As the New Year rolls in, governments across the globe are re-assessing and reapplying technologies in new and unique ways.
This is very much the case in Hong Kong where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being applied across sectors of the economy and within most departments in the government.
But what are the implications, and how are they significant?
OpenGov Asia sat down with Dr Andy Chun, Council Member and Convenor of the AI Specialist Group, Hong Kong Computer Society to discuss AI and its purpose and necessity in Hong Kong.
Dr Chun is a seasoned senior executive and a broad technologist with over 30 years of experience in a wide range of industries, including finance, insurance, health, transportation, and education.
He is also an honorary Adjunct Professor at the City University of Hong Kong and the Regional Director of Technology Innovation at Prudential Corp Asia.
Surging interest around AI
There is a reason for the increased focus and interest around AI. Dr Chun noted that, as a technology, AI is maturing rapidly.
“We now have a much better understanding of what problems AI can solve and how to implement AI solutions, as well as more readily available AI tools and platforms at a lower cost.”
Citizens’ expectations have also changed.; the government’s online services are expected to be on par with that of commercial corporations in terms of ease-of-use and intelligence.
Government Initiatives Around AI in Hong Kong
The use of AI to improve public services is not new; almost a decade ago, the Hong Kong Immigration Department already used AI and machine learning in their Application and Investigation Easy System (APPLIES).
APPLIES is an on-line information system for processing applications for visas, permits, travel passes, registration matters relating to births, deaths, marriage and investigation cases.
AI helps streamline workflow and automate decision-making, by acting as an augmented intelligent tool for Immigration Department staff.
More recently, the government has committed over HK$100 billion to support key innovation and technology (I&T) areas, including AI.
Tens of billions are being invested into the city’s various technology centres, such as the Hong Kong Science Park, Cyberport, and the new Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park, where AI is a key focus.
In addition, significant funding is being channelled into supporting I&T and R&D in Universities as well as enterprises and start-ups in Hong Kong.
Last year the Government established a new Smart Government Innovation Lab to explore hi-tech products such as AI and relevant technologies, including machine learning, big data analytics, cognitive systems and intelligent agent, as well as blockchain and robotics from firms, especially local start-ups.
HK Nurturing AI on Many Levels
When describing how AI is being nurtured in Hong Kong, Dr Chun highlighted the Hong Kong Jockey Club as an example; their “CoolThink@JC” program systematically teaches computational thinking and coding across primary schools in Hong Kong.
The program was developed jointly with MIT in Boston. AI is also being integrated as part of Hong Kong’s STEM education for secondary schools.
At the university level, all universities in Hong Kong now have specializations in AI, machine learning, and data analytics. In fact, Hong Kong has five universities among the world’s top 100, giving it one of the world’s highest concentrations of top-quality research universities for computing.
In addition, two of the world’s leading tech start-ups – one an AI unicorn in face recognition, and the other a drone maker – were both started by academics and students from universities in Hong Kong.
Improving HKSAR Governmental Services Related to AI
Dr Chun noted that one area in which the HKSAR Government could do more on is in the creation of related guidelines, policies, and regulations to support the growing use of AI and other advanced technologies, such as in the areas of data privacy and ethical use.
“This is not to say the Government hasn’t done much,” Dr Chun stated. “Quite the contrary – Hong Kong has already done a lot.”
For example, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority recently released high-level guidelines and principles relating to AI and governance, accountability, fairness, transparency, data privacy, etc.
The HKMA also released an extensive whitepaper “Reshaping Banking with Artificial Intelligence” to help raise awareness as well as promote adoption of AI in the banking industry.
Last year, the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commissions (SFC) also issued guidelines on the use of AI algorithms and robo-advisors.
In 2018, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data released a document on “Ethical Accountability Framework for Hong Kong.” Even though a lot of groundwork has been established, this area of AI development is still an evolving topic globally.
Dr Chun noted, “I’m sure more development will continue in the coming years”.
