To date, Professor Low (above photo) has helped develop and launch 7 Singapore-designed and built satellites successfully into space and orbit – no small feat considering Singapore’s tiny size and lack of access to space launch facilities. OpenGov spoke to Professor Low at EmTech Asia 2017 to hear more about his new role at NUS, the trend towards miniature satellites and his thoughts on the burgeoning satellite industry in Singapore.
Could you share with us about some of the projects you are working on right now?
I was previously the Centre Director for the Satellite Research Centre of Nanyang Technological University (NTU). I have just moved to NUS and will be starting a new research centre at NUS on satellite technologies. The trend of satellites is moving towards miniaturisation and this is something we hope to go into.
You mentioned about the miniaturisation of satellites as a trend in the industry. Could you tell us about the advantages of making and launching miniature satellites?
With miniature satellites, the manufacturing and launch costs are lower compared to having one big satellite. Additionally, you can launch many miniature satellites. By launching a constellation of small satellites, you can actually cover the whole Earth and reduce the latency time. It is also possible to provide new services that were not possible in the past. Traditionally, the satellite industry always builds one big satellite which is 1000kg or a few tonnes in weight, each time, companies can only afford to build one.
Now, we can launch up to 50 or a 100 small satellites so they cover the whole Earth and each of them can pick up signals here and there. In the past, satellites are mainly deployed to perform remote sensing and take pictures.
Moving forward, satellites can do more than just take pictures – you can use them to track ships to enhance maritime security; all the ships generate some kind of radio signal to identify themselves. The signals from these ships are normally monitored land-based, for example the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) will pick up these signals and identify the various ships. But once a ship travels to the middle of a vast ocean, it is almost impossible to pick up the signal. So if you have satellites to pick up these signals, ship owners and insurance companies can know where the ships are and monitor their movements in real-time.
Another area that researchers have started looking at but not yet implemented related technologies is the tracking of aircraft. Aircrafts also carry a type of signal called ADS-B to identify their location, so it is possible for satellites to pick up this signal and track the aircraft. These are some examples of location tracking services that satellites can deliver.
Beyond these services, some of the more unique applications will be in the areas of Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) communication. In the area of IoT, I have not really seen companies demonstrate the use with satellites yet but this may happen about 2 years later. What this means is that IoT devices can connect directly to the satellites and be monitored instantly even though they may be in a remote location.
There are some niche areas of applications involving IoT and M2M. For instance, IoT and M2M applications can be used to monitor mining activities that are conducted outside the city areas or in deserted areas.
You were pivotal in helping Singapore design and launch satellites into space. What were some of the challenges faced in doing pioneering satellite work in a nation not necessarily known for satellite-related development and research?
There was a lot of knowledge that we didn’t have in the beginning, as we were not trained in space-related work. We were all from electrical engineering and mechanical engineering so the challenge was in gathering a group of people to work and learn together. I think the main challenge is getting people who are willing to work together for a long period of 5 years or more. After building the satellite, we can’t be sure that it will be successfully launched, there are no guaranteed results.
So we really have to put in a lot of effort to gather the right people who will work together with a shared vision. I am heartened that in the teams that I had worked with so far, everyone puts forward his or her best effort to ensure the success of the projects. So far I have launched 7 satellites into orbit and all are successful. This doesn’t happen by chance, but it is because we had put in a lot of effort in testing the various components. The credit goes to the whole team, as no one person can do all these tasks.
For the satellites, how long do you intend for them to orbit in space?
Satellites are typically designed for a 3-year operational lifespan. Sometimes a satellite may go beyond that, for instance, the X-Sat (launched in 2011) – it is still doing well. The team still conducts regular telemetry to the satellite but we have scaled down its operations. When the satellite is newly launched, we worked intensely to conduct all the experiments because we have certain project deliverables. We make sure that all the experiments were conducted and gathered all the data needed, so that the information can be used for the next project.
You mentioned in a Channel NewsAsia report that Singapore has highly competent manpower to sustain a local satellite industry. What are your thoughts on the current development of the local satellite industry and what areas do you think the next phase of development should focus on?
In NUS, we have space related course modules and projects for engineering students. Through all these programmes, we train skilled manpower for the satellite industry, and this is an important component of the ecosystem that we are trying to build up. Besides ST Electronics (Satellite systems) Pte Ltd, we have seen a couple of small new companies coming to Singapore such as Spire, Astroscale and a few others. I think it’s evolving. Building a space programme is no easy task, it takes years to grow and nurture the programme.
You look at 10 years ago when the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) started to grow the aerospace industry, it took some years for the big companies to invest in Singapore. Space ventures are even more difficult – do we really have the engineers who can build the satellites when the big companies come over? How do we overcome these obstacles?
By demonstrating to the world that universities in Singapore are capable of building satellites, companies will take notice and be convinced that we do have a supply of engineers who have the skills to build satellites, if they are keen to come to Singapore.
Are there any specific programmes in NUS that offer satellite-related research and training?
NUS Engineering offers a Design-Centric Programme in which students can take space-related modules in their first, second and third years. These modules are designed to impart some basic knowledge on satellites. Students who are in the second, third and fourth year of study can also participate in satellite-related projects in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The technology landscape constantly seeks high-power, energy-efficient devices. 3D-stacked electronics offer exciting potential, but overheating is a challenge due to their compact design. Excess heat can cause performance issues and damage. Thankfully, a new solution involving magnetic fields and innovative materials has emerged to address this challenge, ensuring these devices remain cool and efficient.
At the forefront of this breakthrough is a team of scientists led by Assistant Professor Hortense Le Ferrand of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore – School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. They have embarked on a journey to tame the heat generated by 3D-stacked electronics and ensure they operate at peak performance.
