Australia’s Monash University has secured AU$ 4.3 million from the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) to lead four major data and cloud infrastructure science projects.
These projects will reportedly advance the artificial intelligence (AI), data science and research technology capabilities at the university.
About the Initiative
ARDC, which is run through the Federal Government initiative, National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), awarded four projects led by the Monash eResearch Centre
All of the projects focus on building scalable data environments for data-centric research, sensitive data and strengthening the use of AI techniques, such as machine learning (ML).
The University will work in partnership with other leading research organisations and universities to deliver these projects.
Doing so will harness the combined resources and knowledge to achieve improved high-performance data environments for researchers.
In one of these projects, the University was one of four organisations that received funding to upgrade its node of ARDC’s Nectar Research Cloud.
This national research cloud infrastructure provides core services to more than 16,000 researchers in approximately 1,600 currently active projects, enabling Australia’s research community to store, access, and analyse data.
The funding is critically important as the research community is now generating more data than ever and needs new solutions.
Researchers are producing incredible amounts of complex and in some cases, unstructured data.
As stated by the ARDC, the successful platforms projects cover all of the National Science and Research Priorities and National Research Infrastructure Roadmap focus areas.
- Establishing Australia’s Scalable Drone Cloud (ASDC)
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, provide sensing capabilities that address the critical scale-gap between ground and satellite-based observations.
It offers a competitive advantage for researchers through the ability to deliver near real-time societally-relevant information.
ASDC will fuse and establish a national best practice approach for experimental and scalable drone data analytics, driven by exemplar data-processing pipelines.
The platform will integrate sensing capabilities with easy-to-use storage, processing, visualisation and data analysis tools, which include computer vision / deep learning techniques, to establish a national ecosystem for drone data management.
- Environments to Accelerate ML Based Discovery
The convergence of big data and ML techniques is spreading through all aspects of people’s lives.
However, the access of researchers to necessary tools, training and resources is still patchy and uncoordinated.
This platform will accelerate the adoption of these techniques by Australian researchers, building on an international survey of research groups.
It will support core ML tools for pre-processing, annotating, training, and validation. It will also integrate with software development environments to provide a consolidated platform for ML-based research.
- Australian Characterisation Commons at Scale (ACCS)
The ACCS will develop a coherent and accessible compute and date environment that promotes collaboration, increases ROI for the characterisation instruments, and delivers value for thousands of researchers in domains.
These domains include health, advanced manufacturing, soil and water, food, energy and transport, and resources.
Building on the Characterisation Virtual Laboratory, the proposed infrastructure will be a rich ecosystem of computing systems, data repositories, workflows, and services, connected with instruments.
- Infrastructure Refresh – ARDC Nectar Research Cloud at Monash (Generation 2)
The University is committed to significant continued involvement with ARDC’s Nectar Research Cloud. ARDC’s support will refresh cloud compute and storage infrastructure for Nectar funded equipment that has reached the end of its useful life.
It will also maintain the capacity required to meet the demand for cloud resources from nationally prioritised research activities.
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.
An automated general waste collection system in Maroochydore, Queensland, will be operational in July 2021. Waste and recyclables from buildings and street bins in the new 53 ha Maroochydore City Centre will be pumped through a 6.5 km network of underground pipes, at speeds of up to 70 km/h, to a collection station for transfer to disposal or recycling facilities.
Each building in the CBD will include at least three waste inlets, for organic, recyclable and general waste. Waste dropped into each inlet will be stored in a sealed compartment underground until a vacuum pump is activated at the central waste facility, usually twice a day.
Once delivered to the central facility through a network of sealed vacuum pipes, each waste type will be stored in sealed compactors to await collection by a council contractor. The design of the new city centre began in 2015 to provide a mix of residential, commercial, retail, civic and community uses to complement the area’s existing business offerings.
Sunshine Coast Council’s Group Executive of Customer Engagement and Planning Services, James Ruprai, said that although COVID-19 delayed the commissioning of the system, it is expected to be operational by mid-2021.
