This is Part 1 of a two-part series covering the Public Sector Innovation Day – Singapore. Read Part 2 here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the world. It has ushered in a new normal, bringing a different era of governance and business operations. Technology is at the fore of this front, helping adapt to these disruptive changes in an unprecedented manner. The scale of this transformation is incredible – experts say CVOID-19 has driven two years of digital transformation in two months.
The public sector is at the heart of the response to COVID-19. The response has required action on multiple fronts, using technology advancements, not just for health measures, but to aid efforts to mitigate the economic effects on households, firms, and industries. The crisis has drawn attention to the tools and technologies that governments need to have to protect their citizens and enterprises as agencies struggle to minimise associated negative impact, deliver public services, and ensure the continued development of critical national infrastructure.
A digitally enabled government must go beyond merely digitising processes and offering services online. It must also find innovative ways to raise productivity in workplaces and bring convenience and efficient services to citizens. As the world prepares for the new normal and all the economic, social, and political question marks that accompany it, many are looking to the tools of data science to continue to inform this trajectory. Advanced data science, and the technology it powers, is rapidly becoming an essential component of nearly every industry.
The Singapore government, too, is looking to ramp up the adoption of digital technologies and the nation to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Simultaneously national tech agencies developing new digital tools and services to support citizens and businesses. This requires a comprehensive approach including the ability to rapidly integrate new data, make accurate, multilevel forecasts and provide data-driven insights for policymakers.
Now, even as the journey to a post-COVID-19 recovery has begun, the question is still relevant: does the public sector has the necessary tools and technologies to respond effectively, recover quickly, rebound efficiently and reimagine the future which is critical to national interests?
OpenGov Asia held a Public Sector Innovation Day 1 for Singapore at Intercontinental Singapore. The session aimed to impart knowledge on how public sector agencies can accelerate digital transformation and innovation to emerge stronger post-COVID-19.
Attended by key policymakers from the public sector and technology industry experts, the session served as a great peer-to-peer learning platform to gain insights and practical solutions to understand the value of cutting-edge technologies available to make better, faster, and more cost-effective, data-driven decisions that make a difference in the lives of the citizens post-pandemic.
How COVID-19 Accelerated Public Sector’s Digital Transformation
To kickstart the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia delivered opening remarks.
As early as 2019, there was consensus on the benefits of remote working, but it did not happen in any significant way. Then, at the end of 2019 came a crisis so debilitating that it brought the world to a halt almost overnight and it kept going relentlessly. But not all were equipped to do so and many just emulated what the other countries were doing. None the less, public services globally have been significantly boosted.
Countries from all over the world were looking to adapt to the challenge. Citizens needed access to government services more intensely and urgently. New information and data were being generated incessantly, necessitating new plans and decisions.
In the early stages, people were excited at the opportunity to work from home. Interestingly though, the step was considered a “pivot” – with the connotation of reaction rather than strategic. People and organisations were said to be “pivoting” to manage and mitigate the issues the pandemic brought like making people work from anywhere, anytime.
Beyond a doubt, the public sector did its job in terms of providing relevant services and initiatives throughout the age of COVID-19. But the question remains, were those initiatives innovative and intentional and sustainable? Were they just a good-to-have or a must-have?
The good brings with it the bad, the unsafe and the difficult. As the initial euphoria of remote working wears thin, people, once happy about the shift, realise that the new normal disrupts their work-life balance and their well-being. Other measures are facing the same reaction. Lacking data, this so-called digital transformation is rapidly losing its sheen and is being considered a band-aid solution.
With COVID-19 seemingly waning and the economy starting to open, governments are looking for ways to boost their economy. In this sea of change and disruption, often reverting to the known is comforting. Knowing this penchant, Mohit asked the delegates, “Do we want to go back to the old norm because it was beneficial at that time? Or should we welcome the wider adoption of technologies that helped us adjust to the new norm?”
Mohit reminded the delegates that by staying true to the lessons learned from COVID-19 and by increasing the usage of technologies like AI, Cloud and Data Analytics, agencies can move further along on their digital transformation journey.
Governments must find the right balance in their digital transformation journey between technology, people and processes. They must also find leadership and the will to empower the workforce with the right tools to achieve the ultimate end goal of a complete digital transformation in the new normal.
In closing, Mohit emphasised the need for agencies to find a suitable partner in this digital journey. They must find the right people who do what they do best for them to stay on the right path towards a full digital transformation.
Strategies to Enable Health Data Optimisation and Usage in Singapore
After the opening remarks, the forum heard a keynote address by Sutowo Wong, Director, Analytics & Information Management Division, Singapore Ministry of Health. He discussed various strategies to enable health data optimisation and its usage. Sutowo started by giving an operating context concerning the data processes in the Ministry of Health, especially during the pandemic.
First, as governments and agencies shape their data strategy, they need to be mindful of external macro trends such as the democratisation of data and analytics, where self-service analytics and the rising demand for data visualisation requires a better user experience for both data and insights.
Second is the rise of analytics apps where role-based actionable insights are more easily consumed and deployed and the adoption of improved decision-making procedures. Leaders must have the ability to support decision making by realising the value from investments in analytics.
He strongly believes that user experience matters. An effective data integration strategy must cater to the user’s expectations and needs by making sure that services are efficient, usable, interactive and can deliver on their promise. Adopters must learn that a data lifecycle has four stages: acquisition, management, access and distribution and exploitation. However, adopters are troubled by several key pain points.