Misconceptions Around AI
While AI is widely regarded as a revolutionary technology that makes headlines constantly across the globe, there are still misconceptions around it.
“I think the key misconception of AI is that it is somehow ‘magical’ – that is, just by using AI, it will automatically learn and solve different business challenges.”
“There is still a lot of complex engineering work and experimentation behind the use of AI,” Dr Chun explained, “Companies looking for quick short-term gains will be disappointed. AI should be a long-term R&D investment.”
Another misconception about AI is that some companies do not realize there are many types of AI. Different problems will require different AI techniques, processes, and skillsets to solve.
Improving Human Lives with AI
When asked whether AI can nurture a healthier business environment on a large scale, Dr Chun noted that AI in the form of virtual assistants, helps humans perform mundane or repetitive work, so that we can focus on more interesting as well as stimulating problems.
This reduces some of the stress in the business environment and makes work more enjoyable. Companies are also using chatbots internally for various HR functions, to improve communication and transparency as well as better employee relationships.
The Rise of Chatbots
The world, and APAC regions, in particular, have registered a rise in the deployment of chatbots. Moreover, the conversation around them changed.
Dr Chun noted that the rise in deployment of chatbots was driven mainly by advancements in natural language processing and machine learning, as well as well-understood implementation processes that make chatbot development more manageable.
In addition, with cloud services and open APIs, the costs of developing and operating chatbots have greatly reduced.
The conversation around chatbots is constantly changing. With more chatbots deployed, people’s expectations have also changed, demanding conversations to be more context-aware, stateful and human-like.
Developing Citizen/Customer-Centric Designs
Dr Chun noted that customer-centric design is really about truly understanding who your customers are, developing empathy for their needs and pains, and creating products that are highly relevant and timely, and super easy to use.
“To do customer-centric design well, industry players and government bodies need to spend more time in seeing things from the customers’ or citizens’ point of view before thinking about technology.”
Spyfish Aotearoa, a collaboration between a charitable organisation applying artificial intelligence (AI) to conservation and the Department of Conservation (DoC), allows ocean enthusiasts to get directly involved in scientific research.
By analysing 10-second video clips on the Spyfish website, all taken from monitoring surveys DoC undertakes each year in New Zealand’s marine reserves, volunteers can identify and count the species of fish they see. If the user is not over-familiar with native fauna, there is a chat function available to connect with the experts who are.
The surveys let the DoC estimate how abundant some types of fish are in the country’s reserves, such as blue cod, snapper, some species of sharks, and many more. It is a way to tell how well the marine reserves are doing at protecting these species.
However, identifying and counting species in the videos is time-consuming, especially for a single person. The Spyfish Aotearoa is being used to train AI software so in the future videos can be automatically analysed to identify and count the species. Using machine learning will save a huge amount of time and resources and produce data that can be used almost immediately.
According to the DoC, making the most of the opportunities provided by AI will greatly improve marine conservation outcomes for the future and bring the country further down in the path towards thriving oceans. Along the way, people in Aotearoa and overseas will be able to see and learn more about the species in New Zealand’s marine reserves, while contributing directly to marine conservation.
According to reports, anchored by the Resource Management Act, New Zealand’s government has declared its desire to follow sustainable development principles in its economic, social and environmental policies. In 2009, the Act was revised to simplify regulations and reduce costly delays for developers and investors while sustaining necessary ecological protections, resulting in quicker processing and better compliance. But according to research, restoring New Zealand’s waterways could take “hundreds of years” at the current rate of progress.
New Zealand is also socially and politically at the forefront of international climate issues, as illustrated by its adoption of a progressive carbon-trading scheme. The country is also making signs it wants to boost its start-up ecosystem – particularly when it comes to clean technology. Environment and climate-related technologies are improving. New Zealand is a world leader in research on reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. It has a well-developed and skilled eco-innovation system.
Another report said that New Zealand is ripe for a cleantech revolution and noted countries that put significant resources into supporting cleantech innovation are rewarded with more emerging and commercialised cleantech companies.