The waste collection system was designed by a Swedish firm and manufactured in South Korea. It will be extended as the development of the Maroochydore City Centre progresses. A high-speed fibre-optic network will also be installed in the centre’s foundations to enable the council to provide smart signage, free Wi-Fi hotspots, real-time transport information, movement sensors and smart lighting.
According to a government press release, Council and the Sunshine Coast are leading Australia in efficient waste collection. Council is installing Australia’s first underground automated waste collection system (AWCS) in the new Maroochydore City Centre.
High-tech underground pipes will transport waste out of the city centre. Waste will travel at up to 70km/h through a 6.5km system of underground vacuum pipes removing waste from:
- residential apartments
- commercial buildings
- public places
The AWCS is a more efficient alternative to conventional above-ground waste collection. The system will help create a cleaner, healthier and more attractive city centre. Recycling rates are also expected to improve.
The use of the AWCS will result in a significant reduction in the number of large vehicles needing to access the city centre. This will provide a safer and more pleasant urban environment. It will also reduce the carbon footprint associated with this essential service. The elimination of early morning garbage collection also creates better urban living conditions.
The AWCS flier notes that the Sunshine Coast aims to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative. They are taking a nation-leading position by installing this high-tech, underground AWCS in the new Maroochydore City Centre, and are committed to ensuring 21st-century technology and innovation are key characteristics of this greenfield site.
This innovative waste management system is the first of its kind in Australia with many benefits including:
- Workers and residents in the new CBD will never have to walk past rows of waste bins or be woken early by noisy garbage collection vehicles
- No front, rear or side lift waste collection vehicles
- No kerbside waste and recycling collection
- No overflowing public place bins
- Underground collection means no impact on street traffic
- Improved resident and visitor safety and amenity
- Improved local air quality by eliminating conventional waste collection services.
The global pandemic caught everyone by surprise, accelerating the digital transformation plans of both governments and private organisations. As the world enters what will hopefully be the home stretch of the pandemic battle – the vaccination stage – both sectors are still looking for ways to efficiently deliver and implement their programmes.
OpenGov Asia had a chance to speak exclusively with Dr Steve Bennett. With deep experience in biosurveillance gained from the various leadership roles during his 12 years at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Steve was able to share rare perspectives in managing disruptions on a global scale such as COVID-19.
He also brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the hat he current wears as Director, Global Government Practice, SAS. A global leader in analytics for organisations seeking immediate value from their data, SAS has a deep toolbox of analytics solutions and broad industry knowledge. Through SAS’ offerings, organisations gain actionable insights from their data and make sense of it all. Identify what is working and fix what is not, make more intelligent decisions, and drive relevant change.
Steve acknowledged that they have known for a long time that the world was susceptible to a pandemic be it in any form. He said that when the news came from China, the first global news in pro-med, they hoped that it would be contained, but, alas, that was not to be.
For SAS as an organisation, the urgent focus was on safety and continuity of operations. Their initial thought went to what the negative effects of the pandemic would be on their global team. A multinational company with 14,000 engaged across the globe, there were incredible ramifications for employees and other staff.
At the same time that continuity of operations was being managed, SAS was working hard to find ways to get in the fight against COVID-19 and help. Initially, the company’s efforts and ideas, while valuable, were uncoordinated. For Steve, with his experience in dealing with disruptive events, he was able to bring rationale and calmness to the situation. Familiar with a way to manage such scenarios – the Incident Command System (ICS) – he proposed its deployment within SAS. It can orient and deliver information in an efficient manner that cuts through bureaucracy and red tape. This system is globally recognised and is widely used by governments as they manage natural disasters, as well as many industries.
The ICS was SAS’s initial answer to the pandemic, and for them, it changed the way they function and to further adapt to the new normal. After the recommendation, Steve found himself leading SAS’s global response. He spearheaded the development of a system that could cater to the needs of the healthcare sector and government as it rallied to meet the pandemic head-on. With the intention of getting software and tools into the hands of people on the front line that needed it as quickly as possible, the team had to work overtime.
