According to a recent report, the biggest network of automatic teller machines in Hong Kong recently announced the official launch of its APIX exchange platform, which will provide over 200 APIs from 13 banks.
These APIs cover product and service information including deposit, foreign currency exchange, loans, investment, insurance, and other general banking services such as safe deposit box, branch, and ATM.
ATM company’s target customers cover companies in all industries, ranging from banks to third-party service providers and application developers.
The platform provides easy and seamless connectivity for users, allowing them to collaborate and co-create new products and services in a safe and standardised environment, leading to shorter time-to-market at lower cost.
Developers will be able to sign up to the platform, which will include a sandbox facility that allows them to test products.
The 13 banks providing are all major multinational banks.
The biggest network of automatic teller machines in Hong Kong was set up by a consortium of Hong Kong banks in 1982 to operate ATMs across the territory.
Today, it has around 3,000 ATMs in Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China. Last February, it launched in-store QR code payments for its merchants in Hong Kong. According to another report, the service is aimed at customers across multiple industries, ranging from banks to third-party service providers to application developers.
The firm’s consortium’s CEO noted that open banking is a global trend that will help drive innovations and enhance the competitiveness of the local financial industry. He added that the platform enables banks to connect with third-party service providers and exchange product and service information easily via API integrations, which will significantly reduce the time required for them to build up business relationships. This will greatly facilitate the growth of Hong Kong’s API economy.
It was noted that going forward, the consortium will focus on expanding its cooperation with third-party service providers, helping them to connect to the bank’s platforms so that consumers can enjoy more one-stop service and better customer experience.
Moves similar to this have been in the works in Hong Kong for a long time now. In July 2018, OpenGov Asia reported that The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced the publication of the Open Application Programming Interface (API) Framework (Framework) for the Hong Kong banking sector.
Simultaneously, the HKMA announced that the launch of Open API on its official website will be on 23 July 2018 and will provide convenient access by the public. The formulation of the Open API Framework is one of the seven initiatives announced by the HKMA in September 2017. The Framework seeks to help usher Hong Kong into a new era of Smart Banking.
Open API helps to ensure the competitiveness of the banking sector, encourage more parties to provide innovative and integrated services that improve customer experience and keep up with the innovation taking place across the globe in term of the delivery of banking services.
The HKMA believes that the Framework will serve as an important guide for the banking industry in Hong Kong to adopt APIs effectively and strike a good balance between innovation and risk-taking.
The HKMA has stated that it would closely monitor the Open API adoption progress in the region and would work with the industry and market participants to develop a healthy banking Open API ecosystem in Hong Kong.
Two government agencies under Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) will be restructured through a consolidation process that will create a new technology commercialisation agency. The move brings together Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) and the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC). This new entity, approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday, 21 April 2021, will act as a technology commercialisation accelerator, the ministry said in a statement.
TPM is the only 4th generation technology park in Malaysia with physical incubators and tech infrastructure, while MaGIC has played an important role in cultivating technology start-ups and innovation ecosystem with a wide range of interventions ranging from regulatory facilitation, market access support as well as capacity building, the ministry added.
“This initiative is aimed at equipping the country to be better positioned to tackle issues such as low commercialisation rates, low gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD), low R&D spend by the private sector, and overlapping of roles between government agencies,” the ministry said.
A joint task force comprising both TPM and MaGIC, headed by the newly appointed CEO of TPM, who recently relinquished her position at MaGIC, will be set up to oversee the establishment of the new agency.
The development came after Science, Technology and Innovation Minister said in his first year at the helm of MOSTI, he has reviewed areas of priority that required government interventions, starting with the commercialisation agenda. He had noted that the landscape for innovation is continuing to evolve at a furious pace for both tech start-ups and tech giants.
“We have done reasonably well in riding the wave of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and we want to speed up the rate of commercialising our technological and innovative solutions in our push to make Malaysia a high-tech nation,” he said.
In November 2020, another government agency, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), made headlines for the restructuring exercise it undertook to spur innovation and digitalisation in the country. MaGIC was rumoured to be disbanded back in 2018 after Malaysia’s general election on 9 May as the government looked to streamline its budget.
In 2019, the then government was also in the midst of reviewing and restructuring its venture capital agencies to avoid overlaps in financing schemes. The funds involved were Cradle Fund, Malaysia Venture Capital Management (MAVCAP), Malaysia Debt Venture (MDV), Kumpulan Modal Perdana (KMP) and Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC).
Spurring digitalisation in Malaysia
According to another article, a US-based American multinational technology company will invest US$1 billion over the next five years in Malaysia as part of a new partnership programme with government agencies and local companies, the nation’s Prime Minister said on 19 April 2021.
The announcement on what would be the U.S. tech giant’s biggest investment in Malaysia comes after the country in February gave conditional approvals for various global tech conglomerates and state telecoms firm Telekom Malaysia to build and manage hyper-scale data centres and provide cloud services. Investments from cloud service providers will total between RM12 billion and RM15 billion ($2.91 billion-$3.64 billion) over the next five years.
