The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau (FSTB) announced that the FinTech Anti-epidemic Scheme for Talent Development (FAST Scheme) under the second round of the Anti-epidemic Fund was launched and open for application on 2 July 2020. The aim of the scheme is to support the development of financial technology (fintech) in Hong Kong.
The Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury stated that, “The Government has earmarked $6 billion under the Anti-epidemic Fund to create around 30,000 time-limited jobs in both public and private sectors in the coming two years for people of different skill sets and academic qualifications.”
To support fintech development, the FSTB will launch the FAST Scheme for fintech companies and start-ups, and other enterprises with fintech-related businesses to create 1,000 new jobs to employ local people and enrich Hong Kong’s fintech talent pool.
The Scheme will offer a quota of 1,000 openings for application on a first-come-first-served basis. Each fintech company can apply for one subsidy for a new full-time position. Successful applicants will receive $10,000 per month as a salary subsidy for a maximum of 12 months. The total funding involved may amount to $120 million.
The applicant (company) must be a Hong Kong registered company or a not-for-profit organisation. The company must have commenced business before 1 January 2020, and still be in operation at the time of application. It must also be conducting substantive fintech activities at a fixed physical office in Hong Kong.
The candidate must be a Hong Kong resident over 18 years old with a Hong Kong identity card and be a holder of accredited certificates, diplomas and degrees obtained in programmes of post-secondary and tertiary institutes in disciplines including information technology, digital media, accounting or business management; or be a person with relevant work experience.
The FSTB has appointed Cyberport to administer the Scheme, which will be open for online application via the Scheme’s dedicated website from 2 July 2020 to 2 July 2 2021.
Details of the eligibility criteria, application procedures and supporting documents required are available at the website for preview.
According to another article, in June 2020 the Hong Kong Monetary Authority introduced a HK$10.8 million subsidy plan to pay half the salaries of 300 fresh university graduates hired by 39 banks and e-wallet operators in the city.
The subsidy will apply for six months for those hired from September, and assumes the companies will pay these graduates HK$12,000 every month.
In March, the government announced a HK$81 billion plan to revive Hong Kong’s battered economy, and offered to pay businesses up to HK$9,000 per month per employee for six months to preserve jobs.
The financial services industry accounts for about a fifth of Hong Kong’s gross domestic product and employs about 263,000 workers, according to official data. In the past two years, many banks have accelerated job cuts and frozen hiring to trim costs, leaving many of the 20,000 graduates finishing their degrees every year staring at a bleak jobs market.
OpoenGov Asia previously reported that the HKU FinTech Index Series Project published the second-year Hong Kong FinTech Growth Index (FGI) and the 2020Q1 Hong Kong FinTech Buzz Index (FBI) to gauge local FinTech companies’ outlook and the general sentiment on the sector as reported by the local press.
The FGI represents responses to an annual survey by 27 companies, 11 less than last year.
The Hong Kong FGI for the financial year 2019-20 is 120.9, up 20.9 index points from 2018-19. The FGI expected for the financial year 2020-21 is 133.6, an increase of 12.7 index points (or 10.5%), representing a positive outlook for Fintech development in Hong Kong in the coming year despite the impact from the anti-extradition bill protests and COVID-19 outbreak.
A virtual bank based in Hong Kong has confirmed the public launch of its digital banking services. It is notably the only stand-alone firm to acquire a virtual bank license from the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), the city-state’s de facto central bank that’s also responsible for promoting the efficiency, integrity and development of its financial system.
The new virtual bank reportedly began pilot services back in April 2020 (under the HKMA Fintech Supervisory Sandbox).
The bank is a homegrown digital bank that acquired an operational license in April 2019. It’s one of only eight virtual bank licenses in Hong Kong.
It claims to be completely digital, and has been developed for customers to take advantage of “a range of next-generation digital services 24/7 from their mobile phones.”
The digital bank allows account opening to be completed within minutes. There are zero monthly fees for maintaining accounts, the bank’s management confirmed.
The services being offered include time deposits, along with a virtual debit card and real-time payments via the Faster Payment System (FPS). The WeLab debit card is a numberless card that has been issued with the help of Mastercard.
The bank’s public launch has come after the introduction of ZA Bank by ZhongAn/Sinolink, and Airstar Bank by Xiaomi/AMTD.
The bank is the third digital bank to launch in Hong Kong at a time when the Coronavirus crisis has accelerated the shift towards digital platforms and services.
The bank appears to have entered a saturated market with around 155 traditional lenders and eight digital banks that are offering services to Hong Kong’s over 7 million residents.
