Business Continuity and Preparedness is essential for any organisation to have in place.
In New Zealand, this is even more important within the public sector. This is due to many central Government offices being located in one of the most vulnerable parts of New Zealand, within the city of Wellington.
OpenGov had the pleasure of speaking to Mr. Matthew Shaw, Senior Advisor – Business Continuity, Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand this past week.
Mr. Shaw told OpenGov more about what his position as Senior Advisor entails, the BCI Good Practice Guide, what the future holds for him, and his role as Chair in the Government Sector Business Continuity Group.
Consolidating Business Continuity: Business as usual in the Ministry of Social Development
Mr. Shaw plays a huge part in facilitating business continuity preparedness and management in his role as Senior Advisor for Business Continuity.
For the last 8 years, Matt has led the business continuity management programme at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). This is New Zealand’s largest government department. They provide employment services, income support and care and protection of vulnerable children and young people.
Some highlights during this time have included implementing an across-Ministry Crisis Management and BCM programme, facilitating crisis exercises and training staff along with contributing to the Ministry’s emergency management responses to numerous events including the Canterbury earthquakes. During this time Matt has also been seconded to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Ministry of Education to lead crisis management and business continuity planning.
Mr. Shaw is using his role as a platform to transform the business continuity management common practices. “We are looking for a process to revalidate all critical functions,” Mr. Shaw tells us. “We are taking a different approach now. We have done business impact analysis where we go to people and ask questions like what are the resources you need, what is the strategy you have in place… Now, we are loading it all in one and asking questions like, what is it you do that is critical? We use to delve into so much detail but this allows for a more efficient evaluation process.”
In discussing standards, the BCI Good Practice Guide has been around for a number of years. It incorporates terminology from the ISO 22301:2012 International Standard for Business Continuity management systems. It is a practical guide for a building a business continuity framework within an organisation.
“This is a resource made available to the members of the BCI. They also provide a light version, free to anyone on their website. It is a practical way for implementing a BCM framework,” said Mr. Shaw. Mr. Shaw uses this guide to organise the crisis management arrangement. His team plays a huge role in supporting colleagues and corresponding emergency management.
Moving forward, Mr. Shaw and his team are looking forward to launching a new client management system for their staff to use. “This has more of an angle of helping the business implement a good system, which is reactive,” says Mr. Shaw, “This will be out early next year. It is quite a significant change in the management of day to day business.”
Contingency Planning for better Business Continuity Management
Due to the number of fault lines that are sitting beneath the government capital of Wellington, working in the realm of business continuity management has required Mr. Shaw to look at contingency planning as well.
Mr. Shaw emphasised the importance of being able to pick up and transfer their network, in case there was a crisis to occur. “A piece of work for me is writing a contingency plan,” says Mr. Shaw, “To run exercises for this requires a lot of planning. We are aiming to start running these at the end of quarter 1 for 2016. From this, we will identify the gaps and work on them through this exercise. This will drive the [contingency planning] program for a year.”
Moving to his across-Ministry Crisis Management and BCM programme, Mr. Shaw says, “We are trying to create a more collective across government approach to Business Continuity. The approach is basically the same all across but people have different critical priorities which deviate from a standard. This project will drive a lot of work going forward but the initial phase is to begin next April.”
In the Business Continuity area, Mr. Shaw is trying to get people to adopt the thinking that they are not safe from any threats. This mentality is very similar to what the world of cybersecurity is emphasising, which is to assume that you are vulnerable. As Mr. Shaw said, “It is starting to process through. Now, working in the eProcurement space, are starting to think about contingency as a service… It is becoming more common that people are thinking about this space but we still have a long way to go”
Bringing the Business Continuity community together
In addition to his day job, Matt is the current Chair of the Government Sector Business Continuity Group, a networking forum with over 90 BC practitioners from 40 government agencies, local government and state-owned enterprises.
Mr. Shaw helps to facilitate regular meetings between members of the group every second of the month. In the meetings, members discuss their area of business continuity in more detail, or simply give each other updates on their work. The meetings provides a space for members to network with each other in their common field.
“We have a steering committee formed by 9 of our members. We get together in between meetings to plan the program and formulate strategic goals of the group,” “We are creating common goals, cross-agency programs, doing work with the property sector and banking sector…It is very much a community of interests, where we do not have a mandate but we look at how government is dealing with Business Continuity Management.”
