The following has been adapted from a speech by GovTech chief executive Kok Ping Soon to an audience of CIOs at a STACK-X event on 25 March 2021
Lessons from COVID
The past year has been marked by discontinuities and disruption in all aspects of our lives – work, home, school and social. In many ways, it has been a period of profound learning, adjustment and adaptation. Though the pandemic has been disruptive, it has also underscored the potential and value of digital technology in nearly every segment of society. More than anything else, digital technology has played a critical role in our fight against COVID-19.
For example, Singapore health authorities reduced the time taken by more than 50% to identify and quarantine a close contact, from 4 days to less than 1.5 days. This was achieved through the development and use of TraceTogether and SafeEntry, applications that GovTech developed to support manual contact tracing. The Gov.sg WhatsApp channel delivers regular updates to 1.2 million subscribers in their preferred language to keep them informed of the situation. And of course, technology has allowed us to keep in touch with loved ones and to conduct business, via virtual meetings.
However, it has not been an easy year for CIOs. On one hand, with demand shrinking, CIOs faced pressures to cut costs and stop new projects. At the same time, they need to rapidly scale up technology enablers to support remote working and new digital business models in order to survive. At the height of COVID-19 last year, many of us would have received an image on WhatsApp asking people who led the digital transformation of their company. COVID-19 may have forced CIOs to be reactive initially, but a year on I hope many will have shifted from a survival defensive mode to an opportunity-seeking offensive mode.
Locking in Gains
Such a shift is necessary because COVID-19 has helped reduce years’ worth of effort needed to drive digital transformation. A McKinsey study last year said that we have leapt five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in just a matter of eight weeks. CIOs should lock in these gains and resist the temptation to revert to old ways of doing things. Doing so requires three pivots that CIOs must spearhead in their organisations.
Firstly, be Digital First by shifting more physical business processes to digital delivery. Having experienced the convenience and understood the possibilities offered by digital technology, consumers and businesses will demand increasingly high-quality digital options.
Do more to make digital services easy to use and seamless. Avoid the temptation of applying a ‘digital lipstick’ on a legacy process. For example, many restaurants have stopped giving out menus for dine-in service to minimise contact. You are asked to scan a QR code for the menu which, as it turns out, is nothing more than a PDF copy of the old menu. You still need to get a server to take your order. This is digitisation and not digitalisation.
At GovTech, we are striving to digitalise all government services. Today, 95% of government transactions can be completed digitally from end-to-end – paperless, cashless and presence-less. Registering your newborn and getting the baby bonus is now fully digital. Getting a license to set up a business is also fully digital. Booking an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccination is done digitally. And when you are done, a digital copy of your vaccination certificate is in your HealthHub account.
Our Digital Platforms are open to support the private sector’s digitalisation efforts. SingPass, which is Singapore’s national digital identity platform, now provides seamless and secure access to over 1,400 digital services by 340 public and even private sector organisations such as Prudential (an insurance company) and OCBC (a bank). With SingPass’ MyInfo function, businesses can offer “one-click” registration and perform e-Know Your Customer (e-KYC). With its Login function, businesses can authenticate their users with high assurance, without the need to operate their own systems. And with Digital Signing, users can now electronically sign contracts and legal documents, allowing transactions to be completed in a presence-less environment.
Secondly, CIOs should lock in the use of cloud and microservice-based architecture in developing their applications. A cloud-first strategy has been instrumental in our ability to quickly roll out COVID-19 digital solutions. Postmaster, the backend platform for the Gov.sg WhatsApp channel, was built using Twilio’s SMS platform. Our COVID-19 chatbot uses Google’s Dialogue Flow. The TraceTogether App is built on Google’s Firebase mobile platform. And the series of GoWhere websites and SafeEntry were built on AWS to enable reusability and scalability.
We are not just developing new applications on the cloud but migrating 70% of Government ICT systems onto the Commercial Cloud. To support this migration, we have been developing the SG Tech Stack. Instead of having to develop a new application from scratch, agencies can now access a global ecosystem of ready-made applications to add advanced features to their digital services. Application testing and deployment can now be automated and done in real-time, increasing the cadence of delivery.
Cloud has become the foundation that enables organisations to transform, differentiate and gain a competitive advantage. The adoption of a cloud-first strategy will enhance organisations’ digital transformations; a reluctance to do so will mean an increased risk of being left behind.