As part of the Bersama Malaysia initiative, the tech firm will establish its first “data centre region”, which consists of multiple data centres, in Malaysia to manage data from various countries, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told an event marking the launch of the programme. Under the programme, the tech company will also assist up to a million Malaysians in getting digital skills by the end of 2023.
The investment is timely as the country saw foreign direct investments (FDI) plunge by 68% last year, the biggest decline in Southeast Asia. Malaysia has presented itself as an investment destination with the Finance Minister recently saying it was looking at incentives to help attract more FDIs.
New Zealand border workers have begun trailing a monitoring app, called elarm, that uses smartwatch data and is designed to detect the COVID-19 virus before the user develops any noticeable symptoms. New Zealand government is the first in the world to launch a pilot with the technology.
Elarm connects to wearable devices such as fitness trackers and smartwatches and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to check variables such as heart rate and temperature for symptoms of COVID-19, a report has explained. Up to 500 border workers can voluntarily participate in the month-long pilot, which will run until early May. After installing the app on a smart device, they will receive regular notifications and alerts during the day and can view their own health information on the app.
The developer, New Zealand-based start-up Datamine, claims it can detect the virus with 83% accuracy up to three days before the appearance of symptoms such as coughing, breathing difficulties, and fatigue. The technology uses AI to establish a health baseline for each user, then alerts them if there are physiological changes consistent with COVID-19, all data used by the app is private to the individual participants.
The health department said it could provide a vital early warning for workers at the border who face the most risk of exposure to the virus. New Zealand has practically eliminated community spread within the country, making frontline staff who interact with travellers more vulnerable than the rest of the population, another report said. Datamine will provide wearable devices for any of the border workers taking part who do not already have a wearable device. Fitbit will also provide a number of devices to border control workers in Auckland.
“If the elarm app lives up to its potential, it might provide early notification to our critical border workforce if they’re becoming unwell,” Deputy Health Director Shayne Hunter said. “That means they can take appropriate action such as self-isolating and be tested for COVID-19.” He also explained that contact tracing is at the heart of the government’s COVID-19 response, and it is essential that the government finds and treats people who might have been exposed to the virus before it has a chance to reach other communities. The country has already deployed tools such as the NZ COVID Tracer app and QR code posters, and the Ministry of Health is investigating other technologies that might provide further support for contact tracing.
New Zealand has been largely successful in containing the virus, with just 26 deaths in a population of 5 million. The few community cases that have occurred have generally been linked to border workers who were exposed to the virus via incoming travellers undergoing quarantine. “Even though our border workers are vaccinated, the reality is that some people will still feel unsure about the increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 from working on the border,” Hunter noted.
The country’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, wants all border workers to get vaccinated by the end of April, especially after two cases were linked this month to an unvaccinated border worker. Even after that, the Ministry of Health sees elarm as “another layer of protection” against new variants and the fact that vaccines are not 100% effective, according to Datamine CEO Paul O’Connor.
There is other research being undertaken of similar technology supporting the use of wearable devices to detect COVID-19 and other transmissible diseases. This includes studies by Stanford University, Scripps Institute, and UCSF.
NZTech is launching Tech21, a programme of activity and events in collaboration with New Zealand’s Ministry of Education to help inspire young learners to venture into tech careers.
The organisation says that the recent research published in their digital skills report found a decreasing number of students taking courses that will prepare them for an opportunity to work in the many new and exciting tech careers within the growing tech sector. The Tech21 initiative will help expose some of the vast arrays of opportunities available for the next generation in tech roles across the country, he added.
Tech21 will begin with a summit featuring high profile New Zealand tech leaders. The students will hear from young successful role models so that hopefully they will see themselves as a tech entrepreneur or working in a cool tech job when they leave school. The Tech21 summit will also launch the opening of Techweek2021, a weeklong nationwide festival of innovation.
The Tech21 event will showcase tech innovation, creativity and the opportunities for technology career pathways leading into New Zealand’s fastest-growing and highest-paid sector. Tech21 will focus on the following areas:
- Why is digital tech so important?
- What will the tech future be like?
- How to understand why a tech career is right for a young person?
- What is a tech career like?
- What career pathways are available?
Also, the recent digital skills survey found that New Zealand’s tech leaders backed the creation of a digital apprenticeship programme. Experts say that there is a real interest and passion within the tech sector to help students find pathways into the rising tech sector. This sort of scheme could open a door into a tech career for those that are less likely to do an IT degree.
The survey also found that there was strong support for internships to help students develop work experience and the skills that employers say are lacking in many graduates. Tech leaders say that there is a once in a generation opportunity here to find ways to encourage young people into a large variety of well paid, future proof jobs.
Accordingly, reports say that New Zealand’s education sector needs to face up to automation and the way it will affect people’s jobs in years to come – and it needs to move quickly to do so.