Data acquisition is burdened with issues like significant lead time and cost required to collect data from source systems, leading to delays and high cost, multiple duplicative requests from different divisions/entities to collect same/similar data.
Data management is hindered by data duplication across different repositories, no comprehensive data catalogue and lack of standard data definitions, a large amount of data cleansing and analysis done manually using excel, and by having no data quality monitoring and remediation processes in place.
Access and distribution are bothered by issues such as different entities and systems having their de-identification and anonymisation processes, tedious and varied processes to seek data access approval for different datasets, and fear of residual liabilities for data provider when data is shared.
Lastly, exploitation of data faces challenges such as organisations having limited processing scalability, the governance of data scattered across many endpoints are demanding, the lack of model development and deployment processes for operationalisation of POCs, and the lack of reusable analytics assets e.g., codes, datasets.
The Ministry of Health addressing these issues and improving its capabilities, policies, and legislation. The MOH Consolidated Data Repository (MCDR) allows MOH and authorised users to gain access to cleaned and concorded healthcare data to reduce the time and resources expended by consolidating and optimising the data from different sources to the MOH central platform.
A Data Management Workstream (DMW) standardises and automates data extraction, fusion, and pre-processing as well as utilises a team of data concierges to develop data catalogues and coordinate data requests to allow collected data to be cleaned once for multiple uses in the future. By pre-linking a wide range of datasets, the turnaround and readiness of providing data will improve significantly over ad-hoc and piecemeal efforts.
Data Governance works with the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) to clarify data accountabilities as data flows between MOH and Public Healthcare Institutions (PHIs) to centrally drive data governance and facilities for anonymised and identifiable data to improve data accessibility and distribution across the board.
Sutowo added that users are looking for actionable insights, which is why the MOH must be flexible enough to meet these differing needs. The ministry is making sure that data is curated, and a catalogue is being created to improve data discoverability. Requests for data and packages are to be addressed by using a standardised and streamlined process, providing access to the required tools in a sandbox to analyse the data, and deploying the output and monitoring the performance in operations continuously.
Sutowo touched on MOH programmes that utilise data analytics. The Nationwide Predictive Model for Admission Prevention – Hospital to Home (H2H), provides holistic care for patients who are at home via the common care model for Transitional Care. The predictive model was launched in all public hospitals in Singapore in April 2017. As of 6 May 2018, more than 15,000 patients have been enrolled on the H2H programme.
The ministry launched a self-learning retinal screening tech that cuts the time needed to spot signs of diabetic eye disease as well as an automated tool to diagnose uncertain cases of appendicitis to guide the optimal use of CT scans.
Sutowo emphasised that beyond data, the rapid growth in digital health presents opportunities to redefine our care and financing models. The Global and APAC digital health market has been growing rapidly and is poised for further growth. Singapore is home to 170 local start-ups, between 20 to 30 foreign start-ups and 40 multinational companies in the digital health space.
In closing, he noted that the nation’s public healthcare IT ecosystem has undergone significant shifts and will continue to transform for the better.
Fireside chat: How can the public sector leverage data revolution to respond, recover and reimagine next-gen citizen-centric services?
The session moved to a fireside chat segment where Mohit and Remco den Heijer Vice President – ASEAN SAS discussed how the public sector can leverage data revolution to respond, recover and reimagine next-gen citizen-centric services.
On being asked why he sees data as the heart of the COVID-19 recovery, Remco explained that data is the perfect element in terms of recovering from the pandemic because it is everywhere, both in the private and public sectors.
The world should embrace technologies that are scaling and continuously evolving. Disruptive technologies can extract actionable insights from this data, which is why both sectors must use this development and advantage to recover from the pandemic. Software, hardware, and related skills must be enhanced to leverage technology and data for recovery purposes.
Remco touched on the topic of AI being used by governments in their processes. AI adopters, he advises, must continuously update their AI models with new and updated data to strengthen their predictive capabilities that will provide possible solutions for present endeavours.
He is convinced that that AI functions at its finest when it is incorporated with human intelligence. Having that human lens on top of the tech will always be an important aspect.
Remco urged delegates to continue doubling down on networks and partnerships and to continue learning from each other in this journey.
Applying real-world AI & Analytics to Improve Decision-Making and Provide Efficient Citizen Services in the New Normal
Following the fireside chat, the session heard from Deepak Ramanathan, Vice President – Global Customer Advisory SAS on how AI and analytics in the new norm have improved citizen services and transformed decision–making.
There are several reasons as to why leaders should take a new approach when it comes to decision-making, Deepak says. A new approach may result in a significant need to make better use of resources, improve the efficacy and efficiency of decision making and result in the right service delivery in a timely fashion, drive revenue, control costs and reduce risks. Any new approach should promote the idea of automating data acquisition and using analytics/AI that will drive these desired and needed efficiencies. All in all, decision making will increasingly get digitised.
Deepak cited several examples of augmenting decisions that drive digital transformation and deliver value. One of which was advanced mental health care with the predictive analysis used in California, USA. The project required the integration of data across country departments and information systems. It is focused on building a unified view of every client resulting in improved and effective services.
The Los Angeles country utilised a cross-agency service to measure the cost and benefits of serving the indigent adults in the country’s General Relief Programme.
In Amsterdam, the health sector used computer vision and predictive analytics to better identify cancer patients who are candidates for life-saving surgeries.
