Image credit: SUTD
In January this year, OpenGov reported on the renewal of a strategic partnership between Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) and the Eastern Health Alliance (EHA). They signed a new five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), extending and expanding on a partnership that began with a three-year MOU in 2013, which had yielded 3 patents.
The new MOU aims to encourage greater number of SUTD students to specialise in healthcare engineering. We met with Professor and Associate Provost for Research, Martin Dunn, to learn more about this emerging field and how SUTD students are being prepared for it. Prof. Dunn talks about how SUTD’s unique programme structure is ideal for an inter-disciplinary field like healthcare engineering.
What exactly is healthcare engineering?
Healthcare engineering is not yet a common term. It is an emerging field, which is being created as needs in healthcare evolve due to ageing population and technology is poised to make a big impact, across the whole field of healthcare. It is already doing so in many areas.
A lot of other industries routinely hire engineers. It is a core part of how they operate. But in healthcare, engineers are not a big part of the ecosystem. Engineering has played an important role through products. But you don’t see hospitals or clinics routinely hiring engineers on their staff.
Healthcare engineering is bringing these talents that come from traditional and maybe not so traditional engineering schools into the healthcare business.
Machines have been a part of healthcare for a long time. Then what is the need for this field now?
Technology has accelerated exponentially over the past decade. A couple of factors enabled the acceleration. One is interconnectivity, the ability to connect those machines to each other, to devices that people have, to humans through sensors that humans may wear.
The second factor is the decreasing cost of dealing with data. All these machines deal with data in one way or another. Data is fed into them. And they generate a lot of data, that goes into supporting decision-making.
The process started probably 10 years ago or so, in healthcare records. But now it is a lot more than just patient records and patient data that a physician would enter into a terminal.
Historically, we would think of the healthcare tools as products. But now as all of those have become smarter and connected to the Internet, it changes the way healthcare practitioners would use them. The value for a company creating these products no longer resides in the products. It is in the services that can be enabled by the data coming in from all these products.
An aspect of healthcare engineering which interests us is how it brings together multiple disciplines and technologies. We would like to understand how the courses and research are structured at SUTD.
Today, there is a big emphasis on personalised, patient-centred healthcare delivery. This has a big impact on the backend in terms of operations, facilities, scheduling, optimisation. Almost all of the engineering disciplines are involved, electrical, mechanical, biomedical, computer science.
Then you have architecture. How do you create the physical space to overlay with efficient operations, so as to enable the best experience for patients as well as caregivers. And design. Design plays a big role in fashioning the experience, and in integrating the technology domains and operations.
As a young university, we are prototyping and building integrated approaches to engage with this really dynamic field. At SUTD, we have a holistic focus on engineering and architecture. We are not organised along the traditional disciplines. We are organised around products, services and system. It’s very important that we are organised in this manner. Because our students can bring technologies together to create solutions.
We do not have a department or a pillar focused on healthcare. But we create graduates who have deep knowledge of multiple technologies and the skill set to bring them together to make an impact.
Healthcare engineering is in many ways a good example of how technology is changing the world and industries and jobs. According to some studies, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. These new jobs will be created by people who can bring different disciplines together to create solutions to address societal problems. At SUTD, I would say, we are trying to equip our students for that future.
Traditionally in engineering the focus is only on technology. Technology is not often designed with the end-user in mind. It ends up being more of a hindrance, instead of helping the doctors. How does SUTD incorporate the design aspect into something like healthcare engineering?
Engineers are not usually good at user-centric design. But incorporating user needs into design is not easy. If I ask you what your needs are, you may not really know what they are.
I will share a story. A professor at Duke, who has a couple of very successful start-up companies, works on creating medical devices for fixation of ligament strings, ACL reconstruction. He was here for a while and he shared the lesson with our students that if you come at this just from a technology perspective it can be a non-starter.
He had built this device with a material called a shape memory polymer. You put in the device, you fix it to the ligament, and then the temperature of the body will heat it up. It will expand and lock this thing into place. And over time it will bio-degrade. They worked with surgeons in the early stages. The surgeons said it looks great, it is better than what we have. Then they put a lot of effort into creating this. They obtained FDA approval and started trying to sell it. A surgeon took it and inserted it and as they waited for the temperature to rise, they sat there getting impatient. It took 4 minutes. Then the surgeon said I am not going to wait 4 minutes when I am doing surgery. Technically, the solution was fine. But in reality, it was not.
