The New Zealand police have been setting up a NZ$9 million facial detection software that would identify people using a live feed from CCTV. Run by a non-police contractor, the system will collect over 15,000 images a year. Some of the information is held in an Official Information Act (OIA) response.
Inquiries show that the Internal Affairs Department has also been setting up a $20m passport processing system. Both the department and the police are using some of the world’s most powerful facial recognition software developed by a Japanese company with NZ$44 billion in revenue a year.
Reports show that, since 2014, the police have spent over NZ$9 million on an AIBS- Automated Biometric Information System. Earlier in the year, police trialled facial recognition tech without clearance. The police conducted a trial of controversial facial recognition software without consulting their own superiors or the Privacy Commissioner.
The Privacy Commissioner has stated that “any organisation or business using facial recognition technology needs to undertake a high level of scrutiny over how accurate it is and how thoroughly it has been tested for use in New Zealand.”
However, initially, the focus will be to use the system to match static images from the polices’ database such as passport pictures and driver license photos. Any change to the use of the system, by NeoFace would require direct approval of the police. Originally, the request for the use of driver license photos was denied.
The tender also said the system must be able to “import CCTV feed” to identify people. The system will have to import the live CCTB feed to identify people as it is not designed to live-stream CCTV footage continuously. The new police system will be able to handle up to 70 people online at any given moment.
Police have promised the Privacy Commissioner better engagement with him and the public over facial recognition technology. Furthermore, the system will be upgraded receiving 50,000 images a year including images of fingerprints, scars, and tattoos. As per the Privacy Commissioner’s guidelines, the police must be direct and transparent when collecting biometrics; “You shouldn’t collect a biometric from somebody without them knowing.”
“With more and more aspects of our lives taking place online it’s critical the New Zealand government takes a lead to ensure New Zealanders have control of how and who uses their identity information,” said New Zealand government Digital Services Minister.
Regarding the CCTV networks, the police have had main access since 2013 through some of their districts. Auckland has brought forward more than 3000 Auckland Transport cameras and have expressed interest in implementing the facial recognition software in them. “There is no biometric or facial recognition on any AT cameras,” said the agency.
However, their new line-up of advanced AT cameras will be equipped with the technology. AT plans to add 500 of these cameras in the coming year to handle help manage traffic and safety at their facilities.
The subject of a recent research grant was increased police activity to privately operated CCTV networks, such as those belonging to business as a control measure. That grant went to Safer Cities, a consultancy that is advising Auckland Council on how to add and upgrade cameras at 11 public sites.
With the pandemic still at hand, countries from all over are looking for further improvements on COVID-19 testing procedures. In Singapore, clinics authorised to conduct pre-departure COVID-19 tests (PDTs) for outbound travellers will now have to issue digital test result certificates, instead of the current physical certificates.
The digital test results will look to improve Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) existing online portal testing programme where passengers can choose from a list of recognised testing facilities and book appointments for pre-departure Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serology tests. This is part of a digital health verification process based on the International Air Transport Association (Iata) Travel Pass framework.
The digitalisation initiative was supposed to start recently, but it had been delayed to allow clinics and labs additional time to set up the capability to digitalise the PDT certificates.
The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) said that the new digital certification system is based on HealthCerts, an open-source framework for issuing digital COVID-19 test result certificates. The use of HealthCerts for digital PDT certificates enables an inter-operable, verifiable, and tamper-proof solution that will smoothen and expedite check-in processing and customs clearance at foreign and local immigration checkpoints.
Travellers will need to notarise the digital COVID-19 test certificate – which means having the document certified by the Ministry of Health – so it can be recognised at the airport and overseas. The certificate will need to be uploaded on the Government’s Notarise website, after which a notarised digital PDT certificate containing a QR code will be sent to travellers.
