Departments within the National University of Singapore have been rising up to solve the challenges that have been presented by COVID-19.
They have been continuously driving forward innovations to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic on a broad range of areas including treatment, testing and infection prevention.
Using AI to find optimal treatment for COVID-19
Investigators from NUS Biomedical Engineering at the NUS N.1 Institute for Health have been using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to rapidly process the various possible combinations and identify the best results.
Using a platform called IDentif.AI, initially developed to find better treatments for cancer, the multidisciplinary team has been able to take a shortlist of 12 promising drugs and process billions of possible combinations and dosages at a speed that would be impossible using traditional medical trials.
“The strength of IDentif.AI is that we can perform one experiment and come out with a list of drug combinations for treatment within days. And if patients do not respond well to the first combinations of drugs, we can derive new combinations within days to re-optimise their care.” – Professor Dean Ho, Head of NUS Biomedical Engineering, and Director of NUS N.1 Institute for Health
Making Testing more effective and efficient
Effective testing is a key part of curbing and containing the spread of the pandemic.
A team at NUS Institute for Health Innovation & Technology (iHealthtech) led by Professor Lim Chwee Teck of NUS Biomedical Engineering has developed a system for testing patients quickly, easily and on location. This avoids the need for samples to be sent to specialized lab testing facilities saving time, effort and cost.
The Epidax system is built around a specially designed chip and microfluidic technology that uses a smaller sample than standard diagnostic tests and returns results in around an hour. It was developed and tested in less than two months, despite the challenges researchers faced working under the restrictions imposed by Singapore’s Circuit Breaker.
“By enabling rapid, simplified yet highly accurate testing on site – such as at local clinics, care homes or airports – the Epidax system will enable us to identify infections and speed up action to prevent transmission,” – Professor Lim Chwee Teck, NUS Biomedical Engineering and Director, NUS Institute for Health Innovation & Technology
3D printing techniques and advanced materials
Using the latest 3D printing techniques and advanced materials, a team from NUS Mechanical Engineering attached to the NUS Centre for Additive Manufacturing (AM.NUS) is working to produce nasal swabs to solve the issues with demand.
They are also working on “masks that are comfortable to wear, safe and recyclable, another factor in making masks usable is for them to be as unobtrusive and patient-friendly as possible” using advanced printing machines available at NUS.
To reduce the chances of infection spreading, NUS Engineering researchers have been a key part of a collaborative effort with doctors and frontline caregivers to develop a portable and easy to clean shield.
Transparent, foldable and similar in appearance to a laboratory glove box, the DART, short for Droplet and Aerosol Reducing Tent, is placed around the patient’s head and is equipped with an air extractor and filter at the top to further reduce the chances of infected droplets leaking out.
Working in close collaboration, the DART team developed the shield in less than two months, with prototypes being tested in hospitals across Singapore.
The innovative solutions not only solve problems we face today during the pandemic but will be relevant for future outbreaks, will improve future diagnosis and provide frontline workers with the adequate protection they require to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
Singapore has embraced technology as a crucial engine of the nation, where digitalisation is a key pillar of its public service transformation efforts. It leverages data and harnesses new technologies to continuously better citizen services as part of broader efforts to build a digital economy and digital society. Against this backdrop, digital technologies and solutions need to be made secure to ensure there’s no disruption to citizen services and to make sure citizen data entrusted to the government is protected.
Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia, acknowledges the work culture is shifting significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Remote working or hybrid working has become the new default and will likely stay this way for the foreseeable future.
In the early stages of the pandemic, government agencies and corporations understandably used Band-Aid measures—ad hoc technology and make-shift solutions—to stay afloat and ensure continuity. Considering the suddenness, sheer scale, and severity of the situation, many of these provisions can’t be seen as genuine digital transformation.
This raises two fundamental questions: what will modernising the delivery of citizen services look like in 2022 and beyond? And how can governments improve security and infrastructure to deliver seamless citizen-centric digital services?
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively with Sascha Giese, Head Geek™ at SolarWinds, to talk about transforming digital services in the public sector and how SolarWinds can help governments in their digital transformation journey.
Sascha has more than 10 years of technical IT experience, four of which have been as a senior pre-sales engineer at SolarWinds. As a senior pre-sales engineer, Sascha was responsible for product training for SolarWinds channel partners and customers.