In this case, it wasn’t that they didn’t engage with surgeons, but they didn’t engage deeply enough to see how they are going to actually use it. So a big part of what we teach is that engaging deeply with the user throughout the whole design and development process is really important.
We do this throughout the curriculum. In the freshman year, we have a semester long design course for the entire university. It teaches empathy for users, methods to understand real user needs, how to work in teams with people from multiple disciplines and techniques to enable people to come up with creative solutions.
In addition, during the last semester, students have to do a final year project, what we call Capstone projects. This year we focused on a theme of wearable technology. That experience also helps students in understanding the users of the technology and figuring out their needs. They learn how to prototype fast, and iterate. Every year we have had 40 to 50 Capstone teams. Around 4 or 5 of them have focused on healthcare.
How do you come up with the projects?
These projects come from one of two sources. Firstly, we work with companies to get projects that are important to them. We want to be doing things that are meaningful. We want to be engaged in stuff that companies feel are important.
Sometimes it is difficult to figure out how important it is really to the company. We want commitment from them. So, we ask them to provide a little bit of funding. But more importantly we ask them to provide technical and/or business guidance to the project. That is much more valuable than a nominal amount that will pay for materials and supplies. A company representative who meets regularly with the students is really important.
The second are what we call entrepreneurial projects. We are trying to build the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation at the university. We want to give the students the freedom to explore their passions while providing guidance. So, we have a process where students compete to do these entrepreneurial projects.
We have this whole curriculum where they learn how to take some of their design skills, how to understand opportunities in a market, how to put together a plan to create a Minimum Viable Product. The students go through this and then they pitch their idea. This is all ahead of the Capstone project. About 6 or 7 of them get selected, receive some funding and then they pursue their project.
Healthcare fits into both of these categories. I think it is important for us to be connected to the industry and to understand what the industry wants. I think it is also important that we are not too tied to the industry. We want to endow our students with independent thinking and entrepreneurship. Ideally there should be a push and pull of ideas.
Would the students working on the healthcare engineering projects have taken some courses explicitly related to healthcare?
We don’t have a curriculum specifically around healthcare subjects, around biomedical engineering for example. We do have a course, called Global Health Technologies, that is available to all our students as a ‘technical application elective’. These electives are later stage courses when the students have their fundamentals in place.
Students gain specialisation within their pillars in various technical domains. Then towards the end of their curriculum they have the opportunity to bring these together in different ways around broad technologies, in areas such as healthcare. Suppose they take a mechanical device design course, the way the course would be constructed would be that they would be doing projects that are healthcare oriented.
The Global Health Technologies course itself would pull students from different disciplines. Over time, we might have courses in things like tissue engineering or instrument design.
One of our strategies going forward is partnering with Changi General Hospital (CGH). This would help students gain knowledge and develop skills through experiences. That experience is through design projects, within classes.
Our students go to the hospital, they go through the wards, they observe the operations, they see how people, ranging from surgeons to nurses, use devices. This helps them develop empathy for the end users.
Can you tell us about the partnership with CGH during the first three years?
Initially, we did a lot of speed dating to get people together. To get our folks to learn about what they were doing, to get the hospital folks to learn about the technologies we were working on and thereby finding opportunities to work together.
We started with a series of projects. We pooled resources to fund them. Then about a year ago, we launched a second phase of projects that were more focused around robotics and automation. Those projects are all ongoing now. Our students did internships there. CGH was also involved in Capstone projects.
What are the key points in the newly signed partnership agreement? And what are the long-term plans for the partnership?
We have ratcheted our relationship to the next level. We are strengthening the healthcare track through the collaborative development of a course with them. We are embedding experiences in multiple courses.
CGH has been very generous in providing experts (surgeons, clinicians, nurses, operations personnel), who come and teach courses. A part of our plan involves joint faculty positions between SUTD and CGH.
In terms of research with commercial prospects, we have had a few successes. We have generated some intellectual property. We have then partnered with the hospital in the advanced projects, secured additional funding to further develop them. But even the stuff that is not successful commercially is invaluable in developing human capital. That’s a big part of our objective.
