The demand for e-books from the National Library of Malaysia (PNM)’s digital collection has soared since the beginning of the Movement Control Order (MCO) on 18 March 2020.
The Senior Deputy Director at PNM Library System and Network Division stated in March alone nearly 40,000 of the library’s digital books were borrowed compared to an average of about 15,000 during the regular months.
The new membership registration for u-Pustaka and visitors to the library portal has increased dramatically during the MCO.
Membership registration and portal visitors’ statistics showed an increase during the current MCO. As of April 21, 2020, the cumulative number of u-Pustaka members is 501,295.
During the MCO alone, membership registration reached 22,982 members. The highest membership registration was at the beginning of the MCO reaching 6,069 registrations in one day (19 March).
Meanwhile, it was noted that the selection of reading material is varied, depending on interests and information requirements needed but during the MCO, borrowing of e-books was more to fiction-based reading materials.
PNM is constantly trying to make digital reading material more accessible to Malaysians. Among the initiatives undertaken is to increase the number of digital reading material every year.
In addition, PNM via the u-Pustaka as a national information hub has successfully digitized 1.7 million pages of local reading material such as Malay manuscripts, rare books as well as national collections that can be accessed through the u-Pustaka portal.
PNM is working to attract more Malaysians to use the services provided by u-Pustaka. To achieve this, they welcome the involvement of libraries in Malaysia to jointly promote the use of u-Pustaka services among society.
Malaysia aims to develop a restructured economy based on high-value knowledge at all levels of society. Through u-Pustaka, the library provides a wealth of information suitable for all ages and on a broad range of subjects and accessible everywhere by Malaysians.
Tourism Ministry to offer free online course for tourist guides
Malaysians are being offered educational materials in various ways.
For example, another report noted that The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) will offer a free online course to all tourist guides who intend to renew their licences.
Director-General of Tourism Malaysia stated that the short-term course would involve steps and plans that could be taken by the tourist guides to promote tourism services under the new normal following the Covid-19 pandemic.
For example, over the course, students will learn to produce teaser videos on their platform, including on social media, by using their expertise in telling stories about their tourist attractions to encourage tourists to visit those places once the movement control order (MCO) is lifted or, at least, relaxed.
However, the mechanism for the course and when it will begin have yet to be decided as it involved various parties, including the Tourism Training Institute and tour guide association.
Meanwhile, the competition to produce a tourism video with the hashtag #dreamnowtraveltomorrow would be extended until May 12 following good response from the public during the MCO period.
Support for tech start-ups
A large portion of the solutions being released that are helping people cope through the uncertainty brought about by the lockdown.
Thus, support for them is being arranged by the government. Future Digital, the think tank arm of the National Tech Association of Malaysia (Pikom) believes that the proposed RM250 billion Second Stimulus Package announced by the Malaysian Government to cushion the negative impact of COVID-19 should also cover the local technology startup community.
The Chairman of Future Digital stated that Future Digital is an independent and inclusive voice not only to the industry but also to the government on policy and programmes.
He added that, if assistance were not rendered to the local startup community, some 40% per cent of startups and social enterprises are expected to fold from June this year.
The Chairman of PIKOM stated that by helping these companies through the above measures, it would ease the burden of employers for them to sustain their business.
This ecosystem needs to survive through this difficult period so that it can continue employing while flourishing as a strategic engine of growth for Malaysia.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced the launch of a S$5 million Virtual Production Innovation Fund to support the local media industry in developing the capabilities needed to harness virtual production technology to maintain the local media industry’s competitiveness as the international partner of choice to create premium IP.
To enable the camera to capture actors and visual effects in real time, virtual production technology uses LED panels to produce realistic background landscapes for television or movie sequences driven by video game engines. The site, road closures, location costs, permits, weather, set construction, and space rental will no longer be necessary for production.
With the help of technology, Singapore has a rare chance to get over some of its physical constraints, like the lack of suitable locations for on-location filming and room for large sets.
The ability of the storytellers to reproduce historical sites or any other environment will allow them to generate content that was previously impossible. This will revolutionise the creative process of storytelling.
The adoption of virtual production by the media sector is further encouraged by the strong signals emanating from international media giants that this technology will be widely employed in the creation of movies and television shows and will become the standard in the next years.
To strengthen capabilities in virtual production and ensure that the media companies and talent can keep up with international production methods to remain competitive, IMDA will pursue a two-pronged strategy to prepare the media sector for the future.
