Data is increasingly at the core of any business or organisation and is underpinning digital strategies and initiatives more than ever. Data has become a key component of digitalisation and the driving force behind and fuel for analytics, machine learning, edge computing, cloud and other cutting-edge technologies.
As the need to respond more quickly, indeed in as near real-time as possible, data will rapidly become the key competitive advantage. A company’s capacity to compete will be determined by its ability to leverage data – apply analytics and generate intelligence.
Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia agrees that “data is the new oil”. But like oil, raw data is not particularly useful in and of itself. Information – processed data – swiftly becomes a decision-making tool that allows businesses to react to market dynamics and make proactive and intentional decisions. The real value of data offers timely actionable insights, trends and projections that can help organisations survive and thrive in a VUCA world.
Generating data is not really the issue at hand. Both the public and private sectors, for the most part, hold massive volumes of data and continue to add to it. Albeit, this has been fairly unorganised and siloed, making it difficult to access and process.
The question is: how can agencies and organisations best derive real value from these mountains of data, which are often distinct, distant and diverse? How do they collect, analyse and rationally build patterns and interconnections to improve decision-making and planning?
While organisations have been deploying AI and ML to gain and analyse insights from the data, a new platform has emerged that has the potential to offer deeper insights – Graph Data Platform.
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak with Nik Vora, Vice President, Asia-Pacific, Neo4j to gain his insights on the importance of a Graph Data Platform and how organisations can derive actual value from it.
Nik Vora is the Vice President of Asia-Pacific at Neo4j. Nik has over 12 years of expertise in the tech industry and joined Neo4j as the company was looking to grow its operations into the Asia Pacific area. In his present position, he oversees the APAC business, which develops solutions for businesses and communities to see the connections and linkages among massive amounts of data to make better decisions.
Genuine innovation or repackaging?
Mohit is keen to know, is this just old technology in new packaging or is there legitimate value-add? If yes, what do organisations gain from a Graph Data Platform?
Nik Vora is quick to clarify that the tool is important because it has the capability to extract the inherent value in the data itself. Data needs to be seen as a network and not merely discrete data points – and the best way to visualise these relationships is in graphs.
A Graph Data Platform considers the relationship between data to be just as significant as the data itself. The purpose of the technology is to store information without restricting it to a pre-defined model. The data is maintained in the same way that is initially collected, with each unique item connected to or related to others. In a native Graph Data Platform, accessing nodes and relationships is a speedy, constant operation that allows one company to traverse millions of connections per second per core.
Companies, agencies and any organisation in the ecosystem, according to Nik, are looking to exploit gain from data. Over the last 24 months, there has been a massive acceleration of digitisation – of supply chains, processes, services and transactions. This has pushed more information online and allows more data to be captured. In turn, businesses rely increasingly on data, leading to more optimisations, depending on how much value an organisation can create from data.
As data becomes more distributed, dynamic and diverse, it is important to capture it in real-time and process it to drive rapid action and feed into strategy, Mohit opines. This means that data needs to be on hand for those who need it. The importance of data availability and accessibility anytime and anywhere is even more pronounced in the current crisis. This is especially true for organisations engaged in providing mission-critical, customer-centric services.
Wholeheartedly agreeing, Nik says the greater the demand for data-driven insight and intelligence, the more important it is to grasp the importance of connectedness in existing data. A Graph Data Platform is uniquely positioned to do this. Since it is modelled as a graph and a network, a Graph Data Platform is the ‘most obvious approach’ to look at connections. “The value of relationships itself is the underlying drive for this technology,” he explains.
Investing in data analytics and technologies without first determining what your specific organisation need to succeed is indeed a waste. It is necessary to first build a big data strategy to get the most out of the data a company already has or plans to collect. A big data strategy lays out how data will be used in practice and what kinds of data a business needs to meet specific business goals.
However, does this means that all organisations should reconsider their entire data collection strategy, including how they acquire, store and distribute data? This, Mohit feels, would be markedly prohibitive.
The answer to this is actually a bit of both and while there is an investment involved it is not unreasonable, says Nik. Organisations do not need to modify their data, but they do need to change their perspective.
The key concern should be how data is connected and how it relates to other data sets and points. Organisations have spent many years building data lakes and data warehouses and that all the data that any organisation could need, already exists. What they need to do now is turn on the tab and start looking at the relationships between different data that are connected across silos, processes, networks and transactions.
The challenges and advantages are that it is a very dynamic world. And, given this new understanding of how interconnected everything is, if an organisation does not have a linked data strategy – where they look at data, how it connects and what relationships and dependencies exist – they are missing out on a huge potential.
Many businesses rely on data to assist rather than drive their operations. But why is that? After all, data is only valuable if it can be turned into actionable insights. Finding out what you want from your data and determining its worth is the first step in gaining these insights.
“We are all gaining insight from our existing data in some way,” posits Nik’s. “Organisations should be more intentional about it if they are to gain genuine advantages.”
Within an organisation’s ecosystem, there are many existing relationships and connections. With the plethora of technologies, ecosystems and capabilities available, Nik believes that the ideal time to start investing is NOW. But investment is not just in technology but in people!
Data and analytics leaders are often perceived as the gurus of graph technology, but the truth is, Mohit points out, many still don’t comprehend it themselves. This means that there has to be an upskilling of the entire workforce if a company wants to gain real value from data. So, how do companies get started?
The strategy, Nik believes, is two-pronged: training and staffing. Organisations must empower their existing workforce to understand the value of and how to use a Graph Data Platform. Above this, they need to bolster organisational capacity by hiring the right people. Although there is a lot of great talent in the market and a relatively large pool, Nik advises caution in recruitment as skills are relatively easy to fake.
“When you embark on a project or a journey, you have enough (and more talent) in the partner ecosystem, as well as the deployed developer ecosystem, where you can source people from,” Nik acknowledges.”However, it is essential to be careful that potential candidates go through a rigorous selection process.”
