When one is to define what Artificial Intelligence (AI), they may be quick to say that it is the technology being used by Ironman in the Marvel movies. While that is AI, we are far from achieving that. So, what is AI and how are we using AI in the world today?
OpenGov had the honour of interviewing Prof. Chen Tsuhan, Deputy President (Research and Technology) and Distinguished Professor at National University of Singapore (NUS). He also serves as the Chief Scientist of AI Singapore, a national programme in artificial intelligence.
Prof. Chen is a renowned expert in pattern recognition, computer vision and machine learning. He joined NUS from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States, where he had been the David E. Burr Professor of Engineering since 2009.
He gave OpenGov insights into the place of AI in the world today and of the innovations and uses surrounding it.
AI in Singapore
Prof. Chen said that Singapore is already using AI but “it is not enough”. While AI technology is being used, it is still scratching the surface.
He said that the medical, legal and financial institutions are the big users of AI and that they will greatly benefit from using it.
He gave examples of how AI can be used to look at financial statements and provide financial advice. In the legal sector, lawyers can use AI to compare various cases and provide advice. The medical field could potentially explore ways in which radiologists can be assisted by AI so that their diagnosis will be more efficient and more precise.
Prof. Chen said that speech recognition is used by doctors for recording down details into medical records. But AI can do much more than transcribing speech into medical records. He said that the future of AI in the medical field should be such that the machine will assist the doctor to provide diagnosis or advice to patients.
Advancements done to machine-learning will allow machines to work more efficiently than humans, mostly in low-level tasks.
Adoption of AI
Prof. Chen shared that the term AI and the field of AI research were created more than 50 years ago. AI was initially a new technology which created a wave of excitement amongst people. It then went through “AI winter”, where its usage was low as it was a hard task. Today, it has grown to perform better than humans and new AI techniques continue to grow.
He said that one of the reasons as to why there still is some hesitance towards the adoption of AI is because humans are now getting worried that they will be replaced by machines. Prof. Chen said that humans need to understand better how AI can better help them. AI technology needs to be improved and be embraced and used even more.
He stressed that AI can and must be used in the right way such as for performing low-level tasks. This allows businesses/doctors to spend more time with their customers/patients this way. AI helps tasks be more personal and make us more human.
On the shift of mindset that people should adopt, Prof. Chen gave this example, “People were once worried about cars at first but now they are easily embraced.” He said that AI can create jobs instead of taking them away as people are needed to understand how AI can be applied better, the impact of it, and of how it is to be utilised.
This will also create jobs in the legal sector where a new study of law/new lawyers are needed to govern AI.
AI and data analytics/literacy
Prof. Chen said that companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon have been leveraging on AI to study their data and boost their business profits.
AI is used to study their data and identify customer trends and behaviours to predict and promote products to their customers.
AI can be used in capacity building and awareness creation of employees in an organisation. Prof. Chen said that AI Singapore has programmes to train people to be more data literate. “AI for everyone” is one such programme which is a 3-hour course which gives insights into how AI technologies and applications can be used to create the best opportunities.
Prof. Chen stressed that data literacy is important as it will make people more aware of how AI can make us more human and mitigate the challenges in low-level tasks.
AI- related innovations by AI Singapore
Prof. Chen shared about the various ways in which AI technology is being employed in Singapore.
AI Singapore Grand Challenge- it is the promotion of AI technology for identifying and monitoring high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high blood cholesterol. Medical advice can be provided by machines based on the results.
Grab-NUS AI lab is one such collaboration where AI Singapore implements AI technology on data provided by Grab and conduct data analytics to predict how many customers are going to call for the next ride. They study customer routines of booking timings and locations travelled to. With this, traffic time can be cut down by 30% just by using data analytics.
AI, when used properly, can help systems to be more secure. Prof Chen said that a lot of data breaches are by human actors. With that in mind, AI can be used to analyse people’s behaviours for anticipating potential threats. It can also be used for the analysis of traffic patterns on servers.
