The Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition was held over two days. This article covers Day 2. Read about Day 1.
COVID-19 has progressed digital transition by years and has foundationally altered the way both the public and private sector across the world deliver services, products and programmes. Government agencies and institutions have fast-tracked digitisation of internal operations and delivery of citizen services. Businesses made temporary solutions, that are morphing into more permanent ones, to meet changing and new demands – far more quickly than was thought possible before the crisis.
Indeed, a digital revolution is underway.
However, this is a daunting journey – stories of problematic projects abound. Organisations and agencies in government, healthcare and education that get digital transformation right are proving that the effort and investment reap significant rewards when done right.
This was the focal point of the discussion during the Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition Day 2 that brought the key decision-makers and influencers together in one forum.
Convening the brightest digital minds for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most, the Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum offered a unique way of tackling challenges in its virtual edition. Intentionally planned, every activity and facet of the event was designed to let delegates garner exclusive insights from the digital leaders as well as demonstrate their thought-leadership.
As always, the forum provided intimate interaction between key ICT leaders from the Public Sector and leading technology providers who influence and determine digital strategies across agencies and organisations.
Apart from informative presentations from renowned speakers, this year’s Forum continued its award-winning OpenGov Gamification Table (OGT) format in the new OpenGov Gamification Virtual Rooms (OGVRs). Every OpenGov Gamification Virtual Room was a virtual heuristic exercise allowing delegates to learn from varying decision-making scenarios just as they would in the physical world.
Digital Government: Building for the People
The day started with a keynote address from Pascale Elvas, Senior Director, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat who talked about how a digital government builds for its people.
Canada has nearly 38 million people and is the second-largest country in the world with ten provinces, three territories, two official languages – diversified and multicultural. The country also has its share of indigenous people as well as immigrants.
Canada is one of the most connected countries in the world with 94% of Canadians having internet access at home. Canadians are used to working, shopping and banking online and expect the same from their government’s services.
A total of $7.5 billion was spent on Federal Annual IT Expenditures in the following areas:
- $2.6B Applications
- $1.4B Telecommunications and networks
- $1.2B Distributed computing
- $1.2B Production and operations computing
- $0.7B Programme management
- $0.4B Security
In 2009, the Government of Canada launched a project to replace the system it had been using for 40 years to process payroll for its 290,000 employees in 101 departments and agencies.
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada concluded that the Phoenix project was an “incomprehensible failure in project management and oversight”. The Standing Committee on Finance referred to the project as an “international disgrace”. The pay system failed users, cost hundreds of millions of dollars and caused financial hardship to tens of thousands of employees.
The Overview of the Phoenix Project:
- Mega contract: A tech giant won the sole-source contract – $5.7 million initial contracts but eventually the company was paid $185 million.
- Unforeseen costs: The original budget in 2009 was $309 million, with projected savings of $70 million per year. The system has already cost taxpayers over $1 billion, with unforeseen costs estimated at $3 billion by 2023.
- Serious consequences: By June 2018, Phoenix had caused pay problems for almost 80% of federal public servants, or 232,000 people, with over 600,000 cases in arrears. Phoenix led to the suicide of a federal public servant in 2017.
- Pascale enumerated the causes of the project’s failure:
- Waterfall management: Largely pre-defined IT project with 300-400 contract requirements. Tech developer left alone for several months to design and develop the project. Unveiled very late, near the end of the contract
- No tests: Budget and timelines prioritised over functionality, testing and security. Launched without a pilot project or end-to-end testing
- Culture of “yes”: Culture where the risks of IT project failure are not discussed
To bounce back from past mishaps and to combat the effects of the pandemic, the government launched an online info-service platform on COVID-19.
In mid-March last year, the coronavirus pages canada.ca had peaks of 13 million visits per day. Google steered 90% of the traffic, showing that people were looking for reliable and authoritative information prompting them to launch the digital info-service for COVID-19. Since its launch, the service has sent more than 5.8 million notices to more than 56,000 subscribers.
The Overview of the COVID-19 information service platform are as follows:
- An email subscription service that provides information to help better manage health and wellness, and combat misinformation.
- Uses the open-source code from the GOV.UK Notify service, adapted for Canada by the Canadian Digital Service.
- Minimum viable product launched based on initial hypotheses regarding subscriber numbers, network load and minimum viable product, without planning all the features of future iterations.
- Launched one month before the press release and promotional campaign to test, improve and build a subscriber base for the service.
Pascale said the success factors of the platform include being informed by data where the content of the emails is based on the analysis of popular search data. Emails are written in a simple and accessible manner so that a grade 8 student can understand them. The platform uses existing tools and services.
The Canadian Digital Service’s Notify platform and the Canada.ca publishing platform made it possible to launch a turnkey service in two weeks. Lastly, it has an open-source code. The service is available in the Open Call for Code for Canada, a catalogue of free digital tools to answer common questions about COVID-19.
Smarter, Safer, and Resilient Cities: Re-opening Our Cities in the Face of COVID-19
The delegates next heard from Sameer Sharma, Global General Manager Smart Cities, Intelligent Transportation & IoT, Intel Corporation. He talked about learning how the Internet of Things and data can be leveraged to monitor, alert and protect citizens in modern cities as they begin to re-open.