In a submission to the New Zealand Productivity Commission on the topic of how technology will impact the future of work in New Zealand, EdTechNZ says that New Zealand’s education sector needs a serious shakeup. According to them, New Zealand’s education and skills system does not have a shared view of current or desirable outcomes for New Zealand’s digitally dependent society. Consideration should be given to how the skill needs of the tech industry can be better understood by the education sector, perhaps through an industry body forum. Future workers will need advanced technical skills to operate in an increasingly digital working environment but also skills for the roles that cannot be easily automated.
EdTechNZ says it has witnessed the impact that automation technologies are having on people’s jobs. Workers now and in the future will need an education system that can keep up with the pace of global technological change. They add that the education sector is struggling to keep up with workplace change. The education sector is often held back by difficulty innovating and scaling new initiatives quickly enough.
Besides, due to the relatively large numbers of small to medium companies, employers are less likely to plan for or invest in future skills at the expense of the immediate needs and daily pressures of their businesses. The mismatches between capability and expectation will only grow. Government has a role to raise awareness and urgency of the issue and encourage the development of training for future skills that may not be readily apparent to the employer such as digital literacy. Government investment is required in every scenario.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will support eight joint research projects proposed by the Space Technology Cell (STC) of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Delhi. ISRO will support the projects under its RESPOND programme with varying durations of one to three years.
According to a news report, the projects will be coordinated by ISRO scientists at the Space Applications Centre (SAC), the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), the Semi-conductor Laboratory (SCL), and the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). The eight collaborative research projects on which scientists from ISRO centres and IIT-Delhi will work jointly include:
Designing Speciality Glasses Employing Machine Learning and Meta-Heuristic Optimisation: Speciality glasses are ubiquitously used in space applications such as telescopic lenses and window shields in space vehicles. The project aims to develop new glasses with improved thermal and mechanical performance that can withstand the conditions of extreme cold or hot weather in outer space.
Indigenous Sensor-based Real-Time Flood Warning Smart System: This aims to provide real-time warning to the community, by assimilating information through sensor networks and corrected satellite products. This would provide a faster, more reliable warning system that will enable better protection of community infrastructure and lives.
Establishing a Coupled Indian Land Data Assimilation System (ILDAS) to identify hydrologic extremes: This system will have widespread water resource applications, including drought and flood forecasting and understanding land-atmosphere interactions.
Classical Trajectory Monte Carlo Simulations of the Plasma dynamics in electrode-less plasma thruster: The project aims to understand the plasma dynamics in electrode-less thrusters, which are used for electric propulsion and have a longer lifespan than their electrode-based counterparts. Electric propulsion schemes exhibit high-fuel efficiency and lower thrust than chemical propulsion schemes and are therefore preferred for deep space missions.
Analysis of Variable Stiffness Composite Honeycomb Sandwich Structures with Embedded Delamination: The project aims to develop an efficient finite element formulation to evaluate displacements and stresses in composite structures, widely used in aerospace and space applications.
Impact of Satellite Observations in a Coupled System to Predict Storm Tides and its Coastal Inundation: The project aims at the real-time prediction of the vulnerability of the Indian coasts to tropical cyclones through satellite observations well in advance to minimise cyclone-induced damages.
Development of a Numerical Simulator for Micro-fabricated Electrospray Thrusters: The project will develop advanced computational tools to simulate miniaturised electrospray thrusters to speed up the design of similar thrusters for small spacecrafts. This will address the need for a miniaturised propulsion system to manoeuvre and orbit control of micro and nanosatellites at a low cost.
Low-Pressure Systems: LPSs and their nonlinear interaction with other scales in the atmosphere through the lens of Scale Energetics.
While welcoming the joint research activities between ISRO and IIT-Delhi, Professor Ramgopal Rao, Director, IIT-Delhi said that the institute is committed to taking its interactions with ISRO to the next level. It has some of the world’s experts in various technology domains such as land surface modelling, remote sensing, and molecular dynamics simulations who will extend their expertise to ISRO and play a key role in making its future endeavours successful.
Apart from IIT-Delhi, ISRO has also set up STCs at various other institutions like the IITs in Bombay, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Roorkee, and Guwahati. The STCs have been assigned the responsibility to carry out research activities in the areas of space technology and applications and are guided by the Joint Policy Committees (JPC).
Indonesia continues to strengthen its e-commerce sector when one of its start-ups earned an investment of US$ 234 million or around IDR 3.4 trillion. This funding round was led by an international tech giant, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and a media conglomerate based in Indonesia.
The Indonesian unicorn said that this partnership marks a deep collaboration with the international tech giant in a series of technology projects that will transform technology-based trading solutions as well as solutions and operations in Indonesia. Through this collaboration, the companies will work together on three initiatives:
The first is to build a strong infrastructure, one of which is for cloud computing. The second is bridging the digital divide, and finally, providing digital skills training for employees and traffickers. The start-up is optimistic that the technology will support the company that is serving each of the six million online Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) partners and stalls, as well as 100 million customers in the country.
Recently, the unicorn also partnered with a multinational financial arm. This collaboration on the other hand will focus on digital banking services, with banking as a service solution programme. The start-up said that this partnership increases their enthusiasm for realising a fair economy in Indonesia.