Studying of employee’s behaviours such as the sites they have visited can be done. The machine can also be fed with information on previous breaches for it to learn and be able to better identify the next time.
AI can identify novel or “fishy” entrances into systems and detect the weaknesses in them.
He said that white hackers can be used to test how strong a system.
Government agencies and AI
Prof. Chen said that AI Singapore is the linkage for government agencies to employ AI technology. AI Singapore is funded by the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) and National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF).
He shared that AI Singapore is working on a project for public housing which uses AI algorithms for studying lift operations and predicting if they will be functioning properly. This is called predictive maintenance. This will allow for the better allocation of which lifts need constant checks and maintenance based on the AI algorithms which track the usage of the lifts.
Prof. Chen also shared on current research work which is focused on studying how speech recognition can be used to identify and detect emotions. He said that Singapore is the best location for countries to test if their speech and facial recognition systems are effective as Singapore is very diverse in its language and pronunciations.
“AI Singapore carries the responsibility for AI to work better and we encourage organisations to use their AI technology in Singapore to test and determine if their system works well,” he said.
Prof. Chen said the diversity of data is more important than the amount of data for AI to work best.
Training a machine with the same data will not make it better but diverse data will. He acknowledged that getting data for testing of AI technology is challenging due to security measures such as PDPA for protecting data.
He shared about differential privacy, a method where AI can study your data without knowing who you are. He said data can be encrypted and provided to the AI machine for analysis and only be decrypted by the data source. This is also known as homomorphic computing.
“In the AI world, we don’t ask how much data do you have? We ask how diverse is your data?” said Prof. Chen. He concluded with the reiteration that AI should be embraced and adopted into practices for producing the best outcomes.
Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) is recently unveiled the Experience Centre as an immersive sensory journey to showcase Hong Kong’s world-class innovation and ambition in Biomedical Technology, AI & Robotics, FinTech and Data & Smart City.
Visitors to Science Park today can explore and be inspired by HKSTP’s thriving I&T ecosystem of over 1000 partner companies, who are fuelling Hong Kong’s rise as a leading global I&T hub within the Greater Bay Area.
The Experience Centre will be the new premier touchpoint at Science Park for local and global visitors to get a full sense of Hong Kong’s largest and most advanced I&T ecosystem, while also opening new I&T career possibilities to young talent in Hong Kong. The standout innovations on show are a testament to HKSTP’s impactful support across the entire I&T value chain – from R&D to commercialisation and re-industrialisation.
The 370 square-meter immersive experience features an inspirational and interactive journey of seven zones, 300+ tech components powering 30+ multimedia exhibits to present Hong Kong’s innovation stories in truly original and stimulating ways. The state-of-the-art thematic space uses innovative technological tools such as facial recognition, panoramic video, hololens, real-time data dashboards, spherical projections and transparent touch-screen technology to create an immersive visitor experience.
The CEO of HKSTP stated that the Experience Centre is the ideal multi-dimensional showcase of the Park’s thriving world-class I&T ecosystem that sits at the heart of the huge GBA innovation and technology opportunity. The tech-inspired experience is a reminder of the remarkable achievements and the powerful co-creation potential of HKSTP’s partner companies, but is also a taste of the transformative innovation yet to come from the city’s brightest talent and proof that HKSTP is where innovation starts and Hong Kong’s future is being forged”.
Art-Tech crossover explores human-tech relationship
Beyond acting as a showcase of inspiration, the Experience Centre provides a practical shared space for HKSTP partner companies and the larger I&T community to co-create. The centre will act as a “digital den” to take this innovation spirit into new areas of potential growth. One area is Design and Art Tech which is a prominent theme throughout the Experience Centre and highlights technology’s potential to drive cross-sector collaboration opportunities that transform culture and industry.
Each exhibit zone in the centre features thoughtfully curated art pieces that tell timeless stories of the human experience through modern, tech-enabled media platforms. Inspired by technology but made by man, the Art-Tech exhibition “Man-Made”, features a selection of art pieces from six Chinese artists, represent the convergence of culture and technology and the vision of technology as a dynamic man-made tool that drives the world forward.
