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.
SINGAPORE – February 2, 2023 – Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has collaborated with National Geographic CreativeWorks to unveil UNSEEN/SINGAPORE, a campaign that showcases Singapore as a travel destination from the perspective of intrepid photographers from Southeast Asia. Through photography, the campaign includes a virtual exhibition which encourages travellers to explore the city-state’s cultural diversity and hidden spots, by taking a moment to observe the unseen beauty of destination Singapore.
Running from 2 February 2023, UNSEEN/SINGAPORE will showcase a collection of photographic works through a virtual exhibition, captured and curated by six photographers from across Southeast Asia. UNSEEN/SINGAPORE features the works of:
- Amani Azlin from Malaysia
- Tino Renato from Indonesia
- Chanipol Kusolcharttum, better known as “Rockkhound”, from Thailand
- Phạm Gia Tùng from Vietnam
- Gab Mejia from the Philippines
- Jayaprakash Bojan from Singapore
In curating the UNSEEN/SINGAPORE collection, each photographer visited Singapore in mid-2022, covering areas in Singapore that showcase nature, heritage buildings, cultural sites, and art. Each presented their vision of an UNSEEN/SINGAPORE through ways that resonate with their passions and personal experiences.
The photographers ventured across Singapore, going beyond its famous attractions and iconic skyline, to discover spots equally captivating – from charming neighbourhoods to lush and thriving offshore wetlands and a lighthouse at the island’s edge.
“We aim to inspire travellers to Singapore to rediscover the joy of travel once again. One way is to portray our destination in a different light, by helping visitors to see it afresh through another person’s eyes. UNSEEN/SINGAPORE set out to do this, through the lens of talented photographers from Southeast Asia, who tell their journey of discovery through photography. We hope they will inspire a new wave of visitors to discover a Singapore reimagined,” said Mr John Conceicao, Executive Director, Southeast Asia, STB.
“If you want to experience a country, you have to go down a layer below into the more local stuff to get a feel of what the country is. For people who’ve already visited Singapore, they should try and look for some of the unorthodox locations which they probably missed in their previous visits because
there’s a lot more to Singapore with the culture and heritage,” shared Jayaprakash Bojan, a full-time photographer and documentary filmmaker who advocates conservation via visuals and participated in the campaign.
UNSEEN/SINGAPORE is part of STB’s efforts to boost travel recovery through SingapoReimagine, a tourism campaign that highlights new, innovative and unexpected experiences in Singapore to audiences worldwide.
Between January to December 2022, Singapore recorded 6.3 million international visitor arrivals. Visitor arrivals were driven by strong demand from Singapore’s key source markets, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.
Get to know the photographers
Amani Azlin from Malaysia
Amani is a multi-disciplinary visual artist who expresses her passion for minimalism through her work for various local brands. When Amani is taking pictures, she goes in with her camera and doesn’t give it too much thought. It’s all about taking pictures in the moment and only scrutinising them afterwards. For her, it’s about capturing candid, unscripted moments in daily life, even when she’s travelling in a different country. As the only female photographer in the group, she offers a fresh take on travelling to must-visit sites with her passion for slow travel rather than touch-and-go experiences.
Jayaprakash Bojan from Singapore
Jayaprakash Bojan was National Geographic’s Nature Photographer of the Year 2017. He is a nature-wildlife conservation artist whose work focuses on wildlife photography abroad. As someone who has lived in Singapore for around 7 years, the pandemic has pushed him to explore his own neighbourhood (particularly Pasir Ris Park) rather than places abroad. With this project, Jayaprakash rediscovers his home, Singapore, from a different perspective.
Tino Renato from Indonesia
A self-taught travel, food, portrait and still life photographer, Tino started his journey when he was younger, starting out with a film camera, and it remains his favourite medium for taking his pictures. For him, it’s all about capturing the raw moments of a place and its people and making them the focus of his pictures. It is what makes his photos appear simple while adding depth to the story as we can witness in the UNSEEN/SINGAPORE project.
Chanipol Kusolcharttum, also known as “Rockkhound”, from Thailand
After a few years of working as an air steward and travelling the world, Rockkhound decided to pursue and kickstart his passion for photography as a career, enabling him to continue exploring the world. The photographer-cinematographer from Bangkok started his photography journey about 10 years ago on Instagram while embracing the philosophy of slowing down to truly live in the moment and enjoy the scenery all around him when he is out and about. His style is to deliver motion and emotion, such as looking for an interesting composition to give some movement to still architecture in Singapore. He runs a production company in Bangkok, holds workshops and shares photo and filmmaking tips on his YouTube channel.
