Image: Ms. Pia Waugh on the big screen at the Inspire Centre, University of Canberra during GovHack event (cropped from photo by Gavin Tapp)
The Service Innovation Team in the Department of Internal Affairs(DIA) in New Zealand government has embarked on an exciting three-month experiment, called Lab+, for testing a new model of government services based on the concept of “government as a platform.”
It is a part of the New Zealand government’s Better Public Services Result 10 agenda (“New Zealanders can complete their transactions with government easily in a digital environment”).
OpenGov contacted Ms. Pia Waugh1, who is leading Lab+ to learn more about the experiment.
Can you give us an introduction to Lab+ and the idea and drivers behind it?
Life is about people, not agencies. When people contact government they usually want to do something broader than the agency’s scope, but often services reflect agency priorities and silos. As we move to a digital-by-default model of service provision we need to place customers at the centre of service design but we also need a model for agencies to enable cross-agency, cross-government and cross-sector service delivery.
Lab+ is an experiment to explore how we can do this in a sustainable, scalable and effective way, that taps into the needs and natural motivations of individuals, agencies, private/community sectors, and the system as a whole.
We are not simply looking to digitise government, but rather we are exploring "government as a platform", how it was always supposed to be. An ecosystem of service delivery where government provides the authoritative data, content, transaction services and business rules for not just improving its own service delivery, but also enabling others to build on top.
Lab+ is also an “innovation lab” for government providing a mechanism to bring together design, technology, information management and agile development for more rapid and targeted service design and development. Lab+ is one of the cross-agency teams based in the Service Innovation Lab, which is itself an experiment in providing collaborative spaces, coaching and tools for service delivery teams to work differently. Lab+ relies on and could not work without the Lab environment.
How was the team formed, bringing in representatives from across government? How is the private sector participating?
At this stage, it is a small experiment involving some highly skilled public servants from several agencies as well as private sector companies providing a collaborative space, additional expertise and capacity where required. It is a perfect blend of the best of both worlds, with the strategy and vision being driven, co-designed and implemented by a diverse range of skills, experience and perspectives that span the private and public sectors. We have also made the effort to build a team of creative thinkers from different disciplines including design, technology and dev, information, policy and data science.
But our team extends a lot further. We are taking an open approach by making all our thinking, design, research, development and code available as it is done. In this way, our "team" is not limited to the people in the room, but rather we can draw on clever and motivated individuals all over the world to contribute their ideas, provide peer review on our work, and test our assumptions and prototyping. We consider openness a key tenet to developing the kinds of government services and policies that people need in the 21st century.
What would you describe as the key characteristics of the approach being used for this experiment?
Open, co-designed, inclusive, scientifically approached, multi-disciplinary, empowering, and big picture.
We are not just building a new service. We are testing a fundamental model change for government. We are not just applying future thinking design, information and technology principles, we are considering how the system as a whole needs to work if government is to be a sustainable enabler of a better society and the digital economy,
What kind of life events the team might be looking at? What would be the process for the discovery of the two candidate life events?
We will talk about which life events in the coming weeks, but our process is both quite straightforward, and quite innovative. We are, of course, following a service design approach to determine the user needs, journey mapping, pain points and to inform a user centred design. However, we are also treating the broader system (agencies, non-government service providers, and developers) as users, and mapping their needs as well. We are also looking at the system as a whole which naturally traverses agencies and sectors, and analysing user research and other service design work done by individual agencies to date to inform, validate and test our assumptions about the user needs.
We are taking our discovery work above and using it to build a mockup future state "service" from the users’ perspective. This future state will purposefully not be constrained by sector, agency, technology, legislation or any other form of limitation, but rather will imagine what "good" could look like from a user’s perspective. Usually, user centred design results in a minimal viable product (MVP) that tries to simply solve one problem for the user, or to improve existing services, but our hypothesis is that this approach is actually reinforcing the status quo with shiny new user interfaces, which doesn't fundamentally change very much.