Through his leadership roles and management, Mr. Shaw has created a shift in mindset. He challenges people to think more about the overall picture when it comes to Business Continuity. This allows for Mr. Shaw to create a high-level consolidated view of the business continuity management practices across the Ministry of Social Development and in the Government Sector Business Continuity Group.
Stakeholders in the payments industry were challenged to step up their technological advancement. The appeal was issued as a government effort to ensure that the country stays current in advancing the money and payments landscape.
“My overarching message is that we all work and live in a period of substantive change. (The change) offers enormous opportunity if embraced, but potentially greater risk if not,” Karen Silk, Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand – Te Ptea Matua, said at a conference in Auckland.
Silk emphasised the technological improvement needed because New Zealand does not yet have scalable electronic, instant, peer-to-peer payments and lacks real-time retail payment systems. She also encouraged speeding up the fintech developments in the country. She noted that the country could become more digitally competitive by nurturing home-grown fintech enterprises.
The government has recognised the importance of increasing domestic competition and efficiency savings in the payment space and the broader financial system. However, lingering reliance on legacy systems, failure to understand regulatory impetus and focus, and limitations in cohesion and provision of regulatory support for innovation are impeding real progress.
Nevertheless, Silk praised recent legislative changes. Financial regulators provide a one-stop shop for fintech firms and system-level work to improve cross-border payments. The positive movement makes domestic interbank payments available seven days a week.
Silk stated that challenges could arise from new players who “inadvertently” introduce design or technology risks. She called it a risk as the nature of the business avoiding New Zealand regulation or undermining the role of central bank money, whether cash or a possible Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Even though the Reserve Bank is still researching the CBDC.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand published a paper recently describing the current state of the country’s payments system. It will issue another next month, consulting on the potential need to regulate private crypto assets until March 2023.
The Reserve Bank remains committed to improving the cash system’s efficiency and resilience to ensure that it continued providing payment options for everyone and financial and social inclusion for those who rely on it, Silk said. Next year, the Bank has planned small live experiments to investigate various ways to expand merchants’ roles in the cash system.
This could include assisting merchants in recycling cash at the point of sale; compensating them for cash-out services; facilitating frequent, affordable cash delivery and collection for merchants; and consolidating the cash system through the creation of utility entities, Silk explained.
Payments represent the flow of money. Sooner or later, the global payment evolution will also impact New Zealand. Hence, the country demands better, smarter, and faster payment. As a result, the study of payments has come under scrutiny.
Only some understand the intricacies of New Zealand payments, and because they are complex and interconnected, creating a single view of the payments landscape takes time and effort. Furthermore, payment systems and services differ from country to country.
The Reserve Bank plays a multifaceted role in the payment landscape. The bank runs, participates in, regulates, and monitors core payment systems. It has also recently taken on the part of money steward in New Zealand. In addition, it is interested in supporting and ensuring that money and payment systems are efficient and reliable and supporting innovation and inclusion.
AI and other digital technologies could help solve some of the world’s most important social problems, like climate change, biodiversity loss, food insecurity and risks to public health, among others. Harnessing digital capabilities to promote a transformative system could be a game-changer for a sustainable and equitable global future.
Today’s consumers expect more than great products and services, and businesses are well aware of this. Clients want to feel like they are investing in a reputable, responsible brand. Consequently, the most market-dominant businesses are not merely profitable and have good products but those that have multiple alternate bottom lines – social, environmental and sustainable.
More than 90% of business executives agree that sustainability is crucial to their success. As consumer groups continue to publish reports on the increased desire for more environmentally friendly corporate practices, it is simple to see why green marketing strategies are gaining such importance.
The environment and sustainability are vital components in the strategy and operations of enterprises looking to be more conscientious. Organisations have been taking proactive steps to develop a greener future with their consumers, partners, stakeholders and workers. These efforts include environmental initiatives, community outreach efforts and business practices.
Advancing Environmental Sustainability and Resilience
“Everyone is becoming aware of the necessity for action to attain sustainability,” says Vivek. “There is a growing interest in corporate sustainability and how corporations can strive for it to meet the needs of stakeholders for social, economic, and environmental implications.”
Most businesses are considering ways to contribute significantly, which will need robust investment and efforts. “We see businesses quickening their momentum and considering effective climate innovations. A case in point is how electric mobility companies can be affected by the huge reductions in costs for climate technology.”