Airline and immigration officials can scan the QR code to check the authenticity of the PDT certificate using a tool called Verify, developed by a technology agency, or by a verification tool currently being piloted by the SIA. The platform will be able to check whether the digital certificate was tampered with and whether the certificate has been notarised by the Health Ministry.
Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative in the Prime Minister’s Office Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament during the debate on the PMO’s budget that the notarised pre-departure test results will be available on the SingPass Mobile app. The notarised test results will also be sent via e-mail.
Meanwhile, the Government will also look to expand this measure on vaccine certificates.
However, SNDGO noted that the World Health Organisation’s current recommendation is that COVID-19 vaccinations should not be imposed as a condition of entry. They also added that the Government is closely monitoring international developments on the use of digital vaccination certifications for travel and is in discussions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and various countries on the mutual recognition of such certifications.
There are currently nine HealthCerts-compliant technology providers, which clinics can buy from to start issuing digital certificates. SNDGO clarified that the individual’s data remains private with the digital test certificate.
This is all in line with the country’s efforts in providing a robust system to verify the authenticity of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. A standardised system is essential to reopen borders and resume international travel, he said in a special address to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Agenda 2021. He further said that countries need to strengthen international cooperation, which is essential in tackling the global pandemic. If countries are to tackle COVID-19 coherently, international cooperation and multilateral efforts, as well as an international order underpinned by stable great power relations, are critical.
Australian government sector IT spend is on track to grow 6.2% this year to $13.26 billion as government organisations continue to embrace remote work and connected public services, according to an IT service management company.
Spending is tracking to increase across all categories, with the biggest growth expected to be seen in software, which is set to experience another year of double-digit growth. The IT service management company predicts spending will increase by 10.5% to $3.39 billion, which compares to a 14.1% growth in 2020.
Meanwhile, data centre spending is expected to rebound from a 5% decline in 2020 to grow 7.4% to $426 million in 2021. Telecom services spending is likewise expected to recover from a 2.4% decline in 2020 to grow 7.1% to $741 million this year.
The remote work boom will meanwhile see device spending grow 4.3% to $563 million, with IT services spending up 5.7% to $5.58 billion and internal services spending up 1.8% to $2.56 billion.
The firm’s VP for Executive Programs stated that public health and safety measures, including vaccinating citizens, are the top concern for public sector organisations in Australia, pushing them to continue to accelerate their digital transformation. Most technologies spend is now linked to digital programs, for example, cybersecurity and digital identity programs.
“We’re seeing the public sector changing IT operating models and innovating at a quicker pace by adopting commercially available technology solutions and software — particularly software as a service. Government budgets will continue to address the recovery and growth needs of communities and businesses in 2021. In addition, investments to address digital equity and access to remote government services will be prioritised,” he said.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that COVID-19 is proving to have some benefit for Australian businesses, according to findings from an international research company. Ecommerce is now a bright spot in the Australian economy and a lifeline for consumers who are working and sheltering at home. Businesses that quickly transitioned to the new normal to survive are now debating if these are not short-term adjustments wondering how long this change will last and if further investments are essential for long-term e-commerce sustainability and growth.
All the signs point to a long-term change in consumer behaviour and the need to step up e-commerce functionality. Findings indicate that the e-commerce market in Australia has been on a steep growth curve during the past few years and has received an additional boost from the COVID-19. The pandemic is expected to ramp up e-commerce sales in the country at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3% between 2020 and 2024.
Experts argue that the pandemic has altered consumer buying behaviour and are increasingly shifting from offline to online channels. The crisis opened the e-commerce market to a whole new set of consumers, who were not using online channels.
OpenGov Asia also reported that The federal government has expanded the scope of Australia’s fledgeling permanent migration scheme for highly-skilled technologists after tripling the program’s intake for this financial year. The change is contained in a new direction for the two feeder visas used for the ‘Global Talent Independent’ (GTI) program – subclass 858 and subclass 124 – issued last month.