In 2016, the government has taken measures aimed to help New Zealand green its economy and improve its environmental governance and management, with particular emphasis on water resources management and sustainable urban development. New Zealand is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The 2017 OECD Environmental Performance Reviews state that New Zealand is among the most energy-intensive economies.
New Zealand’s reputation as a ‘green’ country, both as a tourist destination and as a producer of natural and safe foods, needs to be upheld. Therefore, the government of New Zealand has taken numerous steps to conserve the country’s indigenous biodiversity. New Zealand’s Biodiversity Strategy has called for greater education and involvement at the local level, strengthening of partnerships with people regarding conservation of genetic diversity, and maintaining and enhancing natural habitats.
National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) is collaborating with the U.S.- based Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution provider to develop the first-ever AI-powered tumour auto-contouring solution. To treat brain cancer, doctors must first precisely map out where the tumours are in the brain, in a process called contouring.
Using traditional manual contouring takes several hours, while the AI device can shorten the process to just a few minutes. It ensures precision mapping of brain tumours with closer cuts and the ability to identify additional lesions that may be missed by the human eye.
NTUH has been used the AI device for the past 18 months as part of clinical trials and helped doctors treat more than 100 patients with brain tumours, including a terminally ill woman whose lung cancer metastasised to her brain.
A doctor and researcher from NTUH said that he had successfully identified nine tumours in the female patient based on her imaging testing, but the AI device later detected two more. As a result, the patient received radiation therapy targeting the 11 tumours, saving her both time and money spent on a second treatment in the event the two tumours were not initially identified.
An oncologist and researcher from NTUH said that 10% of tiny brain tumours, mostly malicious brain metastases, can be missed with manual contouring. He also estimated that using the AI device cuts the time spent on tumour contouring by 50%, which enables patients to receive the treatment they need as soon as possible.
The director of the NTUH Department of Oncology said with the AI device, even tiny tumours can be treated precisely thereby ensuring patients experience fewer side effects. In addition, it also means doctors have time to help additional patients or engage in more discussions with existing patients
According to a page, The AI device has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the first time the FDA has cleared an AI device for tumour auto-contouring in radiation therapy. Devices to receive FDA clearance before are specific to normal organ auto-contouring.
The research on this AI device has been published in the world’s leading medical journal. The researchers conducted a randomised, cross-modal, multi-reader, multi-speciality, multi-case study to evaluate the impact of AI device on brain tumour (Stereotactic Radiosurgery) SRS.
A state-of-the-art auto-contouring algorithm, built on multi-modality imaging and ensemble neural networks, was integrated into the clinical workflow. Nine medical professionals contoured the same case series in two reader modes (assisted or unassisted) with a memory washout period of 6 weeks between each section.
The case series consisted of ten algorithm-unseen cases, including five cases of brain metastases, three of meningiomas and two of acoustic neuromas. Among the nine readers, three experienced experts determined the ground truths of tumour contours.
The clinical findings indicated clinicians assisted by VBrain demonstrated 12.2% higher sensitivity for lesion detection, and less experienced clinicians improved contouring accuracy with the added help. The efficiency in AI device also decreased treatment planning time at a median of 30.8%.
Less-experienced clinicians gained prominent improvement on contouring accuracy but less benefit in reduction of working hours. By contrast, SRS specialists had a relatively minor advantage in DSC, but greater timesaving with the aid of AI.
CEO of the U.S. AI solution provider said that he was thrilled to bring the AI device to their partners across the U.S. and Taiwan. Receiving unique FDA clearance for this solution allows the company to further its commitment to transforming radiotherapy workflows through developing full-body auto-contouring solutions. The future of AI is near, bringing a second set of eyes and hands to assist clinicians in analysing and segmenting medical scans and further improving patient cancer care.
The Philippines’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) launched the national artificial intelligence (AI) roadmap which made the Philippines one of the first 50 countries in the world to have a national strategy and policy on AI.