The Bank is offering a 4.5% annual rate on deposits, starting from HK$10 (appr. $1.30). The company is also offering a time-limited 8% rebate on customer spending.
The CEO of the bank stated that the Covid-19 pandemic offers opportunities and challenges. It has forced many people to work and shop from home. Many people are more comfortable using their mobile phones to open an account and conduct banking transactions.
The Chairman of the bank stated that the bank aims to offer a high deposit rate and cash rebate to help customers better cope with the Covid-19 outbreak. Hong Kong residents can earn more by saving their cash handouts with the bank or by spending with our debit card.
Last year, the HKMA awarded eight digital bank licences. Some of the other licensees include Mox, Ant Bank, Livi, Ping An OneConnect, and Fusion Bank. These banks are still in the process of completing their pilots.
A partner at stated that all the virtual banks which have launched to date have, understandably, focused on customer acquisition in the form of promotional discounts, time-limited interest rates, referral bonuses, and so on.
The real challenge will be engaging customers beyond these initial launch offers. Right now, we believe that only a handful of new players will truly be able to differentiate.
OpenGov Asia previously reported that since the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has started issuing banking licenses to several local virtual banks in the first half of 2019, the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers (HKIB) has swiftly strengthened its training offering in the fields of Fintech, cybersecurity and digital banking.
The institute has launched more than 30 related courses and seminars, ranging in subjects from risk management, business development, blockchain, data security to global regulatory and compliance that has been attended by over 2,000 participants.
Over the next year, the HKIB will continue efforts to promote Fintech development in Hong Kong. As the Fintech ecosystem in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area continues to grow in prominence, the institute remains committed to improving the cross-border and cross-sector financial and market knowledge of banking practitioners through its professional training programmes to help local professionals sustain their competitiveness.
The number of installations of the Bluezone mobile application has increased sharply recently, reaching over two million as of 2 August, according to the Authority of Information Technology Application.
The app, developed by the country’s leading cybersecurity firm BKAV, alerts a user if they have come in close contact with people who tested positive, minimising the spread of the virus in the community.
When there is a new case of infection, a user can find out whether they had close contact with the person or not simply by accessing Bluezone.
In a bid to assist the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Viettel, a military-run industry and telecoms group, has increased the capacity of the Vietnam Health Declaration application by 30%.
According to a press release, from 25 July to 2 August, this application usage reached 1.1 million declarations, nearly 28 times higher than the previous week.
On 30 July, the number of declarations reached 392,000, 12 times higher than the first day when the new community transmission case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Da Nang, according to Viettel.
The network operator has proactively upgraded the app storage capacity from 22 million to over 28 million declarations records.
As of 3 August, Vietnam has a total of 642 COVID-19 cases, including 195 cases linked to the COVID-19 outbreak in Da Nang.
To ensure the delivery of services is efficient and limits as much physical interaction as possible, the government has developed a national portal, PayGov, to promote electronic payments for public services.
PayGov is not a payment service but acts as a platform to connect public service portals and single-window systems with intermediary payment service providers, as OpenGov reported.
Once connected with the platform, online public service portals of ministries and local authorities will be provided with a single interface to use all the services of the intermediary payment providers.
At the same time, intermediary payment companies can provide their services to all ministries and local authorities through PayGov.
In addition to public services, PayGov can provide payment services for other utilities such as electricity, water, healthcare, and education, all in the one place.
Recently, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc decided to approve a new list of members of the National Committee on e-Government and working group.
The decision took effect from 31 July, replacing Decision No. 1737/QD-TTg, dated 3 December 2019 on the list of members of the National Committee on e-Government.
As per a press release, the Committee is tasked to propose to the government and the PM guidelines, strategies, and mechanisms to create a legal framework to promote the development of e-government towards a digital economy and society in the face of the fourth industrial revolution.
It also targets to assist the government and the PM in coordinating and inspecting the implementation of interdisciplinary strategies, programs, mechanisms, policies, schemes, projects, and natural solutions on the construction and development of e-government, digital transformation, digital economy, and smart cities.
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has announced it is shifting from traditional classroom training to 100% online learning to ensure that its training programs reach more audience amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The current global health emergency requiring physical distancing has prompted the FSI to advance the timetable for implementing the institute’s earlier plans to shift its courses from the traditional face-to-face modality to online, a press release explained.
The FSI serves as the centre for development and professionalisation of DFA’s foreign service units as well as other government agencies that have offices and employees assigned abroad.
