Above photo: ST Electronics’ booth at SICW 2017/ Credit: ST Electronics
As cyber threats continue to escalate in number and complexity, one of the primary areas of concern is the protection of critical information infrastructure (CII) with complex operational environments. Disruption or damage to CIIs in our increasingly digitised world will have serious impact on the health, safety, security, or economic well-being of citizens, or on the effective functioning of the government or the entire economy.
A recently proposed Cybersecurity Bill in Singapore has a strong focus on protection of CIIs. The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) has classified 11 critical sectors as CIIs: (1) Aviation, (2) Banking & Finance, (3) Energy, (4) Government, (5) Healthcare, (6) Infocomm, (7) Land Transport, (8) Maritime, (9) Media, (10), Security and Emergency Services, (11) Water.
On the sidelines of Singapore International Cyber Week (SICW) 2017, OpenGov had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Goh Eng Choon, Senior Vice President and General Manager of ST Electronics (Info-Security) and Mr. Hoo Chuan-Wei, Chief Cyber-Security Technology Officer (CCSTO) of ST Electronics (Info-Security), regarding the protection of CIIs.
Singapore Technologies Electronics Limited (ST Electronics), is the electronics arm of Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd. ST Electronics is a global engineering company specialising in the design, development and integration of advanced electronics and ICT systems. Its core business areas include rail & intelligent transportation, satellite and broadband communications, info-communications technologies, command & control operations, training & simulation, intelligent building & security systems and cyber security.
Challenges in securing critical information infrastructure
Mr. Goh (below) explained that the primary challenge in securing most of these domains is that they are operations-centric. In enterprise IT systems, the focus is on the confidentiality, integrity and availability (commonly referred to as CIA) of information. But for operational technology (OT), the focus is on their availability.
“If any of these systems is shut down, power, financial, healthcare, everybody is going to be affected. So they need to keep the system alive. Then only they think about integrity and confidentiality of information,” Mr. Goh said.
So, how do you change the mindset to where you are really focused on keeping it safe, and available at the same time? To deal with the challenge, ST Electronics came up with a new framework for looking at the security of CIIs. It has three components: Safety, Availability and Maintainability, abbreviated as SAM. Governing all this is extensive domain knowledge, systems assurance and deep engineering expertise.
Image credit: ST Electronics
Mr. Hoo (below) added, “A lot of people try to use a traditional enterprise IT security framework to look at an OT issue. Then there is a mismatch and misunderstanding. At ST Electronics, we adopt an engineering mindset. That’s where SAM came from.”
“ST Electronics wants to provide technical thought leadership in the industry. SAM is a forward-thinking way for addressing certain things. People say just do CIA. But SAM is actually inclusive of CIA.”
The proposed cybersecurity bill in Singapore provides a framework for the regulation of Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) and formalises the duties of CII owners in ensuring the cybersecurity of their respective CIIs.
When asked about their thoughts on the potential impact of the bill, Mr. Goh replied that biggest issue will be to jumpstart from where they are now. The CIIs that use OT tend to become very conservative. They have a large number of highly complex systems, which cannot be upgrade overnight.
Mr. Goh said, “You want to upgrade the system and make it cybersecurity safe but how do you know that it will not affect the operations? How do you know that it will not affect safety? Before you implement the cybersecurity protection or system, you have to check that it doesn’t break the system. You need time to do it and there must a strategy to implement it. It should not be like when the bill comes, within a short span of time they are trying to transform the protections.”
People, process and technology
This journey is not just about technology. Technology is only part of the solution. The other two essential components are processes and people.
Mr. Goh used an analogy, “If I give you a racing car, you still need to have the processes in place to control the performance of the car and you need a skilled driver to take the car to the next level of performance. You can’t just look at technology, and forget about processes and people. We have always focused on all 3 of these.”
The ST Electronics Cyber Security Centre was set up in 2014 to provide cyber training tailored for new entrants and seasoned professionals to develop and hone their competencies in cyber security. Ever since ST Electronics has been training government agencies, statutory boards, private enterprises, as well as employees.
