Attributed to Manish Prakash, Regional Business Lead, Worldwide Government, Microsoft Asia
Asia’s city leaders are among the world’s most forward-thinking when it comes to smart cities. In fact, the Asia-Pacific region is set to account for 40% of the global smart city spending, or $800 billion by 2025 and 80% of all economic activities is expected to shift to cities in the years to come.
Rapid urbanization, demographic shifts, climate change and advancements in technology have all been drivers for disruption for a need for smarter cities. This transformation has been further accelerated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which revealed vulnerabilities, but also prompted cities to seek out new technologies to help them deal with COVID-related disruptions.
Digital transformation will be high on the agenda at the upcoming World Smart City Expo (WSCE). Ahead of that, I share my reflections and observations from across the region on post-crisis efforts in innovation, and how they are transforming cities in Asia. More crucially, how we can stay on track to unlock the realization of smart cities in Asia with our learnings from the pandemic.
During the World Cities Summit 2021, where government representatives and industry experts discussed livable and sustainable city challenges, Randeep Sudan, former World Bank executive and Board Advisor of analyst firm, Ecosystm, shared about how city leaders need to “think ahead, think across, and think again to build resilient and sustainable cities of tomorrow”. This includes having strategic foresight to plan and think ahead, thinking across projects to leverage synergies, and thinking again to stay innovative.
I couldn’t agree more. Faced with sudden disruption and a need for continuity amid the pandemic, cities have been forced to think differently like never before.
Microsoft has been a trusted ally for many of these cities in their pandemic response, especially in helping them think differently to overcome challenges and drive business continuity. When IT staff at the city of Kobe, Japan were overwhelmed with more than 40,000 calls a day from citizens seeking information about crisis-related assistance programs and volunteer opportunities, they leveraged Microsoft’s Power Platform to develop an application that could respond to all but the most complex issues. This reduced call volumes by 90 per cent, while reassuring citizens that their needs were being met.
Also in Japan, the City of Osaka embraced cloud and remote working shortly before the pandemic began. With Microsoft Teams, about 2,000 workers—nearly 10 per cent of the entire city staff – were able to work remotely and could remotely train 518 new recruits and transferees.
In Sydney, the New South Wales government and the homelessness sector used the By Name List app, powered by Microsoft’s data collection tool, to help 1,000 rough sleepers to find accommodation. The government’s COVID-19 task force continues to make plans to use the app to plan for citizens’ exit from temporary accommodation into permanent supported housing.
For the public transportation industry specifically, the need to “think differently” could not be more apparent – people avoided mass transport options and public places almost overnight, following necessary lockdowns imposed in the early months to contain the virus spread. Did you know that with more people opting to travel in their own vehicles, public transport ridership has fallen by an average of 62% since the start of COVID-19? Some cities in Asia are seeing a more severe drop, like Kuala Lumpur (76.1%) and Tokyo (77%).
To drive business continuity while ensuring public safety amid more crunched budgets, Kuala Lumpur’s Mass Rapid Transit Corporation was able to continue building massive rail line extensions through the pandemic with Bentley software hosted on Azure. This has enabled more than 1,500 users to collaborate, while reduced errors and design conflicts, improving collaboration efficiency by 35 per cent while ensuring the completion of the project on time and within budget.
In Mr Sdan’s words earlier, city leaders need to do more than think differently, but also think across, think ahead, and think again.
This means working toward a more sustainable future and reconsidering current processes and infrastructure. For instance an India-based startup, SUN Mobility accelerates mass electric vehicle usage with cost-efficient, cloud-connected swappable batteries, in New Delhi and beyond.
The road ahead
We see a rise of a new economy that is powered by intelligent data and real-time insights for policy development and decision modelling. The generation, distribution and consumption of such data over the past few years have resulted in massive technological advancements in AI and ML models – that cities leverage not only to deploy connected and autonomous electric vehicles but also to provide safe living environments, create smart energy and utility options and deliver micro health and other welfare services. This data economy will hence help foster innovation, create jobs, and build new industry paths to accelerate growth in these cities.
We were encouraged to see many cities making plans to build off the progress over the past year with digital transformation. Osaka, for example, is already looking to involve more AI and IoT solutions to enhance work efficiency, design apps for single tasks within each municipal organization, and to use public-private sector data to help realize evidence-based policymaking, we should expect challenges ahead with an increasing number of smart city solutions. While these solutions could potentially make our streets safer, public spaces more appealing, and roads less congested, many will depend on AI to analyze data from connected devices.