Data clearly shows there is an explosion in populations in major cities all over the world; 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. With this surge, governments have been striving to find ways to make urban systems and infrastructure more efficient and effective. However, with COVID-19 hitting the world at the end of 2019 Q4, it has created a major pause in city innovation in specific areas.
The rapid spread of the virus affected countries globally on a massive scale. It severely hit areas like trade where the value of global exports increased by 4,000% in the last century; and the travel industry where 4.5 billion passengers boarded flights in 2019 pre-COVID. And on a personal level, human interaction was also reduced by the pandemic.
The pandemic made governments and policymakers looked at their vision for cities – such as better access to education, better healthcare and more opportunities for their citizens – in a whole new light.
Across the world, there are currently 33 megacities (>10 million people), 4,000 cities with 100K+ population and 2.5M towns. Serving this global population are 1.4 billion cars, 246 million trucks, 17 million buses, over 50,000 ships, 25,000 commercial planes and 1.3 million kilometres of railways.
All of these must be and can be managed even in an ongoing crisis. Improving and strengthening cities where the working society is in will be the key and, in the age of COVID-19, Sameer is convinced, that resilience will be critical; new threats and challenges must be anticipated and planned for.
Agencies and organisations across the board have tried to mitigate the effects of the pandemic by using technologies and new operational frameworks. Sameer reminded the delegates that legacy infrastructure cannot scale but disruptive technologies can make everything possible. Digital technologies must overlay the physical world, especially cities.
COVID-19 created shifted the focus specific sector improvement to overall infrastructure upgrade – that is, transforming ‘spaces’ to ‘smart spaces. It is imperative to learn how to adopt technologies like AI, Cloud, 5G and IoT.
With the re-opening of the economy, safety and sanitisation will take precedence. Automated air filtration systems will be the norm in offices, commercial spaces, and industries where the physical presence of people is a must.
Organisations that use these spaces can utilise technology to upgrade their infrastructure. There are a plethora of tech-based solutions that enable smarter spaces: automated room access, keyless and touchless entry, touchless and on-demand elevators, ambient temperature control, fresh air circulation and quality monitoring, UVD disinfecting robotics, face mask and fever detection using AI, people-counting and spacing-analytics and digital contact tracing initiatives just to name a few.
With fears of the virus in public transport, for local, shorter commutes, most likely, people will use personal vehicles. Where longer travel is necessary by air, road, rail or sea, security agencies will add healthcare checks and screenings.
Schools and universities will opt to use online tools; hotels and restaurants will transition to digital menus, delivery models and contactless payments; retail will be increasingly driven online.
Intel’s Smart City Vision, Sameer shared, is built on effective policies, governance and financing. Transportation, buildings and energy, environment, healthcare, public services and homes stress citizen wellbeing and safety. Intel is a strong advocate for and champions the use of sensors and edge computing, wireless tech, access and core networks, cloud and analytics and AI and Automation to achieve their dreams of a Smart City.
Nations must understand that resiliency is the key and technology enable it. Decision-makers should think big, not just thinking about smarter cities, but better cities. The mantra is to start small and get going with obvious projects and opportunities; then learn, adjust, and iterate.
Sameer urges governments and organisations to find the right partners across the industry to build sustainable cities for citizens.
In closing, he quoted Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Digitally Automated Citizen Services
Dan Ternes, Chief Technology Officer, APAC, Blue Prism was the presenter and talked about ways on how to serve citizens better with digital automation. He began with the key factors that drive the public sector to change its disciplines and practices. At the helm is to be able to serve citizens better, mostly with robotic process automation.
Government agencies are under pressure to improve the user experience to meet growing expectations and to help improve the lives of citizens. Public sector leaders are being urged to leverage new and innovative digital technologies like AI and automation.
Security and fraud detection are significant considerations as well. Governments must have higher levels of security and be innovative in fraud detection to address the pressures of rising fraudulent and cybersecurity activities.
Regulatory compliance, too, plays a key role in these changes. Increased levels of governance and compliance requirements are needed to address the pressures of stricter regulations and privacy of data.
Lastly is the public sector’s future operating model. Current operating models are proving unsustainable in the face of dramatic changes in the expectations of citizens.
The public sector’s path to value in terms of automation starts with the back office – automating high volume and high-value back-office processes, financial data tracking, updating HR and payroll and IT data migration.
It then transitions to citizen services. New account and account renewals, automatic invoicing and billing, lowering contact centre wait times, automated benefits processing and efficient public service matching.
The public sector must create capabilities that free up staff time and enable them to be re-skilled for higher value-added services on the front line. Notably, the government must transition from legacy and avoid constraints of legacy systems. It must create digital agility while reducing risk and complexity and enable simplification and modernisation.