Culture Shift to Remote Work
Sascha started by exploring the big question about the direction of the workforce and its evolution. In his role, he works with IT professionals in different countries and contexts and has gained a wider and richer understanding of the remote working shift. Most people, he feels, don’t want to go back to the days of fully working from the office after experiencing the benefits of remote work during the pandemic.
Another phenomenon is the “Great Resignation,” which is the ongoing trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs. According to The Great Resignation Update, three main reasons why employees quit are burnout, inflexible jobs, and leaving for a more caring culture providing organisational support for employee well-being.
To solve this problem, many companies have adopted hybrid work, which allows employees to alternately work from the office and their home. As the whole workforce shifts, however, it’s particularly difficult for IT teams, as organisations generally weren’t prepared for this massive transition. In the best of times, IT usually takes a long time to deploy or accommodate any change, upgrade, or platform. The pandemic demanded instant change, so mistakes were bound to happen.
The fact is, even now, this is an evolving situation. With new strains and seasons come new measures and needs. This lack of certainty and clarity means no one fully knows what the work model is going to be. Regardless, Sascha firmly believes the future of work is hybrid—a fluid mix of remote and in-office working. Whatever the case, he’s confident IT teams can manage the situation.
Helping the Public Sector Undergo Real Digital Transformation
Mohit believes 2022 is the year where genuine, long-term digital transformation will happen in the public sector. In this constantly evolving digital landscape and VUCA environment, how can governments simultaneously deliver digital services quickly and keep them safe? And how does SolarWinds help the public sector in attaining a secure digital transformation?
Sascha explained most organisations, both public and private, want to increase their presence with more services and better access. Hence, they’re always exploring ways to provide more digital offerings across any platform and device—anytime, anywhere. For this to happen, he says, the public sector must leverage technology across the entire gamut of services, from birth, education, and living to taxes, business, registrations, and more. Technology is no longer an enabler but a disruptor of business models. It can improve lives in a way previously unimaginable.
Singapore is an excellent example of an advanced country when it comes to delivering digital services, in Sascha’s opinion. Through Government Technology (GovTech), it harnesses the best info-communications technologies to make a difference in the everyday lives of Singaporeans. The nation also regularly involves citizens in participating and co-creating technologies with the government, determining the services they wish to have.
An important and indistinguishable aspect of digital services is security, especially for citizen data in the public sector. Citizen data is extremely valuable and needs to be simultaneously secure and available. Maintaining the balance between the two aspects is especially challenging.
To store and secure citizen data, many organisations adopt a cloud strategy. Due to different regulations and compliance requirements in every country, however, organisations can’t put everything in the cloud.
One of the customers SolarWinds supports is a national health organisation linked to a European Ministry of Health, and SolarWinds has helped them improve the delivery of public health services. The customer initially started with basic server monitoring nearly eight years ago and has subsequently moved on to the management of applications and databases. As the organisation continued to grow, the support SolarWinds offered expanded to supporting the network team, where it monitored connectivity between regional branch offices and its headquarters.
In line with the wider government’s direction to create a “cloud-first” initiative, this organisation is shifting resources to a private cloud and uses SolarWinds tools to forecast the impact of data transfer from various locations. This includes placing parts of the monitoring system in the cloud.
In terms of data management, the organisation moved all sensitive data to a private cloud with limited access. It uses the public cloud for the rest of its data, as the public cloud has limitless resources and numerous technologies a private cloud doesn’t offer.
Maintaining Cyber Resilience Amid Perpetual Ransomware Attacks
As cyberattacks continue to happen, maintaining cyber resilience is a critical part of the modernisation of digital services in the public sector. Without a doubt, the most common of these is ransomware. Bad cyber actors are getting more ruthless as they target critical infrastructures, including public health systems and water cleaning facilities. Such attacks suggest human lives don’t matter anymore—they’ll do whatever it takes, even if the attacks cause real danger to people.
Sascha believes mitigating ransomware attacks is a big step towards better security and elaborated on two ways to diminish the damage. As soon as there’s an indication of suspicious activities, the first step is to shut down the machines before any further degradation or infection can occur, preventing the worst. The second line of defence is backups. These backups must also be regularly tested and updated to ensure their efficacy.
Due to the huge amount of data governments have, the backup process is much more complicated. Moreover, data is likely to be highly distributed because branches of local authorities have different sets of data. Additionally, the level of expertise of the IT teams in each agency might vary significantly. Therefore, governments need to find a baseline for security measures.