The National Film and Television School (NFTS) in the UK has collaborated with IMDA to adapt the school’s Certificate in Virtual Production course to the requirements of the sector to train media professionals to use this technology.
From December 2022 to April 2023, fifteen professors, trainers, and media professionals from Singapore will participate in virtual lectures and undergo hands-on training at NFTS’s virtual production facilities.
Over the course of the following 12 months, several masterclasses and workshops given by professionals from the business will be offered. A Singapore-based firm that specialises in developing immersive experiences, held a display to exhibit how virtual production can enhance imaginative storytelling.
Hands-on demonstrations will be given by guest speakers from virtual production leaders. They will discuss and explore best practices in the workflow to inventive ways to use different technology in storytelling.
Local businesses can also test out virtual production to realise their creative ideas for brief pieces of content, such as music videos, short films, and brand advertisements, among others. Companies can submit their suggested content concepts from now until February 15, 2023.
The capacity to best utilise virtual production technologies to realise a project’s creative vision will be taken into consideration while evaluating proposals.
Additionally, IMDA is working to organise an industry challenge with an internationally renowned gaming company. This challenge will encourage organisations to experiment with and use the cutting-edge real-time 3D creation tool developed by this gaming company. Currently, the aforementioned tool powers globally popular video games.
Teams whose concepts are shortlisted will receive personalised coaching and training from the gaming company. In addition, they will receive prize money from IMDA to assist with content creation.
Since virtual production technology has advanced in recent years, the country is now able to produce visual effects in real-time without building actual sets, thereby overcoming the constraints of scale, complexity, and space.
India will Chair the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI), an international initiative to support the responsible and human-centric development and use of artificial intelligence (AI).
The Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Rajeev Chandrasekhar, represented India virtually at the GPAI meeting held in Tokyo for the symbolic takeover from France, which is the outgoing Council Chair.
Chandrasekhar stated that the country would work in close cooperation with member states to put in place a framework to fully exploit the power of AI for the good of consumers across the globe. This means ensuring there are adequate guardrails to prevent misuse and user harm.
According to the Minister, India is building an ecosystem of modern cyber laws and frameworks based on three principles: openness, safety, and trust and accountability. With a National Programme on AI and National Data Governance Framework Policy (NDGFP) in place as well as one of the world’s largest publicly accessible datasets programmes in the works, the Minister reiterated India’s commitment to using AI to catalyse innovation and create good, trusted applications.
The NDGFP strives to ensure equitable access to non-personal data and improve institutional frameworks for government data sharing, promote principles around privacy and security by design, and encourage the use of anonymisation tools. It also aims to standardise the way the government collects and manages data. The NDGFP along with an envisaged Indian Data Management Office (IDMO) shall catalyse the next-gen AI and data-led research and startup ecosystem.
Through the datasets programmes, anonymised non-personal data will be available for the entire AI ecosystem. The AI market globally was nearly US$ 59.67 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.4% to reach around US$ 422.37 billion by 2028. With the rapid growth of AI and machine learning (ML), experts predict that most businesses will shift to AI-powered systems, apps, security systems, data analysis, and other applications in the future. AI is expected to add US$ 967 billion to India’s economy by 2035 and US$ 450–500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, accounting for 10% of the country’s US $5 trillion GDP target.
A government official outlined India’s priorities as Chair GPAI next year, stating that the country would focus on promoting greater involvement of the global south in the conversation regarding the use of AI for solving societal problems. The country has also emphasised the need for the responsible and ethical use of AI.
GPAI is a congregation of 25 member countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore. In 2020, India joined the group as a founding member. It is a first-of-its-type initiative that aims to better understand the challenges and opportunities around AI. It works in collaboration with partners and international organisations, leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia. These stakeholders collaborate to promote the responsible evolution of AI and guide the development and use of the technology, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) recently announced that a PolyU-supported start-up has successfully developed the Nano Multi-rings Defocus Incorporated Lens for controlling the progression of myopia (or short-sightedness).
The start-up collaborated with the State Key Laboratory of Ultra-precision Machining Technology (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University) (SKL-UPMT) and the School of Optometry of PolyU to create the new solution by integrating DISC technology and Ultra-precision Nano Multi-rings Machining Technology, offering children and adolescents a convenient, non-invasive and effective option to delay myopia progression.
