying, “what are we really trying to calculate here?” and “is this trip necessary?” for everything that we are doing.
We cannot continue with writing sloppy code and expect to make up for that by increasing processor speed. If you cannot improve the hardware, then you have to take another look at the code and see if we can’t squeeze some more cycles out of that.
Of course, there’s a lot of excitement about quantum computing and what really comes after CMOS transistors and conventional lithography. That’s intriguing as well. That will be a wrenching change. But it is the next best hope we have for a really big breakthrough.
What will be the impact of these developments on real-life applications?
There will be a big impact on artificial intelligence (AI). We have talked about AI for so long. Science fiction people have been envisioning this since before there were computers. But now that we have finally reached a point where we can teach a computer to distinguish between a dog and a cat, then the Googles of the world are training their systems to have more and more human-like intelligence.
That’s just going to pervade everything that we do. It is also going to create a big demand for a lot more clock cycles to do the training. The new number format is going to fit right into that. Because it is perfectly crafted for what you need to do to teach a neural net.
What do you see happening in the HPC scene in Singapore?
Singapore has so much potential. The latest petaflop computer is saturated. They put it in. It immediately filled up. It’s got like 80% utilisation. Some parts of it have 100% utilisation. Which says you need to build another one. And you have to build it as soon as possible and make it five times faster. The demand for these cycles and what people are getting out of it, the biological studies, the applications for medicine, are just huge. The impact could be very big on Singapore’s business and on citizens’ well-being in general.
Here I see an amazing capacity to set their mind to something, and then succeeding at it. Singapore. is going to want to be up with the big boys, China, US, and Japan and say we can build advanced computers too. If they keep up that mentality and they continue to have the great support of the government that they have had so far, they may surprise people.
Everybody’s limited by how many watts they can get into the data centre. You get 20x just from doing better architecture. Then you get between 2 and 10x just from using my number system. Put those two together and you are so far beyond anything’s anyone ever seen in a computer even for let’s say 10 million dollars we could beat the fastest supercomputer in the world. It’s not out of the question.
Where is the innovation going to come from? Would it come from start-ups or large technology companies or government or academia?
All of them I think. Usually the least innovative are the established companies. They have everything to lose and very little to gain. Usually they have a lab where there is research going on. If they get too uppity and start thinking, “I have a great idea here; let’s change the direction of the company,” then the antibodies squash that down. “You are getting in the way of our main business. And you are wasting resources!”
So they tend not to productise some of their great ideas, even when they are given a sandbox to play in. It’s more likely that a big company has to be overcome by a smaller company that disrupts them, one that takes the chance. So, they come up with something that is incompatible with all the software that’s out there. A few people adopt it and suddenly they see market share going to this small company.
It’s like that with countries, too. A small country like Singapore can do highly innovative things that the largest countries might balk at. This new “drop-in” replacement for floating-point numbers was made possible because of the encouragement of A*STAR to pursue such a radical change.
When I was in the USA, the reaction I got to my attempts to improve computer arithmetic was, “Well, you can’t boil the ocean.” The attitude in Singapore is much more visionary, and for that I am grateful!
The Counter Ransomware Task Force (CRTF), which was formed to bring together Singapore Government agencies from various domains to strengthen Singapore’s counter-ransomware efforts, has issued its report.
Singapore’s efforts to promote a resilient and secure cyber environment, both domestically and internationally, to combat the rising ransomware threat are guided by the recommendations in the CRTF report.
According to David Koh, Commissioner of Cybersecurity, Chief Executive of CSA and Chairman of the CRTF, ransomware poses a threat to both businesses and individuals. Economically, socially, and even in terms of national security, it can be detrimental. Both internationally and across domains, ransomware is a problem.
“It requires us to collaborate and draw on our knowledge in a variety of fields, including cybersecurity, law enforcement, and financial supervision. It also necessitates that we work with like-minded international partners to identify a common problem and develop solutions,” David explains.
He exhorts businesses and individuals to contribute as well, strengthening the nation’s overall defence against the ransomware scourge.
Cybercriminals use malicious software known as ransomware. When ransomware infects a computer or network, it either locks the system or encrypts the data on it. For the release of the data, cybercriminals demand ransom money from their victims.
A vigilant eye and security software are advised to prevent ransomware infection. Following an infection, malware victims have three options: either they can pay the ransom, attempt to remove the malware, or restart the device.
Extortion Trojans frequently employ the Remote Desktop Protocol, phishing emails, and software vulnerabilities as their attack vectors. Therefore, a ransomware attack can target both people and businesses.
