The Government Technology Agency of Singapore – GovTech and Singapore bank DBS has partnered to pilot the use of the SingPass face verification technology with the aim of speeding up the digital banking registration process.
The face verification technology developed by GovTech enables Singaporean citizens and permanent residents to sign up for DBS’ digital banking services to activate their accounts by using a photo of themselves or in other words a ‘selfie’.
DBS Bank is the first in the private-sector to pilot the service, which is integrated into its digibank app.
In a release on 29 July 2020, DBS and Government Technology Agency of Singapore said the pilot programme aims to benefit more than 1 million DBS customers who are SingPass holders and do not use digital banking services.
“Amid one of the greatest disruptions ever witnessed in our time, we are more cognisant than ever about the importance of leveraging digital technology to quickly serve up solutions that benefit the wider public. In line with Singapore’s Smart Nation agenda, we have been introducing innovative digital solutions over the years that provide easier, more seamless ways to bank. Together with GovTech Singapore, we aim to support those who are journeying into digital banking for the first time, and to help foster resilient digital habits that will last for years to come,” said Jeremy Soo, Head of Consumer Banking Group (Singapore) at DBS Bank.
SingPass Face Verification’s launch, with DBS as its first use case, follows a successful trial earlier this month with over 100 seniors and students from ITE College West.
SingPass Face Verification to access bank services
Bank account holders can scan their faces on their phones to apply for an online banking account with the launch of a national facial identification service. The captured facial image will be matched against the national biometric database. Once the match is successful, DBS will send an SMS to the user’s register mobile number for verification.
This database contains the facial images and identities of four million local residents aged 15 years and above, captured through applications for passports and NRICs.
So far, the facial recognition technology has been limited to official purposes, including verification at border checkpoints and in some government buildings to limit access rights.
SingPass Face Verification takes the mobile service forward by matching the captured facial image against the Government’s biometric database. This step allows for greater ease of verifying high-risk online transactions.
Users reported facial verification to be more convenient as they do not need to remember their PIN or use their ATM, credit or debit card to complete the registration process.
SingPass Face Verification technology to sign up for other products and services in 2020
DBS customers will also be able to use the SingPass Face Verification technology to sign up for other products and services by the end of 2020.
The feature is also being piloted in view of significant consumer shifts towards digital services, coupled with the steady rise of mobile and smartphone usage among Singaporeans, where smartphone penetration is expected to reach 80 percent of the population by 2022.
By the end of 2019, the bank noted that the number of customers who had been conducting their banking needs solely via mobile on the bank’s mobile banking app, DBS digibank, almost doubled from 2017 to 2019.
Almost one million DBS customers today are independent digital banking users, which means that they are active on the bank’s digital banking platforms, and have gone more than a year without visiting a bank branch or calling the bank’s contact centre for assistance.
During Covid-19, more seniors have been turning to digital banking to meet their banking needs – the number of seniors who used digital banking in April and May 2020 more than tripled compared to the same period last year.
Grab is a Singaporean multinational ride-hailing company headquartered in Singapore. It is most famously known for its transportation services, but the company offers so much more including food delivery and digital payments services via a mobile app.
Grab has just recently signed a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) with Singapore Government agencies – Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Digital Industry Singapore (DISG) to support the development of Singapore’s tech ecosystem, by developing tech talent and R&D capabilities in Singapore.
The Memorandum will see Grab working with Singapore’s government agencies to grow its core product and engineering teams’ capabilities through the support of talent development programmes such as the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA).
“To secure our digital future, Singapore must be the place where companies choose to build unique digital products that cater for global markets. This is the only way that Singapore can sustainably capture value and differentiate ourselves in the Digital Economy. We are pleased to partner Grab, to strengthen Singapore’s tech ecosystem in these two key areas – to build our local talent in product development, and grow Singapore as the base for high-end R&D in tech,” said Lew Chuen Hong, Chief Executive, IMDA.
