Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information made a speech at the SCS IT Leader Award on Thursday 18 March 2021. The theme of the event was “Tech Heroes from Crisis”, whereby many industry leaders and entrepreneurs who used digital technology for the good of the community, some of which addressed specific challenges arising from the pandemic, were honoured.
Mr Iswaran said “Though the pandemic has been disruptive, it has also underscored the potential and value of digital technology in nearly every segment of society. Years-worth of digital transformation took place within the span of a few months. It is now widely accepted that digitalisation is not only here to stay, but also central to our endeavour to emerge stronger from this crisis. As tech professionals and advocates, this is surely cause for optimism amidst the storm.”
Government Creating Tech Opportunities for Singaporeans
He announced that the Government is investing heavily in equipping Singaporeans with digital know-how and creating good jobs for citizens.
Broad-based programmes. The Singapore government launched several SGUnited Jobs and Skills programmes last year and as of end-January 2021, placed more than 12,400 jobseekers into ICT jobs and skills opportunities. There still remain more than 18,700 available jobs, company-hosted traineeships, attachments and training opportunities.
Deep tech roles. They are also developing a ready pool of talent in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity, which will be key drivers of Singapore’s future economy. In order to do that, the government are expanding the scope of the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative to train up to 5,500 locals in emerging and core tech roles. They will also scale TeSA to focus on deep tech roles such as software engineering and data science and ensure these technical skills are complemented with business and creative competencies.
Tech-lite roles. To support digital needs across the larger economy, they are growing the pool of tech-lite talent, covering skillsets such as digital marketing and business analytics.
The importance of partnerships in upskilling all citizens in ICT
The Minister noted that such progress would not be possible without the strong support of associations like SCS, which brings the infocomm community together to advance the interests of the sector, its companies and the workers.
He added that SCS has helped many Singaporeans upgrade their skills to embark on a career in ICT, through their training and development programmes as well as professional certifications. SCS is also active in organising events and networking opportunities, providing a vital platform for the community to connect with and engage one another.
Mr Iswaran concluded that “Close collaborations with partners like SCS remain critical so that we can tap on our collective expertise to shape our shared future. We will also continue to consult our citizens through nation-wide platforms like the Emerging Stronger Conversations, on issues like how to foster a digitally ready and inclusive economy and society as we emerge from COVID-19.”
Researchers in Singapore demonstrated that a new invention that improves the energy efficiency of District Cooling Systems (DCS) could enhance the energy-carrying capacity by up to three times as compared to a conventional chilled water storage system, and yield more than 10% in cost savings annually.
This Thermal Energy Storage (TES) technology solution uses a new Phase-Change Material (PCM) that can store and release cold energy as it changes between liquid and solid states. This solution was jointly designed and developed by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the project was funded by the Energy Market Authority (EMA). As part of the Energy Resilience Grant Call by EMA, S$15 million in grants were awarded in 2018 to seven energy innovations to strengthen the resilience of Singapore’s power system and energy markets.
The close collaboration between industry, the research community and the government has enabled the development of this innovative solution to enhance the efficiency and resilience of our energy sector. EMA is pleased to have supported this project which provides a more energy efficient solution to meet the substantial amount of energy use for cooling in Singapore’s warm tropical climate. Through such new technologies and innovations, we can build a more sustainable energy future for Singapore.
– Mr Ralph Foong, Deputy Chief Executive of the Energy Planning and Development Division at EMA
The NUS research team has also developed a lab-based cold energy recovery system that harnesses cold energy, which is released as a by-product when liquefied natural gas is converted back into its gaseous state for electricity generation. Cold energy recovered can be stored and released, similar to an energy storage system to balance energy demand and supply when needed. An example is the balancing of intermittent output from renewable energy sources like solar so as to maintain the reliability and resilience of Singapore’s power grid.