HKDI is partnering with HKSTP to nurture new ways to fuse design and technology in new expressions while also nurturing new talent.
It was noted that the launch of the Experience Centre and this partnership with HKSTP is a prime example of how design, art and technology create a powerful synergy that fuses two distinct communities and sectors, the Principal of Hong Kong Design Institute Vocational Training Council said.
Initiatives arising from the HKDI partnership include The “Master x Students” Talent Nurture Programme within the HKSTP Ecosystem; The Co-creation Charrette–Hackathon to promote academic-industry knowledge exchange; Design Competitions to bring to life design concepts stemming from HKDI talents; and Student Attachment and Internship to match qualified students nominated by HKDI with HKSTP partner companies.
The Seven Zones of the Experience Centre include:
- The “Reception” greets visitors via the virtual personal assistant in an automated welcome experience
- The “Immersive Room” highlights via immersive visuals HKSTP’s mission to spearhead Hong Kong’s I&T development by supporting the entire I&T value chain – from R&D to re-industrialisation.
- The “Hall of Fame” showcases standout achievements and ecosystem highlights from the 1000+ partner companies and 2 unicorns within the HKSTP ecosystem
- The “Discovery Area” is where visitors take a deep dive into our four strategic focus areas where Hong Kong is leading the way: Biomedical Technology, AI & Robotics, FinTech and Data & Smart City, and
- The Visionary Table is a showcase of the innovation culture at HKSTP told through innovators and industry pioneers
- Flexible Space is a place for co-creation and networking in groups of up to 30 people
- The Infinity Room is an interactive close to the experience where we celebrate Hong Kong’s incredible I&T journey to date and future potential
The transaction value in Vietnam’s science-technology market posted an average annual growth of 22% during the 2011-2020 period, according to data from a recent conference reviewing the ten-year development of the market.
The conference focused on assessing the achievements and shortcomings in the development of the science and technology market over the last decade and set orientations for the next ten years. Vietnam currently has over 800 market intermediaries and the number of transaction platforms rose from eight before 2015 to 20 in 2020.
Along with traditional intermediaries, new-style organisations have developed strongly, with 69 business incubators and 28 business promotion programmes. In the 2020 Global Innovation Index (GII), Vietnam ranked 42nd among 131 economies. Among those making the most significant progress in their GII innovation ranking over time, Vietnam led 29 lower-middle-income countries and was third in Southeast Asia. Last year, it moved up 13 places from the previous year to 59th in the rankings of 100 economies with the best start-up ecosystems.
According to a news report, Tran Van Tung, the Deputy Minister of Science and Technology, said that during the 2021-2030 period the Ministry will focus on completing the legal environment and promoting scientific and practical research for the development of the science and technology market. It will also work to remove barriers facing development, improve human resources training, and develop national infrastructure for the market.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) plans to accelerate the implementation of the national e-commerce development master plan of 2021-2025 to keep up with the growth of digital trading activities. Recently, the Head of the MoIT’s E-Commerce and Digital Economy Department said that by 2020, 53% of the population participated in online shopping. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, local e-commerce revenue grew 18%, reaching US$11.8 billion, accounting for 5.5% of total retail sales, consumer goods, and services nationwide.
With the support of electronic payments, the Ministry will focus on developing e-commerce infrastructure, building, and perfecting institutions and legal frameworks for e-commerce, creating a transparent and favourable legal environment for businesses and consumers in the country.
Vietnam is considered one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in Southeast Asia. Industry insiders say that e-commerce will continue to strongly grow this year. It will create a new impetus for economic growth, creating an opportunity for Vietnamese businesses to build new business strategies, and approach modern distribution channels to expand markets to recover from the pandemic.
MoIT’s E-Commerce and Digital Economy Department plans to implement the GoOnline programme this year to accompany local businesses. The programme will include telecommunications, technology, and e-commerce systems, manufacturers, traders, and individuals nationwide.
