This is Part 2 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 1 here.
In an increasingly VUCA world, governments and businesses across the globe are looking to ramp up their digital transformation to better serve citizens and clients in the post-COVID-19 era. This was the focal point of the discussion during the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition Day 2 that brought the over 100 key decision-makers and influencers together for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most.
Convening the brightest digital minds for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most, the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum offered a unique way of tackling challenges in its virtual edition. Intentionally planned, every activity and facet of the event was designed to let delegates garner exclusive insights from the digital leaders as well as demonstrate their thought-leadership.
As always, the forum provided intimate interaction between key ICT leaders from the Public Sector and the Financial Services Industry who influence and determine digital strategies across agencies and organisations.
Apart from informative presentations from renowned speakers, this year’s Forum continued its award-winning OpenGov Gamification Table (OGT) format in the new OpenGov Gamification Virtual Rooms (OGVRs). Every OpenGov Gamification Virtual Room was a virtual heuristic exercise allowing delegates to learn from varying decision-making scenarios just as they would in the physical world.
Digital Security Landscape in the Current Environment
Continuing the lively discussion of the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition, Day 2 started with a presentation from Lauri Luht, Head of National Situation Centre Estonian Government Office on the digital security landscape in the new normal.
Lauri opened by sharing some reasons why organisations may not be as resilient as they want to be. One issue is the gap between the advancement of technologies and policy. The fundamental disconnect between the position of the policymakers on why, how and what cyber resilience constitutes and the vision of technology innovators and disruptors.
Lauri felt for too many years there has been a lack of genuine focus on cybersecurity operations. Solutions involving operations, operational thinking, translations/explanations between tech and policy must all be implemented to improve overall cyber resiliency.
Additionally, governments must scale up critical security infrastructure. Even as organisations adopt a new culture with resiliency at its centre, all processes should be (re)designed to address different threats.
Another key to bridging the gap between tech and policy is education and awareness. Every stakeholder, from the policymaker to citizen must be aware of the importance of cybersecurity.
All in all, cyber defence is total defence.
Organisations can become resilient by focusing on practical organisational issues, expectations and roles of stakeholders, practical exercises and pieces of training that are scalable. The focus should be on:
- challenging themselves in areas prone to failure
- interdisciplinary measures to know which capabilities are needed
- inter-sectoral approach to determine who the stakeholders are and
- knowing the practical reasons on why and how these exercises help cyber resiliency
The end goal is to have a resilient community and a “collective brain”. Organisations must emphasise preparedness and not only prevention. It is essential to build an agile security organisation rather than following clumsy systems and principles – and innovation is the key to achieving true cyber resiliency.
Lauri acknowledged that the cyber attackers and cyber threats will not go away. Knowing this, organisations must exhaust all efforts in trying to mitigate the effects of these possible incidents. Those who are less prepared are more vulnerable.
He encouraged organisations to build international alliances and work with like-minded countries across the world. Alliances are built on practicality and not solely on declarations; further, organisations must practice transparency in all aspects.
Digital services are used by people and not by machines. Thus the goal of a transparent risk management system is to ensure that the whole of society understands the processes. If they do, they can act appropriately and with conviction. Policymakers must understand that digital matters are societal matters. Open and honest communication about risk and emergencies should be considered an asset, not a liability; problems need fixing, not hiding.
Lauri is adamant that leaders should involve stakeholders from the beginning of each process. They must do more for and ask more of their allies in the industry, build strong political engagement and commitment, and trust partners and society as nothing can be without them. Organisations need to work with society to properly tackle different threats and emergencies.
In a broader approach, cyber resiliency is not just about computer emergency. Cybersafety should be part of all security. Cyber initiatives must encompass the vulnerability of society, societal awareness and societal threats.
Concluding, Lauri acknowledged that there would always be growing complexities that result in challenges with society having growing dependencies and interdependencies. Organisations must understand that isolation is an expensive stagnation when it comes to resiliency. Knowing each other is important – as the best collective brain wins.
Smarter, Safer, and Resilient Cities: Re-opening Cities in the Face of COVID-19
After the informative presentation from Lauri Luht, the forum welcomed Sameer Sharma, Global General Manager, Smart Cities, Intelligent Transportation & IoT, Intel Corporation. His session revolved around smarter, safer, and resilient cities and the re-opening cities in the face of COVID-19.
