If ever you need clarification on
government matters in Singapore, just ‘Ask
Jamie’. She is an expert on all things government. However, Jamie
looks nothing like her avatar. No chestnut brown hair nor a corporate getup.
Jamie is a robot, or more specifically, a virtual assistant.
Developed by the Infocomm Development
Authority of Singapore (IDA), ‘Ask Jamie’ answers questions like, “Where can I
read up on Tech News?”, to more burning ones like “When do I need to pay my
individual income tax?”. Virtual assistants are proving useful in improving
government-citizen relations. In a bygone age of less powerful technology,
opportunities for government-citizen interaction were hard to come by. However,
with more governments embracing information and communications technology in
their services, the gulf that once separated the polity is now narrowing.
to: ‘Ask Jamie’
Raising an inquiry with a virtual assistant
is similar to using a search engine. Ask away and the assistant replies as one
would over instant messaging. However, what sets ‘Ask Jamie’ apart from a
regular search engine, is its reliance on a Natural Language Processing (NLP)
engine. NLP falls under the umbrella of artificial intelligence capabilities.
While not all might take kindly to machine
interaction as a replacement for actual interaction with a public servant,
virtual assistants might be even more effective than citizens would expect. In
fact, citizens might be the biggest winners thanks to NLP.
Long waiting times to get an official
response for inquiries are slashed with the instant response ‘Ask Jamie’
provides. Citizens receive comprehensive solutions and targeted responses as
soon as they hit the ‘Enter’ key. Even if the virtual assistant is unable to
provide a satisfying answer, the government takes heart that at least citizens
will be able to direct their inquiries to the right agencies. Furthermore,
deaf-mute citizens might benefit the most from the tech initiative as they
would no longer need an intermediary to seek public consultation. The
overarching principle directing the move toward tech solutions for better governance
is “self-help is the best help”.
The dynamism NLP provides as an analytical
tool promises more development for ‘Ask Jamie’ in time to come. As the backend
database expands, the algorithms which wire the machines become smarter. Soon,
virtual assistants and chat bots can be designed to handle complex
queries. ‘Ask Jamie’ developers hope to enable
the virtual assistant to become a conversational chatbot with transactional
capabilities. This will improve government-citizen interactions in the long
Additionally, ‘Ask Jamie’ will be available
on popular instant messaging platforms. Citizens will be able to communicate
with government without accessing government website prior to engaging the
virtual assistant. Citizens will be able to raise queries and carry out
transactions with ease.
One major hurdle that developers of virtual
assistants need to overcome is the nuances and evolution of language across
time and space. Machines need to be able to cope with these to continue providing
seamless and relevant services to citizens.
‘Ask Jamie’ is a big win not just for
e-government, but e-governance. Improving citizen’s lives is only the beginning
for Singapore’s public service. The gamechanger is transforming citizen
experience of government. As a new generation of tech-savvy citizens arise, the
level and quality of government interaction will far outweigh those of the
previous generation. The reason? Because technology is at the heart of the
The National e-Governance Division (NeGD), under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) recently organised the first batch of a capacity-building programme for cloud computing. The initiative targets government officials from central line ministries, state/union territory departments, mission mode project officers, e-governance project heads, and state e-mission teams.
According to a press release, the two-day programme was held at the Haryana Institute of Public Administration. The initiative was designed to enhance capabilities within the government at the central and state levels by ensuring the availability of adequate knowledge and appropriate competencies and skill sets to optimally utilise the benefits of cloud computing in e-governance practices.
Projects with cloud computing offer integration management with automated problem resolution. The technology manages security end-to-end and helps budget based on actual usage of data. At a national level, cloud architectures enable the government to simultaneously utilise resources optimally and accelerate the delivery of e-services. Project Meghraj, for instance, is a government initiative that fast-tracks the delivery of e-services in the country and optimises the information and communications technology (ICT) spending of the government.
The workshop brought together experts from the industry, academia, and government to discuss key domain issues such as cloud fundamentals, India’s cloud journey, cloud building blocks, the procurement of cloud services, and regulatory and policy framework for cloud. Participants talked about challenges associated with cloud implementation and the future of cloud in digital transformation while using engaging presentations on successful cloud use cases.
Session discussions also featured essential training on various components of cloud computing such as custom bidding for cloud services and the establishment of pay-per-use and billing frequency with cloud service providers. Participants explored negotiation instruments for dynamic services under cloud, best practices in cloud procurement, and computing requirements. They also covered guidelines on cloud computing from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and MeitY as well as ITU global standards on cloud computing.