The key to their innovation lies in a material called hexagonal boron nitride (BN), known for its exceptional heat-dissipating properties. To make BN responsive to their needs, the researchers coated microscopic BN particles with iron oxide. This strategic move rendered the particles magnetic, paving the way for precise control.
Next, they suspended these coated particles in a solvent and brought magnetic fields into play. The magic happened as the magnetic fields aligned the BN particles in various orientations. This alignment turned out to be the key to effective heat management.
The team conducted rigorous tests to gauge the heat-dissipating capabilities of these precisely oriented BN particles. What they discovered was nothing short of revolutionary: when the particles were aligned vertically, they proved incredibly efficient at channelling heat away from their source. This breakthrough alone promised a significant leap forward in the cooling technology of high-power devices.
But the innovation didn’t stop there. The orientation of the particles could also be tailored to direct heat in different directions, a flexibility that opens a world of possibilities. For instance, when these particles find themselves sandwiched between two heat-emitting electronic components, they can be configured to direct heat sideways, ensuring optimal thermal management.
Assist Prof Hortense believes this novel approach to aligning and orienting BN particles offers exciting new prospects for managing heat in high-power electronic devices. It’s a promising development that could pave the way for the widespread adoption of 3D-stacked electronics, ushering in an era of high-performance, energy-efficient devices without the nagging concern of overheating.
Preventing high-power devices ensures sustained performance. Overheating can cause these devices to throttle their performance or even shut down altogether. This can have a significant impact on productivity and functionality, especially in critical applications.
Further, managing heat is crucial for the longevity of these devices. Excessive heat can damage internal components over time, leading to a shorter lifespan. This, in turn, can result in frequent replacements, which can be costly for both consumers and manufacturers.
Besides, there are safety concerns associated with overheating. In extreme cases, it can pose a fire hazard or create electrical safety risks. Proper heat management is vital to mitigate these dangers and ensure the safe operation of high-power devices.
Efficient cooling also contributes to energy efficiency. When devices operate within their optimal temperature range, they consume less power. This not only reduces energy costs but also lessens the environmental impact.
Also, reliable operation is paramount for high-power devices, particularly in critical applications like medical equipment and aerospace technology. Overheating can lead to system failures, which may have severe consequences; hence, effective heat management is crucial to maintain the reliability of these devices.
The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has revealed that its scientists creating a portable, point-of-use device for identifying heavy metals in both soil and water. Research from the Ministry of Jal Shakti shows that over 36,000 rural habitations in India are grappling with issues related to contamination from fluoride, arsenic, and heavy metals in their drinking water sources.
According to a statement from IIT-Madras, the primary aim of the research is to package the technology into an engineered device, which will be programmed to deliver a user-friendly, non-technical read-out value of the soil quality index on a mobile phone-like application.
Currently, there are no field-usable or point-of-use solutions available for laypeople to use for detecting heavy metals in soil. The presence of heavy metals in soil also impacts soil quality by contributing to soil salinity. This can have a detrimental impact on global food security due to decreased agricultural yields and potential adverse effects on human health.
Sophisticated methods, such as the Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) technique, are not accessible or user-friendly for laypeople and farmers because they involve complex and time-consuming procedures and heavily depend on advanced laboratory facilities. A portable, user-friendly device that can be operated by non-experts holds significant advantages from both social and economic standpoints.
Emphasising the potential impact of this technology, IIT-Madras Professor Sreeram K Kalpathy stated that given the heavy reliance of the Indian population on agriculture, there is an urgent need for technological solutions to detect and measure heavy metal concentrations. This would empower farmers with the information necessary to make informed decisions about which crops to cultivate and when to make interventions.
Current research efforts are focused on achieving higher resolution detection capabilities for copper, lead, and cadmium (in parts per million levels), as well as attaining the selective detection of specific metals.
The team is presently in the process of conducting tests on real soil and water samples to validate the concept. In this regard, with the assistance of the Rural Technology Action Group at IIT-Madras (RUTAG-IITM), they have also analysed water quality and the presence of heavy metals in water samples gathered from various temple tanks in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. The aim is to have the technology validated and demonstrated in a field environment over the next 3-5 years.
The government has committed to rejuvenating 75 water bodies in each district of the country. Last month, the Meghalaya state government announced plans to deploy an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robotic boat to clean Umiam Lake, which is polluted with plastic waste.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the Umkharh and Umshyrpi rivers course through Shillong, the state capital, carrying substantial quantities of plastic waste daily and depositing it into the southern portion of the lake. This area is only accessible by boat.
As part of the Smart Village Movement, a non-profit collaborating with the state government on various initiatives, a Hong Kong company was selected to showcase its cleaning technology. The small boat brought by the company can swiftly remove 200-400 kg of waste each day, allowing for a speedy cleanup of all the waste within the next few months if the larger boat is put into operation. Currently, the company has boats that clean waste in Varanasi and Bengaluru.
The Government of Western Australia is taking steps to promote the growth of small to medium-sized local businesses by offering grants totalling over AU$3 million. These grants are intended to enhance their capabilities and competitiveness, enabling them to pursue contracts from both the government and private sector.
Known as the Local Capability Fund (LCF), this initiative serves as a crucial resource for recipients looking to expand their capacity and improve their competitiveness in supplying goods, services, and works to the government, major projects, and other significant markets.
For the upcoming fiscal year of 2023-2024, the government has announced four new LCF rounds, collectively amounting to AU$2.2 million in funding, with individual grants of up to AU$50,000. These four rounds are designed to cater to specific needs and priorities:
- Supplying Key Projects Round: This round aims to support businesses across the state in supplying essential goods and services to key government and private sector projects within priority sector markets.
- Aboriginal Business Round: This round is dedicated to businesses with a majority Aboriginal ownership. It seeks to assist these enterprises in supplying goods, services, and works to both the government and the private sector.
