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In January 2020, a new virus spread at unprecedented speed across multiple countries. Little was known about this novel threat – it would be named COVID-19 only in the next month – and amid the uncertainty, misinformation about the pandemic travelled as rapidly as the coronavirus itself. To combat the flood of fake news, the government had to pivot and find ways to communicate accurate, verified information to Singaporeans across the globe directly.
Postman.gov.sg is a product built by GovTech’s Open Government Products (OGP) together with the team at the Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) under the leadership of Minister Iswaran to address the unmet needs of updating citizens with bite-size information rapidly and at scale.
Using Postman.gov.sg, the Gov.sg WhatsApp channel was able to send a million messages within 22 minutes. This was a feat that was first of its kind, leading the wave to revamp how governments across the world could provide accurate public health information to control the pandemic. And the most amazing part? It was built in just three days, said Jean Tan, the tech lead for Postman.gov.sg’s engineering team at OGP who shared her experience in developing Postman.gov.sg at the Stack 2020 Developers Conference.
Well, know what they say – modern problems require modern solutions.
The need for speed!
Towards the end of January, Jean’s team met with MCI to tackle the problem at hand. MCI leadership emphasised the need to communicate on a timely and frequent basis. Both teams came together and recognised that the existing WhatsApp channel that was used for peacetime communication was not meant for scale from a technical perspective and quickly pivoted to finding a new solution.
As with any emergency operational processes, they started with manual processes for the updating of subscription requests while waiting for tech enhancement for the existing systems. One gap that was identified by the teams within 24 hours of operation was the fact that manual processing of subscription requests was not scalable.
There was a pressing demand for official Covid-19 updates given the uncertainty, however, the team could not keep up with the influx of requests – which they had to manually process. The second gap identified was the sending speed of the existing solution – which was built for peacetime operations and scoped for a smaller subscriber base. As a result of COVID-19, the subscriber base jumped from around 7,000 to more than 50,000 overnight.
The problem with lower sending speed was that it would take 14 hours to send out half a million messages, so the first and 500,000th recipient would get their messages more than half a day apart. It was not ideal for a citizen to receive an update from the government hours after someone else had received it.
Both MCI and the Postman.gov.sg teams came together to pivot a Postman.gov.sg prototype that was built during OGP’s hackathon to a new product that would address the problems that the Government faced with COVID-19. The team pulled all-nighters in the office to integrate Postman.gov.sg with Form.gov.sg and Facebook’s WhatsApp Business Client – where the subscription applications were made – to automate the processing, closing the four-hour lag.
After a couple of prototypes, MCI gave the go-ahead to launch on Feb 1, just three days after their first meeting. Eventually, the team managed to hit their target of sending out half a million messages in 10 minutes, 80 times faster than before.
## Overcoming technical difficulties However, things were far from smooth sailing on launch day. The team was forced to scramble for solutions after the boost in sending speed overwhelmed their cloud computing service. They also had to come up with a more efficient database to read and store the millions of messages that were generated after each broadcast. These issues were valuable lessons in understanding the technical limits of the system they were working with, Jean said.
This experience also taught her that she needed to know a system’s technical capabilities in order to stretch them and, more importantly, that she should not be afraid to push the boundaries.
For instance, the team noticed that each round of message sending involved a time-consuming validation of the phone numbers that were being pinged. Studying the technical documentation of the WhatsApp client closely, they figured out that they could do the validation just once a day at a different time from the broadcasts. As such, the system could now focus solely on sending out messages without being bogged down by the validation process.
Work in progress
Today, MCI uses Postman.gov.sg to send a million messages two to three times a day. The tool, which can also send email, SMS, and Telegram messages, has also been enhanced such that any public officer with a gov.sg email can use it. Entities without a government-issued email are also using Postman.gov.sg. For example, hospitals use the system to send out Covid-19 test results to individuals who did swab tests.
The team is not done with Postman.gov.sg and already has plans to improve it, such as by adding a rich text editor so that its interface resembles an email client. Perpetually on the lookout for feedback, Jean encouraged everyone – public officers or not – to try out the tool and reach out to the team with suggestions.
“We’re always happy to talk to you about what you want to achieve with Postman and help you achieve your goal,” she said.
