Governments and private sector organisations have been continually developing and launching apps since the coronavirus outbreak with the aim of helping fight against the spread of COVID-19.
These apps provide services such as providing citizens COVID-19 updates, situation reports, enabling them to make health risk assessments and to be used as a tracker of the spread of the disease throughout the country as well as documenting the rate and numbers of infected.
MySejahtera – Malaysia’s COVID-19 Government app
Malaysia is the next country to just recently launched their own government COVID-19 app.
MySejahtera is an application developed by the Government of Malaysia to assist in monitoring COVID-19 outbreak in the country by anabling users to assess their health risk against COVID-19.
The app was developed through a strategic collaboration between the National Security Council, Ministry of Health, MAMPU – Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
The MySejahtera app enables users to make self-assessments on their health, locate nearby testing hospitals and clinics, and get information on what to do if they do contract COVID-19 and where to get treatment.
The app will also help the Ministry of Health monitor the virus spread and act as a detector for trends in the outbreak.
The app’s self-assessment asks whether users have COVID-19 symptoms. Users can also check in to the app and share their location or a photo with the relevant government agencies.
It also provides useful information for citizens such as the COVID-19 hotline number as well as a Virtual Health Advisory that links users to medical video-consultation platform, Doctor On Call.
How to access the app
Registration cannot be done on the app itself. To register, users need to go to the app’s website and provide a phone number or email address to get a one-time login. Once registered, users can then complete their profile on the app.
It is available on the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Huawei AppGallery and the government’s own mobile app gallery – Gamma. It supports devices using Android 4.4 or iOS 11 and newer.
Countries Looking to Launch Contract Tracing App as Soon as Possible
According to the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia is currently preparing a smartphone application to track citizen movements.
The federal government in Australia launched a COVID-19 app last weekend, without contact tracing functionality, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that they are working on this capability.
The National Health Service in the UK is in talks to roll out a smartphone app that instantly traces close contacts of people carrying the coronavirus and advises them to self-isolate. The app, developed by NHSX – the health service’s digital transformation body along with academic and industry partners is in advanced stages of evaluation and they are hoping to deploy within weeks.
Germany also hopes to launch a smartphone app within weeks to help trace coronavirus infections, with the aim of adopting an approach similar to that of Singapore, an effective app that does not invade people’s privacy or break European privacy laws.
With digital contact tracing becoming a more important priority to the government, as well as being an integral part of the government strategy to combat this pandemic, these smartphone apps could lead to a substantial number of lives being saved and critical to protecting public safety.
Dozens of students, lecturers, and officers at the Posts and Telecommunications Institute of Technology (PTIT) can now use motorbike parking services, keep track of class schedules, check exam scores, and pay for meals entirely on their smartphones.
PTIT is a key human resource research and development unit of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC). With the aim of promoting digital transformation to improve the quality of training and research, the Institute deployed the PTIT S-Link mobile application for students, lecturers, and managers with essential functions.
PTIT S-Link sends students alerts about an upcoming lesson. It notifies the user about learning subjects, venues, and other detailed information about the class. The app was made operational in late 2020 and has over 12,000 downloads.
According to a press release, a digital university is taking shape at PTIT. In September 2020, during a talk with PTIT members, the MIC Minister, Nguyen Manh Hung, noted that PTIT, a “miniature society” with young dynamic people has favourable conditions to build a digital society. To prepare the labour force for digital transformation, an online university is the best way to “train digital citizens”. The Institute plans to unveil D-Lab, an online practice platform, S-Class, a smart class platform, and an intelligence operation centre (IOC), shortly.
The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) said Vietnam is striving to become a leading country with a fully digitised educational sector. It wants to produce a Vietnamese workforce that has globally recognised digital transformation knowledge and skills.
Though the institute has been using IT in its activities for many years, it still faces difficulties upgrading the application. The biggest problem is the lack of a digital university model and transformation at the Institute. In the first period, PTIT is focused on researching and shaping the architecture of the digital university and completing the digital transformation plan by 2025.
With the spirit of carrying out digital transformation in accordance with the “miniature digital nation”, the institute studied national policies and built its digital transformation plan under the three pillars of the national digital transformation programme: digital administration, service, and society.