There are at least two main focuses of the partnership. First, presenting innovations in the field of financial services and e-commerce. Both will offer a variety of innovative financial services through the start-up’s ecosystem. Second, encouraging financial inclusion in Indonesia.
MSMEs in Indonesia have a very important role in the national economy, where based on data from the Ministry of Cooperatives, it is noted that MSMEs are a sector that contributes 60.34% of national GDP and absorbs 58.18% of total investment in Indonesia. In the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia reports that 87.5% of MSMEs were affected by the pandemic. However, 27.6% of MSMEs that run their businesses online increased during the pandemic.
According to reports, Indonesia is a promising e-commerce market in Asia-Pacific, with several local and global players competing in the market. Rising Internet penetration, increasing digitalisation and the proliferation of websites have been driving e-commerce growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated e-commerce sales in Indonesia, according to a data and analytics company.
An analysis revealed that e-commerce sales in the country were estimated to grow by 37.4% to reach IDR351.1 trillion (US$25.3bn) in 2020, compared to the pre-COVID-19 estimate of 22.2% for the same year. The figure is expected to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.2% between 2020 and 2024, to reach IDR707.6 trillion (US$51.0bn) in 2024.
According to financial experts, online shopping is gradually becoming mainstream in Indonesia with more consumers preferring due to the convenience it offers. This shift became even more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic with strict lockdown and social distancing rules being in place.
Also, to push consumer spending during the pandemic, the government collaborated with the Indonesian E-Commerce Association and rolled out programmes for around 2,500 SMEs, providing training on utilising e-commerce platforms for increasing sales.
While traditional payment methods such as bank transfers and cash are still widely used for e-commerce purchases, the use of alternative payments is on the rise. As per reports, for online purchases, utilising online bank transfers is the most popular payment tool with a 30.7% share in 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak is driving customers towards alternative payment tools. As a result, cash share is expected to decline from 98.0% in 2020 to 96.9% in 2024.
As Indonesia continues its digital transformation, the use of electronic payments, including cards and alternative payment solutions for e-commerce purchases, will rise as consumers are moving away from cash due to fear of getting infected with the virus.
In this increasingly VUCA world, governments and businesses across the globe are still looking to ramp up their digital transformation to better citizens and clients in the post-COVID-19 era. This was the focal point of the discussion during the Philippine OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition Day 2 that brought the key decision-makers and influencers together for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most.
Convening the brightest digital minds for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most, the Philippine OpenGov Leadership Forum offered a unique way of tackling challenges in its virtual edition. Intentionally planned, every activity and facet of the event was designed to let delegates garner exclusive insights from the digital leaders as well as demonstrate their thought-leadership.
As always, the forum provided intimate interaction between key ICT leaders from the Public Sector and the Financial Services Industry who influence and determine digital strategies across agencies and organisations.
Apart from informative presentations from renowned speakers, this year’s Forum continued its award-winning OpenGov Gamification Table (OGT) format in the new OpenGov Gamification Virtual Rooms (OGVRs). Every OpenGov Gamification Virtual Room was a virtual heuristic exercise allowing delegates to learn from varying decision-making scenarios just as they would in the physical world.
Philippines’ Road to Digital Government in the New Normal: Citizen-centric and service-oriented
The opening presentation was from Raymund Enriquez Liboro, Privacy Commissioner and Chairman, National Privacy Commission. He shared how digital transformation is being promoted as a national strategy to navigate the new normal and to achieve service orientation, procedural efficiency, and behavioural transformation into the very fabric of government operations.
Modern medical science now relies heavily on data and technology. For example, data and technology helped scientist determine the immune responses against the virus. Similarly, Raymund noted that about nine months into the pandemic, humanity was able to create a COVID-19 vaccine at record speed – in fact, several viable candidates were on the table. As in the health sector, information derived from data is crucial in the public sector’s decision-making procedures and service development.
Knowing its role in citizen welfare, the Philippine government utilised data and technology when it launched an online contact tracing app called StaySafe.PH in the battle against COVID-19. the app is the nation’s official health condition reporting, contact tracing and social distancing system that empowers the public in the fight against COVID-19.
By aggregating all reports, StaySafe.PH enables the government to immediately respond to peoples’ needs and make informed and timely decisions to keep Filipinos safe during this pandemic. The system, which is made available in desktop and mobile version, aims to complement the management of COVID-19 cases, remind individuals to observe distancing measures, record and monitor possible COVID-19 symptoms, and augment manual contact tracing processes.
Raymund firmly believes that digitising the government offers great benefit to the Filipino people and that data is the most powerful asset for any institution in this modern age. But just any asset or resource, data must be managed correctly to be useful. No matter how much data is collected and processed, if it is not analysed or made sense of, it cannot nor will not serve the intended purpose.
