Big data is driving fundamental transformation across all
industries and sectors, and finance is no exception. With the proliferation of
mobile devices and rapidly increasing share of digital transactions, financial
institutions are striving to make sense of the massive volumes of data being
generated and captured to understand their customers and predict their needs, so
as to serve them better. Around the globe, they are also under increasing
regulatory pressure to improve risk reporting and controlling money laundering
As a leading bank in Asia, DBS encounters these
issues and hence, it started moving towards becoming a data-driven organisation
a few years ago, taking smart decisions based on data and not instincts.
However, the company’s traditional technology stack for
supporting advanced analytics was expensive to scale and not flexible enough to
support this work.
With Cloudera as a
partner, DBS built
a central data team and enterprise data hub, enabling DBS to scale out more
economically, and experiment more. The agility of the platform allows the bank
to explore use cases and iterate easily and quickly, without the need to worry
about ROI and build an investment case beforehand.
With the ability to more easily store and analyse billions
of events in a modern data platform, DBS can answer questions before they’re
asked to more effectively engage customers and deliver better service.
This has enabled DBS staff to experiment more and be on the
forefront of innovation when it comes to understanding the customer experience
and applying human-centered design to its services.
For instance, machine learning can be used to understand customer
sentiments. All calls to the bank’s call centres are recorded. They can be
converted to text and then machine learning algorithms can be used on the
analytics platform to understand sentiment. Problems can be flagged so that the
bank can reach out to the customers.
Ultimately behavioural information and machine learning, in
combination with biometrics, could even enable ‘invisible authentication’,
where a customer no longer needs to provide many supporting documents or use a
physical device for transactions or answer questions like, ‘What is your
mother’s maiden name’.
In a video interview
with Wee Wu Neo from The Neo Dimension, David Gledhill, Head, Group
Technology and Operations, DBS explained that the use of data goes beyond to
customers. The transformation to a data-driven organization has significantly
improved operations across the organisation.
Data can be used to find out where fraud is happening in the
company. To take a specific use case of this type, trade financing is highly
prone to fraud. To deal with this, DBS started looking at data other than
invoices and transactions to predict the possibility of fraud.
“You look at things like ship movements. If you know the
typical movement patterns of goods from one port to another, then anomalous
goods movement or timing that doesn’t look like typical timing for that type of
transaction or a behavioural shift in importers or exporters or in warehousing,
signals where potentially fraudulent trade might be going on,” Mr Gledhill said.
Data analytics can predict the likelihood of a relationship
manager quitting within the next three months, so that HR staff can intervene early
to retain employees. Data can tell the audit department which branch might have
issues and should be audited next.
Operational staff can understand and predict customer flows,
ATM load, and call centre volumes using data. In fact, one of the first big
data projects DBS embarked upon was figuring out the sequence in which ATMs
should be filled. The bank went from hundreds of instances of ATMs running out
of cash to single digit numbers.
The bank also moved its financial risk information and data
required for regulatory reporting on to the Cloudera platform to simplify
Mr Gledhill said, “We’ve applied it to a whole range of
different use cases and every single one, we see a massive uplift in terms of
the base case that we normally do.”
This has also been aided by the huge active worldwide community
of Hadoop contributors. It includes not just individuals but also tech giants,
such as Netflix, Amazon and Facebook (the platform itself was inspired by
technologies created inside Google). So, the platform keeps evolving and
improving steadily and DBS can build on the contributions made by this vibrant
DBS wanted to make the data analytics capabilities available
to everyone in the bank, as opposed to having a separate team of data scientists
or little pockets of analytics.
However, the oft-repeated cliché of technology being easy
and the ‘people’ aspect being hard was true.
The more difficult part was opening up people’s minds to the
possibilities. The first few use cases played a key role in overcoming
scepticism. They generated a high level of interest and enthusiasm among
different teams within the bank. They began to explore how they could leverage
analytics in their area.
All this improvement in services and operational efficiency
has been achieved while reducing costs.
Mr Gledhill said, “We’ve seen anything in the region of 80%
reduction in operating cost in a much shorter build time. The real big benefit
lift though is the benefit it provides to the business. If you look at our
digitally engaged customers, we see material lift in how much revenue a digital
customer brings to the bank.”
This is an ongoing journey and DBS expects Cloudera to help
them continue along the path towards deeper, better insights.
The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how fast the adoption of new technology can be, including cloud technology. While the cloud journey started well before COVID-19, the pandemic has certainly undoubtedly accelerated the process. This is because government agencies and organisations need to and have to roll out applications and technological solutions quickly, leaving them no time to use everything with hardware.
The public sector in the region, in particular, is still at an early stage of cloud adoption. As a result, many agencies encounter issues with legacy processes and organisational structures when moving to the cloud. As a full-scale cloud migration may not be possible for many government agencies and organisations, Hybrid Multi-Cloud is an efficient strategy as it enables organisations to choose the optimal solution for each task or workload.
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively to Gunasekharan Chellappan, Country Manager, Singapore, Red Hat. For over 25 years, Guna has been in the IT software industry in various leadership assignments. In his current role, he leads Red Hat’s sales team in Singapore and supports customers in their digital transformation initiatives.