Vivek believes it is possible to adapt a company’s digital strategy to mitigate and deal with extreme climate change. Companies must include digitalisation and decarbonisation in their strategy, as industry 4.0 technologies will play a crucial role in meeting the emissions reduction goal.
Digital technologies can increase energy efficiency and decrease fuel consumption across multiple industries and sectors. Digitalisation has the potential to revolutionise the way people and technology interact by helping to analyse and calibrate necessary interventions.
By utilising digitalisation, businesses can identify the emissions sources, whether at the product level, manufacturing unit level, or equipment level. They can then determine the necessary interventions to reduce emissions, such as a change in the manufacturing or personnel settings, and then monitor whether the identified interventions are being implemented.
“Here is where I believe digitalisation and decarbonisation must go hand-in-hand, as this will ensure that industries undergo structural changes and reach their objective,” says Vivek.
Businesses need to be more conscious of the need to be prepared for the energy shift, and he has five relevant steps for how businesses should approach this:
- Develop an understanding of how energy shifts will affect your company;
- Think about a bold and ambitious target, such as considering how big of a carbon footprint reduction they intend to achieve with this energy transition;
- Consider various situations and their effects;
- Create a comprehensive plan that will serve as an overall strategy with well-defined and cascading targets;
- Think about implementation, where companies strike a balance between all the goals, e.g., carbon footprint and profitability
Right now, society is more conscious of sustainability and is calling for companies to shift their carbon footprint and be more conscious about emissions. This is causing profound changes in the corporate and government landscape.
Organisations can work toward more sustainable practices with the aid of corporate sustainability’s economic, social and environmental pillars. Businesses must alter their mindset from just profitability at the expense of the environment to a sustainable and profitable paradigm. There must be interdependence and a greater emphasis on operations and eco-innovation.
Adopting sustainable practices benefits the environment, but businesses have also demonstrated that these programmes can boost productivity, lower costs, make shareholders happy, and a host of other advantages.
“Corporate entities must take the initiative in determining pertinent technologies. Companies must implement technologies to decrease their carbon footprint. They are the ones that will bring about change. Governments can decide the legislation, but unless companies change, it will be difficult to achieve net zero,” Vivek firmly believes.
A green economy is the practice of sustainable development supported by public and private investment in creating an infrastructure that promotes social and environmental sustainability. A green economy refers to an economy in which individuals are increasingly aware of their carbon emissions and are taking steps to reduce them.
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, that corporations and individuals generate.
There are numerous practical and effective approaches to implementing sustainable technologies at the national level. “I believe that each country will deploy different technologies; the mix of technologies, the adoption rate, and the deployment cost will all be very different. However, each country will need to consider what sustainable technologies are relevant to them, consider implementing them, and consider the reasons for doing so.”
According to Vivek, decarbonisation entails significant economic transformation. When new business opportunities arise in Asia, companies must contemplate how they will be the first to take advantage. To do this, they must seriously consider the technologies and industries they want to innovate in or implement and the various business models they should use to take these opportunities.
There will be an acceleration of the energy transitions if individuals in the nation change their behaviour, the government considers how the empowering regulations should be made, or how businesses decide how they will operate.
Vivek has led several large-scale transformations and new business builds across the region, such as for an energy conglomerate in Indonesia. From this experience, he is convinced that a fundamentally different way of thinking about any business problem is required.
It requires thinking about what the unique value proposition is going to be and thinking about getting new talent to build a business from the ground up. Some of his most memorable moments on this journey include realising the value of having the right talent.
Another thing he learned is that customer preferences change at very different levels. So, thinking about the organisation’s unique value propositions and how customers perceive them becomes very important. For incumbents, choosing different business models can also be essential.
Both private and public organisations are aware that change needs to occur quickly. Resources are becoming harder to come by while demand is rising, necessitating a balance to build a sustainable future. “Green technologies will help the world achieve sustainable levels and make the environment cleaner and safer for everyone.”
Urban Ideas and Solutions Through LKYGBPC
Vivek is on the International Judging Panel (IJP) of the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC), a biennial global university start-up challenge held in Singapore.
As a member of the judging panel charged with driving, developing, and upholding the entrepreneurial spirit of the LKYGBPC participants, Vivek is focused on the innovativeness of the solutions, such as how effectively the technology solves the problem.