This future state mockup then allows us to extrapolate two things. Firstly, a true MVP can be built that has 5-15% of the functionality of the future state, meaning you can both improve the users experience straight away whilst also being able to then iterate your way towards something transformative.
The second thing the future state provides is a vision for what good looks like, which we can test with users and use to understand what is needed. We can effectively reverse engineer this mockup to identify the functional requirements for government to deliver such services. It will help us identify the common capabilities we need as well as what is needed from individual agencies in how they expose their data, content, transaction services and business rules for their own consumption, and for non-government reuse. We intend to also document examples of good that already exist across government and how they can contribute to a broader systemic change.
Can you tell us more about the concept of ‘verifiable claims’?
This concept is one of my favourites for government. The context is that a lot of "digital government" initiatives just assume the underpinning process should be automated, but what if we could do things fundamentally better.
Many processes in government were established before computers, in the analog days of paper (or possibly stone tablets) and other physical artefacts. Oftentimes we have built digital processes that mimic these ideas. Consider the plague of electronic documents generated in government, and how much money has been spent in trying to manage, version control and archive these "digital assets" when we often don't need a document at all. We can communicate through myriad means including messaging, wikis, data and many more. But fundamentally, we have duplicated analog communications by continually transferring knowledge through human communications rather than machine to machine.
Why do we develop government budgets and then publish them in a PDF? Why do we develop regulations and legislation (arguably the business logic of government and the economy) and then publish them in lawyer speak, from which a lawyer has to translate into a business logic for consumption and use in the business? The answer is that we have not yet recognised the efficiency and benefits of digital communications of ideas, rules and processes.
New technologies enable us, and the incredible machines we build, to work in completely new ways. Why would you ask someone to send you 10 pieces of information that you can then use to validate their claim of eligibility when you could make the rules of eligibility available, and simply ask them (or an agent on their behalf, like an employer or bank) whether they meet the eligibility test? Why not differentiate between information we need to share for its own sake (a name perhaps, to establish a customer record), and information that we currently just use to validate a claim?
If we were to adopt a verifiable claims approach to the business of government, two key benefits emerge. Firstly, the citizen has improved control and privacy because they don't need to have bits of their information being copied and pasted to systems all over government. Citizens also don't have to share personal information, like how much they earn, to verify they meet the criteria, for example a means test. Similarly, you shouldn't have to share your name, date of birth and address to buy alcohol if you can prove you are over 18.
The benefit for government in this approach is the significant reduction in processing, data transfer, storage and other systems. When combined with user consent based information sharing government can also get rid of the need to validate paper artefacts as authentic, because the user would be able to either share a verified claim condition, or authorise the sharing of digital information from the authoritative source.
Can you give us some example of how verifiable claims might be implemented in practice?
Blockchain would be an appropriate technology to deploy for the implementation of verifiable claims. A means test is a good example of how that would work. Here are the business rules of the means test. Let’s publish the business rules and then let’s have a blockchain transaction that says if you agree for us to speak to the taxation department or your bank or your employer then we can effectively do another transaction with them and ask the questions to decide if the person meets the means test based on these rules. It would then verify that claim and produce an immutable record that captures the rules of that transaction at that point of time and the result is of that transaction.
As I mentioned earlier, this would enable us to differentiate between sharing information because it needs to be shared and verifying claims based on conditional questions where you don’t actually need to share the information.
What are the expected outcomes of this experiment? What would success look like?
We intend to show what good could look like, both in the future and today. We will deliver a first iteration service based on a life event that can then be iterated towards a genuinely transformative future state.
We will provide demonstrator reusable services for existing services to consume. Success will be in testing our design and technical assumptions, in understanding what a true user centric service could look like, in understanding what government needs to do to move in this direction, in testing whether the innovation lab model delivers better services, in validating with the broader community and industry their needs and potential role in this model of service delivery, and in understanding the broader benefits of new approaches to government services.
