The government’s Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) has unveiled an official e-Commerce site, eKhadiIndia. The website catalogues over 50,000 products under more than 500 varieties and various categories of locally-made Khadi and village industries products. The portal is a step towards building an ecosystem that enables micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to help achieve the Prime Minister’s goal of “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” or a self-reliant India.
KVIC Chairman, Vinai Kumar Saxena, during the launch function, explained that the site is a first-of-its-kind government online shopping platform to boost the rural economy. There has been a steady rise in the demand for Khadi and village industries products over the last few years, 2018-2019 alone witnessed a 25% surge. He added that the move is mainly intended to make natural Khadi India products easily accessible to new-generation consumers. The products range from apparel, grocery, cosmetics, home décor, health and wellness products, essentials, and gifts.
According to a press release, key components of the site include:
- It exclusively focuses on khadi and village industry products.
- Authentic khadi trademark products are available only through this portal.
- The website is on par with any other modern technology-rich e-commerce portal.
- The portal allows bulk orders and direct sellers registration.
- It has customer care facilities and an all-refund policy.
- More than 50,000 users can use the portal at the same time.
- It is compatible with social media.
- The portal is available for both website and mobile app versions.
- Digitised payment ecosystem.
- It has a pan-India reach-1.2 billion people from over 2,400 cities and towns.
- It has a wide range of more than 1,500 products across various consumer verticals.
KVIC is one of the biggest sources of employment in the country and is bringing to life the government’s vision of Digital India through its various innovations. KVIC envisages emerging as a new-age digital marketplace for weavers, artisans, craftsmen, farmers, and the MSME entrepreneurs of India.
The government also offers indigenously-produced products on its government e-marketplace (GeM). The e-marketplace, which functions under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, is used for the procurement of common-use goods and services by ministries, departments, and central public sector enterprises (CPSEs).
GeM offers end-to-end solutions for procurement needs. Apart from government departments, it also caters to autonomous institutions and local bodies. It leverages technology and is working to make procurement contactless, paperless, and cashless. It aims to promote transparent public procurement while providing fair opportunities and a level playing field to all vendors.
As per a news report, the marketplace has 1.76 million listed products, 900,000 sellers and service providers, and 11,543 product categories. In 2020, per month, the marketplace was able to add 40,212 new sellers on an average and 486 new product categories. It added over 100,000 sellers in November and witnessed the average daily order value increase by 282%.
Amid growth in the number of sellers and order base, the government had recently taken note of the possibilities of fake or inferior quality goods being sold online. The Commerce Minister cautioned sellers against selling such goods or charging high prices, he said that these sellers will be blacklisted not only from the GeM portal but from the “entire government ecosystem.”
Data from the Clean Energy Regulator analysed by CSIRO shows that in 2020, around Australia, over 362,000 rooftop solar PV installations were issued with small-scale renewable energy scheme certificates (STCs) under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
This is an increase of 28 per cent from 2019, when 283,991 installations were issued STCs, with the majority of installs under the scheme being residential, and a smaller number for commercial and industrial properties.
The CSIRO Chief Executive stated that the analysis showed a strong appetite for science-led innovation in Australia. “CSIRO has analysed and projected energy futures for more than two decades, and over that time we have accurately forecast and tracked the reduction in the cost of renewables, and the development of battery storage options, including our own UltraBattery,” he said. “Science has made renewables cost-competitive with conventional power, letting market forces take over to drive a global transition to lower emissions.”
He noted that Australia’s solar advantage creates an economic opportunity for us on the world stage and an environmental benefit for the globe – even better when it’s powered by Australian science and research. CSIRO researchers use the Clean Energy Regulator data as the best indicator of PV installations around Australia and is just one of the five sources of data collated by CSIRO’s Australian Housing Data Portal.
The Senior Experimental Scientist, who is part of a team that uses a vast array of data to track the progress in residential sustainability efforts, stated that the solar PV installation data shows how quickly PV systems have been taken up across Australia and the increasing size of the PV arrays.
