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 data centre company has revealed it’s building a second new centre in Auckland, which it expects will help boost the economy by a total of $1.4 billion. The company is already constructing its first New Zealand cloud data centre in the northwest of Auckland.
It is now planning to develop a five-hectare site in north Auckland into Aotearoa’s biggest data centre and has hailed the new site as a significant milestone for the company. The CEO for the Australia and New Zealand branch of the firm stated that the company had committed to a major investment programme in the country thanks to the increasing use of cloud computing services here.
The two data centres will be “purpose-built, secure, environmentally-friendly” and designed specifically for the New Zealand market. These two investments will collectively bring over $600 million to the Auckland region, with a combined economic value exceeding $1.4 billion over the life of the projects.
Each data centre will create more than 150 jobs during construction and approximately 250 ongoing skilled information technology and telecommunications jobs once the sites are operational.
The company has said it has taken a “highly consultative approach” to the building of the Auckland data centres. It has engaged with both government and industry stakeholders to design a data centre ready for an accelerated digital agenda, one that enables the use of cloud technology to drive innovation, improve productivity, and enhance security to better protect data and information for all New Zealand organisations.
That has included using a local construction company. The intention is for both data centres to be run with 100 per cent renewable sources, and to set industry-leading benchmarks for water and energy efficiency.
The first data centre is already fully leased and will be ready for service early next year, DCI said. Construction of the new centre is scheduled to commence in mid-2022. In the last couple of years technology giants, Microsoft and Amazon have both unveiled plans for massive data centres in Aotearoa.
Meanwhile, a US-based tech giant revealed it was going to build a $100 million data centre in 2020. And in September 2021 a world-leading e-commerce platform confirmed it will open a new Cloud Region in New Zealand in 2024. The company says it will invest around NZ$7.5 billion into the country over the next 15 years and create 1000 jobs.
The global data centre market was valued at $187.35 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $517.17 billion by 2030, registering a CAGR of 10.5% from 2021 to 2030.
Physical data centre facilities in an enterprise are designed to share IT operations and equipment to store, process, and disseminate data and applications. Further, data centres are based on a network of computer applications and storage solutions intended to share information and data.
The shift in traditional on-premises physical servers to virtual network-based data centres – a result of the advancement in multi-cloud computing – is driving the growth of data centres globally. The modern data centre in an enterprise can communicate with multiple sites, both cloud computing and on-premises.
The data centre market is expected to witness notable growth during the forecast period, owing to the rise in data centre complexities due to scalability. Furthermore, the rise in penetration of high-end cloud computing in enterprises, globally in developing economies drives the growth of the data centre market during the forecast period. Moreover, an increase in the investment in a data centre application globally is expected to propel market growth.
However, the rise in concerns related to data privacy paired with the growing demand for managed services is expected to restrain the market growth. Further, an increase in penetration of the Internet of Things and hybrid & multi-cloud architecture solutions is expected to provide a lucrative opportunity for the growth of the data centre market during the forecast period.
The Thai government is seizing opportunities that come from digital technology to improve citizens lives and to increase the country’s economic competitiveness regionally and globally. Through the nation’s ‘Thailand 4.0’ strategy which includes major investment into digital infrastructure, big data platform and analytics for education, healthcare and agriculture, as well as initiatives such as the Smart City project, the government is spearheading the country’s acceleration in digital transformation.
In 2017, the Thai government launched the ‘Village Broadband Internet’ scheme to expand the country’s high-speed internet network throughout the country allowing Thai people who live in remote areas to access broadband or high-speed Internet. Currently, all Thai villages can access high-speed internet networks, which allows users to access the government e-services as well as e-commerce and e-banking applications.
Thai citizens are one of the most digitally connected and engaged populations in the world
Thai citizens are one of the most digitally connected and engaged populations in the world according to the “Global Digital Report 2021”. The amount of time Thai internet users spend in front of a screen each day is above the global average and is the 9th highest in the world.
Thailand was ranked third in the world for e-commerce adoption and ranked fifth for using QR codes. The country also recorded the highest number of transactions through mobile banking and financial transaction apps in 2020, which could be partly attributed to the government’s digital co-payment scheme which is part of a relief package for those affected by the pandemic.
