One way to boost connectivity between nations is a FinTech deal. FinTech is one of the four ways Western China and ASEAN can collaborate, according to a keynote address by Ravi Menon, Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
He was speaking at the inaugural Singapore-China (Chongqing) Financial Summit themed “Open-Innovative-Connected-Mutual-Strengthen Financial Connectivity to support services along the Belt and Road”. Attended by more than 500 government officials, financial sector professionals and corporate leaders from China and Southeast Asia, the Summit provided an avenue for collaboration on cross-border financial and infrastructure connectivity between Western China and Southeast Asia. One of the dialogues were on innovative cross-border financial services. A fielded topic included FinTech for inclusive development and growth opportunities.
Ten Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) were signed. Two of which were FinTech related.
A four-party MoU was signed at the Summit. The MoU will catalyse FinTech cooperation between Chongqing and Singapore. Detailed in the MoU are enterprise and talent exchange, the establishment of an incubator platform and a regular communication mechanism.
Separately, an MoU between OCBC Bank, Xiaomi Inc, and Hanhua Financial Holding Co. will be signed. Partners will explore FinTech collaboration in retail and institutional financial services in China. Through this collaboration, more than 300 million Xiaomi retail customers and business partners will have access to innovative financial services.
Connectivity: A Plan of A-Tech
Connectivity between the regions are important to strengthen trade and investment connectivity. Over the years, trade and investment linkages between China and ASEAN have been deep and continue to show signs of growth. On average, bilateral trade between China and ASEAN has increased by 13% p.a. since 2005. China is also ASEAN’s biggest trading partner and its third-largest source of foreign direct investments. Deeper collaboration among China and ASEAN are important to ride against the waves of external trade protectionism and sustain Asia’s dynamism and long-term growth.
A potential application of technology solutions as suggested by Menon is along the Southern Transport Corridor (STC). STC is the latest rail-sea transport corridor between China and Southeast Asia. By connecting Western China and Southeast Asia, the STC can potentially shorten the time taken to transport goods between China and ASEAN to one week. This is compared to a two to three week wait period when using other routes. Time saved will have spill over effects into raising the level of trade and investment activities between the regions.
Despite the new shortened route Menon is insistent that the trade processes should be as smooth as possible. Currently, logistics are hindered by customs, trade documents handling, fraud checks in trade finance and ensuring goods are delivered timely and without damage. Menon said friction downstream is because of manual and paper-based approaches to trade and trade finance.
“We need to have end-to-end digitalisation of trade processes.”
FinTech applications are a good solution to make the STC hassle free, safe, and cost efficient for all stakeholders, said Menon.
Chongqing will be developing a FinTech experimental and demonstration zone in the Western Region. Calling it timely, Menon believes such a zone can serve as a source of technology solutions for the successful development of the STC. Currently, several players have embarked on initiatives in this area.
One company uses a cloud-based platform to sync and share information across various parties from trade, logistics and supply chain. An ecosystem of stakeholder is built, and cross-border trade becomes simplified.
Menon said, “There is great scope to leverage on technology to strengthen connectivity between the Western Region and ASEAN.”
Concluding, Menon expressed, “Let us continue to scale new heights and explore new frontiers of collaboration, for a more connected and prosperous Asia.”
New Zealand border workers have begun trailing a monitoring app, called elarm, that uses smartwatch data and is designed to detect the COVID-19 virus before the user develops any noticeable symptoms. New Zealand government is the first in the world to launch a pilot with the technology.
Elarm connects to wearable devices such as fitness trackers and smartwatches and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to check variables such as heart rate and temperature for symptoms of COVID-19, a report has explained. Up to 500 border workers can voluntarily participate in the month-long pilot, which will run until early May. After installing the app on a smart device, they will receive regular notifications and alerts during the day and can view their own health information on the app.
The developer, New Zealand-based start-up Datamine, claims it can detect the virus with 83% accuracy up to three days before the appearance of symptoms such as coughing, breathing difficulties, and fatigue. The technology uses AI to establish a health baseline for each user, then alerts them if there are physiological changes consistent with COVID-19, all data used by the app is private to the individual participants.
The health department said it could provide a vital early warning for workers at the border who face the most risk of exposure to the virus. New Zealand has practically eliminated community spread within the country, making frontline staff who interact with travellers more vulnerable than the rest of the population, another report said. Datamine will provide wearable devices for any of the border workers taking part who do not already have a wearable device. Fitbit will also provide a number of devices to border control workers in Auckland.