“The fourth quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021 will be the time for the institute to cooperate with a digital technology firm to build a digital university,” Hung said. The Minister’s proposal spurred on development in the institute, the release noted.
In December 2020, Minister Hung stated that one digital university has likely become eligible for pilot transformation. With instructions from the Minister, the institute has become one of the pioneers in building and applying a digital university model. PTIT is not, however, the only digital school in the country.
The targets set in the Hanoi National University’s development strategy by 2030 are: reforming teaching methods towards modernisation, integrating personalisation into IT platforms, and creating learner-centric infrastructure. It also aims to establish intelligent university management and organisation models, execute comprehensive digital transformation in all activities, and operate the shared digital data knowledge system synchronously. The university will interconnect data for effective administration, management, and the renewal of teaching, learning, and research activities. One of the key tasks in 2021-2025 of the school is perfecting the modern university management and organisation model in association with building smart universities.
The Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Education (DepEd) strengthened the partnership between the agencies to clear the path towards the digitalisation of the education sector with the establishment of the Public Education Network (PEN).
The DICT and DepEd started coordinating on the development of the PEN last year. It is aligned with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year for both agencies to connect all schools, especially last-mile schools, and DepEd offices nationwide.
Under the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed between the two agencies, the DICT will provide medium to long-term assistance to DepEd, including the allocation of bandwidth from the DICT’s high-speed Internet infrastructure project, augmentation of DepED’s future satellite capacity through DICT’s existing very small aperture technology (VSAT) satellite and teleport facilities, the building of internet backbone up to last-mile schools under the DICT’s National Broadband Programme (NBP), and the provision of data transport service using DICT’s fibre optic network under the Government Network (GovNet) project and Microwave towers.
Under the agreement, the DICT will also give immediate assistance to the DepEd on advocating for the presence of ICT service providers in public school premises; provisioning of online resources, materials, and systems for educational use; giving teachers and learners access to DICT’s Tech4Ed facilities and its attached computer laboratories and research facilities; and coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), among others.
The agencies also inked a separate MOA for the use of suitable real estate properties owned or under the administration of DepEd as sites or locations for the implementation of DICT’s Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure (PTTI) or the Common Tower Initiative.
According to the DICT, education shall continue to play a key role in the socio-economic prosperity of a nation. Hence, the country needs to envision how education can emerge stronger, more responsive, and more effective from this global crisis than ever before. To do this, the agency is continuously assisting the DepEd with the transition from a traditional classroom setting to blended learning and shall continue to draw on the benefits provided by ICT to make this shift possible.
The DepEd said this partnership is designed not only to deal with COVID-19 but also to deal with the future. The agency hopes to improve the education sector with the help of partner agencies.
Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the Philippine 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.
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. Lawmakers in the country plan to harmonise collected personal data of Philippine 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. Lawmakers in the country stressed that there is no reason to delay the drive to realise the full modernisation of government services to serve Philippine citizens – adequately, efficiently, and securely.
More data centre and warehouse developments will qualify as state significant developments (SSDs) in NSW under planned changes to the state’s planning approvals process. The reforms, which come into effect in June, will temporarily lower the threshold for facilities to be assessed as SSD for two years to fast-track approvals and stimulate economic activity.
SSD is a type of development deemed important due to its size, economic value or potential impact, requiring Independent Planning Commission or ministerial sign-off before it proceeds. Proposals are assessed by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, instead of local councils.
The threshold for data centres will fall “from $50 million CIV [capital investment value] to 10 megawatts total power consumption (which roughly equates to a CIV of $40 million)”. Warehouses, on the other hand, will fall from “$50 million CIV to $30 million CIV for a two-year period” before reverting to $50 million CIV. The department said the changes will “more accurately” reflect the scale, complexity and potential impact of data centres and warehouses, providing a “clear and more certain planning pathway”.
The Planning Minister stated that the reforms would allow projects to travel through the planning system more quickly at a time when demand for data centres and warehouses is increasing. “During the pandemic, there has been a noticeable shift closer towards e-commerce, remote working and cloud storage which has led to an increase in data centres and warehouses. These are great for stimulating the economy – they’re simple to build, simple to assess and create a higher number of direct and indirect jobs,” he said.
Data centres and warehouses represent a $4.9 billion pipeline of projects so by lowering the threshold to assess more of them as SSD, the NSW Government is pushing them through the planning system more quickly. The Minister added that the number of planning assessment officers would also be boosted to help manage the demand as a result of the changes.