Phạm Gia Tùng from Vietnam
Tùng enjoys the photographic process – from scouting a location to finding new angles and setting up his shots, no matter how long it takes. The Hanoi-based photographer focuses on taking photos from angles people rarely consider, and constantly learning ways to improve his photography. Even though he has visited Singapore many times before, this project gave him the opportunity to appreciate and capture Singapore’s nature and people differently.
Gab Mejia from the Philippines
Gab is a National Geographic explorer and is passionate about wildlife photography and conservation. In 2021, he was awarded the World Wildlife Fund For Nature International President’s Youth Award and was also listed on the 2021 Forbes Under 30 List for The Arts in Asia for photography. His story started when his dad took him mountain climbing, sparking his interest in the natural world and the stories he could discover and capture behind it. His vision for this project is to show a different side of Singapore, capturing moments of the wild and pockets of nature.
UNSEEN/SINGAPORE will be open to the public on www.nationalgeographic.com/unseensingapore from 2 February 2023 inviting visitors to reimagine Singapore. The virtual exhibition will showcase each photographer’s ‘room’ based on their thematic-led collections. Viewers will be able to virtually visit many parts of Singapore including locations such as the Sim Kwong Ho shophouses, Pulau Ubin, Thow Kwang Pottery Jungle, Jurong Lake Gardens, Changi Chapel and Museum, and more.
To view the UNSEEN/SINGAPORE virtual exhibition, visit
To watch behind-the-scenes of UNSEEN/SINGAPORE, visit www.facebook.com/VisitSingaporeMY.
Singapore’s Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, S Iswaran, and the European Commissioner for Internal Market, Thierry Breton, signed the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership (EUSDP), a comprehensive framework for all areas of bilateral digital cooperation between the EU and Singapore.
The partnership covers various aspects of the cross-border digital economy, including digital trade facilitation, secure data transfers, electronic payments, and standards and compliance. It also addresses cutting-edge areas like artificial intelligence (AI), digital identities, and 5G/6G. The partnership aims to enhance broader participation in the digital economy by collaborating on digital skills training for employees and the digitisation of businesses and public services.
The EU-Singapore Digital Trade Principles, the first outcome of the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership, were signed by Iswaran, as stated in a press release. This marks the beginning of a legally binding digital trade agreement between the two sides. The principles facilitate cross-border data transfers, reduce costs through electronic trade documentation and authentication, and enhance online consumer protection for people buying goods and services online.
Minister Iswaran and Commissioner Breton agreed to exchange best practices and/or develop projects in AI governance and standards and digital identities. The two sides will facilitate cross-border digital transactions and support SMEs’ digital transformation and digital skills. They also said they anticipate more joint projects between Singapore and the EU, including the EU Member States, in partnership with the private sector.
Iswaran stated that the EU-Singapore Digital Partnership strengthens connectivity and interoperability between the digital markets of the EU and Singapore. It will enable Singapore citizens and businesses to transact digitally more seamlessly and at lower costs. As a first deliverable, the officials launched a set of Digital Trade Principles, marking the first step towards a bilateral digital trade agreement that provides legal certainty for cross-border digital trade.
Digital infrastructure, such as data centres and submarine telecom cables, plays a crucial role in enabling cross-border connectivity between countries and regions. To create a secure, resilient, and sustainable digital environment for individuals and businesses, both sides will work together to promote digital infrastructure.
Furthermore, to support trusted cross-border data flows and data sharing, Singapore and the EU will work on the application of model data protection contracts and provide guidance for their use. They will also exchange information on the infrastructure and governance frameworks needed to facilitate data sharing.
The two sides will also cooperate on information sharing in platform governance and regulation. To drive the development and uptake of 5G and beyond 5G technologies, they will research use cases and possible areas of collaboration on R&D pilots. To support the deployment of AI, Singapore and the EU will encourage interoperability on AI governance, standards, and testing frameworks. Both sides will also explore cooperation on AI testbeds and research collaboration on AI.
Singapore and the EU have a strong economic partnership, built on the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), which came into effect in November 2019. The EU is Singapore’s fourth largest goods trading partner globally, with bilateral trade in goods totalling SG$ 102 billion (US$ 78.1 billion) in 2021, which accounted for 8.8% of Singapore’s total goods trade. The EU is also Singapore’s second-largest services trade partner globally, with bilateral trade in services exceeding SG$ 67 billion (US$ 51.3 billion). Investment relations are strong, with the EU being Singapore’s second-largest foreign investor and largest overseas investment destination.