Steve highlighted critical areas where SAS could make a significant difference amid the crisis. Optimising the use of medical resources, dashboard and data visualisation and helping governments distribute benefits. Intentionally, they focused on a handful of things to develop the right applications to support these areas efficiently rather than tackling hundreds of use-cases.
The development of systems to manage limited medical resources, such as ICU beds and ventilators for several countries, proved to be vital. Added to this were their data visualisation and situational awareness programmes. These solutions helped bring a snapshot perspective for governments trying to determine their stock of masks for distribution, available beds, ventilators to deploy, etc. SAS’ simple data dashboards helped connect such critical information, for the first time, in an easy-to-view map. It worked wonders for senior government leaders, allowing them to see all the relevant data in one place; and that led to making better, data-driven, informed decisions.
Beyond a doubt, Steve feels, the real challenge for governments is that their data is spread across multiple channels which is compounded by a lack of process (or desire) for integration. This deadly combination hinders the process.
Public sector agencies should welcome the idea of utilising a system that would take all that disorganisation, duplicity and disinclination and make it work together in one platform. The idea of shared value goes a long way, not only for its citizens but also for the agency – those who recognise that that the visualisation of data will enable them to function better.
Big advocates for using data analytics to aid government benefits programmes, Steve confirmed that they championed a process called “Saving Lives and Livelihoods”. While they wanted to cater to the health sector, they also wanted to incorporate data analytics to protect precious resources.
The company helped governments to distribute benefits – quickly and effectively – prioritising needs. Their solutions helped agencies differentiate between those who needed the benefits immediately and were qualified and those who were not. This not only allowed for significant savings but provided efficient triaging – saving lives and livelihoods.
Steve touched on the role that AI plays in all these initiatives and conceded that artificial intelligence is an essential part of all of their platforms and solutions. Not merely in managing the current pandemic but efforts are underway to leverage AI and machine learning to detect and prevent the next one.
The accepted theory for how the COVID-19 pandemic originated is the close contact between people and animals in a particular environment. Fed with the right data and appropriate parameters, AI can be used to predict hotspots in the world which could be the source of the next pandemic. While it may not prevent one, it can provide lead time to pre-deploy health resources in places where a contagion could break out.
Essentially for SAS, AI can aid pandemic prevention and early detection efforts. The key in this high-stakes situation is all about being early – Steve talked about examples from his time in government in which AI and machine learning helped detect very faint signals and trends in the data much earlier than the post-facto, large signal from hospitals three weeks later when everybody is showing up sick.
As vaccination programmes are being rolled out across the world, the pandemic seems to be on its tail-end. However, the implementation of a vaccine rollout is “the greatest logistics mobilisation since World War II and (we are) trying to move things on an unprecedented scale”.
For SAS, their contribution to these initiatives is developing tools that optimise the roll-out of limited vaccines, that manage logistics and supply chain and programmes on data analytics that will drive better decisions on how to roll out the vaccine in a secured manner.
Steve recommends governments augment their large amounts of internal data with non-traditional data sources like telecommunications and consumer data, (while at the same time valuing privacy), to understand what populations are at risk. SAS empowers the government with the data sources and links that data together for them. They also advise governments to offer citizens easy to use options for vaccination registration.
Steve and SAS are optimistic about the future as vaccine rollouts are commencing worldwide. While it may take longer than everyone would like, they believe that countries can turn the tide in their favour sooner than later. Steve mentioned that preliminary modelling for COVID-19 seems to indicated that about 50%-80% of the population need vaccination to achieve “herd immunity,” where the spread of the infection beings to plummet. At the same time, there are concerns that COVID-19 might turn into something like the seasonal flu where people must get shots all year round and live with it.
In the end, Steve believes that everyone should be ready for the next outbreak. Governments and organisations must learn lessons on the development of vaccines and solutions for viruses using various technologies available.
There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted lives across the world and will continue to do so for a considerable time to come. Multiple waves of the infections, new lockdown and fresh mitigation measures seem to be the order of the day. In this context, it is important to try and get a semblance of normalcy where possible. One way forward is digitally enabled solutions.