The states with the highest number of solar PV systems installed in 2020 were: New South Wales (with 108,922), Queensland (86,912), Victoria (71,798), Western Australia (47,653) and South Australia (35,599).
Individual postcodes leading the charge in 2020 were:
- 3064 (Victorian suburbs of Craigieburn, Donnybrook, Mickleham and Roxburgh Park) with 2484 systems
- 3029 (Victorian suburbs of Hoppers Crossing, Tarneit, Truganina) with 2435
- 3977 (Victorian suburbs of Cranbourne, Sandhurst and Skye) with 2036
- 2765 (NSW suburb of Marsden Park, Berkshire Park, Vineyard, Box Hill) with 1841
- 6112 (WA suburb of Armadale, Forrestdale, Bedfordale with 1778
Australia has the highest uptake of solar globally. Clean Energy Regulator data shows that more than 2.68 million rooftop solar power systems have been installed in Australia in total, as of 31 December 2020; that means one in four homes have solar panels on their roof.
Australia is one of the sunniest places on the planet. We lead the world in PV capacity on a per capita basis at 591 watts per person which is almost eight times the worldwide average, it was noted. Launched in 2019, the Australian Housing Data Portal centralises a vast amount of energy efficiency data that underpins key decision making, training and awareness.
Updated monthly, the portal contains data across states and climate zones and can be further broken down by design (e.g., dwelling class and floor area), construction (e.g., type of walls and roofing) and fixtures and appliances (e.g., solar PV and heating/cooling systems).
Clean Energy Regulator’s Executive General Manager said that 3 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar PV capacity was installed nationally in 2020, a 40 per cent increase on the 2.2 GW installed in 2019, and this is trending higher in 2021 with an expected 3.5 to 4 GW of capacity. The growth in capacity has been driven by increasing system size, with the average system now between 8 and 8.5 kilowatts.
Sustained low technology costs, increased work from home arrangements and a shift in household spending to home improvements during COVID-19 played a key role in the increase of rooftop solar PV systems under the SRES.
Businesses and industry associations in Singapore are set for their customers to check-in using only TraceTogether (TT) when it becomes compulsory for contact tracing starting May 17, as per news reports.
For example, a beauty salon has already installed a SafeEntry Gateway Box, a new device that allows visitors to do a SafeEntry check-in at the entrance by tapping the TraceTogether token or a phone app against the box. This is ahead of the June 15 deadline for more public venues to have the gateway system in place as another way for visitors to check in besides scanning QR codes with the TraceTogether app or scanning the token.
The Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME) noted that about 80% of the 80 firms it has received feedback from said they were ready for TraceTogether-only SafeEntry check-ins. The rest are either getting prepared or are not ready yet, said the association, which represents about 8,000 small- and medium-sized businesses. Most of their firms are already using the SafeEntry QR code for checking in, such as using the Singpass app or a phone’s camera to scan the codes. However, they added that some firms have faced technical or administrative issues, such as having problems updating the QR code for business premises after moving.
Meanwhile, the Hair and Cosmetology Association Singapore, which has about 300 members, said some had issues applying for the gateway but these have since been addressed. The Singapore Hotel Association, too, which has 160 hotels, said no members had reported any technical hitches that could not be resolved.
On the other hand, the Restaurant Association of Singapore has contacted its more than 500 members to advise them on how they can get help to train staff on using the free SafeEntry (Business) app, which can stand in for the SafeEntry Gateway box, as well as applying for and setting up the box itself.
To put things into perspective, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the implementation of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry (TT-only SE) aims to achieve greater coverage and active participation in the TT Programme, especially for venues or settings where community spread is most likely to occur. These venues are those that experience higher throughput of visitors such as malls, workplaces, places of worship, schools and educational institutions, as well as places where people are likely to be nearby for prolonged periods like dine-in food and beverage outlets and gyms.