Over the years, Guna has been extensively involved in implementing complex analytics solutions such as supply chain, customer experience and risk management across the world in various industries ranging from financial services, government, manufacturing and retail.
Agencies and organisations are expected to continuously deliver a mix of different services for their citizens and customers. Agility and cost-efficiency are the two primary driving aspects of many government agencies and organisations wanting to move to the cloud. Further, organisations have to maintain some workloads on-premises while also supporting cloud-native development.
Guna believes in an Open Hybrid Multi-Cloud outlook, and, in fact, it should be a default. Hybrid cloud refers to mixed computing, storage and services environments made up of on-premises infrastructure, private cloud services, and a public cloud—such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. Multi-cloud refers to the presence of more than one cloud deployment of the same type (public or private), sourced from different vendors
Running everything on the public cloud could be inconvenient and unwise, so organisations should retain some data on-premises. Various reasons underpin this perspective, including cost, security or regulations and other control measures, such as data sovereignty.
Organisations have learned over time that having all their eggs in the public cloud is not cost-effective as it was once thought. So over time, they have pulled most applications on-prem, making it easier to manage while using the public cloud for innovation.
An Open Hybrid Multi-Cloud deployment gives organisations the capability to pick and choose specific tools they prefer from different cloud providers, such as storage, security and Artificial Intelligence. As a result, they are not limited to the options of one cloud provider and can choose the best possible tools and services according to their needs.
With a good Hybrid Multi-Cloud strategy, tools from across the various clouds can be made to work together seamlessly. The more sophisticated the organisations are, the better they are at combining the right tools to achieve their goals.
If organisations opt for open source solutions, such as Red Hat, they do not have to learn all the different networking protocols or different storage mechanisms.
By relying on Red Hat as an abstraction layer, organisations can take that complexity issue off the table altogether. Red Hat offers open concepts which encompass being open, portable and giving freedom to developers using consistent tools and processes to deploy the applications on any cloud.
By not being constrained to one cloud, organisations are free to move any application they develop to another provider without reengineering the application. Applications can be developed once, but they can be deployed anywhere, whether on-premises or public cloud.
Typically, customers who are still at the initial stage, want to move an application to the cloud. Then, as they become more comfortable with the setup, they start looking to go deeper, moving more existing applications to the cloud as well as developing applications on the cloud. At this point, they want to take advantage of what the cloud has to offer instead of only moving monolithic applications.
Guna elaborated on how Red Hat helps customers in their cloud journey. Red Hat empowers and supports customers in their cloud transformation, allowing them to focus on their primary objectives. With Red Hat’s significant pool of resources and talent, they assist clients in shifting and modernising applications with a minimal amount of effort. Red Hat helps design new applications that run on the cloud in an agile way. This agility combined with the capability to scale automatically, Guna emphasises, is the true benefit of moving to the cloud.
Sometimes organisations are only looking to move their data centre because it is cost-effective. However, data centres costs could actually be higher over the long term.
The usual timeframe to move from a data centre to the cloud with microservices can vary between weeks to years. For example, developing core banking applications that have hundreds of modules can take years to complete. However, typical applications that are already Java-enabled take about 3 months to break down, refactor and test.
Red Hat Open Innovation Labs is an immersive teaming residency that arms customers with the skills, tools and processes to deliver better software, more quickly, to meet the demands of today’s market. The Labs provide an environment for customers to develop applications with speed, agility, scalability and increased security.
Red Hat works with organisations on a deeper level by helping to change the people, the processes, and the platforms. Different organisations have slightly different strategies in managing their teams. Some rigidly divide their teams and as a result, each does not have a comprehensive understanding of the organisation. For Guna, organisations need to have a blended model, in which there is a specific team that slowly transforms everyone.
Guna encouraged organisations to leverage an open Hybrid Multi-Cloud optimally and take advantage of all its features. Organisations and agencies that are currently relooking at their entire data strategy need to be aware that the future of data residency is with an Open Hybrid Multi-Cloud strategy. The flexibility to run applications across various environments without having to rebuild applications, retrain people or maintain disparate environments is the outcome of implementing a Hybrid Multi-Cloud strategy.
Multi-cloud is now a reality for many organisations. Although it can come with challenges, it has driven technological advancements for developer productivity. Red Hat takes the complexity of having to learn various platforms when considering a Hybrid Multi-Cloud strategy. It can help map out high-level considerations to take advantage of these benefits for cloud-native development.
Red Hat exists to help organisations standardise across environments, develop cloud-native applications, and integrate, automate, secure, and manage complex environments with award-winning support, training, and consulting services.
Government agencies and organisations can use Red Hat products and services to overcome their cloud challenges – all while keeping costs low and their options open.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Read Part 1.
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively to Simon Dale, Managing Director, South East Asia at Adobe. For over 30 years, Simon has worked for and with innovative tech companies across Europe and in the Asia Pacific and Japan, mostly in sales leadership roles. He specialises in launching and growing new businesses in the enterprise software space.
While the use of technology in the public sector is not new, it is becoming increasingly more important to adopt a more citizen-centric outlook. Simon feels that agencies need to be willing to directly serve citizens and engage with them in real-time. This requires a paradigm shift in thinking followed by a strategy that would enable it.