The SSD assessment pathway reforms come as the department plans further changes to the SEEPs to streamline the delivery of smaller data centres through the complying development pathway. The pathway offers an accelerated approvals process by the council or an accredited certifier for “straight forward developments”, as long as they “meet strict construction and building standards”
It follows a noticeable increase in the number of data centre development applications, particularly using the regional development of SSD pathways. “This means we’re making it easier to build small-scale data centres without lengthy planning approvals while providing a swifter pathway for large scale ones,” the Minister said.
Each data centre development is estimated to contribute up to $1 billion in construction and fit-out costs to the NSW economy. The Managing Director of an Australian cloud, data centre, government cybersecurity and telecom company said that the reforms were “really practical” and would “support NSW’s short-term economic recovery”.
His company has invested more than $200 million in the past year alone building two facilities. The firm is proud to be part of that economic rebuild and look forward to continued partnership with the state and federal government to do more, he added.
The Managing Director of Australia’s branch of the world’s largest data centre and colocation infrastructure provider also welcomed the announcement. “With eight data centres in the state today, any legislative changes that speed up the planning system is an important step forward,” he said.
On 20 April 2021, Army will launch its Quantum Technology Roadmap. The launch will occur during the Quantum Technology Challenge 2021 (QTC 2021) at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and will include presentations from Australia’s Chief Scientist as well as the Chief Defence Scientist.
Quantum technologies have been identified as having substantial disruptive potential across defence. However, their true capabilities, limitations, countermeasures and most disruptive applications are still being discovered.
Army aims to leverage Australia’s national strength in quantum technology research to gain and retain an early quantum advantage. The Roadmap provides the framework to achieve this through partnering with broader Defence, Australia’s academia and emerging quantum industry, and aligned nations. The Roadmap adds to Army’s accelerating engagement with emerging technologies and evolution, as described in Accelerated Warfare, Army in Motion and Army Objective Force.
Whilst the launch event is restricted to defence personnel and select guests, the Roadmap and a recording of the launch will be published on the Land Power Forum after a short delay on 20 April 2021. To be alerted of the publication and to view the recording, audiences are to register via the website.
QTC 2021 is a key first step in the Roadmap and will see teams of Australia’s world-leading quantum scientists and engineers compete to show how quantum technologies can deliver Army unprecedented capabilities. Pitches from each of the remarkable teams competing in QTC 2021 will be included in the launch recording.
About QTC 2021
The first Army Quantum Technology Challenge (QTC 2021) will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 20 April 2021. The Challenge will see teams of Australia’s world-leading quantum scientists and engineers compete to show how quantum technologies can conceptually deliver Army unprecedented capabilities, including:
- Making the ground transparent: imaging what is hidden subterranean
- Resupplying troops in battle quickly, safely and efficiently: optimisation of large-scale resupply by squads of autonomous uncrewed ground vehicles.
- Denying the enemy secure communications: countermeasures quantum encryption.
QTC 2021 will be the first in a regular series of challenges that will enable Army to leverage Australia’s national strategic strength in quantum technology to rapidly identify the most disruptive and advantageous applications of quantum technologies for the land domain.
Future challenges will respond to opportunities and problems identified by members of Army and the wider quantum technology community.
The challenges are a key component of Army’s Quantum Technology Roadmap, which will also be launched at QTC 2021. The Roadmap also contains plans for the development of the high-value applications and technologies identified by the challenges, focused on Army’s needs. The Roadmap, a recording of the launch and recordings of the pitches by each of the QTC 2021 teams will be published.
The need for quantum technologies
According to an earlier article by Army, quantum technologies exploit the fundamental laws of nature to reach the ultimate limits of sensing, imaging, communications and computing, and thus promise otherwise impossible capabilities.
They are no longer scientific speculation; substantial public and private investments around the world are driving these technologies out of laboratories.
This acceleration will see quantum technologies transform our lives over the next 20 years. This will be even more evident when combined with other emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, space technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Now is the time that Defence must begin to understand, explore and exploit quantum technologies throughout its operations if it is to gain and retain a quantum advantage.
New Zealand has installed its most powerful supercomputer for artificial intelligence (AI) applications at the University of Waikato. The move aims to put New Zealand among the leading countries in AI research and development.