He also believes that feasibility and how the different technologies are correctly implemented can significantly change the world. “These two parameters will be quite useful in considering how we are selecting, or how I would select various technologies.”
He acknowledges that innovative entrepreneurship talent can be cultivated wider in the broader community through such competitions. These serve as an illustration of how they are fostering innovation and entrepreneurship across society.
The competition is also one example of instilling a culture where the next generation is thinking about how things can be done differently. Competitors explore creative ideas and have a forum where they can share their thoughts, which can be a great example of nurturing innovation.
The competition, which is run by the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Singapore Management University (SMU), is centred on urban ideas and solutions developed by student founders and early-stage start-ups. It is positioned as a campus innovation movement that seeks to establish a global startup ecosystem with financial backers, including venture capitalists, corporate oligopolies, and governmental organisations.
“I believe many of our leading schools are doing a great job of instilling a culture where children are thinking about how things can be done differently and what are creative ideas,” Vivek opines.
There are numerous instances throughout the world where the technologies or solutions used by youth or larger communities have truly made a meaningful difference. “But it does take some significant effort to raise awareness and establish a forum where people can discuss their concerns, share their ideas, and obtain the resources needed to solve them,” Vivek concludes.
Around 30,000 rural homes and communities will soon have access to faster and improved connectivity with an expansion of the Rural Capacity Upgrade programme. 21 new contracts have been signed by Crown Infrastructure partners to accelerate upgrades to towers and broadband connections in areas with poor coverage.
The announcement was made by the Minister for Rural Communities, Damien O’Connor, and the Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark. This round of the Rural Capacity Upgrade will see many existing towers upgraded and new connections established in rural areas experiencing poor performance. Areas that will benefit from these improvements include, but are not limited to, settlements in the Far North, Gisborne, the Manawatu-Whanganui region, Taranaki, Southland, and Waikato.
The project is expected to significantly boost the economic productivity of homes and businesses with a slow, unreliable, or unusable connection, Clark noted. The government is committed to improving rural connectivity and is on track to see 99.8% of New Zealanders receive access to improved broadband because of the Ultra-Fast Broadband rollout, Rural Broadband Initiative, the Marae Digital Connectivity programme, and the Mobile Black Spot Fund by the end of 2023, he explained.
The investment in rural connectivity will work alongside Land Information NZ’s rollout of the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SouthPAN) service. As OpenGov Asia had reported earlier, SouthPAN is the Southern Hemisphere’s first satellite navigation augmentation service. It will improve the availability and accuracy of positioning, taking it from 5-10 metres to as little as 10 centimetres across the country.
This will boost rural productivity through precision agriculture and horticulture, fenceless farming, and improve the safety of search and rescue in the backcountry. The government, along with private sector contributions, has invested more than $2.5 billion into improving digital connectivity to date.
The government has also released “Lifting Connectivity in Aotearoa”, which sets out the high-level connectivity vision for New Zealand over the next decade. This includes the goal that all New Zealanders have access to high-speed connectivity networks, and that the country is in the top 20% of nations with respect to international connectivity measures.
Last month, the government launched the Remote Users Scheme to provide broadband and connect New Zealand’s most remote communities. Clark had announced the scheme, noting that it would equip as many remote households as possible with the connectivity infrastructure needed to access broadband services. As reported on OpenGov Asia, the Remote Users Scheme will help connect people to online health services and educational tools. Through Budget 2022, $15 million was allocated towards funding the scheme, as part of the broader $60 million rural connectivity package announced earlier in the year.
The Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP), which was established by the government, will administer the Remote Users Scheme and is calling for applications from potentially eligible households and communities. A request for proposal from Internet service providers will follow. It is expected that new broadband connectivity infrastructure for the eligible areas and households can begin being built in mid-2023.
Dr Andrew Lensen from the School of Engineering and Computer Science and Dr Marcin Betkier from the Law School are eager to ensure AI has a significant role in the justice system. The researchers based in New Zealand built an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm that predicts the length of court sentences.
But the question that may arise is whether the AI algorithm is fair enough to hand down the sentences. In the current justice system, society trusts judges to hand down fair sentences to the accused based on their knowledge and experience.
But how about AI? Can it judge better because it can eliminate the potential for bias and discrimination? And can AI substitute the judge’s knowledge and experience with its ability to analyse and predict large amounts of data?