“Being a smart nation is not about flaunting glitzy technology, but … applying technology to solve real problems that will make a difference to people’s lives, and across the whole of society.” These were the words of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loog as he addressed the audience at the Smart Nation Summit in 2019.
PM Lee’s statement resonates well with a recent commentary by Carol Soon and Shawn Goh from Institute of Policy studies. They believe that to realise the vision of a Smart Nation for all, the next phase of Singapore’s Smart Nation must pivot and focus on securing impact on citizens in three ways — strengthening our digital psyche, closing the participation gap, and scaling up partnerships.
Singapore has successfully established itself as a digitally advanced nation, one of the few nations who were well placed to manage the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. But the recent debates about the use of Trace Together data for criminal investigations have highlighted that factors like people’s trust and comfort level with the technology greatly impact the adoption of the digital service.
All these debates and discussions have brought forth the fact that becoming a smart nation requires more than making available the hardware and infrastructure requires to implement it. The “software” challenges also need to be overcome to fully enjoy the benefits of digitisation.
To strengthen these ‘softer’ aspects of becoming a smart nation in the true sense, Singapore needs to focus on the following 3 pillars:
Strengthening our Digital Psyche:
With the rapid digital transformation in the last 10 months, citizens have been bombarded with digital scams and misinformation. In a recent study, it was found that Singaporeans of higher age group and lower socio-economic backgrounds, were found to be more susceptible to false information.
People with high confirmation bias and low knowledge of the digital media landscape were more vulnerable. They were more likely to believe falsehoods aligned with their existing beliefs and were unaware of how and where information online originated from.
These findings highlight key areas of improvement in strengthening Singaporeans’ digital psyche. In particular, public education encouraging residents to be introspective about individual biases when navigating the online space can be ramped up to build national resilience against misinformation that exploit such vulnerabilities.
Another is to equip people with more knowledge on the digital media and tech landscape, so they can better appreciate and assess the credibility of the online information they receive.
Such interventions are resources we can turn to when enhancing digital literacy programmes here by adapting what works for our local context.
Closing the Participation Gap:
The second pillar of focus is to reduce the participation gap due to age, income, and occupational lines. The idea is to not leave behind a single citizen and ensure that they can leverage the technology to its full potential.
A first step to closing these disparities is to establish a national framework that maps out key digital skills all Singaporeans should possess to fully participate in today’s digital world. Countries that have established such guidelines setting minimal standards residents should work towards have seen their efforts bear fruit.
These include digital foundational skills that underpin all other digital skills, such as knowing how to connect to the Internet and maintain online login information.
The framework also outlines digital communication skills, such as communicating with others via email or instant messaging apps and using word processors to create and share documents like a personal resume.
Yet another group of skills looked at those needed for online transaction skills, like being able to access digital financial services and fill in request forms for public goods and services.
Establishing a similar framework for Singapore will help map out basic but critical digital literacies and identify the digital skills gap for different segments of society. This will aid the design of targeted interventions whether by the Government, self-help groups or non-profits to plug existing participation gaps.
Scaling up Partnerships:
The third pillar is to focus on Several new digital initiatives like Seniors Go Digital, and Hawkers Go Digital to speed up the roll out the National Digital Literacy programme.
The private sector has been also been bolstering public sector efforts in meeting the needs of targeted segments. Organisations such as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Airlines and Temasek Foundation donated and distributed mobile phones to various communities during the pandemic, in addition to face masks, hand sanitisers.
The people sector has also stepped up to provide ground-up solutions to help fill existing gaps. Initiatives like Engineering Good collected and donated laptops to low-income students. Others, like SG Bono and Readable Asia, have conducted classes for children on how to access the Internet safely.
Singapore has achieved great feats in its smart nation journey and has been able to accelerate it throughout the pandemic. The next step in this journey should be to make technology and digital initiatives more inclusive and citizen-friendly.
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As you might know, Singapore scores pretty well amongst the world’s smart cities – Otherwise, why else would they shoot WestWorld here?
That said, we’re not the only one out there. Cities around the world are all racing to compete as ideal places to live, work and play, improving the lives of their citizens.
Smart cities have numerous benefits, including reducing wastage, saving on manpower costs, being environmentally sustainable, and of course, improves the lives of its citizens by making government services either more accessible, or more efficient.
