Many countries across the globe commended for their eradication or containment of the Coronavirus, now have new fears of facing a potential ‘second’ or even ‘third wave’ of the virus with new outbreaks and clusters starting to appear in different parts of their nation.
In Australia, it has seen many successful attempts to stop the spread of Coronavirus, like in Melbourne, Victoria where they had strict restrictions in place for 111 days and now has recorded no new cases of Covid-19 or deaths in 17 days. New concerns have been raised about a potential outbreak in South Australia, that numbers could rise quickly in a matter of days.
International flights into South Australia have been suspended for this week, gyms will close and there will be a cap of 100 people at pubs, clubs and restaurants as the state moves to tackle a growing cluster of Covid-19 cases for the first time since April.
The premier announced the restrictions on Monday after the state reported 17 cases of Covid-19 connected to an outbreak from a quarantine hotel for returned travellers, a similar situation to what had happened previously in
South Korea reported more than 200 new coronavirus cases for the third consecutive day on Monday, as the government considered tightening social distancing to prevent recurring outbreaks from offices, medical facilities and small gatherings.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency announced the cases as the highest since early September.
The new cases are the most South Korea has seen in more than two months and concern health officials because they are coming from various small clusters, from workplaces to cafes to social gatherings, making them more difficult to trace.
Technology to prevent spread, mitigate risk and lessent the impact
Technology cannot prevent the onset of the pandemics; however, it can help prevent the spread, educate, warn, and empower those on the ground to be aware of the situation, and noticeably lessen the impact.
Technologies like mobile, cloud, analytics, robotics, AI and ML have made it possible to test several innovative approaches to the pandemic response.
Technology can be used to combine health data with travel data, to build a monitoring system and provide real-time alerts. For example, sending automatic alerts to individuals if they have travelled to the infected vicinity and details of their nearest clinic or test centre.
AI-based data analytics and predictive modelling are enabling governments and industry to understand more aboutthe virus. By using AI platforms, it has become easier to gain new insights or approaches on how to address the COVID-19 outbreak better.
Thermal scanners and other similar infrared body temperature measuring devices have become essential at immigration, airports, hotels, hospitals, train stations, shops, and other public places. These technologies can measure body temperature from a distance and are effective in pinpointing individuals who may need further investigation.
Outbreak Management Technology Solutions on one platform
Liberty & Passage developed by Access Anywhere, a total outbreak management system, combines cutting edge technologies all on one platform and can be used across various sectors including airports, cruise lines, immigration, and tourism boards. It also provides a useful tool for all industries to restart their business.
Liberty & Passage, using AI and ML, has been designed to help provide relevant timely information and build the confidence required to restart free movement between countries and continents, giving travellers when crossing borders and authority’s confidence when processing foreign visitors at customs.
Liberty & Passage an outbreak management solution for individuals, organisations, and the entire travel industry.
The Liberty Universe is for the entire population with Liberty Open designed for everyone to manage their personal risk, Liberty Corporate for organisations to ensure a safe return to work, and Liberty Passage for travel and the reopening of borders. Everyone gains from the vast insights the system provides to be able to go about their normal lives whilst keeping as safe as possible against this phenomenal threat.
By joining the three pillars together, ‘the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts’ giving the general public, employees, and travellers more liberty to move with confidence and a smarter understanding of their risk exposure using cutting edge technology.
Innovation in technology is helping to manage the pandemic and better equip countries when dealing with the current public health emergency and for future public health emergencies. Outbreak management systems will be the key in building confidence, mitigating risk and enhancing safety in everyday life. For more information on how the Liberty Solution works – please visit www.libertyandpassage.com
The Northern Territory Government has awarded a $64.4 million tender for the Client Management Systems Alignment program, known as the Care System, to improve the care and protection of children in the state.
The Care System will enable different and necessary government agencies such as Police, Territory Families, Housing and Communities, Health, Education and Attorney General to access the same information, create the one case file and share critical information to best manage each child’s specific case.
The region’s Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing said the new Care System will give frontline staff in child protection and youth justice the necessary tools to better protect vulnerable children.
The Minister stated, “We want to make sure all Northern Territory children have the best start in life. A total of 72% of Territory Families, Housing and Communities’ core business is recorded outside of our approved computer system which is more than 25 years old.”
A UK-based tech firm and local a Territory business IT company have been selected for the project, which will provide a modern digital tool to assist frontline workers in child protection, youth justice and service provision for the Northern Territory’s most vulnerable children. A local Territory digital company has been selected to undertake work on this project with a dedicated local team.
The Minister for Corporate and Digital Development said the IT overhaul is one of the biggest the NT has ever undertaken and will be supported by specialist IT practitioners from a range of local Territory digital businesses.
He noted that the IT firm has more than 25 years’ experience delivering information technology solutions and services in the Northern Territory, with a local team dedicated to this project.