- National and International Standards Compliance Round: To ensure businesses adhere to the highest industry standards, this round provides financial assistance for engaging external experts to implement and obtain third-party certification for seven specific national and international standards.
- Digital Transformation Round (Upcoming): Soon, the LCF will introduce a Digital Transformation Round to provide initial support to eligible businesses in adopting and leveraging digital technologies and data. This round aims to advance the government’s understanding of digital needs in the business landscape.
Additionally, nine regional LCF rounds will be launched progressively throughout 2023-24, totalling AU$900,000 in funding with grants of up to AU$20,000. These rounds will specifically cater to businesses in regional areas, aiming to help them enhance their services and competitiveness.
Since its inception, the LCF has been instrumental in providing funding to over 600 businesses, totalling AU$22.7 million. This financial support has played a pivotal role in these businesses securing contract awards exceeding AU$1.05 billion. Beyond financial benefits, the LCF has contributed to creating more than 2,000 employment opportunities and nearly 250 apprenticeships.
The Minister Assisting the Minister for State and Industry Development, Jobs, and Trade stated that the Local Capability Fund has served as a catalyst for numerous businesses, infusing tens of millions in funding to propel their expansion. This program has not only facilitated access to over 2,000 employment opportunities but has also supported the development of 250 apprenticeships.
The Government, through its representative, wholeheartedly encourages businesses to grasp this opportunity by submitting grant applications. This initiative will empower them in their pursuits to secure contracts from both government and private sector organisations.
In today’s fast-paced business landscape, technology plays an indispensable role in enhancing efficiency, competitiveness, and growth prospects for businesses of all sizes. The Cook Government recognises this and aims to empower local businesses through the Local Capability Fund, providing them with the financial means to embrace and leverage technology. This support is especially timely as the world becomes increasingly digital and data-driven.
The new Digital Transformation Round, set to be launched in the coming weeks, underscores the government’s commitment to assisting businesses in harnessing the power of digital technologies and data. In an era where businesses must adapt to technological advancements to remain relevant and competitive, this initiative is poised to make a significant impact.
With the Digital Transformation Round, eligible businesses will have access to vital resources and support to embark on their digital journey. This includes financial assistance, expertise, and guidance on adopting and utilising digital technologies effectively. Whether it’s transitioning to cloud-based operations, implementing data analytics, or enhancing online presence, this initiative aims to equip businesses with the tools they need to thrive in a digital age.
Beyond financial support, the Digital Transformation Round also aligns with the government’s broader mission of understanding the specific technological needs of businesses. By collecting insights and feedback from participating enterprises, the government can shape future policies and initiatives to better serve the evolving tech landscape.
OpenGov Asia previously reported that the Vietnam-Australia Digital Forum 2023, organised by Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), in collaboration with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) and the NSW Trade and Investment Department, reflects the global importance of digital collaboration. This event, held during Minister Nguyen Manh Hung’s visit to Australia, signifies the commitment of both nations to enhance cooperation in information and communication technology.
It is part of the MIC’s broader 2023 initiatives to facilitate Vietnam’s digital business community expansion globally, with similar programs underway in countries like the United States, Japan, and Europe. These efforts underline the growing significance of international partnerships in fostering innovation, knowledge sharing, and economic growth through technology.
In a strategic move to bolster its semiconductor industry, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) in Taiwan is poised to allocate approximately NT$800 million (S$25,084,582) to support local integrated circuit (IC) designers in the development of processes below 28 nanometres.
This substantial investment forms a crucial part of the budget earmarked for the upcoming semiconductor industry innovation project proposed by the National Science and Technology Council, awaiting final approval from the Cabinet, as confirmed by the Industrial Development Bureau under the MOEA.
ICs, the intricate assemblies of electronic components, encompassing transistors, resistors, and capacitors, have become the bedrock of modern technology. These miniature marvels are crafted on wafer-thin semiconductor substrates, underpinning a plethora of electronic devices and systems.
In safeguarding the interests of local enterprises against a highly competitive market landscape, the bureau’s subsidy programme will be geared toward companies actively engaged in the development of advanced techniques aligned with international industry trends. These include artificial intelligence (AI), smart cockpit solutions, and communication technologies.
Taiwan boasts around 200 small and medium-sized IC design firms, but only a fraction possesses the capability to venture into the intricate domains of 16nm or 14nm processes, which tend to be financially daunting for companies of their size.
To encourage participation and innovation, detailed eligibility criteria for the subsidies will be disclosed at the outset of the coming year. The government is prepared to provide financial support of up to half the amount applied for by these enterprises.
The expected timeline for reaping the rewards of this investment is promising, with the government anticipating tangible benefits within two to three years. As the global semiconductor landscape continues to evolve and confront new challenges, Taiwan’s strategic focus on nurturing homegrown talent and fostering innovation in IC design underscores its commitment to maintaining a competitive edge in this pivotal industry.
The investment in IC design processes below 28 nanometres not only fortifies Taiwan’s position as a technological powerhouse but also ensures its resilience in the face of dynamic global forces. By empowering its local talent and businesses, Taiwan stands ready to navigate the complex semiconductor terrain and emerge as a formidable player in the evolving semiconductor industry.
Electronic gadgets such as computers, cellphones, televisions, and medical equipment may all function more intelligently and efficiently due to semiconductors, which allow digital data to be translated into the real world. They enable lightning-fast data processing, storage, and transmission by facilitating the complex dance of electrons.
Semiconductors are essential to more than just consumer electronics. They serve as the foundation for sectors where exact control and dependability are crucial, such as the automobile, aerospace, healthcare, and renewable energy industries.
Semiconductors are still developing in this age of rapidly developing technology, which makes it possible to create devices with smaller sizes, quicker processors, and ground-breaking inventions. They are the unsung heroes who are paving the way for an infinite future while subtly influencing our digital environment.