Mohit points out there’s no such thing as 100% safe from ransomware attacks, so the pertinent question is “how do agencies measure their level of security, and how can they be reasonably safe from such attacks?”
Nearly every industry was confronted with the rise of high-level cybersecurity breaches, highlighting the potential risk of incomplete security policies and procedures. SolarWinds makes a yearly IT Trends Report and polls thousands of IT executives about certain topics—this year’s topic is about security, reveals Sascha.
The findings of the IT Trends 2021 Building a Secure Future uncover a reality in which exposure to enterprise IT risk is common across organisations, but perceptions of apathy and complacency surrounding risk preparedness are high as businesses exit a year of pandemic-driven “crisis mode.”
The findings are based on a survey fielded in March/April 2021, yielding responses from 967 technology practitioners, managers, and directors from public and private sector small, mid-size and enterprise organisations worldwide. Most IT leaders feel their organisations are prepared to manage and mitigate cyberattacks. For Sascha, when people feel secure, they lower their shields and become complacent.
To measure the effectiveness of security protocols, certain tools can be used to check for network security threats, including penetration testing tools and vulnerability checkers. Sascha offers an interesting and progressive idea for security measurement: organisations should hire a group of hackers on the dark web to hack them so they know the vulnerabilities in their systems.
Another thing organisations can do is rely on proper tools for basic mitigation. Sascha believes organisations need to adopt a zero-trust model, which is a security framework requiring all users—whether they’re inside or outside the organisation’s network—to be authenticated, authorised, and continuously validated for security configuration and posture before being granted or keeping access to applications and data.
Rooted in the principle of “never trust, always verify,” organisations must assume they’ve already been breached. Instead of providing permanent access, organisations should provide temporary access for project-based work, external employees, or contractors to minimise the risk of a breach.
Mohit agrees zero trust is the future. The problem is there’s a lot push back from team members, as it complicates their tasks. The question then becomes “how do you implement this unpopular yet crucial methodology?”
In response to this question, Sascha reflected on the December 2020 SUNBURST cyberattack on the SolarWinds software build environment, which illustrates a concerning new reality for the software industry and illuminates the increasingly sophisticated threats made by outside nation-states to the supply chains and infrastructure on which we all rely. The breach was a wake-up call for the software development community, and one of the biggest learnings is security requires constant vigilance and learning and must be part of the mindset of every security team member.
Early on, SolarWinds recognised it was likely a target because of its position as a market leader in monitoring and because it serves a plethora of companies – private, public, small, and large – worldwide. It’s a gateway of sorts, making it a highly valuable target. And while the company believed its prior security practices were representative of the practices within the larger software industry, armed with what they learned from this attack, they further sought to secure their environment and systems against vulnerabilities through its Secure by Design initiative. This includes, among other things, adopting zero-trust and least privilege access mechanisms, addressing risks associated with third-party applications, and, most recently, implementing a triple-build process that aims to set the new standard in secure software development.
From the beginning, SolarWinds has been open in its communication with its customers. The company published its findings from the cyberattack weekly, has worked with various agencies to offer information and remains committed to sharing its learnings broadly given the common development practices in the industry and their belief that transparency and cooperation are the best tools to help prevent and protect against future attacks.
Sascha’s main advice to the public sector is to manage their supply chain, as many organisations don’t even know who has access to their resources. Although organisations might have perfect control of their own environment, they usually don’t know what happens with external parties.
Building Citizens’ Trust in Government Services
When talking about trust in government services, Sascha recognises there’s still a generation not used to the digital world—mobile phones, the internet, online transactions, etc. Governments can’t instantly become fully digital, as there are still those who won’t or can’t cope with these changes. The more they’re pressured, the more they’ll resist giving their personal data to governments, creating a further lack of trust from this community.
Governments need to explain to the public why they’re going digital and how it benefits citizens—all citizens. The public needs to be involved from the beginning, and they need to understand why these changes are necessary to make each citizen’s life better and easier.
Sascha spoke about a SolarWinds product designed to solve a problem for which solutions are still lacking in the market. Many technologies are available to monitor data in the data centre and the cloud separately. However, many organisations don’t monitor the connectivity between on-premises environments and the cloud. When something isn’t working, organisations have to start troubleshooting and figure out what went wrong.