The direction (direction 89) will be replacing an earlier one outlining the target sectors for the GTI program when it was first launched in November 2019 to attract tech talent from across the globe. New target sectors of note are education, tourism and the “circular economy”, while the remaining seven areas are largely an expansion of the original seven.
The remaining seven sectors are resources; agri-food and agtech; energy; health industries; defence, advanced manufacturing and space; digitech; and financial services and fintech. They are broadly similar to the former fields, with ‘Digitech seemingly covering what was previous ‘quantum information, advanced digital, data science and ICT, as well as cybersecurity.
A recent report has estimated that by 2025, the tech jobs in demand will be cloud architecture designers and original digital content creators for software and web applications. India will require nine times as many digital workers by 2025 as it does currently, and premiere Indian Institutes are partnering with industry players to train students and early-stage professionals in emerging technologies to meet the demand.
With the rapidly evolving digital landscape, the increasing transition of work, education, shopping and entertainament online, it is becoming imperative to create a safe and secure cyber environment. Given the increasing use of the internet in all spheres of life, it is becoming critical to be able to protect against cyber-attacks. In this context, and people with skills to develop digital security and cyber forensic tools will be important.
The cybersecurity market in India is set to grow to US$3.05 billion by 2022, at a growth rate that is nearly 1.5 times the global growth rate of cybersecurity expenditure. It has the potential to create over two million new job opportunities by 2025.
However, during the first nine months of 2020 alone, it is estimated that organisations and individuals lost about US$6 trillion due to cyber thefts; companies with the highest levels of security also fell prey to cybercrimes. Research has further predicted that by 2027, over 900 million Indians will have a digital presence, significantly increasing the potential for cyber-attacks.
Consequently, businesses and enterprises are scouting for trained cybersecurity professionals. However, the supply does not meet the demand. In fact, digitally-skilled workers only represent 12% of India’s total workforce. The country will need far more digital expertise by 2025 than it has right now. Further, the average Indian worker will need to develop seven new digital skills by the same period to keep pace with tech advancements and demand.
Over the past year, as the pandemic has changed the way education is delivered and spotlighted the need for digital transformation, Indian universities and organisations have been developing courses in emerging technology to bridge the digital gap and equip students and the Indian workforce with the skills they require to thrive in the new normal.
For example, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) launched two 12-week long online courses on AI/ML and cybersecurity. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) announced the launch of a 10-month Advanced Certification Programme in Deep Learning, which offers a practical understanding of how ML algorithms can be developed and optimised for hardware.
Further, earlier this month, the IIT-Patna and WileyNXT announced they would offer post-graduate certification programmes in cybersecurity and blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), and big data engineering. The courses are specifically designed for final-year students and early-stage professionals who aim to develop a career in the respective fields. After completing the programme, the participants will get a joint certificate from WileyNXT and IIT-Patna, a media report noted. Overall, there has been an increase in IIT placements for AI/ML, with a few institutes already surpassing last year’s total number of offers in emerging technologies.
Also this month, IIT-Jodhpur launched an Advanced Certification Bootcamp in Cyber Defense. As OpenGov Asia had reported, it offers mentoring from industry experts and access to advanced cloud-based labs on the latest cyber tools and techniques.
Most recently, the IIT in Delhi launched a six-month certificate programme in digital marketing. The course offers 18 modules that cover website planning and development, email marketing, and advertising. It is industry-oriented and will explore internet/digital analytics, advertising and marketing. Lectures will be delivered by leading IIT-Delhi faculty and industry experts.
The overall drive for upskilling is in line with the nation’s desire to make the e-development of India an engine for transition into a developed nation and an empowered society. The country believes in e-governance for empowering citizens, promoting the inclusive and sustainable growth of the Electronics, IT & ITeS industries, enhancing India’s role in internet governance, adopting a multipronged approach that includes the development of human resources, promoting R&D and innovation, enhancing efficiency through digital services and ensuring a secure cyberspace.