The Ministry will strengthen the coordination, inspection, examination, and violation handling in e-commerce. It will step up training for State management officials and owners of e-commerce exchanges on protected trademarks to solve disputes. This will also help detect counterfeit products, goods of unknown origin, and goods infringing intellectual property rights.
Last year, the MoIT applied blockchain technology to trace the origin of goods for some agricultural products to improve the brand and promote exports of agricultural products to developed countries as the EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) was ratified.
The Ministry also built a total solution for logistics service exchanges between logistics businesses and shippers to facilitate e-commerce delivery services. It supported businesses to apply technology in digital transformation. Along with the national master plan, the MoIT will submit to the government an amended decree on e-commerce to enhance the integration, connection, and sharing of data between it and cities through the National Public Service Portal.
Spyfish Aotearoa, a collaboration between a charitable organisation applying artificial intelligence (AI) to conservation and the Department of Conservation (DoC), allows ocean enthusiasts to get directly involved in scientific research.
By analysing 10-second video clips on the Spyfish website, all taken from monitoring surveys DoC undertakes each year in New Zealand’s marine reserves, volunteers can identify and count the species of fish they see. If the user is not over-familiar with native fauna, there is a chat function available to connect with the experts who are.
The surveys let the DoC estimate how abundant some types of fish are in the country’s reserves, such as blue cod, snapper, some species of sharks, and many more. It is a way to tell how well the marine reserves are doing at protecting these species.
However, identifying and counting species in the videos is time-consuming, especially for a single person. The Spyfish Aotearoa is being used to train AI software so in the future videos can be automatically analysed to identify and count the species. Using machine learning will save a huge amount of time and resources and produce data that can be used almost immediately.
According to the DoC, making the most of the opportunities provided by AI will greatly improve marine conservation outcomes for the future and bring the country further down in the path towards thriving oceans. Along the way, people in Aotearoa and overseas will be able to see and learn more about the species in New Zealand’s marine reserves, while contributing directly to marine conservation.
According to reports, anchored by the Resource Management Act, New Zealand’s government has declared its desire to follow sustainable development principles in its economic, social and environmental policies. In 2009, the Act was revised to simplify regulations and reduce costly delays for developers and investors while sustaining necessary ecological protections, resulting in quicker processing and better compliance. But according to research, restoring New Zealand’s waterways could take “hundreds of years” at the current rate of progress.
New Zealand is also socially and politically at the forefront of international climate issues, as illustrated by its adoption of a progressive carbon-trading scheme. The country is also making signs it wants to boost its start-up ecosystem – particularly when it comes to clean technology. Environment and climate-related technologies are improving. New Zealand is a world leader in research on reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. It has a well-developed and skilled eco-innovation system.
Another report said that New Zealand is ripe for a cleantech revolution and noted countries that put significant resources into supporting cleantech innovation are rewarded with more emerging and commercialised cleantech companies.
In 2016, the government has taken measures aimed to help New Zealand green its economy and improve its environmental governance and management, with particular emphasis on water resources management and sustainable urban development. New Zealand is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. The 2017 OECD Environmental Performance Reviews state that New Zealand is among the most energy-intensive economies.
New Zealand’s reputation as a ‘green’ country, both as a tourist destination and as a producer of natural and safe foods, needs to be upheld. Therefore, the government of New Zealand has taken numerous steps to conserve the country’s indigenous biodiversity. New Zealand’s Biodiversity Strategy has called for greater education and involvement at the local level, strengthening of partnerships with people regarding conservation of genetic diversity, and maintaining and enhancing natural habitats.
National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) is collaborating with the U.S.- based Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution provider to develop the first-ever AI-powered tumour auto-contouring solution. To treat brain cancer, doctors must first precisely map out where the tumours are in the brain, in a process called contouring.
Using traditional manual contouring takes several hours, while the AI device can shorten the process to just a few minutes. It ensures precision mapping of brain tumours with closer cuts and the ability to identify additional lesions that may be missed by the human eye.