Ultimately what we want to do with CGH and maybe others is to develop a continuous innovation pipeline. Now we are test-bedding projects within the hospital. We have a vision for creating a hub of healthcare innovation, a health tech incubator or accelerator, where we would have the facilities and capabilities to do translational research and move projects to the next level. Where we can easily draw on expertise, use some of our unique research grade equipment and tools, say for fabrication testing or what not, draw on the hospital for test-bedding and gradually scale up.
Those are longer term plans. We hope that ‘long’ means ‘short’.
In many places, you will see somebody working on a medical device. They will never even be involved in a broader conversation about the impacts of ageing on society. To us, for our students and our faculty, it is important to always have the bigger picture context in mind. To me that’s what is really exciting about what we are doing at SUTD.
 At SUTD, the undergraduate programme is structured into four pillars or core areas of specialisation, Architecture and Sustainable Design, Engineering Product Development, Engineering Systems and Design and Information Systems Technology and Design. The programme is divided into two distinct portions, Freshmore (Terms 1 to 3) and Pillar (Terms 4 to 8). The Freshmore terms provide students with the fundamentals which prepare them for a specialisation in any of the four pillars. The four pillars are developed to offer a modern engineering and architectural education that crosses traditional disciplines. In addition, all undergraduate students are required to take up to seven classes in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.
SINGAPORE – February 2, 2023 – Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has collaborated with National Geographic CreativeWorks to unveil UNSEEN/SINGAPORE, a campaign that showcases Singapore as a travel destination from the perspective of intrepid photographers from Southeast Asia. Through photography, the campaign includes a virtual exhibition which encourages travellers to explore the city-state’s cultural diversity and hidden spots, by taking a moment to observe the unseen beauty of destination Singapore.
Running from 2 February 2023, UNSEEN/SINGAPORE will showcase a collection of photographic works through a virtual exhibition, captured and curated by six photographers from across Southeast Asia. UNSEEN/SINGAPORE features the works of:
- Amani Azlin from Malaysia
- Tino Renato from Indonesia
- Chanipol Kusolcharttum, better known as “Rockkhound”, from Thailand
- Phạm Gia Tùng from Vietnam
- Gab Mejia from the Philippines
- Jayaprakash Bojan from Singapore
In curating the UNSEEN/SINGAPORE collection, each photographer visited Singapore in mid-2022, covering areas in Singapore that showcase nature, heritage buildings, cultural sites, and art. Each presented their vision of an UNSEEN/SINGAPORE through ways that resonate with their passions and personal experiences.
The photographers ventured across Singapore, going beyond its famous attractions and iconic skyline, to discover spots equally captivating – from charming neighbourhoods to lush and thriving offshore wetlands and a lighthouse at the island’s edge.
“We aim to inspire travellers to Singapore to rediscover the joy of travel once again. One way is to portray our destination in a different light, by helping visitors to see it afresh through another person’s eyes. UNSEEN/SINGAPORE set out to do this, through the lens of talented photographers from Southeast Asia, who tell their journey of discovery through photography. We hope they will inspire a new wave of visitors to discover a Singapore reimagined,” said Mr John Conceicao, Executive Director, Southeast Asia, STB.
“If you want to experience a country, you have to go down a layer below into the more local stuff to get a feel of what the country is. For people who’ve already visited Singapore, they should try and look for some of the unorthodox locations which they probably missed in their previous visits because
there’s a lot more to Singapore with the culture and heritage,” shared Jayaprakash Bojan, a full-time photographer and documentary filmmaker who advocates conservation via visuals and participated in the campaign.
UNSEEN/SINGAPORE is part of STB’s efforts to boost travel recovery through SingapoReimagine, a tourism campaign that highlights new, innovative and unexpected experiences in Singapore to audiences worldwide.
Between January to December 2022, Singapore recorded 6.3 million international visitor arrivals. Visitor arrivals were driven by strong demand from Singapore’s key source markets, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
Get to know the photographers
Amani Azlin from Malaysia
Amani is a multi-disciplinary visual artist who expresses her passion for minimalism through her work for various local brands. When Amani is taking pictures, she goes in with her camera and doesn’t give it too much thought. It’s all about taking pictures in the moment and only scrutinising them afterwards. For her, it’s about capturing candid, unscripted moments in daily life, even when she’s travelling in a different country. As the only female photographer in the group, she offers a fresh take on travelling to must-visit sites with her passion for slow travel rather than touch-and-go experiences.