For this reason, cities everywhere need to put security and trust at the centre of their smart city ambitions. While we are committed to the democratization of data, we are doing so in a way that protects individual privacy. Microsoft expects to be involved in 20 new collaborations built around shared data by 2022, including initiatives in our region. Many of the collaborations already underway focus on fostering data collaborations at the city level, from monitoring air quality in London, to improving accessibility of sidewalks, to improving local data on policing in the United States. The Open Data Policy Lab—an initiative by The GovLab and Microsoft—has recently established the City Incubator, a first-of-its-kind program to support data innovations in cities.
As per the UN, cities consume 70 per cent of natural resources produce 50 per cent of global waste and emit 80 per cent of global greenhouse gases every day. With nations committing to climate control and the UN’s sustainable development goals, governments will have to take decisive actions and drive strategies to significantly reduce their dirty energy footprint in their cities. Microsoft’s platforms such as digital twins have helped model usage data of buildings, factories, energy networks, IoT data in a live environment to generate quick efficiencies towards achieving some of these goals.
Finally, it is important that we never forget to put people first. The success of new technologies will not solely be measured by their level of innovation, but also by their ability to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.
After all, what makes a solution resilient isn’t just the technology itself. Rather, it is the degree to which the technology gives citizens better lives, helps businesses thrive, and governments provide great services. Keeping all this in mind, we look forward to unlocking resilient and citizen-centric smart cities of tomorrow.
Minnesota is among the latest states to introduce a secure digital option for residents to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Using an app called Docket, Minnesotans can now view and share their immunisation records with local businesses, restaurants and other public venues where COVID vaccination is required.
The release of the app comes after the state Department of Health has been flooded with requests for vaccination records. So far this year, there have been more than 33,000 vaccine record requests, with 19,000 coming since July 1.
We recognise the importance of having a secure and convenient way to find, view, and share people’s their your family’s immunisation records, such as needing records for school or child care.
– Minnesota Department of Health, Infectious Disease Division Director
Residents who were vaccinated within the state can use the app to pull up their records through the Minnesota Immunisation Information Connection (MIIC), a confidential system that stores electronic immunisation records. The app then gives users the option of saving and distributing a PDF document of the record as they see fit.
The app allows residents to access a digital copy of their vaccination records without having to sign up for an app specifically intended for verifying COVID-19 vaccines. Docket uses two-factor security and searches for immunisation records based on a person’s name and date of birth.
The app also gives state residents a faster way to access their immunisation records. The volume of recent records requests to the health department means it is taking weeks for people to get their vaccination records back, but the app gives an option for people to more directly and quickly access their immunisation information.
Efforts to provide U.S. residents with digital versions of their immunisation records have picked up steam in recent months as employers and retail businesses increasingly require such proof. Reports of individuals providing fake COVID vaccine records have pushed states to launch their own verification apps to give residents a state-verified digital option for proving their vaccination status.
Residents who do not have a smartphone or do not want to use the app can still request a record of their vaccinations from the state or their health care provider. Those requests are currently taking weeks because of increased demand.
Virginia has also announced the addition of QR codes to its vaccination records. The code, which can be scanned using a smartphone, provides the same information as the paper records – however, since it is digitally signed by the Virginia Department of Health, it cannot be altered or forged. Virginia is the fifth state to adopt the secure SMART Health format.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed how big data and analytics technologies are being used in the public health sector. For example, governments and organisations developed contact tracing, where phone numbers and location data from mobile devices were combined with lab results in public health systems to issue alerts when an individual came in contact with a confirmed COVID patient. This information empowered people to preemptively self-isolate and/or head for rapid testing.
Public health agencies must understand how to use data effectively as the use of big data during the pandemic is essential. They should start working on plans to protect the privacy of the end-user and comply with the evolving laws around personal data privacy.
Additionally, organisations should determine what they will do with the data they are gathering. Data is only worthwhile if the organisations use the right tools to read and interpret it. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is vital for processing the vast amounts of data collected by today’s technology.
The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has built a network that covers the main urban areas of prefecture-level cities by installing more than 10,000 5G base stations. The region plans to invest 1.7 billion yuan ($261.6 million) this year to accelerate the construction and development of its 5G infrastructure and facilities. By the end of this year, all of Xinjiang’s counties and major scenic spots are also expected to be covered by the network.