Automating real-time, transactional decisions can help in the long run. It can be vital in improving safety and emergency response using sensors to predict disasters, early detection of insider threats for public safety and national security organisations, transforming predictive maintenance for complex equipment and infrastructure, protecting tax revenue, and streamlining expenditure.
Technological advancements will help boost employee satisfaction and drive revenue fields while protecting resources.
Deepak and his team at SAS recognise several principles for responsible AI. They believe that AI should have inclusive growth capabilities, sustainable development and well-being, human-centred values and fairness transparency, robustness, security, and safety, and accountability.
Accelerating Singapore’s Journey Towards Precision in Public Health
Taking over the session, Terence Ng, Director – Policy & Technology Innovation Office Health Promotion Board, Singapore shared how Singapore’s Health Promotion Board innovates in terms of the population’s health using partnership, research, and data.
Today, Terence believes, is an opportune time to reimagine and further invest in health and wellness promotion, as these are the hottest points of discussion during the age of COVID-19. There is a growing need for early detection and preventive health interventions. This is because of the continued growth in noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) particularly chronic conditions & associated health risks, a rise in medical costs. Singapore medical costs are twice the global average and 10 times the inflation rate – and the -19 pandemic is amplifying the urgency for health promotion and disease prevention.
COVID-19 has accelerated the development and adoption of digital health and tech. Organisations and institutions are looking at data and technology to improve health knowledge and delivery. The ubiquity of smart devices allows for more continuous and granular data and more individualised approaches, while AI and machine learning are adopted for predictive and personalised health analysis.
Precision in public health is about delivering the right intervention at the right time, every time, to the right population. The approach must be holistic, precise, personalised, multi-channel, and continuous.
The desired outcomes for precision in public health are as follows:
- Drive better health-related outcomes: reverse risk factors and slow down growth in NCDs / chronic disease and encourage sustained health behaviours and improve mgmt. & outcomes for patients (e.g., diabetes)
- Increase scalability & reach: scale and maximise the reach of interventions to more and different segments of Singapore pop. through better customisation, and leverage technology as an enabler to increase scalability
- Measure the impact of interventions: Better measure outcomes and effectiveness of interventions (incl. programmes, policies), constantly refine and improve approaches to health promotion based on evidence; use tech as an enabler to measure outcomes
- Improve cost-effectiveness of the system: enable more efficient and cost-effective healthcare system using technology and focus on preventive health
- Create new economic value & innovation: further, establish Singapore as a global & regional public health innovation hub and create training opportunities to develop up-skill home-grown talent
Partnerships, research, and data analytics are key in achieving precision in public health, Terence says. Better data and data banks enable researchers and the entire government to access world-class data, data integration and interoperable systems. This has accelerated the development of a Health Data Hub for the population. Better research will come from creating an ecosystem of research partners for next-gen discovery and innovations and better partnerships in public health interventions and major collaborations with leading technology firms and researchers.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health is transforming the healthcare system to adapt to the new normal. The ministry believes that their services should be beyond healthcare and should focus more on prevention and wellness. Services that go beyond a hospital, resulting in less hospital-centric, more relative shifts to right-sited care and beyond quality to value, and by providing more cost-effective treatments and interventions.
Governments Leading Through Change
Jason Loh, Head of Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, Asia Pacific, Global Tech Practice SAS took over to talk on how analytics and AI machine learning helped organisations and government agencies face unprecedented challenges during the pandemic.
He acknowledged that COVID-19 changed working conditions and, essentially, life in general. In less than a year since the virus emerged and just over 6 months since tracking began, it upended day-to-day lives across the globe. The pandemic has changed how people work, learn, and interact as social distancing guidelines have led to a more virtual existence, both personally and professionally.
Machine learning is an innovative approach that has extensive applications in prediction. This technique was applied to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic and predict the risk in healthcare. Machine learning analyses the risk factors as age, social habits, location, and climate as well as identifying patients at high risk, mortality rates and other critical parameters and trend lines.
The technique can be used to understand the nature of the virus and further predict the upcoming issues. This learning algorithm creates inferences out of unlabelled input datasets, that can be applied to analyse the unlabelled data as an input resource for the pandemic. It provides accurate and useful features rather than a traditional explicitly calculation-based method.
Organisations and governments have gravitated toward predictive analytics in the last several years, as they use data to anticipate future trends and needs, especially during the onset of COVID-19. But forecasting demand is difficult even in normal times, and the pandemic’s unpredictability has been challenging. Since the pandemic started, simple descriptive analytics using good data about the present and recent past has helped the public sector.
Jason cited examples of how governments from all over the world utilised AI and data analytics to adapt to the new normal brought by the pandemic. The Chinese used machine learning for epidemiology tracking and neuro-linguistic programming for contact tracing.
Another example was the development of a COVID-19 e-health hub for health professionals in Australia. The e-health hub is dedicated online and by an over the phone mental health and wellbeing network. Developed rapidly to meet an immediate need, the initial release of the platform aims to deliver mental health assessment and access to resources and digital self-help and self-management in times of lockdowns caused by COVID-19.
Jason exhorted leaders to develop better citizen outreach programmes through AI in social media and chatbots. They need to develop platforms and tools that understand what the citizens need in each household. Using the information, they should incorporate it into an advanced data management system using AI and machine learning to help deliver services more efficiently.