Third, CIOs should lock in the centrality of Digital in their organisation’s business strategy. According to Gartner, organisations that seized the COVID-19 opportunity and increased funding for digital innovation are 2.7 times more likely to be a top performer, rather than a trailing one. CIOs and engineering teams are now uniquely positioned to influence not just how business is done, but what should be done. They should take advantage of this window of opportunity and digitalise their end-to-end business processes.
GovTech is reshaping the roles and responsibilities of CIOs in the Government. Our CIOs are now in the front seat when it comes to driving their agencies’ Transformation Plans. In the past, CIOs were primarily order-takers at the end of a value chain and were judged based on their ability to maintain cost-efficient and reliable infrastructure because IT was considered a cost centre. Now, CIOs are expected to demonstrate how IT can be leveraged to deliver transformational growth because it is accepted as a value-driver. This will require CIOs to develop new skills. It is not good enough for CIOs to simply keep abreast of the latest technologies. They need to hone their communication skills, develop relationships with other business leaders, and understand how IT can best serve their organisations’ needs and goals.
But while I encourage CIOs to take an offensive stance by being digital-first, cloud-first and locking in the centrality of Digital in their organisations, three defensive plays should not be forgotten. Not paying attention to these risks will set us back in the digitalisation agenda.
The first is cybersecurity. The SolarWinds cyber-attack, which affected 18,000 organisations, including US government agencies and Fortune 500 companies, is a reminder that cyber threats are real, trans-border and constantly evolving. To derive the benefits of digitalisation, we must be ever-vigilant against cyber risks. We need continuous and sustained efforts to strengthen our cybersecurity posture.
The second is data security and privacy. With greater digitalisation, the volume and value of data will grow in tandem. Data can yield valuable insights that improve business efficiencies. It can enhance products and services for consumers. But as more data is collected, the risk of data breaches also increases. If data is not used responsibly, trust can be eroded, even undermined. We must accord due protection to personal data and privacy by strengthening the accountability of organisations for the personal data we handle.
The third is third-party risks. The rapid pace of technology development and the skills gap mean many organisations will need to seek outside help. However, this can lead to reliability and security issues. Organisations need to have better governance and take a more intelligent risk-based approach. Develop standardised processes and proactive decision-making using analytics, instead of sliding into a “firefighting” mode and only tackling issues when they arise.
There has never been a better time for those of us in the ICT industry. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital tools, increased the appetite of organisations for digitalisation, and demonstrated new ways of working together. The impetus for digital transformation has never been stronger, and the tangible benefits that can be derived are clear for all to see. Let us seize this opportunity to lock in the digitalisation gains while watching out for the risks. There’s certainly a lot of work ahead for all of us, but the digitalisation momentum borne out of the pandemic will carry us through.
The Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) once again announced that it fully supports the Philippine IT and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) sector through its various initiatives to establish a nurturing ecosystem for innovative development.
The DICT’s Digital Cities 2025 Programme aims to develop the potential of the IT-BPM sector as an engine of growth to bridge the progress gap in the countryside and strengthen local economies. Previously termed Next Wave Cities, the Digital Cities 2025 programme aims to strengthen the industry-readiness of new centres by creating and developing ICT hubs in identified locations.
The programme is being implemented in cooperation with the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) and Leechiu Property Consultants (LPC).
The IT-BPM posted remarkable employment and revenue growth for 2020 despite the challenges brought by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The IBPAP reported a growth of 1.8% compared to 2019 and revenue of $26.7 billion in 2020, amounting to a 1.4% increase from 2019.
Additionally, the IT-BPM sector also recorded an increase in the number of full-time employees in the sector by 23,000, bringing the total to 1.32 million employees in 2020.
With the Digital Cities 2025 Programme, the agency invests in the identified cities and provide all the necessary institutional development activities to prepare them for the demands of the global digital economy. The DICT is helping these cities grow into established ICT business hubs outside Metro Manila.
Through a collaborative approach with their partners, local government units (LGUs), regional clusters and ICT councils, the agency aims to develop these areas as focal points for the revitalisation of the country’s economy, and for sustained growth in the long-term, the DICT added.
To intensify these efforts further, as reported by OpenGov Asia, DICT said that the plan is for industry experts to be ambassadors through various interventions to help reinforce the role of the IT-BPM industry in economic growth.
The IT-BPM Ambassadors will be resource speakers in various events and awareness fairs, sharing their professional expertise as part of an industry marketing campaign, assisting in content creation to promote Filipino talent and working alongside the DICT and IBPAP to implement related initiatives.