The regional capital Urumqi was one of the country’s first cities to adopt 5G technology. More than 4.08 million households across the region had 5G services, adding that favourable policies have helped promote the construction and application of 5G networks in Xinjiang.
– Xinjiang Official
The regional government released a set of regulations formulated to ensure that the network is protected under the law in the same way as water, electricity, gas, heat and other public utilities. Any attempt to hinder or jeopardise the construction and maintenance of 5G networks or to endanger its security is prohibited.
Xinjiang has piloted 5G technology in fields from mining and healthcare, to agriculture and the power industry. For instance, Xinjiang Medical University’s First Affiliated Hospital in Urumqi uses the technology to improve pre-hospital care, operate medical robots and perform remote ultrasound scans. 5G technology can transmit high-definition, real-time video calls between doctors and patients, which helps high-quality medical resources reach a larger group of people in need.
In addition, 5G-assisted unmanned vehicles, which can load and unload automatically as well as plan routes and avoid obstacles, are used to make mining safer and more efficient, and 5G network coverage is the foundation for intelligent mining sites.
Given complicated underground working conditions, the wide use of 5G-enabled unmanned vehicles will help prevent accidents and improve work efficiency, said Gao Jinlong, deputy director of a mine in Changji Hui autonomous prefecture, which has been using 5G-enabled unmanned trucks to transport coal.
Officials and experts stated the world is seeing a new upsurge in research and development activities in advanced 5G technologies. In China, 5G has become a key part of new infrastructure and is being increasingly used in transportation, logistics, energy, medical and other fields to advance digital transformation. Open cooperation in science and technology is a major trend, and China will accord importance to scientific and technological innovation from a global perspective
Information technology like 5G is a catalyst for the integration of real and virtual economies, and it can help match financial capital with the needs of production and promote industrial upgrades. 5G should inspire industry digitalisation, which should not be limited to the vision of individual companies in the industry but be based on the collaborative transformation of multiple partners in the industry, all working with a mindset of team competition.
With the large-scale commercial deployment of 5G networks, 5G applications have entered a period of iterative development. Although challenges like ecosystem construction and business models need to be addressed, the direction of innovation is becoming gradually clearer.
China has applied 5G technology in various areas, including deploying 5G applications in parks. As reported by OpenGov Asia, Nanshan District installed three smart solar panel benches which can store electricity through the absorption of solar energy in the daytime. The smart 5G bench is equipped with free WiFi access, phone-charging ports and wireless charging.
People can place the mobile phone on the bench and it will automatically charge the phone. They can also use the free WiFi to listen to music while exercising nearby. The benches have become parkgoers’ favourite for leisure and exercise at Sihai Park in Nanshan District, Shenzhen city.
Smart cities are the future of urban living because technology will play a significant role in governance, making social services available, and ensuring that the future is sustainable for future generations. As the country strives to create more eco-friendly smart cities with improved livability and quality of life for all, there is still work to be done as new technologies and other innovative ideas for city living emerge in the coming years.
The Philippine government had recently pledged to complete its six smart city projects during the 4th ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) Annual Meeting, which was held virtually, according to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). While the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis slowed the introduction of smart city projects, the Philippines – through its participating local government units (LGUs) – remains committed to pursuing its smart city initiatives, according to DILG Undersecretary for Local Government, who represented DILG Secretary at the meeting.
Meeting challenges in the implementation of our smart city projects was inevitable primarily because of the Covid-19 crisis as local government resources were poured into pandemic response and imposition of health protocols.
– DILG Undersecretary
During the meeting, the DILG highlighted smart city projects such as the City of Manila’s Command Centre Upgrade and E-government Services, Cebu City’s Bus Rapid Transit System and Digital Traffic System, and Davao City’s Converged Command and Control Centre and Intelligent Transportation and Traffic Systems with Security. During the meeting, DILG Undersecretary for Local Government also stated that the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for local economies to shift to information and communication technology-based solutions to reduce health risks and increase coping capacities.
“Maintaining the symbiotic relationship between the network and its member countries and smart cities will help them ride out the pandemic and catalyse economic recovery,” he said.
According to the undersecretary, smart cities have realised that forging partnerships are necessary to overcome the challenges and to move forward. “The Philippine Government expresses its appreciation for the opportunities for partnerships extended through this platform. However, we would like to seek the ASCN’s support for the completion of the smart city projects needing digital infrastructure and applications support,” he said.