Responsible and Ethical Use of AI in Public Sector: Application, Challenges, and Best Practices
After Jason Loh’s presentation, the delegates heard a presentation from Lim Chinn Hwa, Senior Director Smart Nation Platform Solutions, Government Technology Agency, GovTech. He discussed how the public sector can apply responsible and ethical use of AI and the best ways to do so.
The public sector uses AI to make data-driven decisions, improve efficiency and productivity, bring convenience to citizens and personalise public services. That being the case, he notes, AI must be human-centric.
The National AI Strategy seeks to establish Singapore as a global hub for developing, test-bedding, deploying, and scaling AI solutions. The strategy is a key step in the country’s Smart Nation journey. It spells out the nation’s plans to deepen the use of AI technologies to transform its economy, going beyond just adopting technology to fundamentally rethinking business models and making deep changes to reap productivity gains and create new areas of growth.
The National AI ecosystem is made up of a triple partnership helix consisting of the government, the research community and industry. This supports whole-of-government applications with in-house capabilities in Machine Learning/Deep Learning, Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, and IoT & Robotics. AI must be identified in national projects that deliver impactful social and economic benefits to citizens.
Moreover, Lim Chinn Hwa mentioned specific areas that greatly concern citizens. Areas like transport and logistics that can use AI for intelligent freight planning, smart cities and estates with seamless and efficient municipal services, healthcare facilities that can predict and manage chronic diseases, the education sector that AI can personalise through adaptive learning, assessment and safety and security that could use an AI tool for border clearance operations.
AI is vital to sustainability and food security and is fundamental to Singapore’s 30 by 30 vision to produce 30% of its nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030, including fruit and vegetables, fish and poultry.
One example is the challenge fish farms are facing. Fish larvae feed on large amounts of plankton called rotifers – every few hours. To ensure a constant healthy rotifer supply, samples need to be examined daily. A trained technician takes 40 minutes each day to manually examine samples under a microscope.
GovTech worked with the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to develop an AI mobile app to automate the rotifer inspection process. Technicians upload photos of rotifer samples to a mobile app then the app automatically classifies healthy and unhealthy rotifers – reducing inspection time from 40 minutes to 1 minute.
Singapore is kept smoke-free by an AI-powered smoking activity detection unit. The tech has a deep learning pose estimation-based solution using security camera video feeds. It provides near real-time notifications to users on the detection of smoking activities. The cloud-based solution allows the exportation of data for trending analysis and optimises the deployment of National Environment Agency officers to targeted hotspots.
More recently, AI was also used in the country’s battle against COVID-19. One example is the Smart thermal scanner with deep learning face detection of up to 10 faces at once. It is lightweight, affordable, and works both indoors and outdoors. The software licensed to the private sector is for free.
Another example is Access Control with Video Analytics. The tech is a fully automated, contactless gantry system for temperature screening and optimises temperature screening process duration to 2 seconds per visitor.
Lim Chinn Hwa ended his presentation by emphasising that the public sector can scale the usage of AI by making timely collection, analysis and sharing of data and by building reusable components and scalable, interoperable platforms. He also sees wider adoption of augmented analytics, robotics, smart devices, autonomous vehicles, smart facilities management, more real-time AI services, and open digital platforms soon.
Future of Digital Government: Anticipatory, Intuitive, and Invisible
After Lim Chinn Hwa’s presentation, the session welcomed Dr David Hardoon, Senior Advisor for Data and Artificial Intelligence, UnionBank Philippines. He shared how the future of government must be anticipatory, intuitive, while government officials are invisible to the public eye.
David feels that a digital government must be citizen–centric and perceived from an engagement point of view. Citizen experience should be at the heart of a digital government. A digital government must not retrofit programmes and processes to digital, instead, they must make programmes and initiatives that are digital by design.
Beyond citizen centricity, governments must provide safe experiences for their citizens. Digital transformation will be accompanied by cybersecurity across the board, and not just in financial transactions. Governments must learn how to create safe experiences by using data and available technology.
Governments and agencies must learn to be non-visible at times and create seamless experiences for their citizens or customers. Too much visibility, like transferring from one agency to another just to avail of a service, can result in unrest from a citizen’s point of view. Governments must be made aware that users just want to avail the service and avoid the tediousness of varying processes. Expanding on his view that the future of digital governments is invisible, he felt that cutting down on the approvals from various agencies when trying to access a service is the way to go.
Governments must be motivated by the results and outcomes, not by the money they are going to make. Leaders and decision-makers must find the right tools to measure these underlying outcomes. The more agencies use technologies like AI, machine learning and data science, the more it is critical to make a direct link between the effort that has been put in and the outcome that is derived from it.
David ended his presentation by saying that governments must move on from sandbox treatments and trials to the actual production of programmes for their citizens using disruptive technologies such as AI, machine learning, and data science. Building a digital future must be made in a scalable, robust and secure manner.
Mohit joined Dr Adam Chee, Chief – Smart Health Leadership Centre, Institute of System Science, National University of Singapore, Dr David Hardoon, Senior Advisor for Data and Artificial Intelligence, UnionBank Philippines, Jason Loh, Head of Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, Asia Pacific, Global Tech Practice SAS, and Christopher Tan, Partner Revenue Acceleration, Director – APJ, Intel in Power Talk to discuss how the public sector can further adapt to the changing times.
Jason Loh believes that the personalisation of services will be more prominent in the new normal. He reiterated that the world should continue to embrace technological advancements and new policies and not return to the old norm.
Dr David Hardoon does not feel transformation is about changing culture; it is about how to incorporate technology within the context of culture.