Security-by-design is increasingly considered to be a mandatory approach for projects going forward. But what about legacy infrastructure?
Mr. Hoo said that security-by-design can be achieved there through failure analysis of existing solutions and putting in mitigating controls for potential pitfalls. That can make up for shortcomings in the original designs and set-up.
Mr. Goh added that ST Electronics has specifically designed a course to deal with this issue, for its engineers.
“We wanted all the engineers, the architects, when they first design any system to design the system with security in mind. When we say design the system with security in mind, it’s not just about future systems. They have to understand what is current, what are the legacy problems. When they design new things, they have to take into consideration all the existing systems and even some very old legacy systems. How will it impact the legacy systems and the ways to combat it. So, we actually run this course for our own employees.”
During SICW 2017, ST Electronics announced a number of new partnerships to develop new cyber security technologies, next-generation products and solutions, and industry-wide capabilities and expertise that will transform the industry and help governments and enterprises secure their critical infrastructures.
One is a collaboration with IBM Security to co-develop next generation cyber security operations equipped with cognitive capabilities driven by threat intelligence and Artificial Intelligence. The collaboration intends to introduce a new concept to ST Electronics’ Security Operations Centres (SOCs), transforming traditional SOCs into a cognitive Command and Control Centre.
In addition, ST Electronics has also partnered with Siemplify to deliver tools that will help security teams effectively triage and respond to cyber threats, while meeting Singapore’s regulatory requirements in cyber security.
Resulting from the two partnerships is the development of ST Electronics’ new Cyber Security Command and Control Centre (CSCCC). It leverages advanced data analytics and visualisation, deep machine learning, and automation capabilities to provide a holistic and comprehensive process of detecting external threats, responding to, and recovering from cyber threats. With its modular and scalable design, the CSCCC also provides customised solutions for enterprises in securing their day-to-day cyber operations.
Mr. Hoo said, “There’s a lot of talk about artificial intelligence, machine learning etc. But there is always this missing component of machine reasoning. That’s the value that ST Electronics sees in IBM Security.”
“In machine learning, the system learns by using certain datasets. Then you ask simple questions and the machine gives you the answers. When you talk about machine reasoning, the machine must be able to tell you that this is what is happening and over there something else is also affected.”
Another MOU was signed between ST Electronics and Cisco to deliver enhanced security capabilities, and provide Managed Detection and Response Security Services (MDRSS) comprising full-time, proactive, systematic threat monitoring and management to Singapore Government Agencies and enterprises.
Mr. Hoo explained that Cisco is well known for its networking environment. Almost every enterprise out there has some form of Cisco networking technology. Because of which Cisco is able to collect a lot of valuable information, which can be harvested and analysed to provide insights into the network layer.
Cisco’s investigators monitor customer networks 24×7 from a global network of security operations centres, providing proactive vigilance and in-depth analysis. In the event of a breach, the ST Electronics – Cisco MDRSS platform can ensure proper containment and actionable recommendations for remediation.
Mr. Goh explained how ST Electronics chooses whether to enter into a partnership.
“When we choose to enter into a partnership, two things must happen. One is we must value-add to the partnership. It’s not just partnerships to bring the technology in and then try to resell it. The value can come in two forms. One is to value-add to the partner so that they can provide a better offering to their customers. The second part is that our people must have the engineering capability to actually take the knowledge and use it, rather than just having a client relationship.”
“The second one is that we partner to grow certain capabilities to the next level. Otherwise it will be just another business relationship.”
“ST Electronics also conducts very strict due diligence before we go into partnership. We evaluate the technology. It has to be relevant, relevant to the society, to the economy,” Mr. Hoo said.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a sobering wake-up call to swiftly abolish corporate inertia plaguing critical event management.
COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus two primary goals – how to keep employees safe with minimal businesses disruption.