“If the elarm app lives up to its potential, it might provide early notification to our critical border workforce if they’re becoming unwell,” Deputy Health Director Shayne Hunter said. “That means they can take appropriate action such as self-isolating and be tested for COVID-19.” He also explained that contact tracing is at the heart of the government’s COVID-19 response, and it is essential that the government finds and treats people who might have been exposed to the virus before it has a chance to reach other communities. The country has already deployed tools such as the NZ COVID Tracer app and QR code posters, and the Ministry of Health is investigating other technologies that might provide further support for contact tracing.
New Zealand has been largely successful in containing the virus, with just 26 deaths in a population of 5 million. The few community cases that have occurred have generally been linked to border workers who were exposed to the virus via incoming travellers undergoing quarantine. “Even though our border workers are vaccinated, the reality is that some people will still feel unsure about the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 from working on the border,” Hunter noted.
The country’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, wants all border workers to get vaccinated by the end of April, especially after two cases were linked this month to an unvaccinated border worker. Even after that, the Ministry of Health sees elarm as “another layer of protection” against new variants and the fact that vaccines are not 100% effective, according to Datamine CEO Paul O’Connor.
There is other research being undertaken of similar technology supporting the use of wearable devices to detect COVID-19 and other transmissible diseases. This includes studies by Stanford University, Scripps Institute, and UCSF.
NZTech is launching Tech21, a programme of activity and events in collaboration with New Zealand’s Ministry of Education to help inspire young learners to venture into tech careers.
The organisation says that the recent research published in their digital skills report found a decreasing number of students taking courses that will prepare them for an opportunity to work in the many new and exciting tech careers within the growing tech sector. The Tech21 initiative will help expose some of the vast arrays of opportunities available for the next generation in tech roles across the country, he added.
Tech21 will begin with a summit featuring high profile New Zealand tech leaders. The students will hear from young successful role models so that hopefully they will see themselves as a tech entrepreneur or working in a cool tech job when they leave school. The Tech21 summit will also launch the opening of Techweek2021, a weeklong nationwide festival of innovation.
The Tech21 event will showcase tech innovation, creativity and the opportunities for technology career pathways leading into New Zealand’s fastest-growing and highest-paid sector. Tech21 will focus on the following areas:
- Why is digital tech so important?
- What will the tech future be like?
- How to understand why a tech career is right for a young person?
- What is a tech career like?
- What career pathways are available?
Also, the recent digital skills survey found that New Zealand’s tech leaders backed the creation of a digital apprenticeship programme. Experts say that there is a real interest and passion within the tech sector to help students find pathways into the rising tech sector. This sort of scheme could open a door into a tech career for those that are less likely to do an IT degree.
The survey also found that there was strong support for internships to help students develop work experience and the skills that employers say are lacking in many graduates. Tech leaders say that there is a once in a generation opportunity here to find ways to encourage young people into a large variety of well paid, future proof jobs.
Accordingly, reports say that New Zealand’s education sector needs to face up to automation and the way it will affect people’s jobs in years to come – and it needs to move quickly to do so.
In a submission to the New Zealand Productivity Commission on the topic of how technology will impact the future of work in New Zealand, EdTechNZ says that New Zealand’s education sector needs a serious shakeup. According to them, New Zealand’s education and skills system does not have a shared view of current or desirable outcomes for New Zealand’s digitally dependent society. Consideration should be given to how the skill needs of the tech industry can be better understood by the education sector, perhaps through an industry body forum. Future workers will need advanced technical skills to operate in an increasingly digital working environment but also skills for the roles that cannot be easily automated.
EdTechNZ says it has witnessed the impact that automation technologies are having on people’s jobs. Workers now and in the future will need an education system that can keep up with the pace of global technological change. They add that the education sector is struggling to keep up with workplace change. The education sector is often held back by difficulty innovating and scaling new initiatives quickly enough.
Besides, due to the relatively large numbers of small to medium companies, employers are less likely to plan for or invest in future skills at the expense of the immediate needs and daily pressures of their businesses. The mismatches between capability and expectation will only grow. Government has a role to raise awareness and urgency of the issue and encourage the development of training for future skills that may not be readily apparent to the employer such as digital literacy. Government investment is required in every scenario.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will support eight joint research projects proposed by the Space Technology Cell (STC) of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi. ISRO will support the projects under its RESPOND programme with varying durations of one to three years.