Christopher Tan argues that leadership and the building of digital infrastructure are critical in the changing times.
Dr Adam Chee emphasised the need for digital training and data and information dissemination within governments and organisations in the new normal.
The OpenGov Public Innovation Day – Singapore Day 1 ended with the closing remarks from Mohit. He strongly felt that the change must come from the top so it can trickle down to the workforce and communities.
Change must start from people who understand technology because these technologies use data and data gives you insights; that is the driver behind everything else. Governments should be an example to everyone and by doing that, the desired outcomes will follow.
For more on OpenGov Asia’s Public Sector Innovation Day – Singapore: “Accelerating Digital Transformation, Resiliency, and Innovation for Public Sector in Post-Pandemic Recovery” read Part 2 here.
The 13th Singapore-US Strategic Security Policy Dialogue (SSPD) was convened, and co-chaired by Permanent Secretary of Defence, Chan Heng Kee and United States Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Sasha Baker. This dialogue, embedded within the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement and Defence Cooperation Agreement, serves as a cornerstone for shaping the future of Singapore-US defence relations.
Beyond the traditional domains of defence, Singapore and the US are venturing into uncharted territory – cybersecurity and critical emerging technologies. This signifies a strategic shift that acknowledges the evolving nature of security threats in the digital age.
Both nations have recognised the enduring strength of their bilateral defence relationship. Singapore’s unwavering support for the U.S. regional presence, outlined in the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Regarding the U.S. use of Facilities (1990 MoU), remains a crucial pillar of their alliance. Simultaneously, the US continues to bolster the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) capabilities through overseas training and technology access. This includes the RSAF’s acquisition of the cutting-edge F-35 fighter aircraft.
The dialogue marked a significant milestone by introducing discussions on cybersecurity. In an interconnected world, where information is power, securing digital infrastructure cannot be overstated.
By engaging in collaborative efforts to enhance their cyber defences, Singapore and the US are not only safeguarding their interests but also contributing to global cybersecurity resilience. This proactive approach sets a precedent for other nations to follow suit and collectively combat cyber threats.
Also, the emphasis on critical and emerging technologies highlights the foresight of both nations. In today’s fast-paced technological landscape, advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, and biotechnology can tip the scales of national security.
By pooling their expertise and resources, Singapore and the US are positioning themselves at the forefront of innovation, ensuring they are well-prepared for the security challenges of the future.
The dialogue also featured discussions on regional developments and the continued engagement of the US in the Asia-Pacific region. The ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus framework serves as a platform for constructive dialogue and cooperation among ASEAN member states and their partners. Singapore and the US both recognise the significance of this framework in promoting regional stability and security.
Regular bilateral and multilateral training exercises form another vital facet of this partnership. Exercises like Tiger Balm, Pacific Griffin, Commando Sling, Red Flag, and Super Garuda Shield serve as platforms for joint training and skill development. These exercises not only enhance the operational readiness of both armed forces but also foster greater cooperation and understanding between Singapore and the US.
One noteworthy aspect of this collaboration is the US’s support for SAF’s overseas training, exemplified by Exercise Forging Sabre. This training, conducted at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, has played a pivotal role in honing the skills of RSAF personnel.
In 2023, two RSAF detachments, Peace Carvin II (F-16 fighter aircraft) and Peace Vanguard (Apache AH-64 helicopters), marked their 30th and 20th anniversaries of training in the US, respectively. These milestones are a testament to the enduring nature of the Singapore-US defence relationship.
The 13th Singapore-US Strategic Security Policy Dialogue not only reaffirmed the steadfast commitment of both nations to their long-standing defence partnership but also showcased their readiness to adapt to the evolving security landscape.
As reports cited the inclusion of cybersecurity and critical emerging technologies in the discussions reflects the forward-thinking approach to safeguarding the national interests of both nations. As they continue to train together, exchange knowledge, and invest in cutting-edge technologies, Singapore and the US are poised to navigate the complex challenges of the future, hand in hand.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced the initiation of the Green Fintech Competition, which will serve as a pivotal step towards promoting the integration of innovative green fintech solutions within the Hong Kong banking sector. The primary objective of this initiative is to bolster the resilience of the banking industry against the looming climate risks.
The competition is a call to action for both local green fintech companies and their international counterparts. It invites these innovative firms to participate and demonstrate how their technological solutions can be harnessed effectively within the banking industry. The competition centres around four key themes, each addressing a crucial aspect of sustainable finance:
- Net-zero Transition or Transition Planning: This theme emphasises the pivotal role of fintech in facilitating the transition towards a net-zero economy. It aims to uncover innovative solutions that can assist banks in their journey towards carbon neutrality.
- Climate Risk Management: Climate risks have become a central concern in the financial sector. Fintech solutions are sought to help banks better understand, assess, and manage these risks effectively.
- Green and Sustainable Finance: The theme of green and sustainable finance underscores the importance of fintech in enabling financial institutions to channel their resources towards environmentally responsible investments.
- Sustainability or Climate-related Disclosure and Reporting: Transparency and disclosure are critical components of sustainable finance. Fintech solutions that enhance the disclosure and reporting of sustainability and climate-related information are in high demand.
These themes were carefully crafted in response to industry feedback, reflecting the pressing challenges faced by the Hong Kong banking sector. The competition encourages participating firms to develop market-ready solutions that align with at least one of these themes. Detailed problem statements for each theme can be found on the official competition website, offering valuable guidance for prospective participants. Firms are also free to propose alternative problem statements that they believe are relevant to the overarching themes.