Adobe’s digital transformation is a great example. A decade ago, Adobe used to sell software (in the form of packaged discs) to distributors who then sold it to the customers. Today, Adobe’s customers can go to the company’s website, purchase the product and download the software directly onto their device. To facilitate this, Adobe had to change its thinking, develop a strategy and set up infrastructure and systems.
Simon encourages governments to understand the importance of citizen experience – which is far different from customer experience. Government agencies need to manage citizen experience from the viewpoint of a life journey broken up into specific stages, organising its content and channels to align appropriately. Such a design can only be built on understanding – when governments recognise what each citizen needs at a particular stage or season of life. Adobe’s 2021 Public Sector Trends Report shows that empathy is essential in designing and implementing truly citizen-centric services.
Adobe has a five-stage customer journey: discover, try, buy, use and renew. When customers first visit Adobe’s website, the company has limited information. Each time a customer returns to their site, explores and/or uses Adobe’s products, a bigger and more comprehensive picture and understanding emerge. For the most part, big data analytics can be used to evaluate data to enable personalisation, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) can accelerate this process.
Fundamentally, when citizens engage with the government in the digital space, they want relevant content and an easier experience. Agencies need to anticipate citizens’ needs and respond with suitable content, send out more timely and relevant information, as well as smoothen the experience on their digital platforms. Adobe is placed perfectly to help with this.
Throughout the pandemic, Adobe worked with both the U.S. and the Australian governments to accelerate communications on the status of the COVID-19 outbreak, critical updates and information, measures in place. This was vital in managing government response during the pandemic and easing concerns that were escalating and managing expectations.
The accelerated adoption of new technologies to improve digital customer experience (CX) has been made possible due to strong public-private partnerships. Amazingly, Adobe has partnered with all 50 U.S. states to power their digital modernisation through Adobe Experience Cloud and Adobe Document Cloud. The partnerships exist across individual agencies at the state, county and city levels.
Great examples are Adobe’s work with the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in terms of content management. The Census Bureau employed Adobe’s Experience Manager to build a digital foundation for the online census. Similarly, Adobe partnered with the CDC to orchestrate multi-channel communications to millions of citizens with up-to-date information about the COVID-19 emergency.
Citizen expectations are hugely influenced by the retail and financial sectors. The ease of business that encompasses many options and easy transactions are what people now demand. Simon believes that an “add-to-basket” experience is possible in some areas of public services.
Accelerated by the pandemic, governments have had to deliver some services without physical contact. If they build on this, citizens should be able to pick up certain services and drop them in a ‘check-out basket’. Services related to things like renewing a driver’s license, applying for a marriage license or getting copies of various certificates are all in the realm of possibility.
Using platforms like Adobe Experience Cloud, governments across the globe are revamping their online presence, making their websites and apps easier to navigate, ensuring content is personalised and updated in real-time, and creating intuitive forms that work on any device. Adobe Document Cloud helps optimise internal document workflows and Adobe Sign powers the entire e-signature process, reducing time spent on tasks such as applying for benefits and drastically reducing paper waste.
This is because Adobe is not just a provider of a piece of technology, but a long-term partner for business applications with values built on technology. Adobe’s perspective allows governments to get into citizen experience best practices immediately rather than building technologies from scratch or spending money on technologies that will not be valuable. Government agencies can focus on their tasks and adopt technology that is going to accelerate their digitalisation.
The concept of democratising digital decision-making for the public sector is vital to long term development. Data democratisation does not mean everyone has access to all data. The idea is to provide access to information that decision-makers need that is relevant to the level at which they operate that is constrained by the sensitivity and the use of data.
The fact is, the public sector collects vast amounts of information on citizens, but they have to be careful who has access to it. Agencies get data about people from their websites which include what they are looking for, what services they have availed of and issues or concerns they have. Every government employee who influences or decides those interactions and that content should have access to that citizen information, bound by the right level of privacy compliance and data protection.
It can help them rethink, reimagine and redesign the content they put up, how they can improve and what they need to do to better serve their citizens. Democratisation in this context means giving everybody who is contributing to “the last mile” more access to the information they need, so they can understand where they fit into the process.
It is analogous to conversion and retention in marketing, which, Simon believes, provides an argument for more government officers to have access to the right level of data. Better information allows faster conversion and better retention of customers, in this case, citizens. Richer data sets being made available to them, allows them to improve the citizen journey.
That being said, data democratisation has to be managed by robust data governance, compliance policies and security measures. Adobe takes safety and regulatory adherence seriously. It can take data that is garnered from citizen interactions – anonymous and authenticated – and use applications to allow decision-makers to analyse that data for various purposes.
Simon is confident in Adobe’s ability to better the world through its digital offerings that can meet the vast and growing needs of the public sector. Designed for easy deployment, compliance and management, Adobe tools, apps and services can be tailored to the specific needs of individual departments.
He firmly believes that digital insights have no value if they are not actionable. Systems, solutions and technology have to drive decisions that improve the lives of citizens through all digital services. Simon is optimistic that technology will continue to drive the quality of life and digital experiences of citizens across the world.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Read Part 1.