On 3 August, the DFA announced the completion of the first run of two online courses: the Basic Foreign Service Staff Employees’ Course (BFSSEC) and the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS).
It is one of the institute’s core training programs and was designed to equip participants with the basic knowledge and skills required of their positions and enabled them to carry out their functions more effectively.
The course focused on enriching the knowledge of participants in clerical, administrative, and technical work while enhancing basic communication skills.
The course was conducted for DFA personnel who were going on assignments abroad for the first time.
This four-module seminar covered Diplomacy and Philippine Foreign Policy, Philippine Foreign Service Work Operations, Crisis Management and Assistance to Nationals (CMAN), and Adapting to Foreign Assignments and Building Resilience.
The DFA said that BFSSEC has been completed by 45 DFA personnel while a total of 37 personnel participated in the PDOS Course, 20 from DFA and 17 from other government agencies: i.e., Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of National Defense (DND), and Philippine National Police (PNP).
Online deliveries of the courses are conducted via Google Meet and Zoom platforms while trivia games and quizzes were done through applications such as Kahoot and Mentimeter.
Despite all the technical challenges in the new modality, one of the resource persons highlighted in her feedback of the Course that, during a pandemic, online classes are better than traditional face-to-face classes, the release stated.
Many local government units around the country are boosting digital methods to cope with the pandemic.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is set to improve the internet connectivity in Batanes, in response to the online education program of the Department of Education.
Acting Governor Ignacio Villa admitted that internet connection remains to be a challenge in most areas in the province thereby limiting web-based services, where the connection is reliable.
He also said setting up of internet services in the different municipalities will also back up the move of public and private agencies to implement online transactions.
On the other hand, Villa said the tourism industry, which is the main livelihood source of the majority of the Ivatans, is greatly affected by the Corona Virus Disease 2019 pandemic.
The government has given some assistance in the form of goods and cash grants to the affected families. This is aside from the assistance given by other government agencies.
The Indian Tax department has been appreciated for its continuous efforts towards making India’s tax administration taxpayer-friendly, transparent and geared towards facilitating voluntary compliance by Union Minister for Finance & Corporate Affairs, Ms Nirmala Sitharaman
There has been a paradigm shift in its role in recent years, from being just a revenue collecting organisation to becoming a more citizen-centric organisation.
Various reform measures will pave the way for an Aatma Nirbhar Bharat, India’s ambitions of becoming self-reliant.
Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Finance Secretary, recognised that the tax department has had to navigate a delicate balance between enforcement and service.
He appreciated the Department for having increasingly oriented itself towards becoming taxpayer-service centric without compromising its enforcement role by deploying non-intrusive tools of data mining and data analytics.
In the Union Budget 2019, the Finance Minister proposed the introduction of a scheme of faceless e-assessment.
The scheme, first announced by the Finance Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman in the 2019 budget speech, is seen as a big leap towards transparent tax administration.
The scheme, a procedure to carry out a faceless assessment through electronic mode, sought to eliminate the human interface between the taxpayer and the income tax department.
The Indian IT Department looks to complete Faceless e-Assessments by mid-September 2020.
Over 3,100 tax personnel, including 600 IT officers are busy implementing the Faceless e-Assessment scheme of Income Tax. Out of 58,319 cases selected for faceless assessment, 8,700 cases have already been disposed.
“This is the first time that we are doing the faceless e-assessment. The work has picked up since July, after having addressed all the issues related to infrastructure, manpower, hardware and software. Our target is to finish all the cases by mid-September” said S K Gupta, Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax and Member, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
The Income Tax Department in October 2019 rolled out the faceless e-assessment scheme that eliminates physical interface between an assessing officer and an assessee.
Eight cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune are covered under the scheme.
The cases taken up for faceless e-assessment include a mix of returns filed by individuals, businesses, MSME as well as big companies.
The National e-Assessment Centre in Delhi is the single point of contact for the taxpayer as well as for all units conducting assessment.
It is the NEC which issues notices under Section 143(2) to the assessee for which the assessee is required to respond within 15 days of receipt of notice.
Upon the issue of a notice, NEC allocates the case to any Assessment Unit through an automated allocation system, ensuring anonymity.
The conventional system of scrutiny assessment involved a high level of personal interaction between the tax payer and the Income Tax Department officials.
Under the faceless e-assessment system, the tax payer would not know by whom his /her return is being assessed or in which city.
Instead of territorial jurisdiction, the new system has brought in dynamic jurisdiction.