To be potential ambassadors, persons must be currently holding managerial positions in the IT-BPM industry with at least a 5-year tenure. The role seeks IT-BPM leaders who can effectively build and manage stakeholder relationships. Applicants who had previously worked on countryside operations are preferred.
The IT-BPM sector continues to be a priority for DICT, and it is ready to support and take the lead in making the necessary interventions to ensure that these digital cities achieve their potential. By working together with other executive agencies, LGUs, industry leaders, and academic institutions, which will enable each location to grow into centres of excellence that spur the development of other business sectors, de-risk Metro Manila concentration, create jobs, and boost the local economy. This will involve the strengthening of ICT councils in the region.
The Department continues to provide the 25 Digital Cities for 2025 with the necessary support in four key areas: institutional development, talent attraction, infrastructure development, and marketing and promotion. These interventions aim to help these localities achieve their full potential because of the government’s pursuit for countryside progress and inclusive growth.
Additionally, the digitalcitiesPH portal will provide investors and locators with essential information on cities and municipalities all over the Philippines. It will help assess each location’s potential as a global business centre. The IBPAP said that it recognised locations that have been crucial to the continued and growing relevance of the Philippines as a global investment destination.
Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh, recently urged the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) to finalise and submit a national strategy on developing the digital economy and society by August this year. According to a press release, several other countries have already introduced strategies and programmes on digital transformation in a bid to optimise opportunities from the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0).
In Vietnam, the digital economy and society have been growing rapidly, supported by the well-developed telecom and IT foundation, high Internet coverage, and a huge number of Internet users. The country is located at the centre of the Southeast Asian region and is poised to be a global hub of digital technology and the digital economy.
However, the country is coping with several limitations, including a favourable legal system for the digital economy, and especially a strategy on digital economy and digital society. The new strategy is expected to set a sound direction for ministries, sectors, and localities to get involved in the field.
In 2020, Vietnam kicked off a national digital transformation programme, under which the country will renovate management and administration activities of the government, production and business activities of enterprises, and the overall way of living and working. It aims to develop a safe, humane, and wide digital environment. The national digital transformation programme has the dual purpose of both developing the digital government and economy and establishing Vietnamese digital businesses with a global capacity.
In a press statement, MIC Minister, Nguyen Manh Hung, said that if Industry 4.0 is considered an institutional revolution, with changes in management and business models, Vietnam has many opportunities. It will be the revolution of new technologies in physics, biology, artificial intelligence, big data, IoT, and 3D printing, which can create landmark changes in the way people live. The Politburo has issued Resolution 52, which defines eight groups of policies for Vietnam to actively participate in the Industrial Revolution 4.0:
- Renewing thinking, unifying awareness, strengthening the Party’s leadership, State management over the Industrial Revolution 4.0
- Perfecting institutions to facilitate the 4th Industrial Revolution and digital transformation
- Developing essential infrastructure, especially digital infrastructure
- Developing the national innovation capacity
- Human resource development
- Developing priority industries and technologies
- International integration
- Promoting digital transformation
Vietnam’s digital economy will likely reach US$52 billion in value by 2025, as OpenGov Asia had reported. With the gross merchandise value (GMV) of its Internet economy accounting for over 5% of the country’s GDP in 2019, Vietnam is emerging as the most digital of all economies in the region.
Last year, the Vietnamese internet economy continued to record double-digit growth, at 16% year-on-year, the highest in Southeast Asia. All sectors except travel continued to grow in 2020, of which transport and food, and online media grew 50% and 18% compared to 2019. Only online travel dropped 28% in terms of GMV but is expected to grow 25% by 2025. This year’s seismic consumer and ecosystem shifts have advanced the Internet sector in unimaginable ways, putting it in a stronger position than ever.
2020 was a year of transformation and accelerated disruption brought on by the pandemic. A critical lesson people learned was that every business needs to be a digital-enabled one. With this understanding, it is imperative to drive a sense of urgency among organisations towards accepting digital transformation.
During these testing times, empathy played a key role in the leadership style as it was critical to authentic and transparent communications. Ensuring the safety and well-being of the employees and looking out for their mental health became the foremost priority. Engaging teams effectively through frequent check-ins and reviews intermingled with fun engagement that encouraged sociability and bonding was fundamental to sustainability and continuity.