As tests and vaccinations for communicable diseases gradually become mandatory requirements for travel, they also become targets for counterfeiters. Fraudsters are selling fake Covid-19 test and vaccination certificates on the black market according to Europol.
Thus, to support the safe re-opening of international economies, a Hong Kong-based technology firm developed MatriX-iPass – a secure test and vaccine management platform designed for COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. MatriX-iPass allows citizens to travel with confidence and businesses to operate safely again.
Fake certificates and test results have become rampant as travellers seek to cross borders or gain entry to particular establishments, tourist destinations, or other countries. MatriX-iPass solves this through a counterfeit-proof verification process using blockchain technology and counterfeit-proof paper-based solutions to bar entry to holders of fake certificates and tampered test results.
The VP of the tech firm stated that MatriX-iPass is designed to be an end-to-end solution, from managing test or vaccination registration, issuing health passports, continuously updating health status, as well as inspecting the health passports’ unique multi-level security features.
Additional modules are available to deter and detect fraud, corruption and other illegal activities with the help of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.
Currently, the MatriX-iPass system is being used by the Philippines’ largest Covid-testing company at a popular tourist destination that draws over 2 million tourists per year pre-pandemic.
As the largest Covid-testing company in the Philippines, LABx needed highly secure technology for our test certificates. Fake certificates were becoming rampant in the country just for people to cross borders, the CEO of LABx stated. The technology confirms travellers’ Covid-test status and their vaccination records which are critically needed in protecting citizens from the risk of communicable diseases.
HealthMatriX is supporting the LABx Vpass Health Visa program, to provide document and digital solutions to manage vaccination programs and verify health credentials. The physical Health Visa is designed with banknote-grade security printed features, while the money-transfer type of digital security is applied to store, interchange, and validate the sensitive private health data.
Within the MatriX-iPass App, citizens can register and see their test results and vaccination status. A counterfeit-proof Health Passport would then be issued to them by the facility that administered the vaccine or test.
MatriX-iPass inspection app and other tools can be used to determine the veracity of vaccine certificates or test results being presented to them. This makes for a closed-loop system that can effectively protect the integrity of vaccine certificates and test results.
To ensure that certificates and test results are authentic and safe from hacks, MatriX-iPass employs blockchain technology, cryptographic features, and AI-powered counterfeit threat detection systems to further enhance security.
MatriX-iPass can also be integrated with other systems and can be used for vaccination tracking and tracing. It’s also scalable for a wider implementation such as nationwide government pandemic response and augmenting existing contact tracing efforts.
- A complete 4-in-1 solution that includes a digital MatriX-iPass health record management system, a convenient mobile app, an anti-copy physical health passport, and a high-security stamp and ink with forensic security features.
- Blockchain encryption with built-in AI for spotting probable cases of fraud introduced to the system.
- Track & trace system for secure document distribution designed to eliminate misuse of original Health Passports.
- Reliable verification process through a cloud-hosted server for digital verification and a high-security anti-copy physical health passport for offline use cases.
A total of RM15 billion (US$ 3.7 billion) will be invested over 10 years for the implementation of 5G technology throughout the country. The multi-billion investment is among four important types of digital infrastructure initiatives outlined by the government under the MyDigital — the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint – to accelerate innovation and create an effective digital ecosystem in the country.
At the virtual launching ceremony of the MyDigital today, the Prime Minister said such efforts would be carried out by a special purpose vehicle under the government and is expected to create some 105,000 employment opportunities. He said all licenced telecommunication companies will have equal access to these infrastructures, in marketing their 5G services to their respective customers.
The infrastructure’s cost-sharing enables telecommunication companies to generate higher returns and, in turn, provide better and cheaper 5G services to consumers. This is expected to boost the use of 5G, thus enhance economic capability in triggering more product and service innovations. By the end of this year (2021), 5G technology will be enjoyed by the rakyat in stages. With this, Malaysia will emerge as one of the first countries in this region to build a 5G ecosystem using internet and cloud services in real-time to enable instant sharing of information,” the Prime Minister stated in his speech at the virtual launching ceremony.