Big Data can have ‘infinite value’
There are a lot of one-line proverbs and truisms to push unnecessary products. One is “big data can have an “infinite value”. Is this factual or just another way to justify more expenses on the books.
“The simple answer is that it is up to an organisation to decide how they budget their funds. But it is better to look at it differently. It’s not intrinsically about just money,” Nik explains. “It’s the perspective organisations have of tech. Do they see it as an expense or an investment?”
Yes, companies, in the short term, and tangibly, invest their resources, time and effort, but, more significantly, they are investing their company’s future based on the decisions they make. A case in point is fraud.
“If you look at fraud detection alone, fraud detection has gone offline as well as online; it’s an omnichannel; it’s not just one Forster dealing with one credit card somewhere.”
Fraud detection and anti-money laundering depend enormously on exposing connections and patterns. With the new Neo4j Graph Data Platform, which incorporates both the Neo4j graph data science and the code database, detecting fraud is considerably easier now and Neo4j has discovered millions of new frauds from its technology.
So going in for a Graph Data Platform now does mean an expense in terms of investing in the technology, training people and setting systems; but it has massive RoI down the line, in addition to protecting a company’s most valuable assets – market reputation and customer trust.
There is a whole new thrust of marketing to customers personally – It’s no longer just a store or an e-commerce website. With people are on social media, rating platforms and a host of mobile apps, getting a complete customer 360 is much more difficult and complex than before. Organisations are increasingly relying on numerous consumers touchpoints to gain a more comprehensive picture of each customer.
To add to the complexity, an organisation can have a million customers or more, with data points spread across billions of records from transactions, events and sensors.
One of their customers AirAsia – one of the largest and most well-known airlines in Southeast Asia – saw a 300% spike in the test group after employing Neo4j’s craft data science. This was because Neo4j was able to gain a significantly deeper grasp of the customer from a single consumer perspective.
To do this, Neo4j did not discard any of the other company’s technology, but instead layered theirs on top of the existing ones, combining all the company’s assets such as data lakes, data warehouses, and data science notebooks, to the power of the Graph Data Platform. As a result, there was a massive performance improvement.
Proof of the pudding is in the eating
While claims are easy to make, the test of the effectiveness of a technology is the success it has in real-life applications. AirAsia apart, the company has a wide spectrum of financial organisations that deploy their solutions.
Neo4j counts a whole host of banks as their satisfied customers including Standard Chartered, prominent banks in Singapore and one of Australia’s largest banks. Most recently. Neo4j partnered with DBS for their hackathon – DBS’s flagship event.
At the same time, Neo4j has a big number of on-premises start-ups, as well as cloud and digital native accounts, all of which are using the Neo4j cloud experience in APAC.
These organisations represent the best in their sectors, and they are at the top because they invest in technologies that help them progress. Findings indicate that Graph Data Platforms were used in 50% of all Artificial Intelligence projects. This is because incorporating a Graph Data Platform into an organisation’s existing AI strategy offers significant improvement at a low cost. The investment is minimal and corporations can increase confidence scores and outcomes for a fraction of expenditure in other solutions.
Embarking on a new transformational journey
Graph analytics applications use algorithms to traverse and analyse graphs to uncover and potentially identify intriguing patterns that represent business prospects.
Business operators can have a better understanding of what they are doing efficiently and inefficiently within their businesses by analysing data. Professionals with an analytics background are capable of answering critical questions once a problem has been recognised.
While Mohit concedes that businesses are on the top because they invest in technologies that help them progress, the pertinent question is: what made them decide to use this technology and how did they get started?
Answering with another truism – the early bird catches the worm, Nik feels that in all likelihood the leading companies had a combination of higher risk appetite, vision and gut instinct. With trailblazers leading the way, the question now isn’t so much about how do companies get started but when do they get started?
With the gains seen in the companies that already deploy Graph Data Platforms, others are eager to climb on board. But they seem to be unsure about timing and the most opportune stage to do so.
“We are seeing a lot of other companies that are inspired by these pioneering companies’ successes and are putting a lot of faith and stock in our technology,” Nik acknowledges. “Leaders in any organisation have to understand that technology is an investment and that everyone must embark on. The time is always right to invest in such technology!”
For more information on Neo4j visit https://neo4j.com/
A digital government operates in a manner that is digital by design, focusing on the requirements of users and maximising data. Fundamentally altering the way the Australian government operates now, it offers enhanced social, policy and economic outcomes.
The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) of Australia believes that a digital government better prioritises the requirements of individuals and businesses. It entails investing in cutting-edge technology to deliver a personalised experience that is stable, safe and dependable and ultimately anticipates the demands of each user.
Australia’s Resilience and Growth Rely on Digital Government
“We cannot underestimate the impact of programmes and concepts such as ‘Tell us Once’ – not requiring customers to continue to re-tell their story as they access government services,” Lucy emphasises.
They are beginning to see both this de-duplication in service delivery and a side effect of more efficient investment through what they have dubbed the “Australian Government Architecture” (AGA).
The AGA is a vision to reduce the time agencies need to navigate the complexities of government in building digital and ICT-enabled solutions. It is designed to be a catalogue of applicable policies and standards combined with an index of repeatable patterns and capabilities for re-use.
Because of the increased speed-to-market, the Government can respond to priority needs using modern, best-of-breed approaches gaining “overall efficiency in how we digitally connect government services”.
“Silos of excellence” are a significant challenge. While Australia has some policies in place to reduce investment in duplicated capability, this is a difficult barrier. While some core functions of a platform may be the same, the needs of the service that uses that platform may be very different. “It’s always a struggle to strike a good balance.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to transforming government services, there are often legacy, disconnected systems that must be addressed and eventually decommissioned. This requires time, effort, and, most importantly, commitment. When compared to the release of a new system, it is more difficult to create a good-news story about turning off a system.