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively to Olivier Croly, Senior Vice President APAC, Barco to discuss how the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a cultural shift in the workforce across sectors and industries.
Barco develops visualisation and collaboration solutions to help companies work together, share insights and wow audiences. In his current role, Olivier is responsible for leading and growing Barco’s APAC portfolio across its three core segments: enterprise, healthcare and entertainment. He leads the company’s commercial strategy and works with his team to deliver great customer outcomes and sales growth. The global development of the education business for Barco is also under his purview.
For Olivier, the pandemic has, in many ways, altered priorities – new offerings are being developed, and new go-to markets being explored, all while ensuring remaining connected with the consumer and listening more intently to what they want. Going forward, the role of a manager/leader should focus on the 3C approach: Compassion, Coach and Care while encouraging the team to upskill and reskill.
The foundation to counter the effects of COVID-19 in the initial stage was survival. To make it through the storm, Olivier and Barco’s strategy involved ensuring the safety and well-being of their employees while driving business continuity to the extent possible. Primarily this was done through the adoption of virtual conferencing and other telework tools.
Their internal teams adjusted quickly to the work-from-home model and were able to weather several challenges because of the robust digital infrastructure already available within the company, like Microsoft Teams, One drive, Yammer, etc. Most of the teams were used to working from home and flexible work hours.
The lockdown led to some disruptions in the supply chain, which impacted manufacturing output and resulted in shipment delays. However, strong IT support enabled the company to maintain continuity and productivity.
Olivier explained that they focused on employee reskilling, retooling supply chains and go to market strategies to enable a more sustainable, future-proof growth model that can withstand such black swan events in the future. While they have opened their office now, they are strictly following all guidelines with regards to social distancing, site disinfection and others to ensure employee health and safety during this time.
Technology will define success or failure in the new normal
2020 has been a transformative year for organisations. Across the globe, people had to adapt to remote working, with only essential service providers being allowed to work on-site. This successful transformation to a digital workplace requires effective team collaboration, and trust, supported by real-time collaboration solutions to deliver results. Any business is as good as its people and Olivier believes that empowering them with effective tools not only brings out the best results but also gives them a competitive advantage.
With the ongoing wave of technology adaptation and the ensuing culture shift, organisations are increasing their reliance on innovative solutions to enable seamless visualisation and collaboration between on-site and remote employees. Adoption of emerging technologies within the workplace was already a part of the digital transformation process that companies were exploring to reinforce future preparedness and competitiveness. With the advent of social distancing, these technologies have become enablers of business delivery and continuity, while adhering to safety protocols.
The office but not as we know it
As hybrid becomes the new normal at workplaces and changes the way we meet, collaborate, engage and impress our workforce, and inspire and communicate to crowds, it led Barco to rethink the physical office. The company transformed its Singapore office into a hybrid workplace. The office is designed and furnished with the latest video technology to accommodate the new normal of hybrid working. Barco Singapore has invested in safe, efficient, and fully-equipped offices and meeting spaces that will enable better engagement between in-house and remote employees seamlessly and in the most effective way. At the same time, the company’s India software team has also moved to a state of the art, hybrid work environment.
Step into tomorrow’s new hybrid way of working with Barco
As companies redefine their digital capabilities and physical workspaces to facilitate hybrid collaboration and visualisation, Barco has you covered with its premium solutions to enhance workplace agility and efficiency, ensuring that enterprises are primed for the new normal. Barco’s premium visualisation and collaboration solutions transform enterprises by enhancing productivity and continuity for businesses while facilitating a hybrid and resilient model that can withstand future challenges.
Barco’s innovative solution ClickShare Conference boosts team collaboration by enabling seamless and secure communication and ensuring that all members of the team feel included in the meeting. It enables personalisation and efficiency in hybrid workplaces and users are not tied to any specific video conferencing apps as ClickShare Conference is software-agnostic. The solution offers the flexibility to “Bring your own meeting” as it supports the use of a wide range of cameras and speakerphones.
Another technology enabling hybrid workspace is Barco’s media streaming solution SecureStream, which makes sharing content from control rooms to external stakeholders simple and secure. The solution allows control room operators to simply drag and drop content into a SecureStream channel and then provide the needed link to the receivers.
The company also facilitates efficient training and team collaboration through weConnect, a virtual classroom software dedicated to distance learning in real-time. With hybrid training and reskilling of employees being necessary for the new normal, employee engagement in training sessions can also be boosted through weConnect. The solution enables bright outcomes for learners as it optimises class engagement and boosts seamless contact between trainers and employees.
