The country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), recently announced that it would launch Unified Payment Interface (UPI)-based digital payment solutions for feature phones, eliminating the need for an Internet connection. RBI will also launch an ‘on-device’ wallet in UPI applications, which will simplify the process for small-value transactions. UPI was developed under the Digital India initiative and is run by the RBI. The UPI is a system that powers several bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features.
Until now, only smartphone users have been able to use UPI services for payments. India has around 1.2 billion mobile users, and of which only 740 million have smartphones. The UPI service for feature phones, which lack the advanced functionalities of smartphones, is expected to benefit a large number of consumers. A news report by The Indian Express noted that 50% of transactions through UPI were below IN₹200 (US$2.65). Low-value transactions utilise significant system capacity and resources, leading to customer inconvenience because of transaction failures as a result of connectivity issues. The ‘on-device’ wallet will conserve banks’ system resources without any change in the transaction experience.
Further, to encourage the use of UPI by retail investors, RBI also proposed to enhance the transaction limit for payments through UPI for Retail Direct Scheme and Initial Public Offerings (IPO) applications from IN₹200,000 (US$2,645) to IN₹500,000 (US$6,613). As per an official, this is an important step in widening the primary market investor base. Until now, the facility was available mainly to retail investors, who are categorised as those who invest up to US$2,645 in an IPO. By increasing the limit, the market is now open to high-net-worth Individuals (HNIs).
The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the country’s umbrella organisation for retail payments, recently reported that over 7.6 million mandates were created in November compared with just 1.14 million in the preceding month. RBI’s move is expected to further increase these numbers. UPI is currently the single largest retail payment system in the country in terms of volume of transactions. This November, UPI recorded 4.1 billion transactions.
UPI has become a popular payment option for IPOs and the transaction limit in the UPI system was increased from IN₹100,000 (US$1,322) to IN₹200,000 (US$2,645) in March 2020. UPI has passed several significant milestones since its launch in 2016. It crossed a billion transactions for the first time in October 2019, and the next billion came in under a year. Since the start of 2021, the monthly transaction value has grown by close to 79%. The number of transactions, meanwhile, has increased by more than 83% from 2.3 billion in January.
RBI has also proposed to issue a discussion paper, which will cover aspects related to various channels of digital payments such as credit cards, debit cards, prepaid payment instruments (cards and wallets), and UPI. The paper will also seek feedback on issues related to convenience fees and surcharges, and the measures required to make digital transactions affordable to users and economically remunerative to the providers. The paper will be released in a month.
The RBI Governor, Shaktikanta Das, also announced that banks can now infuse capital in their overseas branches and subsidiaries without prior approval of the central bank. Currently, banks seek prior approval of RBI for infusing capital in their overseas branches and subsidiaries. He also proposed to revise the all-in-cost ceiling for new foreign currency ECBs (external commercial borrowings) and TCs (trade credit), from 450 bps to 500 bps and from 250 bps to 300 bps, respectively over the ARRs (alternative reference rate).
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced the launch of a S$5 million Virtual Production Innovation Fund to support the local media industry in developing the capabilities needed to harness virtual production technology to maintain the local media industry’s competitiveness as the international partner of choice to create premium IP.
To enable the camera to capture actors and visual effects in real time, virtual production technology uses LED panels to produce realistic background landscapes for television or movie sequences driven by video game engines. The site, road closures, location costs, permits, weather, set construction, and space rental will no longer be necessary for production.
With the help of technology, Singapore has a rare chance to get over some of its physical constraints, like the lack of suitable locations for on-location filming and room for large sets.
The ability of the storytellers to reproduce historical sites or any other environment will allow them to generate content that was previously impossible. This will revolutionise the creative process of storytelling.
The adoption of virtual production by the media sector is further encouraged by the strong signals emanating from international media giants that this technology will be widely employed in the creation of movies and television shows and will become the standard in the next years.
To strengthen capabilities in virtual production and ensure that the media companies and talent can keep up with international production methods to remain competitive, IMDA will pursue a two-pronged strategy to prepare the media sector for the future.
The National Film and Television School (NFTS) in the UK has collaborated with IMDA to adapt the school’s Certificate in Virtual Production course to the requirements of the sector to train media professionals to use this technology.