Dan enumerated four samples of success stories that the public sector achieved by automating processes:
- Revenue NSW, 80,000 hours returned to the business; 1.1M transactions across 40 process automation
- Luton Borough Council, 90% of benefits cases processed by digital workers and 5x faster than temp workers
- South Kesteven District Council, 3 weeks backlog reduced for critical housing applications
- Suffolk County Council, 2,000 monthly audits on prepaid card spending for Special Educational Needs & Disabilities children
The current state of adoption of intelligent automation in government as follows:
- 33% piloting right now
- 28% has no plans
- 23% moving into production
- 11% unsure
- 6% scaled-up and industrialised
Dan conceded that going digital must build on the promise of a new E.T.H.I.C. of public services. It must be Efficient, capable of increasing productivity as well as being a good steward of the taxpayer’s money. It must be Trusted where security and compliance are the top priorities. The government must practice transparent, non-inclusive engagement. Government must also be Highly responsive through cross-silo integration and invisible bureaucracy. Public services should be Inclusive, driven by personalisation and equitable services. Lastly, a digital government must provide Convenient, omni-experience and seamless access to its services.
Critical Services Resiliency
The delegates heard from Soh Kiat Hiong, Head of Systems Engineering, Asia, Rubrik on ways to keep critical services resilient in the age of cyber threats.
Digital transformation must focus on leveraging data as a strategic advantage. Organisations must modernise and reduce complexity and cost. Digital adopters must learn how to automate infrastructures and how to utilise a hybrid cloud setup. The transformation must be secure, compliant and resilient. Lastly, digital processes and platforms must be able to harmonise with existing assets to have a seamless management system.
With the current surge in digitalisation from both the private and public sectors, cyber extortion is growing too. For example, while some simple ransomware may lock the system so that it is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse, more advanced malware uses a technique called crypto-viral extortion. It encrypts the victim’s files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them. In a properly implemented extortion attack, recovering the files without the decryption key is an intractable problem.
Soh Kiat Hiong conceded that there are additional challenges with ransomware. Foremost, quick recoveries are a pipe dream and on average take over 7 days to recover. An organisation’s last line of defence is no longer enough – more is needed with additional backup. Finally, users cannot determine the blast radius of the attack.
He also mentioned the following to build a Ransomware remediation plan:
- Immutability (Safeguard Backups)
- Impact Visibility (Reduce Data Loss)
- Instant Recovery (Lower RTOs)
Government agencies and organisations must implement an integrated experience for IT Ops and SecOps with a unified management system for data protection and integrated intelligence in security information and event management (SIEM)/security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) dashboards.
Soh Kiat Hiong conceded that a resilient and intelligent data management platform must be able to mitigate data risk by leveraging backups for cyber-resiliency and data privacy. It must also be equipped for modernisation and automation. Lastly, the platform must be extended to the cloud to earn benefits from cloud economics and mitigate the risk of cloud data loss.
After the informative presentations from the speakers, the session shifted to a Power Talk discussion where Mohit joined panellists Leong Mun Kew, Director, Graduate Programmes, Institute of Systems Science, National University of Singapore and Terence Ng, Director, Policy & Technology Innovation Office, Health Promotion Board.
On the agenda was public services in the new normal and what does the word “reboot” mean. Open for a discussion was the kind of transformation the panellists were expecting to see and how did they think technology would support the reshaping of the world with lessons learned from COVID-19.
Terence Ng said that society should relook instead of rebooting. People should look at the tools and platforms to improve on and continue to build on that going forward. However, he noted that the lack of physical contact such as face to face interactions put a strain on some people. Therefore, he believes that a more hybrid setup may work and bear benefits in the future.
Leong Mun Kew emphasised that the world must take advantage of the current mindset aided by the lessons that the pandemic. The area that needs a reboot is the overall governance to consider what the new normal is truly about and what are the initiatives needed to improve citizen services and organisational capacities.
After the informative presentations from renowned speakers, the forum moved to an interactive discussion – a time of high-level engagement with delegates from various government agencies, FSI, education and healthcare organisations.
Aided by polling questions, this session is designed to provide live-audience interaction, promote engagement, hear real-life experiences and impart professional learning and development for the participants. It is an opportunity for delegates to gain insight from subject matter experts, share their stories and take back strategies that can be implemented in their organisations.
The opening poll inquired about delegates’ primary objective in their digital transformation strategies. 34% of the delegates said their digital transformation is meant to improve their business processes while 34% also said it is for the improvement of citizen and customer experiences.
On the question about the biggest challenges delegates face in implementing digital strategies, 38% voted legacy systems and technologies that lack integration capabilities were the biggest. A quarter (25%) signalled that the inflexible business processes and teams are the main challenges.
Participants were asked how they measure the success of their digital transformation efforts. Almost two-thirds (63%) of the delegates said that they are still looking for ways to measure it effectively while 29% indicated they already have qualitative and quantitative methods in place.
Delegates were asked about their most important IT priorities. Three quarters (75%) said digital transformation and innovation are their top priorities while 19% said that improving efficiencies and reducing maintenance costs were the most pressing aspects of their IT strategies.
Exploring IT structures, delegates were asked how AI and Data Analytics impact or improve their current digital transformation strategies. About 41% voted faster access to data to improve pre-emptive analysis can be achieved using AI and Data Analytics while 36% said that they need AI-ready infrastructures to manage large sets of data.