The DTI said that AI adoption can increase Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) by 12% by 2030, or equivalent to US$92 billion based on research estimates. The agency added that the AI roadmap aims to accelerate the adoption and utilisation of AI in the country to advance industrial development, generate better quality entrepreneurship, and higher-paying opportunities for Filipinos. Through the AI roadmap, they hope to establish the Philippines as an AI Centre for Excellence in the region that is backed by a local talent pool and vibrant innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
As the country aims to be an AI powerhouse in the region, the roadmap will establish the private sector-led National Centre for AI Research (NCAIR) which will serve as a shared hub for AI research. Also, the agency stated that the AI roadmap would help the country to be a hub for data processing providing high-value data analytics and AI services to the world given the country’s strong business process management sector.
Among the applications of AI are in real estate, banking and financial services, surveillance, retail and e-commerce, education, space exploration, agribusiness, urban planning, manufacturing, healthcare, and logistics and transportation.AI would also help government services become more efficient, said the agency.
With the launching of the AI roadmap, the DTI targets to guide the use of AI to maintain the regional and global competitiveness of local industries; and identify key areas, in both research and development and technology application, for investing time and resources of government, industry, and broader society. It also aims to recommend ways for effectively fostering a triple-helix of research and development (R&D) collaboration among government, industry, and academe, which would be essential to national development; put forward approaches for preparing the future workforce for the jobs of the future; and attract the biggest industries to set shop in the country, which would generate more jobs for Filipinos.
The agency emphasised that AI is a vital innovation amid the COVID-19 pandemic where human-to-human interaction should be limited. AI can also be used in contact tracing, health assessment and monitoring, knowledge management, and addressing supply chain issues. While there is this fear that AI will automate so many jobs that millions of Filipinos might find themselves unemployed, this fear should instead be viewed as opportunities for new possibilities. The structure of the workforce will change. Newer, better, and higher-income jobs will emerge. AI will also allow the country to create a knowledge-based economy, which we can leverage to create a more inclusive and prosperous society.
The rapid adoption of digital technologies can help the Philippines overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, recover from the crisis, and achieve its vision of becoming a middle-class society free of poverty, according to a report released by the World Bank and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
However, the use of digital technologies in the Philippines is still below its potential, with the country’s digital adoption generally trailing behind many regional neighbours. The “digital divide” between those with and without the internet leads to unequal access to social services and life-changing economic opportunities.
In this society-wide digital transformation, the government can take the lead by speeding up e-governance projects, such as the foundational identification system and the digitisation of its processes and procedures, which will help promote greater inclusion, improve efficiency, and enhance security. The government can take an active role in fostering policies that reduce the digital divide and create a more conducive business environment for the digital economy to flourish, said the report.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an artificial intelligence algorithm that can detect the presence of the COVID-19 virus in chest X-rays. The AI tool, ATMAN AI, was developed by DRDO’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR), with support from 5C Network & HCG Academics.
Triaging using X-ray in COVID-19 diagnosis is a method for the rapid identification and assessment of the lungs, according to a statement issued by HCG Academics. The tool will be used by 5C Network, the country’s largest digital network of radiologists, with the support of HCG Academics. Triaging potential patients using X-ray is fast, cost-effective, and efficient.
The statement claimed that ATMAN is a useful tool especially in smaller towns in the country, owing to a lack of access to CT scans. The technology will also reduce the existing burden on radiologists and free up CT machines for other diseases and illnesses. The statement said that the feature Believable AI, along with existing ResNet models, has improved the accuracy of the software, and being a machine learning tool, the degree of accuracy will improve continually. The algorithm showed an accuracy of 96.73%.
The chest X-rays of RT-PCR positive patients were retrospectively analysed in various stages of disease involvement using AI models (deep learning and convolutional neural network) from an application developed by CAIR-DRDO to screen COVID-19 using digital chest X-rays. The development of ATMAN as an AI-based diagnostic tool for the virus is part of DRDO’s effort to help clinicians and partners on the frontline to have the tools they need to rapidly diagnose and effectively treat COVID-19 patients.
