With the first COVID-19 case confirmed in Singapore in January, it would have been reasonable to assume Singapore would fall victim to a large-scale outbreak.
Singapore was the third country to report cases of COVID-19, and by mid-February, had recorded over 80 infections, the highest outside the Chinese mainland. Singapore case count is at 200.
As it stands today Singapore is very successfully managing and controlling the virus from becoming a large-scale national crisis with many countries across the world looking to Singapore Government as an example of what should be done and what can be done for countries going forward.
The Singaporean approach has been prevention, contact tracing, quarantine and access to information. Just one of the reasons the Government has been commended internationally is because of it’s communication with it’s citizens.
Access to information, transparency and daily communication with citizens has shown great leadership from the Government giving citizens the knowledge and power to continue successfully with daily life in the city-state.
This has worked well on many levels.
Strong, Clear and Concise Direction from Government
Many countries now are facing bigger problems with the Coronavirus outbreak due to citizens not being made fully aware of the Coronavirus situation in their country, not sure what actions they were to take, and government agencies not working together as they should.
All Singapore Government agencies provide advice, support and updates on the Coronavirus regularly and there are various applications online to ensure citizens are supported and informed.
Keeping The Nation Digitally Updated
The Singapore Government and it’s ministries have all pulled together to keep the nation working, through its various digital initiatives throughout this pandemic from the very start.
Singaporeans can subscribe to WhatsApp updates from the Ministry of Health or find up-to-date information on the ministry’s website. These updates summarise the current situation in the country. This dedicated COVID-19 site gives very transparent information on each confirmed case.
The website shares the age, sex and occupation of each person who has tested positive for the virus. It reveals where they travelled recently, and when they sought medical help. It explains when they were hospitalised and when they were discharged.
After the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Singapore was reported stocks of surgical masks were sold out in a very short space of time throughout retail outlets across Singapore.
The Singapore government announced on 30 January 2020 that it would be giving each household four surgical masks, to be collected from specific distribution centres between 1-9 February 2020.
Government Agency, GovTech quickly worked to help keep citizens informed and updated on the Government’s mask distribution.
The Agency recognised the importance of getting timely and accurate information about the distribution centres to citizens, a team of developers at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore mobilised to develop MaskGoWhere – a website providing information on mask collection points.
The Singapore government also launched a chatbot to aid employers to stay updated on the news following the COVID-19 virus. This online bot provides answers based on the programmed questions on the existing situation. Employers are able to find out more information such as the help that is available for them and how to ensure business continuity in uncertain times.
The website of the Ministry of Communications and Information have launched useful and practical campaigns and posters on ‘When to See a Doctor’, ‘What happens to suspect cases’ and ‘How to practice good personal hygiene’.
The “SG Clean” campaign launched by the government on 16 Feb 2020 outlines what all Singaporeans should do to adopt good personal and environmental hygiene habits. It also calls on organisations to adhere to sanitation and hygiene checklists by authorities.
Singapore’s strategy involves multiple lines of defence
Singapore’s strategy to guard against and slow the spread of COVID-19 has been described as ‘multiple lines of defence’. These measures come into play at various stages, from detecting cases before or during entry to Singapore, containing suspect cases to ensuring everyone is informed, updated and prepared to do what is right in protecting themselves and the country against COVID-19 and to keep the country moving forward.
To support the objectives of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the second edition of the Singapore Energy Grand Youth Challenge will garner ideas using Minecraft: Education Edition (M:EE) from secondary school and junior college students on the following topic – “How would your carbon-free school or neighbourhood in Singapore look like in 2050?”.
The top three teams with the most innovative ideas in each of the two categories will be awarded up to $10,000 in cash prizes.
The Challenge is a partnership between the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and Microsoft Singapore, and supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). Registration starts 1 March 2021. It is held as part of the Singapore Together movement where Singaporeans can partner the government and one another to co-create solutions and realise the Green Plan.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a whole of nation movement to advance Singapore’s national agenda on sustainable development. The youth play an important role in reducing carbon emissions and saving resources and energy.
