For almost three quarters of 2020, the world was battling a pandemic of a magnitude that has never been witnessed in the history of humankind. Not only individual citizens, but large organisations and governments were caught off guard.
Apart from being surrounded by the threat of getting infected by the virus, citizens’ liberty to move freely in the community was completely lost due to national lockdowns and social distancing measures. There was a colossal drop in the volume of domestic and international air travel, starting in the first months and continuing to the present.
Distressed and perturbed by this captivity and the fast-changing – and sometimes contradictory movement restrictions – got Mohit Sagar, founder and CEO of Access Anywhere, thinking how he could address this problem. He envisioned a solution that would empower citizens to take responsibility for their wellbeing in their own hands.
Taking further steps to convert his vision into reality, Mohit Sagar partnered with industry leaders Microsoft, SAS and Confluent to create a cloud-based solution that gives people real-time risk assessment of their health: Liberty and Passage.
Liberty and Passage is a total outbreak management system application that offers users the ability to continue routine activities like going to work and socialising with friends without compromising their own or the health of those around them.
Mohit acknowledged that the application is based on a give and take relationship where the user gets the gift of liberty by willingly giving up personal health-related information to the app’s database. But significantly, in the current environment of scepticism, he highlighted something which is incredibly unique to this app and makes it more trustworthy – all information received from the user is anonymised at the source.
Mohit was firm in maintaining the privacy of the app’s users and ensuring that their information is secure is a non-negotiable for the team.
Taking about the structure of the app, Mohit shared that the app has three main pillars Liberty Open, Liberty Corporate and Liberty Passage.
Liberty Open in for individual citizens to help them monitor and manage personal risk.
Liberty Corporate offers corporate leadership an opportunity to share the government’s burden by taking the responsibility of their employees’ health. It is designed with the flexibility to be compatible with an organization’s existing infrastructure to check the COVID-19 spread.
Liberty Passage is a solution for travellers and the travel industry that can offer real-time alerts against infections, an immunity passport of sorts for travellers and assistance in immigration processing.
Elaborating on how this app stands out against the plethora of track and trace apps losing trust amongst citizens all around the world, Mohit shared that they are helping citizens retain their freedom during the pandemic by having a very transparent relationship with them. Mohit said “We are not here to police. We anonymise all information at source and make sure that our users are in control of what they want to do.”
He added, “We are not competing with governments but complementing what they are doing.”
About the app hitting the marketing and be available to the users, Mohit shared that they have successfully finished few rounds of Proof of Concept (PoC) with the Vagabond Club, Singapore at two of their locations while a third is underway. With the current success, Mohit is confident that they will be able to make the app available in the market by February 2021.
“Keeping our hotel operating during the pandemic has meant we have had to put in place measures to ensure the safety of our staff and that of our guests that stay here. Liberty Corporate has given us the added confidence and assurance, through its health logs, location software, data insights and risk notifications, that we are doing our utmost to prevent transmission in our hotel.”
Ms Harpreet Bedi, CEO and General Counsel at The Garcha Group
Mohit reiterated, in light of the still increasing number of infections, the discovery of new strains and the absence of an effective cure, the pandemic is here to stay. Their objective is to empower citizens and assist governments in making sure that an individual’s ability to move and mingle freely – the very essence of social beings – is not compromised by any this pandemic nor any future ones.
To support the objectives of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the second edition of the Singapore Energy Grand Youth Challenge will garner ideas using Minecraft: Education Edition (M:EE) from secondary school and junior college students on the following topic – “How would your carbon-free school or neighbourhood in Singapore look like in 2050?”.
The top three teams with the most innovative ideas in each of the two categories will be awarded up to $10,000 in cash prizes.
The Challenge is a partnership between the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and Microsoft Singapore, and supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). Registration starts 1 March 2021. It is held as part of the Singapore Together movement where Singaporeans can partner the government and one another to co-create solutions and realise the Green Plan.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a whole of nation movement to advance Singapore’s national agenda on sustainable development. The youth play an important role in reducing carbon emissions and saving resources and energy.
“As part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, Singapore is making the transition towards a carbon-free energy future. To achieve this, we need to change the way we produce and use energy. We encourage youth to envision how emerging low-carbon technologies like carbon capture and innovative energy efficiency solutions can make Singapore more sustainable in the future.” said Mr Ngiam Shih Chun, Chief Executive, Energy Market Authority.
To engage more youth on sustainability issues, this year’s Challenge has been expanded to include junior college students within the new Senior category, together with upper secondary students.
Lower secondary students will be placed in the Junior category. Members of the public will also be invited to vote for the entry which best resonates with their ideas for a carbon-free Singapore.
The inaugural Singapore Energy Grand Challenge for the Youth was launched in March 2020 and invited secondary school students to co-create Singapore’s Energy Story with the question “How would your energy efficient school or neighbourhood in Singapore look like in 2050?”.