The Care System will provide child protection and youth justice case management solution to equip the Northern Territory Government with a holistic view of the child and increase opportunities for early intervention.
The Care System will also enable frontline staff to access important information anytime and will improve the connection between non-government, private service providers, the community and the government to access and update information related to child wellbeing.
The project came about after the Royal Commission into the Detention and Protection of Children in the Northern Territory highlighted the limitations in current processes that support child protection and youth justice. In response, the Territory Government invested $64.4 million into the Care System to facilitate better information sharing and coordination.
The Minister for Territory Families and Urban Housing also noted that the creation of the Care System and the delivery of the program is all about it being based on the child. The NT government wants to make sure they are keeping up-to-date information on vulnerable families, so they can assist quickly and proactively.
The program is scheduled for completion in late 2022 and will improve the way Territory Families, Housing and Communities approaches child protection and youth justice, through a child-centric approach to systems and service delivery.
According to another article, The Department of Corporate and Digital Development (DCDD) is leading the project, formally known as the client management system alignment (CMSA) program, on behalf of Territory Families.
DCDD (then the Department of Corporate and Information Services) went looking for a new system in 2018 in response to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT. The Royal Commission identified systemic problems with the territory’s approach to child protection and youth justice, including limitations with several underpinning systems of record.
Systems of concern included the CCIS and the integrated offender management system (IOMS), neither of which ‘talked’ each other, as well as the police real-time online management system (PROMIS). The government said it expects the new Care system to improve “information sharing and coordination to ensure we are better protecting vulnerable children”.
A Malaysia-based tech firm has developed a highway monitoring system that integrates artificial intelligence (AI) and smart technology in its Smart Surveillance System (S3). Its group chief executive officer stated that the move complements the company’s ongoing effort to increase the safety rate and satisfaction level of highway users. He noted that, in line with Industrial Revolution 4.0, the company is prioritising efficient ways of working by utilising technology.
Through the implementation of S3, the level of highway efficiency will be upgraded and the safety of drivers improved. S3 enables the monitoring and detection of accidents, foreign objects, wild animals, potholes, surface cracks and ponding. The system also covers problems such as water spots, guard rail and slope failure, liquid spillage and road signage damage.
It combines technologies like AI and machine learning to provide notification to the relevant parties for further action. Since the launch of S3 on 19 August 2020, 1,303 incidents were detected in the first month alone. So far, the S3 has helped operations in carrying out immediate rectification with the real-time notifications. Fifty per cent of surface damage and highway asset damage were detected by the system and repairs were made immediately.
To improve security and safety, the company uses the Artificial Intelligence System Analytics (Aisya). By leveraging dashboard cameras and computers installed in every highway patrol car, it is able to obtain images of damage and accidents immediately.
The input is then sent over a 4G network to a cloud server to classify, identify and determine the next move. Aisya will then process, classify, analyse and come out with a digital report before notifying on-duty officers through their mobile application or websites.
Additionally, another system was developed by the firm alongside its industry partners for the purpose of highway management operation. It is called Prime and assisted the company in maintenance scheduling and digitisation.
With innovative technologies such as these, the company will escalate highway surveillance operations to ensure highway safety and user satisfaction. With the opening of new highways this year, including Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Highway and Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Highway, such digital applications can only mean a better and safer drive for highway users.
Tech to improve transport
Malaysia is working to push better traffic systems via technology. OpenGov Asia previously reported that the Malaysian government partnered a US-based GPS navigation software app to implement Bluetooth beacons across the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) highway and basement roads leading to car parks in the area.
The company will provide Bluetooth signals to improve navigation where GPS signals are limited, increase driver safety, and better visibility of real-time traffic events. Malaysia was the first in Southeast Asia to put Waze Beacons to the test.
The nation’s underground roads are an ideal test ground as they lead out to key exits, and it is expected the technology will enhance TRX’s level of services. Ensuring seamless connectivity is critical to support TRX’s status as an international financial hub.
Meanwhile, the Head of the Waze Beacons Program stated that the firm’s team is pleased to bring the Waze Beacons Program to Malaysia, the first Southeast Asian country to adopt the technology. Seamless navigation can be enjoyed in TRX when its underground roads are open to the public, but this is just the beginning and the aim is to expand into more areas nationwide across Malaysia soon.
A team led by Dr K.K.Y. Wong and Dr Y.K. Choi at the Department of Computer Science of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has designed and developed a multi-purpose IoT (Internet of Things) device named Stay Alert Stay Healthy (SASH) box which can be applied in multiple scenarios, providing a one-stop service for the public eager to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SASH box is built on the low-cost Raspberry Pi 4 which provides the computation resources necessary for hosting a lightweight server application as well as analysing the incoming data from its attached sensors.