Partnerships are also essential for supporting the semiconductor sector since they act as sparks for creativity and provide answers to difficult problems. Governments, academic institutions, and semiconductor businesses work together in this cooperative manner, with each group providing special skills and resources.
Partnerships additionally enhance the robustness of the supply chain. Businesses can better survive disruptions by strengthening the connections between various phases of semiconductor manufacture, as the COVID-19 epidemic showed.
Vietnam intends to start shutting down its 2G network by December, creating space for the advancement of more modern telecommunication technologies. According to the government, the 2G mobile network, initially introduced in Vietnam in 1993, has become obsolete and can no longer satisfy user demands or keep pace with the expansion of telecommunications services.
Therefore, the Authority of Telecommunications under the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) is considering the complete shutdown of the 2G network. Director of the Authority, Nguyen Thanh Phuc, mentioned that the agency conducted meetings with telecom service providers in Vietnam, and these providers have committed to initiating the blocking of 2G-only devices starting in December.
As per its document released on 27 September 2022, MIC has taken steps to deactivate the 2G network across the entire country. Additionally, service providers have devised technical solutions to phase out devices that rely solely on 2G and 3G networks.
The complete switch-off is intended to optimise frequency reserves for the development of modern telecommunication technologies, such as 4G and 5G. MIC is assisting telecom service providers in devising roadmaps and transition plans for discontinuing 2G services and facilitating the migration of users to 4G and 5G networks. The objective is to reduce the number of 2G mobile subscriptions to approximately 6 million, which would represent less than 5% of the total, by the end of the year, with a complete shutdown of the 2G network planned for 2024.
According to data from service providers, at the beginning of 2023, there were over 26 million 2G mobile subscriptions, constituting about 20% of the total 126 million mobile subscriptions nationwide. However, this number decreased to 23 million as of August.
The discontinuation of 2G services has been implemented in several countries, including Japan (in 2011), Singapore (in 2017), and China (in 2021). As of October 2022, 142 telecom service providers in 56 countries and territories made plans to shut down 2G and 3G networks, and 51 of them turned off 2G services.
Earlier this month, MIC announced the setting up of a team to accelerate 6G equipment development. The team works in collaboration with internal agencies and three major telecommunications carriers, including the state-run group Viettel.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the group reviews the system of legal documents to encourage the 6G technology ecosystem. It also tests and evaluates 6G equipment. The Deputy Director of the Authority of Information Technology and Communications Industry, Nguyen Thien Nghia, oversees the team.
The group puts forth management, assessment, inspection, and testing regulations regarding 6G equipment. The government believes that better guidelines and a clear technology framework will lead to more secure 6G networks in the future.
The team is also responsible for gathering international case studies to build a strategy for the development, assessment, and testing of equipment in Vietnam. The group monitors the 6G equipment research and development around the world, collecting information on equipment types, supportive bands, prices, and standardisation.
It will attend 6G technology conferences and seminars both abroad and in the country. The group will work on fostering international cooperation in the research and development of 6G technology and equipment.
The commencement of the 6G standard and its commercial rollout is anticipated to begin around 2028, with widespread commercial deployment likely occurring in 2030. 6G networks will revolve around both humans and machines, offering advanced services such as augmented reality, high-precision mobile holograms, and digital replicas.
Smart homes will be widely adopted when smart devices can be remotely connected and controlled. Additionally, the deployment of intelligent traffic management systems, autonomous vehicles, and flying taxis can be facilitated using 6G network technology.
The Minister of Digital Economy and Society has outlined the ministry’s operational policy within the framework of “The Growth Engine of Thailand.” This plan emphasises three key areas:
- Enhancing the country’s digital capabilities for competitive advantage
- Ensuring stability and security in the digital economy and society
- Fostering the development of the nation’s digital human capital
This policy is a roadmap for advancing Thailand’s digital economy and society in the next phase.
Mr. Prasert Chandraruangthong, Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES), shared this operational policy with the media, highlighting the three primary drivers of Thailand’s digital economy and society. These include:
- Strengthening digital capabilities to enhance the country’s competitiveness (Thailand Competitiveness).
- Ensuring stability and security in the digital economy and society (Safety & Security).
- Developing the potential of the country’s digital human capital (Human Capital).
Mr Prasert emphasised that the foremost driver for Thailand’s digital economy and society is a set of guidelines to enhance digital capabilities to create a competitive advantage for the nation. The Ministry of Digital Technology will focus on improving efficiency and leveraging the country’s digital infrastructure to generate opportunities. This effort will accelerate the development of telecommunications systems, high-speed internet networks, and 5G technology to enhance people’s quality of life, boost business and industrial sectors, and facilitate international trade and investment through global communication networks.
In the future, Thailand aims to become a regional hub for submarine cable networks, boost international trade and e-commerce, and enhance digital identity verification through National Digital ID. They are preparing for the AI-driven economic era and developing a master plan for responsible artificial intelligence (AI).
The Ministry of Digital Affairs plans to bolster Thailand’s global digital competitiveness by supporting Digital Startups through a Co-Investment system and the Digital Startup Go Global Development Fund. The focus is on increasing income opportunities for farmers, aiding SMEs in adopting digital tech, and positioning Thailand as a key player in Digital Content, E-SPORTS, and international trade. They aim to attract global investments in Over-The-Top (OTT) Platform businesses, streamline business establishment processes, and ensure fair tax collection.
To promote digital literacy, the ministry will facilitate internet access for children and youth, enable safe access to global libraries via AI, and encourage communities to embrace digital technology for income generation and adaptation to the digital economy.
These efforts aim to enhance the efficiency of digital government services by integrating big data from government agencies and promoting services across sectors with open APIs for public and private sector convenience. This includes implementing One Stop Service, developing the One Wallet system, and utilising Blockchain technology and Smart Contracts to establish transparent rules, reducing discretionary decision-making by officials. Thai Digital Startups will be given opportunities to participate in system development.