According to a news report, the NVIDIA DGX A10, nicknamed the Ferrari of computing, is the first computer of its kind in New Zealand and the world’s most advanced system for powering universal AI workloads. The machine can rapidly and efficiently process massive amounts of data, allowing students and researchers at the University to process at lightning-fast speeds. It enables machine learning and AI that can solve problems from addressing climate change to managing the country’s biodiversity.
Machine learning uses algorithms to explore huge data sets and create models that provide answers or outcomes mirroring human decision-making. Models can be trained to recognise patterns, facial expressions, and spoken words. They can also detect anomalies like credit card fraud. It uses artificial neural networks – computer software styled on the human brain – to learn how to make predictions in particular areas through deep learning. The model makes its own predictions then tests these against real-world results and is trained by humans to recognise what went wrong in a quest to create a more accurate model.
One of the first projects the computer is being used for is to train models that can learn and classify New Zealand’s plants and animals, based on a publicly available database of more than one million photos. Albert Bifet, a Professor at the university, said that students and researchers could take months, or even years, to process the data needed to create models like the one they are working on if they had to use more traditional computing. The computer will allow the researchers to process the data in a matter of days. It will enable them to gain insights and progress their research at an unprecedented scale, he noted.
The purchase was made possible through income from the sale of commercial licenses to the Waikato Environment for Knowledge Analysis (WEKA) software. It is a suite of Java-based software tools for machine learning and data mining that the machine learning group at the university has been developing for more than 20 years, the report explained.
“Being able to use the funds from WEKA, which has proved so successful, is a real win for us. WEKA software has been bought by several large international IT companies. It shows the success and depth of expertise we have here and has enabled us to reinvest back into our group,” Professor Bifet said.
The system was supplied by Fujitsu and fits into one-quarter of a computing rack in the University’s main server room. The NVIDIA A100 Tensor Core GPUs featured in the DGX A100 system enables enterprises to consolidate training, inference, and analytics into a unified, easy-to-deploy AI infrastructure. NVIDIA Mellanox InfiniBand networking ensures that the data is rapidly supplied to the system.
The report said that the A100 GPUs enable data scientists and developers to perform a massive number of calculations all at once, a key feature of the algorithms behind machine learning and AI. The DGX A100 has eight A100 GPUs containing 40 GB (gigabytes) of memory each for a total of 320 GB of GPU memory. When they all work together, they can process five quadrillion basic arithmetic operations per second.
During the virtual signing ceremony of the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 01-2021, the Philippine Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) reminded local government units (LGUs) that they should have automated their business one-stop-shop (BOSS) before June 17 of this year.
The JMC establishes the guidelines for processing business permits, related clearances, and licenses in all cities and municipalities. This year, the country is hoping to have 500 LGUs to be automated by the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) Integrated Business Permits and Licensing System (IBPLS) software.
The DICT project manager for IBPLS said the department has signed a memorandum of agreements with 446 LGUs, of which more than 200 are already in the operational stage of the system. The agency is making sure that everyone is onboard for IBPLS, which is an online system.
Meanwhile, the DICT also said that the IBPLS software works well even with smaller LGUs. The agency urged highly urbanised cities to fast-track the adoption of the integrated system so their BOSS can go online before the June 17 deadline.
Under the newly signed JMC, the E-BOSS should have the following functions:
- Accepting electronic submission of application.
- Electronic issuance of tax bill or order of payment.
- Accepting online payment, releasing of an electronic version of permits, licenses, and clearances; and
- Providing gateway facility linked to courier service where applicant prefers hard copy of the documents.
The JMC also limits the documentary requirements and will implement a unified application form with a unique identification number.
The ARTA reminded LGUs that they should not require notarisation of the requirements, adding that barangay clearances related to business permit applications shall be integrated and processed by the Business Processing and Licensing Office (BPLO). The agency added that the number of signatories in the documents shall be limited to three and that LGUs should also process the application within three working days.
Accordingly, 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.
The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) announced the launch of the #SayaDigital Movement on a national level. This initiative had been originally introduced to improve the digital skills of Malaysians, enabling them to seize opportunities in the digital economy.
It also includes being fully aligned with the country’s ongoing economic recovery plan. This initiative will provide strong support to the Malaysian Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL) that the Prime Minister announced in February 2021.