We will also measure success through the improvements for the user in the MVP service. Ideally, should this experiment be successful, measuring and monitoring success would require all of a government services analytics capability, but we will do our best to approach this experiment as scientifically as we can.
What are the biggest challenges foreseen?
We don't actually expect any major challenges, apart from charting new ground. The time is right, the conditions are favourable, the people and agencies are supportive, and New Zealand has some of the most mature thinking and effort I have personally encountered in this space. It is such a pleasure and privilege to work with such innovative and forward thinking people, not just in our team, but across all the public sector and broader community. This is a short, sharp 3-month experiment that we have designed intentionally to not rely on any one factor, so that every new collaboration, function or opportunity is sugar on top. Every lesson learned will be a step forward for New Zealand, and this is an opportunity to do something quite remarkable. The DIA’s Service Innovation team, wlook forward to sharing with you our progress and success in a couple of months time. Please follow along at @NZLifeEvents or the Service Innovation Lab posts at https://webtoolkit.govt.nz/blog/tag/service-innovation-lab/
1Ms. Pia Waugh has extensive experience working in the public sector to enable greater transparency, democratic engagement, citizen-centric design and real, pragmatic actual innovation in the public sector and beyond. In September 2016, Ms. Waugh started working at Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) the Australian financial intelligence and regulation agency, looking at international engagement, open data and APIs, and introducing hackathons for the financial sector. Her previous positions include Director for Data Infrastructure and Government Engagement in the Australian Government Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and prior to that, Director for Gov 2.0 and Coordination, Technology and Procurement Division at the Department of Finance in Australia.
Senior Minister of State Dr Janil Puthucheary expressed his appreciation for the Singtel Cyber ELEVATE programme, highlighting its focus on bolstering cyber resilience among Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This initiative demonstrates the importance of collective efforts in nurturing a strong cybersecurity ecosystem.
SMS Janil emphasised the critical role cybersecurity plays in realising Singapore’s Smart Nation vision. Trust in digitalisation and technology is paramount for individuals, businesses, and the nation as a whole. Maintaining this trust hinges on robust cybersecurity measures, as one breach can erode confidence and deter digital adoption.
The article underscores the significance of cybersecurity for businesses, both large corporations and SMEs. Just as individuals rely on technology for convenience and efficiency, companies harness digitalisation to reduce costs and explore new opportunities. However, poor cybersecurity can undermine trust, dissuading customers and employees from engaging with a business’s digital tools.
While SMEs may perceive cybersecurity as a daunting challenge due to limited resources, they possess an advantage in their relatively smaller attack surface. Implementing basic cybersecurity measures, such as antivirus software and data backups, can significantly improve their security posture. The government, through the Cyber Security Agency (CSA), offers resources and support to help SMEs enhance their cybersecurity.
The article also highlights CSA’s Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs)-as-a-Service scheme, which provides SMEs with funding support and tailored cybersecurity plans. The Cyber Essential and Cyber Trust marks, part of a certification scheme, enable organisations to demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity, differentiating them in the market.
SMS Janil encourages businesses to adopt these cybersecurity initiatives, emphasising that cybersecurity is a collective effort that involves the government, industry, and the community. The Singtel Cyber ELEVATE Programme is cited as a prime example of such collaborative efforts. The programme offers workshops and incident response assistance to SMEs, with substantial funding support through SSG grants.
By stressing that cybersecurity is fundamental for Singapore’s digitalisation journey and calling on all stakeholders to contribute to strengthening the nation’s cyber defences. The Minister emphasises that active participation and commitment to cybersecurity are essential for collective advancement and a secure digital future.
Further, OpenGov Asia recently reported that the enduring warmth between Singapore and Canada finds new purpose in their robust bilateral cooperation, now extending to the realm of cybersecurity through the renewed Canada-Singapore Cybersecurity Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This partnership underscores the paramount importance of a secure cyberspace.
One key aspect of this agreement is the facilitated exchange of critical cybersecurity information, enabling both nations to swiftly share threat intelligence, indicators, and best practices. This real-time sharing equips them to respond effectively to emerging cyber threats.