At the event, a NeGD official stated that technology has been leapfrogging over the past two decades, including cloud-based systems, which now drive businesses and touch every aspect of life. Anything that is available via the Internet is being delivered out of a cloud-based application and IT Infrastructure. Within this decade, cloud computing could replace the traditional data centres and emerge as the prominent solution for data analytics and storage, an industry expert noted.
The event was attended by officers from central line ministries and the state governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Goa, Mizoram, and Uttarakhand. Capacity-building programmes with the theme of cloud computing will move forward with physical programmes, which will be conducted in the east, west, and south zones of India this year, the press release added.
The large-scale adoption of cloud has the potential to contribute US$ 380 billion to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), creating 14 million direct and indirect jobs by 2026, according to a report by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM). It stated that a concerted all-around effort could result in the sustained growth of 25%-30% of cloud spending in the next five years to reach US$ 18.5 billion.
The government has approved a national programme for smart rural development. The programme will focus on building new, modern rural areas through digital transformation. It is expected to boost the rural economy, improve rural living standards, and bridge the gap in service quality between rural and urban areas.
The initiative will be implemented in all rural areas across Vietnam by the end of 2025, including extremely disadvantaged communes in ethnic minorities and mountainous and coastal regions. By 2025, the government aims to have at least 90% of central, 80% of district-level, and 60% of communal public documents handled online. And at least 97% of communes should meet the new-style rural criteria on information and telecommunications.
Further, to boost the rural economy, the plan will promote the digital economy. Accordingly, at least 70% of communes will have cooperatives and 70% of districts will have agricultural business models, which will connect the production and distribution of key farming products using digital technology.
Additionally, at least 40% of communes and districts should be able to provide at least one essential public service in healthcare, education, community surveillance, security, environment, and culture. They must collect feedback on people’s satisfaction regarding rural development on a virtual platform. All centrally-run cities and provinces should have at least one trial smart rural commune model in the field, which holds advantages of, for example, economy, rural tourism, environment, and culture. The models will serve as a reference for the development of a new set of criteria for new-style rural building plans for the 2026-2030 period.
The government is also pushing for the digital transformation of urban parts of the country under its smart city initiatives. The overall goal is to accelerate digitisation in urban governance by building an electronic government including features such as digitised transport, energy, and society.
In January, Politburo issued a resolution on the planning, management, and sustainable development of Vietnam’s urban areas by 2030 with a vision until 2045. It is well established that smart cities can be effectively and successfully developed when digital transformation is comprehensively deployed across all areas of a city. Sustainable cities are built on a foundation of robust urban management that employs a host of digital and tech solutions. Simultaneously, both government employees and citizens need to be upskilled and trained.
As OpenGov Asia reported, Vietnam’s digital transformation is based on three pillars: digital governance, digital economy, and digital society, with an average point of 0.3 on a 1.0 grading scale. From a focus perspective, digital government is ranked higher point than both the digital economy and digital society primarily because of the e-government development process. As of June, a total of 59 out of the 63 localities in the country launched programmes on digital transformation, which will be rolled out over the next five years.
Vietnam is in the early stages of applying smart city services. There is still much more to be added in terms of smart urban planning and smart urban construction management. Smart city projects must have a comprehensive approach with the goal of not only solving urgent problems of cities but also striving for long-term socio-economic development.
Singapore is well-known for incorporating science and technology into its economic and social fabric. The nation is typically glad to accept the technological revolution that they are now synonymous with, from planned self-driving buses to Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).
However, the country must cope with the issue of an ageing population, a cohort that may not be as digitally savvy as its younger counterparts. With this, the Smart Nation initiatives in Singapore include those that have used technology to address healthcare concerns.
As part of their Year 3-course work, a group of students tagged as SITizens from the SIT-University of Glasgow Nursing programme recently collaborated on an applied research project to discover how older Singaporeans are coping with the digital urge.
The group conducted a study to identify the factors that promote and inhibit older individuals’ digital health literacy. According to them, there is an urgent need to equip senior citizens with greater cyber capabilities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, internet communication was crucial for disseminating updates on the fast-evolving situation, thus, it was time to take a fresh look at how to engage elderly Singaporeans in the digital sphere.
As part of the team’s three-year initiative, students participated in an initial study over the course of three months in the first half of 2022. Two groups of six students each designed and implemented a digital health education programme for seniors at local Senior Activity Centres (SACs).
By interacting with SAC clients who serve the elderly in the locations where they are located, students had the chance to gain a greater understanding of the requirements of this demographic. In addition, it provided a unique opportunity to participate in real-world applied research, as it is an integral element of the nursing curriculum.