NTUH has been used the AI device for the past 18 months as part of clinical trials and helped doctors treat more than 100 patients with brain tumours, including a terminally ill woman whose lung cancer metastasised to her brain.
A doctor and researcher from NTUH said that he had successfully identified nine tumours in the female patient based on her imaging testing, but the AI device later detected two more. As a result, the patient received radiation therapy targeting the 11 tumours, saving her both time and money spent on a second treatment in the event the two tumours were not initially identified.
An oncologist and researcher from NTUH said that 10% of tiny brain tumours, mostly malicious brain metastases, can be missed with manual contouring. He also estimated that using the AI device cuts the time spent on tumour contouring by 50%, which enables patients to receive the treatment they need as soon as possible.
The director of the NTUH Department of Oncology said with the AI device, even tiny tumours can be treated precisely thereby ensuring patients experience fewer side effects. In addition, it also means doctors have time to help additional patients or engage in more discussions with existing patients
According to a page, The AI device has received clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the first time the FDA has cleared an AI device for tumour auto-contouring in radiation therapy. Devices to receive FDA clearance before are specific to normal organ auto-contouring.
The research on this AI device has been published in the world’s leading medical journal. The researchers conducted a randomised, cross-modal, multi-reader, multi-speciality, multi-case study to evaluate the impact of AI device on brain tumour (Stereotactic Radiosurgery) SRS.
A state-of-the-art auto-contouring algorithm, built on multi-modality imaging and ensemble neural networks, was integrated into the clinical workflow. Nine medical professionals contoured the same case series in two reader modes (assisted or unassisted) with a memory washout period of 6 weeks between each section.
The case series consisted of ten algorithm-unseen cases, including five cases of brain metastases, three of meningiomas and two of acoustic neuromas. Among the nine readers, three experienced experts determined the ground truths of tumour contours.
The clinical findings indicated clinicians assisted by VBrain demonstrated 12.2% higher sensitivity for lesion detection, and less experienced clinicians improved contouring accuracy with the added help. The efficiency in AI device also decreased treatment planning time at a median of 30.8%.
Less-experienced clinicians gained prominent improvement on contouring accuracy but less benefit in reduction of working hours. By contrast, SRS specialists had a relatively minor advantage in DSC, but greater timesaving with the aid of AI.
CEO of the U.S. AI solution provider said that he was thrilled to bring the AI device to their partners across the U.S. and Taiwan. Receiving unique FDA clearance for this solution allows the company to further its commitment to transforming radiotherapy workflows through developing full-body auto-contouring solutions. The future of AI is near, bringing a second set of eyes and hands to assist clinicians in analysing and segmenting medical scans and further improving patient cancer care.
The Philippines’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) launched the national artificial intelligence (AI) roadmap which made the Philippines one of the first 50 countries in the world to have a national strategy and policy on AI.
The DTI said that AI adoption can increase Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) by 12% by 2030, or equivalent to US$92 billion based on research estimates. The agency added that the AI roadmap aims to accelerate the adoption and utilisation of AI in the country to advance industrial development, generate better quality entrepreneurship, and higher-paying opportunities for Filipinos. Through the AI roadmap, they hope to establish the Philippines as an AI Centre for Excellence in the region that is backed by a local talent pool and vibrant innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
As the country aims to be an AI powerhouse in the region, the roadmap will establish the private sector-led National Centre for AI Research (NCAIR) which will serve as a shared hub for AI research. Also, the agency stated that the AI roadmap would help the country to be a hub for data processing providing high-value data analytics and AI services to the world given the country’s strong business process management sector.
Among the applications of AI are in real estate, banking and financial services, surveillance, retail and e-commerce, education, space exploration, agribusiness, urban planning, manufacturing, healthcare, and logistics and transportation.AI would also help government services become more efficient, said the agency.