“As part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, Singapore is making the transition towards a carbon-free energy future. To achieve this, we need to change the way we produce and use energy. We encourage youth to envision how emerging low-carbon technologies like carbon capture and innovative energy efficiency solutions can make Singapore more sustainable in the future.” said Mr Ngiam Shih Chun, Chief Executive, Energy Market Authority.
To engage more youth on sustainability issues, this year’s Challenge has been expanded to include junior college students within the new Senior category, together with upper secondary students.
Lower secondary students will be placed in the Junior category. Members of the public will also be invited to vote for the entry which best resonates with their ideas for a carbon-free Singapore.
The inaugural Singapore Energy Grand Challenge for the Youth was launched in March 2020 and invited secondary school students to co-create Singapore’s Energy Story with the question “How would your energy efficient school or neighbourhood in Singapore look like in 2050?”.
92 teams across 29 secondary schools took part in the Challenge. Teams from Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary), Bedok Green Secondary School and St Hilda’s Secondary School were crowned the top three winners and their submissions can be viewed online.
Students interested to participate in this year’s Challenge may register online by 15 April 2021. Students must form teams of two to four schoolmates, and submit a three-minute video showcasing their idea for a carbon-free Singapore with their registration. Shortlisted teams will be contacted and invited to attend specialised workshops to help them with their final submissions.
All submissions will be judged by a panel of representatives from EMA, IMDA, Microsoft Singapore and relevant industry players according to the criteria of relevance, creativity, and presentation. The top three teams from both the Junior and Senior categories will receive their awards in end-July 2021.
Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently said that if the country is not brave enough to invest in science and technology and innovation, Vietnam would get stuck in the low-productivity, low-added value and middle-income trap.
Investing in technology and innovation is vital for the nation to bring products to new levels and escape the rut of being the outsourcing hub for others – a reputation which the country has been associated with for decades. This is not only true, he said, for technology firms but for all enterprises in the economy. Applying and inventing new technologies can help increase productivity and heighten enterprises’ positions.
The “Make in Vietnam” initiative, promoted by the Ministry of Information and Technology (MIC) has infused fresh vitality in the startup community. Vietnam has become the fifth country in the world mastering 5G technology, producing 5G infrastructure equipment and 5G smartphones. This stems from Make in Vietnam pride. Over 13,000 digital technology firms were established just in the last year, raising the total number of digital technology firms to 58,000.
In fact, 2020 saw a rigorous start to digital transformation in all fields. The Ministry of Information and Communications built numerous programmes and plans over the course of the year to facilitate a prompt digitalisation process towards digital transformation as well as the engagement of businesses in the information technology sector. Noteworthy was that the IT sector quickly teamed up with others to develop digital products serving efforts in COVID-19 prevention and control and adapting to the “new normal”.
If Vietnam continues is to continue outsourcing, it should only be a very small part of the value chain. Domestically, there is a range of sectors and products that Vietnam has had significant success in. Electric cars, mobility and smartphones are an area that the Vietnamese versatitlity and expertise of shows.
State-owned Viettel, one of the fastest-growing telecom operators, is building a digital business culture with the focus on flexibility, creativity, customer orientation, digital thinking and openness. Other than telecommunications, the company also has expertise in hi-tech research and manufacturing, postal services, construction and commerce. It has accelerated digital transformation in internal administration, applying modern technologies with international standards. All documents at Viettel have been digitised, 50% of manual work has been liberalized, and 30-40 percent of tasks have been automated. Its ecosystem of digital products provides B2C and B2B services in a wide range of fields, from finance, digital marketing and OTT, customer care e-government and smart cities.
In order to accomplish that, the space for creativity must be expanded, while management thinking needs to be reformed, so that creativity is not hindered by rigid regulations and officials’ bureaucracy. The deputy head of the Vietnam Economics Institute stressed that Vietnam needs to reform the way of thinking and the institutional regime with the aim of encouraging participation of non-state sectors in science and technology development and innovation. He believes that information technology and digital transformation should be seen as an important push and pillar to support the recovery process, strengthen resilience, and improve growth quality.
Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said, ” Becoming a pioneer has always been the aspiration of the Vietnamese nation and every Vietnamese citizen. It is difficult to implement this, but it is not impossible.”
While Vietnam may currently be behind many countries, missing opportunities along the development path, Vietnam has made up for that. Now it is among the top countries in the region and the world in some fields, such as telecommunications and power, maintaining high growth rates. With more power from the 4.0 industrial revolution and its digital transformation strategy, Vietnam’s growth engine will have an additional push to achieve its aspirations of becoming a high-income country by 2045 into reality.
The Northern Territory government is trialling custom-made, state-of-the-art medical drones to deliver potentially life-saving medicines. The project will explore the challenges of using drone technology to deliver health services in the Northern Territory, such as procuring airframes that can manage vast distances and adapting technology to withstand hot, humid and monsoonal climates. The project will also involve developing a drone test flight centre in the Northern Territory.
With a flying range of 250 km, the drones have the potential to shorten the delivery of time-critical medical items to hard-to-reach and seasonally inaccessible remote communities. The initiative can go a long in helping save lives and reducing the costs of delivery. The project will also open the way ay for future delivery of critical items such as cold-storage vaccines (for COVID-19) in regional and remote communities.
The delivery of time-critical medical items is a serious limitation and cost for healthcare in remote and regional Australia. Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) have become a routine part of the medical delivery infrastructure in some developing countries, improving timeliness, reducing costs, and saving lives. However, their use in the Australian health care supply chain is still in its infancy.
The project will explore integrating drones into the existing health transport infrastructure framework. It will collaborate with the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority to identify and regulate flight paths within current airspace requirements.
The maximum flying range has been set at 250 km at 235 km. In the short-term, the target is to achieve regular drone flights of up to 100 km by the end of 2021 and regular drone flights of up to 250 km and regular transport of medical items to and from remote communities by 1 July 2023. Negotiations are on with firms for appropriate drone airframes that are able to deal with both the wet and dry seasons.
The pilot has been supported by iMOVE, Australia’s leading applied research centre in the transportation and mobility sector. They help both the public and private sectors tackle transport-related challenges by connecting and activating the ideas, people and resources to get things moving. As a national centre for collaborative research in transport and mobility, iMOVE will fund the project, along with the NT Government Department of Health and Charles Darwin University (CDU). Drone services consultant UAV is advising on the project. Drone pilots will soon be recruited and will undergo specialist training.
iMOVE Programs Director Lee-Ann Breger said that regional communities face medical access and health supply issues that could be addressed with the provision of suitable technology. “There are about eight million people living in rural and remote parts of the country – that’s about a third of our population living in places where getting life-saving medical supplies is not only a race against time but also a battle against the tyranny of distance, harsh landscapes and unpredictable elements,” said Breger.
Lee-Ann revealed that the project is looking to create an efficient model so drone health delivery services can eventually be rolled out in other regional locations across Australia.
The role of Charles Darwin University (CDU) is to explore the potential of using automated aircraft for the delivery of time-critical medical items to remote communities across the Northern Territory. Interim Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Mike Wilson Professor Wilson agreed that the collaboration would be a testing ground for the application of autonomous systems into healthcare delivery across Australia.
While drones are already being used in health care in developing countries, he noted, more research was needed to understand where drones can reduce costs and improve healthcare outcomes for remote communities in the Northern Territory. The territory presents unique challenges, such as long distances, problems caused by monsoonal rain, cyclones, extreme temperatures and humidity – all will have to be solved by researchers.
Apart from addressing the main issue of access, the project holds promise for the local economy. NT Minister for Health Natasha Fyles confirmed that apart from keeping remote territories areas healthy and safe, this technology would create new jobs and opportunities
“The use of drones will be a game-changer when it comes to enhancing our healthcare system. It doesn’t matter whether you live in the city or in the bush — Territorians deserve to have access to the very best health services, and this new technology will be a driving force in this space,” said Minister Fyles.