92 teams across 29 secondary schools took part in the Challenge. Teams from Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary), Bedok Green Secondary School and St Hilda’s Secondary School were crowned the top three winners and their submissions can be viewed online.
Students interested to participate in this year’s Challenge may register online by 15 April 2021. Students must form teams of two to four schoolmates, and submit a three-minute video showcasing their idea for a carbon-free Singapore with their registration. Shortlisted teams will be contacted and invited to attend specialised workshops to help them with their final submissions.
All submissions will be judged by a panel of representatives from EMA, IMDA, Microsoft Singapore and relevant industry players according to the criteria of relevance, creativity, and presentation. The top three teams from both the Junior and Senior categories will receive their awards in end-July 2021.
Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently said that if the country is not brave enough to invest in science and technology and innovation, Vietnam would get stuck in the low-productivity, low-added value and middle-income trap.
Investing in technology and innovation is vital for the nation to bring products to new levels and escape the rut of being the outsourcing hub for others – a reputation which the country has been associated with for decades. This is not only true, he said, for technology firms but for all enterprises in the economy. Applying and inventing new technologies can help increase productivity and heighten enterprises’ positions.
The “Make in Vietnam” initiative, promoted by the Ministry of Information and Technology (MIC) has infused fresh vitality in the startup community. Vietnam has become the fifth country in the world mastering 5G technology, producing 5G infrastructure equipment and 5G smartphones. This stems from Make in Vietnam pride. Over 13,000 digital technology firms were established just in the last year, raising the total number of digital technology firms to 58,000.
In fact, 2020 saw a rigorous start to digital transformation in all fields. The Ministry of Information and Communications built numerous programmes and plans over the course of the year to facilitate a prompt digitalisation process towards digital transformation as well as the engagement of businesses in the information technology sector. Noteworthy was that the IT sector quickly teamed up with others to develop digital products serving efforts in COVID-19 prevention and control and adapting to the “new normal”.
If Vietnam continues is to continue outsourcing, it should only be a very small part of the value chain. Domestically, there is a range of sectors and products that Vietnam has had significant success in. Electric cars, mobility and smartphones are an area that the Vietnamese versatitlity and expertise of shows.
State-owned Viettel, one of the fastest-growing telecom operators, is building a digital business culture with the focus on flexibility, creativity, customer orientation, digital thinking and openness. Other than telecommunications, the company also has expertise in hi-tech research and manufacturing, postal services, construction and commerce. It has accelerated digital transformation in internal administration, applying modern technologies with international standards. All documents at Viettel have been digitised, 50% of manual work has been liberalized, and 30-40 percent of tasks have been automated. Its ecosystem of digital products provides B2C and B2B services in a wide range of fields, from finance, digital marketing and OTT, customer care e-government and smart cities.
In order to accomplish that, the space for creativity must be expanded, while management thinking needs to be reformed, so that creativity is not hindered by rigid regulations and officials’ bureaucracy. The deputy head of the Vietnam Economics Institute stressed that Vietnam needs to reform the way of thinking and the institutional regime with the aim of encouraging participation of non-state sectors in science and technology development and innovation. He believes that information technology and digital transformation should be seen as an important push and pillar to support the recovery process, strengthen resilience, and improve growth quality.
Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said, ” Becoming a pioneer has always been the aspiration of the Vietnamese nation and every Vietnamese citizen. It is difficult to implement this, but it is not impossible.”
While Vietnam may currently be behind many countries, missing opportunities along the development path, Vietnam has made up for that. Now it is among the top countries in the region and the world in some fields, such as telecommunications and power, maintaining high growth rates. With more power from the 4.0 industrial revolution and its digital transformation strategy, Vietnam’s growth engine will have an additional push to achieve its aspirations of becoming a high-income country by 2045 into reality.
The Northern Territory government is trialling custom-made, state-of-the-art medical drones to deliver potentially life-saving medicines. The project will explore the challenges of using drone technology to deliver health services in the Northern Territory, such as procuring airframes that can manage vast distances and adapting technology to withstand hot, humid and monsoonal climates. The project will also involve developing a drone test flight centre in the Northern Territory.
With a flying range of 250 km, the drones have the potential to shorten the delivery of time-critical medical items to hard-to-reach and seasonally inaccessible remote communities. The initiative can go a long in helping save lives and reducing the costs of delivery. The project will also open the way ay for future delivery of critical items such as cold-storage vaccines (for COVID-19) in regional and remote communities.
The delivery of time-critical medical items is a serious limitation and cost for healthcare in remote and regional Australia. Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) have become a routine part of the medical delivery infrastructure in some developing countries, improving timeliness, reducing costs, and saving lives. However, their use in the Australian health care supply chain is still in its infancy.
The project will explore integrating drones into the existing health transport infrastructure framework. It will collaborate with the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority to identify and regulate flight paths within current airspace requirements.
The maximum flying range has been set at 250 km at 235 km. In the short-term, the target is to achieve regular drone flights of up to 100 km by the end of 2021 and regular drone flights of up to 250 km and regular transport of medical items to and from remote communities by 1 July 2023. Negotiations are on with firms for appropriate drone airframes that are able to deal with both the wet and dry seasons.