A panel of judges will evaluate the submitted solutions, comprising representatives from the public and private sectors. This panel includes experts from the banking and technology sectors, professional associations, and academia. The winners of the competition will be granted a unique opportunity to fast-track their entry into the Cyberport Incubation Program. This program is designed to provide comprehensive business support, aiding in the development and growth of green fintech solutions.
Finalists will be invited to participate in and host exhibition booths at the HKMA’s “Green and Sustainable Banking Conference,” scheduled for December 2023, offering a platform for in-depth exchanges with industry professionals and an opportunity to showcase their solutions. It also serves as a valuable forum for exploring potential collaborations with key stakeholders in the financial sector.
In addition to these benefits, participants will have access to tailored consultation services provided by InvestHK. These services are designed to offer further insights into the Hong Kong market, ensuring that their fintech solutions are finely tuned to meet the specific needs and demands of this dynamic financial hub.
The initiative represents a significant step forward in embracing innovative fintech solutions to address critical environmental and sustainability challenges. By inviting participation from both local and global green fintech firms, the competition aims to harness the collective power of technology and finance to build a more sustainable future for the banking industry in Hong Kong and beyond.
Previously, OpenGov Asia reported on the recent bilateral meeting between the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) holds great significance for the Green Fintech Competition initiated by the HKMA. During the meeting, the central banks agreed to strengthen collaboration in key areas including financial infrastructure, financial market connectivity, and virtual asset regulations, all of which align with the competition’s objectives.
This collaboration, along with the establishment of a joint working group and knowledge-sharing initiatives, is set to amplify the impact of initiatives like the Green Fintech Competition by creating a more interconnected and sustainable global financial ecosystem.
The Centre for Memory Studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has introduced the ‘MovingMemory’ application, which harnesses both augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies to capture diverse moving models of memory through digital reconstruction. It was designed to enhance the tourist experience at cultural and heritage sites. It offers virtual tours of famous places in India.
The app’s features allow users to choose their preferred avatar and navigate through three-dimensional spaces. According to a statement from IIT-Madras, it is embedded with additional layers of video, audio, 3D images, and interactive elements which may be used as models for sustainable and heritage-oriented pedagogic and research approaches.
Once the app becomes available to the public, MovingMemory can be accessed from both Android and iOS devices, as well as through browser-based platforms, setting it apart as a uniquely inclusive application. It is a spatial app created with the capability to exist within the metaverse realm.
MovingMemory was introduced at the second annual conference of the Indian Network for Memory Studies, titled ‘Memory, Ecology, and Sustainability.’ It was organised jointly by the Indian Network for Memory Studies and the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT- Madras. It covers a wide range of human-centred technologies and policies related to cultural memory and sustainable development goals, both within India and on a global scale.
At the inaugural event, IIT-Madras Director, V. Kamakoti, said, “It is crucial that we foreground the urgent need to incorporate collective memory in our understanding and ability to anticipate policies related to ecological issues such as climate change. Human as well as non-human forms of memory (such as the memory of water and the memory of nature) such as the Spanish Flu and the 2015 Chennai floods may be studied through interdisciplinary and collaborative formats in order to further memory studies as a discipline.”
The conference aims to connect rituals of remembering and experiencing the environment to systems of sustainability, which assume material, cultural, and technological dimensions through significant events like disasters and floods and long-term processes of change.
The international conference attracted approximately 100 presenters and more than 500 attendees from across India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Morocco, Canada, Sweden, Bangladesh, and other countries.
An official at the event said that the conference, like all other research activities at the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT-Madras, seeks to bridge technology studies and humanities. Its purpose is to provide a more complex model of engaging with memory, ecology, and sustainability, while also connecting to issues such as disaster studies, anticipatory governance, and durability.
Another expert from IIT-Madras noted the importance of reexamining pre-modern modes of memory and resilience and integrating those with the post-modern modes through which ecology and sustainability practices may receive a more nuanced understanding. These interdisciplinary practices have triggered a paradigm shift in both humanities education and research.
IIT-Madras has undertaken several initiatives in the field of AR/VR. In April, it announced it was developing instructional and educational models that use AR/VR technologies, aimed at assisting secondary schools in rural regions of the country. As OpenGov Asia reported, the initiative provides students with unique opportunities to engage in immersive and experiential learning through VR-enabled technology. Subjects like social science, history, sciences, and languages can be effectively taught using AR/VR world-building, digital storytelling, and educational games. An inaugural AR-based mobile app was launched to capture the history of the transnational Anglo-Indian community across 500 years.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi highlighted the digital dimension in the country’s counter-terrorism strategies during her recent address at the Ministerial Plenary Meeting of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) in New York.
Minister Retno emphasised the significance of comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration (R&R) efforts within Indonesia. Notably, these efforts extend beyond former terrorist inmates, encompassing strengthening communities and the environments that receive them. The focus on digital aspects of R&R is evident in Indonesia’s approach.
Indonesia has adopted a multifaceted strategy to counter extremism, as outlined in its National Action Plan for Prevention and Countering Extremism. This strategy underscores the “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approaches, highlighting the collaborative roles of the government and civil society. Combining hard and soft approaches, Indonesia actively engages communities and fosters international cooperation in its counter-terrorism efforts.