Given the country’s location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, he asserted that the design of these projects is centred on the need for an efficient emergency and crisis response centre that provides real-time information for safety, constituency protection, and increased resilience. According to him, efforts are being made to improve traffic management and transportation systems, as well as to provide e-services in government transactions, to reduce travel trips and provide efficient mass transportation systems to address the long-standing problem of mobility and traffic congestion in urban cities.
The city government officially launched the PHP200 million Smart City Command Centre, which was funded by the President’s Office (OP). The Philippine President, in a message read by a Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary during the launch, congratulated the city on coming up with the innovation despite the pandemic.
“Transforming the city into data-driven and technologically –able during the time of emergency is worthy of recognition. Considering the many challenges that all local government units locally and globally are facing,” said the President.
The mayor, meanwhile, said the project will allow the city to respond to emergencies and improve the social and health system. The command centre will revolutionise how the city manages its critical assets, increase capacity to prevent and respond to emergencies and disasters, preserve the environment, speed up government services, improve social and health systems and protect lives and property. The government will be able to govern more efficiently by gathering data to identify, analyse, and solve problems.
The future of work is going to be different from any current workplace. AI, automation and advanced systems assure improved safety, simplified routine tasks and a higher level of productivity across companies. In addressing this, construction companies, which are struggling from a prolonged workforce shortage, will soon receive up to 80% financing to adopt robotics and automation solutions. The initiative is part of a joint project initiated by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
In the scale pillar of the Construction Industry Transformation Map (ITM), which is supported by the Construction and Facilities Management Industry Digital Plan (IDP), R&A initiatives will be the key facility for industrial transformation in broad-based SME scanning. The digital revolution can also help to build the resilience of BE as well as to improve productivity. The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to speed up R&A solutions to reduce dependency on inadequately low-skilled manpower.
Work-intensive tasks such as painting and drilling can, for instance, be automated and accelerated by adopting such solutions. The risk of falls and injuries caused by the lifting and transportation of heavy equipment at work sites could also be reduced by robotics and automation.
It’s not just about growing a talent pipeline for tomorrow, it is (also) about upskilling our existing workforce.
– Minister of State for Communications and Information
The Minister for National Development unveiled the Integrated Robotics and Automation Solutions Initiative for the Environmental Building Sector in a speech. He urged suppliers to submit their proposals to help companies in the industry with ready-to-use robotics and automation solutions and called upon companies to tape the solutions when available. The qualifying costs for the adoption of such solutions can be funded at up to 80% by SMEs and larger firms.
State Minister for Communications and Information also pointed out, from early research and innovation to deployment, how the BCA has put in place an ecosystem for supporting robotics and automation providers. The Building Innovation Panel, set up in 2011, has also helped to establish test-bedding opportunities, to facilitate the regulatory clearance of innovative solutions, and broaden into further areas, such as robotics and automation in 2019.
An autonomous robot carrier, which will be implemented in the Mount Alvernia Hospital expansion later this year, is one project that has received in-principal approval. The robot will be able to assist in the transportation of heavy construction materials on-site and is expected to increase site productivity by 30% while also improving worksite safety. He added: “Oftentimes, it is not just about innovation at one worksite. But innovation allows us to benefit… a wider group of stakeholders at the precinct level, and sometimes (it is) only at the precinct level that we can get economies of scale at critical mass to try out new solutions.”
More than ten companies have submitted over 30 proposals to test new emerging technologies under the Built Environment Living Laboratory Framework, which was launched last year, and these proposals are currently being evaluated. The Minister of State for Communications and Information has also stated that as more technological tools are adopted in the built environment sector, the nature of jobs will change and that this shift must be supported by a strong pipeline of talent. This is being developed in part through collaboration with institutions of higher learning and industry professionals to attract talent to the industry.
Automation and engineered systems are powerful forces in shaping the future of work. These engineered systems fuel increased innovation, and as computing power grows in the coming years, so will the applications of these technologies. Automated software is progressing beyond simple, repetitive tasks and will soon be capable of performing cognitive tasks.
Every day, new workflows are automated in industries ranging from recruitment to workplace safety. Regardless of industry, these technological advancements all have one goal in mind: to create a safer, more inclusive future.