Mr Gupta noted that, “The anonymity and the absence of human interface will go a long way in addressing the issue of harassment as well as curb instances of corruption.”
Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Shri Narendra Singh Tomar today launched the Sahakar Cooptube National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) Channel.
The channel is a new initiative by National Cooperative Development Corporation and is designed to help operationalising different aspects of Atma Nirbhar Bharat (Self-reliant India).
A series of guidance videos produced by NCDC on ‘Formation and Registration of A Cooperative’ for eighteen different states in Hindi and regional languages was simultaneously launched.
More states would be added to the collection of guidance videos on NCDC Sahakar Cooptube Channel in due course of time.
Formation of new cooperatives is a prerequisite for bringing new life and dedication in the realm of cooperative movement.
The guidance videos in different languages covering 18 States would also strengthen and deepen the major initiatives of the government to promote and form 10,000 FPOs.
Cooperatives have a major role in the country in boosting the Indian economy for decades. Largely as association of small and marginal farmers and rural poor, the cooperatives have acquired a huge network of over 8.50 lakh organizations and 290 million members.
They have come a long way and have proven their success in improving the condition of farmers and overall economic development.
Almost 55% of India’s population depends on agriculture as its primary source of revenue. India is expected to achieve the ambitious goal of doubling farm income by 2022.
The agriculture sector in India is expected to generate better momentum in the next few years due to increased investments in agricultural infrastructure ad agritech.
India accounts for more than 450+ start-ups in the agritech space, which translates that every 9th agritech startup in the world is an Indian one.
The Indian government has recently announced a series of transformative measures and sector specific financial packages to help agriculture.
NCDC has achieved tremendous success with cumulative financial assistance to cooperatives to the tune of Rs.1,54,000 crore (US$ 23.5 billion). NCDC disbursed around Rs.28,000 crore (US$ 4.3 billion) during 2019-20 and has made unprecedented progress in the last six years.
All these initiatives are steps towards One Nation One Market with the objective for India to become food factory of the world.
The gamut of exhaustive reforms and measures are intended to strengthen all activities and services in agriculture, horticulture and allied sectors.
The strengthening of these sectors will be through creation and development of agriculture infrastructure, micro food enterprises, value chains and logistics for fishery and animal husbandry, medicinal and herbal plants, bee keeping and Operation Green.
Significant legislative amendments have been made to create conducive environment for agriculture as well as provisions for It and tech related advancements.
The Government of India planning Rs 2,000 crore (US$ 306.29 million) for computerisation of Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) to ensure cooperatives are benefitted through digital technology.
Early in July the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) announced a Rs 5,000 crore (US$ 765 million) grant-based scheme for computerisation of 35,000 Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) by FY23. Under the scheme, assistance will be released to state governments which will also have to contribute a matching grant for disbursement to the PACS.
As many as 40% of 12.5 crore small and marginal farmers depend on PACS to get short-term loans. Not only computerisation, the scheme also will ensure integration of these PACS with the Core Banking System (CBS) of District Central Co-operative Banks (DCCBs) to ensure seamless flow of credit.
Apart from the financial and technological input, the minister said that a key strategy in the ecosystem is to facilitate involvement of youth in cooperatives.
The COVID-19 pandemic has irreversibly impacted and changed the world as we know it. Social distancing has made us much more dependent on technology, and new health techniques highlight the power of 5G, cloud technology and artificial intelligence, according to the President of the Carrier Business Group of the Asia Pacific branch of a Chinese multinational technology company.
Overall, ICT has played an important role in battling COVID-19, and it will continue to factor in economic recovery in the new normal.
In some cases, proactive and cooperative initiatives have enabled governments and operators to aggressively build out telecom infrastructure before and during COVID-19, easily absorbing this increase in demand on infrastructure.
In other regions, complex decision processes have paralyzed digital infrastructure investment, leaving countries struggling to cope.
In a report by OpenVault, Broadband Insights, in the first quarter of 2020, social distancing practices led to an average broadband consumption increase of 47 percent to 402.5GB, from 273.5GB during the same time in 2019.
While most of this is attributable to an increase in online video consumption, the pandemic has given rise to new consumer behaviour that includes increased use of delivery apps, more frequent and immersive video conferencing, and greater dependence on e-Education and work-from-home solutions.
These systems have existed for years but the uptick in usage in the last few months has brought them to the forefront; it is believed that even post-pandemic, usage levels are expected to remain high.
Globally, several countries have moved forward with very aggressive policies to address critical voice and data communication during the pandemic.