“Our people are at the heart of so much of what we do in the Public Service. This heart is often the dedication that the government requires of people who are passionate about serving citizens and businesses,” Lucy acknowledges.
The money available to the public sector, particularly in the digital streams of work, can make it difficult to compete with the private sector. This means that their best and brightest often leave for greater returns and better opportunities. “Our big challenge will be crafting our employee value proposition – across the Australian Public Service and all agencies.”
One of the most important technological advancements ever made, digital identification has enormous advantages for businesses, consumers, and governments. Australia is a pioneering nation in the field of digital identity. The Trusted Digital Identity Framework that supports the Australian Government Digital Identity System isn’t simply based on industry best practices from throughout the world; it’s also regarded as best practices in many other nations.
Underscoring her belief in the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF), Lucy says, “At the DTA, we’ve been building policy for Digital Identity – the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) – for several years.”
The DTA is responsible for the Whole-of-Government Digital and ICT Investment Oversight Framework – a six-stage, end-to-end framework that provides Government Agencies with direction for managing their digital and ICT investments across the full project lifecycle. Government Departments and Agencies are obligated to consult with the DTA on all digital and ICT investment plans throughout the framework’s numerous stages, per the Framework.
Moreover, the TDIF serves as the guiding principle for the Australian Government Digital Identity System. It is based on worldwide and industry best practices and standards and it establishes strict guidelines for privacy, security, transparency and trust.
The TDIF is regarded as a world-leading accreditation framework for digital identity providers. It has supported the implementation of best-practice digital identity policies in Australia’s government and corporate sectors.
The TDIF has evolved and continues to adapt in response to changes in the service delivery landscape and consumer expectations as digital identification technology quickly evolves. It has gone through four major revisions, with a fifth now in the works.
In addition to incorporating accrediting programme findings, the next version (release 5) aims to prepare the TDIF for the future of digital identity as verifiable credentials and digital wallets become more popular and technology continues to grow at a rapid pace.
More than 9 million Australians, on the other hand, have decided to create a Digital Identity (using myGovID to build a Basic, Standard, or Strong identity) to access over 125 government services online, with 26 services supplied by states and territories. Over the past year, 1.3 million people used their Digital Identity more than once while 12,000 people have used their Digital Identity more than 65 times.
“We also have more than 1.4 million businesses that use Digital Identity to access business services, like our tax agency. This makes it easier for them to do business by reducing the amount of paperwork they have to do,” Lucy reveals.
Identification fraud can be reduced using a digital identity. In Australia, Digital Identity is predicted to save the economy AU$3 billion per year from identity theft and online fraud. The Australian Government Digital Identity System also provides extra privacy and security safeguards, such as no central database where papers are held, the inability to trace or sell a person’s behaviour, and all information being securely encrypted.
On the surface, this looks to be a simple issue. But, a response must include service standards, service design, accountability systems, collaborative service delivery with other jurisdictions, feedback mechanisms, open data and open government.
The design of performance metrics to monitor end-user experience begins with the service design. That is, gathering baseline data, investigating what data is accessible and, most crucially, finding the questions that yield performance data to enable continual improvement.
Monitoring the performance of a service or product is frequently done through a lens other than digital. The annual Report on Government Services (RoGS), for example, provides an annual study of government services in terms of equity, efficiency, and effectiveness.
The RoGs must incorporate state and territory government services as well as those of the Australian Government because other similar service experiences can influence user satisfaction ratings.
All government services must pause and assess how well they are satisfying the requirements of their users. myGov, the largest platform for providing government services to citizens, is currently subject to an independent user audit. The audit’s recommendations are expected to have significant implications for government service delivery across the board.
The Australian Public Sector (APS), like many other organisations and institutions around the world, is reorienting and evolving to embrace digital transformation and harness the power of data. “Realising that these are critical to our ability to continue to effectively serve the interests of Australia and the Australian people in a world defined by increasing speed and complexity,” says Lucy.
She agrees that it’s hard to keep the momentum and focus needed for long-term digital transformation with all the other priorities and crises that the public sector has to deal with at the same time. A key part of this is recognising and emphasising the link between digital transformation and trust and satisfaction in government on the part of citizens.
Even though the pandemic forced people to rely on their governments more, the overall trend is obvious. Against this backdrop, the Australian Government has made it a top priority and a requirement for the APS to do its job to win back the trust of the people.
“In the DTA, we make it clear how the ongoing digital transformation and the whole-of-government reform agenda are linked and depend on each other,” Lucy asserts.
The agency continues to stress the importance of services that focus on people and are easy to use. They are also building strategies that support the transformation that is sustainable, efficient, and centred on people. She points out that Australians who are happy with government services are twice as likely to trust their government.
Paving the Way for the Future of Digital Transformation
Australia is experiencing the effects of the rapid rate at which the digital world is evolving. Its APS Reform, which has a 2030 perspective, provides the government with a clear vision for the transformation of the public sector. The main objective of this agenda is to revolutionise how digital is done by making the APS more effective and efficient.
Ensuring that people and businesses are at the centre of policy and services is a core tenet of APS Reform. To ensure that transformation meets and surpasses user expectations, early and meaningful interaction and co-design are given a lot of attention in the digital space.
Trust is an issue for governments everywhere and is closely related to citizen expectations. In Australia, as in many other nations, public trust in the government had been dwindling before the outbreak. Although COVID had a brief uptick, regaining the public’s trust remains a major problem facing the government and its institutions.
To ensure that the government puts its constituents at its centre, the digitisation of government is key to the endeavour to reestablish confidence. The Independent Review of the APS in 2019 recognised this priority, and the nation is already moving in the right direction.
The key will be to define who is responsible for delivering initiatives and to raise the transparency of the progress by publicising how well key metrics are performing. However, confidence is not just dependent on how well-run and open the government’s operations are. It includes safeguarding data as well.