Service NSW has settled on the secure data transfer application that will replace email for sharing sensitive personal information at service centres following a phishing attack last year. The solution has been rolled out to almost half of all service centres across the state after being developed in-house by the one-stop shop for NSW government services. It will allow frontline staff to transfer information to other government agencies such as NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages and NSW Fair Trading.
The need for such a solution became extremely apparent in March 2020, when an email compromise attack against 47 Service NSW staff members exposed the personal information of 103,000 customers. Roughly 3.8 million documents, including handwritten notes, scans of driver’s licences and records of transactions, were stolen in an incident that has now cost over $25 million to amend.
In the absence of alternative methods of information sharing, service centre staff would routinely transfer documents containing personal information to staff in other NSW government agencies using email, a practice that Service NSW itself identified as a risk at least a year prior.
When answering questions on notice from budget estimates, Service NSW last month revealed it had begun the process of rolling out a new transfer solution to its service centre network. A spokesperson stated that following an assessment of “several delivery options” following the six-month pilot, the agency selected a solution that was developed in-house and built on a stack by an American software and I&T company.
The solution has been developed by a dedicated Service NSW team, the spokesperson said. Its solution provides an improved method to protect customer information and replaces the use of email to transfer scanned documents.
At present, 48 service centres across the state have begun using the solution, all but four of which went live in the past month. The first four service centres – which were involved in the six-month pilot – used the solution to transfer information to Department of Customer Service partner agencies for 280 transactions.
It was noted that the full network rollout to all 107 service centres is expected to be completed by January. Since the email compromise attack, Service NSW has also introduced controls to automatically delete emails that are more than 60 days old. Earlier this year, the Service NSW CEO said this had singlehandedly reduced the number of emails in mailboxes by 92% since June 2020.
Service NSW also introduced multi-factor authentication across almost all of its externally-facing IT systems in the wake of last year’s phishing attack that exposed 736GB of data. After bringing MFA to email shortly after the March 2020 data breach, the CEO said the agency had now enabled the feature on all but 5%of externally-facing systems. It follows funding to the tune of $5 million in last year’s state budget for cyber security upgrades at the one-stop shop for NSW government services.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA; encompassing two-factor authentication, or 2FA, along with similar terms) is an electronic authentication method in which a user is granted access to a website or application only after successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence (or factors) to an authentication mechanism: knowledge (something only the user knows), possession (something only the user has), and inherence (something only the user is).
MFA protects user data – this may include personal identification or financial assets – from being accessed by an unauthorised third party that may have been able to discover, for example, a single password. A third-party authenticator (TPA) app enables two-factor authentication, usually by showing a randomly generated and frequently changing code to use for authentication.
“We are very optimistic and bullish about the hyperscaler demand in the enterprise sector. To support the growing needs of global technology giants and cloud service providers expanding in the region, we at the company are proud to announce that we will be building the first hyperscaler data centre facility in the Philippines,” – The Philippines telco company’s VP and head of ICT Business for Enterprise
The Philippines is recognised as one of Southeast Asia’s emerging markets, with numerous technology firms planning to build data centres there. Data centre providers are likely to see new opportunities because of IoT data processing. IoT is anticipated to deliver applications and workloads that require near-real-time responsiveness, promoting the deployment of edge data centres. Due to the sheer rapid growth and development of data centre projects, new players will be able to enter the industry.
In addition, an article stated that the Philippines data centre market will reach USD 535 million by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 11.40 per cent between 2021 and 2026.
With this in consideration, the Philippines’ fully integrated telco business has stated that it will construct the country’s “first and largest” data centre, which will serve the vast power and IT needs of global hyperscalers. The facility, which will be built under its subsidiary, will be telco-neutral and will incorporate sustainability in with its design and operations, according to the company. The facility will be Tier-3 certified and Tier-4 ready when it launches, the company said in a statement.
“This hyperscaler data centre is a first of its kind. It will have more power capacity in one facility versus all our 10 VITRO data centres combined. It will also be designed to be the global class in energy efficiency and reliability, and will make use of the latest in green technology,” said the Philippines telco company’s VP and head of ICT Business for Enterprise
The company mentioned that it is expanding its data centre network to support and provide the considerably larger needs of hyperscalers, notably to service their availability zones, which are the key nodes of their worldwide network for delivering cloud products.
“We are continuously enhancing our existing data centres in three main ways. First, we are adding more power capacity per rack to support the dense and high-powered equipment of hyperscalers. Second, we’re further enhancing the reliability and energy efficiency of our data centre facilities. And last, we’re also looking for ways to deliver Renewable Energy to support the carbon neutrality commitments of these companies,” added the company’s VP and head of ICT Business for Enterprise.
Moreover, with its VITRO Data Centre facilities located in various important areas, the telco company maintains the country’s largest network of data centres. These data centres are also supported by the company’s 524,000-kilometre fibre optic network, which connects the Philippines to the rest of the world.
These facilities are connected to the telco company’s participation in 14 international submarine cable systems and one terrestrial system that carries data traffic in and out of the Philippines, with three more new submarine cables in construction, including the Jupiter Cable, Apricot Cable, and Asia Direct Cable.