Also, the MoU places a strong emphasis on skill development, recognising the rapidly evolving nature of cybersecurity. By investing in the growth of their cybersecurity professionals, Canada and Singapore ensure they stay well-prepared and up-to-date with the latest techniques and technologies, fortifying their cyber defences.
Capacity building is another significant facet of the MoU. It empowers both nations to develop the necessary capabilities for rapid cyber incident response, including tools, processes, and expertise.
Beyond national borders, this collaboration has global implications, strengthening both countries’ positions in international cybersecurity discussions and partnerships. It underscores the importance of international cooperation in addressing the borderless challenge of cybersecurity.
The MoU also protects important assets and business interests in both countries, which is important for keeping the economy stable and safe in today’s digital, interconnected world.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) has collaborated with an organisation that provides a platform of programs and initiatives aimed at creating one global entrepreneurial ecosystem on a mission to facilitate tech innovators’ access to global growth opportunities while extending Hong Kong’s tech innovation ecosystem to the organisation’s network of 200 markets worldwide.
The organisation is a global community dedicated to fostering cross-border cooperation among tech entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers, and entrepreneurial support organisations and aims to simplify the process of launching and scaling tech businesses across the globe.
In July 2023, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the organisation’s Founder and the President and Chairman of HKSTP. It committed both parties to support entrepreneurship in ASEAN countries. To expedite this partnership, HKSTP led a delegation to the organisation’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2023 in Melbourne, comprising emerging tech startups and business leaders from Hong Kong.
The delegation represented Hong Kong’s innovation and technology (I&T) ecosystem and explored collaboration prospects with their the organisation counterparts across the globe. This infusion of new talent and tech ventures further reinforces Hong Kong’s ambition to become an international I&T hub, offering opportunities for tech innovators worldwide.
The Chief Corporate Development Officer of HKSTP stated that the Park is strongly committed to elevating collaboration with the worldwide tech innovation community within the framework of its partnership with the organisation. Entrepreneurs globally confront shared obstacles when progressing from the startup phase to scaling their ventures.
Entrepreneurs globally confront shared obstacles when progressing from the startup phase to scaling their ventures. Hong Kong’s exceptional, cohesive innovation ecosystem grants them access to worldwide opportunities in terms of funding, research and development, talent, and market entry. The shared vision revolves around nurturing global innovation and broadening their individual ecosystems to attain unprecedented levels of achievement.
The collaboration between HKSTP and the organisation entails mutual exchange programs and activities aimed at promoting cross-border and cross-sector collaboration, with a specific focus on tech sectors such as Green Tech, Life Sciences, Advanced Manufacturing, SmartCity, Mobility, AI, and Fintech. The organisation’s annual flagship events, including Global Entrepreneurship Week and the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, offer ideal platforms for extending Hong Kong’s I&T ecosystem into new markets.
The delegation engaged with representatives from the Australian startup community, universities, government bodies, and tech investors to further explore tech-related business and collaboration opportunities. Furthermore, the delegation shared experiences and exchanged ideas with Australian tech ventures interested in gaining insights into and exploring the Hong Kong tech market.
HKSTP also introduced its Market Discovery Programme in Hong Kong, specifically targeting enterprises interested in expanding into tech markets in Hong Kong, the Greater Bay Area (GBA), and mainland China. This two-day intensive programme, scheduled for early November 2023, will feature seminars, tours, and networking opportunities designed to connect tech entrepreneurs with experts, investors, corporate leaders, and successful entrepreneurs with experience in expanding their tech businesses within the region. The invitation-only program is offered free of charge, and participants will have the opportunity to experience the InnoCell smart living co-creation space at the Science Park, fostering collaboration with HKSTP’s I&T talents.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that HKSTP and an American financial services company saw the graduation of over 100 students from the NxTEC (Next Technologist Entrepreneurial Champion) Career Launcher programme.