On being asked to share their organisations’ biggest pain points in the Big Data value chain, 46% went with data accessibility and sharing as their biggest pain points while 26% said data integrity was the real problem for their organisations.
Regarding the maturity of their data strategies, 49% conceded that it is evolving and they are building a Data Lake for democratising data. Just over a quarter (26%) indicated that a traditional approach with a central team managing data with all the analytics drivers through their data warehouse.
When asked to rate their organisations’ use of data and data analytics tools for decision-making purposes, 42% said that they needed improvement and better tools while 32% said they were doing good with adequate tools were in place.
Differentiating cloud providers for various workloads, 31% said services is important while 31% said that integration is the key for evaluation.
This led to delegates being asked how much of their organisations’ mission-critical/data-sensitive workloads are to be put onto public clouds this year. About 62% said that less than half of their workloads are set to be put onto the public cloud while 28% said more than half is earmarked for public cloud adoption.
On the issue of cloud adoption, delegates were polled on the biggest challenge CIOs face when complying with the government’s direction to go on the public cloud. More than half (54%) of the delegates agreed that security poses the biggest challenge, 32% said governance was an issue and 7% said skills to mitigates are lacking.
Close to half (48%) of the delegates’ main concern for security operations in their organisations are advance and zero-day attacks. A fifth (20%) said cybersecurity skills shortage is concerning while another fifth (20%) voted for actionable threat intelligence.
Respondents were asked to rate their current level of security operations efficiency to detect and respond to attacks. Almost 34% said their security operations are currently based on log management, correlation aggregation, and basic reporting, while 39% said it was very good in terms of a partial mapping of the prediction, detection and response areas, but needs improvement.
Questioned on what drives their cyber resilience plans, an overwhelming 84% indicated compliance and incidents were critical factors for their cybersecurity strategies and programmes.
With COVID-19 still making its presence felt in most parts of the world, the delegates were asked about the areas most impacted by the ongoing pandemic. Over 57% said the well-being of their staff took a hit, 37% said they were able to launch new initiatives because of COVID-19 while 6% said their productivity was greatly affected.
Knowing that the pandemic accelerated the digital transformation especially for the working sector, delegates were asked about their perceived outcomes of a digital and automated workplace. About 31% believed that there will be an improvement in employee engagement. The remaining votes were divided into higher productivity, greater collaborations, greater digitalisation, and resource savings.
On the current challenges they face in the adoption of a digital workplace, 42% said the lack of effective technologies to optimise staff productivity and performance is an issue. Over 38% said the lack of executive leadership to drive a culture of process improvement and effective change management is their biggest challenge. Only 21% said that no clear articulation of digital workplace benefits and a supporting business case hinder their adoption of the new working setup.
Finally, delegates shared their organisations’ capabilities in supporting a remote workforce. Exactly half (50%) said they already have the tools to implement a seamless remote working setup. Over a quarter (27%) said they are not looking to implement a fully remote workforce while 23% indicated a lack of collaboration tools for seamless remote work (but they are looking for solutions).
The Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum – 2021 ended with a closing address from Mohit. He thanked the delegates, speakers and sponsors who joined the virtual session.
Mohit believed that with the unprecedented pace government agencies and industries are tackling the effects of a global crisis, he is positive that the world will soon return to its former self.
However, there will be a glaring difference. Going forward, government agencies, organisations, industries and communities are now more equipped with the appropriate knowledge and innovative capabilities that we all gained from our many battles with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition was held over two days. This article covers Day 2. Read about Day 1.
China Construction Bank (CCB) was recently commended by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat for reaching an important milestone in Singapore, which is evidence of the long-lasting collaboration that has developed between the two countries over the past 25 years.
The CCB is one of China’s four largest state-owned banks and is actively expanding its business abroad, with branch offices in Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore, among other places.
In 1998, when CCB made the bold decision to establish a presence in Singapore, the Asian economies were emerging from the depths of the Asian Financial Crisis. CCB’s move to set up shop in Singapore was a bold show of faith in the future of Asia and a belief that the region was poised for a resilient comeback.
Over the years, CCB has deepened its roots in Singapore, forming vital partnerships and emerging as one of CCB’s largest overseas nodes. DPM Heng Swee Keat, who once led the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), recalls productive meetings with CCB’s leadership regarding their expansion plans in the region.
This partnership led to significant milestones, including MAS upgrading CCB’s Singapore branch to a wholesale bank in 2010 and subsequently to a Qualifying Full Bank (QFB) in 2020.
The timing of this expansion is crucial, as it enables CCB to support Chinese companies looking to explore new opportunities while also contributing to the internationalisation of the renminbi.
Simultaneously, it provides invaluable support to Singaporean companies with aspirations in the Chinese market. Singapore’s status as an international financial centre ensures a plethora of growth opportunities for both CCB and Singapore.