This in turn has put more pressure on the financial sector in Thailand to be digitally ready to meet demand and customer needs, but also to have the robust infrastructure in place with a strong data strategy to meet this demand. The traditional banking model has been significantly declining over the years due to the shift in consumer behaviour in the digital era and financial institutions due to their legacy infrastructure and risk-averse nature were perhaps not as fast as other sectors to digitise. The COVID-19 outbreak was a key factor in shifting the banking business landscape.
Outdated technology along with many structured and unstructured data sets meant limitation of scalability, and limitations on advanced data analytics which will could leave banks lagging in identifying marketplace opportunities and understanding customer needs. But in Thailand, many of its major banks have already embarked on a multi-year transformation journey to realise their full potential and take advantage of the opportunities of digitisation.
Thailand’s maturity in digital space points towards a successful future for the digital banking sector
Thailand’s digital infrastructure also puts the country at a significant advantage over other Asia Pacific nations, with extremely high smartphone ownership and internet usage. These factors are show Thailand’s maturity in the digital space, and point towards a successful future for the digital banking industry as a whole.
The Bank of Thailand has a three-year strategic plan (2020- 2022) with the theme – “Central Bank in a Transformative World”. Their aim is to ‘navigate the Bank of Thailands’s operations in a rapidly changing environment and to strengthen the resiliency of Thailand’s financial and economic system to meet the upcoming challenges as well as to help promote an inclusive and sustainable growth of the Thai economy.’
One of Thailand’s biggest banking transformations is Siam Commercial Bank’s reorganisation to become SCBX – transforming itself beyond being a traditional financial institution to being a compete financial technology group. Starting over 5 years ago, they have transformed the bank’s technology architecture and have also set up several tech-driven start-ups under the SCB Transformation Project. Their successes include SCB 10X, which has received $400m in tech investments and Purple Ventures’ “Robinhood” which is a food-delivery app now has over 2 million users and is expanding into non-food services.
Thailand’s banking and financial services landscape has undergone a major period of transformative change over the last few years, with more changes with many driven by the pandemic in the last two years than in the previous decade.
Bangkok Bank is accelerating its Digital Banking strategy with the continuous expansion of services to support digital lifestyles. Recently, the bank joined Counter Service Co. Ltd to add identity verification channels to open savings accounts through the ‘Be My ID’ service at more than 13,000 7-Eleven stores nationwide to support the growing demand for transactions via digital channels, while also increasing access to government relief measures and supporting Covid-19 control measures.
Krung Thai Bank has developed a platform and acted as rights protector for the “Rao Mai Ting Kan” which translates as the ‘No One Will Be Left Behind’ scheme, a project providing assistance to 15.3 million Thais during the COVID. The bank is also part of a campaign that generated cash flow in the economy of up to 20 billion baht. It played a key role in the “Khon La Khrueng” which means ‘Let’s Go Halves’ scheme which contributed to the economic recovery at the grassroots level, and also helped educate people on how to use technology (improving digital literacy) via the bank’s applications, “Pao Tang” and “Thung Ngern”. Thanks to its support for various government schemes, the bank can currently serve up to 40 million users.
The bank is keen on innovating and developing digital financial products and services in line with rapidly changing customer behaviour to increase its competitiveness. In particular, the new Krungthai NEXT application was developed with world-class technology and includes features that can support future financial activities. Pao Tang, an open banking application, can support digital services such as health care through the Health Wallet and Thailand’s first digital bond trading via the Wallet SBM.
Thai banks continually strategizing on how to use digitalisation to make better use of their data
Banks are in the unique position in that their data that can tell clients and partners the most important information sellers want to know– can the customer pay? This is extremely valuable and combined with the rest of the information banks hold about customers, such as their demographics, spending patterns and preferences, it becomes even more valuable. Combine it with additional data from third-party systems, partners, and public sources and it becomes even more valuable still. All of this combined data can be used for additional intelligence and insights about customers which in turn is even more valuable again.
Banks will increasingly rely on data to understand the customer journey and to identify market trends. The banking industry is moving towards a more collaborative and open market focusing on data protection and minimising risk. Banks need to work on a strategy building strong foundations in data processes and customer experience, and this is where digitisation and advanced technologies such as AI, ML, cloud and blockchain will be key.
