Clinician scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have found that mental health chatbots are able to effectively engage people with depression in empathetic conversations and assist in the treatment of their symptoms.
Chatbots or conversational agents are computer programmes that simulate human conversations. They are increasingly used in healthcare, for example, to help manage mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety and for general well-being.
A 2021 survey by one of the leading therapeutic chatbot companies in the US found that 22 per cent of adults have used a mental health chatbot, with nearly half (47 per cent) saying they would be interested in using one if needed. This study by doctors from NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) is among the first to analyse user-Chatbot dialogues to evaluate their effectiveness.
The researchers analysed nine mental health chatbots from leading app stores, of which five had at least 500,000 downloads, to see whether they offered self-help for people with depression. Nine mental health chatbots were included in the study, four of which are free to use, while the remaining five required a subscription or one-time purchase to be used.
The chatbots were evaluated by the NTU research team through scripted user personas that were created to reflect different cultures, ages, and genders. The personas also presented behaviours that reflect varying degrees of depressive symptoms.
This study published in December in the peer-reviewed Journal of Affective Disorders found that all the chatbots engaged in empathetic and non-judgmental conversations with users and offered support and guidance through psychotherapeutic exercises commonly used by psychologists and counsellors.
The Director of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at NTU’s LKCMedicine, who led the study, stated that significant stigma surrounding mental health disorders persists and the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased the number of people affected by mental health issues.
Across the globe, healthcare systems are struggling to cope with the increased demand for mental health services. Digital health tools, including chatbots, could assist in providing timely care to individuals who may be unwilling or unable to consult a healthcare provider. Through this study, the researchers have shown how chatbots are being used and how they engage in therapeutic conversations.
Testing chatbots’ effectiveness
While international research has shown that chatbots could help people, previous studies have not evaluated the dialogues between chatbots and users. The NTU team’s content analysis evaluated the quality and effectiveness of the chatbots’ responses and looked at the level of personalisation, appropriateness in supporting self-management in users with depression, and how they conveyed empathy to users.
The study also monitored how the chatbots guided users to engage in or complete mood-boosting activities, how they monitored moods and managed suicide risks. The researchers said that all the chatbots displayed a “coach-like” personality that is encouraging, nurturing, and motivating. However, their analysis showed that while chatbots could engage in empathetic conversations with users they were not able to deliver personalised advice.
This in-depth analysis of the conversational flow may be useful to help app developers design future chatbots. The paper’s first author, who is a research fellow from LKCMedicine stated that currently, chatbots are not able to provide personalised advice and do not ask enough personal questions – to avoid breaching user anonymity. However, these chatbots could still be a useful alternative for individuals in need especially those who are not able to access medical help.
While chatbots may support the self-management of depression and other mental health disorders, the researchers said that further research is needed to improve chatbots for individuals at risk of suicide and to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of chatbot-led interventions for mental health. The researchers will be conducting further studies to advance the scope, quality and safety of their research looking into the effectiveness of other digital methods for mental well-being.
The Philippines has begun issuing individual electronic land titles (e-titles) to 1,839 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the Eastern Visayas region. The Department of Agrarian Reform will give the ARBs their personalised e-titles (DAR).
DAR stated that 2,591 electronic titles (e-titles) totalling 3,922 hectares of the agricultural property would be given on Jan. 26 as part of the Support to Parcelisation of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT Project). The first batch of individual titles developed by the SPLIT Project will be distributed in the Visayas State University-Tolosa Campus auditorium.
According to DAR Secretary Conrado Estrella III, this is per President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s direction to hasten the issuance of land titles to ARBs this year and to provide support services to help them better their living conditions.
“We will issue individual e-titles to preserve and affirm our ARBs’ property rights,” he explained.
The SPLIT initiative proposes fast-tracking the subdivision of national collective certificates of land ownership award (CCLOAs) of around 1.3 million hectares of land. The World Bank supported the SPLIT initiative to partition CCLOAs and tribute individual titles to ARBs.