Financial cooperation has been a cornerstone of the enduring relationship between Singapore and China. Recent upgrades in their partnership have expanded the scope of activities, going beyond traditional corporate and commercial lending to include green financing solutions, offshore debt raising, and even FinTech and innovation research in Singapore.
Regulators from both nations have joined hands to explore emerging areas like sustainable and digital finance, aiming to strengthen cross-border collaboration and deepen capital market connectivity within the region.
This is due to the rise of digital technology which has transformed the financial landscape, leading to the emergence of digital finance. This encompasses a wide range of innovations, including mobile banking, digital payments, blockchain technology, and digital currencies.
By exploring digital finance, Singapore and China are not only embracing financial technology (FinTech) but also revolutionising the way financial services are accessed and delivered. This shift has the potential to enhance financial inclusion, streamline transactions, and increase the efficiency of capital markets. Also, it opens doors to cross-border collaboration in developing and adopting cutting-edge FinTech solutions.
By strengthening capital market connectivity, these nations are not only boosting their own financial sectors but also attracting foreign investments, promoting regional economic stability, and potentially positioning themselves as hubs for sustainable and digital finance in Asia.
Innovations in digital finance and technology have revolutionised access to banking services and improved efficiency. CCB’s Fintech innovation lab in Singapore offers a platform for research, technology sharing, and the forging of new partnerships. These innovations are poised to enhance resource allocation, promoting real growth and job creation.
The collaboration between Singapore and China in these emerging areas is a strategic move to shape the financial landscape of the future, where sustainability, innovation, and cross-border cooperation will be key drivers of success.
The Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, and Minister for the Public Service of Australia provided updates on technology and digital identity-related legislation. The Minister delved into the topic of Digital ID and its significance for Australia’s future.
The primary focus of the address was the introduction of the draft Digital ID legislation, marking the commencement of consultations for the exposure draft. She highlighted that Digital ID is akin to an online version of presenting one’s passport or driver’s license to verify their identity but without relinquishing the physical document. It aims to provide a secure and convenient way to verify identity online.
The draft Digital ID legislation, now open for consultation, represents a significant milestone in Australia’s efforts to create a national Digital ID system. The Minister outlined four guiding principles for this system: security, convenience, voluntariness, and inclusivity. She stressed that Digital ID would remain voluntary, ensuring alternate channels for those who prefer not to use it.
Moreover, Digital ID is seen as a means to enhance inclusion by bringing government services online and extending their accessibility to underserved communities, including individuals with disabilities. However, the Minister emphasised that those unable or unwilling to obtain a Digital ID would still have access to government services through traditional channels.
The current system, which operates without legislation, allows individuals with Digital IDs to verify their identity without repeatedly providing sensitive documents. Nevertheless, it has limitations, as it is not yet a nationwide system and private sector providers cannot verify individuals against government-issued ID documents. The government envisions a national Digital ID system as an important economic, productivity, and security reform, and efforts are underway to address these shortcomings.
To ensure trust, data protection, and choice in the Digital ID system, the draft legislation establishes governance arrangements, a regulator (with the ACCC as the interim regulator), and privacy safeguards. Senator Gallagher emphasised the need for explicit consent for sharing identity information, the secure deletion of biometric data, and the prohibition of using identity data for direct marketing purposes.
Additionally, the Minster announced the formation of an AI taskforce, in collaboration with colleague Ed Husic, to ensure responsible and safe usage of AI across government agencies. AI has the potential to improve productivity within the APS and enhance government services, but it also requires careful management to mitigate risks.
The government is committed to creating boundaries and safeguards for emerging technologies like AI. The AI Taskforce will assess the risks and benefits of different AI systems within the public service.
The upcoming release of the first Long Term Insights Brief on AI and trust in public service delivery was also mentioned. Four key findings from the brief highlighted the importance of designing AI with integrity, preserving empathy in service design, enhancing public service performance, and investing in AI literacy and digital connectivity for all Australians.
The Minister expressed her determination to see the establishment of an Australian Digital ID system through legislation, despite the challenges and opposition. She acknowledged that it has been an eight-year work in progress, but she believes it is a worthy project with significant benefits for individuals, businesses, and the economy as a whole.
The address highlighted the importance of Digital ID legislation and AI governance in shaping Australia’s technological future. These initiatives aim to enhance security, convenience, and inclusivity while safeguarding individuals’ privacy and ensuring responsible AI usage within the public service.
Efforts to advance digital identification in Australia align with the country’s broader initiatives to establish a national Digital ID system, as discussed by the Minster. The focus of one pilot program, reported on by OpenGov Asia earlier, was on enabling individuals to prove their identity without the need for multiple physical documents corresponds to the principles of Digital ID outlined by the Minister, emphasising secure digital verification over physical information exchange.
Additionally, student volunteers from Deakin University demonstrated practical applications of digital identity within the education sector, mirroring the efficiencies mentioned by Senator Gallagher in her speech. These developments reflect Australia’s growing interest and innovation in the digital identification ecosystem.
Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia will cooperate in the digital economy. Experts have said that the substantial potential for trade and investment collaboration among the countries has not yet been fully realised.