Data clearly shows there is an explosion in populations in major cities all over the world; 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. With this surge, governments have been striving to find ways to make urban systems and infrastructure more efficient and effective. However, with COVID-19 hitting the world at the end of 2019 Q4, it has created a major pause in city innovation in specific areas.
The rapid spread of the virus affected countries globally on a massive scale. It severely hit areas like trade where the value of global exports increased by 4,000% in the last century; and the travel industry where 4.5 Billion passengers boarded flights in 2019 pre-COVID. And on a personal level, human interaction was also reduced by the pandemic.
The pandemic made governments and policymakers looked at their vision for cities – such as better access to education, better healthcare and more opportunities for their citizens – in a whole new light.
Across the world, there are currently 33 megacities (>10 million people), 4,000 cities with 100K+ population and 2.5M towns. Serving this global population are 1.4 billion cars, 246 million trucks, 17 million buses, over 50,000 ships, 25,000 commercial planes and 1.3 million kilometres of railways.
All of these have to be and can be managed even in an ongoing crisis. Improving and strengthening cities where the working society is in will be the key and, in the age of COVID-19, Sameer is convinced, that resilience will be critical; new threats and challenges must be anticipated and planned for.
Agencies and organisations across the board have tried to mitigate the effects of the pandemic by using technologies and new operational frameworks. Sameer reminded the delegates that legacy infrastructure cannot scale but disruptive technologies can make everything possible. Digital technologies must overlay the physical world, especially cities.
COVID-19 created shifted the focus specific sector improvement to overall infrastructure upgrade – that is, transforming ‘spaces’ to ‘smart spaces’. It is imperative to learn how to adopt technologies like AI, Cloud, 5G and IoT.
With the re-opening of the economy, safety and sanitisation will take precedence. Automated air filtration systems will be the norm in offices, commercial spaces and industries where the physical presence of people is a must.
Organisations that use these spaces can utilise technology to upgrade their infrastructure. There is a plethora of tech-based solutions that enable smarter spaces: automated room access, keyless and touchless entry, touchless and on-demand elevators, ambient temperature control, fresh air circulation and quality monitoring, UVD disinfecting robotics, face mask and fever detection using AI, people-counting and spacing-analytics and digital contact tracing initiatives just to name a few.
With fears of the virus in public transport, for local, shorter commutes, most likely, people will use personal vehicles. Where longer travel is necessary by air, road, rail or sea, security agencies will add healthcare checks and screenings.
Schools and universities will opt to use online tools; hotels and restaurants will transition to digital menus, delivery models and contactless payments; retail will be increasingly driven online.
Intel’s Smart City Vision, Sameer shared, is built on effective policies, governance and financing. Transportation, buildings and energy, environment, healthcare, public services and homes stress citizen wellbeing and safety. Intel is a strong advocate for and champions the use of sensors and edge computing, wireless tech, access and core networks, cloud and analytics and AI and Automation to achieve their dreams of a Smart City.
Nations must understand that resiliency is the key and technology enables it. Decision-makers should think big, not just thinking about smarter cities, but better cities. The mantra is to start small and get going with obvious projects and opportunities; then learn, adjust, and iterate.
Sameer urges governments and organisations to the right partners across the industry to build sustainable cities for citizens. In closing, he quoted Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
After the informative presentations from distinguished speakers and sponsors, the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 entered into a time of discussion aided by polling questions.
This session is designed to encourage genuine audience participation, creating a platform where delegates can share real-life experiences and engage with subject matter experts to flesh out issues and untangle challenges. They get to take back strategies, best practices, learnings, insights and tips that they can implement in their organisations and agencies.
The opening poll inquired about delegates’ primary objective in their digital transformation journeys. Just under half (48%) of the delegates said their digital transformation is meant to improve their business processes while 41% said it is for the improvement of citizen and customer experiences.
Participants were asked how they measuring the success of their digital transformation efforts. Over half (53%) said that they are still looking for ways to measure it effectively while a third (33%) indicated they already have qualitative and quantitative methods in place.
The next question was about the biggest challenges the delegates face in implementing digital strategies. Just under a third (32%) said that legacy systems and technologies that lack integration capabilities were the biggest challenges. About a quarter (28%) signalled that inflexible business processes and teams posed the biggest challenge.