The ransomware threat has significantly increased in scope and effect, and it is now a pressing issue for nations all over the world, including Singapore.
The fact that attackers operate internationally to elude justice makes it a global issue. Ransomware has created a criminal ecosystem that offers criminal services ranging from unauthorised access to targeted networks to money laundering services, all fed by illicit financial gains.
Singapore must approach the ransomware issue as a cross-border and cross-domain problem if it is to effectively combat the ransomware threat.
Other nations should adopt comparable domestic measures to coordinate their financial regulatory, law enforcement, and cybersecurity agencies to combat the ransomware issue and promote international cooperation.
Three significant results were the culmination of the CRTF’s work. For government agencies to collaborate and create anti-ransomware solutions, they first developed a comprehensive understanding of the ransomware kill chain.
Second, it examined Singapore’s stance on paying ransom to cybercriminals. Third, for the government to effectively combat ransomware, the CRTF suggested the following policies, operational plans, and capabilities under four main headings:
Pillar 1: Enhances the security of potential targets (such as government institutions, critical infrastructure, and commercial organisations, especially small and medium-sized businesses) to make it more difficult for ransomware attackers to carry out successful attacks.
Pillar 2: To lower the reward for ransomware attacks, disrupt the ransomware business model.
Pillar 3: To prevent ransomware attack victims from feeling pressured to pay the ransom, which feeds the ransomware industry, support recovery.
Pillar 4: Assemble a coordinated international strategy to combat ransomware by cooperating with international partners. Singapore should concentrate on and support efforts to promote international cooperation in three areas that have been identified by the CRTF: law enforcement, anti-money laundering measures, and discouraging ransom payments.
The appropriate government agencies will take the recommendations of the CRTF under consideration for additional research and action.
An international team led by The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s Faculty of Medicine (CU Medicine) has successfully developed the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) model that can detect Alzheimer’s disease solely through fundus photographs or images of the retina. The model is more than 80% accurate after validation.
Fundus photography is widely accessible, non-invasive and cost-effective. This means that the AI model incorporated with fundus photography is expected to become an important tool for screening people at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the community. Details have been published in The Lancet Digital Health under the international journal The Lancet.
Limitations of Alzheimer’s disease current detection methods
In Hong Kong, 1 in 10 people aged 70 or above suffers from dementia, with more than half of those cases attributed to Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is associated with an excessive accumulation of abnormal amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, leading to the death of brain cells and resulting in progressive cognitive decline.
The Clinical Professional Consultant of the Division of Neurology in CU Medicine’s Department of Medicine and Therapeutics stated that memory complaints are common among middle-aged and elderly people, and are often considered a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
It is sometimes difficult to make an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease based on cognitive tests and structural brain imaging. However, methods to detect Alzheimer’s pathology, such as an amyloid-PET scan or testing of cerebrospinal fluid collected via lumber puncture, are invasive and less accessible.
To address the current clinical gap, CU Medicine has led several medical centres and institutions from Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States to successfully develop an AI model using state-of-the-art technologies which can detect Alzheimer’s disease using fundus photographs alone.
Studying disorders of the central nervous system via the retina
The S.H. Ho Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Chairman of CU Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences explained that the retina is an extension of the brain in terms of embryology, anatomy and physiology. In the entire central nervous system, only the blood vessels and nerves in the retina allow direct visualisation and analysis.
Thus, it is widely considered a window through which disorders in the central nervous system can be studied. Through non-invasive fundus photography, a range of changes in the blood vessels and nerves of the retina that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease can be detected.
The team developed and validated their AI model using nearly 13,000 fundus photographs from 648 Alzheimer’s disease patients (including patients from the Prince of Wales Hospital) and 3,240 cognitively normal subjects. Upon validation, the model showed 84% accuracy, 93% sensitivity and 82% specificity in detecting Alzheimer’s disease. In the multi-ethnic, multi-country datasets, the AI model achieved accuracies ranging from 80% to 92%.
Accessibility, non-invasiveness and high cost-effectiveness of the AI model using fundus photography help the detection of Alzheimer’s cases both in the clinic and the community
A Professor of Medicine and Director of the Therese Pei Fong Chow Research Centre for Prevention of Dementia at CU Medicine stated that in addition to its accessibility and non-invasiveness, the accuracy of the new AI model is comparable to imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
It shows the potential to become not only a diagnostic test in clinics but also a screening tool for Alzheimer’s disease in community settings. Looking ahead, the team aims to validate its efficacy in identifying high-risk cases of the disease hidden in the community, so that various preventive treatments such as anti-amyloid drugs can be initiated early to slow down cognitive decline and brain damage.
The Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at CU Medicine said that in addition to applying novel AI technologies in the model, the team also tested it in different scenarios. Notably, their AI model retained a robust ability to differentiate between subjects with and without Alzheimer’s disease, even in the presence of concomitant eye diseases like macular degeneration and glaucoma which are common in city-dwellers and the older population.
Their results further support the hypothesis that the team’s AI analysis of fundus photographs is an excellent tool for the detection of memory-depriving Alzheimer’s disease. To move this research towards clinical application, the team is developing an integrated, AI-based platform to combine information from both blood vessels and nerves of the retina captured by fundus photography and optical coherence tomography for the detection of Alzheimer’s disease. Their findings should provide more evidence to move AI from code to the real world.
The Indonesian government disclosed four potential uses of Big Data and AI to improve its e-government programmes. These two technologies, they feel, have the potential to support disaster identification and preventive action, prevention of illegal activities and cyber-attacks and increase workforce effectiveness.
The Director General of Informatics Applications, Semuel A. Pangerapan, explained several scenarios for Big Data. According to him, the government can use Big Data to improve critical event management and the quality of the response by identifying problem points through Big Data Analytics. For example, the agencies can be better prepared to prevent and mitigate natural disasters such as drought, epidemics or massive accidents occur.
In addition, Big Data can also enhance the government’s ability to prevent money laundering and fraud through better surveillance to detect such illegal activities.
Furthermore, Big Data significantly reduces the possibility of cyber-attacks. Cyber-attacks can come from external parties, data leaks or internally for a variety of reasons. An analysis of patterns and unusual activities can help in preventing or managing such cyber issues.
Big Data and analytics can contribute to workforce effectiveness by increasing monitoring. In addition, it can be used for policy design, decision-making and gaining insights.
Semuel stressed the importance of data analysis after collecting all data in the right fashion. Data is only valuable if it is collected correctly and then analysed – data will only provide benefits if processed in the right way. “In its implementation, AI helps analyse existing Big Data, providing data understanding or insight to help make decisions,” he explained.
Another advantage of AI is the ability to speed up new implementation services and corrections in real-time. At the evaluation stage, AI can also provide suggestions for adjustments and improvements to subsequent policies.
Currently, the encourages the improvement of the quality of Big Data and AI innovation through the development of e-government. The Indonesian government is also open to third parties to accelerate Big Data and AI use.
E-government has made progress in recent years and received appreciation from the United Nations in 2020. The UN said that Indonesia’s e-government development index rose to rank 88 from previously ranked 107 in 2018. Indonesia’s e-participation index has also increased from rank 92 in 2018 to 57 in 2022.
“The two rankings show an increase in the quality of Indonesia’s e-government and the level of community activity in using e-government services,” said Semuel.
However, the government faced challenges in implementing these two technologies. Overlapping and data replication is one of the main problems. “Regulatory obstacles in the procurement of government Big Data infrastructure also need to be overcome. Then compliance with international standards for the national Big Data ecosystem is also still the government’s homework.”
To optimise AI use, Semuel emphasised the need for a skilled workforce, regulations governing the ethics of using AI, infrastructure, and industrial and public sector adoption of AI innovations.
The government is implementing several solutions to overcome challenges. First, they have provided suitable facilities in the form of National Data Centres (NDCs) in four separate locations. The NDCs will accommodate Government Cloud and contain national data across sectors.
Optimisation of data centre utilisation needs to be supported by staff with qualified expertise. For this reason, the government is holding digital skills training on AI and Big Data through the Digital Talent Scholarship (DTS) and Digital Leadership Academy (DLA) programs.
Apart from facilities and upskilling, Indonesia is looking to develop a business ecosystem that utilises AI and Big Data. Support for this comes from the National Movement of 1000 Digital Startups, Startup Studio Indonesia (SSI) and HUB.ID.
Thailand’s Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) has recently launched the AI Governance Clinic (AIGC) which will serve as a source of Thai and overseas knowledge and expertise on governance related to artificial intelligence (AI) and its adoption.
ETDA is joining forces with the nation’s National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC), the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Medical Services, and the Department of Health Service Support. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between ETDA and the three partners was signed during the nation’s “Building Trust and Partnership in AI Governance” event.