This highlighted the joint efforts of these organisations to address the growing demand for tech talent in Hong Kong. The graduates completed a rigorous training programme designed to secure job placements at more than 60 HKSTP partner companies. The graduation ceremony, attended by both the graduates and their employers, as well as volunteers from the American financial services company, marked a significant milestone in their journey.
The Department of Telecommunications (DOT), in partnership with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), will conduct extensive testing of the Cell Broadcast Alert System. This effort is aimed at strengthening emergency communication during disasters and enhancing safety measures to protect the public.
The Cell Broadcast Alert System is an advanced technology that enables authorities to disseminate vital and time-critical disaster management messages to all mobile devices in specific geographic regions. This includes both residents and visitors, ensuring that crucial emergency information reaches as many individuals as possible promptly.
Government agencies and emergency services employ Cell Broadcasts to inform the public about possible threats and deliver vital updates during critical situations. This technology is commonly used for issuing emergency alerts like severe weather warnings (tsunamis, flash floods, earthquakes), public safety notifications, evacuation instructions, and other critical information.
The Cell Broadcast Alert System will undergo rigorous testing with multiple telecom service providers. These tests will be conducted periodically in various regions across the country to evaluate the emergency alert broadcasting capabilities of different mobile operators and cell broadcast systems for efficiency and effectiveness. As part of this endeavour, tests are being conducted in different states across India, with Punjab being the next state on the testing schedule for 29 September.
In a press release, DOT said that it is responsible for formulating developmental policies to accelerate the growth of the telecommunications sector in India. “Our mission is to ensure access to affordable and effective telecommunications services for all citizens while promoting innovation and safeguarding national security interests.”
The proliferation of digitalisation in both service and manufacturing domains has ushered in a global transformation. In recent years, the demand for digital connectivity has grown, and this vital role was highlighted during the pandemic, when there was a surge in demand across user segments, regardless of their geographical locations.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been overseeing the quality of telecom services nationwide through comprehensive studies and by issuing directives to stakeholders to improve facilities. Although there have been notable enhancements in the coverage of telecom services outdoors, there are still gaps in meeting the expected quality of service within buildings, whether they are residential or commercial areas.
Ensuring the quality of telecommunication services within buildings is a vital aspect of safeguarding consumer interests. TRAI has already implemented several policy initiatives, including the Recommendation issued on 20 February 2023, regarding the “Rating of Buildings or Areas for Digital Connectivity.” These recommendations establish an introduction for building ratings, aiming to deliver a satisfactory digital connectivity experience to consumers through a collaborative and self-sustainable approach.
To establish a regulatory framework, TRAI has indicated in its observations that it intends to develop the necessary regulations for the Rating of Buildings. It recently issued a consultation paper titled “Regulation on Rating Framework for Digital Connectivity in Buildings or Areas.” It deliberates on the regulatory measures needed to implement a rating framework.
The paper underscores the necessity of a rating system that not only caters to the current consumer expectations but is also adaptable for future expansion and upgrades. It should allow for evolving technologies and shifts in user demands. The paper also explores the benefits of a rating framework for end-users, service providers, and the broader ecosystem.
The consultation paper provides an overview of the ‘Rating Framework for Digital Connectivity’ based on international practices and existing rating frameworks such as GRIHA or Credit Rating in India. The consultation paper along with draft regulations have been uploaded to TRAI’s website, seeking inputs from the stakeholders and telecom consumers. Written comments will be accepted by 10 November and counter-comments by 24 November.
The National Cyber and Crypto Agency of the Republic of Indonesia (BSSN RI), in a joint effort with 18 Regional Governments (Pemda), has embarked on a collaborative initiative. Their objective is to safeguard the integrity and sovereignty of the nation against an array of cyber threats that have become increasingly prevalent in today’s digital landscape. To formalise this commitment and ensure a unified front in addressing cyber threats, they signed a Cooperation Agreement (PKS) focused on utilising Electronic Certificates.