Delegates were then asked about their most important IT priorities. More than half of the delegates said that digital transformation and innovation are their top priorities while 39% said that improving efficiencies and reducing maintenance costs were the most important aspects of their IT strategies.
In terms of IT structures, delegates were asked how AI and Data Analytics impact or improve their current digital transformation strategies. Again, more than half of the delegates said faster access to data to improve pre-emptive analysis can be achieved using AI and Data Analytics while 38% said that they need AI-ready infrastructures to manage large sets of data.
Participants were requested to share their organisations’ biggest pain points in the Big Data value chain. 41% of the delegates said data integrity was their biggest pain point while 33% said data accessibility and sharing were real problems for their organisations.
When asked to rate their organisations’ use of data and data analytics tools for decision-making purposes, 43% said that it needed improvement and better tools to analyse while 33% said it was doing good and adequate tools were in place.
Differentiating cloud providers for various workloads polarised the group, with voters almost evenly divided between price, service, performance and integration.
This led to delegates being asked how much of their organisations’ mission in critical / data-sensitive workloads is to be put onto public clouds this year. Over half (54%) said that less than 40% of their workloads are set to be put onto the public cloud while a little over a third (34%) said between 50%-70% of their workloads are set for public cloud adoption.
On the issue of cloud adoption, delegates were asked about the biggest challenge CIOs face when complying with the government’s direction to go on the public cloud. Almost half (48%) agreed that security poses the biggest challenge, a fourth (23%) said governance was an issue while 15% said proper information dissimenation and advisories from the government should be made for the digital migration to work.
Delegates again equally split over the main concern for security operations in their organisations. Votes were almost evenly divided among advance and zero-day attacks, difficulties in determining actual attacks due to noise, cybersecurity skills shortages, automating responses and actionable threat intelligence.
They were asked to rate their current level of security operations efficiency to detect and respond to attacks. 39% said it is very good in terms of a partial mapping of the prediction, detection, and response areas, but it needs improvement while 34% said their security operations are currently based on log management, correlation aggregation, and basic reporting.
Delegates were also polled on what drives their cyber resilience plans. More than half of the delegates said compliance and incidents were critical factors for their cybersecurity strategies and programmes.
With COVID-19 still making its presence felt in most parts of the world, the delegates were asked about the most impacted areas affected by the ongoing pandemic. 43% said their productivity was greatly affected, 28% said the well-being of their staff was hit, while 28% said they were able to launch new initiatives because of COVID-19.
Knowing that the pandemic accelerated the digital transformation especially for the working sector, delegates were asked about their perceived outcomes of a digital and automated workplace. 45% believed that there will higher productivity in the future. Other votes were divided into greater collaborations, greater digitalisation, improved employee engagement, and resource savings.
One being asked about the current challenges they face in the adoption of a digital workplace, 42% said the lack of executive leadership to drive a culture of process improvement and effective change management is their biggest challenge. 39% said the lack of effective technologies to optimise staff productivity and performance is an issue. Just under a fifth (19%) said no clear articulation of digital workplace benefits and a supporting business case hinder their adoption of the new working setup.
Lastly, the delegates were polled about their organisations’ capabilities in supporting a remote workforce. 42% said they already have the tools to implement seamless remote working setup. 40% said there is a lack of collaboration tools for seamless remote work, but they are looking for solutions. Only 18% said they are not looking to implement a fully remote workforce.
Public Services in New Normal: Time to Recharge, Reinvent, Reimagine and Reinvigorate
Mohit joined Ng Wang Peng, Koo Seng Meng and Brett Aimers in the Power Talk session to discuss how organisations and the public sector recharge, reinvent, reimagine, reinvigorate and reboot their services in the new normal.
Ng Wang Peng, Former Chief Operating Officer Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, believes that collecting a lot of data must be prioritised when moving to the digital space. She believes both the public and private sectors should be more responsible in terms of managing the data they are collecting because proper data collection and data integration will be key moving forward.
Koo Seng Meng, Senior Deputy Director, AI Innovation, Singapore said that organisations should never let a good crisis go to waste. With COVID-19, all sectors across the world have found new initiatives and new thinking that will help propel them in their digital transformation journeys.