As part of our 3-part New Year special series, we’re taking a break from looking at initiatives in Singapore, and focusing on some other smart cities around the globe instead.
First off, the capital of Holland – Amsterdam
Fun fact: Apart from being amongst the world’s top 10 smart cities, Amsterdam shares more than a few similarities with Singapore. It was once a fishing village, and though our urban landscapes differ, their colourful 17th century low-rise historical buildings are somehow reminiscent of our Straits-Chinese shophouses (if you use a little bit of imagination).
They say great minds think alike – let’s see what our Dutch friends are up to!
The Mijnbuur app
The Mijnbuur app is probably the most wholesome thing you’ll hear about. It connects you with your neighbours, the local police, or your neighbourhood director if you’re in need of help (be it a robbery, or if some day-to-day maintenance issues). In the Netherlands, apartment owners are expected to work together to maintain and keep their apartment complexes clean.
This is done through the charging of a monthly fee, and you’ll be able to request for compensation from the pot of accumulated finances if, for instance, your neighbour’s pipes were to burst and damage your ceilings. Or, you could just use the Mijnbuur app to get a coffee with your neighbours. The best part: you don’t have to know Dutch to use the app, it auto-translates your messages for you.
Singapore’s One Service app serves a similar function, except you won’t be liaising with your neighbours, but your feedback on municipal issues will directly be routed to the relevant agencies.
Ultimately, the aim of the Mijnbuur app is to foster a sense of social responsibility, and to allow neighbours to peacefully solve disputes among themselves. Besides improving community relationships, data from the app provides government agencies with a clearer idea of the common issues faced by residents in different neighbourhoods.
Waste detection using cameras
Waste management has always been a challenging task for modern cities. Each area has its own pattern of garbage production and the optimisation of waste collection helps to both reduce costs and maintain the cleanliness of the city.
As the city of Amsterdam relies on its residents to drop off their trash bags at designated collection points at specific times, the collection process has to be optimised to avoid the accumulation of trash at these points.
To counter this problem, Amsterdam is currently teaching an image recognition system to identify different types of waste, and its garbage trucks will soon be fitted with smart cameras which can quantify the amount of rubbish there are on the streets and at collection points.
In Singapore, we manage our waste slightly differently – waste is consolidated in rubbish chutes and bins. That said, towns in Pasir Ris and Tampines are rolling something out that’s pretty similar – a smart waste system that informs collectors when the system is almost full!
Easier access to parking lots
The stress of driving is sometimes too overwhelming, especially if you’re hyper-aware of the line of cars queuing up behind you as you very slowly and shoddily attempt a parallel park. In fact, a whopping 30 percent of city traffic is caused by drivers seeking a parking space. Finding a parking space faster would thus lead to a reduction of congestion, fuel use, air pollution levels and of course, drivers’ stress levels.
Smart Flow, an IoT cloud-based platform, monitors sensors to report traffic flow and parking availability across Amsterdam. When Smart Flow was first launched, the average time required to find a parking space was significantly reduced by 43 percent. On top of that, it helps drivers to make more fiscally responsible choices by listing the cheapest options within the area.
Well, Singapore isn’t too far behind either with something in the works by our very own ST Electronics – the Smart Car Park Platform. Combined with smartphone technologies, drivers will eventually be able to search and book for car park spaces, check parking rates and even apply for season parking through the mobile app.
Energy efficiency is one of the biggest goals of a smart city. Unfortunately, though the lights along the streets of many cities use timers or light sensors to limit the length of time the lights are turned on for, the intensity of the lights cannot be adjusted. Not only is this a waste of energy, light pollution can pose a threat to the health of wildlife and plants.
To solve these problems, Luminext developed an urban lighting system that regulates light intensity according to the needs of citizens. This smart lighting system operates through remote sensors, and can also be adjusted from a control centre depending on how bright or dim specific streets the city authorities desire them to be. Streetlights reach maximum intensity once vehicles or people pass by and return to the lowest intensity when the motion sensors do not detect anything in its periphery.