With the launching of the AI roadmap, the DTI targets to guide the use of AI to maintain the regional and global competitiveness of local industries; and identify key areas, in both research and development and technology application, for investing time and resources of government, industry, and broader society. It also aims to recommend ways for effectively fostering a triple-helix of research and development (R&D) collaboration among government, industry, and academe, which would be essential to national development; put forward approaches for preparing the future workforce for the jobs of the future; and attract the biggest industries to set shop in the country, which would generate more jobs for Filipinos.
The agency emphasised that AI is a vital innovation amid the COVID-19 pandemic where human-to-human interaction should be limited. AI can also be used in contact tracing, health assessment and monitoring, knowledge management, and addressing supply chain issues. While there is this fear that AI will automate so many jobs that millions of Filipinos might find themselves unemployed, this fear should instead be viewed as opportunities for new possibilities. The structure of the workforce will change. Newer, better, and higher-income jobs will emerge. AI will also allow the country to create a knowledge-based economy, which we can leverage to create a more inclusive and prosperous society.
The rapid adoption of digital technologies can help the Philippines overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, recover from the crisis, and achieve its vision of becoming a middle-class society free of poverty, according to a report released by the World Bank and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
However, the use of digital technologies in the Philippines is still below its potential, with the country’s digital adoption generally trailing behind many regional neighbours. The “digital divide” between those with and without the internet leads to unequal access to social services and life-changing economic opportunities.
In this society-wide digital transformation, the government can take the lead by speeding up e-governance projects, such as the foundational identification system and the digitisation of its processes and procedures, which will help promote greater inclusion, improve efficiency, and enhance security. The government can take an active role in fostering policies that reduce the digital divide and create a more conducive business environment for the digital economy to flourish, said the report.
The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Malaysia’s lead agency in digital transformation, in collaboration with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) had recently called on tech companies from both countries to participate in a virtual event that outlined programmes and initiatives which aim to boost bilateral digital trade and investment via the Australia-Malaysia Tech Exchange (AMTX). The webinar took place on 6 May 2021.
The announcement follows the comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in December 2020 which is a core component of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) jointly announced as the elevation of diplomatic relations between both countries at the Australia-Malaysia Leaders’ Virtual Summit in January 2021 by both our Prime Ministers.
The MDEC CEO stated, “Australia is an important trading partner and we are looking forward to building closer bilateral trade relations in the areas of digital trade and investment via this programme. We are committed to providing our utmost support to strengthen the tech ecosystems in both countries for mutual success. Effective collaboration will improve innovation as we look to stimulate the growth of the digital economy in line with the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL).”
To further enable the entry and expansion of Australian tech companies into Malaysian markets, MDEC offers the Malaysian Tech Entrepreneur Programme (MTEP) which provides a one-year pass to new entrepreneurs and a five-year pass to established ones. Moreover, the Malaysia Digital Hub (MDH) programme is also available to provide support with co-working spaces, thereby easing the market entry process.
MDEC and Austrade have also set up a one-stop platform to provide assistance and guidance to tech companies looking to make Malaysia their base for expansion into the wider ASEAN region and beyond. Interested companies will only need to fill up a form here and MDEC will revert accordingly to provide the necessary support.
It was noted that Austrade sees AMTX as a business-focused platform to support and enhance public-private partnerships between tech service providers and larger corporates with support from both Australian and Malaysian governments. The MDEC Vice President of the Digitally-Powered Businesses division noted that the agency is confident they can mutually benefit and grow both nations’ digital economies by creating an equitable, inclusive and technologically integrated society in line with Malaysia 5.0.
AMTX was introduced to drive digital collaboration among tech companies from both nations, facilitate and create pathways for bilateral trade and investment in the digital economy, provide platforms and avenues for collaboration and innovation in the digital economy reducing digital trade barriers and promote consistent and open digital trade rules in the region.
Both nations have cooperated closely on digital trade and investment for decades. Australian investments in Malaysia from 1997 to 2018, via the Multimedia Super Corridor, totalled RM2.53 billion (US$617 million), with 41 active companies in the market. Australian tech companies are drawn to Malaysia by its strategic location, attractive business environment, and reliable infrastructure.