This was particularly telling in a recent high-level meeting with around 30 senior executives from major brands from Australia and other Asia-Pacific countries.
Only 7 per cent said they had a scalable solution to deal with the next critical event – bushfires, tsunami, terrorism, earthquake, flood or another economic or life-threatening situation – in a post-COVID world.
Yet, 89 per cent said critical event management was important to their business outcomes.
Most were in the dark and had no idea where to begin but all understood the dire consequences of doing nothing.
The current pandemic is an opportune time to ask if your organisation can quickly identify threats and assess the risk environment, then easily identify and locate the impacted people, assets, operational functions which could potentially be impacted.
It may be 2020 but many organisations still rely on a manual call tree to disseminate accurate information to ensure staff safety. This may be acceptable in small organisations but even they struggle to keep the basics, such as mobile phone numbers, up to date.
The process of managing a critical event is often very manual, even disjointed (some large organisations still have employee details spread across multiple Excel sheets and even in binders).
It’s often siloed using multiple applications, and it takes a significantly long time to work through. Why?
An organisation needs to know what’s happening and why it’s happening – what is the threat and the nature of the threat. What’s the potential impact? Is it related to physical security, inclement weather, or is it digital disruption due to a cyberattack or ransomware?
Is that an IT outage or application latency?
Is it a localised or national disaster?
How many different sources of data are being used to monitor threats? How effective are they and is any of it automated or filtered, and tailored to your specific business?
And can the sources of information be trusted?
Based on all that organisations need to understand and locate what and/or who’s impacted – their people, assets, and operational functions.
This is especially challenging if some staff members are on the move or the risk event is changing – as we’re faced with in the current pandemic.
Trying to correlate the two may involve accessing multiple systems and having multiple applications running at the same time.
How many different systems do you currently have that stores information about your people or assets?
And is this information integrated with your threat data to determine who or what might be impacted.
Before employees can safely to return to the office, organisations must have the capability to effectively respond to another wave or if a worker tests positive.
Critical event management systems can’t be a one-way street as staff need the ability to confirm, acknowledge or respond to alerts, information, safety check-ins, and questions or polls – no matter where they are or what device they use.
It’s time organisations stop outsourcing employee safety and well being to spreadsheets or pieces of paper. Drowning in data during a pandemic without a single source of truth will surely sound the death knell for any business.
This is an Expert Opinion by Kok Ping Soon, Chief Executive of the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech Singapore)
As our healthcare frontline workers mounted a medical response when COVID-19 hit our shores in January, the Singapore Government was concurrently launching a technological response – far broader and deeper that what we did for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003.
Compared to SARS in 2003, when communication channels were largely driven by broadcast news and radio, we now have digital platforms to push out information quickly; channels such as the Gov.Sg Whatsapp channel and the COVID-19 Chatbot have provided the public with timely daily updates on the pandemic.
We also launched digital platforms for citizens to get personalised and granular information – ranging from where they can collect their masks (MaskGoWhere website), to what financial support they can get (SupportGoWhere website) to the crowd level at places of interest (SpaceOut portal).
Safe distancing enforcement at public parks is now supplemented with robotics and drones for greater effectiveness and safety. The largely manual contact tracing regime used during SARS is now augmented with digital tools such as TraceTogether and SafeEntry to improve the accuracy and speed of identifying close contacts.
COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of investing in digital capabilities. Over the past few years since the launch of the Smart Nation initiative in 2014, we have established a nationwide fibre infrastructure, nurtured a vibrant tech ecosystem, and also invested in building technology expertise and tools within Government agencies. These investments have started to bear fruit, and have allowed Government agencies to react to and manage the pandemic more effectively.