PolyU holds the patents for both DISC technology and Ultra-precision Nano Multi-rings Machining Technology. The launch of the Nano Multi-rings Defocus Incorporated Lens signifies the University’s long-term commitment to driving research and innovation and its continuous effort in facilitating knowledge transfer and research commercialisation by supporting cutting-edge technology start-ups.
PolyU’s School of Optometry invented the novel DISC technology, which is proven to retard the myopia progression of children by 60%. The method produces a clear image on the retina and a defocused or blurred image in front of the retina simultaneously, enabling children to have clear vision while controlling the development of myopia. Based on this technology, the DISC-SH soft contact lens was introduced in 2018.
The Ultra-precision Nano Multi-rings Machining Technology, developed by SKL-UPMT, merges advanced optics design, ultra-precision machining and ultra-precision measurement technologies, and ultra-precision mould-making to apply DISC technology in spectacle lens production. By employing an ultra-precision process, the new spectacle lens provides added comfort for wearers, while offering more stable vision. The non-invasive design also makes it more suitable for children of different ages.
The Visiting Chair Professor of the School of Optometry of PolyU and Co-founder of the start-up noted that the partnership with SKL-UPMT and the School of Optometry to launch the new Nano Multi-rings Defocus Incorporated Lens resulted in a breakthrough in DISC technology. This initiative helps address the spiralling myopia problem among children, especially in markets with a relatively high ratio of myopes such as Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China.
The Professor of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Director of SKL-UPMT at PolyU stated that ultra-precision machining technology is a multi-disciplinary advanced manufacturing technology, which is the backbone of crucial industries like optometry, semiconductors, advanced optics, aerospace, energy, biomedical and new materials development.
He noted that SKL-UPMT is at the forefront of the development and application of technologies and have a proven track record in designing and implementing new methods, process, systems and facilities in ultra-precision machining and ultra-precision measurement.
The locally developed Ultra-precision Nano Multi-rings Machining Technology was extended to fine-tune and manufacture optometric products and will continue to create new technologies and solutions for diverse industries to benefit society. In doing so, Hong Kong and mainland China’s competence and strategic advantages in design and advanced manufacturing will be furthered, he said.
The Nano Multi-rings Defocus Incorporated Lens is expected to be rolled out in Hong Kong and mainland China soon. The company will continue collaborating with PolyU to develop new myopia control products based on DISC technology to protect the vision health of children and adolescents.
Founded by PolyU’s professor and alumni, the start-up has received financial support from the PolyU Micro Fund and the PolyU Tech Launchpad Fund. In 2018, the company secured a licence from PolyU for commercialising DISC technology, which the start-up manufactures and distributes DISC lenses at its authorised optometric clinics and fitting centres.
Four industry titans in technology have been given contracts for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC), according to the Department of Defense (DoD) of the U.S.
JWCC is a multiple-award contract vehicle that will give the DoD the chance to obtain commercial cloud capabilities and services directly from the commercial Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) at the pace of mission, at all classification levels, from the corporate headquarters to the tactical edge.
With this Indefinite-Delivery, Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contract vehicle, cloud services can be provided more quickly and at commercial cost, if not better.
The following capabilities will now be available to warfighters under a single contract thanks to JWCC: global accessibility, readily available and resilient services, centralised management and distributed control, usability, commercial parity, elastic computing, storage, and network infrastructure, advanced data analytics, fortified security, and tactical edge devices.
Those interested in knowing more about JWCC, register for the JWCC Customer Portal or contact the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Hosting and Compute Center (HaCC), can visit this website.
To make cloud purchasing, provisioning, and onboarding simpler for DoD clients, DISA has created user-friendly cloud accelerators.
In addition, the DoD MIIs build a national network of public-private partnerships, establish an industrial common for manufacturing R&D, and advance workforce education and development while accelerating new technologies using federal funding combined with matching investment from academia, industry, and state governments.
The network strategically coordinates resources to solve important technologies and create interconnected manufacturing systems by marshalling the greatest talent from around the nation. The nine MIIs supported by the DoD are under the direction of ManTech, the DoD Manufacturing Technology Program.
Finding industry partners, including small enterprises, that have cutting-edge technology that could help the warfighter is essential to the DOD MII mission. DoD makes investments in these sectors of advanced manufacturing through the MIIs.