The country’s National Privacy Commission (NPC), therefore, endeavours to protect personal data – especially COVID-19 related – from misuse that can lead to discrimination, physical assault and other outcomes more harmful than the virus itself. Positioned as an enabler and as a protector, the NPC issues policies and guidelines to steer the government as well as the private sector in terms of data management during the pandemic.
In the age of COVID-19, poor data governance can do more harm than good. Poor data may give inaccurate views of a situation leading to poor decision-making. Lack of understanding of trends makes it hard to identify future opportunities and bad data prevents immediate responses in fast-developing situations. The government must adopt a digital data governance framework that will define data standards, its required roles and responsibilities within the government for governing and managing digital data. The framework can help determine a holistic way to control data assets so that the government can get the most value from the data.
A digital government should be citizen-centric and service-oriented. It should focus on providing the best services to Filipinos and these services should be accessible and integrated within different government agencies trying to respond to citizen needs despite changing times. A digital government promotes transparency, public accountability and access to information.
A digital government provides its citizens with accurate information uploaded almost in real-time through government webpages and portals. Digitally-enabled services allow the government to function with minimal dependence on the traditional work setup. The digital government ensures citizens have a seamless experience with interacting with the government for services in the digital space.
Only as good as its team, the government should set proper foundations in place and prepare its people for a complete digital transformation.
In terms of a digital government being integrated with the same digital data and information, Raymund cited the example of the country’s Philippine Identification System – PhilSys. Designed as an enabling platform, the system boosts digital transformation of existing services and systems to reduce costs, time and fraud.
It underpins sectoral IDs and databases to enhance accuracy, interoperability, and integrity. The PhilSys unlocks new services and systems for the digital economy, especially online transactions. The PhilSys-enabled services will allow governments and businesses to use technology to change how they do business, shifting to transactions that are paperless, automated and online.
Finally, perhaps the most important factor in a digital government is its ability to protect data. A digital government should not sacrifice data protection and data privacy resilience in its mission to digitise its services and trying to make information accessible.
It must be aware that while data may offer tremendous benefits to society, it is always accompanied by data privacy threats, risks, and harm that is directly proportional to the amount of the data collected used and processed. Recognising the importance of personal data for the benefit of society while at the same time mitigating and preventing risks should be at the heart of every government’s digital transformation. Governments have complete faith in systems, making citizens feel less threatened of availing public services that access their data.
To end his presentation, Raymund said that the government must continue to protect its citizens in the new normal and should be responsible stewards of data. With the help of technology and data, the world will beat the COVID-19 crisis.
Smarter, Safer, and Resilient Cities: Re-opening Our Cities in the Face of COVID-19
The session moved to a presentation from Sameer Sharma, Global General Manager, Smart Cities, Intelligent Transportation & IoT, Intel Corporation about learning how the Internet of Things and data can be leveraged to monitor, alert and protect citizens in modern cities as they begin to re-open.
Data clearly shows there is an explosion in populations in major cities all over the world; 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. With this surge, governments have been striving to find ways to make urban systems and infrastructure more efficient and effective. However, with COVID-19 hitting the world at the end of 2019 Q4, it has created a major pause in city innovation in specific areas.
The rapid spread of the virus affected countries globally on a massive scale. It severely hit areas like trade where the value of global exports increased by 4,000% in the last century; and the travel industry where 4.5 billion passengers boarded flights in 2019 pre-COVID. And on a personal level, human interaction was also reduced by the pandemic.
The pandemic made governments and policymakers looked at their vision for cities – such as better access to education, better healthcare and more opportunities for their citizens – in a whole new light.
Across the world, there are currently 33 megacities (>10 million people), 4,000 cities with 100K+ population and 2.5M towns. Serving this global population are 1.4 billion cars, 246 million trucks, 17 million buses, over 50,000 ships, 25,000 commercial planes and 1.3 million kilometres of railways.
All of these must be and can be managed even in an ongoing crisis. Improving and strengthening cities where the working society is in will be the key and, in the age of COVID-19, Sameer is convinced, that resilience will be critical; new threats and challenges must be anticipated and planned for.
Agencies and organisations across the board have tried to mitigate the effects of the pandemic by using technologies and new operational frameworks. Sameer reminded the delegates that legacy infrastructure cannot scale but disruptive technologies can make everything possible. Digital technologies must overlay the physical world, especially cities.
COVID-19 created shifted the focus specific sector improvement to overall infrastructure upgrade – that is, transforming ‘spaces’ to ‘smart spaces’. It is imperative to learn how to adopt technologies like AI, Cloud, 5G and IoT.
With the re-opening of the economy, safety and sanitisation will take precedence. Automated air filtration systems will be the norm in offices, commercial spaces, and industries where the physical presence of people is a must.
Organisations that use these spaces can utilise technology to upgrade their infrastructure. There are a plethora of tech-based solutions that enable smarter spaces: automated room access, keyless and touchless entry, touchless and on-demand elevators, ambient temperature control, fresh air circulation and quality monitoring, UVD disinfecting robotics, face mask and fever detection using AI, people-counting and spacing-analytics and digital contact tracing initiatives just to name a few.