MDEC’s implementation programme is strongly supported by the Prime Minister’s Department; Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia; Ministry of Rural Development and Community; and Rural Internet Center. This is due to its ongoing focus on four main themes, namely, Digital Simplifies Life; Digital Increases Income; Digital Empowers Careers; and Digital Expands Business.
The programme is designed to get the B40 group, youths and senior citizens involved with the digital economy. To kickstart the momentum of #SayaDigital, three pilot programmes were held to raise the digital literacy awareness involving 301 participants, with the latest being held at Kampung Desa Temuan in Bukit Lanjan last month.
The participants attended a series of interactive workshops that exposed them to the digital skills needed to face challenges in the new normal.
This year’s #SayaDigital Movement focuses on four components, namely, training young people to become “Geng #SayaDigital” volunteers; creating awareness through digital literacy activities; conducting digital readiness assessments; and providing basic digital skills training to the community.
To date, 25 “Geng #SayaDigital” have already been formed including those in Sabah and Sarawak to further enhance the programme nationwide. The campaign, as a whole, aims to benefit 10,000 Malaysians in socio-economically vulnerable rungs across the country.
Concurrently, participants who have registered online have been connected to major MDEC programmes such as eUsahawan, PeDAS, eRezeki, MyDigitalMaker, GLOW and eBerkat. Presently, these programmes have benefited Malaysians through digital skills enhancement, digitally-driven business, involvement in the e-commerce sector, and workforce participation on global digital platforms.
In addition, eight #SayaDigital online programmes have been streamed via Facebook Live and have already gained more than 16,000 views to date.
“MDEC’s move to launch #SayaDigital to enhance digital skills among the B40 group, youths, senior citizens, and socio-economically vulnerable groups is timely as our country strives to achieve its ambition of becoming a major regional digital economy market. This is in line with the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030), an initiative that will not marginalise any groups of people,” the Prime Minister of Malaysia stated.
The Minister of Communications and Multimedia stated that #SayaDigital supports MyDIGITAL’s comprehensive strategy that sets out a roadmap to achieve the vision of making Malaysia a regional leader in the digital economy by 2030.
Through this, the Government aims to create 500,000 jobs; implement digitalisation initiatives to benefit 875,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro-entrepreneurs, and become the catalyst for 5,000 start-ups.
MDEC had designed 12 adaptation and digital literacy programmes with 2,000 participants who are expected to participate in a basic digital literacy training course. They will be working closely with 100 volunteers who are also known as “Geng #SayaDigital” ambassadors.
Participants will answer the Digital Readiness Assessment to measure their level of digital literacy. The test results will then determine the Basic Digital Literacy Learning Module that they will be assigned to. The programme also includes three main modules – digital communication; internet banking and e-wallet; and digital service applications that are used in other countries.
The MDEC Chairman said that the goals outlined in MyDIGITAL are based on the confidence that we can empower Malaysians to face challenges head-on that the new norm had brought about. After all, the goal is to create a technology-integrated society through Malaysia 5.0.
Equipping people with digital capabilities is a key factor for the synergy between digital infrastructure and the digitally-skilled workforce that acts as the backbone for a sustainable digital ecosystem in Malaysia, he added.
The Chief Executive Officer of MDEC noted that individuals with efficient digital skills such as coding, animation, Big Data analysis, machine learning and Cloud Computing are greatly needed in driving forward the digital economy during this pandemic.
According to the latest MDEC study, there are currently 47,000 digital job opportunities advertised on major job search portals in Malaysia. This shows that the country’s digital-skilled labour market remains competitive amid these challenging times. It also provides a sign of the country’s digital economic growth.
The #SayaDigital campaign kickstarted in 2020 as MDEC’s efforts to support Malaysians and local businesses to step up digitalisation measures that will help to reduce the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
Through the campaign, MDEC introduced several initiatives, such as SME Digital Summit; #YoungCreators Movement; #MYDigitalWorkforce Week; and Gig and Freelance Expo (GFX) as high-impact engagements for those who want to improve their skills as well as for young individuals just entering the workforce.
Leveraging MDEC’s extensive network of international experts and companies, participants gained opportunities to get the best advice and tools from leading industry leaders to assist them in exploring their respective digital journeys.