According to DAR Eastern Visayas Regional Director Robert Anthony Yu, the SPLIT project includes approximately 17,496 CCLOAs encompassing a total of 220,473 hectares of agricultural properties throughout the region. Yu stated that the area has verified around 67,601 hectares, while 3,922 hectares have been granted with e-titles.
The SPLIT project seeks to fully implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme by allowing farmer-beneficiaries to have clear and defined ownership of the parcels of land they are tilling. The e-titling aim to stimulate farmers to grow their crops and make long-term progress on their ground. The award to ARBs was also established to stabilise requests, tenure ship, govern lands, and generate short-term economic opportunities for project workers who will be employed in the project.
Estrella stated in an earlier interview that farmers could not successfully use the land to make income because they needed to know the metes and bounds of the land assigned to each of them. Estrella believes that by granting farmers individual rights, more ARBs will be inspired to enhance their landholdings, resulting in higher agricultural output and household income.
The Philippines pushed land management digitalisation. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Land Management Bureau (LMB) has fully integrated the Land Administration Management System (LAMS) databases of 16 local and community environment and natural resource bureaus in the Philippines into their respective regional offices.
LAMS is a computer-based information system consolidating the country’s land data and records. It is geared for quick and straightforward land information processing, tracking, and retrieval. As a result, the DENR-NCR and DENR-Calabarzon Regional LAMS datasets were combined to create LMB-LAMS.
LMB also pooled and assessed 19 towns undergoing Digital Cadastral Database Cleansing through different DENR regional offices. LMB Director Emelyne Talabis adds that the agency is happy with its accomplishments this year on critical programmes, which resulted in improved delivery of land-related services to Filipinos.
The Philippines generally attempted to improve its digital competencies after falling behind. The Philippines placed last among Southeast Asian countries in the 2022 World Digital Competitiveness Ranking. Furthermore, it is the 13th largest economy in Asia, trailing only Mongolia.
The Senate has rolled out an act to push the complete e-governance implementation in the Philippines. All government agencies, offices, and instrumentalities, including local government entities, are required under the bill to disclose all necessary information in both traditional and online formats. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be the principal agency in enforcing the provisions of the Act.
A partner company of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) unveiled “ARIA-diabetes risks”, a retinal imaging tool for non-invasive pre-screening of diabetes. This solution aims to tackle the problem of millions of undiagnosed diabetes patients worldwide.
The International Diabetes Federation reports that in 2021, nearly half of all adults with diabetes were unaware of their condition, amounting to 239.7 million individuals worldwide. In Hong Kong alone, at least 600,000 individuals have diabetes and more than 110 million in mainland China. This is a significant issue that has both local and global implications, as people with diabetes are at an increased risk for serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss.
The Automatic Retinal Image Analysis (ARIA) technology uses artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques to detect various health issues. The solution provides a non-invasive pre-screening tool for diabetes that delivers results within minutes and has an accuracy rate of over 90%. It does not require a blood test and offers a faster and more accessible way for early diabetes diagnosis.
The partner company formed a joint venture called “Oneness Health” with an HKSTP incubatee to capitalise on the potential for remote healthcare offered by the ARIA-diabetes risks solution.
The joint venture combines the partner company’s retinal analysis technology with the incubatee’s network of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners, as well as their software and hardware development capabilities. This creates a one-stop service platform under the name “Oneness Health” that provides high-risk patients seeking TCM treatment with added convenience and flexibility, with the goal of “disease prevention”.
The Oneness Health platform will offer features such as online appointments, mobile assessments, diagnosis, and personal health management in the first quarter of 2023.
In the near future, it will also provide prescriptions for traditional Chinese medicines that can be dispensed through auto-dispensing machines at over 100 convenient locations in 18 districts of Hong Kong or collected at various NGO centres. Additionally, door-to-door courier service will be available for single elderly individuals or needy families.
The CEO of HKSTP stated that the Park is dedicated to promoting innovation by providing a comprehensive support system for translational research, product development, and commercialization. The ARIA-diabetes risks solution from the two firms which is now being offered under the Oneness Health platform is a prime example of how innovative solutions can be developed in Hong Kong and at the Science Park.