With fears of the virus in public transport, for local, shorter commutes, most likely, people will use personal vehicles. Where longer travel is necessary by air, road, rail or sea, security agencies will add healthcare checks and screenings.
Schools and universities will opt to use online tools; hotels and restaurants will transition to digital menus, delivery models and contactless payments; retail will be increasingly driven online.
Intel’s Smart City Vision, Sameer shared, is built on effective policies, governance and financing. Transportation, buildings and energy, environment, healthcare, public services and homes stress citizen wellbeing and safety. Intel is a strong advocate for and champions the use of sensors and edge computing, wireless tech, access and core networks, cloud and analytics and AI and Automation to achieve their dreams of a Smart City.
Nations must understand that resiliency is the key and technology enable it. Decision-makers should think big, not just thinking about smarter cities, but better cities. The mantra is to start small and get going with obvious projects and opportunities; then learn, adjust, and iterate.
Sameer urges governments and organisations to the right partners across the industry to build sustainable cities for citizens. In closing, he quoted Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Smarter Way Forward – Essential Technology Solutions for a Digitally Connected Environment
The forum next welcomed Yasser Helmy, APAC Commercial IoT Solutions Sales Director, Lenovo who spoke on the future of work that is connected and organisations needing an ecosystem of solutions to make it easier for their employees to get back to a new, safe, and productive workplace.
Yasser conceded that COVID-19 redefined how we think about knowledge work. Now, there is a more dynamic workforce; a workforce with different expressions because of lockdowns and restrictions. The new workforce now has greater flexibility, able to work from anywhere -, be it at home, the office or even third options like dedicated workspaces, cafes, etc. The priority has shifted to a workplace’s experience and safety. And in the new normal brought by the pandemic, digital workplace tools are becoming more essential.
A study says that 72% of knowledge workers prefer a mix of remote and office work, promoting a hybrid approach. About 50% are happy to work remotely between 3-5 days a week without impacting productivity. However, 54% miss collaboration and quality of relationships in the office. The inference is that over half will return to the old working setup sooner than later.
Now, more than ever, employees expect flexibility and safety in addition to a more personalised experience in the workplace. In terms of organisational operations, more companies are trying to take advantage of this new norm working setup by increasing on-demand workplaces and by reducing traditional office spaces that reduce their operational costs. These new workplaces have transformed into destinations that attract and retain talent, support innovation and productivity – unleashing employees and collaboration. People are found to be happier in these creative and innovative workspaces.
Yasser expanded on a three-step framework to help organisations that have people who are returning to their workplaces amid the new normal. First is controlling who gets into the locations, by conducting elevated temperature screenings and touchless building access points such as wave to unlock doors, smartwatches, and mobile apps. The second step is managing behaviours within the space with policy communications such as information regarding certain emergencies and urgent issues that involve employees and thorough workspace monitoring from macro down to a micro perspective. Lastly is being prepared to respond to incidents via onsite contact tracing efforts.
The benefits of a workplace transformation are real, Yasser noted emphatically. He cited examples of global corporations that have already begun to optimise workspace and are now able to provide near real-time occupancy insights with space analytics.
Global energy technology companies leverage augmented reality solutions for employee training and incident-response drills. Some are enabling building operators to deliver frictionless/contactless access, further reducing on-premises cost with the use of mobile-based access controls.
Yasser concedes that most organisations think of the new normal as strictly working from home, but that is not the case. The new normal means that there should be an integration between the old office setup pre-COVID-19 and the ability to work from anywhere. Ultimately, people must have the best experience, regardless of the setup of their workplaces.
After the informative presentations from renowned speakers, the forum moved to an interactive discussion session a time of high-level engagement with delegates from various government agencies, FSI, education and healthcare organisations. Aided by polling questions, this session is designed to provide live-audience interaction, promote engagement, hear real-life experiences and impart professional learning and development for the participants. It an opportunity for delegates to gain insight from subject matter experts, share their stories and take back strategies that can be implemented in their organisations.
The opening poll inquired about delegates’ primary objective in their digital transformation strategies. Close to half (48%) of the delegates said their digital transformation is meant to improve their business processes while 43% said it is for the improvement of citizen and customer experiences.
On the question about the biggest challenges delegates face in implementing digital strategies, a third ( 32%) voted legacy systems and technologies that lack integration capabilities were the biggest. Just under a quarter (24%) signalled that the lack of skilled teams is their primary obstacle.
Participants were asked how they measure the success of their digital transformation efforts. Over two-thirds (68%) said that they are still looking for ways to measure it effectively while a fourth (25%) indicated they already have qualitative and quantitative methods in place.
Delegates were then asked about their most important IT priorities. A majority of the delegates (64%) said digital transformation and innovation are their top priorities while 33% said that improving efficiencies and reducing maintenance costs were the most pressing aspects of their IT strategies.
In terms of IT structures, delegates were asked how AI and Data Analytics impact or improve their current digital transformation strategies. Again a majority (64%) voted faster access to data to improve pre-emptive analysis can be achieved using AI and Data Analytics while 23% said that they need AI-ready infrastructures to manage large sets of data.