Through Presidential Regulation Number 95 of 2018 concerning the Electronic-Based Government System (SPBE), the government strives to realise clean, effective, transparent, and accountable governance and quality and reliable public services. Therefore, implementing SPBE as a form of digital transformation is a necessity carried out by every government institution.
The Chief Secretary of BSSN, Susilo Wibowo, conveyed that BSSN, through the Electronic Certification Institute (BSrE), provides electronic certification services to support information security in e-government implementation.
“At present, BSrE has been officially designated as an Electronic Certification Authority for Agencies based on the Recognition Decree Number 103 of 2022 from the Ministry of Communication and Informatics of the Republic of Indonesia,” he stated.
Furthermore, Susilo explained that by using electronic certificates in Electronic Signature services, BSrE builds trust by providing three aspects of information security based on asymmetric cryptography systems: authentication assurance, integrity assurance, and non-repudiation assurance.
“With the use of TTE, in addition to security aspects, it is hoped to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of bureaucratic processes, thereby creating easily accessible, fast, and straightforward public services in data processing, as well as the availability of accurate data,” he elaborated.
It should also be noted that as the Single Agency for Electronic Certification Providers, BSrE BSSN has the responsibility to provide electronic certificate services to meet the needs of 5.2 million government employees, military personnel and police officers. As of September 25, 2023, BSrE has issued over 335,000 electronic certificates integrated into 967 electronic systems.
Susilo envisioned that the 18 Regional Governments present and BSrE BSSN can implement the agreed-upon points with full commitment to realising work effectiveness, integrated work patterns, sustainability, and the successful utilisation of electronic certificates in the future.
The meeting was attended by the Regent, Mayor, Regional Secretary, Head of the Regional Information and Communication Agency, and officials from both Regional Governments and BSSN.
The 18 Regional Governments (Pemda) involved in the PKS are the North Sulawesi Provincial Government, Bandar Lampung City Government, Bungo Regency Government, South Buton Regency Government, Cirebon Regency Government, Garut Regency Government, Gayo Lues Regency Government, Katingan Regency Government, Lebak Regency Government, Merauke Regency Government, South Nias Regency Government, Parigi Moutong Regency Government, West Pasaman Regency Government, Sleman Regency Government, Sumedang Regency Government, Sukoharjo Regency Government, Raja Ampat Regency Government, and Tanah Bumbu Regency Government.
It marks the seriousness of BSSN in its commitment to fostering not only the security of the nation but also the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations. The collaboration with 18 Regional Governments underscores the collective effort to strengthen the cybersecurity infrastructure, ensuring it remains robust in the face of evolving cyber threats.
The Centre for Responsible Artificial Intelligence (CeRAI) at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has announced its collaboration with a prominent private telecommunications company for joint research endeavours in the realm of Responsible AI.
The private company entered into an agreement to become a Platinum Consortium Member of CeRAI for five years. Under this partnership, it will provide support and actively participate in all research initiatives carried out by CeRAI. AI research is of high importance to the telecommunications company, given that AI algorithms will play a crucial role in the autonomous operation of 6G networks.
6G and future networks aim to seamlessly integrate the physical and digital realms, facilitating immersive AR/VR experiences. With AI-managed sensors bridging the gap between humans and machines, responsible AI practices become imperative to uphold trust, fairness, and privacy compliance. The focus of the project revolves around pioneering advanced techniques that augment trust and transparency in AI algorithms for the greater benefit of the public. The partnership aligns with the government’s vision for the Bharat 6G programme.
An official noted that future networks will facilitate easier access to high-performing AI systems. It is imperative to embed responsible AI principles right from the inception of these systems. Many critical applications will be deployed on mobile phones and other devices through these networks. New research is required to ensure that AI models and their predictions are explainable and to provide performance guarantees that align with the applications they serve.