The combination of breakthrough science, world-first technology, advanced software, and hardware to create an innovative primary healthcare delivery platform through Oneness Health, is a testament to the speed, talent, infrastructure, and innovation capability of Hong Kong’s I&T ecosystem.
In line with the HKSAR Government’s Primary Healthcare Blueprint announced in December 2022, the Oneness Health platform will contribute to the government’s goal of establishing a more community-based primary healthcare system. The platform will significantly improve healthcare convenience, expand treatment options, lower patient costs, and alleviate the burden on Hong Kong’s hospitals and clinics.
The Blueprint sets out a strategy road map towards establishing a primary healthcare system that can improve the overall health and quality of life for popular in a stable manner, under the challenges brought on by an ageing popular and increasing chronic disease prevalence.
The Ministry of Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform (PANRB) join forces with a government IT firm to create a digital Public Service Mall (MPP). The initiative is a follow-up to President Joko Widodo’s directive to establish MPP Digital.
According to Minister PANRB Abdullah Azwar Anas, the IT government company is more advanced in digitalisation implementation. MPP Digital incorporates numerous services into the hand to make it easier for people to access high-quality government services.
“MPP Digital provides effective and efficient service delivery while enhancing information security for government digital services. The government IT company team will expedite the President’s vision for MPP Digital,” he explained.
MPP Digital is also expected to increase investment by allowing for faster and easier licencing, leading to job possibilities. In addition, the local administration will not need to construct a massive MPP building but will rely on digitalisation that everyone can access.
MPP Digital is expected to be ready by May 2023, following the President and Vice President’s directives. The creation of MPP Digital is also under the government’s present implementation of the Electronic Based Government System (SPBE).
At the same time, Ririek Adriansyah, the Main Director of the government IT company, declared his willingness to support the government’s initiative. He conveyed that the construction of MPP Digital was proceeding as planned because the digitalisation of services has enormous potential benefits for both the government and the general public.
Additionally, the government is working hard to progress SPBE, including introducing Digital Public Service Malls (MPP) as one of SPBE’s expressions. SPBE is also a component of President Joko Widodo’s Thematic Bureaucratic Reform, which is aimed at digitising government services.
The next Electronic-Based Government System (SPBE) aims to strengthen unity by offering a single access system for the country’s digital services, resulting in higher public service quality. Nowadays, the state’s digital public sector is still fragmented by agency, sector, and silo-based systems. As a result, citizens are frequently required to submit similar data and register several accounts to access various digital-based public sector services.
As a result, Anas will pursue a single sign-on account for users to access various government services. Users can utilise their accounts to access all public services e-services, such as population issues, business permissions, and other certifications. Digital MPP has done so following President Jokowi’s and Vice President Ma’ruf Amin’s objective to achieve bureaucratic reform with simple, powerful, and quick replies to the community.
More MPPs have been built and inaugurated by the government. In the future, all regions will have physical and digital MPPs, with all government services based on demographic numbers (Digital ID). MPP Digital, on the guidance of the President and Vice President, has become the PANRB ministry’s short-term focus.
As of December 2022, 103 MPPs (20% of the total of 514 regencies/cities in Indonesia) had been inaugurated in regencies and cities. Thus, fewer than 80%, or approximately 411 districts/cities, still need MPP. The Vice President aimed for roughly 150 new MPPs in 2023, with all towns and regencies having MPPs by the end of 2024.
The Ministry of PANRB has evaluated 10-15 MPPs (Public Service Malls) for inclusion in the future Digital MPP development process. These MPPs were chosen for their uniqueness, benefits, and good qualities. In general, the MPP Digital application development will be divided into four stages: requirements, design, testing, and upgrading.
Anas emphasised that government digitisation is a critical driver in enhancing the quality of public services, which would increase people’s well-being. Bureaucratic reform must increase investment and streamline business services, boosting the economic level of society. Improving the community’s financial level will undoubtedly influence the lowering poverty rate.