Good citizen experience is one of the most essential components of an effective government. Unfortunately, it is still a far cry from the seamless, personalised engagements that citizens have and expect from the private sector. Getting information or accessing services from government agencies online continues to be a tedious process and often remains a frustrating experience in most countries. And whilst many governments are prioritising improvement in the way they engage with their customers, bureaucratic processes and outdated policies can often stymie good intentions.
The public sector must shift to citizen-centric digital offerings, with an effective strategy to deliver private sector level digital services. As reported by OpenGov Asia in the exclusive interview with John Mackenney, Principal Digital Strategist, APAC, Adobe, John believes that the strategy for personalisation goes further in government than private sectors. Government has the responsibility of equity – to make sure everyone has access to what is needed and ensure that no one is left behind within society.
To implement these strategies and plans, effective policies must be put in place that support and facilitate government objectives. Currently, misaligned policies, obsolete culture and a lack of leadership often hinder the public sector’s desire for meaningful transformation. That is why Adobe is helping governments update their policies, promote a citizen-centric culture, and encourage forward-thinking leadership as part of their long-term strategy.
Adobe is helping revolutionise public sector agencies through cutting-edge digital transactions because it recognises that great citizen experiences have the power to inspire, transform and revitalise agencies. Such experiences also engender trust and compliance on the part of citizens, just as it does in the private sector. Adobe connects content and data, introduces new technologies that democratise creativity, shape the next generation of storytelling and inspire entirely new business categories.
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively to Jennifer Mulveny, Director of Government Relations, Asia-Pacific at Adobe on this topic.
Jennifer oversees all public policy issues that impact Adobe’s business in the Asia-Pacific region, including data, international trade, privacy, cybersecurity and intellectual property. She has held several advisory roles within government and business, specialising in international trade and technology policy matters. She currently co-chairs the special interest group on public policy for the Australia Information Industry Association (AIIA).
On the purpose of policies, Jennifer explained that they are designed to support outcomes that improve lives by providing products, services and ultimately help mitigate negative situations. Jennifer divided policies into two categories – policies that prioritise the needs and convenience of citizens and those that facilitate a governments ability to operate as efficiently as possible.
Companies can work to influence policies that advance their own business or facilitate their customers to improve their business. Companies often promote policies that benefit an entire industry or ecosystem, or initiatives that are simply good for the community. Policy strategy can also be more reactionary as companies or associations seek to improve existing well-intended policies, but often the details are hard to implement.
To help governments understand what policies to change or update, Adobe first looks to get a comprehensive understanding of what the government is prioritising based on their goals and electoral pledges. Delivering on mandates and promises is essential – and policymakers recognise that building trust from citizens is more critical now than ever.
Adobe works to increase trust between citizens and governments by creating meaningful and dependable online engagements. Providing the tools needed to delight citizens, whether it is online or an in-person transaction. Consolidating hundreds of citizen-facing government websites with irrelevant information that are hard to navigate into a few personalised, interactive sites with meaningful and streamlined content.
To do this effectively, a strong leader in government has to promote policies that incentivise agencies to put the citizen first by consolidating websites, updating outdated content and digitising paper forms. In 2018 the United States Congress did this with support from the White House by passing the 21st Century IDEA Act, which aims to improve government customers’ digital experience and reinforce existing requirements for federal public websites.
As a result of this policy, US agencies are complying by turning paper forms into digital interactions, enabling digital signatures, modernising websites and overhauling portals for citizens to communicate more efficiently with public officials.
In Australia, a law will soon be passed that promotes the sharing of non-sensitive citizen data between agencies so that that information can be consolidated into a “single view of the citizen” to streamline applications and other processes.
Certain policies can be appropriate for a particular time and place, but as society evolves, some policies will be obsolete. Adobe either recognises several things that need to change or probes the government to find out what they would like to improve regarding citizen engagement. Technologies can assist the public sector to major issues such as improving healthcare and protecting the environment.
Adobe’s research on citizen engagement shows that while people often look for information on a government website, they often do not find the necessary information – or it is a long, convoluted process and they often give up and look elsewhere. This can be easily measured by the time a citizen spends on a site and ultimately turns to a call centre to answer an inquiry often costing governments significant resources. Governments must invest in making the online citizen experience more convenient and intuitive.
An effective policy that facilitates a better citizen experience is one that gives agencies the ability to move data between government agencies. In Australia, sharing citizen data between agencies is an arduous process and one that dissuades agencies from transferring and sharing necessary data. This is why a citizen can often be asked several times for their name, date of birth and address when they have multiple transactions. The Australian government is introducing a policy that makes sharing data across platforms far easier.