Dr Andrew is optimistic that AI can help better sentencing performance in the court. The confidence comes from the use of AI to predict some criminal behaviour, such as financial fraud. Even though he has not tested the algorithm model in the courtroom to deliver sentences, he is confident in his idea that AI can have a role in the sentencing process.
Dr Andrew says when judges handle a case in the court, they have some “inconsistency” when passing a sentence for a convicted criminal. The inconsistency comes from a judge’s consideration of individual circumstances, societal norms and the sense of justice.
The moral decision and the sense of humanity are based on their experience and even sometimes change the law. Each judge uses their prudence in deciding the outcome of a case. Another “undesirable inconsistency” occurs as bias or even extraneous factors like hunger. Research in Israeli courts has shown that the percentage of favourable decisions drops to nearly zero before lunch.
Judges must ensure similar offences should receive similar penalties in different courts with different judges. Usually, to enhance sentence consistency, the justice system has prepared guidelines as a reference. This inconsistency area is the pain point where AI can help.
How AI Helps Judges
Most modern AI is machine learning, a machine learning algorithm that could learn the patterns in a database to predict patterns and outcomes. Therefore, AI can provide better sentence suggestions after the computer algorithm learns the patterns within a set of data.
Dr Andrew’s machine learning algorithm trained with 302 New Zealand assault cases. The sentences in those cases are between 0 and 14.5 years of imprisonment. The model quantifies sentences based on certain phrases and terms when calculating the sentence. Then the algorithm built a model that can predict the length of a sentence for a new case and explain why it made certain predictions.
The relatively simple model worked quite well within the average error of the model in under 12 months. The model associates the words or phrases such as “sexual”, “young person”, “taxi” and “firearm” with longer sentences. While shorter sentences were given to cases with words like “professional”, “career”, “fire” and “Facebook”.
Beyond Decision Making
In the future, AI could be used as an evaluation tool for judges. They could understand better their sentencing decisions and perhaps remove extraneous factors. The models also have the potential to be used by lawyers, providers of legal technology and researchers, to analyse the sentencing and justice system. Moreover, AI also can be used for controversial sentences and help create some transparency around controversial decisions.
Of course, the use of AI in the justice system may still be controversial. Most people are still keen that the final assessments and decisions on justice and punishment should be made by human experts. But maybe it is the right time need to give an opportunity to an “algorithm” or “AI” in the judicial system for the common good.
New Zealand is not the only country that explores the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in courtrooms. Several other countries like China and Malaysia have done similar things. In China, robot judges can decide on a small case. While in Malaysia, some courts have used AI to recommend sentences for offences such as drug possession.
Both in normal circumstances and in times of crisis, Thai people are known to generate a lot of innovative ideas and continue to develop products that make their lives better. This encompasses and encapsulates the nation’s most recent campaign, Innovation Thailand, which promotes Thai creativity to a global audience.
The Innovation Thailand Alliance consists of partners from a variety of sectors including government agencies, private organisations, educational institutions, and civil societies. Through it, the National Innovation Agency of Thailand (NIA), is expanding the scope of its Innovation Thailand platform.
The fundamental goal is to use national/local ideas to revitalise the nation by promoting awareness of and pride in inventive Thai works. Allies will serve as ambassadors in the effort to promote Thailand as an innovative nation. They will be able to exchange knowledge and skills with one another at the same time.
All stakeholders are enthusiastic to help Thailand achieve its goal of being one of the world’s top 30 innovative nations by 2030 and turning Thailand into an innovation-driven country.
Innovation Capabilities of Thai People
The National Innovation Agency’s mission is to support and develop Thailand’s innovation system to promote economic restructuring and competitive enhancement.
“We began the Innovation Thailand campaign before COVID-19 because we faced a significant challenge in terms of how not only Thai people but also global clients, perceive the nation’s unique products and services,” explains Dr Pun-Arj.
Even though this may not be directly related to innovation, the NIA has attempted to communicate and brand national innovation in such a way that it can be easily connected not only with Thais but also with international customers – this is how they started the Innovation Thailand platform.
Thailand is a tourist destination and one of the top three in the world, which has caused the country to innovate their lifestyle as well as their livelihood.
Thai culture places a high value on craftsmanship and attention to detail. Thai innovation for artful living is a process created exclusively by the fusion of modern technology and knowledge passed down from one generation to the next.