OpenGov Asia in an article reported that the business world is moving at a rapid pace to keep up with the overwhelming demand for information and the need to monetise and operationalise raw data. With the ever-changing demands of the modern business model, many companies place their trust in data centres, as these facilities play a critical role in meeting their IT requirements.
Data centres are more than just safe and secure facilities with reliable power and network connectivity. They are quickly becoming an asset to many businesses, proving to be a dependable extension of their IT team. As a result, data centres are increasingly becoming an essential component of modern business start-ups. In this scenario, data centres become crucial to progress and are no different for the Philippines.
Part 1 of a two-part series. Read Part 2.
Good citizen experience is one of the most essential components of an effective government. Unfortunately, it is still a far cry from the seamless, personalised engagements that citizens have and expect from the private sector. Hence, the public sector must shift to citizen-centric digital offerings, with an effective strategy to deliver private sector level digital services.
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively to Simon Dale, Managing Director, South East Asia at Adobe. For over 30 years, Simon has worked for and with innovative tech companies across Europe and in the Asia Pacific and Japan, mostly in sales leadership roles. He specialises in launching and growing new businesses in the enterprise software space.
Having worked in the Asia Pacific markets for 20 years, with experience in all major countries, he has deep business experience in the region. He is actively involved in the startup scene in South East Asia as both an advocate for technology as well as a mentor.
In deploying technology with the government, Simon acknowledges the importance of effective policies to support and facilitate government objectives. There are three indispensable dimensions in delivering technological solutions to the public sector – people, technology and processes. The most critical aspect is people as they understand and can determine how to deploy technology to particular use cases or even come up with cases.
For a long time, government agencies were “hidden” behind counters, tickets and forms with limited direct interaction with citizens. With developments in technology, and more recently, being driven by the pandemic, government employees are being pushed to deal directly with citizens and provide real-time services, albeit digitally.
For a great digital citizen experience, Simon firmly believes that agencies need to understand a citizen’s journey as a continuum, learning to serve people effectively at whatever point they are in their life. This direct citizen engagement is a new concept. And if they are to do it successfully, government agencies need to understand citizens’ life journey and their context of citizen experience. Services have to be in line with where people are in their life stages.
While organisations in the private sector tend to have a stronger strategy for personalisation than in the public sector, it should be the other way around. Government has the responsibility of equity – to make sure everyone has access to what is needed and ensure that no one is left behind within society. Empathy and personalisation in government can address that.
In delivering digital services to citizens, Simon emphasises that internal stakeholders are vital. The mindset of key decision-makers and implementers will determine the extent and nature of the experience. As the citizen and customer experience wave is still in its early stages, the role of people to firmly push this to the next stage is essential.
With mindsets and culture addressed, agencies will need to next look into technology and processes. Technology must facilitate the goals of the digital customer experience that the government envisions, while processes need to enable digitalised customer experience instead of being the impediments. They should encourage and foster collaboration and innovation to better serve people.
Across government agencies, a lack of digital skills affects the deployment of technology and the extent of its use. Adobe works with governments to help develop the capacity of their officers and to build citizens’ skills by supporting relevant training initiatives. Adobe’s partnership with Skillsfuture has enabled Singaporeans to develop their fullest potential throughout life, regardless of their starting points.
Infrastructure can be a limitation in deploying technological solutions. Such bottlenecks are often connected to policies that centre around agency perspective – ‘buy’ versus ‘build’ or ‘own and operate’ versus ‘outsource’. While the dedicated infrastructure is necessary to an extent and in specific contexts, a cloud-based mindset is increasingly proving to be more efficient. The availability and agility of cloud services have been well proven in the commercial sector.
A great example is the Adobe Experience Manager, a comprehensive content management solution for building websites, mobile apps and forms. The platform places citizens at the centre with solutions that are responsive, relevant and social, providing lifetime value. It can deliver and manage digital experiences across government agencies that are timely and personal.
More recently Adobe deployed a data centre in Singapore with Adobe Sign and Adobe Experience Manager cloud services that are available to Adobe’s customers across the world, increasing capabilities and efficiencies especially for those in the region.
For Simon, the world has not changed much in terms of the channels of engagement, but it is evolving when it comes to the adoption of digital channels of engagement. The digitisation of the channels has accelerated far more quickly than the government’s ability to deliver the services digitally.
The access to digital services has greatly improved and, with so many cutting-edge technologies on the horizon, things can only get better. Solutions specifically designed for different communities are being created regularly and governments are looking to serve all their citizens equitably – the elderly, differently-abled, people with limited access, education or resources. Simon is optimistic that governments’ ability to digitally serve citizens, even in countries with a slower pace of transformation, will improve quickly.
Adobe is committed to partnering closely with government agencies around the world in this journey to help deliver a better and more empathetic citizen experience.
Part 1 of a two-part series. Read Part 2.
Governments and the public sector are collecting and storing more data than ever before, and massively improved computer processing power allows them to extract previously inaccessible insights. Using data analytics across the organisation would allow governments to better allocate resources, lower operating costs and meet the changing needs of citizens.
Data is becoming increasingly critical in economies and societies, particularly in the financial services sector. Technological advances have greatly improved organisations’ ability to capture, store, combine and analyse a much broader range of customer data, ranging from the current or previous location to customer habits and preferences.