The banking and finance industry is on the brink of evolving into something completely different to what it was once traditionally known for in the past. In the digital and connected era, detailed and automated understanding of every customer, action and service will become the key condition for staying a value-driven organisation. And the Thai banking system already seems to understand this very well.
OpenGov Asia is hosting an invitation-only breakfast insight session with Splunk – ‘Driving The Future Of Thailand Financial Institutions Through Data.’ Click here for more information.
Fraudsters have been running schemes on government programs essentially since those programs were first created. However, COVID-19 created an environment especially ripe for fraudulent activity. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, government unemployment offices were flooded with both legitimate requests as well as hits from scammers looking to take advantage of the system and the chaos caused by the flood of claims.
Access to new technology like bots and Artificial Intelligence has given criminals, both those acting individually and larger organized crime syndicates, the power to submit fraudulent benefit applications on a tremendous scale.
First, fraudsters either buy stolen IDs, many of which are purchased from the dark web or create synthetic IDs by combining various bits of identity data from different sources. Then, they employ bots to completely inundate government systems and slip in fraudulent applications, which often go unnoticed among the flood of legitimate ones.
As the government attempts to limit criminal activity, many agencies are working to deploy technology solutions that allow them to capture anomalies and detect fraud in programs like UI, Medicare/Medicaid and even the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
With nearly 30% of the fraudulent UI claims in larger states based on stolen Social Security numbers, it’s much more difficult for government agencies to catch anomalies. Implementing an automated identity verification (AIV) system can be a lifesaver for agency IT teams that are understaffed and overworked for several reasons:
- Improved processing time – By automating ID verification, government agencies can quickly process more applications. Using real-time credit data can help eliminate fraudulent claims before they get into the system. Faster processing also contributes to a higher user satisfaction rate among legitimate applicants who experience a more efficient turnaround.
- Reduced human error – AIV eliminates the potential for human error common when staff are feeling the stress of doing more with less. Even with well-trained and experienced employees in place, errors, omissions and misunderstandings can let fraudulent claims pass.
- Less expensive than deploying new workers – The growing demand for qualified IT professionals makes these positions very competitive and often cost-prohibitive for agencies on a set annual budget.
- Scalability – Even government IT shops that can find, hire and train qualified new employees must still deal with seasonal (end of quarter, end of year) or event-based (disaster, pandemic) scaling challenges that test their normal day-to-day workload. AIV can provide flexibility during times of peak demand.
A 2020 report commissioned by researchers at the Administrative Conference of the United States found that federal agencies were closing the gap and that 45% of the 142 agencies surveyed were also using AI and/or machine learning to assist in fraud analysis in two key areas:
- Using data analytics to detect and diagnose fraud after the fact.
Data analytics can help supplement IT and financial auditing teams and improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of their post-mortem audits. Analytics make it possible to quickly and efficiently compare the data from disparate systems, more confidently identifying anomalies between them.
- Implementing behavioural analytics to prevent fraud.
As important as fraud detection, prosecution and recovery are, using behavioural analytics to help prevent fraudulent activity by verifying identity before a claim is ever paid out is the real opportunity.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, bipartisan members of the house recently introduced legislation that would require the government to drastically modernise the United States’ digital identity infrastructure. This bill establishes the Improving Digital Identity Task Force to establish a government-wide effort to develop secure methods for governmental agencies to validate identity attributes to protect the privacy and security of individuals and support reliable, interoperable digital identity verification in the public and private sectors.
Singapore has embraced technology as a crucial engine of the nation, where digitalisation is a key pillar of its public service transformation efforts. It leverages data and harnesses new technologies to continuously better citizen services as part of broader efforts to build a digital economy and digital society. Against this backdrop, digital technologies and solutions need to be made secure to ensure there’s no disruption to citizen services and to make sure citizen data entrusted to the government is protected.
Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia, acknowledges the work culture is shifting significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Remote working or hybrid working has become the new default and will likely stay this way for the foreseeable future.
In the early stages of the pandemic, government agencies and corporations understandably used Band-Aid measures—ad hoc technology and make-shift solutions—to stay afloat and ensure continuity. Considering the suddenness, sheer scale, and severity of the situation, many of these provisions can’t be seen as genuine digital transformation.