SolarWinds NetPath™, a network path analysis feature included in SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager, and SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, warns IT professionals where a problem is located. NetPath measures the performance characteristics of each network node and link, making it easy to spot slowdowns. It monitors connectivity from the users to the services and determines what infrastructure is in the path and where traffic slowdowns are occurring. It provides additional infrastructure data only when it appears to be related to a real problem.
With NetPath, organisations can isolate network slowdowns and determine the actual person they need to contact to solve them. This tool fills the gap in the market, as Sascha points out. At the end of the day, troubleshooting is a game of responsibility.
In closing, Sascha emphasises SolarWinds has done a lot to offer excellent digital products and put various security measures in place at the same time. SolarWinds establishes trust by putting significant investment into providing excellent and secure services.
The Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) on Information and Communications Co-operation between the Government of the Republic of Singapore and the Government of Malaysia had a strong digital theme. Both countries discussed digital transformation efforts and explored areas where bilateral digital cooperation could advance post-pandemic recovery.
Both parties discussed issues relating to enabling trusted data flows between the two countries, and to better connecting the respective innovation and technology ecosystems to support businesses and start-ups. In addition, both are committed to implementing projects to demonstrate the benefits of cooperation in this rapidly developing digital domain to support the recovery of our respective economies.
In addition, the JCM also discussed how media production, distribution and consumption are being disrupted by technologies and online platforms, including growing volumes of information and the rapid spread of falsehoods.
The JCM is a platform of increasing importance, to deepen the bilateral cooperation between Singapore and Malaysia. The pandemic has driven many companies to digitally transform and seize new opportunities. Through the JCM, we have initiated meaningful digital cooperation projects to increase the adoption and interoperability of digital technologies in both countries. Our collaboration will serve as a springboard to enhance connectivity between our businesses and people and to support our recovery from the pandemic.
– Yong Ying-I, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore
Malaysia continues to embrace digital technology and develop unique technologies and business models to assist the country in establishing new development engines. With the growth of the digital economy, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and ever-evolving technology, Malaysia looks forward to exploring potential collaboration in this sector in the future. Malaysia is stepping up efforts to assist Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and business owners in adopting digital technology, and will continue to advance plans to establish an inclusive and progressive digital economy for all.
Malaysia has a sustainable and solid economic foundation, comprehensive business-ready environment and dynamic skilled workforce. As an attractive cost-competitive investment location in the region, she is fast becoming a preferred centre for shared services and leading technology industries. Singaporean companies who are looking to expand into Malaysia should pay attention to the launch of the Future 5 Strategy, and evaluate how their businesses can fit into this plan in order to anchor a foothold into the market.
The five industry sectors that have been identified as key drivers are AgTech, HealthTech, Islamic Digital Economy and FinTech, CleanTech and EduTech. These industries are based on the strategic national industries for digitalisation and have also been mapped to Malaysia’s national priority sectors.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Singapore and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have also launched negotiations on a new Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA) last year. The agreement seeks to deepen bilateral cooperation in new emerging digital areas, such as in personal data protection and cross-border data flows, digital identities, fintech, as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI) governance frameworks. It also aims to support and foster greater collaboration between both countries’ SME communities in the digital economy.
Recently, Singapore and ROK have concluded negotiations on the Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA). The KSDPA will be Singapore’s fourth Digital Economy Agreement (DEA), and the first with an Asian country. The agreement will deepen bilateral cooperation in the digital economy between both countries, by establishing forward-looking digital trade rules and norms to promote interoperability between digital systems. This will enable more seamless cross-border data flows and build a trusted and secure digital environment for our businesses and consumers.
The KSDPA is part of a series of DEAs that Singapore has embarked upon. These agreements are an inter-agency effort led by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Communications and Information, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, to advance collaboration in the digital economy and enhance digital connectivity.
With the Omicron variant making its way into the local community, the HKSAR Government announced tightening COVID-19 measures to contain the epidemic. The public should stay vigilant to maintain good personal hygiene at all times to strengthen individual defence against the pandemic.
At present, some public facilities such as doorknobs in public toilets and lift buttons have poor cleanliness and can become breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria, thus posing a threat to public health.
An interdisciplinary research team from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has successfully developed the world’s first “anti-virus 3D printing material” (material) that can kill the COVID-19 virus on surfaces as well as most common viruses and bacteria. The main component of the material is resin, added with anti-viral agents such as cationic compounds, to damage the membrane of the virus and destroy its structure to kill the virus and bacteria.