The digital dimension is also prominent in Indonesia’s second pillar of counter-terrorism strategy, which aims to harness technological advancements while ensuring they are not misused for extremist purposes. The rapid evolution of technology has created opportunities for disseminating extremist ideas, demanding constant vigilance. In response, Indonesia introduced the “Pusat Pengetahuan Indonesia (I-KHub),” or the Indonesian Knowledge Hub.
I-KHub is not merely a digital repository of information but a dynamic platform that actively contributes to Indonesia’s counter-terrorism endeavours. Integrating data systems and facilitating evidence-based decision-making empowers policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and community leaders with actionable insights.
One of the critical features of I-KHub is its ability to analyse trends and patterns in extremist activities. Leveraging advanced data analytics, it can identify emerging threats and hotspots, allowing for proactive measures to be taken. This early warning system is instrumental in preventing extremist ideologies from taking hold in vulnerable communities.
Moreover, I-KHub is a collaborative space where experts, researchers, and stakeholders from various sectors can share knowledge and best practices. This collective intelligence enriches the understanding of extremist narratives and recruitment tactics and facilitates the development of effective counter-narratives.
The platform’s outreach extends to educational institutions, where it supports curriculum development aimed at countering extremism. I-KHub is vital in promoting digital literacy and critical thinking among students by providing educators with relevant resources and insights. This proactive approach helps inoculate young minds against the allure of extremist ideologies.
In the digital realm, I-KHub monitors online spaces where extremist content proliferates. It can promptly identify and report such content through advanced algorithms and data analysis. This collaborative effort with tech companies and social media platforms contributes to removing extremist material from the internet, disrupting the digital recruitment efforts of extremist groups.
The third aspect of Indonesia’s counter-terrorism strategy focuses on creating a secure environment to counter extremism. This includes digital-driven educational programmes targeting women and children. Minister Retno highlighted that extremist ideologies thrive in environments rife with hatred, emphasising the role of digital tools in promoting understanding, tolerance, and peace.
In her closing, Minister Retno expressed that GCTF member countries would firmly commit to ensuring the inclusive implementation of the R&R strategy. The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum is a vital international platform for global cooperation and information exchange on counter-terrorism and violence-based extremism.
Indonesia underscores the country’s commitment to harnessing technology for a safer and more peaceful society. Indonesia’s multifaceted counter-terrorism approach, particularly its emphasis on digital knowledge sharing through I-KHub, reflects its dedication to addressing the global challenge of extremism with modern tools and strategies.
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing emphasised China’s resolve to promote high-level openness in the digital sphere at a time when global digital cooperation was at a turning point. This announcement was made during the second high-level digital conversation between China and the EU which Zhang and Vera Jourova, Vice President of the European Commission, co-chaired.
The meeting was a big step forward in the ongoing conversation between China and the EU. They talked in depth about many important issues in the digital world. The growing field of artificial intelligence (AI), communication technology standards, the moving of data across borders, and the safety of non-food items were some of the topics that people were interested in.
These discussions had positive results, highlighting the possibility of cooperation and understanding between these two significant figures on the international scene. The recognition of China and the EU’s complementary roles in the digital sphere and their common interests was a recurring subject in the talks.
To support the expansion of the digital economy, both parties were unwavering in their resolve to cultivate a cooperative spirit, further improve exchanges, and create an environment that is open, inclusive, impartial, fair, and non-discriminatory. This concerted effort has the ability to not only spearhead the global digital transformation but also make a major contribution to the ongoing global economic recovery process.
At the heart of this cooperative spirit is Zhang’s call to businesses everywhere, particularly those in Europe, to take advantage of the growing prospects China’s digital economy offers. This invitation highlights China’s willingness to interact with other countries and signals a new era in which win-win scenarios and cooperative relationships are not only welcomed but actively pursued.
Vera emphasised the solid basis and promising future of cooperation between China and the European Union in the digital domain affirming that the EU is keen to engage in practical cooperation with China in a range of pertinent topics, to facilitate more thorough interactions, and to expand conversation. A forward-thinking strategy that crosses boundaries and capitalises on the combined strengths of nations is exemplified by the reciprocal readiness to investigate opportunities for collaboration.
This conversation has far wider implications than just the meeting space. It represents a coming together of interests and an understanding of how interwoven the world’s digital landscape is. Partnerships like these have the power to influence the course of innovation and development in an era where digital technologies drive economies, industries, and communities.
China has led the way in developing cutting-edge technology and promoting digital transformation domestically. It expands its boundaries and enhances the global digital ecosystem by reaching out to international stakeholders and offering cooperation.
On the other hand, the EU is proud of its own innovation and knowledge pools. By working together, the EU can take advantage of the vitality of the Chinese digital economy and open up new markets. This conversation also reflects a larger trend: the realisation that digital cooperation is becoming a requirement rather than just a question of choice.
In a time where digital data is growing exponentially, AI is pervasive, and technological sectors are converging more and more, countries need to work across borders to solve problems and take advantage of possibilities. The two nations are eager that they can build a more affluent and connected digital future through communication and cooperation, instead of giving in to protectionism and divisive narratives.
New South Wales (NSW) is partnering with key stakeholders, including universities and businesses, to develop an Innovation Blueprint aimed at revitalising the state’s innovation sector. The backdrop for this initiative is the stagnation in university-industry collaboration and the lack of progress in commercialising research outcomes, as highlighted by the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council. Simultaneously, R&D intensity in the region has been declining, emphasising the need for strategic interventions.