Work is not a place but rather, results and outcomes
Organisational leaders need to inculcate a sense of urgency in driving digital transformation which is now a necessity. A key reinforcement has been that the world can do more with less – less space consumption, less travel – and still drive efficient results.
Olivier acknowledged that the pandemic taught the world that profitability and sustainability are not necessarily conflicting goals; they can effectively come together to achieve equitable economic growth. Considering this, innovation, agility and flexibility are a must for business continuity and resilience.
In closing, Oliver shared his core belief that an organisation’s and its leadership’s outlook must be holistic, inclusive and equitable. Ultimately people will remember organisations that took care of ALL their stakeholders – not just employees, customers or shareholders.
The Philippines’ Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) is proposing to make the use of digital signatures mandatory in national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs).
During the Ease of Doing Business Summit, ARTA urged NGAs and LGUs to subscribe to the Philippine National Public Key Infrastructure (PNPKI) of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to generate e-signature. The DICT can also accredit digital signatures of private institutions.
As per ARTA, the Commission on Audit (COA) is already drafting a circular to recognise the use of digital signatures in all government transactions as well as the crafting of the guidelines on the use of digital signatures.
Aside from the mandatory use of digital signature, ARTA is pushing for a unified online payment system for all fees, contributions, and taxes across NGAs and LGUs. They are already in initial talks and discussions with the concerned agencies, and they are proposing that the Land Bank of the Philippines as one of the government banks to be the payment aggregator of all these payments.
Along with the implementation of e-payment, the agency said that they are currently ironing out the guidelines in the issuance of electronic copies of receipts by the NGAs and LGUs. The use of e-signature and e-payment in government transactions is part of the administration’s push to automate services and processes in public offices.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the government said that integrating information and communications technology in government service is the best way to prepare for the digital demands of the new norm brought by the pandemic.
With a mandate to promote public trust and efficiency in the delivery of public services, ARTA is well positioned to deploy this initiative as part of its strategy. The adoption of digital signatures complements the ARTA’s Advisory Nos. 1 and 2, s. 2020, that urge all government entities to fast-track public transactions through alternative online procedures and the use of e-signatures for official documents.
The Ease of Doing Business and ARTA Council, the policy and advisory body of ARTA previously convened a video conference to discuss initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the virtual meet, the council discussed strategies towards the digitisation of government functions as the country transitions into the new normal as it relates to the COVID-19 crisis.
The council agreed that all government agencies should significantly increase the adoption of technology for efficient and timely delivery of government services. Such adoption of technology and deployment of online services will minimise the risk of further spreading of the virus as well as better serve citizens in general.
These efforts are in line with President Duterte’s directive to ease government-to-citizen transactions during the ongoing state of a public health emergency, and in compliance with the directive of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for government agencies to minimise bottlenecks in the delivery of vital public services.
Previously, ARTA launched its flagship programme NEHEMIA or the National Effort for the Harmonisation of Efficient Measures of Inter-related Agencies. Programme NEHEMIA is a sectoral-based streamlining effort that is directed towards speeding up and realisation of the Socio-Economic Agenda of the government. It targets to reduce the time, cost, requirements, and procedures in sectors of economic and social significance by 52% within 52weeks.
The programme NEHEMIA is in line with ARTA’s mandate to adopt a whole-of-government approach in the streamlining of government services. It is also aligned with the recently released Administrative Order 23: Eliminating Overregulation to Promote Efficiency of Government Processes signed by the President.
Since 1987 the Edison Awards have recognised and honoured some of the most innovative new products and services as well as business leaders from around the world and recently announced this year’s winners.
Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) collected two awards under the support of the Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA). With these accolades, ITRI has delivered again with MetabColor as well as the AI-Based High-Density Shuttle Rack Delivery System.
The ITRI is a government-funded applied technology research institute with more than 6,000 employees. ITRI’s AI-Based High-Density Shuttle Rack Service System wins a gold medal in the Innovative Services, AI Applications category. The institute also took home a silver award for its MetabColor microbial textile dyes produced via a non-toxic, environmentally friendly and renewable process.
The Director-General of DoIT stated that it was no easy thing that ITRI’s AI technology won a gold medal in the Innovative Services, AI Applications category. The automated vertical warehousing system is developed for space-starved cities and the rack can be 14 stories high, saving at least twice as much space storage. Moreover, ITRI has been working with several companies to develop AI technology. The AI-based warehousing system optimises logistics efficiency to meet the increasing needs of e-commerce, cutting shipping time by 60% and helping to increase logistics performance during peak season.