These programmes seek to enhance the deep technical skills of experienced professionals, and provide hands-on training opportunities for individuals looking for roles in the tech sector.
Grab seeking to hire in the fields of AI, Cybersecurity, Data Science and Software Engineering
“Despite the challenges brought forth by COVID-19, the tech industry continues to hold promise for new and renewed opportunities for talent. Grab will work closely with IMDA and DISG to grow the talent pool in Singapore, as the country advances towards a future-ready digital economy,” said Tan Hooi-Ling, Co-founder, Grab.
“As a Singapore-based tech company, Grab fully supports the development of the tech ecosystem here. We are building products that positively impact millions across Southeast Asia, and we want to continue deepening our R&D capabilities and push the boundaries of innovation, right here at our strategic base. This is only possible with the support of Grabbers across different business functions, who are continually learning and adapting to new technologies and customers’ requirements.”
Grab expects to create around 350 new jobs in Singapore this year, to support its growth plans and as part of its regional hiring efforts.
These include the expansion of products and services to support the digitalisation of micro-SMEs, the delivery of digital financial services across Southeast Asia, as well as the development of the upcoming digibank which will be managed by a Grab-Singtel consortium.
Some of these hires will come from fields including AI, Cybersecurity, Data Science, Software Engineering, as well as Product Management and Design. They would be involved in projects to improve merchants’ abilities to offer better and tailored products to their customers; as well as to improve the user experience of the merchant app, which will be an all-in-one solution featuring modularised Grab services to select from.
Many of them would also be powering Grab’s innovation engine that uses deep tech to build and enhance services for its users meaningfully; as well as building stronger integrations with local partners. Besides tech roles, Grab will be offering new employment opportunities in areas such as finance, operations, legal, public affairs and business development.
“We are excited that industry leaders like Grab are stepping up to deepen their R&D activities here while providing more job and skills development opportunities for Singaporeans. Covid-19 is an unprecedented crisis that has impacted lives and livelihoods, but such partnerships position Singapore well to weather the storm and emerge stronger than before. Together, we will continue to build a vibrant and sustainable tech ecosystem to drive innovation and capture growth opportunities,” said Ang Chin Tah, Vice President and Head, DISG.
A new International Research Laboratory (IRL) launched in the last week of February 2021 will focus on humans-autonomous agents teaming: an area of research at the interface of artificial intelligence, computer science, engineering, technology, human factors and psychology.
The French Australian Laboratory for Humans-Autonomous Agents Teaming, shortened to CROSSING, is a collaboration between the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the University of South Australia, University of Adelaide, Flinders University, French technological university IMT Atlantique, and Naval Group, the only industrial partner.
An IRL is a flagship international collaboration mechanism used by CNRS, France’s leading scientific research centre. The new IRL is called CROSSING because it represents the crossover of ideas that is at the heart of this important collaboration.
The Director of the lab stated that the CROSSING Lab will bring together leading French and Australian scientists from artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer science, engineering, psychology and human factors. They will work together to tackle important challenges in finding new ways for systems and humans to work together.
“The outcomes could provide significant advances in the way operators use control systems on ships, maintenance platforms in industry or services to assist within the home, and the way these systems are developed to assist and improve human performance to make work safer and more efficient,” he said.
The CROSSING Lab will join a network of more than 70 IRLs but will become one of only five international research laboratories with industry partners in the world. It will join the ranks of other labs in global innovation hubs, including Singapore, China, Japan and the United States of America.
Based in Adelaide, the CROSSING Lab will be a unique multidisciplinary facility in Australia that provides an opportunity for South Australia to be at the forefront of research into frontier technologies highly relevant to future industries.
“At the CROSSING lab we will develop new ways for humans to work with robots and autonomous systems,” said a professor from the University of Adelaide’s School of Psychology, who is Co-Director of the new lab.
She noted that human operators will cooperate with high-level automata, robots or adaptive information systems able to produce knowledge and to explore the physical or informational environment on their own.