The application of artificial intelligence (AI) can transform the ability to observe, comprehend, and anticipate processes in Earth’s systems. AI and ML computational capabilities can assist researchers and scientists in collecting, understanding, and analysing enormous amounts of data with a faster, more accurate, and more knowledgeable process for decision-making agility.
The researchers and scientists then collaborate to promote Earth and environmental science by using AI and modelling approaches such as machine learning (ML). They convened a workshop to determine particular priorities for addressing computational difficulties and attempted to nurture advancements in AI and ML, algorithms, data management, and other areas.
The workshop was designed by roughly 100 specialists based on 156 white papers given by 640 writers from 112 institutions worldwide. These principles’ consequences can help develop a technology infrastructure that is efficient, accurate, strategic, and convenient while also reaching across resources.
“Effective improvements in Earth system prediction necessitate significant advances across the Model-Experiment (ModEx) environment,” said Nicki Hickmon, Associate Director for operations for DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Office of Science at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory.
The workshop narrowed down 17 issues relevant to the integrated water cycle and extreme weather occurrences within that cycle during the session. Experts debated nine topics connected to Earth system forecasts, including hydrology, watershed research, coastal dynamics; the atmosphere, land, oceans, and ice; and climatic variability and extremes.
Researchers analysed issues in each session that indicate the need for revolutionising AI technology and infrastructure to manage complicated tasks in environmental science. Participants investigated the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to uncover scientific discoveries using technologies such as neural networks, knowledge-informed machine learning, AI architectures, and co-design.
“We need new AI methodologies that integrate process understanding and respect physical laws. (It is) to make estimations of Earth system behaviour scalable, trustable, and relevant under future climate regimes,” Charu Varadharajan, a research scientist at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, directs the Earth AI & Data Programme Domain, added.
Through the workshop and report, the researchers and scientists created 2-, 5-, and 10-year targets for the integrated framework development for each focal topic. They also identified priorities for Earth science, computational science, and programmatic and cultural improvements that would support the mission of AI4ESP.
Experts prepared a comprehensive list of scenarios in which AI research and development could help address some of Earth science’s most critical concerns. These challenges include handling and analysing massive volumes of data to increase the ability to detect and predict extreme events and promote the incorporation of human behaviours into theory and models.
Forrest Hoffman, group leader for the Computational Earth Sciences group at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, suggested developing new hybrid models that integrate process-based and ML-based modules is one of the most intriguing prospects.
The modelling frameworks allow for the addition of data regarding poorly understood processes, which can increase accuracy and often result in enhanced computational performance for Earth system models, allowing for more simulations and analyses to be performed within given resource constraints. The workshop provided a cross-disciplinary and cross-mission opportunity for the scientific and application communities to collaborate toward understanding the required advancements.
Programmatic and cultural adjustments are also required to promote a more cohesive mission across diverse scientific and government agencies and a skilled workforce capable of successfully integrating technology into humanistic research and activities. The experts offered options such as AI research centres focused on environmental science, frameworks that enable shared services across multiple communities, and continuing training and support missions.
This year, the government wants relevant ministries and agencies to tighten management and increase oversight of e-commerce activities to identify violations and prevent tax losses. The Ministry of Industry and Trade’s (MoIT) E-commerce and Digital Economy Agency will work with departments from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) and the Ministry of Finance to share data and better regulate business activity on social media and in cyberspace.
The inspections will also focus on ensuring that e-commerce platforms and social networks are taking proper steps to screen, prevent and block accounts that do not provide adequate information or have signs of trading in counterfeit or illegal goods.
The E-commerce and Digital Economy Agency will continue to collaborate with other government agencies such as the Market Management Agency, the Department of Cybersecurity and High-Tech Crime Prevention, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and MIC to inspect and monitor e-commerce businesses for compliance with the law, in accordance with plans approved by the Minister of Industry and Trade.
The agency will also evaluate existing policies and make practical changes to improve the management of e-commerce business activities. It will upgrade infrastructure and supporting services and incorporate new technologies to assist the digital transformation of businesses.