From December 2022 to April 2023, fifteen professors, trainers, and media professionals from Singapore will participate in virtual lectures and undergo hands-on training at NFTS’s virtual production facilities.
Over the course of the following 12 months, several masterclasses and workshops given by professionals from the business will be offered. A Singapore-based firm that specialises in developing immersive experiences, held a display to exhibit how virtual production can enhance imaginative storytelling.
Hands-on demonstrations will be given by guest speakers from virtual production leaders. They will discuss and explore best practices in the workflow to inventive ways to use different technology in storytelling.
Local businesses can also test out virtual production to realise their creative ideas for brief pieces of content, such as music videos, short films, and brand advertisements, among others. Companies can submit their suggested content concepts from now until February 15, 2023.
The capacity to best utilise virtual production technologies to realise a project’s creative vision will be taken into consideration while evaluating proposals.
Additionally, IMDA is working to organise an industry challenge with an internationally renowned gaming company. This challenge will encourage organisations to experiment with and use the cutting-edge real-time 3D creation tool developed by this gaming company. Currently, the aforementioned tool powers globally popular video games.
Teams whose concepts are shortlisted will receive personalised coaching and training from the gaming company. In addition, they will receive prize money from IMDA to assist with content creation.
Since virtual production technology has advanced in recent years, the country is now able to produce visual effects in real-time without building actual sets, thereby overcoming the constraints of scale, complexity, and space.
India will Chair the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), an international initiative to support the responsible and human-centric development and use of artificial intelligence (AI).
The Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Rajeev Chandrasekhar, represented India virtually at the GPAI meeting held in Tokyo for the symbolic takeover from France, which is the outgoing Council Chair.
Chandrasekhar stated that the country would work in close cooperation with member states to put in place a framework to fully exploit the power of AI for the good of consumers across the globe. This means ensuring there are adequate guardrails to prevent misuse and user harm.
According to the Minister, India is building an ecosystem of modern cyber laws and frameworks based on three principles: openness, safety, and trust and accountability. With a National Programme on AI and National Data Governance Framework Policy (NDGFP) in place as well as one of the world’s largest publicly accessible datasets programmes in the works, the Minister reiterated India’s commitment to using AI to catalyse innovation and create good, trusted applications.
The NDGFP strives to ensure equitable access to non-personal data and improve institutional frameworks for government data sharing, promote principles around privacy and security by design, and encourage the use of anonymisation tools. It also aims to standardise the way the government collects and manages data. The NDGFP along with an envisaged Indian Data Management Office (IDMO) shall catalyse the next-gen AI and data-led research and startup ecosystem.
Through the datasets programmes, anonymised non-personal data will be available for the entire AI ecosystem. The AI market globally was nearly US$ 59.67 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.4% to reach around US$ 422.37 billion by 2028. With the rapid growth of AI and machine learning (ML), experts predict that most businesses will shift to AI-powered systems, apps, security systems, data analysis, and other applications in the future. AI is expected to add US$ 967 billion to India’s economy by 2035 and US$ 450–500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, accounting for 10% of the country’s US $5 trillion GDP target.
A government official outlined India’s priorities as Chair GPAI next year, stating that the country would focus on promoting greater involvement of the global south in the conversation regarding the use of AI for solving societal problems. The country has also emphasised the need for the responsible and ethical use of AI.
GPAI is a congregation of 25 member countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore. In 2020, India joined the group as a founding member. It is a first-of-its-type initiative that aims to better understand the challenges and opportunities around AI. It works in collaboration with partners and international organisations, leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia. These stakeholders collaborate to promote the responsible evolution of AI and guide the development and use of the technology, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) released the MICE Sustainability Roadmap, which outlines specific goals and plans for raising sustainability standards throughout the MICE sector in Singapore over the coming years.
The Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) industry is a type of tourism travel in which groups of people are brought together for a specific reason, usually well in advance. On the other hand, the MICE market refers to a subset of people who plan, arrange, and facilitate conferences, seminars, exhibitions, and other events.
Part of STB’s overarching plan to develop a sustainable tourism sector is the use of such roadmaps, which direct businesses in the sector to achieve specific sustainability goals. Following the launch of the Hotel Sustainability Roadmap earlier this year, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap is the second such project.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN) serve as the roadmap’s guiding principles. Three goals are listed in the MICE Sustainability Roadmap to help Singapore become one of the most environmentally-friendly MICE destinations in Asia Pacific:
- By 2023, create a set of industry-acceptable sustainability standards with the goal of having them recognised internationally by 2024.