Criminal and state-based actors are rapidly developing their offensive capabilities, which is causing the cyber threat landscape to change all the time. These more sophisticated cyber-attacks are aimed against Australia.
A big compromise of Australian Government networks is a matter of “when,” not “if,” without massive reorganisation and cyber upgrading. “In light of this, we are hardening the government’s own IT, through a centralised model of cyber security services, called Cyber Hubs. We’re currently testing the feasibility of the Cyber Hubs model through a pilot. So far the pilot has shown the centralisation of the provision of services can help improve cyber security,” Lucy explains.
The government and institutions have vast amounts of information about Australians. This data is the fuel that drives the progress of artificial intelligence. Over the next 5 to 10 years, there is a chance to harness this data and use AI to innovate and improve public service delivery, resulting in better efficiency and transformation. But AI’s use of this data comes with risks and challenges for everyone, including the public sector. These risks and challenges need to be handled morally and responsibly.
Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but its application could represent the next step in the digital revolution of service delivery. AI is only as good as the data it’s trained on. Large datasets are currently being used by governments and institutions to train AI models and make them more useful.
However, when these datasets become scarce, governments and industries will be forced to find new ways to improve AI programmes. Quantum computing is one such method. Quantum computing refers to a class of supercomputers based on quantum mechanics.
To process information, these quantum computers employ the laws of quantum mechanics. That is, they can detect patterns in data that are nearly impossible to detect using traditional computers. They are substantially different from today’s computers in this regard.
Lucy believes if these powerful AI capabilities are utilised responsibly and data is saved and maintained safely, confidence and trust in government and institutions will grow. “More will need to be done in the next 5 to 10 years to integrate human values like transparency and fairness with AI’s goals of efficiency.”
Lucy is optimistic about the future and the role the DTA will play in guiding the government on developments in digital and ICT. She sees great potential for the agency to act as a government advisory body for its tech-enabled initiatives going forward as well as to serve the country in its digital ambitions. In summary, that is what she believes the agency exists for – to aid the public sector to offer the best citizen experience possible and help the nation thrive.
Information and communication technology (ICT) is used in a smart city to improve government efficiency, public engagement and the standard of living for its residents.
Advanced technologies and data analytics are at the heart of the concept of a “smart city,” whose primary goals are the enhancement of city services, the promotion of economic growth, and the betterment of residents’ quality of life.
The recent pandemic and other critical events have forced the citizens of the Philippines, as it has in other countries, to rely on their government for a wide range of services to be offered innovatively.
Agencies moved rapidly to digitalise services and set standards for data storage, security and workflow. Central and local governments have implemented a wide range of ICT strategies to lessen the impact of these catastrophes.
For instance, Makati City, the business capital of the Philippines, launched the Makatizen Card and the Makatizen App to offer financial help and services, such as online legal assistance, teleconsultations, and online learning, to its residents.
Challenges Turn Inspiration: Embarking on Smart City Projects
“We will be able to increase our revenue and service efficiency through innovation,” Charles asserts, citing the recently launched “MakaTurismo” website to underscore his point, which was made to help the local tourism sector.
The website is Metro Manila’s first travel website focused on attracting tourists into a post-pandemic environment. Apart from the lifestyle centres, eateries, and hotels, the City of Makati is home to numerous undiscovered treasures, such as special historical sites.
Since it includes details about the city’s tourist attractions, lodging options and free walking tours, the project could significantly assist businesses in attracting clients and customers.
While discussions of digital transformation typically centre on improvements to remote working capabilities, Makati City has instead begun investing in infrastructure upgrades. As a result, they are modernising their server infrastructure by switching from a physical to a software-defined network (SDN) and merging various data centres.
Charles noted that Makati City is concerned with project implementation and database consolidation. In addition, they integrate analytics into all projects and increase automation to improve their functional services.
Makati City opened the Makatizen Hub in 2021, to further assist its citizens in their transactions during the ongoing pandemic. The local government has set up satellite offices so that everything can be done online.
Charles emphasises that, as they integrate technology in a variety of ways, they are centralising a strategic approach to planning and managing the direction of the city government’s use of technology.
To accommodate its diverse population, Makati provides a wide range of publicly available services. In addition, there are services designed exclusively for residents, catering to their unique requirements based on factors such as age, health, education and overall satisfaction with life.
The city has been able to successfully manage these programmes, but officials are always looking for ways to improve efficiency. This is made possible in large part by technological advancements. As the population of Makati expands, so do the city’s needs and the hopes and dreams of its residents.
The responsibility of the administration lies in anticipating the wants and needs of the people. By bolstering them with cutting-edge tech, agencies can reimagine service delivery and foresee what people will need in the future.
As an example of a programme designed for the future but implemented today, the Makatizen Card is a useful tool. The Makatizen Card is an innovative programme that provides residents of Makati with access to a variety of new social, informational, identifying and financial services.
For more than half a million people living in Makati, this single government-issued ID card unifies access to a wide range of economic and social services.
Charles is one of the authors of IT Security – the Security 3.0 book, published by Mithra Publishing in London. It discusses the infrastructure framework’s fundamentals that underpin the city’s primary data centre and the local government information system that has recently undergone upgrades.
“The data centre’s IT capabilities can only be improved through upgrades. By upgrading ageing or inefficient IT assets, they improve reliability, performance, efficiency, cost, security, and uptime -which resulted in serving the public efficiently,” Charles explains, further elaborating on the steps taken by the municipal government to improve flood and earthquake early warning systems.
Makati was named the first-ever Resilience Hub in the Philippines and the Southeast Asian Region by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) in the third quarter of this year.
According to the UNDRR, a resilience hub is a city, municipality, or local authority with the political will and expertise to take action to reduce vulnerability to disasters and climate change. With the help of the Making Cities Resilient Campaign (MCR), which Makati joined in 2010, the city has successfully integrated disaster risk reduction into all its strategic plans and programmes. The region’s cities have joined several international networks to learn from and implement its DRR best practices.