According to a news report, the projects will be coordinated by ISRO scientists at the Space Applications Centre (SAC), the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), the Semi-conductor Laboratory (SCL), and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). The eight collaborative research projects on which scientists from ISRO centres and IIT-Delhi will work jointly include:
Designing Speciality Glasses Employing Machine Learning and Meta-Heuristic Optimisation: Speciality glasses are ubiquitously used in space applications such as telescopic lenses and window shields in space vehicles. The project aims to develop new glasses with improved thermal and mechanical performance that can withstand the conditions of extreme cold or hot weather in outer space.
Indigenous Sensor-based Real-Time Flood Warning Smart System: This aims to provide real-time warning to the community, by assimilating information through sensor networks and corrected satellite products. This would provide a faster, more reliable warning system that will enable better protection of community infrastructure and lives.
Establishing a Coupled Indian Land Data Assimilation System (ILDAS) to identify hydrologic extremes: This system will have widespread water resource applications, including drought and flood forecasting and understanding land-atmosphere interactions.
Classical Trajectory Monte Carlo Simulations of the Plasma dynamics in electrode-less plasma thruster: The project aims to understand the plasma dynamics in electrode-less thrusters, which are used for electric propulsion and have a longer lifespan than their electrode-based counterparts. Electric propulsion schemes exhibit high-fuel efficiency and lower thrust than chemical propulsion schemes and are therefore preferred for deep space missions.
Analysis of Variable Stiffness Composite Honeycomb Sandwich Structures with Embedded Delamination: The project aims to develop an efficient finite element formulation to evaluate displacements and stresses in composite structures, widely used in aerospace and space applications.
Impact of Satellite Observations in a Coupled System to Predict Storm Tides and its Coastal Inundation: The project aims at the real-time prediction of the vulnerability of the Indian coasts to tropical cyclones through satellite observations well in advance to minimise cyclone-induced damages.
Development of a Numerical Simulator for Micro-fabricated Electrospray Thrusters: The project will develop advanced computational tools to simulate miniaturised electrospray thrusters to speed up the design of similar thrusters for small spacecrafts. This will address the need for a miniaturised propulsion system to manoeuvre and orbit control of micro and nanosatellites at a low cost.
Low-Pressure Systems: LPSs and their nonlinear interaction with other scales in the atmosphere through the lens of Scale Energetics.
While welcoming the joint research activities between ISRO and IIT-Delhi, Professor Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT-Delhi said that the institute is committed to taking its interactions with ISRO to the next level. It has some of the world’s experts in various technology domains such as land surface modelling, remote sensing, and molecular dynamics simulations who will extend their expertise to ISRO and play a key role in making its future endeavours successful.
Apart from IIT-Delhi, ISRO has also set up STCs at various other institutions like the IITs in Bombay, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Roorkee, and Guwahati. The STCs have been assigned the responsibility to carry out research activities in the areas of space technology and applications and are guided by the Joint Policy Committees (JPC).
Indonesia continues to strengthen its e-commerce sector when one of its start-ups earned an investment of US$ 234 million or around IDR 3.4 trillion. This funding round was led by an international tech giant, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and a media conglomerate based in Indonesia.
The Indonesian unicorn said that this partnership marks a deep collaboration with the international tech giant in a series of technology projects that will transform technology-based trading solutions as well as solutions and operations in Indonesia. Through this collaboration, the companies will work together on three initiatives:
The first is to build a strong infrastructure, one of which is for cloud computing. The second is bridging the digital divide, and finally, providing digital skills training for employees and traffickers. The start-up is optimistic that the technology will support the company that is serving each of the six million online Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) partners and stalls, as well as 100 million customers in the country.
Recently, the unicorn also partnered with a multinational financial arm. This collaboration on the other hand will focus on digital banking services, with banking as a service solution programme. The start-up said that this partnership increases their enthusiasm for realising a fair economy in Indonesia.
There are at least two main focuses of the partnership. First, presenting innovations in the field of financial services and e-commerce. Both will offer a variety of innovative financial services through the start-up’s ecosystem. Second, encouraging financial inclusion in Indonesia.
MSMEs in Indonesia have a very important role in the national economy, where based on data from the Ministry of Cooperatives, it is noted that MSMEs are a sector that contributes 60.34% of national GDP and absorbs 58.18% of total investment in Indonesia. In the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia reports that 87.5% of MSMEs were affected by the pandemic. However, 27.6% of MSMEs that run their businesses online increased during the pandemic.
According to reports, Indonesia is a promising e-commerce market in Asia-Pacific, with several local and global players competing in the market. Rising Internet penetration, increasing digitalisation and the proliferation of websites have been driving e-commerce growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated e-commerce sales in Indonesia, according to a data and analytics company.