AI is currently having a significant impact on almost every aspect of people’s lives, including work, business, education, finance, health, and electronic transactions, according to ETDA Executive Director Dr Chaichana Mitrpant. “These issues all involve the application of AI.”
A six-year national AI implementation plan for national development between 2022 and 2027 was recently approved by the Cabinet. The adoption of AI with governance along with pertinent laws and regulations is one strategy outlined in the plan for ensuring that users understand social responsibility.
Thailand is getting ready to adopt AI, another cutting-edge technology that is gaining popularity and relevance. ETDA is an organisation that supports a secure and reliable ecosystem for electronic transactions.
To achieve the objectives outlined in the implementation plan, the agency is collaborating with NECTEC. A study on Thailand’s AI standard landscape to develop AI adoption measures and a study on measures to assess AI-based computer programmes to increase the capacity of Thai entrepreneurs in all industries in accordance with international standards are among their important joint projects.
To create a framework for AI governance regarding electronic transactions that are in line with Thailand’s context and international standards, ETDA and its partners – both in Thailand and abroad – established the Clinic.
The Clinic is collaborating with the Academy of Digital Transformation by ETDA to provide resources for capacity development at all levels. Additionally, the AIGC has a substantial library of knowledge sources on pertinent topics, as well as experts from numerous nations who are prepared to provide guidance on AI policies and governance.
An additional Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by ETDA and its partners NECTEC, the Department of Medical Services, and the Department of Health Service Support for the joint development of an AI governance framework that is appropriate for the Thai context for the country’s healthcare industry.
The collaboration aims to advance the sharing of innovation and AI technology knowledge among the participating agencies and to inform pertinent agencies about AI governance. Thailand’s AI strategy was inspired by a desire to boost the nation’s economy and the quality of life for its people as well as a competitive spirit.
Thailand strives to develop the human capacity and skills required for an AI ecosystem despite the difficulties it faces in developing AI capabilities. They created a formal network and consortium as a result. Thailand will train future AI professionals through structured academic programmes in Thai universities, in addition to bridging the gap between existing academic and industrial experts.
ETDA is the primary agency responsible for developing, promoting, and supporting electronic transactions and it is part of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. Its primary responsibility is to research, study, and support the operation of the Electronic Transaction Committee and other related agencies, hence, it contributes to the development and promotion of Thailand’s electronic transactions.
In the new normal, everything is moving online, including employee workloads, leadership insights, and how the services and businesses interact with customers or clients. Organisations must undergo a digital transformation to create entirely digital processes, better experiences and streamlined operations.
Successful digital transformation allows all processes and systems to communicate with one another. Users have a single source of truth, updates occur in real-time, and data is integrated.
The transformation enables organisations to effortlessly pivot when necessary because all their systems and teams are interconnected. Everything can be done quickly and without impacting the operations – whether it is to add more users, connect new business software or begin automating tasks.
In a cloud-first strategy, organisations are not merely adding a new layer of technology when they transform. They are expanding their IT capability in an entirely new way. Data and systems are hosted in the cloud, allowing for a seamless, effective and adaptable connection of all their IT.
Increasingly, companies of all sizes are aware of the potential and power of the cloud. Due to the increased security, scalability and convenience, more businesses and services are moving their apps and data onto the cloud.
Within this suite, that offers consumers a significant advantage is cloud communications. As remote and hybrid work models become the norm, cloud communication is quickly gaining importance.
The OpenGov Breakfast Insight with Indonesia’s top public sector leaders on 1 December 2022 at the Westin Jakarta provided the current information on the benefits of the most recent cloud technology that can help the nation’s public, education, financial services and healthcare sectors.
The Cloud at the Heart of the Digital Transformation
Mohit Sagar, CEO & Editor-in-Chief OpenGov Asia, believes cloud-based strategies are being adopted and implemented by companies of all sizes to spur growth and increase profits. Cloud has fundamentally altered business communications.
Cloud transforms how people communicate, collaborate and conduct business in today’s digital world. It has sparked advancements in machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), devices, healthcare and autonomous vehicles.
“The cloud offers cutting-edge features and functionality that let staff members collaborate and communicate in ways – and places – they never imagined,” says Mohit. “Organisations can outsource systems management tasks like provisioning, switching, data storage, and security to cloud communications providers.”
Moreover, with remote and hybrid models, employees report higher productivity and greater satisfaction.
Nonetheless, according to Mohit, even though remote and hybrid models are becoming increasingly popular, they will not be successful if they are not based on the right technology. Cloud communications are a crucial component of any hybrid or remote work environment.