The new possible: Singapore’s digital landscape
During this COVID-19 period, our businesses and citizens are taking to digital tools at an unprecedented pace. Companies – that did not imagine remote work was possible – are now operating with majority of their workers tele-commuting. Our workforce, and even our seniors, are now experts at conducting meetings via Zoom, WebEx and Skype. Use of SafeEntry is a now a staple for everyone, with over two million users checking in/out on a daily basis; more than 1.1 million people are now receiving their latest COVID-19 updates via the Gov.Sg Whatsapp channel. A McKinsey study found that consumer and business digital adoption has vaulted five years forward in a matter of eight weeks.
With the gradual re-opening of Singapore’s economy into a post-COVID-19 world, we will accelerate investments to empower citizens and businesses with more digitally-enabled possibilities.
As the implementing agency for the Digital Government Blueprint, the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech Singapore) will increase the pace of digitalisation in government by Humanising our frontend services, Engaging our community, and Modernising Government infrastructure to “H.E.M.” in the digitalisation gains from COVID- 19 to create a more digitally empowered nation.
“HEM-ming” in the new possibilities
Firstly, we aim to humanise our frontend services to create a more unified and pleasant experience when citizens transact with the Government.
We have made good progress in making our government digital services more user-centric. Citizens and Businesses’ satisfaction with government digital services has improved by eight percentage points in 2019 to reach 86 per cent and 77 per cent respectively – an all-time high since 2012.
This year, we will be making an even bigger push in humanising our services as more service-journey projects transit from design and development to minimum viable products (MVPs).
Over $118 million of projected ICT contracts in this FY is earmarked to develop better citizen and business facing applications. The current “Moments of Life” app will undergo a product refresh to evolve into a go-to app for all things related to the government in a citizen’s life in Singapore, such as birth, graduation, and marriage.
For businesses, the GoBusiness portal will evolve into a key platform for business-related transactions with the Government – to help companies start a business, grow a business, and to apply for a licence. With information conveniently available from your phones and laptops, we aspire to let citizens continue to transact and run errands as per usual, while reducing the frequency of in-person appointments.
Citizen-centric digital services will also become more pervasive. Beyond using SingPass to log in to government services and now for SafeEntry check-in, users can look forward to more value-added services such as using SingPass Mobile for digital signing of documents, and biometric login.
Second, we will engage the community in partnership to co-create and drive adoption in the usage of digital solutions. COVID-19 has shown us that no one has the monopoly on wisdom to deal with a national crisis; we are only as strong as our ability to work together.
In May, we conducted a COVID-19 Idea Sprint, which attracted over 300 participants who suggested more than 70 proposals – with ideas ranging from designing wearables for contact tracing to developing personal risk scores based on proximity data.
To fortify our engagement with the tech community, we have soft-launched a new Singapore Government Developer Portal. This is a centralised resource to help industry and developers learn more about our tech products. Developers, suppliers and industry partners will be able to find key information on product features, use cases and technical specifications to co-create solutions with us.
Finally, we will continue to modernise Government infrastructure. We will speed up the migration of government ICT systems onto the Government Commercial Cloud. More applications will be re-platformed and re-factored to leverage cloud native services to increase their agility and scalability. We will also invest aggressively in data analytics, artificial intelligence and sensor projects to enable data-driven decision making in improving services and operational effectiveness.
We will also spend $300 million to design, implement and operate a new software-defined Government Wide Area Network to support increased computing needs, and another $300 million to strengthen the Government’s cybersecurity posture with automated system reviews, cybersecurity monitoring and digital forensics capabilities.
Engineering Digital Government, Making Lives Better
To support these plans, we will deepen our engineering capabilities within GovTech. We are hiring over 400 engineers in software development, cybersecurity, data analytics and infrastructure to augment our current engineering workforce of 2,200.
As I often share with my colleagues, GovTech’s purpose in “Engineering Digital Government” so as to “Make Lives Better” has never been stronger. We will strive to push Singapore to be at the forefront of digital technology, and as one people, weather this storm together.
Power generation is the lifeline of cities. All activities come to a standstill even when there is a temporary power cut.
And although electric power has made modern life so comfortable, it comes with a great cost to the environment.