Thailand is preparing to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and engage with international digital agencies. They aim to transform the nation with a Mega Programme, expanding projects like Thailand Digital Valley and extending smart city areas.
Addressing cybercrime is crucial for digital economy stability. Initiatives include combating online fraud and improving cybersecurity through a Cyber Alert Centre.
Thailand plans to establish coding schools, offer accessible digital classrooms for upskilling, and incentivise digital skill development to enhance digital human capital. Short-term efforts involve:
- Setting up a Cyber Alert Centre.
- Fostering gaming careers.
- Addressing workforce shortages via the Global Digital Talent Visa programme.
Businesses across the globe are increasingly recognising the advantages of embracing a strategy that prioritises edge computing, cloud-based operations and data-centric management and harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) during this era of digital transformation and sustainability.
This shift in focus is not just an evolution within the business realm; instead, it holds remarkable potential to revolutionise entire industries and foster unprecedented levels of efficiency and innovation. No doubt, as businesses step into this new era, they will be presented with fresh opportunities as well as new challenges.
This transformation influences the operational aspects of companies but also has the potential to reshape the very foundations of their respective industries. Organisations must prepare themselves for a multitude of shifts.
These include changes related to data gathering, management and utilisation, along with the substantial influence of AI technology on their product and service development, customer engagement strategies, and overall business operations.
Organisations in Singapore are leading the way in embracing a sustainable digital future, setting a benchmark for others to follow. These initiatives not only bolster the country’s economic growth but also position it as a significant contender for long-term economic stability in the digital era.
Recent reports highlight an intriguing trend within the business sector. A remarkable 86% of corporate executives recognise that sustainability represents an investment that not only safeguards their companies from potential future disruptions but also fulfils a vital social responsibility.
Furthermore, it reveals that sustainability extends beyond environmental preservation, encompassing the optimisation of specific business functions, including cost control. Indeed, 80% of corporate leaders have reported cost optimisation as a direct result of their sustainability initiatives. This underscores the synergy between operational efficiency and immediate economic sustainability, showcasing how sustainability can yield tangible benefits.
In the pursuit of digital transformation and sustainability, numerous challenges must be confronted. One such hurdle involves the belief that the optimal strategy involves migrating all workloads to the cloud. While cloud computing offers substantial benefits, it may not fully account for the complexities of the contemporary information technology landscape.
The IT ecosystem comprises not only the tried-and-true but still valuable older generations of technologies but also newer innovations. Moreover, many businesses today rely on an array of diverse cloud services, resulting in what is commonly referred to as a “multi-cloud” environment. Additionally, sustainable IT strategies must take into account the rapidly expanding realm of edge computing.
To surmount these challenges, enterprises need to formulate an IT strategy that acknowledges the intricacies of the broader IT landscape beyond simply transitioning workloads to the cloud. They must strategise on how to effectively manage a diverse array of cloud services, seamlessly integrate both legacy and modern technology, and incorporate the growing significance of edge computing into their plans.
The OpenGov Events convened Singapore’s foremost technology leaders on 21 September 2023, at the Raffles City Convention Center Singapore to discuss the most recent insights regarding the key elements reshaping strategies for digital transformation. The session focussed on sustainability advancements, prioritising data-centric approaches, and adapting to the evolving landscape of hybrid design.
According to Mohit Sagar, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of OpenGov Asia, in an era marked by dynamic digital transformation and a heightened focus on sustainability, businesses across the globe are recognising the immense potential of adopting an edge-centric, data-driven approach. At the forefront of this transformative convergence stands Singapore, setting the benchmark for sustainable digitalisation while positioning itself as a global leader in this paradigm shift.
“The marriage of sustainability and data-driven strategies is poised to reshape businesses and economies alike,” says Mohit.
Singapore’s pioneering role in sustainable digitalisation offers a blueprint for nations worldwide seeking to balance technological advancement with ecological preservation. By successfully aligning economic growth with environmental responsibility, the nation showcases the way forward in harmonising these two seemingly disparate goals.
Mohit recalls Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s remarks at the recent G20 New Delhi Summit. Prime Minister Lee underlined the importance of expanded private finance to confront the “existential” threat of climate change, which will necessitate trillions of dollars in annual investments to achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050.
Singapore’s blended finance platform, according to the Prime Minister, aims to pool resources from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors to fund green initiatives and assist high-carbon enterprises in their attempts to reduce emissions.
For businesses, this paradigm shift represents a profound opportunity. The adoption of edge-centric approaches and the strategic integration of data-driven technologies empower companies to operate more efficiently and respond swiftly to evolving market demands. This synergy between sustainability and top performance underscores the importance of making environmental responsibility a fundamental element of digital transformation strategies.
As organisations align their technology with sustainability objectives, they unlock the potential of cloud computing, edge computing, and AI to optimise processes and drive efficiency. To fully harness this potential, effective data management, governance, security, and analytics form the bedrock for unlocking valuable insights that fuel revenue growth and expansion.
“The integration of sustainability and digital transformation necessitates strategic planning, precise data management, and unwavering commitment to innovation,” Mohit says. “By incorporating these elements, businesses position themselves for success in a future characterised by growth fueled by sustainability and technological advancement.”
This convergence of sustainability and digital transformation promises enhanced business performance, granting organisations a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving landscape. Furthermore, sustainability extends beyond ethical or efficiency considerations, serving as a wise investment in long-term resilience that strengthens businesses against disruptions and uncertainties.
Sustainable IT encompasses more than cloud migration, requiring an inclusive approach accommodating multi-generation systems, various cloud platforms, and the emerging realm of edge computing. This comprehensive approach paves the way for organisations to thrive in an increasingly interconnected and sustainable future.