It will strengthen digital contact tracing and help the government better manage the recent rise in community causes, some of which are currently unlinked and have resulted in the formation of community clusters. With more effective digital contact tracing, the speed of isolating close contacts will be improved.
With the nationwide implementation of TT-only SE on 17 May 2021, SE check-in must be performed using a TT App or Token by using the TT App to scan the venue’s QR code; displaying a TT Token so that a venue staff can scan the TT Token’s QR code or tapping the TT App or TT Token at a SafeEntry Gateway device.
Other modes of SE check-in such as launching your phone’s camera to scan a venue’s QR code and using the Singpass App will be discontinued from 17 May 2021. To help ease the transition, scanning of barcodes on personal IDs will be retained until 31 May 2021.
The TT Programme and SE are important digital tools that enable contact tracers to quickly identify and isolate close contacts of COVID-19 cases. This also helps to break transmission chains and prevent community outbreaks. While TT data identifies an initial list of close contacts, SE data provides the list of places visited by COVID-19 cases to help Singapore’s contact tracers establish cluster links. The combined use of these digital tools has enabled us to reduce the average time taken to contact trace from 4 days to less than 1.5 days.
With the recent community cases, active participation in the TT Programme is crucial for effective contact tracing. Singapore government urges co-operation to use either the TT App or Token and to remain on guard in the fight against COVID-19.
Hanoi is working on a plan to form a technology trading platform – a move considered critical for the development of the science-technology market in the capital and Vietnam as a whole. The municipal People’s Committee has identified the market as a component of the economy with a key role to play in promoting technological invention and innovation.
According to a report, Deputy Director of the municipal Department of Science and Technology, Nguyen Quoc Ha, said that although many significant strides forward have been made, the science-technology market in the capital has yet to match the city’s potential. He pointed out that technology providers such as research institutes, universities, enterprises, and individuals still lack experience in marketing. They also have little understanding about demand, while those with demand for the products lack information about suppliers.
Vu Anh Tuan, Deputy Director of the National Agency for Science and Technology Information, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, noted that setting up a network of technology trading platforms in Hanoi, central Da Nang city, and Ho Chi Minh City has fallen short of expectations. The network was one of the three objectives of the government’s programme to develop the science-technology market by 2020. Therefore, in the time ahead, Hanoi needs to establish a platform of this kind to encourage technology trading and help fuel the science-technology market in both the capital and the country, he said.
Hoang Ba Tien, a representative from the Vietnam National Seed Group (VINASEED), said his company always has a demand for new seedling technologies. However, technology transactions have been conducted mainly via advisory units or introductions by scientists themselves. He said that the company does not have anywhere to connect with or proactively seek the products it needs. It is necessary to have a technology trading platform to access related information to serve production and business activities.
The resolution from the 17th Hanoi Party Congress pointed out the necessity of continuing to prioritise the development of the science-technology market. Forming a technology trading platform for Hanoi and a national technology exchange connected with the world’s major tech hubs are other tasks for the municipal Party Committee. The tasks fall under its programme to develop science, technology, and innovation during 2021-2025.
Ha said the Department of Science and Technology is completing a plan on the building and operation of Hanoi’s technology exchange. Accordingly, it will operate both physically and online. The physical platform will display technological products and provide a venue for suppliers and buyers to meet. The online version will act as an e-commerce platform for trading technologies and equipment, a platform for advisory and brokerage activities, and a database on scientific and technological advances.
The transaction value of Vietnam’s science-technology market posted average annual growth of 22% during the 2011-2020 period. Vietnam ranked 42nd among 131 economies in the 2020 Global Innovation Index (GII). Among those making the most significant progress in their GII innovation ranking over time, Vietnam led 29 lower-middle-income countries and was third in Southeast Asia. Last year, it moved up 13 places from the previous year to 59th in the rankings of 100 economies with the best start-up ecosystems.