Jayaprakash Bojan from Singapore
Jayaprakash Bojan was National Geographic’s Nature Photographer of the Year 2017. He is a nature-wildlife conservation artist whose work focuses on wildlife photography abroad. As someone who has lived in Singapore for around 7 years, the pandemic has pushed him to explore his own neighbourhood (particularly Pasir Ris Park) rather than places abroad. With this project, Jayaprakash rediscovers his home, Singapore, from a different perspective.
Tino Renato from Indonesia
A self-taught travel, food, portrait and still life photographer, Tino started his journey when he was younger, starting out with a film camera, and it remains his favourite medium for taking his pictures. For him, it’s all about capturing the raw moments of a place and its people and making them the focus of his pictures. It is what makes his photos appear simple while adding depth to the story as we can witness in the UNSEEN/SINGAPORE project.
Chanipol Kusolcharttum, also known as “Rockkhound”, from Thailand
After a few years of working as an air steward and travelling the world, Rockkhound decided to pursue and kickstart his passion for photography as a career, enabling him to continue exploring the world. The photographer-cinematographer from Bangkok started his photography journey about 10 years ago on Instagram while embracing the philosophy of slowing down to truly live in the moment and enjoy the scenery all around him when he is out and about. His style is to deliver motion and emotion, such as looking for an interesting composition to give some movement to still architecture in Singapore. He runs a production company in Bangkok, holds workshops and shares photo and filmmaking tips on his YouTube channel.
Phạm Gia Tùng from Vietnam
Tùng enjoys the photographic process – from scouting a location to finding new angles and setting up his shots, no matter how long it takes. The Hanoi-based photographer focuses on taking photos from angles people rarely consider, and constantly learning ways to improve his photography. Even though he has visited Singapore many times before, this project gave him the opportunity to appreciate and capture Singapore’s nature and people differently.
Gab Mejia from the Philippines
Gab is a National Geographic explorer and is passionate about wildlife photography and conservation. In 2021, he was awarded the World Wildlife Fund For Nature International President’s Youth Award and was also listed on the 2021 Forbes Under 30 List for The Arts in Asia for photography. His story started when his dad took him mountain climbing, sparking his interest in the natural world and the stories he could discover and capture behind it. His vision for this project is to show a different side of Singapore, capturing moments of the wild and pockets of nature.
UNSEEN/SINGAPORE will be open to the public on www.nationalgeographic.com/unseensingapore from 2 February 2023 inviting visitors to reimagine Singapore. The virtual exhibition will showcase each photographer’s ‘room’ based on their thematic-led collections. Viewers will be able to virtually visit many parts of Singapore including locations such as the Sim Kwong Ho shophouses, Pulau Ubin, Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle, Jurong Lake Gardens, Changi Chapel and Museum, and more.
To view the UNSEEN/SINGAPORE virtual exhibition, visit
To watch behind-the-scenes of UNSEEN/SINGAPORE, visit www.facebook.com/VisitSingaporeMY.
The Ministry of Communication and Informatics carried out the Digital Leadership Academy (DLA) Programme to educate regional leaders and managers of commercial firms. The course seeks to improve the digital leadership capabilities of governors, regents, mayors, and business leaders. The government offers 500 training scholarships to public and commercial sector digital leaders.
This year, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics’ Human Resources Research and Development Agency cooperates with the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Human Resources Development Agency to organise the training.
“We will conduct training and visits for 20 regional heads in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs, and we have already decided on Korea,” told Hary Budiarto, Head of the Ministry of Communications and Informatics Research and Development, at the Press Conference of the Ministry of Communications and Informatics Digital Talent Provision Programme in Central Jakarta.
Hary noted that the DLA programme’s training and visitation in 2022 had been fully completed for 20 regional head participants, with Singapore serving as the destination country. The initiative will introduce another 20 regional heads in 2023, with the Ministry of Home Affairs determining the regional head qualifications. The chosen region will be picked based on various criteria, such as districts and cities with low inflation or high digital community indexes, among many others.