Elders welcomed the student, but not the health apps they introduced. It turned out to be difficult to encourage the elderly to be enthusiastic about using the HealthHub app because the older generation believed they had no demand for creative approaches because they were nearing the end of their lives.
Others couldn’t utilise the programme because they couldn’t speak English well enough. The elders are taught how to use the HealthHub app to schedule, change, and cancel appointments by the researchers-students.
Certainly, a Health Promotion Board leaflet was utilised to explain each step at the elders’ pace since the example film was too quick for them, yet, some elderlies were unable to log in during the hands-on attempt because they could not recall their Singpass accounts.
Likewise, the language barrier was an additional obstacle. The materials were also in Chinese, and most of them spoke Mandarin. But the total experience ended up being enjoyable and meaningful due to gestures and kind interactions.
On the other hand, the teaching package will be fully developed through an iterative approach that incorporates the nurses’ experiences. Students benefited from first-hand exposure to the actual process of data collection, which is challenging to simulate in a classroom setting.
Furthermore, health literacy is the motivation and ability to seek and utilise health information. It empowers a person to make choices that will improve their quality of life; and expanded to encompass media and computer abilities.
Across the globe, including Singapore, the elder population has a low propensity for digital health literacy. With this, students from various universities set out to develop instructional materials that would encourage senior citizens to access health information via mobile phones and the internet -initiatives supported by the government.
The Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) recently launched a ground-breaking Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Psychology that incorporates technology modules with psychology, in an emerging field known as cyberpsychology.
According to the Programme Leader, “Cyberpsychology is the study of human behaviour and mental processes in the context of human-technology interaction. The focus of this module is on the psychology of online behaviour, to uncover how the internet and digital technologies affect attitudes, emotions, and the societal impacts of living in a digital age, such as the exploration of the motives and psychological makeup that contribute to Cybercrime, she said.
While psychology professionals work in human domains, students in this field must now develop a strong grasp of technological aspects, especially when the line between cyberspace and the real world is becoming increasingly blurred.
Globally, the adoption rate of emerging technologies – including cloud computing, connected devices, mobile, robotics and blockchain, have grown at an exponential rate over the past 10 years. As of April 2022, there were five billion internet users worldwide, which is 63% of the global population. Of this total, 4.65 billion were social media users.
Further, the arrival of the Metaverse will even reinforce the blurring of the lines between the physical world and the virtual one, the physical world will eventually merge with the digital – in fully immersive virtual reality.
As technology reshapes the way people live, think, and behave, the transformation of psychology studies has introduced new ways to provide treatment or therapy. This has affected the dissemination of knowledge and how research is conducted.
Within the programme’s modules, students will also be exposed to Psychotechnology, to understand user experience (UX), cognitive workload and use these results to solve practical problems. These updated, relevant modules allow students to develop vital skills and knowledge, enabling them to work in various sectors, such as e-sports, advertising, and more that require further study to determine their psychological impacts.
To create a conducive learning and studying environment mirroring the professional setting that supports both counselling and clinical psychology needs, APU has invested significantly to set up the Centre for Psychology and Well-Being at its campus.
The Head of the School who oversees the setting up of the Centre, explained that as a tech-centric and industry-driven university, APU has blended technology elements into conventional psychology teaching and learning. The University’s Centre for Psychology and Well-Being is an innovative facility that houses advanced equipment embedded with state-of-the-art technology that supports psychology learning and research – which itself has set us apart from our competitors.
The Centre aims to develop a professional-like high-tech centre which attracts students towards experiential learning coupled with a comfortable learning environment.
According to the Programme Leader, by placing psychological tools infused with modern technology to better predict and understand human behaviour such as Electroencephalogram (EEG), Eye Tracker, and Computerised Psychological Assessments, students can learn to make data-driven decisions.
Together with Eye-Tracking Laboratory, the design of the Centre includes Psychobiological Laboratory; Psychoanalysis Therapy Suites for both individual and group therapy; Psychological Testing and Measurement Room; Psychology Group Observation Suite that is complimented with a one-way mirror and AV capture equipment; Activity and Discussion Rooms; and teaching classrooms that are tied to instructional learning and research activities.
Some highlights of the training using the advanced setting and facilities mentioned include:
- The DSI-24 Electroencephalogram (EEG) – a wireless dry electrode EEG headset in the Psychobiological Lab enables students to learn about cognitive processes like attention and memory by placing conductive electrodes on the scalp which measure the small electrical potentials that arise outside of the head due to neuronal action within the brain.
- In the Psychological Testing and Measurement Room, the latest state-of-the-art Tobii Pro Fusion Eye Tracker which focuses on information processing such as scene perception, and visual searching, provides students with a first-hand experience in using the equipment.