Traditionally electricity generation takes place in fossil fuel/ nuclear power plants that have huge detrimental impact on the ecosystem.
In the process of power generation, these plants emit copious amounts of greenhouse gasses (carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide) that degrade the air quality in the atmosphere.
The next innovator in OpenGov Asia’s Change Makers of Tomorrow series, came up with an eco-friendly method of electricity generation – from plants themselves.
Bioo is dedicated to generation of electricity from nature through unique technologies and patents of its own.
Pablo Vidarte, the CEO of Bioo told OpenGov Asia that the journey began with a vision to use nature and its organic processes as the biofuel to power batteries of the future without harming plants or any other kind of living being.
Pablo and his team collaborated with university nanotech experts to work out a prototype that could successfully utilise the tech envisioned by them.
After almost a yearlong of trials they came up with a range of products that work on the unique Bioo technology.
Bioo currently has two major lines as a part of its current business model.
1) Bioo Installations: Installations that use the proprietary technology of transforming plants into biological switches that can activate music, lights, and even screens in public spaces, making them look more attractive.
Two products that are currently under development are:
- Bioo Panel: A vegetal panel that is installed under the ground and that supplies power to lighting systems of parks and gardens. It enables constant electricity production during the day and at night along with saving up to 60% of irrigation water. Additionally, it is visually in line with the landscape.
- Bioo Sensor: The innovation is an alternative to the current chemical batteries used in irrigation sensors in agriculture industry that need replacement every 6 – 18 months. Thanks to the large existing need for a solution, major firms in the sector are interested in such an application, with the global market being measured in 7.9 billion euros.
Bioo uses the organic substances that are present in the soil naturally as well as those expelled by the plants through the roots. Something that happens immediately after the photosynthesis process.
These organic substances are then broken-down using microorganisms in the soil which eat them. Once the organic substances are broken, they set electrons free along with hydrogen which is naturally released during photosynthesis.
These free electrons are then used to generate electric current. And the hydrogen merged with atmospheric oxygen is used to generate water. There is no damage to the plant in this process, and in fact, the microorganisms are fed and water is generated in the process of creating electricity.
Pablo also shared that in future, Bioo will focus on creating products and installations for smart cities that consider plants as not just decorative objects but with a utility aspect as well.
Pablo and his team have been recognised for their sustainable, out of the box thinking at various platforms.
They were selected as the most innovative company of the year by the European parliament. They are also one of the top 59 finalists at the 10th Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition.
Organised by Singapore Management University (SMU) Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, this international competition is focused on urban innovations and solutions created by student founders and early-stage startups based on the theme “Reimagine, Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Cities”.
The top 59 finalists from around the world will convene in Singapore sometime second quarter of 2021, to compete for prizes worth up to S$1.5 million at the finals.
OpenGov Asia feels honoured to learn from the new generation of innovators like the Bioo team and hopes to encourage more innovative minds to think differently.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform financial institutions (FIs), disrupting every aspect of financial services, from the customer experience to financial crime.
One of the most compelling use cases for AI is in the battle against financial crime. AI has two primary benefits for the banks engaged in this battle: it can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of financial crime investigations, and the institutionalise risk management.
Financial institutions can employ AI to analyse large amounts of data, to filter out false alerts and identify complex criminal conduct. It can identify connections and patterns that are too complex to be picked up by straightforward, rule-based monitoring, or the human eye.
This raises four fundamental questions:
- Are financial institutions ready to embrace advances in ML to help uncover emerging patterns for preventing fraud?
- How can financial institutions harness expanded data typologies generated by new authentication processes for better fraud detection?
- How can financial institutions manage the data orchestration challenges to leverage different data sources, integrate with other information, and factor in decision making across the entirety of the customer journey?
- Are financial institutions benefitting from better data orchestration?