- For all six purpose-built MICE venues and 80% of SACEOS members to get internationally or nationally recognised sustainability certification, or both, by 2025.
- To attain net-zero emissions by 2050 in accordance with the country’s net-zero aim, the Singapore MICE sector must first track waste and carbon emissions by 2023, reduce waste in line with the Singapore Green Plan by 2030, and reduce waste overall by 2050.
The MICE Sustainability Committee (MSComm), established by STB and SACEOS in August 2022 to advance sustainability capabilities and create awareness of sustainability initiatives and best practices, will help the industry adopt sustainable practices and meet these goals.
The dedication to sustainability follows a robust MICE rebound in the wake of Singapore’s borders being reopened in April this year and a rising desire for environmentally friendly business travel. More importantly, the industry is aware of how crucial it is to lessen the environmental impact of MICE events.
With STB and SACEOS leading the charge and offering support as necessary to further develop a sustainable business events landscape in Singapore, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap will ensure that MICE players move forward in pursuing relevant and achievable sustainability goals that are tracked at appropriate milestones.
Meanwhile, OpenGov Asia recently reported that the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore is working with a large American technology company to address climate change-related challenges and enhance the sustainability of digital technologies.
The cooperation aims to hasten the local and international development of software applications and solutions to assist businesses in using their resources more efficiently.
The tech giant and IMDA will exchange best practices, standards, learnings, and certification pathways for accurate measurement and reporting of carbon emissions resulting from software applications. Through this relationship, the nation hopes to speed up the application of the ideas and resources needed to create green technologies.
According to IMDA, Southeast Asia is well-positioned for the region to take the lead in digital sustainability. This collaboration will produce cutting-edge digital sustainability solutions that can be used by multinational corporations, bringing about positive change for the environment worldwide and ensuring a sustainable future for all.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and a US-based engineering company signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish the Centre for Humanistic Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CHAiR) for translational research with the goal of advancing the well-being of humanity.
The partnership aims to integrate the university’s interdisciplinary research capabilities and the company’s well-known humanoid robotics platform to explore technology applications. Sophia, the company’s most advanced human-like robot, will work with PolyU researchers to enhance the contribution of AI and robotic technology for social and commercial benefits.
Research into and applications of AI and robotics are essential to the advancement of industry. As an interdisciplinary research and development centre, CHAiR brings cross-faculty collaborations in research fields such as AI, the internet of things (IoT), neuroscience, design, computer science, mechanical engineering, material science, healthcare, and the humanities.
In collaboration with the company, CHAiR supports innovation and entrepreneurship in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, and Otto Poon Charitable Foundation Professor in Data Science will serve as the principal investigator and administrative director of CHAiR. He will also serve alongside the CEO and Founder of the company as a co-chair of the Centre’s steering committee.
The MoU was signed by the Vice President (Research and Innovation) of PolyU and the CEO and Founder of the company. It was Witnessed by the President of PolyU and the Executive Director of the firm.
During the signing ceremony, Sophia made conversation with the guests. She said, “I look forward to learning many new skills and abilities. With your help, maybe I can learn how to be a nurse, a teacher, a concierge, a librarian. You can teach me how to be a better companion, a more skilful artist, a funnier entertainer.”
Meanwhile, the company’s CEO and Founder noted that the new centre is perfectly positioned to refine and improve the performance of Sophia-class robots in ways that promote the growth of a new service robot industry. As soon as the industry begins expanding, investment in improved hardware, software and manufacturing technologies will as well, he noted.
The President of PolyU noted that academia-industry collaboration is one of the most productive mechanisms for creating and implementing innovations. There is tremendous untapped potential for humanistic social robots. Let us aspire that CHAiR will be a major catalyst for the onset of the age of humanistic robots.
The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, who is also Director of the Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence of Things (RIAIoT), said the Institute has been working on practical solutions to key challenges in advanced AIoT technologies and applications.
He noted that the natural evolution for RIAIoT is to partner with the engineering firm to address increasingly ambitious opportunities in humanistic AI and social robotics. CHAiR will play a unique and key role to combine the firm’s knowledge with world-class academics here at PolyU.