With the pandemic still at hand, countries from all over are looking for further improvements on COVID-19 testing procedures. In Singapore, clinics authorised to conduct pre-departure COVID-19 tests (PDTs) for outbound travellers will now have to issue digital test result certificates, instead of the current physical certificates.
The digital test results will look to improve Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) existing online portal testing programme where passengers can choose from a list of recognised testing facilities and book appointments for pre-departure Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serology tests. This is part of a digital health verification process based on the International Air Transport Association (Iata) Travel Pass framework.
The digitalisation initiative was supposed to start recently, but it had been delayed to allow clinics and labs additional time to set up the capability to digitalise the PDT certificates.
The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) said that the new digital certification system is based on HealthCerts, an open-source framework for issuing digital COVID-19 test result certificates. The use of HealthCerts for digital PDT certificates enables an inter-operable, verifiable, and tamper-proof solution that will smoothen and expedite check-in processing and customs clearance at foreign and local immigration checkpoints.
Travellers will need to notarise the digital COVID-19 test certificate – which means having the document certified by the Ministry of Health – so it can be recognised at the airport and overseas. The certificate will need to be uploaded on the Government’s Notarise website, after which a notarised digital PDT certificate containing a QR code will be sent to travellers.
Airline and immigration officials can scan the QR code to check the authenticity of the PDT certificate using a tool called Verify, developed by a technology agency, or by a verification tool currently being piloted by the SIA. The platform will be able to check whether the digital certificate was tampered with and whether the certificate has been notarised by the Health Ministry.
Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative in the Prime Minister’s Office Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament during the debate on the PMO’s budget that the notarised pre-departure test results will be available on the SingPass Mobile app. The notarised test results will also be sent via e-mail.
Meanwhile, the Government will also look to expand this measure on vaccine certificates.
However, SNDGO noted that the World Health Organisation’s current recommendation is that COVID-19 vaccinations should not be imposed as a condition of entry. They also added that the Government is closely monitoring international developments on the use of digital vaccination certifications for travel and is in discussions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and various countries on the mutual recognition of such certifications.
There are currently nine HealthCerts-compliant technology providers, which clinics can buy from to start issuing digital certificates. SNDGO clarified that the individual’s data remains private with the digital test certificate.
This is all in line with the country’s efforts in providing a robust system to verify the authenticity of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. A standardised system is essential to reopen borders and resume international travel, he said in a special address to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Agenda 2021. He further said that countries need to strengthen international cooperation, which is essential in tackling the global pandemic. If countries are to tackle COVID-19 coherently, international cooperation and multilateral efforts, as well as an international order underpinned by stable great power relations, are critical.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still making its rounds in the country, companies believe that a ‘hybrid’ workplace will be the new normal for Philippine companies, as the global crisis continues. This hybrid arrangement – where employees are expected to spend time working from home and time working in the office – is just one of the trends that companies should brace for using technology considering the massive changes that the pandemic has brought.
A tech firm’s technology lead executive for data and AI in the Philippines said while geopolitical news and trends dominated 2019, the year 2020 brought in COVID-19 which basically “changed everything” on a truly global scale. A hybrid workplace means most people will not be working at home permanently but at the same time, not everybody will be in the office. He reiterated that there is no going back to the old ways where people are expected to spend their whole time at the office.
Companies would then need to find the right balance. A hybrid workplace also means work will no longer be location and time-dependent. Organisations will be forced to adapt or be left behind. COVID-19 has been likened to a “fast-forward” switch that has compelled global companies to radically change. Technology, now more than ever, will be at the forefront of the changes. Unlike before where technology played a mostly supporting role for businesses, it is now “the star” of the show and without it, companies cannot do business.