However, the government is mindful of fiscal constraints while working to restore the state’s finances and essential services. As a result, all expenditures must align with the best interests of NSW residents. The Innovation Blueprint is designed to be a collaborative effort, drawing insights from sector leaders and experts to position NSW as a global leader in attracting investments, fostering innovation, and attracting talent.
To facilitate this process, the Minister for Innovation, Science, and Technology will lead roundtable discussions on various topics, including venture capital, government support, startup growth, innovation adoption by industries, and talent attraction. These discussions will be instrumental in shaping the final blueprint.
The Innovation Blueprint cannot be overstated and has the potential to spark innovation across emerging sectors and crucial enabling technologies like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, data science, cybersecurity, sensors, and robotics. These innovations are expected to have a profound impact across diverse sectors, including energy, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and agrifood, all vital for NSW’s future economic growth.
The Minister leading this initiative underscored the government’s commitment to nurturing a robust innovation sector. In his view, a thriving innovation sector not only creates high-value jobs but also enhances productivity within high-growth industries. The government believes that by fostering innovation and cutting-edge industries, it can secure the jobs of the future and attract top-tier talent to NSW.
Thus, the NSW Labor Government is working to revitalise NSW’s innovation sector through collaborative efforts with universities, businesses, and sector experts. This initiative addresses longstanding challenges in university-industry collaboration and the need to reverse declining R&D intensity.
While fiscal responsibility is paramount, the government recognises that strategic investments in innovation are essential for NSW’s long-term prosperity. Through the Innovation Blueprint, NSW aims to position itself as a global leader, attracting investments, talent, and industries that will define the future.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that the Government of Western Australia is offering over AU$3 million in grants through the Local Capability Fund (LCF) to boost local small to medium-sized businesses. These grants aim to enhance their competitiveness and capacity, making them eligible for government and private sector contracts.
This initiative aligns with the Minns Labor Government’s Innovation Blueprint in New South Wales (NSW), which seeks to drive innovation and economic growth. While the LCF focuses on empowering local businesses to secure contracts, the Innovation Blueprint in NSW takes a broader approach, promoting innovation across various sectors.
Both initiatives share the goal of fostering economic development. The LCF in Western Australia offers targeted support, including assistance for Aboriginal-owned businesses, compliance with national and international standards, and upcoming digital transformation support. These align with the Innovation Blueprint’s focus on innovation in sectors like energy, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.
Collaboration is key in both efforts. Western Australia partners with local businesses, while NSW collaborates with universities, businesses, and experts. These initiatives collectively contribute to enhancing Australia’s economic landscape by empowering local businesses and driving technological advancement.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has introduced an artificial intelligence (AI)-based Chatbot for the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Scheme. Under the Scheme, Indian farmers receive income support of up to IN₹ 6,000 (US$ 72) per year. The AI Chatbot will improve the effectiveness and reach of PM-KISAN, ensuring that farmers receive timely, clear, and reliable answers to their inquiries.
The chatbot has been incorporated into the PM-KISAN grievance management system. It aims to empower farmers with a user-friendly and easily accessible platform, the government said in a press release. In its initial development phase, the AI chatbot will aid farmers in obtaining information about their application status, payment details, eligibility status, and other scheme-related updates.
Accessible via the PM KISAN mobile app, the chatbot is seamlessly integrated with Bhashini, providing multilingual support that caters to the linguistic and regional diversity of PM-KISAN beneficiaries. This incorporation of cutting-edge technology not only improves transparency but also empowers farmers by enabling them to make informed decisions, the release noted. Presently, the chatbot can be used in English, Hindi, Bengali, Odia, and Tamil. Soon, it will be accessible in 22 languages spoken in the country.
During the launch of the chatbot, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Kailash Choudhary, claimed that the initiative aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to enhance the well-being of farmers and improve governance by leveraging technology.
He suggested expanding the service to link it with other related issues like weather information, soil conditions, and bank payments. Choudhary commended the Ministry officials for swiftly onboarding the technology, highlighting its potential to streamline the workload for agricultural officials at both the central and state levels. This is the first AI chatbot integrated into a major flagship scheme of the government. In the coming months, the technology will also be deployed for other significant initiatives of the Ministry.
Launched in February 2019, the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme supports the financial needs of land-holding farmers in the country. It offers an annual financial benefit of US$ 72 in three equal instalments to eligible farmers’ families through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode. Since its inception, over IN₹ 2.61 trillion (US$ 31.4 billion) has been disbursed to more than 110 million farmers so far, making it one of the largest Direct Benefit Transfer schemes globally.
India is reliant on its agricultural sector and modernising it is a pivotal step in improving the quality and reliability of its process and products. The government has launched several technology-based solutions across various segments of the sector. Earlier this month, the Unified Portal for Agricultural Statistics (UPAg Portal) was launched to tackle complex governance issues in the sector. It is designed to optimise and elevate data management within the agricultural sphere, contributing to a more efficient and responsive agricultural policy framework.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the portal standardises data related to prices, production, area, yield, and trade, consolidating it in a single location. This eliminates the necessity to compile data from multiple sources. The portal can also conduct advanced analytics, providing insights into production trends, trade correlations, and consumption patterns.
It can produce granular production estimates with increased frequency, improving the government’s capacity to respond swiftly to agricultural crises. Commodity profile reports will be generated using algorithms, reducing subjectivity and providing users with comprehensive insights. Users also have the flexibility to use the portal’s data for crafting their own reports, fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making.