“We have created ingenious solutions through this method that enhances the standard of living in terms of society, prosperity, health, safety, and the environment,” Dr Pun-Arj furthers.
They began to construct a community to exchange ideas, develop, and manage innovation that would result in delivering some information or any significant strategic movement that the government could initiate.
They are recruiting more Chief Innovation Officers from not only the private sector but also the public sector and universities, as part of their primary target group.
Dr Pun-Arj is looking to enhance the opportunities brought in by innovation, particularly at the regional level in the city. This is because they are working not only on economic development but also on the skillset of the social innovation division and platform.
“As a result, our primary focus is on regionalisations of innovation possibilities, as well as startups – innovation-based firms,” reveals Dr Pun-Arj.
He believes that every successful community is built upon a robust and well-functioning infrastructure. Hence, Thailand’s industries and infrastructure will be modernised to meet upcoming challenges.
“In the past, one of our five-year priorities included buildings which we identify as system integrators. As the system and ecosystem become more robust, we are transitioning from system integrators to full core facilitators.”
He emphasised the need to consider the impact of being a system integrator before transforming themselves into focal facilitators. Furthermore, the country wants to make better use of the enormous resource of innovation in universities to conduct research and technology in collaboration with other organisations across the world.
Through the City Innovation Index, which focuses primarily on districts and cities, the NIA promotes and monitors the constant innovation and evaluation of diverse organisations. Periodically, they performed surveys in particular industries to evaluate and propose answers for the difficulties they face.
A strong innovation strategy will evaluate the overall objectives, the target portfolio for innovation initiatives, and the process for allocating the necessary resources. The portfolio clearly defines innovation-critical benchmarks and bounds. Therefore, the nation will become democratic and transparent.
“I believe the government’s most essential innovation strategy focuses on three specific concerns. You must have highly strong and capable businesses of all sizes that will establish a very strong enterprise on its own. And secondly, you must have laws and regulations,” Dr Pun-Arj asserts. “In addition, governance is also required and identifying future risks.”
Thailand is struggling with several issues, including inequality, which includes limited access to public services, digital technology, education, and environmental problems. High manufacturing costs and new types of competition in the global supply chain became challenges for Thailand, with this, innovation has emerged as the country’s answer.
Additionally, there are many challenges in terms of digital transformation and government service and the nation is pushing for innovation that can deliver a good policy and deploy it into practice.
In the previous five-year plan, NIA primarily focused on the job of system integrator into four core facilitators. “That is why the short-term strategy is to train management in the methods, programmes, and activities that we have implemented over the last five years.”
NIA is primarily concentrated on strengthening the potential of regional innovation in several key sectors such as new technologies, assistance for startups, venture capital creation or investment for innovation, and internationalisation of Thailand’s innovation.
Dr Pun-Arj envisions a stronger Thai economy and society, with innovation playing a key role in propelling it. The Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) model is a plan for the country’s growth and post-pandemic recovery. The BCG model focuses on four strategic sectors: agriculture and food, wellness and medicine, energy, materials, and biochemicals and tourism and creative economy.
It emphasises using science, technology, and innovation to turn Thailand’s comparative advantage in biological and cultural diversity into a competitive advantage. The primary aim is to support the sustainability of biological resources, develop local economies and communities and make Thai BCG industries more competitive and resilient to societal changes.
The approach is meant to make Thailand’s economy, society, and environment more sustainable and inclusive. “To achieve the 2030 goal, we must work incredibly hard to encourage innovation in this BCG economy. At the same time, the national policy needs to be improved.”
Dr Pun-Arj has been recognised as a pioneer in the domains of foresight and innovation management in the country. He counsels anyone aspiring to be a great innovator to fully comprehend the concepts of uncertainty and failure.
“Innovation will help us grow as a community or nation by making ourselves and others aware of the importance of innovation,” Dr Pun-Arj concludes.
The Victoria University of Wellington’s division of Science, Health, Engineering, Architecture, and Design Innovation (SHEADI) will inaugurate a Centre of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in the first half of 2023.
According to a statement from the University, the centre will offer areas of expertise in modelling and statistical learning; evolutionary and multi-objective learning; deep learning and transfer learning; image, text, signal, and language processing; scheduling and combinational optimisation; and interpretable AI/ML learning.