The engineering company is an AI and robotics company dedicated to creating socially intelligent machines that enrich the quality of our lives. Sophia is the world’s first robot citizen and the first robot Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme.
India aims to become a hub for drone technology for which it will require at least 100,000 drone pilots by next year, according to the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Singh Thakur.
Thakur highlighted several ways drone technology is being applied in India, including the SWAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas) Scheme, which uses drones to survey land and houses. The scheme provides citizens in far-flung areas the right to document their residential properties so that they can use their property for economic purposes. Drones are also being used in the agricultural sector to sprinkle pesticides and nano fertilizers under the Kisan Drone Yatra project. 100 Kisan drones have been sent to villages across the country to spray pesticides. The drone technology could add US$ 3 billion to the agriculture sector in 2023, benefitting 100 million farmers, Thakur explained.
During the pandemic, the city of Varanasi used drones to spray sanitiser around COVID-19-sensitive parts under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). The drones were specially airlifted from Chennai through cargo flights with permission from the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA). The drone team would first visit the area planned to be sanitised for the day, make a quick visual survey of the terrain, buildings, and surroundings, and then chalk out a flight path to be followed by the drone.
The drone was filled with a chemical solution (consisting of 1% sodium hypochlorite), calibrated, and then set to fly. The drones were flown using a remote-control device by experienced drone pilots in the planned flight path.
Similarly, last year, MoCA allowed the state government of Telangana to conduct experimental beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. Authorities had exempted the state from Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) rules. This was part of India’s constant endeavour to enhance the scope of drone usage in the country and assist the nation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as OpenGov Asia reported. The BVLOS trials helped create the regulatory framework for drone deliveries and other major applications.
In 2021, MoCA and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) granted a conditional exemption to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to deploy drones to live stream the India Cricket Season.
In March this year, the National Mineral Development Corporation Ltd (NMDC), the country’s biggest iron ore public sector enterprise, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur (IIT-Kharagpur) for drone-based mineral excavation. The two organisations have developed software, products, methods, and algorithms for mineral exploration using drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) as well as capacity-building training programmes on mining technology.
In May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s biggest drone festival – the Bharat Drone Mahotsav 2022, where he interacted with Kisan drone pilots. There are currently over 200 drone start-ups operating in the country. The figure will increase over the next few years, generating thousands of new job opportunities for the youth. The government has said that employment opportunities worth IN 60 billion (US$ 727 million) a year could be created in the drone sector.
Thakur noted that drone technology has come to play an important role in defence, agriculture, health, and entertainment. The government strives to further boost the demand for cutting-edge drone technology and services through a three-pronged approach:
- Implementing effective policies, for example, the Drone Rules, 2021
- Providing incentives through PLI for drones and drone components
- Creating indigenous demand, which will be overseen by 12 central ministries
For inbound travellers’ arrival details and health declaration checklist, eTravel is a new contact tracking platform that replaces the One Health Pass and e-Arrival card in the Philippines. E-travel can now be accessed at the official website.
The new system is easy to use as travellers coming in can sign up with their personal profiles, travel information, and health declarations. When finishing this step, the user will get a QR code that is unique to them. This service is free, but people need to sign up at least 3 days before they arrive in the Philippines.
E-travel is developed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and is a joint initiative with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
The interconnection, data-sharing, and synergy of all the many departments that are divided into several silos will now be combined into a single system that will be looking at a single point in time, according to DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy. Hence, it will make it easier for the people to interact with the government at the same time.
Meanwhile, to promote a unified government approach to E-Governance, the DICT’s Office of the Undersecretary for E-Government (OUEG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with partner government entities.
The Landbank of the Philippines, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Government Service Insurance System, the Social Security System, and the Mindanao Development Authority are all partners in this endeavour.
Through its efforts to digitally change government processes and government agencies, the DICT hopes to improve data standards and data governance, allowing for data harmonisation and coordination throughout the government.
The effort includes the creation, deployment, and integration of systems for Department flagship programmes such E-Local Government Units (ELGU), E-Government Applications (EGovApp), E-Govpay, E-Travel, and E-Cloud.
The MoU establishes the partner agencies as key players in the pursuit of digital transformation and e-governance. Since DICT considers harmony to be the foundation of clarity. Therefore, the goals of these initiatives are twofold: to construct a government that is enabled by ICT and to capacitate its development.