Each partner brings complementary expertise to the research partnership:
- The University of Adelaide’s Australian Institute of Machine Learning (AIML) brings expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning. In the field of interactive and virtual environments and human performance;
- The University of South Australia has expertise in sleep and fatigue analysis;
- IMT Atlantique has expertise and facilities in virtual and augmented reality and embedded and human-centric AI;
- Flinders University has expertise in autonomous systems, human factors and industry 4.0 advanced manufacturing;
- The Naval Group will share its world-class expertise from areas including embedded intelligence, optimised architectures, unmanned vehicles, the industry of the future and human performance measurement.
The new lab was launched on 22 February 2021 by the Premier of South Australia and was attended by the French Ambassador to Australia.
According to a recent article, the Australian job market will shrink by 11%, or 1.5 million workers over the next decade. But as some jobs are lost, others will be created (1.7 million by 2030), and many more will transform into the gig economy.
Workers unable or unwilling to accept the transition will depart the traditional workforce entirely. Accompanying these digital outcasts will be a wave of mission-based evacuees seeking a more values-aligned work life, taking advantage of Australia’s world-leading policy settings for social entrepreneurship.
According to forecasts by US-based a research and advisory company, the demand for technical skills will boost the ranks of digital elites by 33%. A shortage of skills to build new digital solutions will fuel massive growth in the digital elite cohort. Demand for tech specialists with skills in big data, process automation, human/machine interaction, robotics engineering, blockchain, and machine learning will offset the 8% of more traditional technology roles that can be fully automated by 2030.
The Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency (TNeGA) has developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-based mobile application, ePaarwai, which can help screen a large number of people for cataracts. By addressing resource constraints in cataract detection, it aims to eradicate preventive blindness in the state.
India has about 4.7 million vision-impaired people, and about 66% of them lose their eyesight due to cataracts. Undiagnosed cataracts remain a huge problem especially in rural areas and among low-income settlements in urban areas, owing to the lack of trained professionals and other resources, a news report explained. The use of AI to fight cataracts is low when compared to other major age-related eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
The app can be used for the preliminary screening of the eye by analysing a picture of the patient’s eye. It can also help identify what stage of cataract patients are in and whether or not they require surgery. ePaarwai is also designed to detect macular disintegration.
Diagnostic eye-care AI-based systems are trained with many pictures of the eye, following which the algorithms learn the difference between normal and abnormal images. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent or minimise vision loss or impairment. The results of ePaarwai from field trials were encouraging. The app has the potential to prevent millions of senior citizens in rural and urban low-income settlements from losing their eyesight.
Launched with the help of the Tamil Nadu State Blind Control Society (TNSBCS), and for the state health department, the app is being tested in a few districts. Currently, TNSBCS does not have enough manpower to help detect the stages of surgery and is looking to tap AI, Santosh Mishra, the Chief Executive Officer of TNeGA, told reporters. There are only about 20,000 ophthalmologists for the 1.3 billion people in India.
AI is expected to relieve the overburdened healthcare system, augment scarce personnel and lab facilities, and help overcome accessibility barriers. It can aid early detection, diagnosis, decision-making, and treatment. The healthcare sector in India remains multi-layered and complex and is ripe for disruption from emerging technologies at multiple levels. It is probably the most intuitive and obvious use case primed for intervention by AI-driven solutions, as evidenced by the increasing activity from large corporates and start-ups in developing AI-focused healthcare solutions.
The country’s think tank, the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), in its 2018 report on AI, noted that the healthcare market globally driven by AI is expected to register an explosive CAGR of 40% through 2021 and reach US$6.6 billion this year. The advances in technology and interest from innovators provide an opportunity for India to solve some of its long-existing challenges in providing appropriate healthcare to a large section of its population. AI, robotics, and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) could potentially be the new nervous system for healthcare and present solutions to address healthcare problems.