Additionally, in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry – Board of Investments (DTI-BOI), Digital Pilipinas officially launched its Innovative Cities initiative to technologically advance one city at a time. It does this by bringing together local government agencies, academic institutions and the private sector to establish numerous centres of excellence.
In association with the Resiliency Innovation Sustainability & Entrepreneurship (RISE) Certification Programme, the City of Makati was selected as the programme’s pilot location. With a focus on making the Philippines relevant in digitalisation and Web 3.0 conversation, the Innovative Cities initiative seeks to increase the Philippines’ innovation and technology quotient to support local economies and expand their industries.
The city’s digital transformation journey in local government has been completed at minimal or no cost. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have been used to implement larger-scale projects and some solutions have been provided for free in exchange for Makati serving as a model for the adoption of these technologies by other LGUs and institutions. Even when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, Makati was still able to serve its citizens efficiently without endangering their health.
A true and effective digitalisation strategy entails a fundamental rethinking of the traditional organisational structures of industrial activities and business models to make them significantly better.
With the help of Makati Mayor Abby Binay, who is very encouraging of digital transformation, these initiatives were able to come to fruition. Charles believes that the use of technology and innovations is merely a tool to accomplish this goal, so it’s critical to pick the approaches that can most effectively help an application achieve its objectives.
“Digital transformation is, at its core, a mindset. It is a long-term, ongoing journey rather than a single undertaking or endpoint. As the business changes and appropriate technologies become available, iteration is necessary.”
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY) is deliberating on various aspects of digital personal data and its protection and has formulated a draft bill titled ‘The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2022’. The Ministry has invited feedback from the public on the draft Bill. The submissions will not be disclosed and held in a fiduciary capacity, to enable people submitting feedback to provide the same freely. The government has said no public disclosure of the submissions will be made.
According to a press release, the purpose of the draft Bill is to provide for the processing of digital personal data in a manner that recognises both the right of individuals to protect their personal data and the need to process personal data for lawful purposes and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The draft Bill employs plain and simple language to facilitate ease of understanding and is available on the Ministry’s website along with an explanatory note that provides a brief overview of its provisions.
There are presently over 760 million active Internet users and over the next coming years, this is expected to touch 1.2 billion. There is an increasing need to regulate content and data collection on the Internet.
The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill frames out the rights and duties of the citizen (Digital Nagrik) on one hand and the obligations to use collected data lawfully of the Data Fiduciary on the other. The bill is based on seven principles around the Data Economy.
The first principle is that usage of personal data by organisations must be done in a manner that is lawful, fair, and transparent. The second principle of purpose limitation is that the personal data is used for the purposes for which it was collected.
The third principle of data minimisation is that only those items of personal data required for attaining a specific purpose must be collected. The fourth principle of the accuracy of personal data is that a reasonable effort must be made to ensure that the personal data of the individual is accurate and kept up to date. The fifth principle of storage limitation is that personal data is not stored perpetually by default. The storage should be limited to such duration as is necessary for the stated purpose for which personal data was collected.
The sixth principle is that reasonable safeguards are taken to ensure that there is no unauthorised collection or processing of personal data. This is intended to prevent a personal data breach. The seventh principle is that the person who decides the purpose and means of the processing of personal data should be accountable for such processing.
The Bill will establish a comprehensive legal framework governing digital personal data protection in the country. The Bill provides for the processing of digital personal data in a manner that recognises the right of individuals to protect their personal data, societal rights, and the need to process personal data for lawful purposes.
Thailand’s digital economy has expanded tremendously in recent years and is poised for additional growth. In line with this, the Thailand 4.0 strategy seeks to turn the nation into Southeast Asia’s innovation and knowledge-based digital centre.
The country is well on its way. The European Centre for Digital Competitiveness classified Thailand as the second most digitally competitive country in 2020, attributing its success to expanding its ecosystem and the region’s shifting perspective toward recognition.
Despite the considerable growth potential for Thailand’s digital economy, the country faces several obstacles to reaching its full potential. These include a digital talent shortage and a delay in the adoption of digital solutions by small and medium organisations.
Both the public and private sectors are eager to learn about successful digital transformation methods as they recognise such insights are critical for businesses to survive and grow in the current digital landscape.
Fostering Digital Transformation and Competitiveness in Thailand
Dr Kasititorn shares that the country has achieved its national target in the Thailand Digital Economy and Society Development Plan, which is in line with Thailand’s 20-Year Strategy. To fully integrate digital technology into every aspect of business in Thailand, they have been working on this plan since 2018.
This national plan is comprised of 4 phases 1) digital foundation 2) digital inclusion 3) full digital transformation and 4) global digital leadership.
“We are off to a solid start as our first two phases have been successfully implemented and influencing Thai’s economy are currently in the third phase.”
Even a cursory observation shows that there is a high level of digital awareness among Thai people, while analysed data reveals more.
As per a survey by the National Statistical Office of Thailand, 93.8% of the country’s population use mobile phones and 68.1% take advantage of mobile banking in 2021, giving Thailand the top spot in the world. In addition, 86.3% use the internet and 87.7% have access to the internet at home.
Dr Kasititorn emphasises that Thailand is very well equipped for the impending transformation that it will experience soon. “To bolster the depa’s efforts through the Digital Economy Promotion Master Plan, we have been supporting the use of digital technology in diverse sectors, starting with agriculture, manufacturing and services and moving on to communities to progress towards Thailand 4.0.”
As of today, most industries have already surpassed a 2.0 digital density index, with the service sectors like finance and tourism leading the way.
To cater to the demand side of the digital economy, the depa also promotes the supply side, including digital entrepreneurs and suppliers. As a digital workforce is essential for effectively transforming the nation, the depa has been working with various groups of individuals for training, retraining and upskilling.