An exciting new programme for advanced learning at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) presents an enriched curriculum for highly motivated students determined to play leadership roles in tomorrow’s rapidly changing, hi-tech world. The unique CityU Talents Programme allows brilliant young students to benefit from the University’s highly interdisciplinary, technology-enriched courses that will ensure their success in attaining their career goals and aspirations for further studies.
CityU is once again bringing an internationalised North American model of higher education to Hong Kong, deepening the integration of teaching and research. This Programme provides another invaluable opportunity for top students to engage in specially designed courses and research topics under the mentorship of world-class scholars, according to the University’s President.
A suite of new scholarships has been set up including two new schemes, the President’s Scholarship and the Hong Kong Tech Scholarship, which aims at students with excellent performance in science (including biological science) and engineering. The scholarships will reward academic excellence and potential for research. There will be one award for the President’s Scholarship at HK$300,000 per annum and two for the Hong Kong Tech Scholarship at HK$200,000 per annum each. Both are tenable for four years.
The Programme contains several unique features. It offers training and teaching customised to explicitly match with the eligible students’ capabilities and personalities. Plus, there will be targeted support and mentorship for strategic career planning. Students joining the Programme may study for a double degree in two completely different but complementary disciplines over five years.
An even more intensive learning experience is possible through their bachelor’s and master’s combined degree option, with the undergraduate degree completed in Years 1 to 3, and the master’s, to be undertaken at CityU or overseas, in Year 4 to 5. Those students with the potential to undertake this rigorously advanced option can then apply for doctoral programmes at CityU or at highly rated universities around the world. The overseas study option is another feature that will ensure those accepted onto the Programme receive a university experience that soars beyond expectations.
The University’s joint bachelor’s degree programmes are collaborations with highly-rated institutions such as Columbia University, University of Edinburgh and University of Manchester. The students will be awarded two bachelor’s degrees, one from CityU and the other from the partner university. Other notable options include four-year enrichment programmes for students from the College of Science and the School of Energy and Environment and a double-major programme.
Local students with an overall score of 28 or above in four core and two elective subjects in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE), and non-JUPAS students with 2A*+1A in General Certificate of Education Advanced level (GCEAL) or with an overall score of 38 or above in the International Baccalaureate® (IB) programme are eligible for the CityU Talents Programme.
Demand for tech talent rising globally
OpenGov reported earlier that, in March 2021, experts are warning of a looming labour shortage in Hong Kong, especially in the information technology sector, as local talent moves away and fewer foreign specialists arrive. Employers say they are competing for the same small pool, and facing shortages in cutting-edge IT areas of data science, cloud and information security.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought international travel to a standstill, closed borders and resulted in Hong Kong imposing travel bans. A 21-day compulsory hotel quarantine has further affected the arrival of new international talent.
Figures from the Immigration Department for work visas show only 14,617 approvals in 2020, sharply down from 41,289 in 2019. The IT sector saw only 652 new visas, compared to 1,655 in 2019. Work visa extensions dipped from 22,159 in 2019 to 19,323 last year, an indication of foreigners who left the city. Talent from mainland China also recorded a sharp decline.
At the same time, Hongkongers with skills in demand are being lured to other tech hubs, with countries such as Britain and Canada loosening their immigration policies for city residents following Beijing’s imposition of national security law in June 2020.
Thus, the programmes of various educational institutions and governmental agencies in Hong Kong are crucial if the region is to achieve its goal of being a global tech hub.
Clients of the Land Bank of the Philippines can now open a savings account using their mobile phone and without the need to go to a physical branch. The state-run bank launched the Digital On-Boarding System Mobile or DOBS Mobile which facilitates online savings account opening in as fast as 10 to 15 minutes.
Using the Landbank Mobile Banking App (MBA), clients only need to fill out online application forms and upload a valid identification card such as UMID, Passport, PRC ID, SSS (Social Security System), company ID or even school ID to open a digital Landbank ATM Savings Account.
Landbank recently said that the DOBS Mobile eliminates the need to line up in branches to open an account, in support of the National Government’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) initiative, as well as safety protocols amid the ongoing pandemic.