A growing number of public-sector organisations recognise the value of big data and analytics in gaining insights into citizen behaviour, understanding their needs, and implementing effective delivery of essential services. The major issue with data is that its storage and analysis in the digital era must be thoroughly thought out, designed and structured. Although structured data has tremendous potential as a source of insight, the massive amount and rapid growth of unstructured data far outnumber that of structured data.
Edge Computing is currently transforming the way data is handled, processed, and delivered from millions of devices all over the world. IoT has been popularised in the form of connected thermostats, automobiles, factory robots and pretty much everything we encounter these days. When combined with the need to process data as close to the device as possible, IoT naturally led to the birth of computing at the “edge” of a larger, more comprehensive system or edge computing.
The push for edge computing was motivated by the need to improve application performance and optimise server resources; however, adoption has been challenging among the governments and public sectors.
This was the focal point of the OpenGovLive! Virtual Breakfast Insight on 15 October 2021 – a closed-door, invitation-only, interactive engagement with top government agencies in the Philippines. The session is focused on providing organisations with the knowledge they need to build secure, reliable, and manageable high-performance edge computing platforms and data centres that can help fuel an organisation’s digital transformation.
Partner with experts to ease digital transformation
To kickstart the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia delivered the opening address. He began by elaborating on the tech initiatives that were initially being implemented and rolled out by governments and public sectors around the world in response to the pandemic. For the most part, he felt, organisations relied on band-aid solutions and ad-hoc platforms to stay afloat. While these were important, they cannot be termed as genuine digital transformation strategies for the long haul.
Both the private and public sectors had to move to remote working to ensure business and service continuity. While, in most cases, this was possible, some sectors and aspects had to work onsite / in-office. This need, combined with successful containment measures, has led to a hybrid model of F2F and remote working.
Against this backdrop, cloud and data accessibility and availability become critical aspects. “Data and cloud are everywhere around us,” Mohit said, “but is that a long-term solution or just a part of our strategy?”
Governments across the world are reviewing their data strategy to offer more online services, wider access, and a better citizen experience. That being said, a crucial consideration is cost. While the cloud is a quick, and almost intuitive, solution, it is not the only one. While agencies should have a cloud solution, after a certain period, they need to revisit the strategy and evaluate how to go forward – whether a cloud service is still required and, if yes, at what cost.
Mohit feels it is important that people fully understand the concept of a hybrid cloud strategy and not take it for granted or lightly.
Beyond a doubt, COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation, especially in the private sector. Finance and retail companies pivoted quickly offering their goods and services online. The ease of business, the efficiency of delivery and overall customer experience has allowed them to thrive and, simultaneously, has raised the expectations of people.
Citizens have become more tech-savvy and use technology more than ever before and expect the same level of efficiency they get from businesses. Cutting edge technologies have become mainstreamed and are being increasingly used in daily life by the private sector. Citizens now expect their government to offer services along the same lines using similar technology. They want to access service anywhere, anytime, across any device.
Mohit firmly believes that organisations and governments must be aware of and understand where data resides, how it can be accessed, how secure it is and what it has to offer. Digital transformation is not a simple task and needs expertise. Partnering with the right people, Mohit is convinced, is the best way forward. Experts can help leverage technologies and solutions effectively, allowing agencies and businesses to focus on delivering their mandates to their citizens and customers.
Accountability and transparency underpin efficiency
Ben Jiang, Director of Data, Analytics and Systems Assurance at the Victorian Auditor-Office General’s Australia was the next speaker.
Ben began by sharing a little about his agency and its role. The Auditor-General is an independent officer of the Victorian Parliament, assisted by a staff of approximately 185 people. Their job is to inform the Parliament and the Victorian public about the efficiency with which public sector agencies deliver services and spend public funds.
This is accomplished through an annual auditing programme of state and local government public sector entities’ financial and performance. The numbers in the financial statement will be audited and data plays an important role in ensuring that the numbers are materially correct.
Conducting these audits using data is a time-consuming process that requires a few manual steps. Before the data can be audited, it must first be requested from the client and then extracted, uploaded, manipulated, reconciled, and mapped. This process will then be repeated several times for accuracy.
The organisation’s audit work results in recommendations that promote accountability and transparency in government while also improving agencies’ service efficiency and effectiveness. Auditors provide written advice to agencies on how to improve their future performance.
Other considerations that the company had taken into account along the way included data security. “Data protection is a major concern for us,” Ben explained. “When it comes to data protection, various frameworks, such as ISO 27001, NIST, ASD, and others, have been implemented and used in the company.”
Furthermore, the Australian cyber security centre has also played its role with the company’s data protection and other privacy concerns.
To summarise, the company and its responsibilities in data utilisation play a critical role in the company’s audit operations. Cloud computing is a disruptive technology and impacts how an audit is performed. However, Ben concluded that the cloud essentially works for them.
Edge, cloud and digital transformation
Tony Kang, Secure Power’s Business Vice President, Schneider Electric provided his insights to the discussion at hand. Tony acknowledges that digitalisation is happening across the board in all sectors, enabled, in large part, by cloud and edge technologies.