On being requested to share their organisations’ biggest pain points in the Big Data value chain, 45% went with data accessibility and sharing as their biggest pain points while 27% said data integrity was the real problem for their organisations.
Regarding the maturity of their data strategies, 40% conceded that it was currently siloed with pockets of data all around the organisation. Over a quarter (26%) indicated that a traditional approach with a central team managing data with all the analytics drivers through their data warehouse.
When asked to rate their organisations’ use of data and data analytics tools for decision-making purposes, 48% said that they needed improvement and better tools while 26% said they were doing good with adequate tools were in place.
Differentiating cloud providers for various workloads got a mixed bag of responses with voters almost evenly divided between price, service, performance and integration.
This led to delegates being asked how much of their organisations’ mission-critical/data-sensitive workloads are to be put onto public clouds this year. About 39% said that less than half of their workloads are set to be put onto the public cloud while 32% said more than half is earmarked for public cloud adoption.
On the issue of cloud adoption, delegates were polled on the biggest challenge CIOs face when complying with the government’s direction to go on the public cloud. About 40% agreed that security poses the biggest challenge, 25% said governance was an issue and 21% said skills to mitigates are lacking.
More mixed results were seen regarding delegates’ main concern for security operations in their organisations. The votes were almost evenly divided among advance and zero-day attacks, difficulties in determining actual attacks due to noise, cybersecurity skills shortages, automating responses and actionable threat intelligence.
Respondents were asked to rate their current level of security operations efficiency to detect and respond to attacks. Almost 44% said their security operations are currently based on log management, correlation aggregation, and basic reporting, while 37% said it was very good in terms of a partial mapping of the prediction, detection and response areas, but needs improvement.
Questioned on what drives their cyber resilience plans, almost half (49%) indicated compliance and incidents were critical factors for their cybersecurity strategies and programmes.
With COVID-19 still making its presence felt in most parts of the world, the delegates were asked about the areas most impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Over 38% said the well-being of their staff took a hit, 35% said their productivity was greatly affected, while 27% said they were able to launch new initiatives because of COVID-19.
Knowing that the pandemic accelerated the digital transformation especially for the working sector, delegates were asked about their perceived outcomes of a digital and automated workplace. About 42% believed that there will higher productivity in the future. The remaining votes were divided into greater collaborations, greater digitalisation, improved employee engagement and resource savings.
On the current challenges they face in the adoption of a digital workplace, 44% said the lack of effective technologies to optimise staff productivity and performance is an issue. Over 38% said the lack of executive leadership to drive a culture of process improvement and effective change management is their biggest challenge. Only 18% said that no clear articulation of digital workplace benefits and a supporting business case hinder their adoption of the new working setup.
Finally, delegates shared their organisations’ capabilities in supporting a remote workforce. Just over half (54%) indicated a lack of collaboration tools for seamless remote work (but they are looking for solutions). A quarter (26%) said they are not looking to implement a fully remote workforce while 20% said they already have the tools to implement a seamless remote working setup.
The Philippine OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition ended with the closing remarks from Mohit who thanked the delegates, speakers and sponsors for their active participation and keen insights.
Feedback and conversations with participants clearly showed the need and demand for such interactive forums. With ongoing crisis-mitigation efforts and vaccination rollouts from both the public and private sector, Mohit was optimistic that OpenGov would once be able to host physical sessions or, at the very least, organise a hybrid version in the near future.
In this rapidly evolving and VUCA environment, it is important to learn from one another and also support each other. Adoption and adaptation of existing solutions, platforms and models is a far quicker way of getting things done. And what better space to collaborate than events like the OpenGov Leadership Forum.
For more of The Philippine OpenGov Leadership Forum Virtual Edition: “Embracing Digitalisation to Navigate the New Normal” read Part I here.
When it comes to infectious diseases, cities face unique environmental challenges: the density which gives them life, economic strength and investment in higher-order infrastructures can also make their populations vulnerable to transmission. This dual nature of both vulnerability and strength positions cities and their governments at the forefront of public health measures globally
Roughly 4.5 billion people live in cities, accounting for just over half the world’s population. With generally higher population densities than rural settings, they can intensify infectious disease spread and transmission through increased human contact. On the other hand, according to some analysts, about 600 cities generate two-thirds of global GDP, making them the key to long term sustainability.
As hubs for transnational commerce and mobility, they require massive human resources to operate effectively. With the increasing population, suburbs and dispersed housing in and around city centres grow, leading to highly populated and hyper-connected urban sections that amplify pandemic risk.
OpenGov Asia had a chance to speak exclusively to Sean Audain, City Innovation Lead at Wellington City Council, New Zealand, to talk about the gamut of challenges that come in running cities in the shadow of a pandemic.
Sean focuses on Smart Cities, cross-organisation priorities and understanding city profiles, particularly city problems that span jurisdictions and agencies. Wellington City Council intends to resolve the issues and provide excellent citizen services with a wide array of solutions enabled by Open Data, the Internet of Things and Data Visualisation.