“We aspire that Thailand achieves digital transformation on a national scale with all sectors and all groups of people embracing digital technologies,” says Dr Kasititorn.
They intend to accomplish this goal by first, getting all sectors, particularly SMEs, ready for digital transformation. The industry must recognise the power of digital technology that could support the expansion of their businesses. This strategy makes use of mechanisms like awareness-raising, capacity-building, business matching and finance in the form of incentive vouchers for matching money.
Second, increasing the capacity and standards of digital service providers. Without dependable digital services, indigenous industries would not be able to achieve digital integration. The depa strives to increase the capacity and level of service offered by digital service providers.
The standardisation voucher, startup fund, RDI fund, and other similar funds are all tools used to assist digital service providers. To ensure that the sector has enough talent to fuel the development of product and service innovation, the digital industry can also be promoted through the development of its human resources.
Third, Building a digital ecosystem in Thailand. Thailand Digital Valley (TDV) aims to build Thailand’s digital ecosystem and prepare Thailand to serve as an ASEAN Digital Hub.
TDV will stimulate investments from top-tier technology corporations and startups while promoting the growth of digital services and technologies. TDV will also support the development of Thai entrepreneurs and digital service providers’ competitiveness and competence so that they can compete on a global scale.
When asked if digital transformation needs a cultural paradigm shift, Dr Kasititorn concurs. She is convinced that such a shift results from the necessity to alter the entire system. For entrepreneurs to transition from the analogue era to the digital one, they must adopt a new and distinct style of thinking.
A great example of the need for a perspective is the agricultural sector. According to the study findings of the depa’s Digital Density Index Series 2021, the concentration of digital technology adoption in agriculture (ranging from 1.0 to 4.0) is still around 2.0 at every step of production.
Most farmers who do not use digital technologies are inexperienced small farmers with limited resources. Given that Thailand is primarily an agricultural country, the sector may need to undergo the greatest change.
It must transition from the traditional labour-intensive one to the technology-intensive one. For instance, using drones, robots, sensors, big data and artificial intelligence for farm operation and supply chain management.
For the agriculture sector to be digitalised, there will need to be a paradigm shift in mindset, significant investment in training new generations of farmers and substantial initial expenditure.
Most Thai manufacturing companies already understand that they must embrace digital transformation if they are to survive and grow in the new era of production. As manufacturing involves a significant amount of business and technological expertise as well as long-term investment commitment, businesses are cautiously and slowly transitioning to the digital era.
To support this, it will be necessary to leverage technologies like ERP, IoT, Big Data, AI, Advanced Robotics, AR/VR, and 3D printing for a variety of purposes, including cost-cutting, boosting productivity and operational efficiency, managing supply chains and developing new goods and services.
Finally, when it comes to the service sector, Thailand’s tertiary companies have made significant progress in their digital transformation efforts. Tourism and allied businesses, transportation and logistics and finance and banking are the main industries that have excelled in the digital revolution.
The tourism sector has undergone a significant digital revolution, as most tourists now buy goods and services online. Thailand has gradually digitised its transportation and logistics systems, which has had a multiplicative impact on the effectiveness and productivity of other economic sectors. Sectors like health and education that are undergoing constant digital transformation come after these top performers. As across the globe, Thai banks and other financial institutions have long since gone digital, ensuring almost all offerings and services can be availed offline.
The third phase of the Digital Thailand programme, which aims to fully integrate digital technology into every sector, is now underway in Thailand, according to Dr Kasititorn. “We have done quite well in terms of basic telecommunications infrastructure with numerous wired and wireless networks nationwide to provide services at a relatively affordable rate with exceptions on the very remote area.”
At this point, Thailand’s challenge is to make sure that these networks are utilised to their full potential. In the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors – which employ practically all the labour force in the nation – they are attempting to speed up the transformation.
During the post-pandemic period, the industrial sector showed signs of improvement while sharing a 2.0 digital adoption rate. The service SMEs that are still falling behind will require more attention, even though the service industries may have been performing relatively well in the digital transformation.
To encourage stakeholders across all industries to go outside of their comfort zones and begin their digital transformation processes, it is still of utmost importance to inform them about the potential that comes with digital technology and innovation.
“We do this with various kinds of support from financial incentives such as tax reduction, exemption, grant funding, and matching funds to non-financial measures such as capacity building, networking, business matching and technical support,” Dr Kasititorn asserts.
Increasing Thailand’s Digital Transformation for Future Landscape
According to Dr Kasititorn, digital transformation is the process of inducing and designing changes that are required to disrupt present processes or practise – at the organisational, industry, or national levels – and is supported by digital innovation. It is necessary to take a comprehensive strategy for transformation, and technology is only one component of what must be done.
At the national level, it frequently entails changes in the thinking of all players involved, notably leaders, as well as laws and rules governing how the country and government operate. In terms of technology, one must recognise that digital is not just an enabler but also a disruptor, necessitating a new way of thinking and planning.
“To drive Digital Transformation in Thailand to make big changes, we should not be only technology users but also be able to build the capacity to create and generate digital innovation along the way. With this, we need to build human capital in both qualitative and quantitative terms,” Dr Kasititorn says emphatically.
She has been involved in at least five national ICT policies during his nearly 20 years of research. The latest and current one is the 20-year Thailand Digital Economy and Society Development Plan, driving towards Digital Thailand. She believes that all her research contributes somewhat to the policy-making process and categorises his research into two different groups.
The first group is the research conducted with the drafting of ICT policy or plans as the objective from the outset.
The second group of research is to conduct research on specific issues ranging from research on the current and future situation of the ICT industry and markets to an international trade negotiation affecting the ICT and digital industry. “Normally, we provide policy recommendations which translated into internal policy or strategy preparation. We are not typically part of the negotiation process, though.”