It was also noted that 5G technology will serve as a game-changer as more smart services with direct impact will be made available for the well-being of the people. 5G technology not only promises better and faster internet access, but more importantly, it also enables various important applications to be in the hands of end-users, including health monitoring applications for chronic patients, smart emergency assistance, and special applications for senior citizens who are living alone, he said.
According to another article, Malaysia is speeding up 5G deployments in the country through a “special purpose vehicle” (SPV) that will receive 5G spectra, as well as build, operate and lease 5G infrastructure to new and existing telecoms by the end of 2021.
Speaking to the media to elaborate on the government’s 5G plans, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Chairman, said the SPV will be fully owned by Malaysia’s ministry of finance (MOF). The yet-to-be-named SPV is expected to invest a total of RMB15 billion over the next decade and will be given the appropriate spectrum to own, implement and manage 5G infrastructure. 5G services will be commercially available by the fourth quarter this year.
The frequency bands chosen for 5G in Malaysia are 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 28GHz. Spectrum bands already allocated to existing operators cannot be repurposed for 5G usage to ensure continued focus on 4G development. The head of Malaysia’s industry regulator said urban and industrial areas would likely have commercially available 5G coverage by the fourth quarter, in addition to some rural centres to bridge the digital divide.
According to the MCMC Chairman, the Covid-19 pandemic had galvanised the government to consider the importance of connectivity, especially in suburban and rural areas where even 4G coverage and quality is marginal at best.
He said internet traffic in Malaysia has not only increased by up to 70% but has shifted to residential areas by the same percentage. Speeds have reduced by up to 40% and complaints on poor indoor coverage have increased by up to 70%.
The MCMC Chairman said another factor exacerbating these challenges is the high investment needed for 5G network roll-outs, which could cost between 25% and 75% more than what was needed for 4G, citing an unnamed study.
“Covid-19 has been a stress test for Malaysia’s digital infrastructure,” he said. “A new approach is now needed to address the demand for a better digital economy, and that is why we need a new national approach to managing Malaysia’s 5G roll-out.”
Vietnam has been witnessing robust digital transformations in areas where local tech companies like Viettel, FPT, and the Be Group, have secured strong footholds in the domestic market, according to a recent press release.
The National Forum on Developing Vietnam’s Technology Companies, which was held in Hanoi last December, spotlighted digital transformation, tech companies, and ‘Make in Vietnam’ technologies. Many Vietnamese tech companies found how to create breakthroughs in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution between 2018 and 2020.
Vietnam has more than 58,000 technology businesses, and the target of 100,000 tech firms by 2030 could be achieved as early as 2025.
From a small construction company founded more than 30 years ago, the military-run mobile network operator Viettel has transformed itself into one of Vietnam’s largest telecom groups and established a trusted name not only locally but also overseas.
Viettel’s annual revenue now stands at US$20 billion, with annual profit at more than US$1.74 billion, according to Deputy Director-General, Nguyen Thanh Nam. The company has remained among the world’s top 500 largest brands, it also ranks among the top in Southeast Asia and 28th globally in the field of telecommunications.
With strong telecom networks, Viettel has focused its efforts on developing an ecosystem of various made-in-Vietnam technologies serving multiple areas, ranging from finance and health care to education and smart cities.
Viettel has successfully developed its own core technologies for 5G networks. Last year it became the sixth provider of 5G devices globally. It has now geared up to expand the 5G network for commercial use this year.
Last year, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group was one of the first in the country to launch a telehealth service, called Viettel Telehealth, allowing people to access health care services online. During the two months after launch, it was used by more than 1,000 clinics throughout the country and more than 4,000 commune and ward-based medical stations are expected to adopt it in the near future.