Conversations with some research institutes earlier this year shed light on how the DoD and the country are benefiting from the pace of technology.
Combining silicon integrated circuits with semiconductor lasers is known as silicon photonics – a speciality of the American Institute of Manufacturing — Integrated Photonics.
Compared to conventional electronics, this technology allows for faster data transfer over greater distances while making use of the advantages of high-volume silicon production.
COVID sensors are some of the most fascinating applications for photonics. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided funding for sensors that can identify COVID-19 from a drop of blood in less than a minute.
In various sensor regions of the chip, there are proteins linked to SARS-CoV-2 and eight other viruses. Antibodies to those viruses will bind to the proteins in a blood sample and be found if a person has been exposed to any of the viruses.
On the other hand, additive manufacturing creates parts that can be formed of ceramics, rubber, metal, plastic, rubber, and polymers. The ability of the military to build parts additively improves its capacity for swift and agile operations, particularly in hostile circumstances.
The qualification and certification of processes and materials are other areas of emphasis for some manufacturers. The primary obstacle to manufacturers fully embracing additive manufacturing is a lack of training and certification.
The manufacturing sector also examines how the supply chain’s capacity compares to the need for components made additively.
Together, these initiatives are assisting the U.S. in strengthening its manufacturing sector and taking the lead in global competitiveness.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) have developed an ocean wave energy converter that can generate electricity from sea waves. The team successfully concluded the trials for the device in the second week of November.
According to a statement by IIT-Madras, the device was deployed about 6 kilometres off the coast of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, and around 20 metres deep. It targets generating 1 megawatt of power from ocean waves within the next three years. The product has been named Sindhuja-I, which means ‘generated from the ocean.’
The system has a floating buoy, a spar, and an electrical module. The buoy moves up and down as the wave moves up and down. In the present design, the buoy has a central hole that allows a long rod called a spar to pass through it. The spar can be fixed to the seabed, and passing waves will not affect it, the buoy moves up and down and produces relative motion between them. This relative motion is used by an electric generator to produce power. In the present design, the spar floats, and a mooring chain keeps the system in place.
The project will help achieve several objectives, including goals set in the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and India’s targets to carry out deep-water missions, promote clean energy, and achieve a blue economy. The project could help India meet its climate change-related goals of generating 500 gigawatts of electricity by 2030 through renewable energy.
The device will be deployed in remote offshore locations, which require reliable electricity and communication either by supplying electric power to payloads that are integrated directly in or on the device or located in its vicinity as on the seabed and in the water column. Targeted stakeholders are the oil and gas, defence and security installations, and communications sectors.
A faculty member from IIT-Madras who has been working on wave energy for over a decade, Abdus Samad, led the mission. He established a state-of-the-art Wave Energy and Fluids Engineering Laboratory (WEFEL) at the Institute. His team designed and tested a scaled-down model. The lab is also researching other applications for this technology such as producing power for smaller devices for the ocean like navigational buoys and data buoys, among others.
Samad explained that India has a 7,500-kilometre-long coastline capable of producing 54 gigawatts of power, satisfying a substantial amount of the country’s energy requirements. Seawater stores tidal, wave, and ocean thermal energy. Among them, harnessing 40 gigawatts of wave energy is possible in India, he said. Efficacy-wise, it can be installed anywhere within 10 to 6,000 metres of water depth. It’s not dependent on bathymetry, does not harm sea life, includes no digging of the sea bed and is easily deployable, and portable. This will generate power around the clock, with almost negligible battery storage. Samad said it would be an excellent choice for sea surveillance, offshore desalination, coral reef regeneration, offshore communication, and drone charging/underwater vehicle charging.
Even single devices in different locations along the Indian coastline can generate large quantities of clean power. The team is contemplating placing multiple devices in an array configuration for maximum wave power extraction from the location, Samad noted. Their vision is to make India sustainable by tapping marine energy and net-zero carbon emissions to mitigate climate impact.
To strengthen the nation’s local industries and reduce its reliance on imports, Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. invited enterprises to engage in digitalising processes as well as other crucial areas including education, skills training, and research and development.
The president of the Philippines stated that imported goods continue to be the main cause of inflation and that import substitution must be considered. For its part, the Philippine government is dedicated to accelerating economic growth with the broader objectives of reducing poverty and reviving job creation.