Back home, we’ve also realised the potential for lighting systems to improve urban planning and operations. Our smart lampposts in Singapore may not adjust their intensity automatically, but they do have sensors that can detect and monitor changes to environmental conditions like humidity, rainfall, temperature and pollutants in the air!
In addition, mounted cameras have analytic capabilities to count and analyse crowd build-ups, as well as count, classify and monitor the speed of Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) to enhance safety in public spaces!
So there you have it – great minds (and great cities) do think alike!
Stay tuned for the next Smart City, Helsinki!
Singapore’s smart nation initiative was launched with the vision of better living, stronger communities and the creation of more opportunities for all. A technology-driven, up-to-date healthcare system with the capability to ensure the wellbeing of all its citizens is a pre-requisite to support this powerful mission. Such healthcare infrastructure takes on added relevance and urgency in the light of the current global crisis.
To better understand how the government of Singapore is utilising technology to realise this vision of better living and a stronger community for the nation, OpenGov Asia had an in-depth conversation with Sutowo Wong, Director, Analytics and Information Management Division, Ministry of Health.
Sutowo confirmed that technology and innovation in healthcare procedure and processes support MOH’s strategic shift from Healthcare to Health. Wearable technology, healthcare mobile applications, digitising in-person transactions like payments and on-line registrations are all technology use cases that help the government track and ensure the good health of its citizens.
It was fascinating to know how technology has enabled supporting senior citizens through user-friendly apps like the Moments of Life App (a smart nation and Digital Government office initiative) and has taken healthcare beyond the hospital walls into homes and community of patients using TeleHealth.
Sutowo acknowledged that the Singapore healthcare sector harnesses innovative technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in various health care applications and models. AI and ML-driven solutions are, in fact, the key to many of their initiatives and strategies.
- No-Show Predictive Model: Using ML, this model identifies patients who are potential no-shows. This allows administrators to send them reminders or to allocate their slot to another patient. The solution optimises clinic resources as well as maximise available time.
- Multiple Readmission Predictive Model: This model analyses data to create a list of high-risk patients for care teams to focus on. Patients within the elevated risk category are automatically identified for enrolment into intervention programs eliminating up to 90% of nurses’ manual assessment workload, freeing them up to spend more time in taking direct care of patients.
- Singapore Eye Lesion Analyser Plus (SELENA+): Based on a deep learning, artificial intelligence software system, the solution can detect three major eye conditions by highlighting areas with potential vision-threatening eye diseases. This technology has proven to be highly efficient in delivering fast and accurate results.
- National University Health System (NUHS) Automated Diagnosis Engine: The engine helps diagnose appendicitis using clinical notes.The objective of this work is to develop an automated diagnosis system that can predict the probability of appendicitis given a free-text emergency department note and additional structures information(e.g. lab test results). The model can learn important features, and symptoms of patients from unstructured free text notes from doctors helping to make better diagnosis.
It was interesting to learn that the Ministry of Health follows a 2-pronged approach to better respond to rapid changes in the technological landscape.
The first prong is a top-down approach through the National AI Strategy, which maps out how Singapore will develop and use AI to transform the economy and improve people’s lives. AI can also be used to analyse clinical and genomic data, medical images, and health behaviours to better assess the risk profile of patients.
Second is the bottom-up approach which comprises initiatives like AI in Health Grand Challenge. Such programmes and initiatives encourage the development of innovative approaches that use AI to enhance primary care and disease management in Singapore and the world. It supports groundbreaking research ideas that adopt AI technologies and innovations to address current challenges in the medical field.
Speaking about the future for robotic doctors /nurses for treatment and surgeries and the current proximity to achieving this, Sutowo shared that “with the declining old-age support ratio coupled with low birth rates, it is imperative that healthcare is made more proactive to guide people to take pre-emptive steps to keep themselves healthy or to better manage their well-being”.
Leveraging assistive technology and robotics in healthcare is one way of doing it. Explaining further, he shared the example of RoboCoach Xian. A robot trainer enhanced with sensors, it imitates human movements and can teach a range of exercises to senior citizens. It can also help provide cognitive therapy to seniors who have suffered strokes or have other age-related disorders.
The Centre for Healthcare Assistive & Robotics Technology (CHART) has been established with the support of Ministry of Health and Economic Development Board to enable health care professionals to work closely with industry, academia and research institutions to co-develop and testbed impactful healthcare solutions in assistive technologies and robotics.