Last year, the ministry cooperated with the BPSDM West Java Province to host a Smart Digital Leader for the West Java Champion course. They have agreed with the Regional Secretary to choose the theme of Dignified North Sumatran Smart Digital Leader for North Sumatra, which will be completed in March.
Apart from the public sector, the DLA programme collaborates with the business sector, including the Indonesian Telematics Society (Mastel) and a U.S. tech company focusing on digital infrastructure. The event will have 200 attendees.
The DLA programme is one of the Ministry of Communication and Informatics’ digital training programmes meant to address the needs of national digital talent. President Joko Widodo has declared this programme a priority to advance the country’s digital transformation.
According to Abdullah Azwar Anas, Minister for Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform (PANRB), digital leadership has become crucial in today’s increasingly connected society. He mentioned that leadership would become one of the options for success in managing foundations and organisations. In terms of digital leadership, it is expected that a public leader is more responsive and technologically literate to capture messages from the public and guide the organisation in the proper direction.
Digital skills are also required to assist the government in implementing an Electronic-Based Government System (SPBE). The SPBE architecture is intended to facilitate thematic bureaucratic reforms, such as the RB eradicating poverty, the RB raising investment, and the RB accelerating the President’s genuine priorities. He emphasised five talents required for digital governance. Digital leadership skills, digital professional skills, digital socio-emotional skills, digital user skills, and 21st-century skills in society are among them.
Furthermore, when it comes to digital leadership, leaders must possess two digital talents: hard and soft skills. Mastery of public sector theory and methodology on hard skills such as organisational theory, public sector human resource management, and public policy analysis, he stated, needs to be revised. As a minor subject, it requires help for mastery of theory and methods from other disciplines, particularly competence in digital technology.
Meanwhile, leaders must have analytical skills to analyse critically and propose problem-solving ideas. A leader must also be proficient in public speaking, English, coding, creativity, dispute resolution and negotiation, and teamwork.
Two tech companies operating under Hong Kong’s Smart Government Innovation Lab have rolled out solutions that are now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.
Solution I – Heritage Conservation Platform
The company under the Lab has proposed a comprehensive solution for heritage conservation that encompasses data capture, 3D modelling, and online visualisation of realistically rendered models. It supports a variety of capturing sensors and raw data types, including camera images, LiDAR point clouds, and RGB-D data, and can be used with stationary, handheld, robotic, or UAV platforms. With high-precision modelling, realistic texturing and rendering, and a lightweight web-based visualisation platform, this solution is ideal for archiving, exhibiting, renovating, and educational purposes.
The solution was designed to be applied in the areas of City Management, Education, Infrastructure, Recreation and Culture as well as Tourism.
The solution employs the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality, Cloud Computing, Data Analytics, Deep Learning, Mixed Reality as well as Virtual Reality.
In Hong Kong, there are 132 declared monuments and over 1000 historic buildings with significant heritage value. To safeguard and preserve this archaeological and architectural heritage, a comprehensive 3D surveying record is essential for future preservation and monitoring against potential damage or destruction.
Currently, LiDAR scanning and image records are widely used for digital preservation, but the disorganized data and large size make them difficult to use and constructing 3D models from raw scanning data is time-consuming and labour-intensive.
The company has developed a cutting-edge AI-assisted algorithm that can accurately convert raw captured data into 3D models at a cost-effective price. The structured 3D models have the advantage of low data volume, ease of access, and meaningful information for engineers. The solution offered is modular and covers the entire process from data collection to 3D model generation and online visualization, offering great flexibility.
To raise public awareness, promote participation, and enhance cultural tourism, the company provides a realistically rendered 3D model and a lightweight, web-browser-based visualization that can be accessed from anywhere and on any device.
Solution II – LifeOnline: Smart Personal Emergency System for Law Enforcement
Law enforcement officers face various dangers on a regular basis. LifeOnline is a tool that keeps officers, especially those working alone in remote areas, connected with their team. In emergency situations, officers can seek help from their supervisor by pressing an SOS button on their smartphone. If they encounter danger, such as falling from a height or a medical emergency, the smartwatch will notify their team.