An analysis revealed that e-commerce sales in the country were estimated to grow by 37.4% to reach IDR351.1 trillion (US$25.3bn) in 2020, compared to the pre-COVID-19 estimate of 22.2% for the same year. The figure is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.2% between 2020 and 2024, to reach IDR707.6 trillion (US$51.0bn) in 2024.
According to financial experts, online shopping is gradually becoming mainstream in Indonesia with more consumers preferring due to the convenience it offers. This shift became even more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic with strict lockdown and social distancing rules being in place.
Also, to push consumer spending during the pandemic, the government collaborated with the Indonesian E-Commerce Association and rolled out programmes for around 2,500 SMEs, providing training on utilising e-commerce platforms for increasing sales.
While traditional payment methods such as bank transfers and cash are still widely used for e-commerce purchases, the use of alternative payments is on the rise. As per reports, for online purchases, utilising online bank transfers is the most popular payment tool with a 30.7% share in 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak is driving customers towards alternative payment tools. As a result, cash share is expected to decline from 98.0% in 2020 to 96.9% in 2024.
As Indonesia continues its digital transformation, the use of electronic payments, including cards and alternative payment solutions for e-commerce purchases, will rise as consumers are moving away from cash due to fear of getting infected with the virus.
Ho Chi Minh City has received approval from the government to operate electric buses on regular public routes. It has been instructed to work with various ministries and other agencies to finalise economic-technical criteria for the buses and pricing.
Its People’s Committee last month sought permission from the government to operate 77 electric buses on five routes for a two-year trial period. The conglomerate Vingroup will operate electric buses with 65-70 seats during the trial period. However, in the future, the operators will be chosen through tender.
According to a news report, nine new bus stations, a depot, and 12,200 square metres worth of parking lot at Vinhome Grand Park in Thu Duc city will be built. The city will make an assessment at the end of the trial period. Public transportation currently meets only 9.2% of demand in the city, according to the Department of Transport. The city has been seeking to develop public passenger transport and earmarked VND500 trillion (US$21.6 million) for it.
Last month, a group under the Vingroup, VinFast announced the debut of Vietnam’s first electric car, called VF e34. It is a C-segment electric car. Early customers who place bookings prior to 30 June this year, can take advantage of the special pricing at VND590 million VND (US$25,496) along with a one-year free battery subscription.
Customers do not have to pay for batteries and operating costs (including costs of battery rental and charging), which are exactly equal to the cost of gasoline consumption, while the price and features are superior to gasoline cars, as per a news report.
The car has several AI-based driver-oriented features like remote software updates, remote customer support, emergency rescue services, battery tracking status, vehicle operation history, and theft alerts. It is powered by an electric motor and uses a 42-kWh battery making 110 kW power and 242 Nm torque.
The company targets around 40,000 electric car charging points in 63 provinces and cities by the end of this year. Following only three years of operations, since its inception in 2017, the company has launched three smart EV models – VF31, VF32, and VF33 and will receive orders from global markets from the end of 2021. Each of these models will come in with artificial intelligence (AI) and state-of-the-art features.
Vingroup also announced the establishment of the Green Future Fund, which aims to encourage and support initiatives to improve the living environment, towards a sustainable future. The Green Future Fund will immediately donate VND30 million (US$1,298) to customers who change from fossil fuel-based vehicles (gasoline, oil) to electric cars, thereby contributing to reducing environmental pollution through the Smart Solution’s “Car Exchange Offer” service.
Electric vehicles are classified into four groups: HEV, PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), BEV (battery electric vehicle), and FCEV (fuel cell electric vehicle). The core parts are an electric engine, battery, and electricity storage unit. According to a report, by 2030, the global market will have more than 90 million electric cars, of which HEV and PHEV will become the major line before shifting to BEV and FCEV.
The Science Park at Thailand’s Khon Kaen University held a special event to train people in the industrial sector in “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology”. The “Fundamental Survey with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Technology” training program was held on 2 and 3 April 2021, including both theoretical and practice sessions.
The opening ceremony was presided over by Assoc. Prof. Charnchai Panthongviriyakul, M.D., President of Khon Kaen University, who conveyed the opening address. Dr Apirachai Wongsriworaphon, Director of Khon Kaen University Science Park made a welcoming speech and reported about the objectives of the event.
Participants included personnel from the industrial sector, both governmental and private. The event was also under preventive measures against Covid-19 at the Main Building of the Northeast Science Park, Khon Kaen.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rawee Hanpachoen, a full-time professor of the Faculty of Architecture; an expert and researcher from the Smart City Operational Centre; Khun Pongpat Kangkong, Manager of the Smart City Operational Centre (SCOPC); and Khun Suchat Prommee, a Drone Technology expert, were the trainers of the program.