This raises two fundamental questions: what will modernising the delivery of citizen services look like in 2022 and beyond? And how can governments improve security and infrastructure to deliver seamless citizen-centric digital services?
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively with Sascha Giese, Head Geek™ at SolarWinds, to talk about transforming digital services in the public sector and how SolarWinds can help governments in their digital transformation journey.
Sascha has more than 10 years of technical IT experience, four of which have been as a senior pre-sales engineer at SolarWinds. As a senior pre-sales engineer, Sascha was responsible for product training for SolarWinds channel partners and customers.
Culture Shift to Remote Work
Sascha started by exploring the big question about the direction of the workforce and its evolution. In his role, he works with IT professionals in different countries and contexts and has gained a wider and richer understanding of the remote working shift. Most people, he feels, don’t want to go back to the days of fully working from the office after experiencing the benefits of remote work during the pandemic.
Another phenomenon is the “Great Resignation,” which is the ongoing trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs. According to The Great Resignation Update, three main reasons why employees quit are burnout, inflexible jobs, and leaving for a more caring culture providing organisational support for employee well-being.
To solve this problem, many companies have adopted hybrid work, which allows employees to alternately work from the office and their home. As the whole workforce shifts, however, it’s particularly difficult for IT teams, as organisations generally weren’t prepared for this massive transition. In the best of times, IT usually takes a long time to deploy or accommodate any change, upgrade, or platform. The pandemic demanded instant change, so mistakes were bound to happen.
The fact is, even now, this is an evolving situation. With new strains and seasons come new measures and needs. This lack of certainty and clarity means no one fully knows what the work model is going to be. Regardless, Sascha firmly believes the future of work is hybrid—a fluid mix of remote and in-office working. Whatever the case, he’s confident IT teams can manage the situation.
Helping the Public Sector Undergo Real Digital Transformation
Mohit believes 2022 is the year where genuine, long-term digital transformation will happen in the public sector. In this constantly evolving digital landscape and VUCA environment, how can governments simultaneously deliver digital services quickly and keep them safe? And how does SolarWinds help the public sector in attaining a secure digital transformation?
Sascha explained most organisations, both public and private, want to increase their presence with more services and better access. Hence, they’re always exploring ways to provide more digital offerings across any platform and device—anytime, anywhere. For this to happen, he says, the public sector must leverage technology across the entire gamut of services, from birth, education, and living to taxes, business, registrations, and more. Technology is no longer an enabler but a disruptor of business models. It can improve lives in a way previously unimaginable.
Singapore is an excellent example of an advanced country when it comes to delivering digital services, in Sascha’s opinion. Through Government Technology (GovTech), it harnesses the best info-communications technologies to make a difference in the everyday lives of Singaporeans. The nation also regularly involves citizens in participating and co-creating technologies with the government, determining the services they wish to have.
An important and indistinguishable aspect of digital services is security, especially for citizen data in the public sector. Citizen data is extremely valuable and needs to be simultaneously secure and available. Maintaining the balance between the two aspects is especially challenging.
To store and secure citizen data, many organisations adopt a cloud strategy. Due to different regulations and compliance requirements in every country, however, organisations can’t put everything in the cloud.
One of the customers SolarWinds supports is a national health organisation linked to a European Ministry of Health, and SolarWinds has helped them improve the delivery of public health services. The customer initially started with basic server monitoring nearly eight years ago and has subsequently moved on to the management of applications and databases. As the organisation continued to grow, the support SolarWinds offered expanded to supporting the network team, where it monitored connectivity between regional branch offices and its headquarters.
In line with the wider government’s direction to create a “cloud-first” initiative, this organisation is shifting resources to a private cloud and uses SolarWinds tools to forecast the impact of data transfer from various locations. This includes placing parts of the monitoring system in the cloud.
In terms of data management, the organisation moved all sensitive data to a private cloud with limited access. It uses the public cloud for the rest of its data, as the public cloud has limitless resources and numerous technologies a private cloud doesn’t offer.