Sean and his team are looking to “bridge horizons” when dealing with disruptive events such as COVID-19. The first horizon, in his words, is the situation at hand – things that are directly in front and determining what is needed to survive. The second horizon is looking to the future and long-term plans.
As a council, they watched the first horizon as early as January 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread. Initially, they thought they could re-prioritise to adapt to the ongoing crisis. The first step was to understand what a pandemic was, its impact on a city or a society, and then figure out their roles as a government unit to mitigate its effects.
The council analysed their decision tree as well information dissemination plan. The various choices they would have to make were discussed along with the information they would need to send out to respond to the pandemic appropriately.
Likening the pandemic to another calamity, Sean opined that it was like dealing with small earthquakes every day. The pandemic caused organisations and governments to deal with constant changing workloads daily and deliverables, depending on the cases at hand, the spread, available capacities, and potential mortalities.
At the start, they were primarily concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the city – in terms of health and as the spear tip of the response. Being the capital city in New Zealand, the pandemic would have a significant effect on the nation’s overall landscape. Firstly, as people come in to and go out of Wellington – a city that is unusually dense for its size in any case – and, secondly, as the source of leadership. This prompted the government to find ways to continuously function and ensure citizen services were delivered irrespective of the situation unfolding. Right off the bat, citizens were given various ways to deal with the pandemic through efficient information dissemination. They took the national government’s strategies and applied them to a more localised context.
Fully cognizant that their best chances of early and robust mitigation were in collaborative operations, partnerships were developed with NGOs to feed and shelter citizens where and when essential. These organisations were provided with much-needed data to improve service delivery and get wider coverage. The shared data system also provided the government with the information they need to respond quickly and efficiently. Messaging technologies with personalised features allowed them to monitor the immediate and specific needs of their citizens to further curtail the effects of the pandemic.
Sean acknowledges that a shared data system between agencies is difficult because it is built on trust, a precious commodity. To make it work, the council took existing operational relationships and put that trust into the data flows, thus creating a more seamless and effective process.
The primary objective of public sector organisations and agencies is to care for citizens, not run large and complicated IT systems. To ensure that agencies stayed true to their mandate, the council deployed easier, synchronised systems for the various organisations, making it simpler to utilise and avoiding duplication of work and data.
Duplication is a huge negative at the best of times, but more so when dealing with a crisis. Not only does it waste resources – time, effort, and equipment – the efficiency of government responses is significantly reduced. The database also allowed them to better study the economic effects of the crisis, and it simultaneously shed light on agencies/organisations worldwide.
The pandemic forced several fundamental changes, like work-from-home setups, reliance on online commerce and digital services. People no longer needed to be in a city physically to be part of its economy. The government now realises people do not come to the city because they must. They come because they want to. That changes the way they design the city and its retail economy. This has driven a fundamental change in infrastructure development – evolving transaction-based platforms into experience-based platforms.
Another area the council focused on was gathering data from other government agencies, fusing them, and overlaying it to create a multi-environmental profile of the city. Sean and his team developed 3D models of the city to provide citizens with a clearer view of the community instead of having to navigate the clutter of a traditional map.
Deploying this technology allows citizens to communicate across disciplines, creating a more efficient and dynamic information exchange. In the situation at hand, the locations of quarantine facilities, community centres and other relevant data could be easily accessed. Simply put, Sean says, “The virtual adaptation of a city speeds things up.”
While these were happening pre-COVID-19, he conceded, with the crisis, it accelerated almost overnight – which was a challenge for the public sector. This fusion of the digital and the physical worlds due to the pandemic, in Sean’s mind, is paradigm-shifting. In cities, that meant understanding online business models related to the physical world and its government services.
Seans believes the key to real and sustainable innovation is the ability to scale and when and how to further adapt to situations – because solutions have limited relevancy and potency in a constantly evolving VUCA environment.
The council started to think about the events post-COVID-19 and how to manage the new normal in addition to other pressing challenges. One prominent issue is climate change. It is unacceptable to Sean that the world defeats the pandemic and then succumbs to climate change. The council has taken its designs and lessons from the COVID-19 response and has started to apply them to long-term issues such as climate change.
Government efficiency will be critical in addressing current critical events and preventing future ones. Sean is firmly convinced, with the constantly evolving digital landscape – particularly in cities where there is a robust number of unconscious connections – governments must have a legislative and regulatory framework to better accommodate this transformation. Fresh laws, policies and guidelines must be drafted to accommodate these new ideas and plans.
From a long-term programme’s perspective, the city has invested a third of more than its usual budget for the next ten years to prevent deal with disruptive critical events such as pandemics and climate change. Massive investments have been made in modernising and digitalising the myriad of infrastructural things that make a city grow – a growth that will help propel a city and the nation to a successful, sustainable, safe future.
With what he has experienced and witnessed this year, Sean is confident that governments and their councils will further embrace their digital transformation journeys to be one step closer to a fully digital future.