One such technological enabler is the development of the Robotic Middleware for healthcare (RoMi-H). It standardises communication messages among heterogeneous robotic systems, sensors and information systems, thus facilitating interoperability among multiple systems and easing system integration effort in a bid to digitalise healthcare and automate processes.
Apart from CHART, other bodies or organisations that contribute to creating tech innovations for the healthcare industry are the MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation (MOHT) and Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS). Both the organisations have pushed boundaries in the digitalisation of healthcare, architecting the national IT strategies and roadmaps for healthcare, connecting and analysing complex systems across Singapore’s health ecosystem.
Sutowo concluded the conversation by reiterating MOH’s vision to be a leader in developing and deploying scalable, impactful technology-driven healthcare solutions to the nation’s citizens. The Ministry continues to relentlessly work towards this vision in future as well.
The Housing Development Board, Singapore launched the HDB Flat Portal. The one-stop online platform will make it easier for prospective buyers and sellers streamline the process. The Minister for National Development, Desmond Lee announced, “This new portal will make it more convenient for home buyers and sellers to gather information on the purchase or sale of a flat through a single integrated platform”.
Some of the salient features of the portal include a customised financial calculator for buyers to check their budget and payment plan and sellers to estimate sales proceeds, and flat listings collating information on current and upcoming Build-to-Order (BTO) launches.
The website will also have loan listings for buyers to get information on housing loans offered by HDB and participating financial institutions, said Mr Lee. He added that HDB is looking to include resale flat listings in subsequent phases of the portal’s rollout. The HDB Flat Portal is the second phase of the HDB Resale Portal launched in January 2018.
Its launch took place after a series of engagement sessions with industry players and stakeholders, he said. “The HDB Resale Portal has halved the time needed for resale flat transactions from 16 weeks to around 8 weeks and reduced the number of appointments with HDB from two to one,” said Mr Lee. “We will continue to look into ways to further improve the transaction process for HDB home buyers and sellers.”
Buyers can use the suggested payment plan in the portal as a benchmark when talking to property or bank consultants before purchasing a resale flat, said Ms Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie. The section on upcoming Build-to-Order (BTO) flats is also helpful as buyers can view information on upcoming launches and subscription rates of previous launches in one website, speeding up the search process, she added.
Features of the online portal:
The portal has provisions for every buyer and seller to have a profile which requires a login via SingPass. The website also has a “My Flat Dashboard” which tracks the number and category of the application you want to make.
Another fascinating feature is called “Finding a Flat”. Using this feature a buyer can input his/her price, location, flat type, waiting time, and mode of sale preferences and can get suitable results based on them.
Apart from making the transactions move twice as fast, the portal significantly reduces the amount of previously required administrative work and the number of appointments. Documentation and formalities like Submitting a resale checklist, applying for flat valuation, HDB loan application letter which earlier had to be done on independent websites can now be done in a single place.
This portal will also enable less reliance on property agents. All their functions like linking the buyer and seller, driving the schedule on transactions and formalities are managed effectively by the portal itself without any charge or fee.
The HDB Online portal is a boon for the Lion City’s citizens helping them realise the dream to own a house by simplifying and accelerating the process.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for digital transformation across the globe, not just in commerce, education and work. Health and safety considerations, too, have paved the way for the rapid adoption of technology. To cater to these urgent requirements, there is a pressing need for governments and businesses to adapt and digitalise at an unprecedented speed.
This urgency is particularly apparent in the healthcare sector where medical and frontline workers are experiencing fatigue due to the unprecedented influx of patients and the accompanying administrative workload.
This is where Intelligent Automation comes to the fore to take over routine, repetitive and complex tasks far more efficiently, freeing up human resources for other critical tasks.
Understanding the relevance and experience of this issue, senior executives from the healthcare sector in Singapore engaged in an in-depth discussion during the OpenGovLive! Virtual Breakfast Insight held on 14 January 2021. The discussion revolved around the topic: Reinvigorating the Healthcare Industry by Harnessing the Power of Intelligent Automation.
Making automation processes a priority in the new normal
The discussion began with a bird’s eye view of the current situation in the healthcare sectors of across the globe and the role of technology to address challenges in this area.
Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia, elaborated further on the concept of employee fatigue. He said that the foremost question to be answered by organisations to address this issue is how to scale up processes and transactions which have gone through the ceiling.
He acknowledged that the adoption of automation processes in the pre-pandemic era was considered an extravagance within the business frameworks, this is not the case today in the new normal. It is now a necessity to invest in intelligent automation so that work hours can be maximised. The ultimate issue then to be resolved is not whether to shift to automated processes, but how organisations can improve on these tools once they are set in place. This, Mohit added, is how businesses and government agencies can upscale the entire workforce.
A foundation point raised by Mohit was that technology is now embedded in society and it cannot function as efficiently without innovation. Organisations must focus on ushering a completely seamless delivery of services through technology, particularly in the healthcare sector where operations cannot slow down.
He stressed the fact that successful scale programmes for intelligent automation require executive ownership and direction. It is critical to have leaders to direct innovation from the top or otherwise, it is never going to happen.
Mohit concluded by urging delegates to partner with the right people, experts in the field, who can make it easier for them to embark on a journey towards intelligent automation rather than trying to do everything in-house.
Reshaping operations in healthcare through AI, RPA
As the world continues to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic, boosting the healthcare industry through innovative processes is key.
This was the focal point of the discussion led by Dr Zoran Bolevich, Chief Executive and Chief Information Officer at eHealth New South Wales, NSW Health, during the virtual session. For him, the vision of organisations across the world must be to foster a sustainable healthcare system that is digitally enabled.
Dr Zoran confirmed that in countries like Australia, digital advancement is a prerequisite for agencies, especially those in healthcare. Fo his organisation, he cited statistics that show over 12 million hospital appointments were booked digitally and approximately 2.25 million invoice transactions have been processed through digital means.
He was of the firm belief that health IT can be utilised to solve issues in the healthcare sectors more quickly. The challenge then is how to build on tech agility to continue seamless delivery of health services. He added that a ‘future health strategy’ must provide value-based healthcare, elevate the human experience and empower patients or consumers. This, Dr Zoran said, can be achieved by investing in AI and automation.
To further explain, Dr Zoran said that at an initial stage, organisations must automate workflows in shared service centres and use data and algorithms derived from these systems to boost operations. Later, data gathered can be further harnessed to ramp up supply chain management procedures like stock control and automatic re-ordering of supplies. The automation process then becomes a procurement system that can guide staff in a smarter way for the procurement of medical supplies.
Dr Zoran also agreed that AI should further be used to improve processes in updating medication content and providing a basis for clinical decision-making.
Beating the pandemic panic through automation
Anna Twomey, Senior Solution Advisor, Americas Public and Private Healthcare SME, added interesting insights to the discussion at hand.
She mentioned that despite the onset of what she referred to as a pandemic-panic among agencies in the healthcare industry, digital technology could help alleviate these worries.
Anna described Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a digital partner that gets smarter as more data and insights from the healthcare sector, including visualisation and imagery and e-learning information, are stored. Through RPAs, transformation in healthcare can be further amplified as these streamline transactions in scheduling appointments, approving request referrals, updating patients’ charts, and reviewing medical reports.
As the healthcare sector continues to navigate through tough times during the pandemic, having digital partners like RPAs can help medical practitioners better predict health outcomes and bridge the gap between specific populations of patients within the sector.
Once patient data is recorded, healthcare can look at these analyses to predict trends in certain segments with particular issues or co-morbidities like diabetes, heart conditions and other diseases.
In her experience, some of the challenges which shore up costs decrease patient satisfaction. The solution was to put up an end-to-end AI system that can look up viable solutions to these challenges, from managing patient ratings down to small facets of operations like serving food in hospitals.
Through AI, physicians and healthcare workers are better able to address patient conditions and needed treatments.
After the thought-provoking presentations by the speakers, delegates participated in an insight-sharing activity.
When asked what the primary objective of their digital strategy is, half of the delegates said that the goal is to enhance patient experience and journey while for the others the objective is to improve overall health quality.
According to one delegate from the National University Health System (NUHS), innovation captures many of these objectives. The positive news is that many businesses are building the necessary infrastructure to boost their digital transformation journey.