The DOBS Mobile underscores Landbank’s continued commitment to providing accessible, convenient, and safe digital solutions. The financial institution’s digital banking initiatives remain centred on balancing service delivery while ensuring the health and safety of their clients which is of utmost priority, said Landbank branch banking sector head and executive vice president.
The digital bank account, using the Landbank DOBS Mobile offers features such as cardless withdrawal via the mobile app, and funds transfer and bills payment through both the MBA and the Landbank iAccess, among others. Clients can also upgrade the digital bank account to a regular Landbank Visa debit card by visiting their branch of account and requesting a physical card anytime.
Before the launch of the DOBS Mobile, Landbank introduced DOBS in December 2018 as the first online account opening portal among universal banks in the Philippines. The pioneering Web application raked in various accolades for the bank. As of April 30, 2021, a total of 1.53 million accounts have already been opened through DOBS, which is accessible through Landbank’s website or the “digital corner” of selected Landbank branches for walk-in clients.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, The Full Digital Transformation Act of 2020 mandates all government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), instrumentalities and Local Government Units (LGUs) to adopt a digital plan that aligns with the Philippine Digital Transformation Strategy 2022.
The law of full digitalisation of government services promotes a zero-contact policy and facilitates ease of procedures. All of this is meant to streamline government services following Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, Republic Act No. 11234, the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop Act, and other applicable laws.
Also, lawmakers in the country spoke about the e-Gov Master Pan and the related e-Gov and Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil) programmes that have been launched by the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Office. However, lawmakers believed that the Philippines has been slow in integrating digital technology to improve the delivery of services and experience a sense of modernisation in the country.
With COVID-19, digital transformation in the government has taken on a sense of urgency. Contract tracing and distribution of aid could be smoother if data is harmonised, and digital systems are put in place more comprehensively. The proposed law plans to harmonise the collected personal data of Filipino citizens, businesses, land, and transactions, among others. Further, it will open opportunities that will likely drive the government to invest in developing additional organisational capability and staff competencies.
With all these plans taking on urgency in the light of the pandemic, the government predicts it will be expedient to build a Digital Transformation Department to manage the ambitious and yet highly practical investment. The department would be expected to support and roll out the office’s digital transformation strategy.
Start-ups incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (IIT-Madras) have set the Guinness Record with 112,314 people taking part in an online event called ‘AI for India’. The initiative, which took place last month, aimed to upskill Indians in Python, a programming language. They set the record for ‘most numbers of users to take a programming lesson in 24 hours,’ beating the previous record by 50 times.
According to a report, as many as 143,000 users took part in the online training session to build a face recognition application during the same event. The programme was conducted by start-ups GUVI and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), in association with the IIT-Madras Research Park and healthcare revenue cycle automation platform BUDDI.AI. It was targeted at students, IT professionals, and anyone in the age group of 8 to 80 years interested in coding.
Students and working professionals from all parts of the country, from the urban centres to those in remote villages, worked on their mobile phones and laptops to take programming lessons in Python. With the pandemic halting in-person classes, students and professionals in these villages arranged a dozen streaming devices to attend a free online workshop based on artificial intelligence.
India has 300 million students, almost the entire population of the United States, and already, the Central Board of Senior Secondary Education (CBSE) has introduced AI in the curriculum. There is an ecosystem for innovation, entrepreneurship, and learning, and the rise of this has to come through accelerators. There are many applications for AI in agriculture and the automotive industry, from parking vehicles to manufacturing.
The host of the workshop guided the participants on how to build a facial recognition app from scratch. Unlike regular IT workshops, the medium of instruction was in three Vernacular languages besides English – Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi.
The startup also announced that the courses on Python and face recognition technology will be offered for free for learning until the end of May. The certification for that Python course will be available on paying a minimal fee of IN 1,770 (US$24) as it is issued by IIT-Madras.