In this digital age, data is being generated non-stop. A report stated that 180 million GB of data is processed each year – generated through smart retail, smart cities, digital health, virtual reality, intelligent traffic and so on. There are currently 80 billion connected devices in the world – Everything and everyone is connected by some device. On average, in one household, there will be at least seven connected (smart) devices.
Estimates indicate that US$ 232 billion are being spent in the IT market solely for artificial intelligence – now the most widely used technology in every sector, including healthcare, financial services and education.
He has observed that all public sector agencies and departments are pivoting and pushing towards digital transformation, focusing on remoted services – and this transformation is moving at a faster pace. While governments were primarily concerned with social responsibility, are now focusing on sustainability, energy efficiency and other issues, particularly carbon footprint integration.
Climate concerns and their solutions are something that everyone needs to be involved in. If all organisations set aside a budget for this purpose, it would be a significant investment for the world and the company.
The Philippines government is also implementing programmes and dependable digital services for digital transformation through the cloud. However, one of the impediments to these developments is the lack of privacy and cyber security regulations. As it is an essential factor in ensuring citizens’ data and information are kept safe and manageable, he believes governments should consider it when integrating transformation.
Highlighting the trends in other segments, Tony noted that many of these were driven by the need for people to continue living in a pandemic – to shop, work, learn and get medical assistance remotely. Edge computing and virtual intelligence have enabled this acceleration.
For example, in the Philippines, a company set up a one-stop shop for all essential products and services. While customers could visit stores, their reluctance to transact in physical stores was addressed by digital kiosks. They could use a digital touchscreen display to purchase products and services. Similarly, QR codes could be scanned to direct people to online stores where they could place orders and make payments.
Tony elaborated on the state of the edge in the Philippines where 42% of organisations in the country are well-versed in the approach and have multiple Edge sites in place today. Public, BFSI, Education, BPO, Healthcare and Retail are among the top segments.
In the Philippines, the median is currently 5 sites and is expected to grow to 9 in the next 24 months, with up to 34% more adopters. Early adopters of Edge Computing in the Philippines have seen positive results, including lower IT costs and improved customer service.
Nonetheless, topping the list of pressing priorities for the Asia Pacific region are data centres, cloud and edge. Specifically for Edge Computing, 17% of the respondents marked it as urgently needed to be deployed in the Philippines.
Tony shared that Schneider Electric provides complete solutions on centralised data centres for other internet giants and that they are very well managed in terms of redundancy, monitoring, data centre staff, organisation and security. This was pertinent in the context of the challenges of local edge centres – redundancy, no monitoring or management, paucity of local staff, a lack of dedicated cooling and unsecured racks.
In closing, he discussed challenges that governments and organisations should consider, not least of which is the fact that the Philippines is an archipelago of over 7000 islands, each of which is overseen by a different government agency. Managing and controlling those agencies and organisations that use various software and edge computing is complex and convoluted. It would be prudent to deploy standardised solutions in those various environments.
With the accelerating transformation and online migration, cyber threats and other risks are growing. It is vital to protect the infrastructure, equipment and facilities from environmental and physical security threats.
In terms of how an organisation can do more with less, Tony advocates solutions that are budget-constrained and necessitate cost-effective solutions. Finally, organisations should consider centrally monitoring and servicing distributed IT infrastructure.
After the informative presentations, representatives from the different organisations participated in interactive discussions facilitated by polling questions. This activity is designed to provide live-audience interaction, promote engagement, hear the real-life experience, and impart professional learning and development for participants.
The first question asked, with many businesses looking at digital transformation today, how important are data centre modernisation and local edge computing for the organisations. Well over a third (38%) of the participants said that It is very important, but the cost was a constraint. About a third (35%) indicated that it is very important and are currently undergoing transformation while a quarter (23%) agreed that it is very important, and they are looking to transform it.
The next poll explored the main challenges that delegates are currently facing in IT and Data Centre infrastructure. Delegates were evenly divided (35%) between bandwidth, latency and other issues. While 20% of the participants were concerned about reliability, about 10% were dealing with standardised designs across sites.
On being asked, with the government’s cloud-first policy, what the organisations’ current plans for IT expansion and deployments in the near future were, there was near unanimity. An overwhelming majority (82%) went with deploying Hybrid IT infrastructure, leveraging on the cloud but still deploying on-premises/ local edge data centres. About 9% indicated they could only deploy on-premises data centres says due to certain constraints while another 9% said that they would only modernise existing assets and expand their capacity.
Inquiring on how many have adopted Edge Computing in their organisation, 75% said that they are currently planning to implement edge computing in the near future. About 15% had already implemented hybrid IT is using central DC plus local edge while 10% confirmed they had that plan for IT expansion that do not require Edge Computing.
The next poll dealt with how delegates monitor and manage the uptime and health of their physical infrastructure supporting its IT (UPS, PDUs, PACU). Close to half (47%) said they have already connected devices to their network and access them using IP addresses (web browser). A third (33%) confirmed that they had already implemented an on-premises monitoring system that consolidates device status and alarm. A tenth (10%) indicated they manage this manually with people on-site to look at equipment status and fill logs by hand or in an excel file. About 5% of the remaining delegates were using a cloud-based DCIM that provides status and predicts failures of these devices.