Using long-range wireless communication technology, LoraWAN, officers can stay connected even in remote areas covered by the government’s GWIN IOT network. If necessary, portable LoraWAN gateways and concentrators can further extend network coverage. The compact size of the smartwatch allows it to be used as standard equipment for law enforcement officers in their daily operations.
The solution was designed to be applied across the areas of Health as well as Law and Security.
The solution employs the latest in Cloud Computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) as well as Mobile Technologies.
The officers are connected with their teams and could get help in dangerous and emergency situations.
Market merchants in Quezon City, Philippines, can now apply for and book spaces and booths online using the Market One-Stop Shop platform (MOSS). According to City Administrator Michael Alimurung, the portal would identify “legal” vendor spaces free of impediments. It is also part of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte’s ambition of making the city a desirable business location.
With the new system, the city government promises a smooth application process for renting a stall, including payment and collection of market rentals. This will also make the city treasurer’s office’s job easier because they will no longer have to collect rent in person.
To ensure that the new system is widely adopted, the local administration put free Wi-Fi connection points in barangay halls and hundreds of other public venues. A caravan will be launched to assist existing and prospective vendors in registering with the platform.
“Imagine treating the entire city as a public market. This method allows us to locate vendor locations online. It’s thinking broader by allowing us to treat the entire city in terms of how to assist our vendors,” Alimurung told at a press conference at Quezon City Hall.
Margarita Santos, director of the Quezon City Business Permits and Licensing Office, stated that the system would not replace any positions, such as market masters or market managers, but would make their tasks easier.
She stated that the MOSS would use a “first in, first out” queuing system and offer a five-year contract to the first vendor that applied for the space or stand. However, if they cannot satisfy the requirements within a specific number of days, they will be returned to the bottom of the queue,” Santos noted.
Market inspectors will check IDs supplied to registered merchants to guarantee that the correct renters occupy registered booths. Currently, over 12,000 sellers occupy public market stalls in the city. Those are our objectives. In addition, we want to incorporate 43 private markets.
According to Santos, the MOSS would also assist in eliminating red tape and corruption, such as those who reserve marketplaces and then rent them out to other merchants. Because this is an online system, we have a digital trail that allows us to see where the application took too long, who is at fault and admonish them.
Santos added that the system would also record vendor transgressions, which might result in losing their registration area or stall. She stated that registered vendors would be queued online once these areas are full until free space becomes available.
Procopio Lipana, Programmes and Projects Officer, stated that the site would make it easier for the city government and other law enforcement agencies to identify and apprehend unlawful sellers. Quezon City has an anti-hawker division and market inspectors who verify stall sizes and look for illicit merchants.
Indonesia is also working to improve digitisation in the conventional sector. Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade has targeted digitising 1,000 traditional markets and one million MSMEs as part of its digital transformation strategy. There are now 2,047 traditional markets that use local market websites through the Trade Facility Information System (TFIS), ten traditional markets that use digital marketing, and 51 conventional markets that operate QRIS for non-cash transactions.
According to Vice Minister of Trade Jerry Sambuaga, 326 traditional markets in 42 sub-districts have implemented e-retribution, 106,702 local traders, and 9.7 million MSME dealers have made non-cash transactions through QRIS.
The government of Indonesia’s digitalisation efforts have helped the country attain IDR980 trillion (US$ 63 billion), or 5.7% of GDP, by 2021. Indonesia’s GDP is predicted to reach IDR24 trillion (US$1.5 trillion) in 2030, with the digital economy accounting for 18% of GDP, or approximately IDR4,531 trillion (US$ 290 million).
Indonesia’s Central Bank (Bank Indonesia/BI) worked with five ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand, to provide cross-border payment through QR. In a series of events at the G20 Bali Summit, the five ASEAN countries agreed on Regional Payment Digital Connectivity. The collaboration will make the Indonesian Standard Quick Response Code (QRIS) more widely available in five ASEAN countries.
The Ministry of Communication and Informatics welcomed the discussion. Usman Kansong, Director General of Information and Public Communication at the Ministry of Communication and Information (Kemkominfo) asserted that the ministry supports efforts to integrate payment systems through QRIS ASEAN.