Dr Kwan Yu Chris LO, Associate Professor of PolyU’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing, who led the research team, said that laboratory tests confirmed the material can kill 70% of the COVID-19 virus and other viruses/bacteria surviving on a surface within two minutes; eliminate over 90% of viruses within 10 minutes, and terminate almost all viruses and bacteria on a surface in 20 minutes.
Dr Lo stated that this material is a resin material with high anti-virus performance. Using 3D printing technology, it can be produced in different forms catering to different needs. It is therefore highly flexible and can be used extensively in public facilities to provide epidemic prevention support to the community.
The team has already applied patent of this technology and application and will use it for commercial purposes in future.
In the past year, with the support of the laboratory of PolyU’s University Research Facility in 3D Printing (U3DP), the research team has collaborated with the Home Affairs Department, the Hong Kong Wetland Park and an environmental organisation to produce recycling bin handles, toilet doorknob covers, lift buttons, braille boards and more, in order to conduct further tests and trials of the effectiveness and durability of the material in killing viruses.
Prof. Chi-wai KAN, a member of the research team and Professor of PolyU’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing stated that even after use for a year, not only is the handle on the recycling bin still in good condition, no COVID-19 virus, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus are detected on the handle’s surface.
He noted that this proves that the efficacy rate of the material only diminishes gradually after three years of use, and is effective in fighting against viruses and bacteria. Since the material kills viruses via physical means, it can still exert the same effect on mutant viruses.”
Prof. Kan added that because the disinfection components of the material are embedded in the products rather than coated on the surface, daily cleaning with disinfectants such as bleach does not compromise its anti-virus performance.
The research team will also collaborate with the Sham Shui Po District Office to produce doorknob protective covers for over 100 unmanaged “Three-Nil” buildings in the district and install these covers on doors frequently used by residents, so as to reduce the risk of virus transmission in buildings.
The team hopes to apply the material to primary and secondary schools, healthcare facilities, and public transportation systems.
To analyse potentially cancerous lesions in mammography scans, Computer engineers and radiologists at Duke University have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform to determine if an invasive biopsy is necessary. Unlike its many predecessors, this algorithm is interpretable, meaning it shows physicians exactly how it came to its conclusions.
Rather than allowing the AI to freely develop its own procedures, the researchers trained it to locate and evaluate lesions just like an actual radiologist would be trained. The AI could make for a useful training platform to teach students how to read mammography images. It could also help physicians in sparsely populated regions around the world who do not regularly read mammography scans make better health care decisions.
If a computer is going to help make important medical decisions, physicians need to trust that the AI is basing its conclusions on something that makes sense. We need algorithms that not only work but explain themselves and show examples of what they are basing their conclusions on. That way, whether a physician agrees with the outcome or not, the AI is helping to make better decisions.
– Joseph Lo, Professor of Radiology, Duke University
Engineering AI that reads medical images is a huge industry. Thousands of independent algorithms already exist, and the FDA has approved more than 100 of them for clinical use. Whether reading MRI, CT or mammogram scans, however, very few of them use validation datasets with more than 1000 images or contain demographic information. This dearth of information, coupled with the recent failures of several notable examples, has led many physicians to question the use of AI in high-stakes medical decisions.
The researchers’ idea is to build a system to say that this specific part of a potentially cancerous lesion looks a lot like this other one. Without these explicit details, medical practitioners will lose time and faith in the system if there is no way to understand why it sometimes makes mistakes.
The researchers trained the new AI with 1,136 images taken from 484 patients at Duke University Health System. They first taught the AI to find the suspicious lesions in question and ignore all of the healthy tissue and other irrelevant data. Then they hired radiologists to carefully label the images to teach the AI to focus on the edges of the lesions, where the potential tumours meet healthy surrounding tissue and compare those edges to edges in images with known cancerous and benign outcomes.
This is a unique way to train an AI how to look at medical imagery. Other AIs are not trying to imitate radiologists; they are coming up with their methods for answering the question that is often not helpful or, in some cases, depend on flawed reasoning processes. After training was complete, the researchers put the AI to the test. While it did not outperform human radiologists, it did just as well as other black box computer models. When the new AI is wrong, people working with it will be able to recognise that it is wrong and why it made the mistake.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, a new report showed that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has reached a critical turning point in its evolution. Substantial advances in language processing, computer vision and pattern recognition mean that AI is touching people’s lives daily—from helping people to choose a movie to aid in medical diagnoses.