As a part-time lecturer, Dr Kasititorn teaches courses on either ICT public policy or the socioeconomic implications of technology. “I frame my course in such a way that I will use my practitioner’s experience working in the policy arena to extend the student’s breadth of thinking, rather than theory.”
In this approach, she hopes that learners would grasp Thailand’s digital ecology and terrain, as well as the rapid changes that occur. She wants people to deeply comprehend the socioeconomic progress that digital technology has driven or influenced. “However, I intend to demonstrate how society can determine the path of technology, as well as the interplay between many elements and stakeholders. I like to bring global and national phenomena into the classroom to spark discussion.”
By 2027, most Thais should have inexpensive access to wired and wireless (4G/ 5G service networks), as stipulated by the 2nd Digital Economy Promotion Master Plan (2023–2027), led by the depa, and possess a suitable level of digital literacy. With almost 100,000 digital-based businesses, Thailand’s real-world industries are expected to reach the 3.0–4.0 stage of digital adoption.
The foundation of practical applications that result in long-term socioeconomic effects will be digital technologies such as 5G, IoT, Big Data, AI, Robotics, Blockchain, AR/VR. Robots and AI, for instance, will replace labour-intensive industries like agriculture, manufacturing, and even the service sector, increasing productivity and revenue.
“As a result, we anticipate integrating digital technology and innovation across all sectors – agriculture, manufacturing, and services – to boost the GDP of the nation,” Dr Kasititorn explains.
Included in the 5-year term, the 2nd Digital Economy Promotion Master Plan (2023 – 2027) has been developed to focus on 4 strategies.
- Reskill, upskill, and fill a digital talent pool to create 500,000 digital workers for the digital economy and society;
- Transform the traditional economy into a high-value digital economy, with targets of 100,000 digital-based firms and all actual sectors, including local communities, reaching a Digital Density Index level of 3.0;
- Create new opportunities and inclusive economic development, with one city ranking among the top ten livable smart cities in the world and around 95% of people having digital access and literacy; and
- Optimise the usage of digital infrastructure with the goal of establishing two new significant digital infrastructure projects to build up deep-tech capability and attract three global technology companies to invest in Thailand.
Dr Kasititorn added that to ensure long-term growth, they are constructing a digital ecosystem with the necessary infrastructure. Thailand Digital Valley (TDV), a 12-acre digital innovation centre located in Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), has been built for this aim.
The TDV consists of five cutting-edge buildings equipped with the necessary infrastructure, innovation labs, and a digital ecosystem for world-leading technology firms and Thai digital startups to coexist, fostering the kind of synergy that will aid in the development of new digital products and services that to be sold in both domestic and global markets.
Investors in this special economic zone are also entitled to tax and non-tax benefits such as up to 13 years of exemption from the company and personal income tax, flat-rate personal income tax, and Smart VISA privileges.
Thailand’s primary priority is expected to be digital transformation. The final objective cannot be accomplished just by the government but must be accomplished in partnership with alliances and partners both at home and abroad.
“Our digital vision for Thailand 4.0 is solid, but the sharing of ideas and views is critical to the mission’s success,” says Dr Kasititorn.
The country is looking to explore partnerships and relationships that contribute to the country’s development as well as the world at large. In this vein, she is excited to collaborate with OpenGov Asia and its international networks to identify new opportunities and projects to help Thailand realise its digital potential.
To enhance digital-based governance, the government is getting ready to construct four National Data Centers (PDN). Hence, the implementation of data-driven policies is encouraged using digital government ideas and initiatives.
According to Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, Director General of Informatics Applications at the Ministry of Communication and Informatics, PDN is a strategic move by the government to advance effectiveness, efficiency, the sovereignty of state data, and the consolidation of national data within the One Data Indonesia framework.
He said during the “Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Development of the National Data Centre (Strengthening of E-Government), in Cikarang, West Java, “The PDN is one of the instructions of the President of the Republic of Indonesia in order to expedite digital transformation within government agencies.
The National Data Centre is expected to result in smart and contemporary governance because the installed technology in the PDN ecosystem comprises cloud computing, big data analytics and artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the metaverse.
Director General Semuel noted that the groundbreaking represented the introduction of the Bekasi Regency PDN development project to the central government, local government, the private sector, and the community.
The establishment of PDN is also one of the primary factors boosting Indonesia’s digital innovation. Especially in the context of effectiveness, efficiency, consolidation of national data, security, and sovereignty of state information, as well as encouraging the implementation of One Data Indonesia.
The Ministry has designed four PDN development locations, including the Deltamas Industrial Estate (Jabodetabek) region, the Nongsa Digital Park (Batam) area, the new National Capital City (IKN) in East Kalimantan, and Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara.
The Ministry indicated that the initial PDN was constructed in Cikarang, West Java, namely in the Deltamas Industrial Estate region, around forty kilometres from Jakarta. The second PDN will be constructed in the Nongsa neighbourhood of Batam City, Province of the Riau Archipelago. A fibre optic network capable of connecting the area and its environs to western Indonesia already exists at this site.
The decision to locate a data centre in Batam is based on the comprehensiveness of the supporting infrastructure, which includes fibre optic infrastructure, electricity supply, water, and direct paths to the global internet backbone. IKN and Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara are slated to house the second PDN development location.
Meanwhile, Usman Kansong, Director General of Information and Public Communication at the Ministry of Communication and Informatics declared that the government intends to use metaverse technology to promote virtual tourism at the Borobudur Temple.
To safeguard the tourist attraction, Director General Usman claims that the discussion on the use of this metaverse technology began concurrently with the implementation of a ban or restriction on general visitors’ access to the Borobudur Temple edifice. According to the Ministry, using this technology allows tourists who visit the Borobudur Temple can still climb this ancient structure without being there with the help of the metaverse.