The pilot has been supported by iMOVE, Australia’s leading applied research centre in the transportation and mobility sector. They help both the public and private sectors tackle transport-related challenges by connecting and activating the ideas, people and resources to get things moving. As a national centre for collaborative research in transport and mobility, iMOVE will fund the project, along with the NT Government Department of Health and Charles Darwin University (CDU). Drone services consultant UAV is advising on the project. Drone pilots will soon be recruited and will undergo specialist training.
iMOVE Programs Director Lee-Ann Breger said that regional communities face medical access and health supply issues that could be addressed with the provision of suitable technology. “There are about eight million people living in rural and remote parts of the country – that’s about a third of our population living in places where getting life-saving medical supplies is not only a race against time but also a battle against the tyranny of distance, harsh landscapes and unpredictable elements,” said Breger.
Lee-Ann revealed that the project is looking to create an efficient model so drone health delivery services can eventually be rolled out in other regional locations across Australia.
The role of Charles Darwin University (CDU) is to explore the potential of using automated aircraft for the delivery of time-critical medical items to remote communities across the Northern Territory. Interim Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Mike Wilson Professor Wilson agreed that the collaboration would be a testing ground for the application of autonomous systems into healthcare delivery across Australia.
While drones are already being used in health care in developing countries, he noted, more research was needed to understand where drones can reduce costs and improve healthcare outcomes for remote communities in the Northern Territory. The territory presents unique challenges, such as long distances, problems caused by monsoonal rain, cyclones, extreme temperatures and humidity – all will have to be solved by researchers.
Apart from addressing the main issue of access, the project holds promise for the local economy. NT Minister for Health Natasha Fyles confirmed that apart from keeping remote territories areas healthy and safe, this technology would create new jobs and opportunities
“The use of drones will be a game-changer when it comes to enhancing our healthcare system. It doesn’t matter whether you live in the city or in the bush — Territorians deserve to have access to the very best health services, and this new technology will be a driving force in this space,” said Minister Fyles.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still making its rounds in the country, companies believe that a ‘hybrid’ workplace will be the new normal for Philippine companies, as the global crisis continues. This hybrid arrangement – where employees are expected to spend time working from home and time working in the office – is just one of the trends that companies should brace for using technology considering the massive changes that the pandemic has brought.
A tech firm’s technology lead executive for data and AI in the Philippines said while geopolitical news and trends dominated 2019, the year 2020 brought in COVID-19 which basically “changed everything” on a truly global scale. A hybrid workplace means most people will not be working at home permanently but at the same time, not everybody will be in the office. He reiterated that there is no going back to the old ways where people are expected to spend their whole time at the office.
Companies would then need to find the right balance. A hybrid workplace also means work will no longer be location and time-dependent. Organisations will be forced to adapt or be left behind. COVID-19 has been likened to a “fast-forward” switch that has compelled global companies to radically change. Technology, now more than ever, will be at the forefront of the changes. Unlike before where technology played a mostly supporting role for businesses, it is now “the star” of the show and without it, companies cannot do business.
Before the pandemic, companies who were aggressive with their technology rollouts outpaced technology laggards by twice over. During the pandemic, the trend has significantly changed, and these tech leaders now outpace their lagging counterparts by five times. From small to medium-sized enterprises or SMEs to larger enterprises, the first step to adapt is to get started. This is relevant for the Philippines where more than 90% of companies are small-mid size businesses (SMBs). The key is to choose the right technology for a company’s specific needs. Starting small and leveraging technology to the organisation’s advantage is essential when creating a plan as there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
A tech giant released a study, which revealed companies that invest in technology such as the ones needed for “hybrid” workplaces, grow more than twice in revenue compared to slow-adopting competitors. As the company’s largest enterprise IT survey, the study covered both the pre-existing and emerging technologies that include Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, and even Extended Reality. The study says that the world’s leading companies are investing in boundaryless, adaptable, and radically human systems to maximise innovation, business performance, and value. While there is no fixed endpoint in the race to success, these attributes yield competitive advantages and help close the innovation achievement gap.
As reported earlier by OpenGov Asia, the country’s Bureau of Work Conditions (BWC) spearheaded the information drive on various styles of flexible working arrangements that could be beneficial to employers and employees. This was essential as most working-class citizens have been eagerly awaiting notice of changes or announcements coming from the authoritative body.
It is the responsibility of employers to promote work-life balance, especially in these trying times through proper scheduling of activities and a justifiable rotation of the workforce. Safety officers are key in this aspect. The officers must cater to expectations of a safe workplace and ensure that the spaces are compliant with the Occupational Safety and Health Law that has a special focus on physical and mental resilience. Physical and mental resilience involves employers providing psychosocial support for their workforce especially of those showing mental and health concerns. The National Centre for Mental Health Crisis aids any employees with such issues.
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.