Elevating customer experiences through a data-first approach is about understanding individual preferences, harnessing data analytics, and embracing innovation agility. Prioritising customer-centricity and strategic data utilisation enables businesses to forge deep connections with their audience, laying the foundation for sustainable growth.
Mohit recognises that data-driven insights fuel innovation, allowing organisations to introduce products and services aligned with customer preferences. Hence, adopting a “hybrid by design” approach involves seamlessly integrating efficient technologies, circular economy principles, and environmental factors into business strategies.
“This approach not only enhances competitiveness but also contributes to an eco-friendlier digital landscape,” Mohit observes.
Leveraging large-scale AI powered by renewable energy represents a significant stride toward sustainable IT practices, combining efficiency and environmental responsibility. By optimising workloads, minimising waste, and embracing circular economy principles, organisations can contribute to a more environmentally conscious technological landscape.
Mohit believes that to navigate the challenges in delivering sustainable and customer-centric experiences, businesses should integrate data security, sustainability, innovation, and adaptability into their approach. Ethical data practices, AI-driven insights, and flexibility are key elements in this endeavour.
Balancing data utilisation with stringent security measures is essential to maintain customer trust and avoid breaches. Harmonising innovation with sustainability objectives requires strategic decision-making.
“Ensuring data accuracy and reliability across various platforms is a consistent effort, and extracting meaningful insights from abundant data is crucial for informed decision-making,” Mohit concludes.
The pandemic has altered the nature of work considerably, requiring companies to find innovative strategies for ensuring continuity, boosting productivity and adaptability when handling emergency scenarios. One such adaptation has been the introduction of a hybrid work model, allowing employees to work from home for a portion of their workweek. Besides affording employees greater flexibility, this work model enables organisations to optimise their resource allocation.
Joseph Yang, Managing Director, Singapore at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, agrees that a hybrid work style can lead to cost savings in maintaining physical offices and related infrastructure. With employees able to work from anywhere with a strong internet connection, it also expands access to talent beyond the confines of a traditional office location.
Moreover, the adoption of a hybrid work model goes beyond its immediate benefits and significantly contributes to an organisation’s agility in navigating the dynamic and ever-changing business environment. This flexibility empowers companies to make swifter and more adept adjustments in response to shifting circumstances and emerging challenges.
Conversely, when organisations adopt a hybrid strategy, data bias often arises inadvertently, as Joseph shares. It is important that organisations acknowledge this issue and take a more proactive stance in addressing it. One approach involves harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) on a broader scale to transform data bias into a valuable source of intelligence.
AI proves particularly effective in identifying, managing, and rectifying bias, surpassing human capabilities in terms of accuracy and efficiency. As a result, AI is increasingly leveraged to mitigate data bias. It can swiftly and comprehensively analyse vast datasets, while also identifying potential bias-indicating patterns and providing relevant solutions.
Furthermore, AI possesses the capability to continuously evolve and enhance its bias-mitigation abilities through learning from newly acquired data. Consequently, the utilisation of AI can aid organisations not only in pinpointing existing biases within their data but also in proactively preventing the emergence of new biases in the future.
This strategic approach allows businesses to accelerate the adoption of a data-driven methodology that precedes and generates actionable insights. Consequently, organisational performance experiences a notable boost, and challenges related to information technology sustainability become more intricate, reflecting the rapid evolution of technology’s role in shaping businesses.
Joseph thinks that one of the pivotal domains for addressing this issue revolves around enhancing data centre efficiency. By implementing cooling solutions, transitioning to renewable energy sources, and designing data centres with energy-efficient layouts, organisations can significantly diminish their carbon footprint.
Furthermore, the adoption of lifecycle management techniques, data compression, and deduplication can curtail the demand for data storage and subsequently reduce energy consumption. Additional measures to mitigate the carbon footprint include decreasing travel through server virtualisation, promoting remote work arrangements and opting for environmentally conscious data storage solutions.
A commitment to sustainability, along with ongoing monitoring and transparent reporting, forms the cornerstone of an environmentally responsible data management strategy. This mindset can contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to information technology.
According to Joseph, the term “sustainable information technology” encompasses the adoption of information technology practices and tools that align with long-term sustainability objectives and demonstrate environmental consciousness. These strategies will significantly aid a more sustainable and eco-friendly approach to data management and technology infrastructure.
Joseph underscored the importance of thoughtfully selecting data centre locations that enable the implementation of efficient cooling systems and the utilisation of renewable energy sources. Just intentionally and strategically selecting locations can make substantial strides in reducing their carbon footprint and minimising their ecological impact.
Sustainable information technology not only benefits the environment, but also offers cost efficiencies, resource optimisation, and better operational results. This enables organisations to reduce energy consumption, reduce operational costs, improve resource allocation, and ensure business continuity through reduced downtime.
“Embracing sustainable information technology in line with increasingly stringent environmental regulations and customer expectations makes the organisation a responsible and forward-thinking entity in the modern business landscape,” Joseph concludes.
Architecting an intrinsically sustainable, data-first, and hybrid-by-design future represents a forward-looking approach that integrates three critical elements: sustainability, data-centricity, and hybrid infrastructure. This approach is poised to shape the future of businesses and technologies in an increasingly interconnected and eco-conscious world.
Ashutosh Sharan, Vice President of Customer Solutions for Southeast Asia at Mastercard, highlights Mastercard’s proactive involvement in various endeavours that fuse sustainability with digital transformation.
One noteworthy initiative is the introduction of the Priceless Planet Coalition, where Mastercard collaborates with organisations such as Conservation International to embark on an ambitious mission of restoring 100 million trees over five years. This undertaking ingeniously utilises technology to actively engage consumers in meaningful environmental conservation efforts.
Additionally, Mastercard remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing digital financial inclusion, particularly in underserved regions. Through the deployment of digital payment solutions, Mastercard aims to empower individuals economically, concurrently diminishing the dependence on cash transactions.