Furthermore, the agency will offer training to improve the inspection and handling of violations in e-commerce. It will organise events to promote anti-counterfeiting and encourage e-commerce website operators to better protect consumers’ interests.
Last year, Vietnam’s e-commerce industry continued to grow and become a significant distribution channel. As the economy recovers from the pandemic, e-commerce has been a leading sector in the digital economy. A survey from the Ministry of Industry and Trade showed that retail e-commerce revenue in Vietnam increased by 20% in 2022 as compared to 2021, reaching US$ 16.4 billion. This accounted for 7.5% of the total retail sales of goods and services in the country.
To establish trust for consumers in online shopping, safeguard legitimate traders, and foster e-commerce development, the government reviewed and requested e-commerce companies to remove or lock 1,663 stalls with 6,437 counterfeits or violated goods, and blocked five infringing websites.
Experts recommend that there should be regulations on the responsibility of information security of relevant organisations and individuals in order to prevent tax loss and protect business interests. This includes regulations on the security of websites and the responsibility to provide information to tax authorities, which would help make tax management more effective.
Associate Professor Le Xuan Truong, Director of the Academy of Finance’s Faculty of Taxation and Customs under the Ministry of Finance, suggested that the government should implement a regulation that forces e-commerce trading floors to be responsible for withholding and paying taxes on behalf of individuals as well as perform payment intermediary services and participate in operating and controlling delivery activities and receiving money from buyers. Over 40 countries worldwide so far have regulated the responsibility of e-commerce exchanges in deducting taxes of individuals if the floor provides payment services, or directly participates in the delivery and receipt of goods by buyers and sellers.
Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Minister of Health, announced the development of SATUSEHAT, an interoperable Indonesian health data system. Budi aimed to complete the digitalisation of health data by January 2024. In keeping with the spirit of an impactful bureaucracy, the Minister of Health is sure Indonesians would benefit from digitisation.
“The concept is interchangeable; (health facilities) can use the information anywhere: all hospitals, both public and private, pharmacies, clinics, health centres, and labs throughout Indonesia will use the same data format, and (the data) can be exchanged,” he said at the launch of the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) Space in Jakarta.
SATUSEHAT is a health platform that serves as a forum for various health apps from companies in the health business. As a result, all applications and health service facilities on the SATUSEHAT platform, including vertical hospitals, government hospitals, private hospitals, health centres, Posyandu, laboratories, clinics, and pharmacies, must adhere to the Ministry of Health’s criteria.
People no longer need to carry physical medical record files while moving hospitals because of this platform. All patient medical record resumes have been digitally captured on the SATUSEHAT platform, which can be viewed from anywhere and at any time using mobile phones.
“For certain users who haven’t been able to produce health applications, we can aid later. (And) We can eventually give standard and free applications for significant stakeholders such as Puskesmas (community health centres) and Posyandu (toddler integrated service post). This way, we can do data integration elegantly on the same platform,” Budi confirmed.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Health established DTO as a Ministry of Health work unit dedicated to implementing the Healthy Indonesia programme by developing effective data-driven policies and digital technology products. User-Based Technology Development, National Health Data Integration, Technology Capacity Building, and Data-Based Policy Making are the four principles of digital transformation being implemented.
Budi directed the DTO and the Data and Information Centre (Pusdatin) to take meaningful actions to expedite national health data digitisation. DTO must complete nationwide health interoperability that is transparent and accessible to all parties. The merger process started on July 6, 2022, and is expected to be finished by the end of 2023.
Another challenge is to combine clinical and genomic data to assess the health of the Indonesian population deployed with Artificial Intelligence to create more detailed and exact results. AI will subsequently support the Ministry of Health’s clinical and genomic data. The services are designed to help Indonesia advance health biotechnology.
During the inauguration ceremony, the Minister for Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform (PANRB), Abdullah Azwar Anas, praised the Ministry of Health’s digital transformation in the healthcare system. He anticipated that the shift would affect at least five items. First and foremost, it increases the quality of healthcare services. Second, it improves access to healthcare services. Third, raise the added value of the health sector economy with a focus on domestic goods.