Maintaining Cyber Resilience Amid Perpetual Ransomware Attacks
As cyberattacks continue to happen, maintaining cyber resilience is a critical part of the modernisation of digital services in the public sector. Without a doubt, the most common of these is ransomware. Bad cyber actors are getting more ruthless as they target critical infrastructures, including public health systems and water cleaning facilities. Such attacks suggest human lives don’t matter anymore—they’ll do whatever it takes, even if the attacks cause real danger to people.
Sascha believes mitigating ransomware attacks is a big step towards better security and elaborated on two ways to diminish the damage. As soon as there’s an indication of suspicious activities, the first step is to shut down the machines before any further degradation or infection can occur, preventing the worst. The second line of defence is backups. These backups must also be regularly tested and updated to ensure their efficacy.
Due to the huge amount of data governments have, the backup process is much more complicated. Moreover, data is likely to be highly distributed because branches of local authorities have different sets of data. Additionally, the level of expertise of the IT teams in each agency might vary significantly. Therefore, governments need to find a baseline for security measures.
Mohit points out there’s no such thing as 100% safe from ransomware attacks, so the pertinent question is “how do agencies measure their level of security, and how can they be reasonably safe from such attacks?”
Nearly every industry was confronted with the rise of high-level cybersecurity breaches, highlighting the potential risk of incomplete security policies and procedures. SolarWinds makes a yearly IT Trends Report and polls thousands of IT executives about certain topics—this year’s topic is about security, reveals Sascha.
The findings of the IT Trends 2021 Building a Secure Future uncover a reality in which exposure to enterprise IT risk is common across organisations, but perceptions of apathy and complacency surrounding risk preparedness are high as businesses exit a year of pandemic-driven “crisis mode.”
The findings are based on a survey fielded in March/April 2021, yielding responses from 967 technology practitioners, managers, and directors from public and private sector small, mid-size and enterprise organisations worldwide. Most IT leaders feel their organisations are prepared to manage and mitigate cyberattacks. For Sascha, when people feel secure, they lower their shields and become complacent.
To measure the effectiveness of security protocols, certain tools can be used to check for network security threats, including penetration testing tools and vulnerability checkers. Sascha offers an interesting and progressive idea for security measurement: organisations should hire a group of hackers on the dark web to hack them so they know the vulnerabilities in their systems.
Another thing organisations can do is rely on proper tools for basic mitigation. Sascha believes organisations need to adopt a zero-trust model, which is a security framework requiring all users—whether they’re inside or outside the organisation’s network—to be authenticated, authorised, and continuously validated for security configuration and posture before being granted or keeping access to applications and data.
Rooted in the principle of “never trust, always verify,” organisations must assume they’ve already been breached. Instead of providing permanent access, organisations should provide temporary access for project-based work, external employees, or contractors to minimise the risk of a breach.
Mohit agrees zero trust is the future. The problem is there’s a lot push back from team members, as it complicates their tasks. The question then becomes “how do you implement this unpopular yet crucial methodology?”
In response to this question, Sascha reflected on the December 2020 SUNBURST cyberattack on the SolarWinds software build environment, which illustrates a concerning new reality for the software industry and illuminates the increasingly sophisticated threats made by outside nation-states to the supply chains and infrastructure on which we all rely. The breach was a wake-up call for the software development community, and one of the biggest learnings is security requires constant vigilance and learning and must be part of the mindset of every security team member.
Early on, SolarWinds recognised it was likely a target because of its position as a market leader in monitoring and because it serves a plethora of companies – private, public, small, and large – worldwide. It’s a gateway of sorts, making it a highly valuable target. And while the company believed its prior security practices were representative of the practices within the larger software industry, armed with what they learned from this attack, they further sought to secure their environment and systems against vulnerabilities through its Secure by Design initiative. This includes, among other things, adopting zero-trust and least privilege access mechanisms, addressing risks associated with third-party applications, and, most recently, implementing a triple-build process that aims to set the new standard in secure software development.
From the beginning, SolarWinds has been open in its communication with its customers. The company published its findings from the cyberattack weekly, has worked with various agencies to offer information and remains committed to sharing its learnings broadly given the common development practices in the industry and their belief that transparency and cooperation are the best tools to help prevent and protect against future attacks.
Sascha’s main advice to the public sector is to manage their supply chain, as many organisations don’t even know who has access to their resources. Although organisations might have perfect control of their own environment, they usually don’t know what happens with external parties.