For example, Ireland released a temporary extra radio spectrum to provide additional capacity, and allowed free upgrades to unlimited bandwidth, eliminated fair usage policies, and applied zero-rating to healthcare and education resource websites.
In the APAC region, the Cambodian government offered temporary 5G licenses for crucial services. Specifically, 5G healthcare enables healthcare professionals to conduct remote treatment of patients and consultation with experts around the world.
This agile policing enabled Cambodia ability to efficiently handle a major crisis while also protecting human lives and minimizing economic damage.
Thailand, which is striving to become the region’s digital technology leader, has also taken a very aggressive approach towards both mobile and fixed broadband development.
To stimulate the 5G development and alleviate some of the investment required for operators, the Thai government has introduced flexible payment terms that allow 700 MHz and 2600 MHz licenses to be paid over ten years.
In addition to long-term planning well underway, Thailand has also proactively accommodated the needs of users dealing with social distancing and financial uncertainty with additional support for users including providing upgrades of FTTH services to 100Mbps and xDSL services to maximum capacity.
Policies like this have allowed the country to easily accommodate the change in digital dynamics brought on by COVID-19 and these early investments will also better position the economy for faster recovery post-pandemic.
Zooming out, the ASEAN region is predicted to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, economic entities in Asia.
Many countries are pushing hard to secure the leading position in digital transformation, and while the title is still for the taking, 5G will help all ASEAN nations move from predominantly 2C-focused mobile broadband business models to 2B.
This will be paramount for digital transformation in many vertical industries including healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, logistics and more.
Proactive policies that accelerate the deployment and adoption of digital services are key to moving the economy ahead and ensuring continued reliable operation even in the face of adversity.
Thailand’s digital infrastructure of the future needs to be agile enough to accommodate new applications and behaviours as well as robust enough to serve as a reliable digital platform for the economy even when unpredictable situations arise.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in Thailand enacting tight budgets, investment in IT and cybersecurity systems continues to grow.
This growth is driven by accelerated digital transformations and changes in cyber-attack patterns, according to a global cybersecurity service provider.
The firm’s Country Director for Thailand and Indochina stated that Thailand’s IT and cybersecurity spending is expected to continue to grow, even though businesses face limited budgets as they pivot towards digital transformation.
Firms’ priorities are technology to support employees working in flexible locations, the application of cloud services for scalability and the reduction of upfront investment, as well as cost savings.
Businesses could save costs by optimising existing systems and equipment to reduce maintenance costs.
The Country Director said the need for cloud security is underscored by the rise of cloud applications.
The government, for example, developed a contract-tracing app, Thai Chana, on the cloud for scalability.
The adoption of Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), a security framework for enabling secure and fast cloud use, is gathering pace to support remote work.
The first half of 2020 saw that cybersecurity spending predominantly concerned elements stipulated under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), including e-signatures.
The PDPA was scheduled to take full effect in May 2020 after a one-year grace period. However, the government agreed to postpone the enforcement of most chapters of the legislation by another year to give the public and private sectors more time to get prepared as they cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cloud services in Thailand are forecast to grow by 29% from 2018 to 2025, with the market value projected to reach 31.5 billion baht by 2025, based on the Digital Economy Promotion Agency’s forecast.
Cloud-native security (70%) was reported as the most commonly adopted cybersecurity solution in Thailand. Familiar tools such as anti-malware and antivirus software (61%) are still popular in the country, but software-defined wide area networks (60%) and SaaS application security (42%) have likewise become widely adopted.
As Thailand becomes the first-mover for 5G in ASEAN, 28% of the surveyed companies in Thailand have already ventured into 5G security for the Internet of Things (IoT).
75% of the surveyed companies in Thailand increased their cybersecurity budget from 2019 to 2020.
The survey is part of the firm’s recently released “State of Cybersecurity in ASEAN” report, which surveyed 400 respondents in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, 100 from each, during 6 to 10 February 2020.
Some 40% of the surveyed companies in Thailand reported allocating over half of their IT budget to cybersecurity.
This mainly stemmed from the sophistication of threats (75%), the need to upgrade existing frameworks to incorporate automation (69%) and the ability to deal with the growing volume of attacks (68%).
The firm is providing cybersecurity services for business customers with deferred payment to the year’s end, as firms are facing difficult times, as well as offering a leasing programme.
The Southeast Asia manager for Thailand and Indochina at the firm stated that ransomware is likely to continue as a threat, and social engineering is still a matter of concern as attackers aim to steal user accounts or credentials.
Cyber-attacks will also shift to IoT devices in line with the 5G roll-out.