Enhancing Anti-Money Laundering Monitoring and Driving Operational Efficiency
Digital transformation and artificial intelligence are undeniably changing the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) landscape. The need to modernise AML processes, coupled with a regulatory push towards innovation, is driving financial institutions to enhance AML monitoring & drive operational efficiency.
The manual and semi-automated nature of current AML compliance efforts slow down processing timelines and impact business productivity.
The immense volume of data that financial institutions are expected to comb through to meet regulatory requirements to detect and report suspicious activity becomes a daunting challenge.
The data is usually diverse and subpar. It’s common for systems to use only a subset of available data when generating alerts. Traditional transaction monitoring systems are unwieldy to maintain and rely on rules and thresholds that are easy for criminals to test and circumvent.
Investigation processes tend to be highly manual, from gathering the supporting data for a case to submitting a complete SAR (suspicious activity report). Meanwhile, the money launderers are working night and day to remain hidden, constantly engineering new ways to conceal the flow of funds.
Traditional Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating Financing of Terrorism (CFT) tools and tactics take longer and cost more than they should.
To fortify the defences more efficiently and rapidly, financial institutions need ways to:
- Automate tasks that formerly required human intervention, such as disposition of alerts
- Detect more risks and effectively prioritise them with sophisticated analytics techniques
- Provide richer context for investigations with access to more comprehensive insights
Financial institutions need to consider harnessing advanced analytics and AI technologies to enable a proactive, robust and unified strategy for enterprise-wide fraud and security intelligence.
Management must align fraud and cyber teams to increase cyber resiliency and minimise risk. They must deliberate how high-performance analytics and multiple detection methods can be used to monitor wider areas of risk in large volumes of data.
In the face of ever evolving and increasingly sophisticated cyber crime, integrating automation, AI and Machine Learning into financial crime programmes is essential. They facilitate more efficient transaction monitoring for suspicious activities and reduce false positives.
Developing new techniques for sound compliance practices for anti-bribery and corruption laws across jurisdictions is becoming more critical as technology moves fluidly across borders and international infrastructure.
Strategies to break down data silos, adjust to shifting regulations, and safeguard against present and future risks must form an integral part of critical event management strategy.
OpenGov Asia partners with key digital solution providers to explore how financial institutions can apply real-world AI and analytics applications to ensure a world-class integrated banking system that contributes to improve customer experiences, enterprise profitability, manage risk and regulatory compliance, anticipate fraud and create value from data.
Across the globe, we are living through an unprecedented experience of our lifetimes. Experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic unfold daily these last 16 weeks has got me reflecting.
The term VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) was introduced in early 2000 and was relatively unknown then. This acronym later became trendy in explaining the 4th industrial revolution.
But who could have imagined disruption at this scale? Post-pandemic, can we build a VUCA-ready government and business architecture?
My medical and healthcare career spans almost 30 years now and I have seen my share of wide-ranging challenges. But the challenges from this pandemic overshadows them all. The pace of growth and learning has been nothing short of warp-speed. Management concepts which took years to roll-out are now being implemented in a matter of days.
Whole-of-Government and Whole-of-Society have been advocated in recent years, but today, the COVID-19 response is witnessing an almost seamless inter-ministry and inter-agency collaboration.
The national COVID-19 front liners comprise not only healthcare staff and workers, but include others like the Royal Malaysian Police, the Malaysian Armed Forces, Civil Defence Force, the Immigration Department, various other agencies and volunteer groups.
The unprecedented amount of corporate social activity and volunteerism has been amazing. This was particularly so during the early phase of supply chain disruptions where we saw the coming together of volunteers to produce PPEs for the front liners.
Not forgetting the support and cooperation from the private sector, telcos, industry leaders, academia, civil society, community, families and individuals. Whole-of-Government and Whole-of-Society is possible after all.
With the pandemic having such a huge social and economic impact, now seems the right time to drive Health in All Policies (HiAP) to put health at the heart of government. COVID-19 has proven that health and well being require a holistic approach as they are influenced by many non-health factors including housing, water and sanitation, living and working conditions, employment, education, agriculture and food production.