- The Psychoanalysis Therapy Suite features the famous Freud psychoanalytic couch. This help students learn role-play skills or to conduct any activity relating to counselling or psychotherapy.
- The Psychology Group Observation Suite is equipped with a one-way mirror (semi-transparent mirror), brightly lit from one side, allowing students to inconspicuously observe people’s behaviour on the other side while maintaining privacy.
- Individual (and Group) Therapy Rooms are designed to provide a quiet, comfortable, energizing, and soothing space ideal for conducting individual or group counselling. Registered counsellors and educators will use the rooms to provide their respective services like consultation, teaching, and intern-related training.
With proficiency in using advanced technology, especially digital assessments, APU’s psychology graduates become tech-savvy and well equipped for the competitive world of the psychology industry.
The government has issued a national cybersecurity strategy to respond to challenges and crimes in cyberspace. The strategy sets objectives for 2025 as well as has a vision for 2030. Under the strategy, one of the main targets is to maintain or increase Vietnam’s ranking on the global cybersecurity index (GCI).
In a press statement, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) laid out the major tasks and solutions in the strategy, including strengthening the overall management of the State over cybersecurity, completing legal frameworks, and protecting national sovereignty in cyberspace.
The government will also safeguard digital infrastructure, platforms, data, and national cyberinfrastructure. It will protect the information systems of state agencies as well as crucial sectors that need to be prioritised to ensure information security.
Through the strategy, the country will foster digital trust and build an honest, civilized, and healthy network environment. It will prevent and combat law violations in cyberspace and enhance technological mastery and autonomy to actively cope with cyberspace challenges.
The government will train and develop human resources in cybersecurity, raise awareness about cybersecurity skills, and work to secure funding to implement cybersecurity initiatives. The strategy also aims to improve national prestige and foster international integration.
Meanwhile, incident response teams of 11 priority sectors for network information security will be formed. The key areas include transport, energy, natural resources and environment, information, health, finance, banking, defense, security, social order and safety, urban areas, and the government’s direction and administration.
According to a report released by the ITU in June 2021, Vietnam jumped 25 places after two years to rank 25th out of 194 countries and territories worldwide in the GCI in 2020. Vietnam ranked 7th in the Asia-Pacific region and 4th among ASEAN countries in the field.
According to Vietnam Information Security Association (VINSA), there were over 5,400 cyber-attacks on Vietnamese systems in the first five months of this year. Of these, approximately 68% were malicious attacks. However, May showed a decrease in the number of cyber incidents, due to socio-economic stability and the resumption of more economic activities initiated around the Party’s solutions and guidelines, according to the Information Security Department, MIC.
Further, after MIC issued a warning, incidents were down 9.37% in April as compared to March 2022. The government has been proactive in raising vigilance, strengthening cyber information security as well as security and social order. This has made it difficult for bad actors to attack networks, spread infecting malicious code, and run scams to steal and destroy information of users and organisations.
In June, MIC stated that to ensure information security for information systems and Vietnam’s cyberspace, it would continue to strengthen monitoring and proactive scanning; it would evaluate statistics and promote propaganda and issue warning in the mass media so that users know and avoid the risk of cyber-attacks.
MIC also said it would address the situation by strengthening mechanisms for monitoring and proactive scanning, raising public awareness, and providing advance warnings of expected cyberattacks. Simultaneously, the Ministry would continue to urge the review of vulnerabilities and communicate signs of cyberattacks.
The Ministry of Heavy Industries (MHI) launched an Automated Online Data Transfer system to collect critical domestic value addition (DVA) data from a Production Linked Incentive scheme (PLI) applicant’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
The PLI scheme was launched to boost domestic manufacturing, investments, and the export of telecom and networking products. The PLI Scheme for Automobile and Auto Component Industry in India (PLI Auto) proposes financial incentives to boost the domestic manufacturing of Advanced Automotive (AAT) products and attract investments in the automotive manufacturing value chain.
Through the new automated online data transfer mechanism, MHI’s PLI Auto Portal will receive data from the applicant’s ERP system. All approved applicants under the PLI scheme have their own ERP system, which is software that enables organisations to manage business activities.
According to a press release, the application programming interface (API) will be embedded with the applicant’s ERP system, making processes in the scheme automatic and paperless. An API is a set of rules that lets different programmes communicate with each other, exposing data and functionality across the Internet in a consistent format. It is an architectural pattern that describes how distributed systems can expose a consistent interface in a secure cyber environment.