An interesting question during the session got delegates in deep thought. If their company has an unlimited budget, the area in which 57% of participants said they would invest in is the integration of disparate systems.
A delegate from IHH Healthcare was firm that improving back-end support services is equally important while applying digital initiatives. However, he added that there are still challenges that have to be addressed like scaling programmes. Another participant from the health sector said that if there are challenges in the budget, the solution is to bridge the gap in operations through RPAs.
A third (33%) of participants said that they are inclined to use intelligent automation in their integrated care departments, while the same percentage of attendees cited that they are adopting AI to drive patient experience.
A NUHS executive thought that integrated care is fundamental and that most organisations take the leap when they are presented with the opportunity to intensify integrated care technology. However, she was quick to add that one of the bottlenecks in intelligent automation is the notion that it only caters to back-end processes. In the long term, AI will increasingly be used in other areas of operations.
Her colleague from the NUHS agreed, stating that the whole purpose of adopting AI is to support patients’ journey so integrated care must be at the core of every organisation’s digital blueprint.
Anna summed up the online discussion by encouraging more agencies to capitalise on the strengths of intelligent automation processes in a bid to ramp up operational blueprints in healthcare. This, she said, can be done by collaborating with experts in the field of Intelligent Automation.
She invited the delegates to engage with partners who could guide them and be on the journey with them.
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.
Singapore government is taking steps towards expanding the commercial use of drones to manage air traffic in future skies. In the first of such trials which are scheduled for March this year, multiple drones will take to the skies near Marina South Pier to test the effectiveness of an unmanned air traffic management system. If the trial is successful, it could be used to safely and efficiently manage drone traffic at scale.
The drones are built-in with a technology that makes sure that it does not collide with other drones using an automated system. This system can deconflict and monitor multiple drones flying in Singapore’s limited air space.
Sanjay Suresh, Head, Business Development, Nova Sytems Asia shared that first, the system lays out the flight plan for the drone after checking the flight schedule and path of other drones. The system also can alert the done through multiple channels in case there is a change in other drone’s direction or flight time.
The team at Nova Sytems has run numerous tests with more than 500 drones at the same time in a virtual setting. The live test that is scheduled for the second week March is the final milestone before the project is launched. Up to 6 drones will fly above the waters in the Maritime Drone Estate near the Marina South Pier. This minimises the risk to people and property while simulating real-time marine use cases.
“We want to fully stress test the system to make sure that a package needs to be delivered from the shore to a ship is fully aware that there are other drones performing rescue operations and doing vessel checks. We want to do this as we see it as a very possible future scenario” says Ryan Lee, Managing Director, Nova Systems Asia.
Data like the ship positions and scheduled movements will be included to help drones avoid them during the trial. The operators can also add weather conditions and flight patterns of migratory birds in future so that the drones can respond to these situations
The trial is also pivotal for the authorities as it will help them set in place the regulations with drone use likely to be ubiquitous in the near future. Ryan shares that the days are not far when people might have their own drones fetching them meals and goods from the market. Therefore, it is important to set regulations in place on time.
In trying to understand an unmanned traffic management system and the need to test it we found out that aircraft are guided safely by air traffic controllers communicating with pilots via radio, a system known as air traffic management (ATM). This direct, point-to-point, line-of-sight communication between an operator and an aircraft is the industry’s standard mode of operation. But estimates show that the growth of commercial air traffic is will ultimately exceed the capacity of a human-centred system—and this is just for human-piloted flights.
As unmanned and self-piloted operations continue to multiply, ATM systems will need to shift to a more scalable model: a digital system that can monitor and manage increased activity. This system is called Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM), or a networked collection of services that communicate together based on common rules. Rather than relying on centralised control, UTM frameworks around the world will use the principle of distributed authority, which opens up the system to more service providers who can adapt as the market evolves and needs change.
In practice, UTM means aircraft will no longer have to speak to a single entity, such as an assigned air traffic controller. Instead, it will be able to communicate freely with multiple service suppliers. These suppliers will be held to relevant safety, security and performance standards by authorities, and will be able to coordinate with the rest of the network to make efficient decisions based on specific flight objectives. The transition will be gradual, but one that is important for the global aviation system’s future viability.