The silver winner, MetabColor, uses modified microbes and the fermentation, separation, and purification processes to create natural dyes that are more environmentally friendly than chemical dyes. ITRI has been cooperating with leaders in textile manufacturing and speciality chemicals on the preliminary verification of the technology.
ITRI President also stated that the honour demonstrates that the institute’s technological vision aligns with top global trends. ITRI will continue collaborating with industry leaders to offer efficient solutions aimed at minimising environmental impact while ensuring Taiwan is an integral part of green global supply chains. He also pointed out that the Edison Awards focus on the “real-world applications” of innovative R&D results. Winning two awards is a big achievement for their R&D teams.
2030 Technology Strategy and Roadmap
To innovate a better future, ITRI has drawn up its 2030 Technology Strategy and Roadmap, in which it enhances the development of “intelligentisation” enabling technologies and focuses on three application domains: Smart Living, Quality Health, and Sustainable Environment. The Institute strives to use technological innovation to shape new lifestyles, develop market-oriented solutions, and find uncontested spaces.
Digital transformation has become a driving force for global economic innovation. With the prevalence of IoT and AI, people are seeking a faster, easier, and smarter life with the introduction of intelligent devices/services and new business models.
Therefore ITRI is developing personalised devices and services, autonomous mobility systems, and smart industries and services for the Smart Living domain. ITRI is also working on human-machine interaction, enhanced imaging and perception systems, autonomous decision-making and control, and smart business technologies and services.
As many countries are moving towards hyper-aged societies, demands for medical personnel and healthcare resources are increasing. New business opportunities in the emerging diagnosis and treatment market are also created through integrated solutions that include smart long-term care systems, personalised/precision medicine, and healthcare models.
In the domain of Quality Health, ITRI leverages Taiwan’s strengths in ICT and medical care systems to develop smart medical and healthcare technologies. The R&D scope includes smart medical electronics, regenerative medicine, wearable devices, digital healthcare services, and many more.
Due to the current climate change, greenhouse effects, and limited energy sources and resources, how to coexist with Mother Nature has become an important issue when developing new technologies. A sustainable environment can be maintained by creating a circular ecosystem, cutting downtime and energy-consuming production processes, and discovering green energy sources.
ITRI is thereby enhancing the technology development in the circular economy, smart manufacturing, and green energy and environment fields by exploring high-value circular materials, smart manufacturing systems, and supply chain management to achieve ecological symbiosis.
After over two years of consultation, the government of New South Wales (NSW) has published an exposure draft of its long-awaited bill for mandatory data breach notifications. The bill specifies reporting thresholds ahead of the planned introduction of the scheme.
The exposure draft, which is open for consultation until 18 June 2021, follows over two years of work by the departments of Communities and Justice and Customer Service, as well as the privacy commissioner. NSW became the first state or territory to pledge to introduce such a scheme in February 2020, more than five years after former privacy commissioner Elizabeth Coombs first called for such laws.
The Privacy and Personal Information Protection Amendment Bill intends to fill the gap left by the Commonwealth’s notifiable data breach scheme, which applies to federal government agencies but not state government agencies or local councils. It will require all departments and agencies, state-owned corporations, local councils and some universities in NSW to report breaches likely to result in “serious harm” to affected individuals and privacy commissioner. The bill also closes a regulatory loophole by applying NSW’s Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act to state-owned corporations not already regulated by the Commonwealth Privacy Act.
According to the bill, a serious breach occurs when there is “unauthorised access to, or unauthorised disclosure of, personal information”, which is likely to result in serious harm to individuals involved. Personal information can include photos, contact details and fingerprints, as well as health information about an individual’s physical or mental health, disability or any other information related to the provision of health services.
When the agency suspects a breach has occurred, it must conduct an assessment with 30 days to determine whether it meets the threshold for notifying affected individuals and the privacy commissioner. An extension may be approved if the assessment “cannot reasonably be conducted” within that timeframe, though the agency head will need to report this to the privacy commissioner and provide updates.
In instances where an agency can identify individuals affected by a breach, it must notify them “as soon as practicable”. If the agency is unable to determine the affected individuals, it will be required to publish the notification on a public register for at least 12 months.