Furthermore, through the Career Certificates Scholarship Programme, a multinational technology business will provide free professional training to Filipinos. This programme is presently being provided by the DICT through the ICT Literacy and Competency Development Bureau (ILCDB).
With the help of this career certificates programme, appropriate skill development and tooling are now easier to obtain. By closing the digital divide and widening chances for Filipinos, the DICT seeks to expand ICT opportunities.
The agency urges Filipinos to apply for the scholarship and benefit from the free professional training created by one of the biggest software companies in the world.
The course can award credentials in IT support, project management, user experience (UX) design, and data analytics. Through this programme, Filipinos can gain new skills and connect with top employers while preparing for a new career in the rapidly expanding ICT industry.
The process is also practical for online education. Participants must be at least 18 years old, residents of and citizens of the Philippines, and capable of finishing the online course using their own device or gadget to be eligible to apply for the scholarship.
Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, helped launch construction of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory’s SKA-Low telescope at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory on Wajarri Country in Western Australia (WA).
The global SKA Observatory (SKAO) announced the start of on-site construction activity for both their telescopes, SKA-Low in Australia and SKA-Mid in South Africa. The SKA-Low telescope will be the first mega-science project co-hosted in Australia and will explore the Universe in more detail than ever before, transforming the current understanding of the cosmos and benefitting society through global collaboration and innovation.
The SKA project aims to help Australian expertise remain at the forefront of discovery as an example collaboration to drive innovation, especially the collaboration of the Wajarri Yamaji, Traditional Owners and native title holders of the telescope site.
The progress of the SKA project over the past two decades has allowed researchers to see further into the universe than ever before. It has driven innovation and inspired generations both new and old through the development of technologies to solve great challenges facing our planet by better understanding the universe.
The start of SKA-Low construction on site is the culmination of many dreams, both within CSIRO and the global astronomy community, and the next step on this journey of discovery. CSIRO is the SKAO’s operations partner for the SKA-Low telescope in Australia and holds multiple contracts for SKA-Low construction activities.
The SKA-Low telescope will spread across 74 km end-to-end at the WA observatory site alongside existing instruments including CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope.
The SKA-Low Telescope Director stated that the SKAO was pleased to have established operations and engineering centres in Australia, where SKAO works closely with CSIRO as operations partner. She noted that CSIRO has been involved in the SKA project since its inception and have been leaders in radio astronomy science and technology for more than 70 years. The SKA Observatory welcomes this partnership with CSIRO to build and operate the SKA-Low telescope in Western Australia, she added.
CSIRO is also a foundation member in other key SKA project partners in Australia, including the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre and the Australian SKA Regional Centre.
More about CSIRO’s role in the SKA project
Australia is a member of the international organisation established to build and operate the world’s most powerful radio astronomy facility, the SKA Observatory (SKAO). The SKA Observatory will consist of two radio-telescopes, one in Australia (SKA-Low), and one in South Africa (SKA-Mid). The two telescopes will observe the sky at different radio frequencies and complement each other scientifically.
CSIRO will be the operating partner for the SKA-Low telescope, as well as hosting the telescope itself at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, our Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.
SKA-Low will consist of an array of 131,072 Christmas tree-shaped antennas, grouped in 512 stations, each with 256 antennas. Several of these antenna stations will be placed in the centre and the rest will span out along three spiral arms, stretching 74 kilometres end to end. SKA-Low will operate at frequencies between 50 and 350 MHz, like FM radio and TV broadcasts.
In addition to its role as operations partner and managers of the telescope site, CSIRO will also contribute to the construction of the SKA-Low Telescope. CSIRO:
- Led the infrastructure design work and is collaborating with industry partners to manage the site infrastructure construction process. This includes its work with industry partner Aurecon to manage the infrastructure contracts in Australia, including the contract with an Australian-based business.
- Is working with university and industry partners to oversee the installation of SKA-Low antenna stations.
- Is managing the assembly, integration, and verification process – the work to connect and check all the individual sub systems and products are working correctly – together with international institutions.
- Is working with international research institutions to develop the central signal processing system of the telescope, the backend of the telescope that takes the signals from each antenna station and combines them before sending that information to the science data processing system.
- Is working with university partners to design the science data processing system, the supercomputer software that takes the data from the telescope and outputs the images astronomers use to study the universe.