“Because it is related to the digital economy, Kominfo is very supportive; we will provide the infrastructure. For example, we are also putting together an internet network,” said Usman on the sidelines of Jakarta’s 2023 ASEAN Indonesia Chair Kick-Off event.
The five countries’ central banks have held discussions on various occasions to implement cross-border payment system connectivity in the region. Bank Indonesia began payment system connectivity cooperation with other central banks in the area, initially with five countries in the region.
The agreement will be documented as a memorandum of understanding (MOU). At the same time, this initiative demonstrates Indonesia’s regional leadership in implementing the G20 agreement.
Regional Payment Digital Connection among 5 ASEAN Countries, according to Governor of Bank Indonesia (BI) Perry Warjiyo, is a physical representation of how digital connectivity in ASEAN is an example for other countries to help economic recovery in each country regionally.
“Wherever we go in these five ASEAN countries, we can utilise QR payment, QRIS in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, and it will be a rapid payment system, instantly,” Perry explained.
Meanwhile, according to Esther Sri Astuti Soeryaningrum from an economic and finance NGO, the introduction of QRIS will aid financial integration in ASEAN. At the same time, there are still some hurdles to tackle. However, she mentioned that QRIS, as a non-cash transaction method, can help collaborating countries make cross-border payments easier without needing a money changer.
“With QRIS, we don’t have to worry about converting rupiah currency for other currencies, and we don’t have to do cash transactions, which are riskier and require a higher level of security,” she explained.
Moreover, the Indonesia Central Bank (Bank Indonesia/BI) expanded its payment cooperation network with Japan in December. The signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation (NK) addressing QR-based payment by BI and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI). Dody B. Waluyo, Deputy Governor of BI, stated that the partnership on QR-based payment between BI and METI Japan would be a key concern for regulatory authorities and industry, given that the NK in question has the potential to strengthen economic relations between Indonesia and Japan.
The QR-based payment collaboration aims to accelerate cooperation on the implementation and interoperability of cross-border or country payments using QR codes, specifically the QR Code Indonesian Standard (QRIS) and the Japan Unified QR Code (JPQR). Furthermore, this collaboration will create a framework that permits QR-based payments between the two countries and other parties, such as payment system operators (SP).
The agreement marks the beginning of BI and METI Japan’s collaboration to carry out various activities related to the interconnectivity of QR-based payment systems, such as policy dialogue, technical cooperation, and the formation of working groups to ensure goals are met, such as efforts to implement QR-based cross-border payments to support people-to-people transactions in both countries. This collaboration is expected to promote payment system digitisation in both Indonesia and Japan.
HKUST and ASTRI announced that they will be partnering to establish an initial Joint PhD programme through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU was signed by HKUST’s Provost and ASTRI’s Chief Executive Officer at HKUST’s campus in the presence of HKUST’s President and ASTRI’s Board of Directors Chairman.
As per the MoU, HKUST and ASTRI will jointly screen and select eligible candidates who will work as full-time R&D staff at ASTRI while pursuing a part-time PhD degree at HKUST. The selected candidates will have the chance to participate in leading-edge research projects that encompass artificial intelligence, big data, wireless communications, smart city, and advanced materials. Additionally, they will also be involved in R&D projects related to their PhD studies. Experienced R&D staff members from ASTRI may be appointed as HKUST’s adjunct professors and serve as co-supervisors for the PhD students.
With the backing of the nation, the Hong Kong government emphasised the significance of advancing innovation and technology (I&T) in the “2022 Policy Address.” The “I&T Development Blueprint” created by the government in December outlines a comprehensive plan for Hong Kong’s I&T growth in the next 5 to 10 years, including strategies such as improving the I&T environment and expanding the pool of I&T talent.
The Joint PhD programme aims to contribute to these efforts by fostering talent who can turn their research into commercial success while gaining the necessary knowledge and credentials to prepare for their careers.
The Chairman of the ASTRI Board of Directors stated that as Hong Kong’s top R&D organisation, ASTRI is dedicated to supporting the government’s initiatives outlined in the “I&T Development Blueprint” and “Competing for Talents” plans.
The first launch of the Joint PhD Programme with HKUST is anticipated to draw and retain talented individuals in I&T who want to pursue PhD studies or research in Hong Kong, thereby providing a strong pool of I&T talent to help make Hong Kong a smart city and a global hub for I&T.