The three governments jointly organised a conference to discuss digital economic development trends and their potential to enhance trade and investment among the countries, opportunities and challenges arising from digital transformation for the growth of trilateral ties, and strategies to advance their cooperative efforts in the digital era. The conference reflects the countries’ readiness to build digital-transformation-oriented socio-economic infrastructure.
Experts at the event recommended that the sides establish and improve institutional and legal environments that align with the demands of the international integration era within the context of the digital economy. Additionally, the nations should invest in developing digital infrastructure to foster their national digital economies.
The conference, which was organised by the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), Lao Academy of Social and Economic Sciences (LASES), and Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), saw the participation of over 100 experts, managers, and diplomats from the three countries.
According to a representative from VASS, prioritising the advancement of the digital economy is considered a key task in accelerating the restructuring of an economy. This approach is closely linked with innovation in the growth model and the enhancement of growth quality. The aim is to assist a nation in escaping the middle-income trap and progressing toward becoming a fully developed, industrialised country. The trend presents both opportunities and challenges for countries involved, as they work to develop and expand their investment and commercial partnerships.
An official from LASES noted that Laos is in the early stages of its digital transformation journey, encompassing multiple sectors, including commerce and investment. Consequently, Laos is eager to collaborate with experts from Vietnam and Cambodia, aiming to exchange knowledge and gain insight from their respective digital transformation efforts.
Highlighting the longstanding bond among the three nations, an official from RAC acknowledged that in the realm of digital transformation, Vietnam has been making swifter advancements compared to Cambodia and Laos, particularly in sectors like tourism, commerce, and investment. Collaborative efforts among these nations, particularly in the domain of the digital economy, hold considerable importance in advancing the development of each country.
In 2020, Vietnam kicked off a national digital transformation programme, under which the country would renovate the management and administration activities of the government, the production and business activities of enterprises, and the overall way of living and working. It is working to develop a safe, humane, and wide digital environment. The national digital transformation programme has the dual purpose of both developing the digital government and economy and establishing Vietnamese digital businesses with a global capacity.
In the second quarter of 2023, the digital economy contributed approximately 15.26% to the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Vietnam. Compared to 2021, the growth of Vietnam’s national digital transformation index did slow down, but the component indices of digital government, digital economy, and digital society still maintained a high growth rate of 45-55%.
Vietnam’s digital economy was valued at around $14 billion in 2020, showing remarkable growth of 450% since 2015. Projections indicate that it is expected to expand by roughly 30% between 2020 and 2025.
Minister of PANRB Abdullah Azwar Anas stated that in 2023, the diplomatic relations between the Republic of Indonesia and Korea will reach its 50th year. Both countries continuously work to enhance their relations and cooperation, both bilaterally, regionally, and multilaterally.
In light of this, the governments of Indonesia and Korea are continuing their cooperation in Electronic Government Systems (EGS) through the Digital Government Cooperation Forum. This event, organised through the collaboration of the Ministry of Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform (PANRB), the Ministry of the Interior and Safety (MoIS), and the National Information Society Agency (NIA), discusses the implementation of cooperation in 2023 and the cooperation project plans for 2024.
“The closeness of this relationship and cooperation is certainly supported by the complementary nature of resources and advantages possessed by Indonesia and Korea, in addition to the excellent economic and political progress, making opportunities for cooperation in various sectors increasingly wide open,” said Minister PANRB Abdullah Azwar Anas.
In 2023, the governments of Indonesia and Korea embarked on a cooperation project related to digital ID development strategies and poverty alleviation digitalisation strategies. As for the extension of the DGCC cooperation project in 2024, there are several project proposals from the DGCC Committee, including support for government efforts in digitalising Nusantara City into a smart city focusing on intelligent government aspects.
“These cooperation proposals include the use of Big Data and AI for government administrative services, open-source technology-based designs, and big data designs in service provision,” explained Anas.
In his opinion, strengthening the strategic partnership between Korea and Indonesia for a shared future, especially in digital transformation, is not just an aspiration but a necessity. Indonesia’s digital transformation is already on the right track, where digital transformation serves as an accelerator for development acceleration.
Strengthening partnerships with Korea, one of the global technology industry leaders can bring Indonesia significant benefits. Korea has extensive experience and expertise in digital transformation and cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and 5G. Through knowledge sharing and close collaboration, Indonesia can accelerate the implementation of these technologies to support various sectors, including industry, education, healthcare, and public services.
Furthermore, strengthening this partnership can also open doors for investments in Indonesia’s technology ecosystem. With financial and technical support from Korea, Indonesian startups and technology companies can further develop their innovations and compete in the global market. This will create new job opportunities, drive economic growth, and strengthen Indonesia’s position in an increasingly interconnected international community.
“Interoperability of systems and applications continues to be pursued to realise integrated services nationally. However, we continue to strive and learn best practices from various countries, especially Korea, to strengthen digital transformation breakthroughs in Indonesia,” he said.
NIA President Jong Sung Hwang stated that in the future, his agency will actively assist Indonesia in digital governance, similar to what they did by establishing NIA in 1987 to support the digitalisation of the South Korean government. “The South Korean government used to have 17,060 silo systems, but they managed to integrate them all into an all-in-one service,” explained Jong Sung Hwang.