These technological themes will be applied across a wide range of areas including primary industry, climate change and environment; health, biology, medical outcomes; security, energy, high-value manufacturing; and social, public policy, and ethics applications. On top of traditional research, the centre will also establish a pipeline of scholarships/internships for Maori students, train early career researchers, and focus on industry, intellectual property, and commercialisation.
The centre will build on the current success and international leadership in this space at the University, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the division, Ehsan Mesbahi, stated. The institute is continuing to grow its national and international partnerships to create local and global value. The centre will provide a distinctive identity for the growing excellence and innovation in data science and AI research at the University, capabilities which domestic and global partners are increasingly demanding across a vast array of application domains.
In May, the University announced it would offer the first undergraduate major in Artificial Intelligence in the country. It provides students with knowledge of AI concepts, techniques, and tools. They learn how to apply that knowledge to solve problems, combined with programming skills that will enable them to build software tools incorporating AI technology that will help shape the future.
Students studying AI at the University are taught by academics from its internationally renowned AI/ML research group, which is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. The major is designed to open doors for graduates to opportunities nationally and around the world. There has been an increase in the adoption of AI technologies globally, and a growing demand for people who can apply AI techniques to address a wide range of problems, which the University aims to address.
After completing their degree, graduates will have a wide variety of career options, such as AI scientist, business consultant, AI architect, data analyst, machine learning engineer, and robotic scientist among others. They will also have the option to further their study through the University’s Master of Artificial Intelligence.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that New Zealand’s Education Technology (EdTech) is set to become one of the country’s key industries. Worth NZ$ 173.6 million in 2020, EdTech software is poised to grow to NZ$ 319.6 million by 2025. At the heart of the digital transformation of education technology has been the pandemic. COVID-19 is seen as the driving force behind the digital transformation of learning, permanently changing the way education is consumed and delivered — right from preschool through post-tertiary education and lifelong learning. The global EdTech market size was valued at US$ 254.8 billion in 2021. Experts believe the market will reach US$ 605.4 billion by 2027.
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) in education have the potential to enhance how education is provided, financed, and managed as well as offer easier access to the community.
A PPP system operates under the construct that market mechanisms, in conjunction with government inputs, are better for providing education. One of the rationales behind PPPs, which are supported by international organisations, development agencies and academics, is that competition between public and private education providers is a good way to improve the quality and efficiency of education.
PPP policy frameworks should therefore create real market dynamics in which education service providers continue to innovate and improve the quality of their services to attract learners, young and old, who are seen as benefit maximisers and well-informed consumers.
New Era of Partnerships, Building Talent Pipeline
“The structure and framework for any university to launch degree programmes can be fairly onerous, given the emphasis on quality assurance and relevance,” says Annie who is also a Professor Emeritus of Finance (Practice), Lee Kong Chian School of Business and Senior Advisor at the Business Families Institute in Singapore Management University (SMU).
However, academic-industry partnerships play a crucial role in building the future of students and facilitating the transition of young people from school to work. Students need to be exposed to a variety of jobs and workplaces to develop interest and discover where their studies and passion may lead.
Industry partnerships with different sectors offer a variety of experiences, such as simulated job interviews, career development activities, challenge-based learning projects, curriculum-aligned activities, and work-study programmes. In addition, internships have become a vital opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves prior to full-time employment.
A PPP is mutually beneficial, allowing industry access to fresh talent and looking at the industry’s challenges from the perspective of future consumers or employees acknowledges Annie. In fact, the private sector has indicated to all institutions that they need future talent in the area of data analytics, so SMU has recently launched a track in data analytics hosted in both their business school and computer and info systems school so universities also benefit from the insights from the industry to stay relevant in our curricula.
With the help of data analytics tools, a company may take unstructured raw data and use this information to discover patterns, draw conclusions and turned into useful insights. Therefore, data analysis aids businesses in so many ways, including making educated judgments, developing a more successful marketing plan, enhancing the customer experience and streamlining processes.
Education is not only under the charge of the Ministry of Education but also needs the support of other ministries since future jobs and capacity building are expected of the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance, Maritime, Health and others. Partnering with the whole of government allows for students’ skillsets to be increased and all students become more relevant, valuable and workplace ready.
Prof Annie knows that no one has a monopoly on knowledge, and no one knows the exact skills which will be needed in the future. Thus, PPPs have the most value when it forms a part of “lifelong learning.”