Building Citizens’ Trust in Government Services
When talking about trust in government services, Sascha recognises there’s still a generation not used to the digital world—mobile phones, the internet, online transactions, etc. Governments can’t instantly become fully digital, as there are still those who won’t or can’t cope with these changes. The more they’re pressured, the more they’ll resist giving their personal data to governments, creating a further lack of trust from this community.
Governments need to explain to the public why they’re going digital and how it benefits citizens—all citizens. The public needs to be involved from the beginning, and they need to understand why these changes are necessary to make each citizen’s life better and easier.
Sascha spoke about a SolarWinds product designed to solve a problem for which solutions are still lacking in the market. Many technologies are available to monitor data in the data centre and the cloud separately. However, many organisations don’t monitor the connectivity between on-premises environments and the cloud. When something isn’t working, organisations have to start troubleshooting and figure out what went wrong.
SolarWinds NetPath™, a network path analysis feature included in SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager, and SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, warns IT professionals where a problem is located. NetPath measures the performance characteristics of each network node and link, making it easy to spot slowdowns. It monitors connectivity from the users to the services and determines what infrastructure is in the path and where traffic slowdowns are occurring. It provides additional infrastructure data only when it appears to be related to a real problem.
With NetPath, organisations can isolate network slowdowns and determine the actual person they need to contact to solve them. This tool fills the gap in the market, as Sascha points out. At the end of the day, troubleshooting is a game of responsibility.
In closing, Sascha emphasises SolarWinds has done a lot to offer excellent digital products and put various security measures in place at the same time. SolarWinds establishes trust by putting significant investment into providing excellent and secure services.
China will further promote the development of a digital economy during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period, according to a circular issued by the General Office of the State Council. By 2025, the digital economy should be in full expansion mode, with the added value of core industries in the digital economy accounting for 10% of GDP.
Meanwhile, digital innovation should play a bigger role in leading economic development with significant progress in the intelligent level and integration between digital technology and the real economy. A better digital economy governance system and a more competitive digital economy are also expected, according to the circular.
According to the plan, efforts will be made to accelerate the construction of the information network infrastructure, and a national-level integrated big data centre system coordinating computing power, algorithms, data, and application resources. High-quality data elements will be provided.
Market entities will be encouraged to collect data following the law. Data resources processing will be improved and the data service industry will be fostered and expanded. In addition, market-based circulation of data elements will be promoted. Furthermore, new mechanisms for the development and utilisation of data elements will be developed.
The plan also emphasised industrial digital transformation. To accelerate digital transformation and upgrading in enterprises, qualified large-scale enterprises will be encouraged to build integrated digital platforms. Efforts will also be made to deepen comprehensive digital transformation in key industries, including the all-around and full-chain digital transformation of traditional industries and higher digitisation level in the agricultural industry.
The circular also urged promoting the digital transformation of industrial parks and clusters. It stresses enhancing innovation of key technologies in strategic and forward-looking fields such as quantum information, network communications, integrated circuits, key software, big data, artificial intelligence, block-chain, and new materials, among others.
Core industries should be more competitive, such as basic software and hardware, core electronic components, key basic materials and production equipment. And key products should be more self-sufficient. New business forms and models will be fostered.
Digitisation of public services is also an important issue, the circular said, and efforts will be made to improve the efficiency of Internet Plus government services, and ensure digital social services benefit more people.
A sound digital economy governance system will be established with the participation of governments, platforms, enterprises, industrial organisations, and the general public. The circular also stressed international cooperation and data and network security.
While data is an important factor in the digital economy, more effort should be made to bridge the digital divide to benefit more user groups. To be specific, we need to improve infrastructure construction and the sharing of computing power from leading companies to smaller ones
As reported by OpenGov Asia, China’s top industry regulator unveiled a five-year plan to accelerate the integration of digital and real economies amid a broader push to lay down a policy framework for the nation’s industrial development until 2025.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said accelerating the deep integration of information technologies in all industrial chains is of great significance to promote industrial digitisation and digital industrialisation in the new era. According to the five-year plan, the ministry will adopt five special initiatives, including promoting manufacturing digital transformation and industrial internet platforms, to advance industrial upgrade.