Just how would the post-pandemic socio-economic policies be? Loaded with health agendas, I should hope so. The window of opportunity is wide open.
This crisis offers a unique opportunity to accelerate digital transformation. Virtual engagements and virtual work-space have expanded. Work from Home is practically possible for a larger segment of the population than initially thought. Service beyond walls is not a myth. Virtual clinic is completely acceptable today.
Systems implementation and solutions for COVID-19 are going live at a record speed. Digital connectivity has become apparent in almost every aspect of life. COVID-19 has altered attitudes and accelerated the adoption of policies that enable the business of work. All perceived roadblocks can be removed – it is a function of how strongly we want it.
With rapidly expanding knowledge and emerging scientific data, polices and guidelines are being revised and updated constantly. In the last 5 months, we have progressed to the 6th version of our national Management Guideline for COVID-19. We are living the play-book on agile policy making. Aside from Divine scripture, nothing is ever really cast in stone. Rigidity and slow decision making have little room in this pandemic.
COVID-19 brought unity and solidarity amongst public health, medical and scientific communities from across the world to fight the spread of the pandemic. No war or famine or any other disease has brought us together like this. The phrase Leaving No One Behind seems to characterize this pandemic; everyone has been touched-rich and poor, old and young, rural and urban, all races, all religions, all nations.
I have come to discover most things in government are possible when there is greater imperative – our health and well being. It has been a false no all this while. It took a virus to expose this truth.
The greatest innovations in the history of mankind were born out of crisis and necessity. The ability to adapt and innovate in dire times is what separates success from failure; leaders that show the way forward from those that follow.
OpenGov is always seeking to recognize and promote such leaders of innovation. This pursuit has led to partner with SMU’s Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which provides support and a platform for budding innovators.
One such group of mavericks is the team at Anzene. OpenGov had the opportunity to speak with Joshua Lin, Chief Operating Officer – Business Development & Partnership at Anzene.
Anzene is a cleantech hardware start up dedicated to producing standardized, smart and safe batteries powered with blockchain for green energy transition in smart cities.
Joshua told us that the genesis of this idea began in August 2018, when he and two other friends, who shared the passion for tech and concern for the environment, decided to create a portable power block would allow consumers to utilize renewable energy resources to power urban lifestyle.
This shared vision led to the creation of the Anzene energy Block. The energy block is a cuboid, weighs around 2 Kilograms and has the capability to store and channel solar and wind energy.
The team’s intention is to make it as accessible as possible to all specifications. With this is mind, it has versatile voltage outputs and can power different brands and kinds of electric vehicles and urban home appliances.
It come with various USB ports and can also be attached to a universal AC adapter that allows powering multiple devices simultaneously. It is a gift for people who work remotely and off grid as it gives them more flexibility and secured access to power.
Joshua shared that there were two major focus points for the team while developing the technology for this power wonder: 1) Smart and 2) Safe.
1) Smart: Anzene energy systems have IOT features (4G and Low range radio communication, data loggers) that are powered by blockchain to track green energy generation, usage, and storage. This feature will eventually allow it to be used by city planners to predict and plan urban energy consumption patterns.
2) Safe: There have been ample incidents in just the recent past of batteries overheating and catching on fires. In order to ensure the safety of its user, Anzene power block comes with a patented mini fire extinguisher pre-installed and connected to its battery management system.
The moment the block detects excessive heat in the battery, the extinguisher deploys automatically ensuring the safety of the user. It is purely a preventive measure by the Anzene team as they are using the superior quality Lishen cells that do not overheat unless it is abused or used carelessly.
Anzene’s novel energy idea and consciousness for the ecosystem has earned the team recognition on different platforms in various countries.
The first accolade was at the 2019 K-Startup Grand Challenge in South Korea – a nation that is a huge powerhouse for battery manufacturing and recycling. Anzene was among the Top 20 teams that gave a demonstration of their product after 3.5 months of acceleration.