In India’s budget for the fiscal year that begins 1 April and ends 31 March 2022, the Finance Minister proposed more than doubling India’s healthcare and wellbeing spending to IN₹2.2 trillion (US$30.1 billion). It includes a new federal scheme to develop the country’s capacity for primary, secondary, and tertiary care as well as to strengthen national institutions and create new ones to detect and cure diseases.
Since its establishment in October 2020, an interdisciplinary team led by Professor Tong Zhang, from the Environmental Microbiome Engineering and Biotechnology Laboratory of the Department of Civil Engineering of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Hong Kong (HKU), has collected more than 1,200 sewage samples for tests to help the government track potential virus carriers in the community.
The research project received support from the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) of the Food and Health Bureau (FHB), and is also technically backed by the Environment Bureau, with the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) and the Drainage Services Department (DSD) providing strategic planning, comprehensive analysis of the drainage network, and optimization of sample collection.
The sewage monitoring system consists of several steps: sampling, inactivation, pre-concentration by centrifugation, nucleic acid extraction, gene testing, and data analysis. In the absence of a standardized and universal method for detecting new SARS-CoV-2 virus in sewage worldwide, the monitoring system was successfully developed by the HKU engineering-led team in December 2020 after various trials.
Since the dawn of the 4th wave of COVID-19 outbreak last November, the HKU team has collaborated with the EPD and DSD in collecting and monitoring sewage samples in buildings near or in the area of housing estates with confirmed cases, so as to help the government assess and respond quickly to the outbreak (including issuing compulsory testing notices).
It was instrumental in identifying 10 Covid-19 cases from December 2020 to January 2021 at the Choi Wan (II) Estate – the first-time worldwide infection cases were confirmed in the community through a compulsory testing notice issued based on sewage test results.
Between 28 December 2020 and 9 February 2021, compulsory testing notices were issued in 26 areas where sewage test results were positive, including compulsory testing in ‘restricted areas’. More than 50 confirmed cases were found, cutting off hidden transmission chains in these communities.
The team had originally planned to process and analyse around 20 samples per week, but after increasing its manpower to 15 people, its detection capacity was increased sevenfold to about 170 samples per week to help fight the pandemic.
The Chief Executive of Hong Kong had a first-hand look at the University’s sewage monitoring system that helps track COVID-19 in building blocks on 15 February, where she was briefed by the Dean of the Li Ka-shing Faculty of Medicine at HKU, and Professor Tong Zhang on the sewage testing process.
The HKU team and the Environment Bureau are working towards doubling the sewage monitoring capability and transferring the technology to commercial laboratories. At the same time, in order to optimize the overall sewage monitoring system, the HKU team is working together with EPD, DSD, and the Food and Health Bureau to develop new sewage sampling schemes.
In the long run, sewage surveillance can provide public health-related information for the Government, institutions and the general public in their joint battle against the pandemic.
Hong Kong’s advanced technology and successful experience can also enrich the world’s experiences in protecting public health and tackling the challenges of other emerging major diseases through wastewater-based epidemiology.
To support the objectives of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the second edition of the Singapore Energy Grand Youth Challenge will garner ideas using Minecraft: Education Edition (M:EE) from secondary school and junior college students on the following topic – “How would your carbon-free school or neighbourhood in Singapore look like in 2050?”.
The top three teams with the most innovative ideas in each of the two categories will be awarded up to $10,000 in cash prizes.
The Challenge is a partnership between the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and Microsoft Singapore, and supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). Registration starts 1 March 2021. It is held as part of the Singapore Together movement where Singaporeans can partner the government and one another to co-create solutions and realise the Green Plan.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a whole of nation movement to advance Singapore’s national agenda on sustainable development. The youth play an important role in reducing carbon emissions and saving resources and energy.