Jong Sung Hwang added that in the era of digital governance, everything should run smoothly, and data should be easily accessible. “Usually, data preparation takes a lot of time, but with data infrastructure, it can be done more quickly and data is easier to use,” he added.
In an era where technology defines many aspects of daily life, strengthening a strategic partnership with Korea in digital transformation is not just an option but a necessity. This step will help Indonesia address challenges and seize opportunities from the global digital revolution. With strong cooperation between the two countries, Indonesia can achieve a brighter and more sustainable future in the digital era.
A prominent player in the oats industry, tracing its origins back to its establishment in 1965, inaugurated a new cutting-edge oat processing plant in Malaysia. This company has consistently evolved and embraced innovation, establishing itself as a major contributor to the global export of oat products.
The recent success of this enterprise can be largely attributed to its strategic investments in cutting-edge technologies. The newly unveiled plant will have an expansive floor area and specialise in the production of a diverse range of oat products, including oat flakes, kilned dried hulled oats, oat bran, and oat flour.
Malaysian government officials and industry experts have lauded the expansion, recognising its positive impact on the local economy and its alignment with broader industrial development plans. The company’s emphasis on technology and production capacity not only benefits its supply chain but also enhances its position in the global market, particularly within the Halal food sector. Additionally, the increased capacity aligns seamlessly with national food security goals, contributing to the accessibility and affordability of food, especially healthy products.
The Deputy Managing Director of the company has emphasised their commitment to expanding their product offerings and capacity to meet market demands. With an impressive 58 years of experience in oat milling, they remain dedicated to innovation and sustainability.
The newly inaugurated oat processing plant uses state-of-the-art automation and advanced technology to ensure impeccable control over the entire oat milling process, guaranteeing consistency and quality in every product it delivers to the market.
This commitment to quality and innovation has been duly recognised by certifications from global food authorities, including FSSC 22000, ISO 22000, and HACCP, as well as Halal and non-GMO certifications. These certifications not only underscore the company’s dedication to delivering safe and high-quality products but also highlight its embrace of modern technology in food processing, ensuring that every product meets stringent global standards.
The plan is to explore ways to enhance its sales and marketing efforts. Leveraging data-driven strategies and digital platforms, the company aims to reach a wider audience and cater to the evolving preferences of consumers, particularly the younger generation.
Leveraging the new cutting-edge facility, the company is expected to extend its reach into the rapidly growing plant-based beverage and meat industries. Additionally, it will be unveiling a Captain Innovation Hub, scheduled for completion by 2028. This hub aligns seamlessly with the pursuit of healthier lifestyles, aiming to introduce a range of innovative oat products to the younger generation, all of which will be underpinned by advanced technology.
This move aligns with key initiatives of the Malaysian government. The advanced automation mirrors the government’s push for technology-intensive industries over labour-intensive ones, while its commitment to Halal certification bolsters Malaysia’s reputation as a provider of high-quality Halal products.
Furthermore, the company’s increased milling capacity and production of nutritious oat products support national food security objectives, and its global success contributes to Malaysia’s trade goals. The forthcoming Captain Innovation Hub underscores its dedication to innovation and sustainability, paralleling the government’s encouragement of forward-looking industries, ultimately showcasing how private sector enterprises can advance Malaysia’s economic and strategic aspirations.
OpenGov Asia has also reported that MIDA has signed a Collaborative Agreement with a global leader in intelligent sensing and emitting technology. A key component of this plan was the establishment of an advanced 8-inch microLED manufacturing facility in Kulim, Malaysia.
This facility, characterised by its state-of-the-art automation and technology, is a groundbreaking development in the global microLED industry. Construction of this pioneering facility commenced in 2022, and it is well on its way to completion.
In a resolute move to drive technological innovation and secure a prominent position on the global stage, China significantly bolstered its investment in research and development (R&D) in 2022. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that the country allocated an impressive 3.08 trillion yuan (S$422.1 billion) to R&D, marking a 10.1% year-on-year increase.
This surge in R&D funding underscores China’s unwavering dedication to advancing basic research and achieving breakthroughs in critical technologies.
The amplified R&D investment not only fuels technological innovation within Chinese enterprises but also enhances their core competitiveness on the international front. Experts believe that this substantial investment will inject a potent dose of momentum into China’s ongoing economic recovery.
The surge in R&D investment reflects China’s resolute implementation of an innovation-driven development strategy, positioning the nation as a science and technology powerhouse. This strategy equips China with a competitive edge in the fierce international arena, driving the creation of new growth engines.
Pan Helin, co-director of the Digital Economy and Financial Innovation Research Centre at Zhejiang University’s International Business School, underscores the pivotal role of continuous investment in basic scientific research.
He highlights its significance in fostering high-quality economic growth and promoting the intelligent transformation and upgrading of traditional industries. Pan calls for harnessing the leading role of enterprises in driving technological innovation, thereby ensuring sustainable progress.