Brett Aimers, Adjunct Associate Professor, James Cook University Australia said it was important to not forget the lessons learned in the COVID-19 era. That knowledge must be used to improve health responses, flexible working setups, as well as trying to find innovative ways to grow as a society.
The Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition ended with the closing remarks from Mohit. He strongly felt that organisations both from the public and private sectors should take care of their people – employees, citizens and customers should be at the top of their agendas.
Governments and organisations should be mindful of this new environment while finding the right balance between technology and innovation. Retaining lessons from the pandemic will be vital moving forward. Though there is a lot of unknown factors, COVID-19 taught us that we can provide platforms and programmes for us to adapt to new demands.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 1 here.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (IIT-Madras) have developed ‘BlockTrack’, a blockchain-based secure medical data and information exchange system for a mobile phone-based application. The application, which is the first of its kind, is currently being field-tested at the institute’s hospital.
BlockTrack aims to securely digitise healthcare information systems while ensuring the protection of sensitive personal information and medical records. It does this by decentralising the control and ownership of patient data, through a blockchain-based innovation. The BlockTrack innovation is now protected through a provisional IP filed with the Indian Patent Office, according to a news report.
The Android version has been developed separately for patients and doctors. It opens up universal and transferable healthcare information management and emphasises data privacy and tracking the spread of infectious diseases across geographies.
The report added that it allows the interoperability of systems from multiple hospitals, institutes, and healthcare organisations. The patient can choose to visit any healthcare facility on BlockTrack’s blockchain network without any concerns about duplication of records or re-registrations.
BlockTrack is developed by a team led by Prabhu Rajagopal, the Lead Faculty for Remote Diagnostics at the Centre for Nondestructive Evaluation (CNDE), under the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras. This is one of the first implementations of blockchain technology for securing healthcare data management systems. The approach is expected to make an impact in securely digitising and maintaining unique patient records across the country and eventually across the world.
K Vijay Raghavan, the government’s Principal Scientific Adviser, said that the objectives of the National Digital Health Mission launched last year was the secure processing of individual data and easy accessibility of digitalised personal and medical records by individuals and health service providers. The effective implementation of these objectives will require leveraging emerging technologies, and BlockTrack is a step in the right direction.
Recently, Raghavan launched the Mental Health and Normalcy Augmentation System (MANAS) mobile application to promote health and wellbeing in the country. MANAS was endorsed as a national programme by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).
As OpenGov Asia reported, MANAS is a comprehensive, scalable, and national digital wellbeing platform designed to augment the mental well-being of Indian citizens. The app integrates the health and wellness efforts of various government ministries. Also, scientifically validated indigenous tools with gamified interfaces were developed and researched by several national bodies and research institutions. Though the app is still to undergo field trials and is not available for public use as yet, it will be a platform catering to the overall wellness of people of all age groups and genders.
The application supports teleconsultation, especially for mental health-related problems. It is capable of health tracking and data records will be maintained, which will help users for future consultations. According to the scientist that conceptualised and led the execution of the mission, MANAS intends to build a healthier, happier, and more self-reliant community. MANAS is based on augmenting life skills and core psychological processes and is universally accessible. It delivers age-appropriate methods and promotes positive attitudes that focus on wellness. The initial version of MANAS targets promoting positive mental health in citizens aged 15-35 years.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), from the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), issued the Microelectronics in Support of Artificial Intelligence (MicroE4AI) Seedling Broad Agency Announcement (BAA).
Technology solutions for advanced computing in support of artificial intelligence will require long-term advancements in microelectronics, which will result from fostering unified and multidisciplinary research and development approaches. The goal is to advance groundbreaking technologies that will help the Intelligence Community (IC) and the country deliver on the promise of AI.
The BAA solicits proposals for developing faster, more energy-efficient, and more resilient computing tools that are of importance to the future of the national security of the United States and its leadership in artificial intelligence. The solicitation focuses on advanced engineering and applied research efforts into novel computing models, materials, architectures, and algorithms to enable the advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning. They are interested in research and development efforts that promote advances in microelectronic devices and circuits, and the chemistry and physics of new materials, which are aimed at overcoming challenges concerning the physical limits on transistors, electrical interconnects, and memory elements.