Agencies may be exempt from notifying the affected individuals and the privacy commissioner if doing so will prejudice an investigation or is related to matters before the court. Further exemptions exist for agencies that “take action to mitigate the harm done by the breach” before access or disclosure results in serious harm or if notification could lead to further breaches.
The bill will also give the privacy commissioner new powers to enter the premises of entities and inspect anything that may relate to compliance with the scheme, including processes and systems, and conduct audits. The NSW Digital Minister said the introduction of the scheme was supported by the Information and Privacy Commission and Cyber Security NSW “to clarify agency obligations”.
The bill is expected to be introduced to parliament later this year and if passed, will commence following a 12-month period to give agencies enough time to put in place the necessary compliance mechanisms.
The need to boost national cybersecurity
Recently, the Federal Government pledged $745,920 in funds for a new cybersecurity centre to help train and support Australian small businesses to deal with cyber-attacks. While the announcement is welcome news for Australian businesses, it also spells good news for consumers that will benefit from better data security.
The Cybersecurity Aid Centre will be located in Parramatta, NSW, and run by Western Sydney University. Funding for the program will form part of the Cyber Security Business Connect and Protect Grants Program, a government initiative that connects businesses with trusted cybersecurity companies to improve their cyber awareness.
The centre will offer businesses training seminars on cyber response, including how to deal with data breaches, ransomware attacks and email vulnerabilities. Businesses will also have access to a host of resources about cyber-attack including a Cyber Suite and Toolkit.
A hotline will be available to walk both consumers and businesses through the confusing and stressful process of what to do when they are experiencing a cyber-attack, including how to uplift defences as part of effective business operations.
An international tech company is testing out video analytics technology in the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) to detect and reduce incidents like crowding and incorrect wearing of facemasks in real-time, as per news reports.
With a strong commitment towards creating digital railways of the future, the tech developer is working with one of Singapore’s public transport companies to employ new digital technologies to deliver a safer and more comfortable passenger journey for Singapore’s MRT commuters.
The Passenger Density Technology will provide real-time insights on passenger density which was co-conceptualised with the public transport company. The tech uses algorithms to detect and analyse silhouettes on video footage from CCTV cameras. It can trigger alerts or even count these silhouettes to accurately calculate crowding onboard trains and stations. The tech also automatically sends alerts to the station manager whenever it detects overcrowding.
The developer said that they have been continuously doing trials with local operators in the east and downtown lines. One consideration for the tech developer is how they can utilise current infrastructure such as the existing CCTV cameras to keep the costs down. Leveraging existing CCTV networks and live ticketing data, this new solution is ready to provide real-time information on passenger density at station platforms and on-board trains; eliminating the need for train weighing which is currently being used to measure density. With this solution, which can detect crowdedness and alert staff to the situation, station managers have heightened situational awareness to make informed decisions to ease congestion more efficiently and enhance comfort and the travel experience for commuters.
To get the solution to market quicker, the team is comprised of software engineers, data scientists and user experience designers. The team continues to explore new uses for the solution in safety and security, for instance by detecting unattended items, acts of violence and illegal behaviour such as vandalism in stations or on trains. Soon, it could even spot commuters who are not wearing masks during this pandemic.
Speaking of safe travels, as reported by OpenGov Asia, high-tech robot guards at the MRT stations were implemented as an addition to Singapore’s use of technology as part of boosting its security efforts. OB1FORC3 and the K3NOBI models of robots are two new robots, which have been deployed at Ang Mo Kio MRT station, equipped with intelligent surveillance cameras, sensors and video analytics capabilities. These robots were developed by a local tech security company.
The robots were deployed as part of Exercise Station Guard – an emergency preparedness exercise. The exercises were conducted by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SMRT as part of their efforts for enabling operational readiness and strengthening security in public places. The robots were tasked to observe and identify suspicious-looking people and stray items. Security officers were able to survey the area remotely by viewing the surroundings through the robots’ cameras and video analytics capabilities.
Senior Minister of State for Transport, Janil Puthucheary, observed this exercise. Commuters at Ang Mo Kio MRT station were also involved in the exercise, taking part in security screenings where they had to walk through a metal detector and their items to be scanned by X-ray machines.
The security industry is starting to find ways of reducing manpower needs and investing more in the use of technology. This in efforts for reducing the dependence on manpower to carry out tasks. Such a system is ideal for combining the use of manpower and technology to achieve the most efficient outcomes.