Fourth, speeding the achievement of the government’s main healthcare projects, such as lowering stunting prevalence. Fifth, strengthen health human resource expertise while guaranteeing equitable distribution across the country.
“For example, we may ensure that a health concern is treated by integrating data, then monitoring therapy until the assessment is entirely digitally driven. We can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, in which health technology was extremely useful in combating the pandemic,” he went on to say.
Anas believes that the Ministry of Health’s SATUSEHAT will soon be merged with the National Electronic-Based Government System. He praised the tremendous efforts made by the Ministry of Health to implement digital transformation.
The Ministry of Health’s consolidation initiative can serve as a model for other Ministries/Institutions looking to increase work units’ roles in supervising the government’s digitalisation activities. Anas is optimistic that the integrated ecosystem of digital health data will be a huge step forward for the country’s health sector.
Thailand’s Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES), Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn, disclosed that the Cabinet adopted the Royal Decree Measures for Prevention and Suppression of Technology Crime in principle. Accordingly, the act was assigned to the Office of the Council of State for consideration before further enforcement.
In essence, the proposed order prescribes steps to prevent and suppress deceit in people transferring money by telephone or other means. The law also grants authorities the authority to regulate financial transactions. It prohibits opening accounts on electronic cards or wallets to bring money or property to be used in criminal acts.
The proposed Decree requires financial institutions and business operators to disclose information about their client’s accounts and transactions via a data exchange system to suspend transactions when necessary.
“The drafting of this law is a collaboration of several agencies, including the Royal Thai Police, the NBTC Office, and the Bank of Thailand. Thai Bankers Association Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO), etc., believe that this regulation will undoubtedly assist in eliminating the problem of ghost sims, pony accounts, and online crime problems,” Chaiwut clarified.
Procedures for halting transactions can be done when a financial institution or business operator discovers a questionable issue or is told by a competent official. They must advise financial institutions or business owners to halt transactions. The transmitting financial institution or company operator must promptly halt future transactions. They can comply with the transaction if they inspect and find no suspicious cause.
If the victim reports a fraudulent transaction, financial institutions or business operators must immediately and temporarily cease transactions and tell financial institutions or business operators receiving transfers to do the same. For the victim to file a complaint with the investigators within 48 hours, the investigators must act on that account and electronic wallet within seven days of notification. Notification of information or evidence can be sent by phone or electronically.
Furthermore, Telecommunication Service Providers have the authority to communicate information and allow the Royal Thai Police, AMLO offices, and approved agencies to view the information exchanged. At the same time, the Office of the NBTC is in charge of developing the central database for user registration information, short messages, investigation, and prevention.
The use or disclosure of personal data to prevent, detect, and deter online crime will follow personal data protection legislation. It is required to properly tackle the social media problem of fraudulent people and eliminate some legal issues that cause the integration of work between multiple agencies to be stopped or delayed in the current situation.
The act governs the usage of an account and a SIM card. It will instruct consumers to create a personal account for an electronic card or wallet. The act of opening a without the purpose of using it will be considered an infringement. Anyone who knowingly or ought to knowingly allow another individual to use or borrow their SIM card is breaking the law since criminals could use it for fraud or illegal conduct. Breaches of this law may be imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to 300,000 baht (US$9163.10) or both.
It is illegal for anybody to obtain, market, or post news to purchase or sell accounts, electronic cards, electronic wallets, or phone sim cards that may result in criminal activity. Anyone who breaches this will face imprisonment for 2 to 5 years and a fine ranging from 200,000 baht (US$9163.1) to 500,000 baht (US$15271.84) or both.
When aberrant behaviour is discovered or a complaint is made to the bank and enables banks and relevant organisations to reveal and exchange information about online crimes through a standard database system. Thai authorities have the authority to suspend or postpone financial transactions for an extended length of time.
Special Wisit Wisitsorn-at, Professor, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, expressed the MDES need to present the draft to the Office of the Council of State for review and consideration before the announcement goes into effect.