With cloud-based communication tools, staff can easily switch to working remotely, teams can keep meeting, and operations can go on as usual.
“Technology for collaboration will be more crucial than ever with employees working in different time zones and locations. Hence, teams have the resources to connect with coworkers across boundaries thanks to cloud communications,” Mohit explains.
Organisations can make the most of their resources with cloud communications, which can quicken implementation, increase flexibility, and provide limitless high-volume information exchange. Moreover, cloud communication security features guarantee adherence to data privacy laws.
The technology, protocols and best practices that safeguard cloud computing environments, cloud-based applications and cloud-stored data collectively constitute cloud security. Understanding exactly what needs to be secured and the system components that must be managed is the first step in securing cloud services.
As an overview, cloud service providers are responsible for backend development against security vulnerabilities. Clients should concentrate primarily on the proper service configuration, safe use habits, and selecting a security-conscious provider.
“Clients should also confirm that any end-user networks and hardware are properly secured,” Mohit says.
Every step taken to secure the cloud aims to facilitate data recovery in the event of data loss; guard against malicious data theft on networks and storage; prevent human error or carelessness that results in data leaks, and minimise the effects of any data or system compromise.
The transition to cloud-based computing has resulted in a significant evolution of traditional IT security. While cloud models offer greater convenience, always-on connectivity necessitates new security measures. There are a few ways in which cloud security differs from conventional IT models as a modernised cyber security solution.
According to Nathan Guy, Zoom Phone Leader, Asia Pacific, Zoom, the macro business environment has significantly changed. Businesses are under tremendous pressure to increase productivity, adapt quickly as competition heats up and be productive to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation and technological advancements.
This problem is becoming even more pressing because of economic uncertainty. Without effective communication between customers, prospects and employees, it will be impossible to address these issues.
Nathan highlighted that the workforce is also experiencing a generational shift. People prefer the option of remote employment. And they are asking for cutting-edge equipment and communication systems as they need to do their jobs.
With every new tool and app that is made available, communication becomes more complex and confusing. Employees, clients, and potential customers are just a few stakeholders with preferences and expectations about how, when, and where they conduct business.
“Due to this, many businesses choose their battles carefully when it comes to facilitating communication,’ says Nathan.
Among the routes they take are keeping up with currently used systems deemed adequate; embedded communication tools included with other software packages; exploring multiple solutions depending on the situation; among others. “These strategies are meant to provide the organisation with fundamental communication.”
Such methods allow for some flexibility but also change the environment for prospects, employees and customers. People are compelled to alternate between various solutions based on their needs.
Some consumers “separate” from a favourite brand after just one disappointing interaction. Today’s harsh reality is that communication is a critical path activity; your business will also fail if it fails. A path that is crucial to the business failure.
Nathan believes that organisations must go beyond essential communication to universal communication. Creating intuitive connections to all parties – employees, customers, and investors – regardless of location, device, or business activity – will have a tremendous advantage in this uncertain business environment.
“You do this by combining the connection needs of the individual and organisation by delivering a consistent and quality experience for all participants, making human connection effortless, and enabling rapid innovation to maintain relevance,” says Nathan.
These steps could result in:
- Meeting both the organisations’ core business needs and the demands of their customers;
- Refocusing internal resources away from administering communications and towards new services and capabilities; and
- Improving the agility and the perceived value both in the company and the market
An organisation’s reputation is directly linked to the quality of its communication services. In addition to the fact that employees, clients, and customers can work from anywhere, people returning to the office do not want them to be disappointed by the home office environment to which they have grown accustomed.
Expectations have increased; a session that fails due to dropped participants or subpar audio/video is unacceptable and embarrassing. Organisations must adapt to this new hybrid environment and guarantee that everyone receives high-quality service regardless of circumstance or location.
“When communications are disrupted in today’s world, business transactions become impossible,” claims Nathan. “Organisations can eliminate a work-limiting unpredictability risk by doing this. They provide a controlled experience by enabling the staff to work without concern about the underlying technology.”
By using a top-notch infrastructure specially built to prevent failures, Zoom will protect organisations from communications breakdowns. Organisations could troubleshoot the underlying cause of environmental problems and take preventative measures. This allows the workforce to concentrate on their work without unneeded interruptions or uncertainty. Hence, employees will have confidence that the communication system they provide will work as expected.
Differences in network performance and bandwidth can seriously impair audio and video quality and lead to intermittent problems, preventing some users from participating fully. Even with severe packet loss, organisations can use Zoom to deliver a productive meeting experience. This makes it possible to eliminate local network and infrastructure variability, which is crucial when doing business internationally.