Through the previous system, PLI applicants were required to file voluminous claims. The new system eliminates a large amount of paperwork through automation. It reduces the compliance burden for applicants and speeds up claim processing. The release stated that it was created after exhaustive stakeholder consultations with leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and auto component manufacturing companies.
MHI Minister, Mahendra Nath Pandey, noted that the system is an important step in enhancing transparency, ease of doing business, faceless and self-certification-based assessment, and the paperless delivery of services.
The government approved PLI Auto to enhance the country’s manufacturing capabilities for AAT with a budgetary outlay of US$ 3.9 billion. The scheme has been successful in attracting a proposed investment of US$ 8.5 billion against the target estimate of US$ 5.3 billion over five years. FY 2022-23 is the first financial year for which an approved applicant can claim incentives on the determined sales. Sales of AAT products with a DVA of 50% minimum, with sales from 1 April onwards, for a period of five years, shall be eligible for incentives.
Applicants should maintain a detailed DVA calculation for all their eligible products in their own ERP system. It will record the DVA calculation for each batch, product, and model with details of component-wise values, component-wise DVA, and final DVA at the AAT product level. Applicants’ ERP will push the product-wise DVA to the PLI Auto portal on a quarterly basis through the API.
Over the past year, the government has launched several portals and applications to automate the delivery of public services across several sectors. For example, in May, it launched a single national portal for biotech researchers and start-ups that seek regulatory approval for biological research and development projects. The Biological Research Regulatory Approval Portal (BioRRAP) allows stakeholders to see the approvals accorded against a particular application through a unique BioRRAP ID, as OpenGov Asia reported.
In June, the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare launched a mobile phone version of Bhavishya, an artificial intelligence-enabled common portal for pensioners and elder citizens. The portal aids the seamless processing, tracking, and disbursal of pensions.
In response to the need for indoor urban farming solutions, the National University of Singapore (NUS) officially opened the Research Centre on Sustainable Urban Farming (SUrF) to bring together the diverse expertise of principal investigators from across the University to develop new science and technology-based solutions for urban farming in the country.
“NUS is committed to making significant contributions towards Singapore’s food policy agenda, together with partners in the public sector and the industry. We aim to create a globally competitive research programme in sustainable urban farming that incorporates smart agriculture solutions for diverse stakeholders,” says Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS President.
A core team from the domains of science, engineering, and computing makes up SUrF, a research organisation that focuses on sustainable urban farming. This exclusive group of researchers has experience in a variety of topics, including plant science, genomics and gene editing, microbiomes, food science, materials and polymer science, sensor technologies, data science, and artificial intelligence (AI) for indoor farming.
The team will start multidisciplinary programmes to build a cross-boundary, sustainable platform for improving plant performance both before and after harvest, including harvest yield, nutritional profile, and safety assurance.
A new facility for the Centre, with around 200 square metres of indoor plant growth area for research, is planned to be completed by early 2023.
There will be three growth rooms and an additional precision growth room where environmental parameters such as temperature and light spectrum can be changed to promote better plant growth with potentially improved phytonutrients.
PlantEye, a non-destructive phenotyping device for monitoring plant development and recording plant health, as well as many analytical tools for studying nutrient content, will be part of the research equipment.
The Centre will also have access to NUS’s cutting-edge laboratories for molecular genetics research, including gene editing.
Furthermore, SUrF’s research focuses on three stages of food production: before, during, and after production. The goal of the Centre is to come up with solutions for growers and work with local businesses to meet their needs.
Post-harvest interventions can also help improve the nutritional value and microbial safety of food. According to preliminary findings, LED lighting not only removes organisms that cause spoiling but also increases the nutritional quality of green crops.
The team’s next steps will be to develop LED illumination technology specifically for green vegetables typically consumed in Singapore, as well as to test their technique in simulated retail circumstances.
In addition, there are 16 principal investigators in SUrF from the NUS Departments of Biological Science, Food Science and Technology, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Computer Science. They oversee about 10 research projects.
One of these projects is trying to make it easier to grow leafy greens in cities. Most crops grown on indoor farms aren’t good for controlled environments because they were grown in the field. This makes growing plants indoors ineffective and unsustainable, with a low yield.
Researchers are looking into new ways to breed plants, such as genomic selection and gene editing, to make leafy vegetable varieties with traits that work well in controlled environments. This is done to improve the quality and productivity of agriculture.
On the other hand, the team made bio-inoculants of bacteria that help plants grow. These can be used in different farming situations, such as when plants are grown in soil, peat, or coconut fibres, or when hydroponic systems are used.
This could help crops grow better and be more resilient in a way that isn’t harmful to the environment. It could also reduce the need for chemical fertilisers.