It can be used to detect people with abnormal body temperature, whether they are wearing a face mask or not. It can also crawl updated COVID-19 information (e.g., locations of confirmed cases and required self-isolation cases) from government open databases to provide timely references for the general public.
The SASH box is equipped with LEDs, a speaker, and a consumer-grade thermal camera, enabling it to alert people to potential risks in the environment. The research team developed application components to enable it to operate as a multi-function device and a low-cost and effective solution for corporate and individual use.
Unlike hybrid thermal camera devices commonly used in the market, the SASH box is equipped with a single thermal camera but not RGB cameras to avoid compromising privacy. The team had collected and analysed over ten thousand thermal images and trained high-performance machine learning models to detect human faces with and without face masks using the low-resolution (120×160) thermal images captured from the device.
AI algorithms have also been developed for modulating detected temperatures to cater to temperature fluctuations in the surrounding environment and the hardware itself.
The SASH box is capable of retrieving up-to-date information, for example, COVID-19 cases, from online databases. The team is now developing speech recognition and text-to-voice capabilities in the device to provide easy accessibility for elderly people and people who are visually impaired.
Apart from working as a standalone gadget, the SASH box can also serve as a server and host useful applications for connecting devices. Users can easily retrieve information and monitor the environment in which a SASH box is located (e.g., households, classrooms, elderly homes, clinics, bus/taxi cabinets) in real-time by connecting their mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets from a remote site.
The design of the SASH box also allows ready scalability so that multiple devices can be connected to form a satellite network to facilitate sharing and monitoring of environmental data.
About HKU Faculty of Engineering
The Faculty of Engineering is one of the founding Faculties of The University of Hong Kong established in 1912. Since its foundation, the Faculty has kept pace with developments in the engineering world and is always at the forefront of engineering research, evolving into one of the largest Faculties at the University with five departments providing undergraduate, postgraduate and research degrees in a wide range of important fields of modern engineering, technology and computer science.
The Faculty aims at providing an all-round education for students, equipping graduates not only with knowledge of cutting-edge technology but also excellent communication and social skills, an innovation mindset, a lifelong learning attitude, professional integrity and international exposure.
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.
India deployed the world’s largest WhatsApp chatbot , MyGov Corona Helpdesk, in March 2020 to aid the country’s fight against the pandemic by disseminating timely and right information.
According to a report, the onset of the global pandemic brought about a panic wave in the country, so the government took it upon itself to curb the spread of rumours and misinformation. The government wanted a solution that would empower citizens with the right steps to take precautionary measures for staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key objective was to offer a 24/7 helpdesk that answered COVID-19 queries and helped prevent the spread of false information. It was also important to handle the scale and diversity of queries being directed from millions of users across the country in English and Hindi.
Haptik is a Conversational AI company that built the MyGov Corona Helpdesk in record time. This Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) is essentially an AI-powered WhatsApp chatbot that provides accurate information. The chatbot has the following functionalities:
- Help users check symptoms and get a diagnosis.
- Provide tips and precautionary measures to stay safe.
- Share the latest updates and advisories from the Ministry of Health.
- Bust myths around COVID-19.
- Share information about the official helpline.
Timely and accurate communication has been a key pillar in the fight against COVID-19. This has been greatly strengthened with the MyGov Corona Helpdesk, which has been handling millions of diverse queries in both English and Hindi. Since its launch, the helpdesk has successfully catered to over 25 million users with over 36 million queries. Remarkably, the chatbot was deployed in a record time of only five days.
A similar application was launched to help the public deal with COVID-19. Under the Digital India programme, in collaboration with Accenture and Microsoft, the government unveiled MyGov Saathi, enabling citizen communication. The bot uses AI and natural language processing to understand customer questions and provide appropriate responses.
The bot also directs residents to webpages with comprehensive information. Initially started in English, it has now been expanded the bot to Hindi and other regional languages so that it can reach more citizens in a personal, direct way. Currently, the bot has around 250,000 monthly users, and daily active sessions range from a few hundred to a few thousand, with total active sessions over a 16-day period nearing 600,000.
Further, another chatbot, Aaple Sarkar Bot, allows users to access information regarding public services managed by the state government and can process many queries every day such as analysing, maintaining records, and providing the user with the most useful information.
Through the app, an individual can search for services such as permanent water connection, driving licenses, and access-related information including prerequisites for the application, tracking the status of the application, and monitoring progress.
A news report explained that as part of the Right to Services Act of 2015, the bot is deployed to complement existing mobile apps and websites that help with queries related to healthcare, education, public utilities, rural development, revenue, and other public related services. The chatbot comprises of a range of algorithms that has the ability to process many queries every day, such as analysing, maintaining records, and providing the user with information. Haptik used its own personalised tool for creating the bot which comprised of three parts, including a bot-builder, human chat agent, and analytic dashboard.