OpenGov Asia and SAS have partnered to create content-rich and engaging online interactive and engaging virtual events across ASEAN via OpenGovLive! – OpenGov Asia’s in-house, dedicated platform. Aimed at providing senior digital executives access to cutting-edge technology and solutions, the sessions are invitation-only.
Details of the various events can be found below:
- Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021Virtual Edition on April 8th and 9th 2021
- Accelerating Digital Transformation and Innovation: Helping Government in Post-Pandemic Recovery and Resilience on April 15th and 16th 2021
- Leveraging Technology for Effective and Efficient Vaccine Distribution, Administration and Management on May 6th 2021
- Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition on May 19th and 20th 2021
- Indonesia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition on June 16th and 17th 2021
The following has been adapted from a speech by GovTech chief executive Kok Ping Soon to an audience of CIOs at a STACK-X event on 25 March 2021
Lessons from COVID
The past year has been marked by discontinuities and disruption in all aspects of our lives – work, home, school and social. In many ways, it has been a period of profound learning, adjustment and adaptation. Though the pandemic has been disruptive, it has also underscored the potential and value of digital technology in nearly every segment of society. More than anything else, digital technology has played a critical role in our fight against COVID-19.
For example, Singapore health authorities reduced the time taken by more than 50% to identify and quarantine a close contact, from 4 days to less than 1.5 days. This was achieved through the development and use of TraceTogether and SafeEntry, applications that GovTech developed to support manual contact tracing. The Gov.sg WhatsApp channel delivers regular updates to 1.2 million subscribers in their preferred language to keep them informed of the situation. And of course, technology has allowed us to keep in touch with loved ones and to conduct business, via virtual meetings.
However, it has not been an easy year for CIOs. On one hand, with demand shrinking, CIOs faced pressures to cut costs and stop new projects. At the same time, they need to rapidly scale up technology enablers to support remote working and new digital business models in order to survive. At the height of COVID-19 last year, many of us would have received an image on WhatsApp asking people who led the digital transformation of their company. COVID-19 may have forced CIOs to be reactive initially, but a year on I hope many will have shifted from a survival defensive mode to an opportunity-seeking offensive mode.
Locking in Gains
Such a shift is necessary because COVID-19 has helped reduce years’ worth of effort needed to drive digital transformation. A McKinsey study last year said that we have leapt five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in just a matter of eight weeks. CIOs should lock in these gains and resist the temptation to revert to old ways of doing things. Doing so requires three pivots that CIOs must spearhead in their organisations.
Firstly, be Digital First by shifting more physical business processes to digital delivery. Having experienced the convenience and understood the possibilities offered by digital technology, consumers and businesses will demand increasingly high-quality digital options.
Do more to make digital services easy to use and seamless. Avoid the temptation of applying a ‘digital lipstick’ on a legacy process. For example, many restaurants have stopped giving out menus for dine-in service to minimise contact. You are asked to scan a QR code for the menu which, as it turns out, is nothing more than a PDF copy of the old menu. You still need to get a server to take your order. This is digitisation and not digitalisation.
At GovTech, we are striving to digitalise all government services. Today, 95% of government transactions can be completed digitally from end-to-end – paperless, cashless and presence-less. Registering your newborn and getting the baby bonus is now fully digital. Getting a license to set up a business is also fully digital. Booking an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccination is done digitally. And when you are done, a digital copy of your vaccination certificate is in your HealthHub account.
Our Digital Platforms are open to support the private sector’s digitalisation efforts. SingPass, which is Singapore’s national digital identity platform, now provides seamless and secure access to over 1,400 digital services by 340 public and even private sector organisations such as Prudential (an insurance company) and OCBC (a bank). With SingPass’ MyInfo function, businesses can offer “one-click” registration and perform e-Know Your Customer (e-KYC). With its Login function, businesses can authenticate their users with high assurance, without the need to operate their own systems. And with Digital Signing, users can now electronically sign contracts and legal documents, allowing transactions to be completed in a presence-less environment.