The President of HKUST stated that the University is committed to its mission of promoting knowledge through education and research. With its strong foundation in basic research and partnerships with various industrial partners, including ASTRI, HKUST is well-positioned to bridge the gap between fundamental and applied research.
This will not only enhance Hong Kong’s innovation and technology ecosystem, cultivate top-notch talent for Hong Kong, the nation, and beyond, but also enable the commercialisation of HKUST’s research results for the benefit of society.
The Chief Executive Officer of ASTRI stated that bringing research and development results to fruition is a central objective of ASTRI. To maintain close ties with the academic community, the Memorandum of Understanding with HKUST was signed to foster joint R&D and technology commercialisation in February 2022, followed by this Joint PhD Programme a year later. The programme is expected to will effectively sharpen students’ creativity, critical thinking, and global perspective, enhancing their competitiveness on a global scale and hastening the implementation of HKUST’s R&D breakthroughs.
HKUST’s Provost expressed excitement about the joint PhD programme with ASTRI, stating that it is crucial to talent development for Hong Kong’s growth into an international innovation and technology hub.
The programme will use the strengths of both organisations to provide specialists with opportunities to acquire skills and qualifications while conducting R&D projects. The programme is expected to enhance Hong Kong’s talent development and expand its talent pool.
Senator Win Gatchalian advocated that the online filing of tax returns includes overseas Filipino workers so they can meet their obligations while away from the country. In addition, non-residents and those working abroad will find it easier to pay real estate and estate taxes, among other things, thanks to the online payment system.
According to BIR data, internet payment has increased tax payment participation. Tax returns are expected to rise dramatically in 2020 to approximately 94% of total tax returns filed electronically, up from only 43% in 2015. As a result, abroad and non-resident tax subjects should be accommodated through the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s Electronic Filing and Payment System (BIR).
“If we want to enhance our efficiency in tax collection, we need to make it easy for our people to pay their taxes. “We need to fix our system and provide better options for our taxpayers to increase tax compliance,” Gatchalian stated.
Gatchalian’s Senate Bill 1346, or the Ease of Paying Tax, incorporates the proposal, which proposes administrative tax changes by altering several parts of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.
Apart from allowing taxpayers to file their returns and pay their taxes electronically, the measure also intends to enable taxpayers to pay their taxes at any authorised agent bank (AAB) rather than simply AABs in the revenue district office where the taxpayer is registered.
According to the World Bank 2020 study, the Philippines ranks 95th in paying taxes, 120th in registering property, and 171st out of 190 nations in terms of beginning a business. As a result, the House of Representatives asks the government to react to the industry’s changing needs by establishing programmes and solutions to transition to a digital economy.
Senate Bill No. 1574, also known as the “Act Institutionalising E-Governance in the Government,” mandates that all government agencies, offices, and instrumentalities, including local government units, disclose all essential information via traditional and internet channels. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be the primary agency in charge of executing the Act’s requirements.
It sought to build the Integrated Government Network as the master plan and principal way of sharing and transmitting resources, information, and data among government departments through digital and electronic platforms. The regulation also required establishing and maintaining a “GovMail” network for all communications, information dissemination, and exchange.
Vietnam is making similar efforts to avoid tax losses. They tighten management and strengthen control of e-commerce activities to uncover infractions and potential tax liabilities associated. The E-commerce and Digital Economy Agency of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) will collaborate with departments from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) and the Ministry of Finance to share data and better regulate commercial activities on social media and in cyberspace.
Following plans approved by the Minister of Industry and Trade, the E-commerce and Digital Economy Agency will continue to collaborate with other government agencies such as the Market Management Agency, the Department of Cybersecurity and High-Tech Crime Prevention, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and MIC to inspect and monitor e-commerce businesses for compliance with the law.
In December, the General Department of Taxation (GDT) launched its e-commerce information portal and enabled electronic billing from cash registers. The portal serves three purposes: it assists e-commerce platforms in information supply and tax declaration on behalf of individuals, and it helps individuals file tax declarations.
According to the GDT, the tax sector reduced administrative procedures from 304 in 2021 to 234 in 2021 and finished integrating and providing online public services on the National Public Service Portal, saving time and money in tax administrative operations.