TES technology can be likened to a battery that can store thermal energy and release it at the desired time. Incorporating the new TES technology in district cooling plants offers immense potential for the success of low energy designs to meet Singapore’s cooling needs. This innovation marks a significant milestone in our progress towards a sustainable future.
The novel TES solution will make Singapore meet its cooling needs in a more energy-efficient manner through a new and better thermal energy storage material, as well as the recovery and use of cold energy which would otherwise have been lost. This innovation can also potentially help to alleviate intermittency in the electrical grid when more renewable sources are integrated.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, The National University of Singapore (NUS) recently established the Institute for Functional Intelligent Materials (I-FIM), the world’s first institute devoted to the design, synthesis, and application of Functional Intelligent Materials (FIMs). The I-FIM will be Singapore’s sixth research centre of excellence (RCE), and the fourth hosted by NUS.
The Research Innovation and Enterprise Council formed the research centre of excellence scheme in 2007 to attract research talent, improve graduate education in Singapore universities, and training quality research personnel.
Singapore’s innovation ecosystem, which includes high-quality infrastructure, a growing pool of dynamic start-ups, well-trained talent, and strong government support, is a major draw for global businesses. Because of these characteristics, Singapore has become one of the most innovative places to do business. According to the annual Global Innovation Index 2017, it was ranked first among Asian nations for innovation, and it also held the top global position for innovation input, where the quality of human capital and research was a key pillar.
The issuance of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on broadening the provision of internet service through satellite services is seen by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) as further promoting financial inclusion and digital finance in the country. The IRR, issued in September by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) under Department Circular No. 002, Series of 2021, aims to promote the development of an inclusive and vibrant satellite industry by liberalising access to satellite systems.
Increased access to satellite services is expected to hasten the rollout of internet connectivity for the country’s unserved, underserved, geographically isolated, and disadvantaged areas. With the issuance of the IRR, banks, fintech companies, and other financial sector entities will be guided even further in their exploration of ways to use satellite technology for their operations, particularly in expanding presence in underserved communities.
With enhanced countryside connectivity, we see previously unserved and underserved areas being reached by digital financial services, especially those designed for the lower-income segments, like remittances, bills payments and the opening of transaction accounts.
– Governor, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
As financial transactions and services shift to online platforms, internet connectivity is recognised as a critical enabler of financial and economic inclusion. Banks and other financial service providers (FSPs) will be able to better serve rural areas with more access points, such as automated teller machines and cash agent services that rely on internet connectivity, as internet service is expanded.
Meanwhile, with the introduction of the Philippine Identification System and its electronic know-your-customer service, increased internet access will enable more unbanked rural clients and low-income communities to use digital financial services and benefit from digital innovations.
Republic Act 11055, or the Philippine Identification System Act, was signed into law by the Philippines President in August 2018. Its purpose is to create a single national ID for all Filipinos and resident aliens. The national ID must be a valid proof of identity that can be used to simplify public and private transactions, school enrolment, and bank account opening.
It will also increase efficiency, particularly when dealing with government services, as people will only need to present one ID during transactions. “These developments will contribute towards the BSP’s financial inclusion targets, namely that first, 70% of the adult population should own a transaction account, and second, that half of all retail payments should be in digital form by 2023,” the BSP Governor said.
Ultimately, The BSP encourages financial service providers to seek opportunities for innovation and market expansion from this policy reform to accelerate financial inclusion in the country.
In addition, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a US$400 million loan to support reforms that will assist the Philippine government in accomplishing a resilient financial sector and ensuring a more inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
First Financial Sector Reform Development Policy in the Philippines, the financing loan is the first of two programmes that support three reform areas: strengthening financial sector stability, integrity, and resilience; expanding financial inclusion for individuals and businesses; and promoting disaster risk finance, which protects national budgets and businesses, as well as families’ lives and livelihoods, from the effects of disasters.
OpenGov Asia reported that the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will move forward with Phase 1 of the National Broadband Programme (NBP), which will boost the development of supplemental infrastructure or a “resiliency route”. According to the DICT secretary, the establishment of a resiliency route serves as insurance or a safety net against any unforeseen problems or events that could reason a delay in the project’s completion.
The Philippine government established the National Broadband Plan to accelerate the deployment of fibre optic cables and wireless technologies throughout the country, particularly in remote areas, and to improve overall internet speed and affordability (NBP).
The post-pandemic world is entering a period characterised by restructuring and consolidation. Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), with the backing of Academia Sinica, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Welfare are focused on six key strategic industries: IT and digitisation, cybersecurity, precision healthcare, renewable and sustainable energies, national defence and strategy, as well as civilian affairs and military preparedness.
With the rising popularity of the 5G infrastructure, asset security will be the next global battlefield. The synergy between Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), cloud and many other emerging technologies related to 5G is yielding a plethora of innovative cross-domain applications. With the popularity of 5G, asset security has become a critical issue that cannot be ignored.
Healthcare and technologies join hands to pave the way for the rise of precision healthcare. As the ageing society is creating a growing demand for medical services and management of chronic diseases, precision healthcare has become an irreversible trend worldwide. A number of leading medical institutions are utilising advanced technologies to enhance their smart healthcare and smart hospital services.
Taipei Veterans General Hospital President said that he intends to make smart healthcare the centrepiece of the next stage of development at the hospital, with the goal of reaching a peak utilisation of cutting-edge technologies that combine precision healthcare and big data.
Science and technology help improve military power by speeding up the transformation of the defence industry. When it comes to defence and strategy, Taiwan has accumulated substantial experience as a result of having developed the FORMOSAT-5 satellite and the FORMOSAT-7 satellite constellation, in combination with its existing complete supply chains and manufacturing capabilities in the semiconductor, information communication electronics and precision machinery sectors
These technologies assure Taiwan an ongoing capability to develop and manufacture satellites, as well as serving as an important R&D and manufacturing base for global satellite components, ground communications, ground terminals and other equipment.
Taiwan has long held an edge in display technology, and the sector is an economic powerhouse. To take full advantage of the nearly limitless opportunity presented by internet-connected devices and application services, and position display technologies and related applications as the engine for Taiwan’s next wave of economic growth, the government has released an action plan for display technologies and applications covering the years 2020 to 2024.
This strategy will move the sector beyond mere displays toward the 2030 vision of a smart-tech lifestyle incorporating emerging display technologies and applications, thereby keeping Taiwan’s advanced tech industry at the global forefront.
Three are three essential Taiwan tech strategies:
- Encourage demonstration applications and field testing: Drive domestic demand by building demonstration sites for exemplary solutions incorporating domestic products. Build Taiwan into the world’s top supplier of display technology products and solutions by 2030.
- Develop new capabilities for smart technology: Develop emerging technologies like intelligent sensors, online-offline convergence, and cybersecurity, as well as advance new technology through multidisciplinary cooperation. Elevate Taiwan’s international competitiveness and position on the value chain by producing a range of specialised and differentiated products by 2030.
- Build an environment for industrial development: Construct communications mechanisms and experimentation platforms for smart retail, smart transport, smart health care and smart entertainment. Nurture new talent capable of synthesising multidisciplinary research to create future-oriented display technologies and innovative applications, and promote cooperation with international counterparts.
Taiwan researchers have been inventing novel advanced technologies, including a bendable water-enabled portable power bank — a device that generates power from a few drops of water. As reported by OpenGov Asia, a team from the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology said that the gadget utilises membrane technology to generate electricity from water.
For the first time since 2005, New Zealand’s government intends to create a new digital strategy. The strategy aims to define the goals, priorities, and activities for the next 2 to 5 years, as well as the long-term outcomes through 2031 and beyond those years. According to the government, its vision is to enable all of Aotearoa New Zealand to flourish and prosper in a digital world.
To ensure that it will not be lacking in key the components of this implementation, the government has issued a discussion document and demands immediate feedback. The document, according to Infrastructure New Zealand’s Chief Executive, is a start. “The discussion document has a heavy focus on connectivity and how we use it, and inclusion. That’s good, but a national digital strategy needs to recognise that digital technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself – it needs to drive economic growth and development and leverage every opportunity.”
In infrastructure solutions, digital technology is already playing a significant role. The strategy must outline how New Zealand can capitalise on digital technology opportunities, such as how digital infrastructure can help address New Zealand’s infrastructure deficit while also contributing to environmental outcomes. It is also noted that a submission will be made to ensure that it covers all bases and is fit for purpose in the future. “We’ll be keen to see an implementation plan and monitoring framework to ensure the strategy is meaningful and outcomes-based, as opposed to yet another plan that isn’t realistic.” She then added.
More than ever, how New Zealand navigates the digital world is essential to the country’s long-term success. There are significant consequences if the government gets this wrong, given the rise of working from home and the contribution digital technologies can make to mitigating the impact of climate change. As per a report released this year, New Zealand’s digital competitiveness has dropped by 70 points. The pandemic, according to NZTech Chief Executive, has stressed the importance of digital technologies.
OpenGov Asia reported that in response to the crisis, digital transformation and technology alliances are two of several areas in which a multinational professional services network of firms based in New Zealand intends to create more than 500 new jobs over the next five years. The proposed job creation drive is part of the company’s global strategy aimed at “responding to fundamental changes in the world,” such as technological disruption, climate change, fractured geopolitics, and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The programme, dubbed ‘The New Equation,’ was announced by the firm and was described at the time as “a revolutionary approach in how we see new opportunities to serve clients as they work to build trust and deliver sustainable business outcomes.”
Another report had also stated that digital transformation could boost the New Zealand economy by up to $46.6 billion per year by 2030. The report identified three main pillars of action for New Zealand to fully leverage the opportunities brought about by digital transformation: supporting technology adoption in key industries, upskilling the current workforce and future talent and promoting digital export opportunities.
The report also discussed eight transformative technologies and the economic benefits they bring to New Zealand, such as artificial intelligence (AI), which can be used to drive data-based public health interventions; mobile internet to help digitise retail distribution channels; and the Internet of Things (IoT) for supply chain tracking.
In addition, as per New Zealand’s last transformation strategy, accelerating the New Zealand Government’s digital transformation will enable people to access personalised services when and where they need them, participate in decisions about issues that are important to them, and have trust in an open, transparent, and inclusive government.
Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) is partnering with tech companies to enhance Wisconsin’s occupational licensure review and adjudication. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform will automate certain data entry tasks that are currently conducted manually. This will improve the customer experience and will expedite entry to the credentialed workforce in Wisconsin.
DSPS currently issues licenses for more than 240 occupational fields. The department issues credentials to most health care providers, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, physical therapists, and more. It licenses about 1.1 million people every two years.
Our credentialing process is almost 100% manual. That is because applicants fill out a paper form and mail it in, leaving department employees to decipher the handwriting and enter the data into the agency’s database. Automating that process is going to be a great step in terms of licensing applicants much more quickly and helping our process be much more accurate.”
– Dawn Crim, Secretary, Department of Safety and Professional Services
Currently, several teams handle data entry, but with the new solution by using their expertise in reviewing applications and processing and interacting with the customer. The tech companies are working to enable AI to automate data extraction from emails and attachments and send the information to DSPS’ database. It will also link necessary attachments such as degrees or certifications to the applications, with administrators being alerted to review any mismatches.
In addition to easing data entry, the technologies could help with customer service. For instance, virtual assistants could help in many permutations of the process. Because the process for each license is governed by statutory authorities and regulations, there tends to be a specific workflow for each industry. Virtual assistants could help point callers to the resources they need.
Although the different industries have different requirements, there are questions common to all licensing types. They use a natural language understanding platform that lets agencies design and integrate a conversational user interface into applications. The AI can comb through processes and statistics, such as how many calls virtual assistants deflect from staff. With those statistics, DSPS can make data-informed decisions about regulations, processes and procedures.
This modernisation effort is part of the second of a three-phase effort the state is pursuing. The first phase focused on the state’s construction industry, including replacing the regulated objects system, a 20-year old software application used for commercial building inspection permits, plan reviews and credentialing.
The third phase will address the complaint process. DSPS has more than 100 councils, committees and boards that govern the industry, so DSPS wants to use technology to study where complaints are coming from and whether they can be attributed to regulations or licensed professionals themselves.
Many U.S. Government agencies have leveraged the power of AI to achieve their goals more efficiently. As reported by OpenGov Asia, Yolo County District Attorney has had robust discussions with community members about the implicit or explicit bias that may occur in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors have nearly absolute discretion to charge or dismiss criminal cases. There is concern that these high-stakes judgments may suffer from explicit or implicit racial bias, as with many other such actions in the criminal justice system.
Yolo DA decided to address this potential problem by announcing the official launch of a first-of-its-kind Race Blind Charging (RBC) programme. The office then has been using the algorithm, developed by the Stanford Computational Policy Lab (SCPL).
By using a first-of-its-kind Race Blind Charging software program, Yolo County will ensure that their decisions on whether to charge someone with a crime are not infected by any real or perceived bias. This innovation will also help improve public confidence in the procedural fairness of the criminal justice system.
Singapore’s Tampines Polyclinic, this month will use robots instead of nurses to monitor patients’ temperatures and remind them to put on their masks. The Healthcare Assistive Robot for Frontline Infection Control (Hiro) was developed by researchers at Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) and is currently being tested at the polyclinic. The robot uses UV-C light to kill bacteria and viruses and can direct visitors to service points.
NP’s Robotics Research and Innovation Centre assistant director said, “the robot is meant to help cut down on the possibility of infection in the polyclinics and also reduce the burden on healthcare staff doing laborious tasks like cleaning hard-to-reach areas and temperature screening, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
We want this facility to be a platform for collaboration with the industry as NP moves towards our vision of helping to develop technology for the future in the healthcare, transportation, construction and sustainability industries.
– Assistant Director, Robotics Research and Innovation Centre, Ngee Ann Polytechnic
The Healthcare Assistive Robot is part of the NP’s joint effort with healthcare provider SingHealth, which operates eight of the 20 polyclinics in the area. The robot’s development began last year, with plans to deploy more at various SingHealth polyclinics the following year. NP also announced the launch of the Robotics Research and Innovation Centre, which is divided into two wings and located on NP’s Clementi Road campus. The centre will house students pursuing a new Specialist Diploma in Robotics Engineering, which is geared toward adult learners and will accept 40 applicants in April of next year.
The facilities, which include workshops, showcase areas, and laboratories, will provide students with real-world robotics experience, according to the NP deputy principal. Moreover, other projects in the works with the National Parks Board include a park patrol robot and a plant health monitoring robot (NParks). Last year, in collaboration with Hougang Primary School, CoDDiE, a teaching assistant robot that assists students in learning to code, was developed. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a variety of unmanned robots have begun to appear in public roles across the country.
OpenGov Asia in an article reported that two robots have been patrolling the Toa Payoh Central neighbourhood in Singapore as part of a three-week trial, looking for errant smokers, unlicensed hawkers, motorbikes and e-scooter riders on sidewalks and gatherings that exceed the current group size limits. The robots are designed to alert public officers in real-time to these offences since they will be equipped with cameras that have a 360-degree field of vision and can see in the dark. They will also be able to broadcast and show warnings warning people about the dangers of such behaviour.
The patrolling robot, developed by HTX in collaboration with the Agency for Science, Technology, and Research, will contribute to enhancing efficiency while reducing the need for manpower for foot patrols, according to the company. This is particularly true for labour-intensive operations like monitoring illegal hawkers. The latest patrolling robot is a refresh of the police’s Multi-purpose All-Terrain Autonomous Robots, or Matar, which have been deployed at large public events such as the National Day Parade, Marina Bay Countdown, and Chingay.
The fourth industrial revolution’s technological innovations are radically transforming the economy. The self-sufficient economy is becoming a reality. AI, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) advancements are ushering in a new era of automation.
Workplace automation in Singapore is expected to increase more than double in three years, covering 29% of all work done by businesses, up from 14% in 2018. This could result in at least 5% of Singapore’s full-time workers losing their jobs.
Singapore must adopt new strategies to keep up with global technological advancements to avoid falling behind. The automation of the economy will be critical to Singapore’s growth and competitiveness. According to a report, automation could boost global productivity growth by up to 1.4% per year. However, for the Singaporean workforce, automation may pose significant challenges and disruptions to current jobs and skillsets.
A report from the Jacobs Institute’s Urban Tech Hub at Cornell Tech showed that the main aspects that shape the future of urban technology are sustainable neighbourhoods, a supercharged infrastructure and inclusive innovation that strikes back at surveillance capitalism.
For the report, the research team conducted a 10-year horizon scan, scouring thousands of published journals, news articles and blogs to identify the most relevant and important trends. The raw data were synthesised to reveal 217 unique perspectives and 49 trends that describe the direction of urban tech in the next decade.
The Horizon Scan is meant to create a conversation across the many areas that are a part of urban tech. The report describes the innovations that the field could produce in the coming decade. But it also lays out the ‘technical debt’ that’s already on the books due to hasty decisions about sensing, AI, and tech governance.”
– Anthony Townsend, Project Lead
Though the report covers a number of technological advances, from mobility solutions to the complexities of privacy related to facial recognition, the research team homes in on six key themes that will likely have the biggest impact on the future of cities.
First, smart city concepts have seen steady progress over the last decade, with more municipalities equipping their buildings with digital sensing. Improved real-time tracking of energy, waste and water has led to increased control and savings.
The report cites scaling sustainable building technology as another theme, as cities look to cut carbon emissions in efforts to contain the effects of climate change. Technology will play a critical role as political and financial capital is focused on megacities, where street-level solutions will be key in extracting the maximum value.
City infrastructure is also expected to play an important role in shaping the future of urban technology. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how understanding the urban ecosystem can help anticipate outbreaks, as scientists used sewage sampling and microbiome sequencing in city transit systems to track the spread of the virus. Many cities are even wiring up waterways and parks to calculate the vitality of these ecosystems.
Artificial neural networks, which power some of the cities’ most sophisticated machine learning efforts, can provide incredible value to governments by predicting the movements of goods, people, resources and information. At the same time, by deploying such powerful tools society risks giving up individual freedoms, the report states.
The shift toward doing things remotely, from learning and health care to work and entertainment, reveals wealth and power disparities. Fostering technologies that empower the disempowered can help ensure an efficient, tech-powered future.
Finally, the researchers predict that in the decade ahead, “big tech will crack the code of the city and stitch together a planetary supply chain for urban innovation.” Governments are getting a clearer picture of the problems they want the industry to solve, and the challenges of realising smart city innovation is becoming clearer.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, a new report also revealed the trends shaping the future of local U.S. governments which include data, technology and Customer Experience (CX). “The Future of Local Government” report states that because the public interacts with local governments the most, those agencies are best poised to make a for constituents and businesses.
Using data to drive decision- and policymaking is becoming increasingly crucial. Historically, government data has been stored across an array of sources, databases, systems and departments; one in four local officials surveyed by Forrester Consulting said public datasets housed in multiple databases and lines of business systems are a significant obstacle to executing new customer-focused strategies. Bringing disparate data sources together to tap into the immense power of analytics and data-based business insights will play a critical role in reshaping local government for a new era.