The Ministry of Communication and Informatics carried out the Digital Leadership Academy (DLA) Programme to educate regional leaders and managers of commercial firms. The course seeks to improve the digital leadership capabilities of governors, regents, mayors, and business leaders. The government offers 500 training scholarships to public and commercial sector digital leaders.
This year, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics’ Human Resources Research and Development Agency cooperates with the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Human Resources Development Agency to organise the training.
“We will conduct training and visits for 20 regional heads in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs, and we have already decided on Korea,” told Hary Budiarto, Head of the Ministry of Communications and Informatics Research and Development, at the Press Conference of the Ministry of Communications and Informatics Digital Talent Provision Programme in Central Jakarta.
Hary noted that the DLA programme’s training and visitation in 2022 had been fully completed for 20 regional head participants, with Singapore serving as the destination country. The initiative will introduce another 20 regional heads in 2023, with the Ministry of Home Affairs determining the regional head qualifications. The chosen region will be picked based on various criteria, such as districts and cities with low inflation or high digital community indexes, among many others.
Last year, the ministry cooperated with the BPSDM West Java Province to host a Smart Digital Leader for the West Java Champion course. They have agreed with the Regional Secretary to choose the theme of Dignified North Sumatran Smart Digital Leader for North Sumatra, which will be completed in March.
Apart from the public sector, the DLA programme collaborates with the business sector, including the Indonesian Telematics Society (Mastel) and a U.S. tech company focusing on digital infrastructure. The event will have 200 attendees.
The DLA programme is one of the Ministry of Communication and Informatics’ digital training programmes meant to address the needs of national digital talent. President Joko Widodo has declared this programme a priority to advance the country’s digital transformation.
According to Abdullah Azwar Anas, Minister for Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform (PANRB), digital leadership has become crucial in today’s increasingly connected society. He mentioned that leadership would become one of the options for success in managing foundations and organisations. In terms of digital leadership, it is expected that a public leader is more responsive and technologically literate to capture messages from the public and guide the organisation in the proper direction.
Digital skills are also required to assist the government in implementing an Electronic-Based Government System (SPBE). The SPBE architecture is intended to facilitate thematic bureaucratic reforms, such as the RB eradicating poverty, the RB raising investment, and the RB accelerating the President’s genuine priorities. He emphasised five talents required for digital governance. Digital leadership skills, digital professional skills, digital socio-emotional skills, digital user skills, and 21st-century skills in society are among them.
Furthermore, when it comes to digital leadership, leaders must possess two digital talents: hard and soft skills. Mastery of public sector theory and methodology on hard skills such as organisational theory, public sector human resource management, and public policy analysis, he stated, needs to be revised. As a minor subject, it requires help for mastery of theory and methods from other disciplines, particularly competence in digital technology.
Meanwhile, leaders must have analytical skills to analyse critically and propose problem-solving ideas. A leader must also be proficient in public speaking, English, coding, creativity, dispute resolution and negotiation, and teamwork.
Market merchants in Quezon City, Philippines, can now apply for and book spaces and booths online using the Market One-Stop Shop platform (MOSS). According to City Administrator Michael Alimurung, the portal would identify “legal” vendor spaces free of impediments. It is also part of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte’s ambition of making the city a desirable business location.
With the new system, the city government promises a smooth application process for renting a stall, including payment and collection of market rentals. This will also make the city treasurer’s office’s job easier because they will no longer have to collect rent in person.
To ensure that the new system is widely adopted, the local administration put free Wi-Fi connection points in barangay halls and hundreds of other public venues. A caravan will be launched to assist existing and prospective vendors in registering with the platform.
“Imagine treating the entire city as a public market. This method allows us to locate vendor locations online. It’s thinking broader by allowing us to treat the entire city in terms of how to assist our vendors,” Alimurung told at a press conference at Quezon City Hall.
Margarita Santos, director of the Quezon City Business Permits and Licensing Office, stated that the system would not replace any positions, such as market masters or market managers, but would make their tasks easier.
She stated that the MOSS would use a “first in, first out” queuing system and offer a five-year contract to the first vendor that applied for the space or stand. However, if they cannot satisfy the requirements within a specific number of days, they will be returned to the bottom of the queue,” Santos noted.
Market inspectors will check IDs supplied to registered merchants to guarantee that the correct renters occupy registered booths. Currently, over 12,000 sellers occupy public market stalls in the city. Those are our objectives. In addition, we want to incorporate 43 private markets.
According to Santos, the MOSS would also assist in eliminating red tape and corruption, such as those who reserve marketplaces and then rent them out to other merchants. Because this is an online system, we have a digital trail that allows us to see where the application took too long, who is at fault and admonish them.