Secondly, CIOs should lock in the use of cloud and microservice-based architecture in developing their applications. A cloud-first strategy has been instrumental in our ability to quickly roll out COVID-19 digital solutions. Postmaster, the backend platform for the Gov.sg WhatsApp channel, was built using Twilio’s SMS platform. Our COVID-19 chatbot uses Google’s Dialogue Flow. The TraceTogether App is built on Google’s Firebase mobile platform. And the series of GoWhere websites and SafeEntry were built on AWS to enable reusability and scalability.
We are not just developing new applications on the cloud but migrating 70% of Government ICT systems onto the Commercial Cloud. To support this migration, we have been developing the SG Tech Stack. Instead of having to develop a new application from scratch, agencies can now access a global ecosystem of ready-made applications to add advanced features to their digital services. Application testing and deployment can now be automated and done in real-time, increasing the cadence of delivery.
Cloud has become the foundation that enables organisations to transform, differentiate and gain a competitive advantage. The adoption of a cloud-first strategy will enhance organisations’ digital transformations; a reluctance to do so will mean an increased risk of being left behind.
Third, CIOs should lock in the centrality of Digital in their organisation’s business strategy. According to Gartner, organisations that seized the COVID-19 opportunity and increased funding for digital innovation are 2.7 times more likely to be a top performer, rather than a trailing one. CIOs and engineering teams are now uniquely positioned to influence not just how business is done, but what should be done. They should take advantage of this window of opportunity and digitalise their end-to-end business processes.
GovTech is reshaping the roles and responsibilities of CIOs in the Government. Our CIOs are now in the front seat when it comes to driving their agencies’ Transformation Plans. In the past, CIOs were primarily order-takers at the end of a value chain and were judged based on their ability to maintain cost-efficient and reliable infrastructure because IT was considered a cost centre. Now, CIOs are expected to demonstrate how IT can be leveraged to deliver transformational growth because it is accepted as a value-driver. This will require CIOs to develop new skills. It is not good enough for CIOs to simply keep abreast of the latest technologies. They need to hone their communication skills, develop relationships with other business leaders, and understand how IT can best serve their organisations’ needs and goals.
But while I encourage CIOs to take an offensive stance by being digital-first, cloud-first and locking in the centrality of Digital in their organisations, three defensive plays should not be forgotten. Not paying attention to these risks will set us back in the digitalisation agenda.
The first is cybersecurity. The SolarWinds cyber-attack, which affected 18,000 organisations, including US government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, is a reminder that cyber threats are real, trans-border and constantly evolving. To derive the benefits of digitalisation, we must be ever-vigilant against cyber risks. We need continuous and sustained efforts to strengthen our cybersecurity posture.
The second is data security and privacy. With greater digitalisation, the volume and value of data will grow in tandem. Data can yield valuable insights that improve business efficiencies. It can enhance products and services for consumers. But as more data is collected, the risk of data breaches also increases. If data is not used responsibly, trust can be eroded, even undermined. We must accord due protection to personal data and privacy by strengthening the accountability of organisations for the personal data we handle.
The third is third-party risks. The rapid pace of technology development and the skills gap mean many organisations will need to seek outside help. However, this can lead to reliability and security issues. Organisations need to have better governance and take a more intelligent risk-based approach. Develop standardised processes and proactive decision-making using analytics, instead of sliding into a “firefighting” mode and only tackling issues when they arise.
There has never been a better time for those of us in the ICT industry. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital tools, increased the appetite of organisations for digitalisation, and demonstrated new ways of working together. The impetus for digital transformation has never been stronger, and the tangible benefits that can be derived are clear for all to see. Let us seize this opportunity to lock in the digitalisation gains while watching out for the risks. There’s certainly a lot of work ahead for all of us, but the digitalisation momentum borne out of the pandemic will carry us through.
This article has been written by Peter Moore, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan Public Sector, Amazon Web Services
2020 was a year like no other. By March, COVID-19 had spread around the world impacting families, businesses, and communities. And, one year later, many are still fighting the spread of the virus, which has since introduced several new variants that are threatening our communities. The speed at which the virus spread left diagnostics for the disease lagging and the healthcare community looking for new ways to use technology to help.
As countries grappled with the challenge of scaling COVID-19 testing, we launched the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Diagnostic Development Initiative to help organizations around the world apply the power of the cloud to accelerate diagnostics research and development. Through this initiative, AWS committed $20 million in computing credits and customized expertise from the AWS Professional Services team to support customers using AWS to drive diagnostic innovations.
In the first phase of the initiative, AWS has helped 87 organizations in 17 countries ranging from startups, nonprofits, research institutions, and businesses. We have awarded $8 million supporting a range of diagnostic projects including molecular tests for antibodies, antigens, and nucleic acids; diagnostic imaging; wearables; and data analytics tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect the virus.
As we launch the next phase, we are excited to broaden the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative’s scope and distribute the remaining $12 million this year. From 12 April 2021, we are expanding the scope to three new areas: 1) early disease detection to identify outbreaks at the individual and at the community level, 2) prognosis to better understand disease trajectory, and 3) public health genomics to bolster viral genome sequencing worldwide. While AWS will prioritize COVID-19 projects, we will also evaluate projects focused on other infectious diseases. We will accept applications through the end of the year, with priority consideration given to applications received before July 31. Interested organizations can apply here.
AWS has seen transformative innovations in how startups and organizations diagnose disease over the past year, from machine learning-powered X-ray imagery analysis to new developments in rapid, high quality, and direct-to-consumer tests. These changes will continue to evolve and improve a country’s ability to respond to future outbreaks.
Speeding customer innovation
The AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative has accelerated projects that are changing what is possible with medical diagnostics and having an immediate impact on COVID-19 detection. These projects are not only enabling the medical community to rapidly respond to COVID-19, but also have implications for many other infectious diseases. Here are some examples of the projects funded by the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative:
Medo uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help healthcare professionals quickly identify severe COVID-19 cases
Medo is an AI healthcare startup founded in Singapore and headquartered in Edmonton, Canada, that leveraged support from the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative to expedite the development of its Medo Lung solution. Medo Lung would allow a quick ultrasound scan of the lung to be reviewed by an AI algorithm to detect whether a patient has normal lung function or is suffering from complications such as interstitial pneumonitis, which leads to many of the severe complications associated with COVID-19. These scans could be performed in thousands of patients together with diagnostic swabs in COVID-19 screening clinics, to assist with rapid, accurate patient triage by helping identify those who urgently need to go to hospital. This would also eliminate the need for patients, particularly the elderly, to leave their homes and visit a doctor unless absolutely necessary, preserving hospital resources, and avoiding potential exposure in the process.
By leveraging AWS and ultrasound, Medo has helped radiologists and clinicians to perform and facilitate the diagnosis of several other medical conditions, in addition to the lung. As a result, caregivers are able to more quickly and accurately diagnose common and critical conditions, and therefore are able to understand the right course of treatment for patients quicker.
Medo currently pilots its Medo Lung solution in Canada. In addition to COVID-19, Medo Lung will also scan for diseases like pneumonia, pleural effusions, pneumothorax, and pulmonary edema.
“COVID-19 really crystallized our vision of democratizing medical imaging and bringing our solution to as many people as we can by highlighting the need for AI-driven diagnostics that can be administered by any caregiver at the point of care where it’s needed the most, keeping patients comfortable and safe. With the help of advanced AWS AI and ML services like Amazon SageMaker and Amazon Textract, we were able to develop Medo Lung that will make a big difference for patients in both the short term and long after the pandemic subsides.” — David Quail, Co-founder, Medo
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping us to democratize ultrasound self-diagnosis across the planet with the help of AWS. The cloud has allowed us to greatly improve patient outcomes, including in remote areas that would not otherwise have the infrastructure needed to perform or manage such patients. Scanning an organ takes just a few seconds and our algorithm provides reliable results in less than a minute, making access to medical imaging and early reliable diagnosis a reality for all.” — Dr Jeevesh Kapur, Radiologist and Co-Founder, Medo
Oncophenomics detects mutated COVID-19 virus quickly through next-generation sequencing
Oncophenomics is a healthtech startup based in Hyderabad, India that develops diagnostics solutions for cancer and infectious diseases. The company is studying the genetic epidemiology of the COVID-19 virus in India and is addressing the need for rapid, accurate, and affordable testing and applying it at scale so that the country can implement a test and track approach to identify infected individuals and impose quarantine measures on those infected with the more dangerous variants of the COVID-19 virus.