In terms of AI advances, the panel noted substantial progress across subfields of AI, including speech and language processing, computer vision and other areas. Much of this progress has been driven by advances in machine learning techniques, particularly deep learning systems, which have leapt in recent years from the academic setting to everyday applications.
On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) recently announced up to AU$ 40 million in funding to support research and development (R&D) that aims to support the achievement of the Government’s ultra-low-cost solar stretch goal.
The R&D funding round will build on ARENA’s previous R&D investment into solar PV and will seek to support projects that align with ARENA’s Solar 30 30 30 target of 30 per cent module efficiency and 30 cents per installed watt at utility-scale by 2030. ARENA invites applications that can materially reduce the levelised cost of solar PV by 2030 across two streams:
- Stream 1 – Cells and Modules: Building on Australia’s leading track record of R&D and innovation in solar cells and modules
- Stream 2 – Balance of system, operations and maintenance: Seeking to broaden the approach to accelerate innovation that can drive down the upfront and ongoing costs of utility-scale solar PV in the field.
ARENA currently expects to allocate up to $20 million in total funding to each of the two streams.
Ultra-low-cost solar was recently added as a priority technology in the Australian Government’s latest Low Emissions Technology Statement (LETS), which set a stretch goal of $15 per megawatt-hour, roughly a third of today’s cost.
Ultra-low-cost solar will be a key input to scaling up production of low-cost green hydrogen, in support of the LETS hydrogen goal of “H2 under $2”, as well as the key to unlocking other decarbonisation pathways for heavy industry including low emission materials such as green steel and aluminium.
As part of ARENA’s new Investment Plan and in support of ultra-low-cost solar, ARENA has set an ambitious target of ‘Solar 30 30 30’, to improve solar cell efficiency to 30 per cent and reduce the total cost of construction of utility-scale solar farms to 30 cents per watt by 2030.
Since 2012, ARENA through its R&D Programs has committed close to $105 million in grant funding to over 70 projects. In addition to this, ARENA has also supported the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP with AU$ 84 million of funding over 10 years.
The CEO of ARENA stated that the pioneering work of Australian solar researchers will be key to driving cost reductions and improving solar cell efficiency.
He noted that Australia’s solar researchers have been leading the world for decades. Thirty years ago, UNSW researchers invented the PERC silicon solar cell, technology which today is the foundation of more than 80% of the world’s solar panels.
That work continues through ACAP, the universities and CSIRO as well as clean energy start-ups. Just a few months ago a start-up founded by former UNSW students and now based in Sydney, created the world’s most efficient solar cell. This AU$ 40 million R&D funding round will support Australia’s solar researchers and industry to get behind the target of Solar 30 30 30 and drive the innovation that will deliver ultra-low-cost solar, he added.
Ultra-low-cost solar will be a vital component in helping Australia move towards a lower cost, largely renewable electricity system and achieve the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Expressions of Interest for the Ultra Low-Cost Solar R&D Funding Round will open in February 2022 with applications due by 5 pm AEST Monday 11 April 2022.
Cross-border e-commerce has become an important driving force for stabilising China’s foreign trade and played a positive role in helping small and medium-sized enterprises hedge against the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The import and export volume of China’s cross-border e-commerce totalled Yuan 1.98 trillion (US$ 311.5 billion) in 2021, up 15% year-on-year. E-commerce exports stood at Yuan 1.44 trillion, an increase of 24.5% on a yearly basis. As a new form of foreign trade, cross-border e-commerce has witnessed rapid growth in China by making full use of its advantages in online trading and contactless delivery since the pandemic outbreak.
Digital transformation has emerged as a key pathway to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on traditional trade. More enterprises have attached great importance to cross-border e-commerce as it becomes a vital channel for foreign trade enterprises to open up new markets. Cross-border e-commerce breaks time and geographical barriers and enhances the digital management capacities of enterprises.
Digital tools and digital transformation are the key factors for global micro, small and medium-sized enterprises or MSMEs to survive and thrive in the unpredictable COVID-19 era. Relying on the resiliency of China’s supply chain, a leading Chinese cross-border B2B e-commerce platform has empowered global MSMEs with some capabilities like more data flow, a deeper understanding of customer demand as well as a more tailor-made product portfolio to help them succeed in the challenging business environment.
Relying on the resiliency of China’s supply chain, the platform has empowered global MSMEs with some capabilities like more data flow, a deeper understanding of customer demand as well as a more tailor-made product portfolio to help them succeed in the challenging business environment.