Australia is a key market for many Malaysian tech companies for expansion, with the country being a key market for testing products before a European or North American expansion. In recent years, 11 Malaysian tech companies having been listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), making the country an appealing business destination.
Since its inception, MDEC’s market access programme has formed partnerships with over 200 parties globally and forged over 800 business matching opportunities for its portfolio companies. All of this has resulted in over US$1 Billion in digital export revenue. This new MoU will build upon that success and further strengthen the digital relationship between the two countries.
To date, MSC Malaysia has attracted a cumulative RM345 billion investments, creating close to 185,000 jobs. This mostly came from multinationals that have opened their global business services and regional operations here in Malaysia. Malaysia is also ranked second in ASEAN and 26th globally in the recent IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2020.
Malaysia’s diversified multi-lingual and digitally-skilled talent pool; ready infrastructure and thriving digital economy ecosystem has led it to be recognised as a first-mover for the high-value digital business services in the region.
An Indonesian ride-hailing tech company has announced plans to make every car and motorcycle on its platform an electric vehicle (EV) by 2030 in an ambitious three-pronged sustainability strategy.
Dubbed the “Three Zeros” agenda, the company aims to reach zero emissions, zero waste and zero socio-economic barriers by the end of the decade. The plans will see the 11-year-old company invest in a series of EV pilot programmes across Southeast Asia, as well as launching a “world-first” in-app carbon offsetting feature. However, the tech company said the plans would also require external support, highlighting the need for public and private collaboration to build the supporting infrastructure.
The tech company has seen strong interest from battery manufacturers, nickel providers and Indonesian authorities keen to assist with the shift to green energy in the world’s fourth most populous country and the surrounding region. Indonesia is one of the largest motorcycle-based transportation countries, so there is a lot of interest around this from a range of parties; the tech company sees itself as a primary facilitator in making this happen.
In addition, the company announced a series of social mobility initiatives, including establishing an employee-led council to push corporate diversity, equality and inclusion programmes as well as helping micro and small businesses digitise. It also pledged to only partake in gender diverse panels for speaking events.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Indonesia plans to roll out new regulations that offer tax breaks for hybrid EVs, in the latest effort to promote the development of electric vehicles in the country. In a meeting with Parliament, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani said that investors who build electric cars in Indonesia feel that the current framework is unfair as there is no difference in the tax rates between hybrid and fully electric cars.
While battery-powered EVs continue to be exempted from the luxury tax, the plug-in hybrid EV will see an increase to 5% from 0%. Full and mild hybrid types will be taxed at a rate of 6% to 12%, from a previous range of 2% to 12%. Also, the government will provide tax holiday incentives for up to 10 years if EV manufacturers make at least a USD 346.2 million investment in the country.
President Joko Widodo has expressed his interest in making Indonesia a top player in the global electric car market, especially given that the country is the world’s largest producer of nickel, an essential component to produce lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that power electric vehicles. Indonesia aims to be a regional EV hub in 2030 and it has been rolling out various initiatives to boost its production in the country.
Tech companies have also expressed their commitment to the initiative. An international ride-hailing giant put over 5,000 electric cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and scooters across Indonesia. Meanwhile, another tech unicorn is planning to test electric motorcycles this year and is working with the state-owned gas and oil company for the commercial pilot in Greater Jakarta.
However, it will not be easy to make consumers switch on a large scale due to its high price, said the association of Indonesian automotive industries. Most consumers are buying cars at prices between USD 10,386 to USD 17,310, while electric cars are currently selling for about USD 34,620. According to the Association, there is a huge potential for electric cars, but prices must be lowered significantly so they will be more affordable for the wider communities.
Another challenge is the supporting infrastructure like charging stations. The state electricity company PLN currently only runs 37 stations across the country, although it targets to have 2,400 by 2025. Addressing these two major problems will get consumers more interested.