IIT-Madras held a Symposium on Responsible AI for Networks of the Future to commemorate the partnership. It brought together officials from the private company and IIT-Madras to engage in discussions about advancements and innovations for responsible AI. According to an official from IIT-Madras, research in AI will produce the tools necessary for running future businesses. IIT-Madras is committed to conducting impactful translational research in partnership with industry stakeholders. During the symposium some of the current research activities being carried out at CeRAI were showcased, including:
Project on Large-Language Models in Healthcare:
It identifies biases shown by these models, develops scoring methods to assess their practicality in real-world applications, and mitigates biases within LLMs. Custom-scoring methods are being crafted based on the Risk Management Framework (RMF) outlined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a U.S. federal agency dedicated to advancing measurement science and standards.
Project on Participatory AI:
It addresses the black-box nature of AI across different stages, including the pre-development, design, development and training, deployment, post-deployment, and audit stages. Drawing inspiration from fields like urban planning and forest rights, the project studies governance mechanisms that empower stakeholders to offer valuable insights to improve the accuracy and reliability of AI and raise concerns about potential adverse effects.
Project on Interpretability of Attention-Based Models:
It delves into the intricacies of generative AI models based on attention mechanisms, which have garnered substantial attention because of their outstanding performance in tasks like machine translation, image summarisation, text generation, and healthcare. However, the models are complex and difficult for users to interpret. The project explores the conditions under which these models are accurate but fail to be interpretable, the development of algorithms to enhance their interpretability, and understanding which patterns in the data these models tend to learn.
Digitalisation has resulted in a paradigm shift in the delivery and accessibility of healthcare services. Telehealth programmes, made possible by digital technologies, are linking patients with healthcare practitioners across geographic boundaries. This has been especially helpful in countries such as the Philippines, where distant and underserved areas frequently struggle to get excellent healthcare services.
During the 9th Balik Scientists Programme Annual Convention, Dr Jaime Montoya, Executive Director of the Department of Science and Technology Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) stated that the biggest impact of digitalisation in the healthcare sector is accelerating universal healthcare where it is a dream that all Filipinos will have access and covered of healthcare.
He added that in terms of universal healthcare, digitalisation is making it simpler to reach out to neglected people and guarantee they receive the necessary healthcare services. Hence, digital tools are bridging the gap between healthcare providers and patients, whether through mobile health apps, remote monitoring devices, or teleconsultations.
He believes that through technology, everything could be easier. He gave the RxBox as an example of connecting Filipinos in remote areas to access health services that could only be seen in the cities. He highlights the prioritisation of the health information system integration in the Philippines with the help of the national ID system to ensure speedier services.
Besides, the integration of digital health records and telemedicine platforms has simplified patient care by allowing healthcare practitioners to quickly access vital information. This not only improves care quality but also leads to better patient outcomes, “This would be accomplished more quickly with the help of our Balik Scientists.”
RxBox is a biomedical device that was made by Filipino researchers from UP Manila and UP Diliman with help from DOST-PCHRD. It can measure a patient’s temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, uterine movements, and electrocardiogram readings.
With its easy-to-use layout and high-resolution screen, patients can easily keep an eye on their health and share this information with their healthcare provider. This lets doctors act quickly and cuts down on the need for face-to-face visits.
The RxBox Detection and Communication (RxDETEC) mobile app is built into every device. It can keep and send logs from medical sensors that are connected and information about patients, like their age, gender, and the type of case they are having.
Along with training and orienting staff from COVID-19-selected healthcare facilities and regional or local DoST offices, the RxBox 1000 Project also wants to keep an eye on how health workers use the devices for things like referrals and other telehealth activities.
In addition, DOST Secretary Renato Solidum, Jr stated that digital transformation will affect all industries. The telehealth instrument RxBox has already been applied in the healthcare industry and is being improved.
The Secretary added that six out of ten Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor. Hence, he has advised that all medical practitioners create telehealth tools such as sensors over the Internet so that patients, particularly those in remote places, can quickly reach medical practitioners.
While issues such as internet connectivity and digital literacy persist, the Philippines is making great progress in utilising digitalisation to promote telemedicine and move towards universal healthcare coverage. This shift is laying the path for a more equal and healthy future for all Filipinos.