Another example is a policy surrounding an electronic or digital signature that got updated out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the global scale, Jennifer opined that the US 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) is the best example of a policy that improves the citizen experience. The policy sets a threshold for all government agencies to create and consolidate better website experiences. As a result, many U.S. agencies are stepping up to meet the threshold. Notably, the U.S. Census Bureau launched a mobile app for the first time and the U.S. Department of Energy has digitised paper forms.
Jennifer touched on the topic of how to measure policy success which is not always easy. Objectively measuring the effectiveness of a policy is difficult as each government agency has different Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). However, in general, a “citizen first” policy can be considered successful if it can be demonstrably shown to reduce costs and save time for citizens or public servants. Adobe conducted a study in Australia that showed an improved digital experience could save Australians about 2 days a year. In addition, she notes that success is in creating a more enjoyable environment and culture for citizens.
Jennifer is passionate about advocating citizen-centric policies that prioritise citizens’ needs by creating personalised experiences instead of reactionary-based policies. To create such policies, the public sector needs to obtain and analyse citizen data to make informed decisions, but this does not need to be personal data. Even minimal information that the government can glean from citizens that do not sign into a website, such as their general geographic location and search terms can be insightful.
To help the public sector improve citizen experience, Adobe systematically analyses the obstacles that impede agency aspirations. Categorising the level of difficulty of each obstacle and prioritising which problem to solve first.
Jennifer conceded that one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome is culture. Strong leadership and a genuine team approach for a successful outcome are required to make a significant transformation in citizen experiences.
For example, consolidating citizen-facing engagements such as tax returns, passport applications, social services and license applications into one portal will require buy-in from the agencies that have oversight across those services. Public servants may initially be reluctant to move out of their comfort zone which is why good policy, such as data sharing initiatives can help bolster these initiatives.
Emphasising the significance of partnerships, Jennifer is convinced that there should be a strong relationship between the public and private sectors when it comes to digital transformation. Collaboration between the public and private sectors is the best way to produce new solutions and policies that best serve citizens.
By collaborating with the public sector, Adobe has gained unparalleled insights about government goals and in exchange, the public service gains new skills and global experience from companies that have invested heavily in their products to deliver best-in-breed services.
Jennifer believes many policies, such as allowing agencies to share a certain level of non-sensitive citizen data to create “one view of the citizen” is essential to creating a better experience. She supports non-partisan global policy think tanks that make recommendations of what technology policies governments should adopt based on the economy and demographics. It is essential for both large and small, domestic and foreign-based companies to advocate for policies that mutually provide private sector growth and public sector trust.
More than 100,000 seniors have benefited from digital skills training conducted by the Singapore Digital Office (SDO). A survey showed that nine in ten continue to apply the skills learnt, including using their smartphone for video calls, accessing government digital services and making e-payments, in their daily life. SDO supports the less digitally savvy in the community, through high touch engagement to adopt digital tools, skills and habits, to thrive in the digital future.
SDO has conducted more than 250,000 training sessions for seniors to date. SDO has also engaged 18,000 2 stallholders to help them kick-start their digital journey by adopting digital tools such as the unified e-payment solution. More than 60% of Singapore’s stallholders have adopted the solution, and stall transaction volume and e-payment value have continued to grow.
With the experience gained, we will broaden and deepen the work of SDO. Through the Mobile Access for Seniors scheme, lower-income seniors will enjoy two, instead of one year, of the subsidised mobile plan. From seniors in the community, we will expand outreach to seniors at workplaces and other vulnerable groups such as the hearing impaired. From digital literacy, we are striving for digital competency. We are roping in more corporate and community partners, so that Singapore’s digital future can be truly inclusive.
– Minister for Communications and Information
Building on its current efforts, SDO is now working to broaden and deepen its efforts so as to reach out to more stakeholders and customise its services to better meet their varied needs. These include:
- Enhanced mobile access scheme for seniors: Under the Mobile Access for Seniors scheme3 introduced in June 2020, lower-income seniors get access to a subsidised smartphone and mobile plan for 1 year. This means that they can purchase a phone starting from $20 and pay $5 per month for a 1-year mobile plan. More than 7,900 low-income seniors have benefitted from the scheme since it started.