Being a Singapore Management University (SMU) alumni, Joshua and team enrolled in SMU, Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s incubation programme – Business Innovations Generator (BIG) which gave the team valuable exposure of ASEAN market, and was one of the 7 teams selected for the third Shell Idearefinery Programme, Singapore.
Anzene plans to launch the power block in market in the second quarter of 2021. They are still fine-tuning the innovation and plan to make it more powerful using a swapping station with multiple energy blocks.
Utilising wind and solar energy require specialised equipment like panels and turbines to harness the power. These are often bulky and too complex for everyone to use. The team exploring options for consumer grade channelling equipment to make their energy block more accessible.
They also plan to modify it to make it useful to rural areas too. Joshua said the teams is determined to power villages that are off the grid using their innovative energy resource. At the very least they want their block to be able to power basic home appliances like lights, television, radio, etc. to reduce use of pollution causing non-renewable sources of energy like kerosene.
OpenGov is always eager to hear of and encourage innovation leaders like Anzene. If you have any innovations, you would like to bring to our attention please do get in touch with us.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced several governments to re-examine the way they do things, how they interact with their citizens and how they keep their country functioning in these unprecedented times. Digital solutions in areas such as government services, education, the media, communication systems, and the economy have allowed some form of continuity in day to day life during lockdown.
Although most Governments throughout South-East Asia are gradually moving towards complete digitalisation, they are all at very different stages of their digital transformation journey.
And due to the COVID-19 outbreak forcing populations to work from home, to communicate through various technologies, having to access files and documents remotely and citizens needing to carry out essential services online, has highlighted how digitally ready Governments really are.
In some countries like Singapore, the services provided to the public by government agencies have been almost completely digitalised, allowing the public administration to continue functioning as normal even during the Covid-19 crisis.
This challenging time has also highlighted to governments and their agencies where they lag in terms of transformation. It has shown them gaps in their infrastructure and where they should invest. It has helped governments identify where immediate expenditure is needed and also made them look in more detail at future planning and business continuity.
“The pandemic has forced us to accelerate the digital transformation. We’re playing catch-up with the pandemic’s impacts,” said Indonesia Communication and Information Technology Minister Johnny G. Plate in a past teleconference with the Regional Legislative Council’s (DPD) Committee I in Jakarta .
Public Sector Working From Home
Working from home has raised many issues for government, from security, staying connected, having the infrastructure in place so that everyone is able to work remotely, ensuring staff are skilled in using the technology to carry out their roles. These are all digital issues that if were not all ready in place, needed to be fixed in a very short period of time, as most authorities were not given much warning before having to lockdown.
Providing Citizen Services
As governments could no longer provide in person services to their citizens, countries who had many of their services available online were ahead of the game.
Many governments now are putting in digital plans for recovery post COVID-19.
The Vietnamese Government has asked the business community to provide feedback and input to help improve the National Public Service Portal as they are hoping to increase the number of administrative services online.
Using Digital Communication to Reach Citizens
Governments also had to find ways of communicating to all members of society, communicating key information through various platforms, online media, social media and government information dashboards.
Digital communication is key to maximising interactions with the Government to provide authenticated, accurate, and up-to-date information to people on Covid-19 and other public issues.
By adopting digital platforms governments can make it easier for citizens to understand the severity of the pandemic and ensure preventive measures.
The pandemic has lead to almost all government departments making progress towards digital transformation. The one thing that worked during the pandemic is the internet. It has kept citizens connected, kept lines of communication open, kept media from around the world accessible, as well as allowing governments to continue to function, communicate with their people and serve their people.
Therefore, all things digital will be spurred further as a result of the pandemic. Services that can be provided online and can be digitised, will be digitally transformed. It looks like all Governments will work towards that for the future.
It is likely Governments of the future will increase spending on digital infrastructure, adopt data-driven approaches in response to economic recovery, and leverage technology solutions to implement Covid19 strategies.