“Mastercard dedicates substantial data resources to propel sustainability initiatives.,” Ashutosh explains. “We analyse payment data and consumer behaviour to encourage environmentally conscious choices.”
The company also places a strong emphasis on supply chain sustainability, harnessing digital solutions to empower businesses in monitoring and enhancing the environmental footprint of their operations.
Furthermore, their initiatives to offer digital identity solutions for marginalised populations are aimed at bolstering financial access and sustainability within the digital economy.
Mastercard has established an ambitious objective of attaining carbon neutrality in its worldwide operations by the year 2050. To achieve this, they are actively integrating sustainable practices and cutting-edge technology to significantly diminish their carbon footprint.
Moreover, they are engaged in projects focused on smart cities and urban sustainability. These initiatives entail partnerships with cities to deploy digital solutions that enhance transportation systems and promote urban sustainability. In addition, Mastercard is dedicated to supporting digital education initiatives that advocate for sustainable practices among individuals and businesses alike.
Ashutosh acknowledges that aligning sustainability goals with customer expectations can be challenging due to factors such as insufficient awareness, conflicting priorities, and the perceived high costs associated with sustainable products. To overcome these obstacles, companies should implement clear and easily understandable communication strategies that highlight the mutual benefits of sustainability, while also providing incentives for making sustainable choices.
He further suggests that addressing the issue of limited product availability requires close collaboration with suppliers and partners, expanding accessibility through various means, and considering online sales options. Ensuring transparency within supply chains, adapting to evolving customer preferences, and demonstrating tangible and measurable sustainability impacts are all critical steps in meeting these challenges.
Building trust by avoiding greenwashing, tailoring sustainability efforts to local preferences, and proactively engaging and educating customers through events and collaborations are key strategies to align sustainability goals effectively with customer expectations. Ultimately, companies that prioritise transparency, education, and customer collaboration are better equipped to foster a shared commitment to sustainability with their customer base.
“Ensuring a consistent and seamless customer journey across various channels in a hybrid model necessitates a well-planned strategy,” Ashutosh explains. “It begins with centralising customer data through a CRM system, which serves as a foundation for personalisation.”
The significance of adopting an omnichannel approach, which entails maintaining consistent messaging, branding, and service standards across both physical and digital touchpoints, cannot be understated.
It is crucial for the integration of technologies to be seamless, enabling the smooth flow of data between these channels to facilitate effortless transitions for customers. This uniformity in branding, design, and messaging serves to reinforce brand recognition and build trust.
In Ashutosh’s view, personalisation driven by customer data is paramount, ensuring that customers feel genuinely understood and well-served, regardless of the channel they opt for. Providing a consistent customer support experience, whether through phone, email, chat, or in-person interactions, remains of utmost importance.
Ashutosh emphasises that mobile optimisation is absolutely crucial in today’s business landscape. Mobile experiences must align with and match the quality of desktop interactions. Moreover, he stresses the importance of continuous feedback collection and iterative improvement to ensure that customer experiences are constantly evolving and improving.
In addition, Ashutosh highlights the vital importance of robust cybersecurity measures and strict data privacy protocols. These are essential not only for protecting sensitive customer information but also for maintaining and reinforcing customer trust in the long term.
Dr. Tung Whye Loon, the Director of Data, AI & Research at SP Digital, a part of SP Group, spoke on how SP Digital has achieved successful integration of AI and data optimisation into various facets of its operations, reaping numerous advantages.
One noteworthy application is predictive maintenance, driven by AI, which allows SP Digital to anticipate equipment failures and proactively perform maintenance, thereby reducing unplanned downtime and bolstering asset reliability. Additionally, the utilisation of AI in demand forecasting optimises production and distribution, ensuring efficient operations and minimising issues like stockouts or surpluses.
“AI-driven fraud detection enhances customer protection and financial security, while customer segmentation enables more effective marketing campaigns through personalised targeting,” Dr Tung explains.
SP Digital is actively exploring additional applications of AI and data optimisation to continue advancing its operations. This encompasses streamlining energy consumption through the use of AI for scheduling production during off-peak hours and the implementation of demand-response programmes to manage energy demand more efficiently.
Furthermore, there is significant potential for enhancing customer service through AI. Chatbots and machine learning can play a pivotal role in addressing customer inquiries promptly and efficiently, while also identifying potential churn risks.
Additionally, AI-driven data analysis can be instrumental in fostering innovation. It can identify customer patterns and generate fresh ideas through natural language processing, thereby facilitating the development of innovative products and services.
These initiatives showcase SP Digital’s commitment to leveraging AI and data optimisation to transform its operations and enhance customer value, according to Dr Tung.
Harnessing the potential of large-scale AI for a data-first strategy requires a systematic approach aimed at transforming organisations into data-driven powerhouses. This journey commences with the meticulous collection and integration of data from diverse sources, with a focus on ensuring data quality and standardisation.
The application of AI-powered analytics, including machine learning and predictive models, then plays a pivotal role in unveiling hidden patterns and correlations within vast datasets, offering valuable insights crucial for informed decision-making.
Moreover, the establishment of scalable infrastructure, such as cloud computing and edge computing, becomes vital to accommodate the ever-expanding volumes of data and facilitate real-time analysis. Strong data governance practices, robust cybersecurity measures, and unwavering compliance with data privacy regulations are indispensable elements for safeguarding data integrity and security throughout this process.
Dr Tung stresses that actionable insights are derived through visualisation, reporting, and automated alerts, empowering stakeholders to make data-driven decisions.
“Continuous learning, feedback loops, and a data-first culture foster ongoing improvement, with cross-functional collaboration and measurable impact driving the adoption of AI-powered data strategies,” he believes. “Ethical considerations guide responsible AI and data practices, ensuring the ethical use of data and AI technologies throughout the organisation.”