More complexity is being added to communications. “Now you have workers returning to the office, frequently in a hotel setting, as well as those travelling or working remotely,” says Nathan.
Three main contexts have been produced as a result: remote, office and mobile. Unfortunately, all too frequently, people are forced to juggle a patchwork of disjointed point solutions created during the pandemic. This includes a personal cellphone, a videoconferencing option for small meetings and another tool for significant events.
Nathan believes that employees and clients must learn to use a different interface. Even if the organisations stick with a single vendor, many have expanded through acquisitions, leading to various products with no shared characteristics.
“There’s no doubt that communication platforms are a big part of how hybrid teams work,” Nathan asserts. “A modern communications platform like Zoom could help boost productivity, add to what can be done, and show how engaged employees are.”
Fireside Chat: How to Prepare for the Transition to the “Cloud Culture”
According to Deddy Kartika Utama, Head of Information Security, Ministry of Home Affairs (Kemendagri), policies regarding political and general governance and regional autonomy are developed, determined and implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Ministry also plays a role in establishing regional and village administration, governing issues, regional finance, demographics and civil records.
Given the number of parties involved and the nature of the hybrid organisation, including the Ministry, maintaining consistency may prove difficult. Because of this, compelling and trustworthy means of communication are crucial.
Cloud communications, Deddy emphasised, continue to be the preferred method of meeting the growing demand for efficient organisational communications, considering the advent of the hybrid workplace. With cloud computing and communications, organisations can quickly expand or contract to meet fluctuating demand.
In the public sector, by using internet-based connectivity to reduce lag time and unreliable connections, organisations can communicate with their team and customers through various channels, including email, voice calls, chat and video.
Through the advancements in IT, organisations now have access to a flexible, instant, scalable, stable, and conveniently located environment. Organisations that switch to cloud-based communication technology can take advantage of full cloud communication’s mobility, scalability, security, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.
The rapid development of cloud computing services and collaboration technologies has apparent benefits for remote and hybrid workforces. It enables teams to work together and achieve their shared goals even when they are not physically present in the same office.
“Using a cloud collaboration strategy, coworkers can work together on documents stored in the cloud while having access to the same files and making changes to them in real-time,” Deddy explains. “One method for cutting costs while maximising organisational resources despite growing communication capabilities and reach is to concentrate on the quality of the technology.”
By utilising the cloud, businesses have found cheaper alternatives while ensuring that their customers can access their data and systems from any location at any time. Transitioning from traditional to cloud office culture is exciting and promising. To protect the organisations and their operations, a solid security foundation must first be established.
According to Deddy, the potential of cloud computing is becoming increasingly apparent to various organisations, and it is also growing. “Organisations are already transitioning from the traditional office culture to the cloud culture, and doing so is profitable. They can save money and space by switching to cloud technology.”
Nathan emphasised the significance of cloud security, albeit that most organisations are already utilising cloud computing in some form. “Organisations are still hesitant to move more data and applications to the cloud due to security, governance, and compliance concerns when storing their content in the cloud.”
By partnering with Zoom, the human connection could be simplified and security could be included. Organisations can capitalise on the habits and competencies individuals have developed over the past two years. Additionally, they will ensure consistency across multiple use cases.
“By partnering with Zoom, businesses will be able to maintain their relevance through rapid innovation. They have access to a constant stream of new capabilities that reflect actual user requirements,” Nathan claims.
According to Mohit, a critical component of cloud security is the protection of data and business content such as customer orders, secret design documents and financial records, among others.
Preventing leaks and data theft is critical for maintaining customer trust and safeguarding assets that contribute to competitive advantage. “The ability of cloud security to protect your data and assets makes it critical for any organisations that are transitioning to the cloud.”
Development partners can assist organisations in meeting a broader range of customer needs, resulting in increased market reach. As a result, when developing cloud applications, make sure to include platform or integration capabilities as well as a partner strategy.
“Your cloud partner strategy should be based on business potential, engineering capability, and platform marketing. A balanced strategy will enable a larger partner ecosystem, more comprehensive customer solutions, and increased revenue potential,” Mohit concludes.
Enterprise transformation refers to a significant shift in the way a company conducts its day-to-day operations. This could involve adjusting an organisation’s fundamental technology, the structure of the company’s workforce or the way the company creates and markets its goods.