Recognising the importance of digital transformation during the pandemic, the Chairman the of telecom group FPT, Truong Gia Binh, called on the business community to keep themselves updated on digital trends.
IT workers in Vietnam are now as capable as those from many developed countries. With such a workforce, Vietnam will be able to satisfy the demand for digital transformation both at home and abroad.
Digital technologies bridge gaps between sectors, countries, and enterprises, and result in the growth of the digital economy with great future potential, the Director-General of the Be Group, Nguyen Hoang Phuong, said. “If local companies do not stand up and dominate core businesses, they will lose in their own backyard. Vietnamese people must create their own technologies and digital ecosystem to become competitive and reach out to the world.”
The Be ride-hailing app holds a market share of some 30% in Vietnam and is locked in competition against international players. The company is eyeing the development of a network of convenient transport, logistics, finance, and tourism services combined into a single app.
The government will continue to complete institutions and laws, carry out appropriate strategies and policies, and improve the business and investment environment to develop the business ecosystem, especially those involved in digital technology.
In Singapore, there are already seven car-sharing players and it is about to get even more heated with the entry of a new player that promises to adapt to accelerated changes brought on by COVID-19 and provide the next evolution of carsharing in the country. The company has launched a fleet of 400 cars across 300 locations and it hopes to expand the fleet size to 1,000 vehicles across over 600 locations island-wide by the end of 2021, making it the country’s largest carsharing service provider.
With the app, users can book, unlock and lock the vehicles without the need for an access card or retrieve a physical key. Their vehicles feature keyless ignitions, users simply need to push a button to start the engine and drive. Users need to be at least 19 years old and have at least one year of driving experience with a valid Class 3, 3A, or 3C driving licence.
Furthermore, the company’s entire fleet is equipped with advanced telematics which enables predictive maintenance and refuelling operations. Since petrol is taken care of by the company, it means that users do not have to pay for petrol and waste time refuelling vehicles for every single trip.
It is also worthy to note that the car-sharing service operates on an A-to-A return trip car-sharing model, which allows users to collect and return the vehicle at the same point. The developer reasoned that “an A-to-B service is not financially viable” without significant operational scale and user adoption. The company also adopts a “pay-as-you-go pricing model”, which means that users are charged after each trip for the duration and mileage charges incurred.
When it comes to encouraging responsible usage, the company penalises users who cause inconvenience to other users. They may be fined, or in more severe cases, get banned from using the service.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, as part of the initiative to move on from the negative effects brought upon by the pandemic, the government further encouraged the early adoption of shifting from traditional petrol-fuelled vehicles to electric vehicles or EVs. The Government will allocate S$30 million for projects and initiatives supporting the shift.
They will also introduce more incentives to narrow the “cost differential” between electric cars and internal combustion engine cars, announced Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech. Accordingly, the new car-sharing service provider’s current fleet already has a significant number of hybrid vehicles, but they have plans to progressively “electrify” it. As such, the company is looking at working with more fleet partners, including potential strategic partners, that are keen to provide electric vehicles.
In the long run, the company said that they also aim to reduce the demand for vehicle ownership by 100,000. By taking vehicles off the roads, they intend to help the country free up its economic resources for more productive pursuits and protect the environment, in line with the government’s car-lite masterplan.
The country has made a good start in planning for a “car-lite” city. Since their first Concept Plan in 1971, planners have consciously applied a transit-oriented urban planning approach to ensure that all new towns and commercial centres are well connected by a comprehensive bus rail public transport system. Since then, the government introduced measures such as the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) and the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) to control the ownership and usage of private vehicles.
Moreover, the company’s service and platform has been designed and built to tackle specific pain points for existing car-sharing users and to remove any barriers for potential new adopters. They believe that a simple, flexible, and accessible car-sharing service, operated at a significant scale, will be a legitimate and serious alternative to car ownership.