- Expanding efforts to reach out to more seniors and other vulnerable groups: To expand SDO’s existing outreach efforts to seniors, SDO will set up more than 200 roving community counters to bring its services even closer to seniors in the community. This is on top of its 47 community hubs presently.
- Beyond basic digital literacy to achieving greater competency: SDO has also strengthened its Seniors Go Digital curriculum to make learning more comprehensive and enable seniors to be more confident in using an even wider range of digital tools relevant to their daily lives. For example, SDO will equip seniors with knowledge on the use of health-related apps such as HealthHub and Healthy 365 to enable seniors to access their medical records and appointments and encourage them to adopt a healthier and more meaningful lifestyle. Through the SG Cyber Safe Seniors Programme, SDO will help raise seniors’ awareness of cybersecurity and good cyber hygiene practices.
Singapore has been creating projects to provide digital skills, including people without a tech background. As reported by OpenGov Asia, Minister for Communication and Information and the Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity launched the second edition of SkillsFuture Month X Smart Nation (SFM X SN). The programme aims to encourage more Singaporeans, particularly those without a tech background, to consider a career in the growing Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
At the roadshows, visitors will be able to find out what are the in-demand digital and tech skills, get help to develop personalised training plans, and sign up for tech-related webinars after speaking with the skills and training ambassadors. The 19 webinars curated for this event offer tech skills upgrading courses for those who want a more general introduction to tech topics, as well as those looking to improve their skills in a particular area of expertise.
Building on the recent successful conclusion of the Smart City Challenge (SCC), the City of Columbus has announced it is looking forward and Smart Columbus will become a collaborative innovation lab as it continues the development of new innovations to benefit its residents.
The SCC was created by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to evaluate a holistic approach to using new technologies to improve transportation performance, and how that approach could be integrated with other smart city domains, including public services, health, safety and energy.
The government was really looking for that mid-sized city to accelerate technology deployment that was focused on data in transportation mobility. We really looked at some of the challenges we were facing as a community and developed an application around that.
Smart Columbus program manager
Over the five-year program, using the $50 million SCC awards from the USDOT and a Foundation, along with $19 million in the city, state and county cost-sharing, Columbus deployed a comprehensive portfolio of mobility technologies that showed how safer and more equitable transportation options create opportunity for residents now and in the future.
Before the pandemic, approximately 85% of Columbus residents drove personal vehicles to where they needed to be, so some projects were connected to vehicle technology, designed to give people more information when they drive.
They also looked at shared mobility and deployed Pivot, a trip-planning app for people using the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) system that helped connect people with first/last mile options like scooters, rideshare and ride-hail options. Pivot is available at kiosks at smart mobility hubs in the city as well.
Smart Columbus also launched autonomous, self-driving shuttles in February 2020, but the outbreak of COVID altered plans because people suddenly did not need to be moved around. Columbus added about 2,300 direct and indirect jobs, they were able to account for over $700 million in aligned investment and it is had some tangible economic impact.
However, the situation also made Columbus more visible as it is ‘America’s Smart City,’ and companies are coming there to do more business. U.S. Department of Transportation has shared that they are the number one autonomous vehicle testing centre in the country now. They can help the residents, invent more cutting-edge technologies. They are being a leader in the transportation space, bringing in more jobs and opportunities.
The City of Columbus and the Columbus Partnership have announced that Smart Columbus will be sustained as an agile, collaborative innovation lab that benefits the Columbus Region by anticipating and advancing what is new and next at the intersection of technology and community good.
When we deploy technology in partnership with the community, we can address some of our most pressing challenges. Smart Columbus will continue to explore how mobility innovation, climate technologies, digitalisation and other emerging technologies can help us address complex societal problems, respond to disruption and generate economic opportunity.
Smart Columbus is partnering with the city and the Columbus Foundation in a methodology that they are adopting into their innovation practice called Human Centred Design, which reaches out to residents for feedback on what problems the community needs solutions to.
Equity and inclusion are a big part of what the Human Centred Design is all about, such as making sure lived experience experts are at the table, shaping this, providing feedback, getting at the core issues, and weighing in, so this is not just technology for technology’s sake and blind of all sensitivities. This allows moving forward with the community.
Throughout the SCC and beyond, Smart Columbus and its partners have put community involvement at the forefront of developing and implementing new technologies, making them an example for cities across the country, and the world. The city is one of 50 Champion Cities selected by prestigious philanthropies as part of the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge.