As part of its comprehensive digital transformation strategy and its ambitions to be a regional digital powerhouse, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has placed smart cities and commercialisation of 5G at the top of their priority list.
Vietnam has seen a rapid blossoming of its city areas with the urbanisation rate shooting up from 19.6% in 2009 (629 urban areas) to about 39.25 by the beginning of 2020 (835 urban areas in December 2019). After Vietnam joined the ASEAN Smart Cities Network 2 years ago, the Vietnam Smart City Development Project (2018-2025) was released with a vision until 2030. The project has three priority areas – programming smart cities, managing smart cities and smart urban utilities.
Minister of Construction, Pham Hong Ha, said Vietnam will implement the tasks and solutions set in the Vietnam Smart City Development project. These include a legal framework for the development of smart cities as well as management of tools, institutions and mechanisms for cooperation between ministries and branches, between the central and local government, to ensure smart cities throughout the country and avoid waste in using resources.
Concerning connectivity, within the final months of 2020, all three major mobile carriers in Vietnam announced trials of commercial 5G services, making Vietnam one of the first countries in the world to roll out the latest generation of wireless technology. This is expected to boost the digital economy.
According to a news report, unlike previous technologies most of which had to be imported, Vietnam has gradually mastered and is now capable of producing 5G equipment, a strategically important step in Vietnam’s development of information and communications technology. State-run enterprise Viettel was the pioneer in announcing commercial 5G trials in late November with coverage in the Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, and Hai Ba Trung Districts of Hanoi. Owners of 5G-enabled devices can now use the service for free at a speed of up to 1.5 gigabits per second, far higher than 4G.
Both these priorities – smart cities and 5G – are in line with the MIC as well as the Hanoi People’s Committee, and the implementation of these priorities rests with the Hanoi Department of Information and Communication. In a report presented at a conference on reviewing tasks in 2020, the department said it had helped the Hanoi People’s Committee set up a plan on IT use in Hanoi in 2020 as well as IT use in state agencies, further developing digital government and ensuring cybersecurity in 2021.
The municipal authorities were handed over a plan to implement Decree 45 on administrative procedures for the electronic environment and to set up a program on digital transformation in Hanoi by 2025 with the vision until 2030. The agency also played an important role in the construction of infrastructure items at the software park in Dong Anh district.
In terms of post and telecommunications, the agency advised municipal authorities on the regulation on managing, building and using technical infrastructure works for common use, and upgrading and rearranging telecom cables on poles.
The department coordinated with specialised agencies to implement Decree 92 on fighting against spam messages, e-mails and calls. Nguyen Thanh Liem, director of the Hanoi Department of Information and Communications, affirmed that Hanoi has pioneered eliminating spam calls and messages. One of the outstanding telecom achievements of Hanoi in 2020 was the trial of 5G services and the installation of public wifi at tourist sites and historical relics in the city.
Hanoi aims to improve its image in information technology applications in 2021. With new infrastructure items such as the smart operation centre, the cybersecurity monitoring centre and shared software systems, information technology applications in the city will be better in the near future.
Deputy Minister Pham Anh Tuan directed the department to build an action plan based on the key orientations shown in Instruction 01 from MIC. He also urged then to complete the Vpostcode map with the addresses of every household. This is considered the foundation for e-commerce development and management.
With COVID-19 still showing no signs of slowing down, the Philippine government continues to look for ways to improve its overall digital make-up for the benefit of its citizens and other governing agencies. One of which is opening areas in the country to allow movement of people to aid its economic recovery while also placing necessary measures to help contact-tracing protocols.
Accordingly, the country’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has adopted the Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) Travel Management System developed by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and will now be institutionalised as the one-stop-shop app for travellers. This is considering the approval by the IATF of the uniform travel protocols for all local government units (LGUs).
The StaySafe.ph app, meanwhile, will be utilised as the primary contact tracing system by the Government. Other existing contact tracing applications will also be integrated with the StaySafe.ph system. The S-PaSS, developed by DOST VI initially as a travel management system, was primarily intended to make a hassle-free journey for Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs), Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs), Emergency Travelers (ETS), and other travellers during this pandemic.
The S-PaSS is also meant to benefit not only the travellers but also the authorities to properly monitor the movement of people in different locations in the effort to prevent the spread of the virus. With the app, travellers can apply for Travel Authority (TA) online before visiting their local police station where the QR Code can be used to view one’s TA, as well as register at designated monitoring locations and track one’s travel history.
For the Philippine National Police (PNP), the tool can integrate the process of issuing a Travel Authority to quickly generate real-time reports. Likewise, in the case of other LGUs and monitoring agencies, the system will allow real-time monitoring of incoming travellers and provide convenient tracking of travellers by setting up designated monitoring locations and likewise quickly generate real-time reports. The system has a local mobility feature that replaces the use of pen-and-paper or logbooks. It can also be used to document and monitor border crossings in LGUs.
The travellers will be monitored by scanning their unique S-PaSS QR Code every time they visit an establishment and office. The system will then automatically record information on its ELogBook for recording and monitoring purposes.
Moreover, rapid adoption of digital technologies can help the Philippines overcome the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, recover from the crisis, and achieve its vision of becoming a middle-class society free of poverty, according to the report released by the World Bank and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
The report stated that this pandemic has caused substantial disruptions in the domestic economy as community restrictions have limited the movement of people and reduced business operations nationwide. As we are now living with the new normal, the use of digital technology and digital transformation has become important for Filipinos in coping with the present crisis, moving towards economic recovery, and getting back on track towards the nation’s long-term aspirations.
Likewise, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced several governments to re-examine the way they do things, how they interact with their citizens and how they keep their country functioning in these unprecedented times. Digital solutions in areas such as government services, education, the media, communication systems, and the economy have allowed some form of continuity in day-to-day life during a lockdown.
Although most Governments throughout South-East Asia are gradually moving towards complete digitalisation, they are all at very different stages of their digital transformation journey. It is also likely that Governments of the future will increase spending on digital infrastructure, adopt data-driven approaches in response to economic recovery, and leverage technology solutions to implement COVID-19 strategies.
With its mission to further improve the digitalisation of various business sectors, Minister for Communications, and Information S Iswaran noted that Singapore’s digital future is underpinned by several things including competitive enterprises that leverage digital technologies to innovate and grow. He also highlighted that because of the pandemic, many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses have pivoted towards hybrid online-offline models to engage and transact with consumers.
For the Government to further adapt, one of the new initiatives announced was a new Chief Technology Officer (CTO)-as-a-Service scheme that will include a one-stop, self-help tool for small-and-medium-enterprises (SMEs) to assess their digital needs and gaps. SMEs can then access customised recommendations on digital solutions based on the company profile, and information on Government support, adding that the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) would work with the relevant agencies on the initiative as part of Singapore’s Smart Nation drive. SMEs that need more in-depth advice can tap on a shared pool of CTO- equivalents or digital consultants with expertise in areas such as data analytics, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence.
Minister also noted that these digital consultants will be managed by IT consultancy firms appointed by IMDA and will be selected based on their digital skills and experience in relevant industries. Firms will receive both digital consultancy and project management services to identify needs and solutions, as well as manage project implementation. These resources will be accessible to all registered SMEs, including home-based businesses which are sole proprietorships. The service will come in the form of a web application for the service, accessible via computers or mobile devices. said, Minister.
He also announced a new Digital Leaders Programme, which will equip firms with the capabilities and talent to accelerate their digital transformation journey. The programme will provide up to 70% support on qualifying costs to help companies build a core digital team to develop and execute their digitalisation strategy. It will also connect companies with tech partners to develop new digital products and services, and better position them to compete internationally.
The minister said the programme will initially support up to 80 companies, beginning with those more advanced in their digital journeys, with management teams committed to driving digital transformation for sustained growth. It will be managed by IMDA and Enterprise Singapore as well as other economic agencies. Firms in the programme will participate in a two-year pilot, receiving funding support to help build an in-house core digital team, and develop a proof of concepts for new digital products and services, adding that the programme will be launched this year.
The IMDA is also introducing the Better Data-Driven Business (BDDB) programme, which will provide firms with free tools and guidance to help safeguard their customers’ data while more effectively using data to remain competitive. The programme will also provide a free business intelligence tool that can convert raw data into visual dashboards that can aid business outcomes such as better sales and operational efficiencies. It will also enable more advanced data uses, such as for R&D and innovation, through curated resources such as case studies and videos.
Meanwhile, another S$50 million will be invested in IMDA’s Open Innovation Platform – a crowd-sourcing platform that matches business challenges to technology solution providers – to enhance its capabilities, the Ministry said. This will help more enterprises access innovative solutions and accelerate the deployment of digital innovation at scale. IMDA will also co-fund the prototyping of matched challenges to help innovative tech companies expand their market base.
In support of these efforts, it has been reported that more than S$500 million of the Fortitude Budget will be allocated to support the digital transformation of businesses, including support for e-payments, adopting digital solutions and deepening digital capabilities, announced Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
A bioaerosols research project aimed at developing innovative and effective methods for detecting and disinfecting bacteria and viruses including SARS-CoV-2 in indoor environments led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has secured HK$ 6.15 million from the Research Impact Fund under the Research Grants Council. Bioaerosols are very small airborne particles containing living organisms and has been considered one of the possible routes of the spreading of Covid-19.
Professor Alvin Lai Chi-keung, Associate Head of the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering and Project Coordinator stated, “The Covid-19 pandemic has already resulted in over 110 million cases and 2.5 million deaths globally since 2020. Our bioaerosols study addresses an urgent need in Hong Kong and globally to rapidly detect and eliminate pathogens in indoor air, including the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The outcomes from this study will not only immediately contribute to the fight against Covid-19 but also significantly raise our preparedness for future pandemics.”
This four-year research project is titled “Rapid Detection and Synergetic Disinfection of Bioaerosols Using Far UVC and Negative Air Ions: Mechanistic and Field Studies”.
Current methods for sampling bioaerosols cannot detect rapidly and effectively microorganisms of all sizes, especially viruses that are submicron in diameter. In order to address these shortcomings, the research team will try to couple advanced aerosol technology with molecular biology techniques such as nucleic acid-based methods to enable fast and accurate detection of targeted microorganisms. Nucleic acid-based methods are now used for testing humans, but the team will use them to analyse air samples.
These new methods will be deployed to profile the bioaerosol composition in different indoor settings in Hong Kong. In addition, the team will combine Far UVC light (far ultraviolet C light) and negative air ions to harness the synergistic effects between the two to achieve over 99.9% removal of bacteria and viruses.
Recently Far UVC has been found to be more effective in the disinfection of microorganisms and most importantly safer than conventional UVC, a known disinfectant that inactivates viruses and bacteria. Negative air ions can also disinfect microorganisms.
After the novel disinfection process has been developed in the laboratory, field tests will be conducted in diverse buildings in Hong Kong to verify its effectiveness under real-life conditions. The team will investigate how the ambient transformation of bioaerosols can influence disinfection effectiveness through laboratory experiments that mimic typical indoor conditions.
The team’s target is to develop a rapid and accurate method for detecting bioaerosols and fabricate a prototype with a high disinfection efficacy against a wide range of pathogens in different indoor environments.
It is a challenge to design a practical device that can disinfect airborne pathogens within a short exposure time, particularly portable units. However, the team members’ background in aerosol science and technology and microbiology will overcome the difficulties, he added.
Other team members include Professor Chan Chak-keung, Dean and Chair Professor of the School of Energy and Environment (SEE), CityU; Dr Patrick Lee Kwan-hon, Associate Dean and Associate Professor of SEE; and scholars from the Kanazawa University, Japan and University of Hong Kong.
Professor Chan has over 30 years of research experience in air pollution and aerosol science and Dr Lee’s research interest lies in biologically-related environmental problems. They are both Co-Principal Investigators of the project.
A crowdsourcing mobile application to enhance accessibility for specially-abled individuals has been launched in New Delhi. The app aims to augment built-up environments (steps, ramps, emergency exits), the transportation sector, and the information communication technologies (ICTs) ecosystem in India.
The Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Thaawarchand Gehlot, virtually launched the Sugamya Bharat application as well as a handbook called, “Access – The Photo Digest”, which have both been developed by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD).
According to a press release, the app provides five main features, four of which are directly related to enhancing accessibility. The fifth is meant for only COVID-19-related issues. Users can register complaints about public places, services, or utilities that are inaccessible. They will be able to upload photographs and geo-tag the location of the premises for authority intervention. Users will also receive departmental updates, guidelines, and circulars related to accessibility on the mobile application.
The Minister explained that the app, which is available in ten regional languages, aims to help spread awareness and make public spaces, transportation, and other services more accessible. The implementation of accessibility-related activities across the country is a step towards the vision of a universally-accessible and inclusive India, the release noted.
The app’s interface is user-friendly and features easy drop-down menus and tutorials in Hindi, English, and sign language that demonstrate how to register or upload complaints with photographs. The app offers font-size adjustments, color-contrasting options, text-to-speech, and an integrated screen reader in Hindi and English.
The app will be monitored through a project monitoring unit (PMU) under DEPwD. The PMU will forward the complaints received through the app to the appropriate authorities across India. These include district magistrates, collectors for state government-owned buildings, or executive heads of Urban Local Bodies (ULB) for other buildings, including private spaces that fall under their jurisdiction.
Accessibility complaints related to central government premises or services will be forwarded to the nodal officers nominated for this purpose by the concerned ministries and departments. If the complaint is not addressed, the matter will be taken to the next highest authority.
An accessible government building is one where citizens with disabilities have no barrier in entering it and using all the facilities therein. This covers built environments such as steps and ramps, corridors, entry gates, emergency exits, and parking as well as indoor and outdoor facilities like lighting, signages, alarm systems, and toilets. Identifying accessible buildings requires annual accessibility audits that determine if a building meets a certain standard.
Further, accessible transportation plays a critical role in the growth of the economy and an inaccessible transportation system restricts mobility and denies freedom of movement and active participation for much of the population who need accessible transportation.
Access – The Photo Digest handbook is a collection of photographs from across different states and union territories. It is a tool and guide to sensitise stakeholders about ten basic features of accessibility and associated good-bad practices in an easy-to-understand pictorial form. An electronic version of the handbook will also be available on the app and the Department website.
NSW Police has selected US-based public safety software provider to deliver the first crucial components of the state’s new cloud-based integrated policing operating system (IPOS). The Commissioner signed a partnership with the vendor on recently, ending a tumultuous five-year search to replace the force’s 27-year-old core operational policing system (COPS).
IPOS will eventually be used by the force’s 18,000-strong workforce for everyday operations such as arrest and charges, criminal investigations and forensic analysis – supplanting COPS. The system – which is expected to come online progressively over the next five years – will also replace the NSW Police’s decade-old Fujitsu computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system for Triple Zero callouts. The force has also revealed that it will equip every frontline officer with ‘MobiPol’ mobile devices as part of the broader IPOS program in step with several other jurisdictions, including SA and WA.
Under the new deal, the tech company will provide the call-taking, dispatch, records, investigations, and forensics components of IPOS through its “single platform” records management system and CAD. It follows an “extensive due diligence process” that began when the tech firm and Unisys were first down-selected as the IPOS technology solution and delivery partner in March 2020. NSW Police has been working to modernise COPS – which has been used by officers since 1994 – since scoring an initial $44.8 million in the 2013-14 state budget for the overhaul.
It originally settled on another solution, dubbed NewCOPS, but ended up forgoing the decision and restarted the procurement in October 2018, before finally settling on the chosen tech firms last year. The NSW Police Corporate Services Deputy Commissioner stated that IPOS, combined with devices that ensure officers have access to real-time information, will transform the force.
The “modularised solution” is expected to create process efficiencies for NSW Police users, including reducing data entry time, decreasing incident response times and improving officer safety. IPOS will simplify processes and introduce technology that is integrated, easy to use and fast, he said. These unparalleled efficiencies will save administrative time for frontline officers, allowing them to spend more time policing.
It was previously estimated that the total cost of ownership for IPOS will be in excess of $1 billion over 15 years. The modernisation of core technology is critical for the NSW Police Force to improve operational flexibility, reduce the risk of outdated legacy systems and respond to challenges of the modern policing environment.
The Co-Founder and CEO of the tech firm stated that the NSW Police partnership – its first in Australia – “solidifies [the company’s] presence in the international public safety market.” With this historic partnership, the firm is bringing its tried-and-true approach to one of the largest police forces in the English-speaking world, he said. The tech firm is already in the process of setting up a dedicated customer support team for NSW Police, which will be its largest outside of the US.
According to another article, a new state-of-the-art Police Rescue truck, equipped with a high-tech vertical winch and a drone, was rolled out in the Blue Mountains on 24 February 2021.
The Hino 1424 Medium Rigid Crew Cab is the first of a new fleet of heavy vehicle trucks being delivered to the Police Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit across metropolitan and regional locations in NSW. The vehicles are outfitted with the latest specialist equipment such as drones, a vertical rescue ascender, 100-tonne hydraulic cylinders, extended duration breathing apparatus, and road crash rescue hydraulics with electric rewind reels.
Police will use the vertical rescue ascender, along with a remotely piloted aircraft (drone), for rescue and recovery operations in hard-to-reach areas, such as on cliffs and in bushland.
A new Mobile Train Radio Communication (MTRC) system has been unveiled at the Divisional Railway Manager’s Office in Mumbai. The MTRC system is a technologically advanced communication system, which can help prevent train accidents and reduce delays by making communication effective. It facilitates instant and constant interaction between the train crew, the control centre, and the station master.
According to a press release, the system, which was first proposed in 2013, acts similarly to air traffic control (ARC) for aircraft. The system will monitor, track, and aid communication between all 100 trains and the control room, providing real-time updates and ensuring the smooth movement of rakes.
The tetra-based system will be operated from the central control room. It has a combination of cameras and microphones and can record digital data for up to 90 days. The system was commissioned for the Western Railway, which is one of the 18 zones under the Indian Railways and is among the busiest railway networks in the country.
The General Manager of Western Railway, Alok Kansal, explained that the system has been installed in 90 out of 100 rakes running between Churchgate and Virar. The 60-kilometre suburban section between the two is a high-density-traffic route where trains run with headway (at an interval) of approximately three minutes in peak hours. The section transports over 3.4 million passengers every day and operates over 1,300 services. The existing very high frequency (VHF)-based communication does not facilitate communication between the crew of the running train and operators in the control office.
MTRC is an integrated system with the ongoing train management system so that controllers can communicate with the driver and guards by using the train number or cab number code. In case of emergency, MTRC can make a broadcast call, the section controller can initiate the call to all guards and the same announcement can be extended to the passengers. The system is expected to be especially useful during monsoon when tracks get waterlogged and trains make an abrupt halt in the middle of the track. Even motormen can speak to other motormen for updates or to check the extent of technical failures.
With the system, rail authorities can provide information to commuters about whether there are technical problems like signal failures, OHE snapping, track failure, or a trespassing accident. MTRC uses the lowest time to connect calls, which is 300 milliseconds. The system can also track the location of trains through GPS and find out if a level crossing is open or closed. Information will be provided within ten minutes of an incident occurring. There are towers at Mahalaxmi, Borivali, Virar, Churchgate, Bandra, and Jogeshwari that supplement the system.
Western Railways is committed to providing the best of the services to the public, be it with the number of trains, quality of service, or safety of travellers. MTRC will enable passengers’ convenience and in case of an emergency, prompt communication through its advanced technology, Kansal stated. Deliberate efforts of the department have brought the number of accidental deaths and injured per day down from around 4.50 in 2019 to 1.30 in 2020.
One thing that the pandemic has shown about payments is that speed, reliability and near-universal access have never been more important. For Singapore, the first wave of non-bank financial institutions (NFIs and Fintechs), are now connected to FAST, Singapore’s real-time payment rails.
Financial tech firms believe this move signifies the growth of the local fintech industry. By giving firms access to FAST, previously the exclusive domain of banks, regulators are enabling greater competition and innovation in the payments space. Aimed ultimately to the benefit of consumers, near-universal access has never been more important in a world powered by instantaneous digital interaction.
According to them, whether it is listening to music or taking an online class, consumers are benefitting from a better experience using tech — one that is becoming faster, cheaper, more convenient and most importantly, offers a variety of choice, no matter where you are.
In contrast, they also believe that the financial services industry has largely not kept pace; while fintechs have gradually begun to fill this void by offering a variety of services that were traditionally the domain of the incumbent banks.
For the consumer, on the other hand, the benefits of this seemingly obscure change to the payments plumbing may not seem obvious. But direct participation in FAST helps non-banks level the playing field with traditional banks, increases competition and allows fintechs to offer a better, cheaper and faster service in a digital world. Beyond this, fintechs gain better control over the entire customer experience when connected directly to the national payment system, rather than having this access through a bank.
Fintechs said that this move will also curtail delays, inefficiency and high fees. A recent report from The World Bank’s Remittance Prices Worldwide showed that sending remittances costs an average of 6.75% of the amount sent — far higher than the United Nations’ goal to push this down to lower than 3%. More middlemen in the money movement process mean additional costs and delays resulting in a sub-optimal experience for the end consumer, especially for small businesses.
Financial tech firms are also looking forward to building more competitive products that make payments even faster and cheaper for citizens. They also added that for the fintech sector to thrive, policymakers need to manage risks while encouraging growth. Striking this balance between regulation and fintech innovation is not easy, especially with the rapid speed of technological change.
Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) pushed the commencement of the Singapore Payment Services Act (PS Act). The new PS Act will enhance the regulatory framework for payment services in the country, strengthen consumer protection and promote confidence in the use of e-payments. The PS Act adopts an activity-based licencing framework in recognition of the different kinds of activities and new developments in payment services.
Just recently, as also reported by OpenGov Asia, Enterprise Singapore (ESG), Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the SG Digital Office (SDO) announced that 10,000 stallholders – more than half of Singapore’s stallholders – have adopted e-payments. 10,000 hawkers using e-payments, with transactions growing four times since June 2020. Transactions volume and value for January 2021 also crossed the 1.2 million and S$14 million mark respectively for the first time.
As one of the centres of innovation in the world, Singapore is well-placed to foster a more open and transparent payment ecosystem that benefits consumers. The country aims to lead the charge in encouraging constructive competition and closer collaboration in the sector.