Given the limited testing facilities for the virus, there is a rush to develop AI tools for quick analysis using X-rays. The tool would help in automatically detecting radiological findings indicative of COVID-19 in seconds, enabling physicians and radiologists to triage the cases more effectively, especially in an emergency.
The CEO of 5C network, Kalyan Sivasailam, noted that utilising the algorithms for chest X-ray is an effective triaging tool, which can be “accessible to the common man in remotest districts of this country.” Dr Vishal Rao, Dean Academics, Centre of Academic Research, HCG Cancer Hospital said the new tool would improve efficacy in hospitals “without increasing the financial burden for patients and healthcare systems.” He added that similar methods would also become useful in assessing predominant respiratory diseases.
It is expected to have a significant impact on timely care and appropriate treatment. With the ongoing second wave of infections, this application can help with a more directed and focused approach, the statement said. 5C Network, which is connected to over 1,000 hospitals across the country, will make ATMAN available to state-run and private hospitals.
Last month, DRDO announced it would set up 500 medical oxygen plants in the country under the Prime Minister CARES fund programme. Medical oxygen plant (MOP) technology was developed to supply oxygen onboard the light combat aircraft (LCA) by the Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory (DEBEL).
The MOP is designed for a capacity of 1,000 litres per minute (LPM). The system can cater to 190 patients at a flow rate of 5 LPM and charge 195 cylinders per day. As OpenGov Asia had reported, the technology can generate oxygen with around 93% concentration and can be directly supplied to hospital beds or used to fill medical oxygen cylinders.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 6 May 2021 with the Finance Academy (Hong Kong) and an education instituted under a Chinese multinational technology conglomerate holding company, abbreviated to TFAHK, to nurture FinTech talent.
Leveraging HKUST’s outstanding academic foundation in FinTech and the tech company’s practical industry experience, the MoU – witnessed by representatives from the HKSAR Government, HKUST and TFAHK – aims to establish a strategic partnership in fostering the development of FinTech by nurturing talents and collaborating on education and research and development projects. It sets out the plan for both parties to collaborate on the FinTech case study series for tertiary education purpose, to provide real business cases for students to comprehensively improve their knowledge on FinTech.
The parties will also work together on developing a curriculum on FinTech, with HKUST integrating the tech giant’s extensive business experience to promote the development of an innovative talent model. Other initiatives include internship opportunities for HKUST students, joint FinTech-related research and development projects, guidance on conducting research projects and potential education outreach programs to improve public awareness on FinTech.
The MoU signing ceremony was part of a Youth Forum hosted by the TFAHK, which aimed to enable audiences to better understand the development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and help young talent explore the thriving career opportunities in the region.
The Chief Executive of the HKSAR Government, and the Vice President of the tech giant, Chairman of Fusion Bank, and Dean of TFAHK delivered the opening speech and welcome remarks respectively in the forum; followed by keynote speeches from the Secretary for Innovation and Technology as well as the HKUST President. A group of aspiring youth representatives also shared their first-hand experiences and learnings working in the GBA.
The HKSAR Chief Executive stated in her speech that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Development has enormous development potential. To assist young people to seize the opportunities brought about by the GBA development, the Government has introduced the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme in January this year to encourage enterprises with operations in Hong Kong and GBA Mainland cities to recruit Hong Kong graduates and post them to be stationed and work in these cities.
The Scheme will assist graduates to develop their careers in the Mainland and gain a better understanding of the lives and culture of the country.
The HKUST President stated that Hong Kong’s public and private sectors have strived to support and encourage innovation and related science and technology appropriate to the city and beyond. Fintech is a clear example in this domain as it has already been transforming our lives in every aspect from banking, retail payment to e-commerce.
“We have launched our first Fintech postgraduate program jointly by Schools of Business and Management, Engineering, and Science. We have also been actively collaborating with multiple banks and other enterprises. Today, we are delighted to join hands with Tencent to further our efforts on creating new knowledge and nurturing talent in a context in which HKUST can make substantial contributions,” he added.