The three platforms to help press agencies in their digital transformation were launched on 12 January at a conference to review 2020 tasks and outline the agenda for the information and communication sector for 2021.
The Deputy Minister of Information and Communication, Phan Tam, said digital transformation is the trend for press agencies. In 2020, these organisations underwent big changes in their perceptions about digital transformation but faced several difficulties while implementing them.
First, they are prone to becoming victims of large-scale cyberattacks, which may cause serious damage. Second, they are sometimes led by fake and unverified news. It can be difficult to verify information and trends in cyberspace, or even impossible if there is no effective tool. Finally, the personalisation trend in receiving information also complicates matters, a press release quoted him saying.
Press agencies want to apply information technology in their operations, but they do not know where to start, or which products and solutions to use. To help press agencies solve these problems, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has built a programme to help press agencies become digitised.
Nguyen Thanh Phuc, Director of the Authority of Information Security, explained that in 2021 MIC will support press agencies to carry out digital transformation with three platforms. The first is the electronic editorial office management platform, moving all office operations to the digital environment, including the management of the publication process, internal management, two-way interactions with readers, traffic measurement, technology application, and content display. This will help prepare for the pay model for Vietnam’s newspapers in the near future.
MIC has assessed and selected electronic editorial office management platforms in the market, and for the first year will exempt fees for all basic modules and all infrastructure services, including hosts, transmission lines, and content distribution throughout the country.
The second platform analyses information and public opinion on social networks, thus helping press agencies grasp information quickly and provide information that readers want at the time they need. This will help the organisations reform their operations, improve competitiveness, and increase the number of readers.
The third is a platform to help prevent and fight cyberattacks and provide an emergency response. This will help create a shield for press agencies’ information systems and protect their operation in the digital environment.
If press agencies face serious problems, through the coordination and emergency response system, the ministry will implement technological measures and allocate resources to help press agencies promptly resolve and troubleshoot problems.
The country recently launched a new portal dedicated to dealing with fake news. As OpenGov Asia reported, the Vietnam Anti Fake News Centre (VAFC) was built and is operated by MIC’s Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information.
The organisation has been tasked with receiving online reports of fake news. The portal defines fake news as inaccurate, untested, censored information, appearing incorrectly in content, and spread via the Internet and other media.
The portal spots and discredits fake news and publishes correct information. It also actively detects information trends with a large number of sharing and interacting to evaluate, appraise, and label possible fake news. It also offers instructions to the public on how to recognise, prevent, and deal with fake news.
Smart Nation Initiative Minister in charge, Vivian Balakrishnan announced that the trace together program will be stood down and all the data collected under the program would be deleted after the pandemic ends to maintains people’s privacy and government’s transparency. He reiterated that the sole purpose of the program was for contact tracing and to break the chains of COVID – 19 transmission. He added that the Ministry of Health might want to retain the epidemiological data for research purposes, but it will all be anonymised.
The government has also issued the procedure that will be in place to request deletion of data from the Trace Together app and tokens. When signing up for TraceTogether, a random user ID (a string of numbers and letters) is generated and linked to the user’s contact number and identification details, such as his name and NRIC number. These details are stored in a secure server, according to the TraceTogether website.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) uses the identification details to contact the right person when necessary. When the app or token users are near one another, their user IDs are exchanged in an encrypted and randomised form and can be decrypted only by MOH. The encrypted Bluetooth data exchanged is stored in the app or token, and does not contain personal, identifiable information. Bluetooth data older than 25 days is also erased automatically. Only when a user tests positive for Covid-19 will MOH request that he upload the Bluetooth data to the government’s servers for tracing close contacts.
The app also collects anonymised information about a user’s phone and app, such as the phone model and app version, to help the government improve the app and provide a better user experience. This data does not have personal, identifiable information. No global positioning system location data is collected. The Android version of the app needs “location permission” from the user because Android requires apps requesting Bluetooth access to also get permission to access the user’s location information.
Users can also request for their identification data to be deleted from the government’s server unless they are confirmed Covid-19 cases and their proximity data – or information about people near them – has already been uploaded to the government’s server.
For a user of the TraceTogether app, he can make the deletion request by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the mobile number he registered in the app.
For a user of the TraceTogether token, he can return the physical token to the government by first e-mailing email@example.com with the last four characters of his NRIC, FIN or passport number. The government will then let him know how to return the token.
When the request is received and can be made, the government will delete the user’s contact or mobile number, identification details and random user ID from its server. Once the deletion is completed, the data that the user’s device has exchanged with other users’ devices becomes meaningless because that data is no longer linked to the user.
When the nation fully recovers from the pandemic and there is no need to track and trace citizens to avoid the risk of infection, they will be prompted to disable the app or return or throw the token away.