The Northeast Science Park at Khon Kaen University, as the network node for the operation of the Northeast Science Park, organized this event under the mission to develop technological competency of personnel in the industrial sector (Brain Power Skill Up) and under the Regional Future Manpower and Skills Creation Project, which answer the national innovation development plans.
The event was supported by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation and was aimed at increasing skills for personnel in the industrial sector to accommodate the changes of technologies that will arise in the future.
Drone tech in Thailand
According to an earlier article, the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) plans to roll out an artificial intelligence (AI) university project and drone academy this year, as part of the agency’s plan to drive digital skills and support the digital economy.
The AI university project is meant to provide AI knowledge to learning programmes and workshops at designated universities, while the drone academy is set to help Thais learn how to use drones for their businesses, particularly in the agricultural sector.
Depa President and Chief Executive said the projects are part of the agency’s strategic cooperation plans aiming at digital economy development, which covers digital transformation, manpower skill enhancement and start-up incubation.
About 200 million baht will be used to develop the AI university project, with half the amount budgeted by Depa and the remainder by private entities through a matching fund. For the drone academy, Depa plans to set aside THB50 million to develop the project and a matching fund will earmark another THB50 million. Universities are being considered for the AI project, with Mahidol, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat the main contenders, he said.
“Drones are a new technology for Thais in terms of business use, especially big drones, which are very useful in several sectors, including agriculture and logistics,” said the Depa President. When the drone business approaches maturity, international tech companies will come and invest in this segment in Thailand, he said.
Experts from India and Japan discussed possibilities of collaboration for the promotion of hydrogen-based technologies. They also explored related innovations, trends, concerns, and solutions at a webinar on De-carbonisation: Exploring the Hydrogen Prospects and Innovative Technologies.
The areas for India-Japan hydrogen research are cost reduction and improved performance for fuel cells, and hydrogen storage. Also, challenges for viable green hydrogen process routes, significant investments required for research infrastructure, and support for commercialisation, according to a press release.
Professor Kojima Yoshitsugu from the National Science Centre for Basic Research and Development, Hiroshima University, said that ammonia could be a potential hydrogen carrier because of its high hydrogen densities. “Direct combustion of ammonia is also possible without emission of carbon dioxide. The heat of combustion of ammonia is above 1.3 times of liquid hydrogen,” he added.
The webinar was jointly organised by the Embassy of India in Japan, the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Japanese Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), and the Indian Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). The event was held on 19 April and provided a platform for the experts to deliberate on the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns, and practical challenges and solutions.
Researchers also spoke about renewable hydrogen for disruptive decarbonisation. Hydrogen enables high efficiency and zero or near-zero-emissions operations. Green hydrogen will be good for industrial processes, chemicals producing, iron and steel, food, semiconductors, and refineries. The two sides will explore opportunities for co-innovation in accelerating green hydrogen to reduce dependency on petroleum imports.
The webinar also highlighted the IIT-Madras Research Park, which facilitates the promotion of research and development by the institute in partnership with industry, assisting in the growth of new ventures and promoting economic development. It also elaborated on the challenges in using fuel cells, like the non-existence of hydrogen fuel infrastructure and the difficulties related to hydrogen storage and transportation.
An expert from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore underlined the sustainable route of generating hydrogen using biomass, hydrogen from a range of sources, utilising, dispensing, storing, and distributing. It creates a level playing field for all sources of green hydrogen.
Hydrogen gas is a fuel with plenty of potentials. But because it is highly combustible, managing it safely is key. The advantages of a hydrogen energy system are that hydrogen gas is generated using a renewable energy source, instead of fossil fuels. It can be stored safely and is a clean, alternative power source, a Professor at the Institute for Materials Research, Tohoku University, explained.
The potential scale of hydrogen demand growth in India is significant. The costs of green hydrogen will start to compete with fossil fuel-derived hydrogen by 2030, at the latest. Hydrogen should be targeted at those sectors where direct electrification is not well-suited.
Representatives from the Institute of Energy Economics in Japan stressed the importance of green hydrogen and energy of system integration. The National Thermal Power Corporation noted that green hydrogen shall play a very important role. Along with pilots, NTPC is pursuing efforts with various stakeholders to shift to green hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, and industries. Also, fertilisers, refining, and long-range heavy-duty transportation blending into gas grids and energy storage.
The experts agreed that hydrogen could be a good alternative because of its capability of producing lower emissions and less pollution and looked forward to collaborations between groups in India and Japan to that end.