Led by the Minister of Communication and Informatics Johnny G. Plate, the Ministry is optimistic that the implementation of this cutting-edge technology will be realised. The government would also offer help and training for waste management as well as for distributing local handicrafts in the vicinity of the temple and growing tourist settlements. This tourist system has the potential to offset the pandemic’s significant economic impact on the travel and tourism industry.
To support more efficient, affordable, open, and inclusive cross-border payments, Bank Indonesia (BI), Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), and Bank of Thailand (BOT) have decided to improve and heighten their cooperation on payment connectivity.
During the recently held G20 Leaders’ Summit, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation in Regional Payment Connectivity (RPC) was signed. The event emphasised the value of concrete joint collaborative action in addressing global challenges. The Governors of the five central banks were acknowledged for their dedication to making ground-breaking discoveries that will hasten regional payment connectivity.
The RPC is anticipated to play a significant role in promoting inclusive growth and speeding up the regional economy’s recovery. By implementing cross-border payment connectivity, the region’s financial ecosystem will become more inclusive and support cross-border trade, investment, financial deepening, remittance, tourism, and other economic activities.
The ability to participate in global markets is especially advantageous for micro, small, and medium-sized businesses. Several modalities, including QR codes and fast payments, will be used in the collaboration.
With the G20’s establishment of its Roadmap for Enhancing Cross Border Payments, accelerating economic and financial digitalisation has become a global initiative. The initiative is also consistent with Indonesia’s G20 Presidency priority agenda in digital transformation, including through payment systems in the digital era, as demonstrated by the coordinated efforts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand to pursue enhanced cross-border payment connectivity.
This payment connectivity initiative may be expanded in the future to include additional regional nations as well as potential partner nations outside the region. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chairmanship of Indonesia will begin with this milestone in 2023.
This partnership also advances ASEAN’s common goal of establishing interconnected payment systems that will make cross-border payments quick, easy, and more reasonably priced. This initiative lays the groundwork for expanded ASEAN participation soon, strengthening interregional economic ties in line with ASEAN’s pragmatic approach to deepen integration through mutually beneficial arrangements based on readiness.
Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the recently concluded 7th Singapore International Cyber Week, the United States and Singapore held the inaugural United States-Singapore Cyber Dialogue (USSCD).
Representatives from a variety of agencies from both countries attended the dialogue, which was co-chaired by the chief executive of Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency (CSA), David Koh, and Nate Fick, ambassador at large for cyberspace and digital policy for the United States.
Officials discussed supply chain security, regional cyber capacity building, cyber talent and workforce development, developments in multilateral and regional fora, information sharing, protection of critical information infrastructure, countering ransomware, and fighting digital scams during the dialogue.
The next USSCD will take place in Washington, DC, and a working group on the intersection of technology and cyber will be established between the CSA and the US Office of the National Cyber Director.
The USSCD will act as a forum to regularly discuss practical cooperation between officials from both countries’ operational and technical government agencies, as well as cyber policy officials.
As cybersecurity has emerged as a critical tool for both nations to take advantage of the advantages of digitalisation to grow their economies and improve the lives of their citizens, Singapore and the United States have a strong shared interest in enhancing their cyber and digital security cooperation.
The G20 Forum has become a tool for the government of the Republic of Indonesia to boost the digital economy and hasten both local and global digital transformation. According to Dedy Permadi, Special Staff to the Minister of Communication and Informatics, this effort was evident in several meetings of the Digital Economy Working Group (DEWG).
Three topics, including connectivity and post-covid recovery, digital skills and digital literacy, and cross-border data flows, were discussed at the DEWG, according to Special Staff Dedy. In terms of connectivity, the nation is advocating for online communication or digital connectivity to aid in the COVID-19 post-pandemic recovery.
As an illustration, consider how digital connectivity is used to maintain and hone Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) even in the face of extraordinary business deals. MSMEs can therefore survive in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic by utilising digital tools.
Considering that the internet and digital media are now a part of daily life, Indonesia also suggests that digital skills and literacy can be a joint solution to speed up digital transformation. Therefore, both in Indonesia and in the other G20 nations, digital literacy skills are a must for every citizen.
Meanwhile, if public data must cross international borders, the issues of cross-border data flow and data-free flow with trust are discussed. Dedy claims that Indonesia introduced the three principles of transparency, lawfulness, and fairness for global data governance. Even though data governance is still in its early stages, these three guiding principles serve as the foundation for nations all over the world.
Additionally, Special Staff Dedy added that Indonesia is battling for tangible outcomes at the G20 Summit, one of which is the use of digital technology for MSMEs and maximising its advantages for the nation’s economy.
One of the topics of conversation between Indonesia and the G20 members is the use of digital technology by MSMEs to help them thrive and grow their businesses by going online or digital. According to Dedy, digital technology is currently used by 21 million MSMEs in Indonesia or about 32% of the country’s 64 million MSMEs overall.
This indicates that 68% of MSMEs are still not making use of the digital space to advance their businesses. Therefore, the G20 countries are concerned about being able to advance further on how digital connectivity can aid in the recovery of the global economy.
The promotion of Indonesian products online requires MSMEs to develop their digital skills (e-commerce). MSMEs should be able to develop new technologies or applications that can be used by other companies in the same industry thanks to their digital capabilities.
The Ministry of Communication and Informatics also collaborates with academics, religious leaders, and the younger generation to support the efficient use of digital space. The Ministry continues to help SMBs engage in active online sales.
Furthermore, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Advancing Regional Digital Payment Connectivity was signed in front of Minister of Communication and Informatics Johnny G. Plate. The MoU regarding the implementation of cross-border digital payments in Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, five ASEAN nations, demonstrates that these five nations are capable of being one step ahead of other nations.
ASEAN cross-border digital payments are a tangible example of the G20 countries’ shared commitment to digital transformation, which is essential for long-term economic recovery. It is primarily strong inclusively and collaboratively due to the economic recovery.