IARPA anticipates granting multiple seeding awards to explore and develop novel technology solutions. They invest in high-risk, high-payoff research programmes to tackle some of the most difficult challenges of the agencies and disciplines in the IC. The agency collaborates across the IC to ensure that their research addresses relevant future needs.
This cross-community focus ensures our ability to address cross-agency challenges, leverage both operational and R&D expertise from across the IC, and coordinate transition strategies with their agency partners. It brings the best minds in the field to bear on their research by sponsoring a full and open competition to the greatest extent possible. A research programme gets started when both a powerful research idea and an exceptional person to manage the programme are available.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the U.S. has developed and leverage AI to achieve several results. A research project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) develops an online tool called CitizenHelper. This tool can sort through millions of tweets to identify behaviours that could assist emergency agencies and give them an understanding of the population’s attitudes. The tool uses artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to filter the posts and then determine the relevance and information level of each tweet.
The AI tool helps to scale work that would be difficult for humans to do alone. Humans are good at contextual understanding to filter content but they cannot scale. Machines, on the other hand, are good at scaling, but they do not deeply understand the context very well. Hence, a human-AI teaming approach is invaluable. The algorithms need humans to help them improve their accuracy. CitizenHelper allows this very seamless interactive mechanism for humans and computers. The humans can provide feedback to the machine on what the machine has predicted.
Looking at social media has a huge benefit as it gives information in real-time. Therefore, it reflects people’s behaviour as opposed to expectations of what people’s behaviours are. The research team continue to work on improving the tool and teach the AI algorithms to be more specific. When a new data point comes in and the algorithm is unsure of what to do with it, a human user can provide feedback. This is a specific type of activity called active learning in the world of machine learning and AI.
The goal is to determine whether this human-AI interaction can make a community more resilient. Volunteers trained to recognise problems can better understand what is happening in the community and what is being done about it. The AI cannot learn what the important information is without being taught by humans. However, humans will always have a role because of the context associated with emergency response and how it varies by place and time.
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.
The federal government has announced plans to invest nearly $1.2 billion to augment Australia’s digital capabilities through the Digital Economy Strategy. The funds, allocated as part of this year’s Budget, will seek to better prepare Australia to respond to the challenges and opportunities posed by the rapid digital transformation occurring in every sector.
The nation’s Prime Minister said the strategy will target investment in emerging technologies, building digital skills, encouraging business investment and enhancing digital government service delivery. He noted that every business in Australia is now a digital business, adding that this transformation is not merely a national one that needs to happen — it’s a global one that is happening.
The investment includes $100 million to support improving Australians’ digital skills, including a new pilot program for work-based digital cadetships. In addition, $124.1 million will be allocated to initiatives aimed at building Australia’s AI capabilities. This will include the establishment of a National Artificial Intelligence Centre led by the CSIRO’s data science arm Data 61.
Projects aimed at enhancing government services will include a $200.1 million overhaul of the myGov platform and $301.8 million to enhance the My Health Record digital health system as well as an expansion of the digital identity system.
Other initiatives will include an expansion of the Digital Solutions – Australian Small Business Advisory Service, a Digital Games Tax Offset aimed at helping Australia improve its share of the global game development market and a $50 million investment aimed at enhancing cybersecurity in government, data centres and future telecommunications networks. Australian Information Industry Association CEO Ron Gauci said the investments will be warmly welcomed by the technology sector, but added that some of the commitments do not go far enough.
The Prime Minister said, “We’ve been advocating for significant investment in health, skills, cybersecurity, digital payments and AI. Today’s investment of $124.1 million for AI shows the federal government’s continued commitment to ensuring Australia becomes a leading digital economy.”
“However, in April we demonstrated that to fully fund a National AI Strategy, $250 million was needed. While investment in R&D is important, more needs to be done to ensure that there is a significant investment in the commercialisation of AI here in Australia to deliver jobs and economic growth. Without it, we will continue to fall behind the rest of the world.”
The CEO of an NSW tech firm likewise urged the government to carefully plan the investments to ensure the funds are being spent efficiently. He noted that the government’s upcoming $1.2 billion digital economy fund and accelerate Australia digitally is a step in the right direction, reflecting the importance of digital technologies and tech-driven businesses in keeping the economy going and putting Australia squarely on the global innovation map.