Not all diagnostic tests in the market are able to detect these new variants of concern. Confronted with the lack of variant-specific diagnostic tests, Oncophenomics has developed a two-step comprehensive saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostics solution that is able to test patients for COVID-19 on-site in minutes (self-administered test; no need for swabs, or requiring the support of a phlebotomist or lab technician) and the positive samples are shipped to a centralized laboratory to accurately diagnose COVID-19 virus variants using third-generation real-time long-read sequencing (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) approach to sequence the complete viral RNA within hours with the same saliva sample.
The sequencing data is being uploaded and analyzed on AWS Cloud using Oncophenomics’ proprietary bioinformatics pipelines and allows the startup to compare every patient sample against a global repository of more than one million COVID-19 virus genomes via GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data – an initiative that promotes the rapid sharing of data from all influenza viruses and the virus causing COVID-19) within minutes and generate a variant report quickly with clinical correlation.
Governments, public health initiatives, laboratory and healthcare professionals can use this platform to effectively identify the individuals infected with COVID-19 virus variants and plan appropriate interventions to prevent the further spread of the virus in the community. Such rapid interventions are needed to combat the second wave of COVID-19 cases rising in India and other countries.
Oncophenomics’s saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostics solution will undergo ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research – the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world) performance evaluation and clinical validation by June 2021 for CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organization – India’s national regulatory body for pharmaceuticals and medical devices) regulatory approval and will be launched in India first, followed by Singapore and other APAC markets.
“AWS makes it easy for us to work on the cloud. Our goal is to address the issue of COVID-19 test performance in light of new variants affecting the conventional RT PCR (Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests – its accuracy, specificity, and sensitivity. We have devoted all our resources to developing a robust end-to-end COVID-19 diagnostics solution within a short time frame and at a critical time where the world is facing an imminent threat of a new wave of COVID-19 infections. Some of the data analysis is computationally intensive and can only be run on the cloud.
Without the publicly available datasets (GISAID) and AWS’s scalable cloud computing capabilities, it would have been impossible to develop this COVID-19 variants testing solution. Currently, our saliva-based testing solution, the part-1 point of care test is targeting India specific mutations (while the part-2 nanopore sequencing can discover all mutations), but we hope to customize it for any region across the world to help combat the new COVID-19 wave.” — Dr Shibichakravarthy Kannan, MBBS, PhD, Founder & CEO, Oncophenomics Inc.
Stanford University School of Medicine develops smartwatch-based “alarm system” for diagnostics
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Healthcare Innovation Lab have developed a smartwatch app designed to correctly flag signs of fighting a potential COVID-19 infection. The app is powered by an algorithm that detects changes in an individual’s resting heart rate and step count. Early results are promising, and a pilot trial successfully alerted newly infected individuals as early as 10 days before they became aware of any symptoms.
The app has entered the next phase of study, and the Stanford team is recruiting participants with the goal of reaching 10 million participants to increase its ability to detect signs of COVID-19 in real-time. This smartwatch-based early detection system was built on AWS with the support of the AWS Professional Services team, who has collaborated with the researchers to help the study scale its data processing pipeline.
“We’re hopeful that ongoing screening using wearable devices can provide scalable diagnostics solutions to overcome current testing barriers, and that expanding data access to a broader range of researchers will contribute to new discoveries that improve human health. We look forward to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the cloud.” — Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics for Stanford University’s School of Medicine
We continue to be inspired by the ingenuity of our customers across the world in their use of cloud technology to accelerate diagnostics to help citizens fight against COVID-19 during this trying time, and support governments to prioritize healthcare resources to save more lives. We look forward to supporting broader uses of cloud technologies to enable organizations and communities to identify and respond even faster to future outbreaks.