The TFAHK Dean noted that through the Academy, TFAHK has been organising a range of activities that include internships, research opportunities and visits. These initiatives allow the youth in the GBA to learn about the leading internet and information technology, experience the growth momentum of the GBA and the Mainland, as well as enhance their innovative and entrepreneurial capabilities and competitiveness.
The Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme will help the youth to integrate their study, work and daily life into the GBA, and to experience how the technology enterprises focus on innovation, which helps to nurture FinTech talent.
“We are also pleased to collaborate with HKUST, a top university in Hong Kong, in enhancing the development of FinTech through a number of areas, including the FinTech case study series, FinTech curriculum development, internship opportunities, the establishment of Student Chapter, joint research projects and public awareness enhancement,” he said.
Deep learning has become a popular emerging technology in recent years. Many university students are eager to equip themselves with such knowledge and skills in order to capture the opportunities brought about by the development of innovation and technology in various industries.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and a Chinese multinational technology company jointly organised an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Bootcamp in late April to share the latest developments of leading technologies such as digitalisation, machine learning and deep learning.
Participants exchanged views on how to integrate digital technologies into different disciplines and facilitate interdisciplinary learning at local universities in order to create a “digital + talent” ecosystem.
In the bootcamp, participants got hands-on experience through the use of Huawei Ascend series products for different deep learning model training and reasoning experiments, including image classification, object detection, and mask-wearing detection.
Moreover, the tech giant’s Cloud’s ModelArts, a one-stop model automatic learning platform, can also be used for model training where the trained deep learning model will be converted to Atlas development kit to complete the inference process.
The Interim Vice President (Research and Innovation) and Associate Vice President (Undergraduate Programme) of PolyU stated that the cooperation between PolyU and the tech company in research development has been ongoing since 2007.
“In the past few years, we have advanced a variety of innovative technologies in different fields, including optical communications, microwave communications, big data, crowdsourcing platforms, wireless network surveying as well as automatic navigation, that pioneered the development of information and communication technology (ICT),” he said.
It was also noted that by leveraging the innovative research applications of PolyU and the industry-leading competitiveness of the tech giant, the bootcamp aimed to develop those AI systems that support impactful research with the ultimate goal of benefitting society with technologically advanced applications.
Meanwhile, the Head of Applied Physics of PolyU stated, “Physics and AI are mutually related. While Physics helps formulate better AI models, AI can solve complicated Physics problems more efficiently, resulting in more new discoveries.”
The General Manager of the tech company’s Hong Kong Representative Office noted that talent is one of the cores that supports the development of the digital industry, and universities are the base for talent cultivation.
He said the tech company is honoured to cooperate with PolyU in deepening the integration among industry, academia and research sectors to nurture talent to meet industry needs.
The aim is to foster the development of smart industries and support digitalisation in different industries by building a local ‘digital + talent’ ecosystem.
Various departments of PolyU, including the Department of Building and Real Estate, the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the Department of Health Technology and Informatics, have worked together with the tech giant on a number of research projects on digitalisation with different scopes such as activity tracking on construction sites, object lifting function of robotic arms, and medical imaging analysis.
PolyU will continue collaborative research in AI-related disciplines with Huawei, which has been providing invaluable advice and support to the University.
PolyU believes the joint efforts in offering professional training and establishing innovation laboratories will help nurture digitalisation and AI talent and develop more impactful technologies and applications for the development of the local technology ecosystem.
Horng Shya Chua, Managing Director, Oracle Singapore, shares an expert opinion on how Smart Cities must think.
Digital innovations developed across Southeast Asia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are a testament to the region’s ongoing commitment to building a range of “smart” infrastructure and applications.
The Singapore government, already a leader with its cutting-edge Smart Nation initiative, has deployed two mobile apps—SafeEntry and TraceTogether—to curb future COVID-19 infections by determining if individuals were in close proximity to someone who later tested positive for the virus.
Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the Malaysian government has developed the MySejahtera app to assist it in monitoring COVID-19 outbreaks, help users monitor their health and risk of infection, and assist them in getting treatments if needed. State agencies in Thailand collaborated on developing the DDC-Care mobile app, which helps people self-assess whether they have contracted COVID-19 and tracks those who travelled from at-risk countries and thus must quarantine themselves for 14 days.
The pandemic has taught us that there are no simple solutions, but we can overcome them together. A vital platform is the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, where cities from the 10 ASEAN member states learn from one another’s experiences working with global partners to adopt smart technology, as they advance their common goal of sustainable urban development. “We must deepen collaboration and create new opportunities to exchange information and experiences at the regional level,” emphasized Dr Amy Khor, Singapore’s senior minister for sustainability and the environment, at a recent event.
Make better, faster decisions together
Partnerships with vendors play a crucial role in bringing emerging technologies to the public sector. For example, in late 2018, the Singapore government announced a five-year plan to migrate most of its on-premises IT systems to commercial cloud services. As of late last year, it reportedly had moved more than 150 such systems to the commercial cloud and had negotiated contracts that year alone valued at over S$870 million to double its number of commercial cloud systems.
While Singapore’s ambitious moves make it an exceptional example for aspiring smart cities, other countries in Southeast Asia are not far behind. According to a recent study by think tank ESI ThoughtLab, sponsored by Oracle and other partners, most of the region’s major cities are investing heavily in cloud and cloud-based AI technology services, and more plan to do so within three years.
However, while government agencies recognize that cloud services will enable them to innovate at scale faster than ever before, they still have security, regulatory compliance, and budget concerns. That could be why 83% of ASEAN city leaders say they prefer a hybrid cloud approach to deploying smart city services. Hybrid clouds allow cities to keep the most sensitive data and workloads on premises, integrated with more open, citizen-centric, collaborative workloads in the cloud.
Meanwhile, cloud service providers and other large organizations with specialized expertise are working hand-in-hand to move this emerging technology beyond the research labs and into the mainstream. For instance, Singapore-headquartered iviva has developed and implemented proprietary software solutions for workplace management and smart buildings. With the facilities management solution of iviva’s application suite, iviva.facility, hosted on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), iviva’s mission is to help its customers coordinate management of day-to-day operations of existing premises, delivering time and cost savings and operational efficiencies over the entire building life-cycle.
Another area where AI holds great promise is in relieving traffic congestion, a major cause of environmental pollution as well as frustration in major Southeast Asian cities such as Manila, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur. Road congestion currently costs Asian economies 2% to 5% of their gross domestic products every year, according to a McKinsey report, an amount forecasted to exceed US$35 billion by 2030.
Singapore’s Smart Mobility 2030 plan aims to help city planners reduce those environmental and economic costs, by working with industry partners to apply AI algorithms to diverse datasets in order to manage train, bus, car, and bicycle traffic in real-time. The Malaysian state of Selangor is pursuing a similar agenda with its Smart Selangor initiative.
Adopt a ‘whole-of-world’ approach, building an ecosystem of opportunities
The main goal of these public-private digital initiatives and information-sharing is to enhance the quality and accessibility of services, and thereby improve the quality of citizens’ lives.
Global dialogues such as the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting and the World Cities Summit, both taking place in Singapore this year, bring city leaders and industry experts together to discuss the most pressing urban challenges, share solutions, and forge new partnerships.
Collectively, leveraging innovation and entrepreneurship strengthens the region’s capacity to create an ecosystem of opportunities as well as demonstrate what is possible for the rest of the world to emulate.
While the right digital infrastructure and services give smart cities the capabilities they need to solve their most important challenges and seize the biggest opportunities, just as important is building an ecosystem of trusted partners to develop and extend those sustainable solutions.
Horng Chua is speaking at an OpenGov event on – Making Smart City System More Efficient, Robust and Event Smarter with Digital Twin