In a resource-intensive, hybrid IT environment, achieving a harmonious blend of innovation and sustainability is paramount. This can be accomplished by embracing a multi-faceted approach that addresses both technological advancement and ecological responsibility. Organisations should prioritise energy efficiency and renewable resources to power their IT infrastructure, complemented by data centre optimisation techniques that reduce resource wastage.
Dr Tung believes that embracing cloud computing and hybrid models allows for dynamic resource allocation, minimising energy consumption, “Circular economy principles encourage the recycling and reusing of IT equipment, further reducing environmental impact.”
Additionally, encouraging innovation for sustainability promotes the development of green IT solutions and the integration of emerging technologies to optimise resource utilisation. Effective data optimisation and management strategies minimise data redundancy, leading to lower storage and processing requirements.
Dr Tung firmly believes that involving employees in sustainable practices and regularly monitoring key performance indicators related to sustainability serves as the foundation for nurturing a culture of accountability within the organisation.
By adhering to environmental regulations and actively collaborating with eco-conscious suppliers, the organisation ensures that sustainability remains a central focus in its IT operations. This commitment to sustainability underscores the organisation’s dedication to responsible environmental stewardship.
By implementing these strategies, organisations can effectively balance the demands of innovation with sustainability in resource-intensive, hybrid IT environments, reducing their environmental footprint and contributing to a greener, more responsible future.
Joseph Yang, the Managing Director of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in Singapore, revealed that HPE encounters various sustainability challenges in its pursuit of sustainability goals. Among these challenges, one major concern is the substantial energy consumption associated with its data centres and manufacturing facilities.
Addressing these energy-related issues is a crucial aspect of the company’s sustainability mission. HPE has successfully implemented strategies to diminish energy consumption without compromising operational efficiency, thereby mitigating its environmental impact.
Additionally, being a technology company, HPE faces the challenge of managing electronic waste (e-waste) stemming from outdated equipment. To address this issue responsibly, HPE emphasises the need for proper disposal and recycling methods to minimise environmental harm associated with e-waste disposal.
HPE confronts significant challenges in its sustainability initiatives, including the need to ensure the sustainability of its extensive supply chain. This encompasses responsible material sourcing and ethical labour practices, both of which require diligent management and oversight.
Moreover, HPE faces the intricate task of balancing data privacy and security concerns with its sustainability objectives. This balancing act underscores the complexity of HPE’s sustainability efforts, as it strives to uphold its commitment to sustainability while safeguarding sensitive data and ensuring robust cybersecurity measures are in place.
Joseph notes that HPE acknowledges several sustainability opportunities within its operations. One significant avenue involves embracing energy-efficient technologies and adopting sustainable practices within its data centres and facilities. This approach presents an opportunity to reduce energy consumption without compromising performance, aligning with HPE’s commitment to sustainability.
Joseph is confident that HPE can further capitalise on circular economy principles by refurbishing and repurposing old IT equipment, promoting recycling, and extending product lifecycles. Collaborating with suppliers and partners enables HPE to drive sustainability throughout its supply chain, from responsible material sourcing to reduced emissions in logistics and transportation.
Leveraging its technological expertise, HPE can innovate sustainable IT solutions, such as energy-efficient servers and environmentally friendly data storage, he says. Harnessing data analytics and AI allows HPE to optimise operations for sustainability, including predictive maintenance to reduce energy consumption and data-driven supply chain improvements.
HPE’s engagement with customers through green IT solutions and services, along with a dedication to regulatory compliance, enhances the company’s reputation as a responsible and sustainable organisation.
“By addressing sustainability challenges and capitalising on opportunities, HPE is well-positioned to align its business objectives with environmental and social responsibility” Joseph concludes. “Ultimately, we are contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future for all.”
Alexis Crowell, Vice President and CTO, Sales, Marketing and Communications Group – Asia Pacific and Japan, Intel reiterated the significance of implementing and seamlessly integrating data within the organisation to enhance customer satisfaction. By maintaining a robust data history, services can be tailored to better align with the individual needs of customers, ensuring greater personalisation and relevance.
Well-integrated data allows organisations to respond quickly to customer issues or complaints, which can improve company image and build customer trust. Additionally, this data-driven approach empowers organisations to identify trends and patterns in customer behaviour, which can then be leveraged to formulate more potent and effective marketing strategies.
Alexis believes that effective data management not only enhances customer satisfaction but also enables organisations to streamline their internal processes, leading to cost reductions and improved overall efficiency. Consequently, prioritising data integrity and quality represents a valuable investment in the pursuit of long-term success for any organisation.
Alexis added that it is possible to align data-based organisations with information technology sustainability. This strategic focus not only promotes eco-friendly practices but also fosters long-term resilience and responsible stewardship of resources in the digital age.
“Organisations do not need to worry about not being able to achieve harmony between efficient and sustainable use of information technology,” she argues. “With the right commitment and smart investments, every organisation can take steps towards sustainable, environmentally friendly data management.”
Mohit emphasised the crucial role of engaging the entire organisation in this ongoing journey, asserting that it’s not solely the responsibility of the IT department. The far-reaching effects and advantages of sustainable information technology reverberate throughout the entire organisation.
He believes that ample resources and support are readily accessible to organisations aspiring to embark on the path of information technology sustainability. These resources encompass a spectrum of tools, expert guidance, best practices and collaborative networks, all designed to facilitate a smooth and successful transition toward sustainable technology practices.
“By tapping into these available resources, organisations can navigate the complexities of sustainability initiatives with confidence and vigour, fostering a brighter future for both their operations and the planet,” Mohit is convinced.
In closing, Mohit extended his gratitude to all the delegates for their presence and active participation. He firmly believes that their invaluable insights and contributions not only enriched the discussions but also solidified a collective commitment to forging a sustainable and progressive future.