Cross-border e-commerce has become an important channel for China’s foreign trade during the pandemic period and accelerated the innovative development of foreign trade. The outbreak has posed a challenge to logistics and distribution. China’s cross-border e-commerce logistics companies have made efforts to ensure the timely delivery of commodities through charter flights and overseas warehouses.
Shopping via overseas live streaming services could offer detailed information about products to domestic consumers. Such services have gained wide popularity among the younger generation. There is an inevitable trend that more cross-border online retailers will cooperate with live streaming platforms.
New business forms and models, especially cross-border e-commerce, have become a vibrant force driving China’s foreign trade. They also represent an important trend in the development of international trade. China’s cross-border e-commerce has grown by nearly 10 times over the past five years. By both exports and imports, cross-border e-commerce has been expanding much faster than overall foreign trade, and its share in overall foreign trade has gone up significantly.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to support the development of key technologies while strengthening the regulation of the country’s tech giants as part of his strategy to expand the digital economy. The country needs to boost innovation in core technologies and step up research capabilities to achieve self-sufficiency as soon as possible. China also called for an acceleration in the development of high-speed, secure smart infrastructure that can connect all aspects of the online economy as well as for breakthroughs in key software technologies.
China has identified the digital economy as a key driver for growth over the next few decades and made achieving tech self-sufficiency a top national priority. To support that growth, Beijing has doubled down on funding for strategically important industries such as semiconductors and AI, while rolling out new legislation covering everything from data security to fair competition as part of efforts to bring the country’s once free-wheeling internet giants in line with the national agenda.
When it comes to digital democracy, democracy is the main idea, and digital is just an objective to assist democracy. Around the world, there is the other way of ideas that somehow democracy must give way to the public health measures, to counter disinformation measures. However, technology needs to adapt to the people’s will and the people’s norms, and people’s co-creation and real needs.
In authoritarian uses of technology, the main difficulty would be because of the lack of symmetrical communication. The real-time feedback of what is really going on is hampered. For example, if you can only download, it is more like television. If you can only download but there’s no way to upload, then emerging issues do not tend to get notified in time.
– Audrey Tang, Digital Minister of Taiwan
In Taiwan, the system has been successful in hearing younger people. A lot of the most impactful ideas came from very young people. To shorten the time that a genuinely good idea gets thought by a teenager or young people, and the time that it is understood by the senior people and implemented, is key to moving democracy forward. The younger people, because they are digital natives, they do not think that once every four years is sufficient to upload bandwidth, the latency is too high, they prefer to collaborate on a day-to-day basis.
When the coronavirus began spreading, Taiwan quickly established a mask map system that let people know if they could obtain masks if they went to certain pharmacies. The mask availability map was an idea from the civic technologists, not the government’s idea.
First, they already have a lot of experience building maps of this kind. All sorts of disaster response experiences, including earthquakes, typhoons, gas explosions, occupying of departments, various disasters, were met with this kind of real-time, map-based response by the civic tech people. The second reason is that people are very much willing to participate, because in Taiwan broadband is a human right. So, participating online does not cost any extra connectivity, money, for people.
In Taiwan, when people check-in the public venues, everyone chooses either to scan the QR code and send an SMS to 1922 (Taiwan’s 24-hour communicable disease reporting hotline), which is stored in their telecommunications carrier. But the venue owner learns nothing about their phone number. And the telecom carrier learns nothing about the venue code. de-centralized storage makes sure that nobody’s privacy gets compromised because the telecoms do not know what those digits mean.
There are two main reasons why Taiwan has changed from a very conservative to a democratic society. One is that the public service is really committed to working with the civil society leaders when it comes to gender mainstreaming in the gender equality committee to build the impact assessment, evidence-based projects together. And the civil society leaders always have one more vote than the ministers in the Gender Equality Committee.
The second reason is that the statistics, the dashboard, the gender impact dashboard just keep running. So even after the budgeted project runs its course, the gender impact it created is still being monitored for more than a decade for some projects now. Civil society is not just demonstrating against or protesting against something, it is demonstrating for something, demonstrating something works, and working with the people.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Taiwan encouraged other nations to consider Taiwan’s example of open digital development and privacy safeguards in countering digital authoritarianism and affirming democratic values. To elaborate on the tools Taiwan has used to foster transparency and public trust, the key is to work not only for the people but with the people.