The ministry said the integrative development of”5G plus industrial internet” is on a fast track in China. At this time, more than 100 influential industrial internet platforms have also been built. In addition, more than 1,800 5G plus industrial internet projects are under construction in China, covering 10 important industries including mining, coal and electricity.
Smart cities are here to stay and are fast becoming the norm rather than an outlier. Smart cities use ICT to improve the lives of residents through more efficient utilisation of resources, assets and funds in an effort to better serve citizens. Smart cities optimise services and operations to enhance the overall citizen experience while simultaneously driving development and growth. Cutting edge technology is used to plan, design and manage resources and infrastructure in the best way possible.
According to a report, cities can use smart technologies to improve some key quality-of-life indicators by 10% to 30%. These increases could mean more lives saved, lesser crime, lowered health system burden and a cleaner, green environment.
There are, of course, challenges in creating smart cities. These challenges can seem overwhelming, as they range from things like legislative and policy roadblocks to funding challenges to technology infrastructure and security. The fact is, in as much as smart cities rely on technology, the key is not necessarily in how much technology is available but rather how well the available technology is deployed and exploited – Smart City Technology Management.
Read on to know about the five primary technologies required for a highly successful smart city environment and how all the pieces of the city’s infrastructure can work together as a cohesive whole.
The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DES) is confident that there will be no further delay in the total enforcement of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which is scheduled to take place on 1 June 2022, while the Personal Data Protection Committee is expected to be finalised this month.
The Deputy Permanent Secretary for the DES and Secretary-General of the Office of Personal Data Protection Committee stated that the DES does not see any major reasons to postpone the full enforcement of the PDPA following two years of delay due to the pandemic, apart from some legal technical problems, though the chance of this remains minimal.
The DES Ministry is aware that the PDPA may cause some burden for related parties in terms of compliance but the ministry is trying to ensure the impact will be minimal with better personal data protection. The law will create transparency and accountability for personal data handling.
The DES Ministry considers data as a key element for the country’s development strategy while businesses are capitalising on data to create revenue. The DES will make sure the PDPA will not become an obstacle for businesses.
Over the past two years of the PDPA’s postponement, the DES Ministry has been drafting 29 regulations aligned with the PDPA, including 10 treated as a priority. By the end of this month, the Personal Data Protection Committee is expected to be established, he said.
The list of members of the committee is expected to be published later this month following cabinet approval. The committee will be responsible for considering all related regulations linked to the PDPA.
The 10 regulations include consent format for personal data usage, the process of data usage and data protection measurements. There will also be personal data protection guidelines for personal data controllers and personal data processors in seven sectors, covering healthcare, retail and e-commerce, education, logistics, travel, property and asset management as well as state agencies and administration.
A public hearing of up to 4,000 stakeholders on the issue has been conducted. In terms of penalties, there could be a reprieve in some groups, such as those with personal data of less than 100 people, but this needs to be considered by the new committee.
Once the committee is established, there must be a clear practice on how people can lodge a complaint with the PDPA office when their data is misused. Organisations handling personal data are obliged to report leaked data within 72 hours and inform data owners.
The organisations responsible for data leakage could face a fine by the PDPA office and a civil suit filed by those affected. The PDPA will require minimum security measures to protect personal data.
Under the PDPA, data protection officers must be appointed by organisations as contact persons with authority and they are obliged to contact the authorities within a stipulated time when the incident occurs. Consumers will have more confidence in using services while small businesses with small records of personal data would get a reprieve, he added.
In November 2021, National Digital Economics and Society Committee approved plans to develop a platform that supports compliance with the Personal Data Protection Act. The platform will also make government services available online for Thai digital start-ups.
Thailand’s Prime Minister stated the new government platform will help ease the overall financial burden on the state sector. It will also make online transactions more secure and bolster the development of a digital economy.
“The implementation will be divided into two phases. The first phase will take 18 months and will focus on the development and promotion of the platform. Training will also be provided to 2,000 personnel from 200 government agencies. The second phase will promote and evaluate the use of the platform in the private sector,” the PM stated.
The committee has also agreed to task the Digital Economy Promotion Agency with setting up a digital service account registration system for digital start-ups and providers. The digital service accounts will be linked with state mechanisms, such as tax policies, to broaden services provided to Thai digital entrepreneurs.