The exciting thing about lifelong learning, Annie believes “…is that when you get your degree, you think you’re done, but you’re just getting started. Even as you gain experience and learn on the job, you’ll need to keep reinventing yourself and the skills needed to extend your runway will keep changing.”
Passion extends beyond degrees and ongoing learning is a crucial element to keep employees engaged That’s why higher education now permits a variety of pathways to marry passion with career aspirations and is no longer a paper chase, she explains.
Two good cases to illustrate the value of PPP in the context of SMU’s innovative programmes that Prof Annie is very proud of are the partnership approach in launching the International Trading track and the Maritime Business Operations track under the Finance and Operations majors in SMU’s business school.
In accordance with the creation of a strong Singaporean core, wholesale trade and maritime businesses have been focusing on both skillset development and attracting new talent supply to ensure a pipeline of sustainable human capital. So, the trading and maritime sectors do need to build a case for making the jobs in their sectors more appealing – particularly with the assistance of government grants and scholarships.
Companies can play a crucial role by showing how an organisation can provide a feeling of purpose with support and development opportunities available to make building a career in their organisations appealing and attractive to the candidate
A part of Annie’s challenge in the early days was to set up an International Trading Institute (ITI) where students could take for-credit classes under the business school and get a certificate of completion for the non-credit practice-oriented sessions, learning from practitioners in the evenings.
“My goal at SMU is to link external relevance to internal degree requirements while upholding the quality assurance requirements of the education system. Different industry partners help us with this mission to co-create and deliver the applied learning content with us.”
SMU is therefore a strategic asset for the country and both the tracks had, over the last decade, created a pool of more than 300 alumni who are knowledgeable about wholesale trading, largely in the commodities trading space and maritime operations. Now, there is available talent who are able to speak and work with more confidence up and down the trade value chain and contribute to Singapore’s relevance as a trade and maritime hub.
Another great example of PPP was manifested during the last three years of the COVID-19 crisis which saw a spate of job cuts and many experienced PMETs were laid off. Annie worked with her teams at ITI and BFI to design a nine-month Business and Digital Transformation programme which combined in-class training modules with a capstone project for candidates who are matched to SMEs to also deliver a project for these sponsoring companies. Candidates have a chance to learn and apply the knowledge and sponsoring companies also benefit from the capstone projects delivered. In addition, 70% to 90% of the programme fees are supported by SSG grants, while WSG grants provide funding support towards the candidates’ commensurate salaries.
All these partnerships were possible because a pool of companies is available and can be accessed to match the candidates as a result of SMU’s external network of trusted companies, which was strengthened by the BFI that Annie had set up 10 years ago with the support of SMU’s senior leadership. Many of Asia’s SMEs are family owned with different sets of challenges and aspirations other than the usual business issues. In addition, many of these business families have longer horizons and they are the ones that countries depend on to build businesses sustainably as they think beyond current generations.
Therefore, business families with an entrepreneurial spirit, not only make money but also contribute to changing the world through their businesses and other new ventures, including building social enterprises and philanthropic activities.
By addressing business family-specific issues such as succession, family governance, entrepreneurship and wealth management, BFI aims to strengthen the ecosystem of entrepreneurial business families and stakeholders in their creation of sustainable impact by leveraging SMU’s core competence as a thought leader. In turn, BFI has been a strong partner to the LKYGBPC. Many of LKYGBPC’s sponsors are family-owned businesses, such as Wilmar International and Frasers.
In addition, many of these family enterprises have footprints beyond Singapore and are always on the lookout for quality start-ups to invest in or be part of their accelerator programmes. Innovation is essential for a company to improve its operations, introduce new and enhanced products and services to the market, raise its efficiency, and most crucially, boost its profitability.
Annie feels that her journey in academia is more about building entrepreneurship and Technology, Talent and Trust (3Ts) are important drivers in helping companies in their transformation journeys. As such, public-private-people partnerships are even more relevant in today’s challenging and uncertain times to build back better and broader for everyone.
According to Annie, the road to digital and business transformation success is paved with courageous actions by caring and forward-looking leaders. The right leaders will build a firm sustainably and attract the right people, the right leaders will inspire and motivate the right people to learn, improve and grow.
“Developing people is my calling but learning to develop people is everyone’s responsibility. And because the world is bigger than yourself, you need to be big-hearted, purpose-oriented, and have an open mind to be successful on any path you choose,” Annie concludes.