Enterprise transformation can take many different forms, one of the most prevalent of which is when an organisation makes a significant change in the products or services it offers. Currently, with digital technology, adjustments like this are occurring more frequently.
Companies are realising that they need to modify their approaches to meet the ever-evolving requirements of their customers as well as the consistently expanding standards set by their rivals.
Simultaneously, several Digital technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Blockchain, Big Data, Virtual reality, Augmented Reality, Robotics and automation, among others, have the potential to transform how businesses operate. They can transform various functions of the value chain, such as logistics & supply, manufacturing, engineering, marketing, customer service, corporate management and support functions.
With their versatility and agility, these technologies can be deployed to numerous industries, among these are Healthcare, Food & Beverage, Manufacturing, Services and Mobility.
Innovative Business: What Lies Ahead?
“Businesses need innovation, not only for survival but for future growth,” says Vikram. “Innovation could emerge as product innovation, process innovation, service innovation or business model innovation to create a long-term sustainable advantage.”
Enterprises have been creating legacies based on research and development (R&D) which has LED them to incremental innovations. However, innovation is disruptive or transformational and it can be around product processes, services and business models.
Transformational innovation represents innovation that transforms businesses and innovates processes to create long-term sustainable, competitive, profitable business models. Disruptive innovation is targeted more towards identifying and inventing new mechanisms to solve existing and anticipated problem statements in businesses, which is also expected to have a business impact.
Many businesses do not distinguish between R&D and innovation. Enterprises today, however, are better able to distinguish themselves from one another and can understand and appreciate the impact that innovation has in comparison to R&D’s function.
R&D is an essential part of most businesses, and the benefits it brings are usually small and mostly limited to the people who work in R&D.
Innovation, on the other hand, isn’t just a function; it’s also a way of thinking for the whole organisation. It affects everything from the process to the product to the service to the business model, and the expected size of its effects is disruptive rather than incremental.
This further demonstrates how the current difficult business and economic environment has forced companies with lower levels of technology adoption and digital maturity to rethink their operations.
Enterprises can now assess the possibilities that technology integration may bring about, not only to address their current problem statements but also to consider new opportunities, whether it takes the form of a product, service, or business model.
There are a few common KPIs that should be measured regularly to gauge an organisation’s and its employees’ level of digital maturity. Vikram believes that because every organisation is unique, the KPIs used for assessments will vary.
For example, the key metrics for some common functions, like customer experience, data and insights, strategic and leadership, technology, operations, digital skill sets and so on, would need to be customised based on how they have changed and how they are changing now.
“We can get innovations which can predict based on the data analytics for the next 10 years,” Vikram reveals. “Every organisation should think out-of-the-box. Then they only need the right set of people who can guide them for the KPIs to be defined.”
Additionally, a variety of industries, including those in healthcare, food and beverage, manufacturing, services, FMCG, mobility, hospitality, and many more, can adapt to new technologies.
The following are crucial actions that businesses need to take today to digitally transform their futures:
- Identify your key employees’ level of digital maturity
- Research the technologies that are currently being used by the Enterprise’s various functions
- Select current issue citations
- Sort the problem statements according to priority
- Assess a system for locating, evaluating, and integrating digital technologies
- After a framework has been chosen and put into place, make the process iterative
- Establish it as the Enterprise’s mentality
Urban Ideas and Solutions Through LKYGBPC
When it comes to entrepreneurs who are truly pushing the envelope, Vikram is looking for certain characteristics. One of these is how the participants interact with businesses, which is determined by a unique set of criteria.
“And because we engage with various sets of parameters when looking at entrepreneurs, we can combine their efforts with those of the business,” Vikram explains.
Therefore, they bring the enterprise work and the entrepreneurs together when looking at the entrepreneurs, especially in the GHV DX LAB framework – they are the project managers and the system integrator for GHV.
The digital transformation, specifically the adoption of online business models and the general shift of economic and social activities online, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, has altered how economies operate, businesses function and societies interact.
The exploitation of data is the driving force behind the emergence of a new type of data-driven economy. It creates new opportunities for international cooperation to leapfrog the intermediate infrastructure of the industrial age, taking advantage of the new markets made available by digital platforms and the improved service delivery made possible by smart technologies.
In addition, the most effective mechanism in education would be to integrate innovation and entrepreneurship at the earliest possible stages of the educational system. In today’s context, entrepreneurship is about more than just passion, raising capital, or coding something; it’s about building a network around yourself to support your entrepreneurial journey. The network is critical.