Before the pandemic, companies who were aggressive with their technology rollouts outpaced technology laggards by twice over. During the pandemic, the trend has significantly changed, and these tech leaders now outpace their lagging counterparts by five times. From small to medium-sized enterprises or SMEs to larger enterprises, the first step to adapt is to get started. This is relevant for the Philippines where more than 90% of companies are small-mid size businesses (SMBs). The key is to choose the right technology for a company’s specific needs. Starting small and leveraging technology to the organisation’s advantage is essential when creating a plan as there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
A tech giant released a study, which revealed companies that invest in technology such as the ones needed for “hybrid” workplaces, grow more than twice in revenue compared to slow-adopting competitors. As the company’s largest enterprise IT survey, the study covered both the pre-existing and emerging technologies that include Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, and even Extended Reality. The study says that the world’s leading companies are investing in boundaryless, adaptable, and radically human systems to maximise innovation, business performance, and value. While there is no fixed endpoint in the race to success, these attributes yield competitive advantages and help close the innovation achievement gap.
As reported earlier by OpenGov Asia, the country’s Bureau of Work Conditions (BWC) spearheaded the information drive on various styles of flexible working arrangements that could be beneficial to employers and employees. This was essential as most working-class citizens have been eagerly awaiting notice of changes or announcements coming from the authoritative body.
It is the responsibility of employers to promote work-life balance, especially in these trying times through proper scheduling of activities and a justifiable rotation of the workforce. Safety officers are key in this aspect. The officers must cater to expectations of a safe workplace and ensure that the spaces are compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Law that has a special focus on physical and mental resilience. Physical and mental resilience involves employers providing psychosocial support for their workforce especially of those showing mental and health concerns. The National Centre for Mental Health Crisis aids any employees with such issues.
Australian government sector IT spend is on track to grow 6.2% this year to $13.26 billion as government organisations continue to embrace remote work and connected public services, according to an IT service management company.
Spending is tracking to increase across all categories, with the biggest growth expected to be seen in software, which is set to experience another year of double-digit growth. The IT service management company predicts spending will increase by 10.5% to $3.39 billion, which compares to a 14.1% growth in 2020.
Meanwhile, data centre spending is expected to rebound from a 5% decline in 2020 to grow 7.4% to $426 million in 2021. Telecom services spending is likewise expected to recover from a 2.4% decline in 2020 to grow 7.1% to $741 million this year.
The remote work boom will meanwhile see device spending grow 4.3% to $563 million, with IT services spending up 5.7% to $5.58 billion and internal services spending up 1.8% to $2.56 billion.
The firm’s VP for Executive Programs stated that public health and safety measures, including vaccinating citizens, are the top concern for public sector organisations in Australia, pushing them to continue to accelerate their digital transformation. Most technologies spend is now linked to digital programs, for example, cybersecurity and digital identity programs.
“We’re seeing the public sector changing IT operating models and innovating at a quicker pace by adopting commercially available technology solutions and software — particularly software as a service. Government budgets will continue to address the recovery and growth needs of communities and businesses in 2021. In addition, investments to address digital equity and access to remote government services will be prioritised,” he said.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that COVID-19 is proving to have some benefit for Australian businesses, according to findings from an international research company. Ecommerce is now a bright spot in the Australian economy and a lifeline for consumers who are working and sheltering at home. Businesses that quickly transitioned to the new normal to survive are now debating if these are not short-term adjustments wondering how long this change will last and if further investments are essential for long-term e-commerce sustainability and growth.
All the signs point to a long-term change in consumer behaviour and the need to step up e-commerce functionality. Findings indicate that the e-commerce market in Australia has been on a steep growth curve during the past few years and has received an additional boost from the COVID-19. The pandemic is expected to ramp up e-commerce sales in the country at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3% between 2020 and 2024.
Experts argue that the pandemic has altered consumer buying behaviour and are increasingly shifting from offline to online channels. The crisis opened the e-commerce market to a whole new set of consumers, who were not using online channels.
OpenGov Asia also reported that The federal government has expanded the scope of Australia’s fledgeling permanent migration scheme for highly-skilled technologists after tripling the program’s intake for this financial year. The change is contained in a new direction for the two feeder visas used for the ‘Global Talent Independent’ (GTI) program – subclass 858 and subclass 124 – issued last month.