Recently OpenGov Asia reported that IIT-Madras researchers have developed ‘BlockTrack’, a blockchain-based secure medical data and information exchange system for a mobile phone-based application. The application, which is the first of its kind, is currently being field-tested at the institute’s hospital.
BlockTrack aims to securely digitise healthcare information systems while ensuring the protection of sensitive personal information and medical records. It does this by decentralising the control and ownership of patient data, through a blockchain-based innovation. The BlockTrack innovation is now protected through a provisional IP filed with the Indian Patent Office.
The Android version has been developed separately for patients and doctors. It opens up universal and transferable healthcare information management and emphasises data privacy and tracking the spread of infectious diseases across geographies.
It allows the interoperability of systems from multiple hospitals, institutes, and healthcare organisations. The patient can choose to visit any healthcare facility on BlockTrack’s blockchain network without any concerns about duplication of records or re-registrations.
According to a worldwide semi-annual software tracker, software spending across Australia and New Zealand reached US$ 13 billion in 2020, a 7% rise from 2019 figures. The second half of 2020 was particularly notable due to a 12% year on year growth – a fourfold increase from the 3% rise reported in the first half of the year.
According to the report, organisations have uncovered weak spots during the pandemic and are now using digital transformation initiatives to build resilience and to invest. Customer experience programmes are now more important in the post-pandemic business environment, with spend on customer relationship management (CRM) applications growing 13% in H2 2020, up from just 4% in H1.
Experts say that in 2020, both countries saw increased online customer activities and interactions via digital channels. Current, clean, constant, and compliant customer data paired with AI-enabled technology is key for future-looking organisations to transform customer relationships and enable customer loyalty and trust.
Spend on collaborative applications also recorded FY growth of 32% in 2020 as organisations and educational institutions shifted to remote working and learning models. Throughout 2020, there was also growth in spending across integration and orchestration middleware (15%), software quality and lifecycle tools (14%), system, IT and service management software (14%), and security software (12%).
The research body recognises that organisations are not only optimising the delivery and management of IT, but they are also focused on securing a wider and more diverse environment brought on by restrictions during the pandemic.
Experts also said that companies need data-driven, AI-enhanced decision-making, and reliable, integrated, cross-department data sources for a solid foundation to then build subsequent processes. Processes also need to be integrated and streamlined to deliver operational improvement. Over the next two years, they expect to see a trend towards the ‘intelligent future enterprise vision’. This means organisations will function as an integrated whole with tightly knit processes and data flow.
In Australia and New Zealand, the market will also realise the value of data for business decision making. Analytics and artificial intelligence will play key roles in realising this value. The experts added that the support to businesses that IT provided in the outbreak of pandemic has given companies more confidence in IT investment. The expectation of that return of investment is high.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the New Zealand Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has announced a new procurement framework with an Australia-based enterprise software company that will pave the way for 23 New Zealand government agencies to transition to modern and secure Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environments. The new streamlined procurement arrangements will offer stronger cybersecurity options and improve services to citizens by allowing agencies to be more flexible and efficiently innovate further.
Negotiated by the MBIE and endorsed by the office of the Government Chief Digital Officer, part of the Department of Internal Affairs, the agreement provides a common contractual framework, providing New Zealand government agencies with a clear roadmap for their digital transformation to a SaaS platform. It is part of the Government’s reforms to ICT procurement making it simpler, clearer and faster for agencies and industry to transact services and deliver better outcomes for the community.
The agreement comes at a good time for government agencies with SaaS infrastructure being certified as compliant with the New Zealand Information Security Manual for several years already, building on the high-level credentials recently awarded to the software company by Australia’s security authorities. It also comes at a time when public sector organisations around the country are considering the changes required to be ready for the introduction of e-Invoicing, a digital transformation initiative that allows them to do away with paper invoices to reduce costs and will help them pay suppliers including small businesses faster. The Australian and New Zealand governments use a common standard for e-Invoicing, which means New Zealand agencies can benefit from work that is already done across the Tasman.