Notably, the government works to hasten the nation’s economic expansion by reducing travel and movement restrictions, even more, enacting economic reforms, and fostering stronger economic ties with trading and investment partners.
The President also emphasised the efforts being made by the government to increase the ease of doing business, public-private partnerships, and bureaucratic efficiency through the development and digitalisation of information and communication technology (ICT).
The Chief Executive said that the Philippine economy is on pace to sustain its good economic performance and meet the government’s growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 per cent for this year as it continues to recover from the pandemic’s negative effects. Inflation must be controlled, the country’s growth rate appears robust, the peso is strengthening slightly in comparison to other currencies, and the unemployment rate is reasonable given the circumstances.
The Chief Executive anticipates that the meeting will aid in creating new economic prospects, reviving the industries that have been most negatively impacted by the pandemic, as well as addressing upcoming difficulties.
Meanwhile, one of the first Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) entities established and constituted under the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board (IFPB), recently had their meeting.
The primary role of the IFPB is to address revenue imbalances and variations in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (BARMM) financial demands and income-raising capability. The body will specifically suggest tax-collecting strategies and changes to fiscal policy for the BARMM.
THE IGFP discussed 17 issues on the agenda, including the BARMM’s tax system’s digitalisation. Assuring solid financial management and improved bureaucratic efficiency through digital transformation is in line with the administration’s 8-Point Socioeconomic Agenda.
To further this objective, IFPB pledges to build and uphold positive and constructive relationships to meet BARMM’s financial demands and strengthen the region’s potential for revenue-raising. In addition to the IFPB, the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB), which is made up of officials from the national and Bangsamoro administrations, had its 12th meeting and press conference to talk about issues pertaining to the local development of the BARMM.
In response to the difficulties posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has reaffirmed its strong commitment to keep developing its programmes and services.
To adapt and alter its programmes to the increasing needs of the industries, TESDA is constantly trying to improve its systems and procedures. And this is where their partner industries step in, assisting them in creating training programmes that will equip graduates with skills relevant to their business.
The organisation emphasised how quickly technology is advancing in the workplace. Since tech-VOC training encompasses the study of technologies and allied sciences as well as the learning of practical skills, Industry 4.0 has a direct impact on this field. To create a workforce with competencies appropriate for the industry, the agency urged people in the education and business sectors to collaborate closely.
In support of President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot mission to cure cancer, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the establishment of the Agricultural Science Centre of Excellence for Nutrition and Diet for Better Health also known as ASCEND for Better Health.
This new virtual centre will hasten research into diet-related chronic diseases such as cancer. The centre’s long-term mission is to integrate research into actionable solutions that improve public health and well-being, particularly in marginalised regions.
ASCEND will bring together scientists, partner organisations, and communities to develop and deploy science-based solutions that improve the health and well-being of all Americans, particularly those living in underserved areas. As a result, the virtual centre will link existing resources, such as people and programmes, to harness the expertise and improve coordination and cooperation.
USDA is focusing more on precision nutrition science research to better understand the needs of marginalised groups. This study adds to the agency’s initiatives to enhance food and nutrition security, which involves having consistent and equitable access to good, safe, and affordable foods that are critical for optimal health and well-being.
In addition, the World Cancer Research Fund estimates that adopting a healthy diet and way of life can prevent 30% to 50% of all cancer cases. As part of its efforts to comprehend the links between nutrition and illnesses like cancer across various communities, the USDA is using fresh and ongoing research to inform its equity lens.
By 2030, hunger will be eliminated, and diet-related diseases will be reduced, all while reducing disparities, according to the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health of the Biden-Harris Administration. In conjunction with the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in more than 50 years, the National Strategy was unveiled.
The work of the USDA, which focuses more on resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, developing new markets and sources of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart forestry practises, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and more, benefits every American.
Meanwhile, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Programme for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has made changes to the meals that are recommended to participants, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. These scientific updates include suggestions from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM).
The WIC food packages are specially made to complement the meals and drinks that participants already eat and drink while completing important nutritional gaps to support normal growth and development.
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is recommending modifications to the food packaging to bring it into line with the most recent nutritional research and enable equal access to nutrient-dense foods during key times of development.
When taken as a whole, the modifications will raise the level of assistance while giving WIC state agencies more freedom to customise the packages to meet the needs of special dietary requirements, and cultural food preferences, and an increase in variety and choice for WIC participants, making the programme more alluring to both current and potential participants.