However, the nation needs to see adequate and holistic approaches to every aspect of Australia’s digital economy in order for any of the planned budget to be spent effectively, he said. This is particularly true for the area of cybersecurity — the government will be devoting $50 million to enhancing cybersecurity, and to ensure Australians and Australian businesses truly benefit from every dollar spent, this must lead to nation-wide standards for cybersecurity adoption, appropriate upskilling and training programs, he said.
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.
A tech firm operating under the Hong Kong Smart Government Innovation Lab recently announced that it has launched new solutions which are now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.
Solution description – factory-terminated optical fibre tip-to-tip network infrastructure cabling for offices and data centres
Thanks to fibre optics, invented in the firm’s lab in 1970, enormous amounts of data, phone calls and video can move around the planet. That movement of data has, in turn, enabled innovation after innovation, including the internet, cloud, mobile boom, streaming TV, autonomous cars, bitcoin, AI – and whatever comes next.
The firm’s solutions create an optical fibre tip-to-tip solution for LAN and data centres consisting of housings, modules, panels, trunks, harnesses, and jumpers. IT operators have an exhaustive list of desirable parameters they employ to ensure their facilities’ smooth and efficient operation the firm strives to exceed their expectations.
The company interviewed over 3,000 operators, and the outcome remained the same – the infrastructure must be reliable, high-quality, flexible, manageable, scalable, and visible to support a 24/7 year-round operation without question.
The tech firm’s award-winning EDGE™ solutions are high-density pre-terminated optical cabling solutions that simplify installation and improve performance in the office LAN and data centre environment. EDGE solutions provide increased system density when compared to traditional pre-terminated systems and offer the highest port density in the market.
The firm’s ClearCurve® bend-optimized optical fibre is the core element ensuring reliability when designing custom-engineered components thanks to its significant reduction in macro-bend loss even in the most challenging bend scenarios.
This technology enables the company to provide significantly greater density across the range combined with simple design and integration for LAN and SAN areas of cabling infrastructure. Infrastructure performance management is a traffic monitoring method being transmitted and received along with a link in a network providing real-time visibility.
This method can be done actively through electronic devices that can replicate and send the link’s data to the monitoring device (also called mirroring or spanning). Alternatively, it can be done through passive optical taps or port taps, transmitting all the data to the intended recipient and a monitoring device simultaneously. It can also filter the data and send it to various software tools for analytics, where it is then sent to an application-layer software for use by network administrators.
All EDGE solutions products, except TAP modules and 24-fibre MTP® single-mode assemblies, are manufactured with the firm’s proprietary CleanAdvantage™ technology, a new cleaning process implemented at the factory that uses residue-free cleaning fluids.
The firm’s proprietary nozzle design enables a focused and directed spray to the end-face, virtually cleaning the entire ferrule. All CleanAdvantage products are also shipped with optimized dust caps engineered to maintain the end-face cleanliness until the first mating connection. CleanAdvantage eliminates the need for scoping and cleaning before the initial field connection, reducing installation time and cost.
The solution was developed to be applied across the areas of City Management, Commerce and Industry, Environment, Finance, Housing, Infrastructure, Recreation and Culture as well as Transport.
The solution employs Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, Mobile Technologies and Virtual Reality.
The company’s EDGE factory-terminated solutions have been deployed by finance institutes, technologies enterprise and government in the global marketplace.
The factory-terminated tip-to-tip optical fibre components allow for reduced installation time and faster moves, adds, and changes (MACs). Corning factory-terminated solutions provide improved system performance, ensure component compatibility, and yield consistently high quality.
EDGE solutions consist of an extensive range of housings, trunks, modules, adapter panels, harnesses, patch cords, and accessories for extended flexibility. The universally-wired modular system components provide simplistic management for quick-and-easy networking MACs with none of the polarity concerns associated with special polarity-compensating components.
The deployment of a scalable optical connectivity solution allows infrastructure to meet current and future data rates’ requirements. Scalability enables the physical expansion of the cabling infrastructure to additional servers, switches, or storage devices and flexibility to the infrastructure to support a migration path for increasing data rates.
As technology evolves and standards are completed to define data rates such as 40/100/400G Ethernet, Fibre Channel (32G and beyond), and InfiniBand (40G and beyond), the cabling infrastructures installed today must provide scalability to accommodate the need for more bandwidth in support of future applications.