With this, Secretary Renato emphasised the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration among Filipino scientists and called for support for research and development. He also stresses the role of the Balik Scientist Programme in nurturing scientific inquiry and driving progress in the country, concluding with a call to continue advancing and thriving on the global stage through science and innovation.
ANSTO has received a substantial allocation of Federal Government funding, marking a significant development in the effort to ensure the continued production of crucial nuclear medicines in Australia. At the Lucas Heights campus of ANSTO, the plans for a state-of-the-art Nuclear Medicine Facility were unveiled by the Minister for Industry and Science. This new facility will replace the ageing Nuclear Medicine Processing and Distribution Facility, which was initially established in 1959 for research purposes.
On a weekly basis, ANSTO plays a pivotal role in producing nuclear medicines that facilitate between 10,000 and 12,000 medical procedures across Australian hospitals and clinics. Over the years, ANSTO has expanded its production capabilities to encompass various nuclear medicines, making it the primary supplier of approximately 75%-80% of nuclear medicines used in Australia. Among the critical substances they produce is molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), dispatched into ANSTO’s Gentech® Generators. Mo-99 naturally decays into technetium-99 (Tc-99m), the most widely used radioisotope in nuclear medicine worldwide.
The Lucas Heights campus of ANSTO houses a nuclear medicine precinct comprising three key facilities: the OPAL multipurpose research reactor, the Molybdenum-99 Manufacturing Facility, and the ageing Nuclear Medicine Processing and Distribution Facility.
Alongside the Minister, the Acting CEO for ANSTO expressed his appreciation for the enhanced funding aimed at securing Australia’s sovereign capabilities in domestic nuclear medicine manufacturing. He emphasised that the new Nuclear Medicine Facility represents a critical advancement in the technological aspect of nuclear medicine production.
This purpose-built facility will establish a more sophisticated nuclear medicine precinct that streamlines the manufacturing and distribution chain. It is designed to provide ANSTO with the flexibility required to adapt to evolving manufacturing technologies and cater to the changing demands of the radiopharmaceutical market. This flexibility is especially crucial as the rates of diagnosis for illnesses such as cancer continue to rise. Moreover, the facility will empower ANSTO to meet the surging demand for nuclear medicines from hospitals and medical clinics while also capitalizing on ANSTO’s radiopharmaceutical research and development and collaborations within the medical industry.
The current facility, where the final production stage of most of ANSTO’s nuclear medicines occurs before dispatch, is an ageing structure originally constructed as a research laboratory in the late 1950s. Despite extensive renovations and modifications to transform it into a nuclear medicine manufacturing facility, it is nearing the end of its operational lifespan. The funding received will not only support the construction of the new Nuclear Medicine Facility but also facilitate the ongoing maintenance of the existing facility until the new one becomes operational, which is expected in the mid-2030s.
The Federal Government’s allocation of funds to ANSTO represents a significant technological leap forward in ensuring the continued production of life-saving nuclear medicines in Australia. The establishment of the new Nuclear Medicine Facility at the Lucas Heights campus is a critical step toward modernizing the production process, enhancing flexibility, and meeting the growing demand for nuclear medicines while bolstering research and development efforts in the field of radiopharmaceuticals. This investment not only secures Australia’s sovereign capabilities but also reinforces its position in the global nuclear medicine industry.
The Federal Government’s funding allocation for ANSTO’s new Nuclear Medicine Facility at Lucas Heights aligns with Australia’s tech goals by promoting innovation in healthcare technology, fostering collaboration within the medical industry, enhancing sovereign capabilities, and supporting research and development in radiopharmaceuticals.
It also ensures technological resilience, strengthens global competitiveness, and underscores the importance of long-term planning for critical technology infrastructure. This investment signifies the government’s commitment to leveraging technology to advance healthcare and bolster Australia’s position in the global technology landscape while addressing national security concerns related to nuclear medicine production.
OpenGov Asia reported that 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.