“As part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, Singapore is making the transition towards a carbon-free energy future. To achieve this, we need to change the way we produce and use energy. We encourage youth to envision how emerging low-carbon technologies like carbon capture and innovative energy efficiency solutions can make Singapore more sustainable in the future.” said Mr Ngiam Shih Chun, Chief Executive, Energy Market Authority.
To engage more youth on sustainability issues, this year’s Challenge has been expanded to include junior college students within the new Senior category, together with upper secondary students.
Lower secondary students will be placed in the Junior category. Members of the public will also be invited to vote for the entry which best resonates with their ideas for a carbon-free Singapore.
The inaugural Singapore Energy Grand Challenge for the Youth was launched in March 2020 and invited secondary school students to co-create Singapore’s Energy Story with the question “How would your energy efficient school or neighbourhood in Singapore look like in 2050?”.
92 teams across 29 secondary schools took part in the Challenge. Teams from Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary), Bedok Green Secondary School and St Hilda’s Secondary School were crowned the top three winners and their submissions can be viewed online.
Students interested to participate in this year’s Challenge may register online by 15 April 2021. Students must form teams of two to four schoolmates, and submit a three-minute video showcasing their idea for a carbon-free Singapore with their registration. Shortlisted teams will be contacted and invited to attend specialised workshops to help them with their final submissions.
All submissions will be judged by a panel of representatives from EMA, IMDA, Microsoft Singapore and relevant industry players according to the criteria of relevance, creativity, and presentation. The top three teams from both the Junior and Senior categories will receive their awards in end-July 2021.
Following on from its investment in workforce management (WFM), a tech provider of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Payroll Software (PS) in New Zealand and Australia, is set to launch a new solution to market design to help simplify and streamline workforce management for shift-based businesses across the region.
The company says the upcoming release of the new workforce management attachment will mark a new milestone for its Enterprise division, which will now provide mid-market businesses with the opportunity to combine their ERP, PS and WFM software under a single, seamless integrated cloud platform.
As well as being available as an attachment to the new platform, customers managing larger workforces will also be able to take advantage of the new workforce management solution which can be easily added to their existing software.
The tech firm’s Enterprise Head of Product, says that to fulfil their business’ growth potential and remain competitive, it is more important than ever for employers to ensure they are equipped with the right tools to successfully manage their ever-changing workforces. He said that they have seen from the results of the Ministry of Innovation and Employment’s National Survey of Employment Intentions that there is a clear drive amongst mid-market businesses to grow their employee numbers in 2021.
22% of businesses with 20 or more employees are also expecting to increase the number of part-time staff. While it is heartening to see such positivity around hiring ambitions, the benefits of bringing new talent into a business can only really be maximised when the whole process is managed well, he added.
Complete with features that cater to the needs of shift-based workforces, the new cloud-driven workforce management offering will be available in New Zealand from early April and Expressions of Interest are now open for mid-market businesses who want to take advantage of the new release.
Capabilities offered through the new solution will see businesses in industries like retail, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing and construction, create and automate rosters based on employee skills, onboard new starters quickly and easily, streamline timesheet approvals, and seamlessly manage workforces across multiple locations.
In contrast, due to the increased adoption of managed infrastructure services, the emergence of new cloud watering hole attacks also continues to rise. According to research, of all violations identified, 23% correspond to poorly configured managed service offerings largely the result of default security profiles or configurations that offer excessive permissions.
According to a cloud cyber resilience specialist, attackers increasingly strive to leverage weaknesses that enable them to deliver malware to end-users, gain unauthorised access to production environments or their data, or completely compromise a target environment.
This strategy is known as a watering hole attack, and researchers have seen them emerge in cloud environments where they can cause even more damage. This is partly because development processes in the cloud that leverage managed services are not hidden inside the organisation as they are in on-premises environments, they are largely exposed to the world.
When criminals can exploit misconfigurations in development pipelines, it can spell disaster not only for the company but also its customers. To address this risk, enterprises should assume the entire development process is easily accessible and restrict access to only the users who need it. They added that the cloud infrastructure must be continuously monitored in runtime for configuration changes and assessed for risk.