When asked how the delegates support or plan to support their edge deployments, 44% went with micro data centres (single racks of enclosed IT with integrated thermal management and UPS) while 39% said they use conventional server racks. Just over a tenth (11%) opted for prefabricated modular data centres (containerised).
Nico Echavarria – Local Edge Use Cases and Solutions
The next speaker, Nico Echavarria, Solutions Architect and Product Application Leader – Secure Power, Schneider Electric Philippines, noted that when it comes to data, it is not so much about where the data is stored as it is about where it is gathered and processed.
In his first case study, he shared about a weather agency in South Africa that is deploying hundreds of sensors that are all connected to a central data centre. The agency discovered that it was experiencing latency issues, and the overburdened central data centre was slowing its operations. Schneider Electric provided the agency with an all-in-one Micro Data Centre for critical IT equipment, where the system aided in the deployment of the agency’s sensors. The result was a faster and more accurate forecast, as well as a better prediction model.
The next case was of an auto manufacturing company where the need for a robust compute on-site for manufacturing was critical. As with most companies today, this organisation also uses IoT devices and other software for digitisation as well as software-defined automation in their manufacturing processes.
As the entire manufacturing area had been occupied, the company could not accommodate a data centre. Schneider Electric provided them with a connected all-in-one Micro Data Centre for critical IT equipment.
In closing, Nico elaborated on their new EcoStruxure MDC C-Series, a simple micro data centre for those who want a simplified but resilient physical infrastructure to support edge computing. The deployment time for this is only a few weeks. Furthermore, the Microdata centre essentials are inexpensive and can be securely managed from anywhere.
In closing, Mohit urged delegates to begin developing plans and ideas for integrating data and other technologies. In addition to cost savings, classification is an important factor to consider. He thanked all of the delegates for their time and their insightful participation.
Tony concluded the Breakfast Insight by emphasising Schneider Electric’s mission of empowering companies and organisations to embark on digital transformation by providing endpoint to cloud integration connecting products, controls, software, and services. Moreover, the company is committed to assisting and advising organisations in need. He emphatically ended by saying, “Edge deployment is the recipe for success.”
Tony invited the delegates to reach out to his team and him to discuss how they could be involved in the adoption of edge computing and other data solutions, which will help to allocate resources, lower operating costs, and meet citizens’ changing needs.
Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) is partnering with tech companies to enhance Wisconsin’s occupational licensure review and adjudication. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform will automate certain data entry tasks that are currently conducted manually. This will improve the customer experience and will expedite entry to the credentialed workforce in Wisconsin.
DSPS currently issues licenses for more than 240 occupational fields. The department issues credentials to most health care providers, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, physical therapists, and more. It licenses about 1.1 million people every two years.
Our credentialing process is almost 100% manual. That is because applicants fill out a paper form and mail it in, leaving department employees to decipher the handwriting and enter the data into the agency’s database. Automating that process is going to be a great step in terms of licensing applicants much more quickly and helping our process be much more accurate.”
– Dawn Crim, Secretary, Department of Safety and Professional Services
Currently, several teams handle data entry, but with the new solution by using their expertise in reviewing applications and processing and interacting with the customer. The tech companies are working to enable AI to automate data extraction from emails and attachments and send the information to DSPS’ database. It will also link necessary attachments such as degrees or certifications to the applications, with administrators being alerted to review any mismatches.
In addition to easing data entry, the technologies could help with customer service. For instance, virtual assistants could help in many permutations of the process. Because the process for each license is governed by statutory authorities and regulations, there tends to be a specific workflow for each industry. Virtual assistants could help point callers to the resources they need.
Although the different industries have different requirements, there are questions common to all licensing types. They use a natural language understanding platform that lets agencies design and integrate a conversational user interface into applications. The AI can comb through processes and statistics, such as how many calls virtual assistants deflect from staff. With those statistics, DSPS can make data-informed decisions about regulations, processes and procedures.
This modernisation effort is part of the second of a three-phase effort the state is pursuing. The first phase focused on the state’s construction industry, including replacing the regulated objects system, a 20-year old software application used for commercial building inspection permits, plan reviews and credentialing.
The third phase will address the complaint process. DSPS has more than 100 councils, committees and boards that govern the industry, so DSPS wants to use technology to study where complaints are coming from and whether they can be attributed to regulations or licensed professionals themselves.
Many U.S. Government agencies have leveraged the power of AI to achieve their goals more efficiently. As reported by OpenGov Asia, Yolo County District Attorney has had robust discussions with community members about the implicit or explicit bias that may occur in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors have nearly absolute discretion to charge or dismiss criminal cases. There is concern that these high-stakes judgments may suffer from explicit or implicit racial bias, as with many other such actions in the criminal justice system.
Yolo DA decided to address this potential problem by announcing the official launch of a first-of-its-kind Race Blind Charging (RBC) programme. The office then has been using the algorithm, developed by the Stanford Computational Policy Lab (SCPL).
By using a first-of-its-kind Race Blind Charging software program, Yolo County will ensure that their decisions on whether to charge someone with a crime are not infected by any real or perceived bias. This innovation will also help improve public confidence in the procedural fairness of the criminal justice system.