Enterprises in China are indeed heeding this call, expanding their investments in vital sectors and laying a robust foundation for pioneering core technologies in key domains. The NBS highlighted the government’s commitment to providing continued financial support and encouraging local authorities to amplify their R&D investments while optimising the efficiency of capital utilisation.
China’s prowess in science and technology innovation has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. The 2022 Global Innovation Index, released by the World Intellectual Property Organisation, positioned China at the 11th spot globally, making it the only middle-income economy within the top 30.
Further, Luo Zhongwei, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Industrial Economics advocates intensifying investments in cutting-edge and forward-looking fields, including quantum information, artificial intelligence (AI), biological sciences, new energy, and new materials.
According to him, these investments are essential to achieve breakthroughs in key domains through independent innovation, particularly as protectionism continues to rise in some countries.
China’s intensified investments in cutting-edge fields like quantum information and AI confer a multitude of advantages. This commitment propels China to a position of technological leadership on the global stage. By allocating substantial resources to these transformative technologies, China not only sets industry standards but also influences international trends and fosters innovation.
Besides, these investments fuel economic growth by catalysing the development of new industries and markets. Quantum information and AI have the potential to spawn high-tech startups, generate employment opportunities, and stimulate economic prosperity.
As China excels in these domains, it enhances its global competitiveness, exporting technological advancements, products, and expertise while strengthening its standing in international trade and diplomacy.
Also, this strategic move ensures China’s national security and technological sovereignty. Quantum information and AI play pivotal roles in safeguarding against cybersecurity threats and advancing military capabilities.
Likewise, these investments reduce China’s reliance on foreign technology, allowing greater control over critical infrastructure and ensuring resilience against external disruptions. Overall, China’s intensified focus on these advanced fields promises not only technological leadership but also economic growth, national security, and global influence.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) spearheaded an initiative aimed at promoting innovation and technology in the biotech sector, showcasing Hong Kong’s pioneering advancements and entrepreneurial spirit.
This initiative was part of the “Think Business, Think Hong Kong” event organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) in Paris recently. The event was a platform to underscore the potential for cross-border collaboration between Hong Kong and France in the field of biotechnology and innovation.
The CEO of HKSTP emphasised the critical purpose behind this endeavour. He pointed out the immense potential for synergy and cooperation between Hong Kong and French biotech ecosystems, highlighting their role in propelling startups and pharmaceutical companies to global prominence.
The journey of biotech innovation is long and arduous, and comprehensive support is essential. This initiative aimed to highlight Hong Kong’s ability to nurture and support biotech innovators throughout their growth trajectory and establish the city as a global hub for innovation and technology.
At its core, this initiative sought to underscore Hong Kong’s strengths in driving innovation to global success. It aimed to showcase the city’s unique ecosystem that fosters innovation and technology, making it a prime destination for biotech entrepreneurs. Moreover, it underlined the immense market potential in Asia as a growth engine for the global biotech industry.
The thematic session organised by HKSTP and the accompanying pavilion, titled “Unlocking Asia’s Opportunities in Healthcare Innovation,” was central to this initiative. These components received a warm reception from the French biotech and pharmaceutical industry.
Four distinguished biotech experts from Hong Kong-based ventures were featured, collectively illustrating Hong Kong’s capacity to lead in global innovation and technology. They highlighted the city’s potential as a gateway to the Asian market, positioning it as a central hub for biotech growth and development.
To further accentuate the significance of this initiative, a special gala dinner was convened, attended by influential leaders from the French, European, and Hong Kong business communities. Key dignitaries including the President of the Ile de France Region, the Financial Secretary of the HKSAR Government, and the Chairman of HKTDC were present. This gathering aimed to foster meaningful connections and collaborations that would propel innovation and technology in the biotech sector forward.
HKSTP’s initiative was not just about an event; it was about catalysing collaboration and innovation in the biotech sector. It sought to highlight Hong Kong’s unique strengths as a global player in biotech innovation and technology. By bringing together experts, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders, this initiative aimed to pave the way for groundbreaking advancements in biotech, positioning Hong Kong as a prominent player in the international innovation and technology landscape.
OpenGov Asia previously reported that the Government Chief Information Officer of Hong Kong led a delegation from the city’s innovation and technology (I&T) sector to the 25th China International Software Expo (CISE). The mission aimed to strengthen collaboration and explore business opportunities in the technology sector.
The Hong Kong Pavilion at CISE showcased more than 20 innovative I&T products and solutions sourced from esteemed competitions like the Hong Kong ICT Awards and the “Maker in China” SME Innovation and Entrepreneurship Global Contest. These exhibits covered cutting-edge domains such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, cloud computing, and biotechnology.
These innovations spanned sectors like fintech, smart construction site management, and digital entertainment, demonstrating the integration of digital technology into the tangible economy. To engage potential buyers and partners, the Hong Kong Pavilion featured a mini-stage for exhibitors to present their products and services.
This delegation’s participation in CISE emphasised Hong Kong’s technological capabilities and commitment to international collaboration. It aligned with Hong Kong’s goal of becoming a global hub for technological innovation in a rapidly evolving I&T landscape.