The direction (direction 89) will be replacing an earlier one outlining the target sectors for the GTI program when it was first launched in November 2019 to attract tech talent from across the globe. New target sectors of note are education, tourism and the “circular economy”, while the remaining seven areas are largely an expansion of the original seven.
The remaining seven sectors are resources; agri-food and agtech; energy; health industries; defence, advanced manufacturing and space; digitech; and financial services and fintech. They are broadly similar to the former fields, with ‘Digitech seemingly covering what was previous ‘quantum information, advanced digital, data science and ICT, as well as cybersecurity.
A recent report has estimated that by 2025, the tech jobs in demand will be cloud architecture designers and original digital content creators for software and web applications. India will require nine times as many digital workers by 2025 as it does currently, and premiere Indian Institutes are partnering with industry players to train students and early-stage professionals in emerging technologies to meet the demand.
With the rapidly evolving digital landscape, the increasing transition of work, education, shopping and entertainament online, it is becoming imperative to create a safe and secure cyber environment. Given the increasing use of the internet in all spheres of life, it is becoming critical to be able to protect against cyber-attacks. In this context, and people with skills to develop digital security and cyber forensic tools will be important.
The cybersecurity market in India is set to grow to US$3.05 billion by 2022, at a growth rate that is nearly 1.5 times the global growth rate of cybersecurity expenditure. It has the potential to create over two million new job opportunities by 2025.
However, during the first nine months of 2020 alone, it is estimated that organisations and individuals lost about US$6 trillion due to cyber thefts; companies with the highest levels of security also fell prey to cybercrimes. Research has further predicted that by 2027, over 900 million Indians will have a digital presence, significantly increasing the potential for cyber-attacks.
Consequently, businesses and enterprises are scouting for trained cybersecurity professionals. However, the supply does not meet the demand. In fact, digitally-skilled workers only represent 12% of India’s total workforce. The country will need far more digital expertise by 2025 than it has right now. Further, the average Indian worker will need to develop seven new digital skills by the same period to keep pace with tech advancements and demand.
Over the past year, as the pandemic has changed the way education is delivered and spotlighted the need for digital transformation, Indian universities and organisations have been developing courses in emerging technology to bridge the digital gap and equip students and the Indian workforce with the skills they require to thrive in the new normal.
For example, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) launched two 12-week long online courses on AI/ML and cybersecurity. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) announced the launch of a 10-month Advanced Certification Programme in Deep Learning, which offers a practical understanding of how ML algorithms can be developed and optimised for hardware.
Further, earlier this month, the IIT-Patna and WileyNXT announced they would offer post-graduate certification programmes in cybersecurity and blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), and big data engineering. The courses are specifically designed for final-year students and early-stage professionals who aim to develop a career in the respective fields. After completing the programme, the participants will get a joint certificate from WileyNXT and IIT-Patna, a media report noted. Overall, there has been an increase in IIT placements for AI/ML, with a few institutes already surpassing last year’s total number of offers in emerging technologies.
Also this month, IIT-Jodhpur launched an Advanced Certification Bootcamp in Cyber Defense. As OpenGov Asia had reported, it offers mentoring from industry experts and access to advanced cloud-based labs on the latest cyber tools and techniques.
Most recently, the IIT in Delhi launched a six-month certificate programme in digital marketing. The course offers 18 modules that cover website planning and development, email marketing, and advertising. It is industry-oriented and will explore internet/digital analytics, advertising and marketing. Lectures will be delivered by leading IIT-Delhi faculty and industry experts.
The overall drive for upskilling is in line with the nation’s desire to make the e-development of India an engine for transition into a developed nation and an empowered society. The country believes in e-governance for empowering citizens, promoting the inclusive and sustainable growth of the Electronics, IT & ITeS industries, enhancing India’s role in internet governance, adopting a multipronged approach that includes the development of human resources, promoting R&D and innovation, enhancing efficiency through digital services and ensuring a secure cyberspace.