Vikram spent sixteen years in Japan before relocating to Singapore and India to establish a business. He has realised that he must contribute significantly to society. For Vikram, LKYGBPC is a fantastic platform that can be an integral part of any entrepreneur’s entrepreneurial journey.
As opportunities for entrepreneurs are created through this platform, a global network of mentors and other ecosystem partners are integrated with LKYGBPC to focus on the entrepreneurs. “I think it’s a fantastic platform that is desperately needed right now, not just in the context of Singapore or Southeast Asia, but for the global market,” Vikram is convinced.
He believes that a combination of all these factors pushed him into the venture capital world. “I enjoy being a techie. But I’m enjoying my current role as a mentor to thousands of Asian entrepreneurs.”
Vikram has mentored over 1200 startups to date, including 3 that will soon be unicorns. He has personally invested in over 50 startups, and through the GHV Fund, he has invested in over 20 startups. “Every day, I learn something new and give it back to society in the same way.”
Building intellectual property (IP) rights has been the best part of his digital journey so far, and he hopes to keep doing this. “The level of self-satisfaction I feel is never as high as when I say IP is greater. You can make a lot of money consulting, but that doesn’t get me excited if you can’t create IP and work together. And that’s why what we’ve been doing around it can be great,” Vikram concludes.
The Department of Architecture under the National University of Singapore College of Design and Engineering (NUS CDE) opened the Architectural Conservation Laboratory (ArClab), a unique living laboratory housed in a conserved building which will serve as a site for researchers, graduate students and built heritage professionals to conduct a wide range of teaching and research activities on sustainable development of the built environment.
ArClab was established in January 2022 to achieve four key goals:
- augment the training capabilities of Singapore’s building industry in built heritage conservation;
- develop innovative use of technologies to enhance conservation;
- conduct high-impact research into broader conservation issues; and
- promote climate resilience and net-zero retrofit in historic buildings.
Over the next four to five years, ArClab will undertake the restoration of 141 Neil Road, a historic townhouse in the Blair Plain Conservation Area. The Portabella family, who owned the house, had recently donated it to the University, along with a gift of S$2 million, to support its repair and conservation works.
The Head of the NUS Department of Architecture and UNESCO Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management in Asia noted that as the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, the ArClab aims to be an exemplar and pedagogical demonstration of sensitive repair and conservation, adaptive reuse of heritage, and sustainable management of the historic environment.
The building’s conservation process will provide opportunities for both teaching and research. Using the conserved townhouse as a living lab, ArClab will showcase a new model for learning about the historic environment, building professional capacity to manage historical resources, and promoting historical and environmental studies.
The Deputy Dean (Research), the NUS College of Design and Engineering noted that ArClab is a timely endeavour that gathers expertise in engineering, design and architecture from the NUS College of Design and Engineering to preserve our history and build skills to address Singapore’s unique urban sustainability concerns.
Speaking at the opening of ArClab, the Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration noted that he is excited to see ArClab become an engine to develop the knowledge of conservation practices and skills locally; develop heritage capacity building in Singapore and the region; support building owners in the maintenance and restoration of heritage buildings; grow Singapore’s overseas presence in built heritage and break new ground internationally and see how sustainability and liveability can be imbued inbuilt heritage.
Bring cultural heritage to life
One of the oldest buildings in the entire stretch of Neil Road, the historic house was built as part of the Everton Estate in the 1880s. The historic building contains a collection of decorative tiles depicting English Art Noveau and Chinese motifs. It is adorned with several auspicious Chinese character plaques in clerical and cursive font styles.
Housed within the historic building, ArClab will be a dynamic “classroom in the city” for students taking graduate programmes and doctoral studies in built heritage management. They will play a significant role in the repair and conservation works.
Students will learn and conduct research on areas such as traditional building materials and craftsmanship; the use of innovative technologies for repair works, energy efficiency and comfort; and net-zero retrofit in historic buildings. ArClab will also design and deliver advanced courses for professionals working in the field of built heritage.
The research will be conducted alongside teaching activities in the conserved building. NUS researchers will carry out various projects, including conducting research, documentation and restoration of Singapore’s heritage using innovative technologies such as 3D modelling; developing an integrated approach for energy efficiency and net-zero retrofit of Singapore’s historic buildings; testing and developing traditional building materials and techniques as well as using innovative technologies for conservation and repair works in the Singapore context; and estimating the impact of the high-density urban surroundings on the microclimate of historic districts.
A broad range of advanced equipment will be available for researchers and students to conduct holistic research and training.