Moreover, rapid cloud adoption, targeted remote working, double extortion ransomware attacks and mobile targets are amongst the key cybersecurity trends resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to researchers.
Therefore, as reported by OpenGov Asia, New Zealand Tech Alliance (NZTech) whose purpose is “to connect, promote and advance tech ecosystems and help the New Zealand economy grow to create a prosperous digital nation”, feels that the government must be more proactive in educating the population on cybersecurity.
OpenGov Asia also reported on a study done by a New Zealand cybersecurity firm that says as organisations accelerate their spending on cloud migration and digitalisation to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, many may be overestimating their ability to protect their systems and their processes. It is estimated that about 80% of cybercrimes could be prevented. Simple measures like using and updating complex passwords and installing updates go a long way in safety.
Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently said that if the country is not brave enough to invest in science and technology and innovation, Vietnam would get stuck in the low-productivity, low-added value and middle-income trap.
Investing in technology and innovation is vital for the nation to bring products to new levels and escape the rut of being the outsourcing hub for others – a reputation which the country has been associated with for decades. This is not only true, he said, for technology firms but for all enterprises in the economy. Applying and inventing new technologies can help increase productivity and heighten enterprises’ positions.
The “Make in Vietnam” initiative, promoted by the Ministry of Information and Technology (MIC) has infused fresh vitality in the startup community. Vietnam has become the fifth country in the world mastering 5G technology, producing 5G infrastructure equipment and 5G smartphones. This stems from Make in Vietnam pride. Over 13,000 digital technology firms were established just in the last year, raising the total number of digital technology firms to 58,000.
In fact, 2020 saw a rigorous start to digital transformation in all fields. The Ministry of Information and Communications built numerous programmes and plans over the course of the year to facilitate a prompt digitalisation process towards digital transformation as well as the engagement of businesses in the information technology sector. Noteworthy was that the IT sector quickly teamed up with others to develop digital products serving efforts in COVID-19 prevention and control and adapting to the “new normal”.
If Vietnam continues is to continue outsourcing, it should only be a very small part of the value chain. Domestically, there is a range of sectors and products that Vietnam has had significant success in. Electric cars, mobility and smartphones are an area that the Vietnamese versatitlity and expertise of shows.
State-owned Viettel, one of the fastest-growing telecom operators, is building a digital business culture with the focus on flexibility, creativity, customer orientation, digital thinking and openness. Other than telecommunications, the company also has expertise in hi-tech research and manufacturing, postal services, construction and commerce. It has accelerated digital transformation in internal administration, applying modern technologies with international standards. All documents at Viettel have been digitised, 50% of manual work has been liberalized, and 30-40 percent of tasks have been automated. Its ecosystem of digital products provides B2C and B2B services in a wide range of fields, from finance, digital marketing and OTT, customer care e-government and smart cities.
In order to accomplish that, the space for creativity must be expanded, while management thinking needs to be reformed, so that creativity is not hindered by rigid regulations and officials’ bureaucracy. The deputy head of the Vietnam Economics Institute stressed that Vietnam needs to reform the way of thinking and the institutional regime with the aim of encouraging participation of non-state sectors in science and technology development and innovation. He believes that information technology and digital transformation should be seen as an important push and pillar to support the recovery process, strengthen resilience, and improve growth quality.
Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said, ” Becoming a pioneer has always been the aspiration of the Vietnamese nation and every Vietnamese citizen. It is difficult to implement this, but it is not impossible.”
While Vietnam may currently be behind many countries, missing opportunities along the development path, Vietnam has made up for that. Now it is among the top countries in the region and the world in some fields, such as telecommunications and power, maintaining high growth rates. With more power from the 4.0 industrial revolution and its digital transformation strategy, Vietnam’s growth engine will have an additional push to achieve its aspirations of becoming a high-income country by 2045 into reality.