Santos added that the system would also record vendor transgressions, which might result in losing their registration area or stall. She stated that registered vendors would be queued online once these areas are full until free space becomes available.
Procopio Lipana, Programmes and Projects Officer, stated that the site would make it easier for the city government and other law enforcement agencies to identify and apprehend unlawful sellers. Quezon City has an anti-hawker division and market inspectors who verify stall sizes and look for illicit merchants.
Indonesia is also working to improve digitisation in the conventional sector. Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade has targeted digitising 1,000 traditional markets and one million MSMEs as part of its digital transformation strategy. There are now 2,047 traditional markets that use local market websites through the Trade Facility Information System (TFIS), ten traditional markets that use digital marketing, and 51 conventional markets that operate QRIS for non-cash transactions.
According to Vice Minister of Trade Jerry Sambuaga, 326 traditional markets in 42 sub-districts have implemented e-retribution, 106,702 local traders, and 9.7 million MSME dealers have made non-cash transactions through QRIS.
The government of Indonesia’s digitalisation efforts have helped the country attain IDR980 trillion (US$ 63 billion), or 5.7% of GDP, by 2021. Indonesia’s GDP is predicted to reach IDR24 trillion (US$1.5 trillion) in 2030, with the digital economy accounting for 18% of GDP, or approximately IDR4,531 trillion (US$ 290 million).
Indonesia’s Central Bank (Bank Indonesia/BI) worked with five ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand, to provide cross-border payment through QR. In a series of events at the G20 Bali Summit, the five ASEAN countries agreed on Regional Payment Digital Connectivity. The collaboration will make the Indonesian Standard Quick Response Code (QRIS) more widely available in five ASEAN countries.
The Ministry of Communication and Informatics welcomed the discussion. Usman Kansong, Director General of Information and Public Communication at the Ministry of Communication and Information (Kemkominfo) asserted that the ministry supports efforts to integrate payment systems through QRIS ASEAN.
“Because it is related to the digital economy, Kominfo is very supportive; we will provide the infrastructure. For example, we are also putting together an internet network,” said Usman on the sidelines of Jakarta’s 2023 ASEAN Indonesia Chair Kick-Off event.
The five countries’ central banks have held discussions on various occasions to implement cross-border payment system connectivity in the region. Bank Indonesia began payment system connectivity cooperation with other central banks in the area, initially with five countries in the region.
The agreement will be documented as a memorandum of understanding (MOU). At the same time, this initiative demonstrates Indonesia’s regional leadership in implementing the G20 agreement.
Regional Payment Digital Connection among 5 ASEAN Countries, according to Governor of Bank Indonesia (BI) Perry Warjiyo, is a physical representation of how digital connectivity in ASEAN is an example for other countries to help economic recovery in each country regionally.
“Wherever we go in these five ASEAN countries, we can utilise QR payment, QRIS in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, and it will be a rapid payment system, instantly,” Perry explained.
Meanwhile, according to Esther Sri Astuti Soeryaningrum from an economic and finance NGO, the introduction of QRIS will aid financial integration in ASEAN. At the same time, there are still some hurdles to tackle. However, she mentioned that QRIS, as a non-cash transaction method, can help collaborating countries make cross-border payments easier without needing a money changer.
“With QRIS, we don’t have to worry about converting rupiah currency for other currencies, and we don’t have to do cash transactions, which are riskier and require a higher level of security,” she explained.
Moreover, the Indonesia Central Bank (Bank Indonesia/BI) expanded its payment cooperation network with Japan in December. The signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation (NK) addressing QR-based payment by BI and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI). Dody B. Waluyo, Deputy Governor of BI, stated that the partnership on QR-based payment between BI and METI Japan would be a key concern for regulatory authorities and industry, given that the NK in question has the potential to strengthen economic relations between Indonesia and Japan.
The QR-based payment collaboration aims to accelerate cooperation on the implementation and interoperability of cross-border or country payments using QR codes, specifically the QR Code Indonesian Standard (QRIS) and the Japan Unified QR Code (JPQR). Furthermore, this collaboration will create a framework that permits QR-based payments between the two countries and other parties, such as payment system operators (SP).
The agreement marks the beginning of BI and METI Japan’s collaboration to carry out various activities related to the interconnectivity of QR-based payment systems, such as policy dialogue, technical cooperation, and the formation of working groups to ensure goals are met, such as efforts to implement QR-based cross-border payments to support people-to-people transactions in both countries. This collaboration is expected to promote payment system digitisation in both Indonesia and Japan.
HKUST and ASTRI announced that they will be partnering to establish an initial Joint PhD programme through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The MoU was signed by HKUST’s Provost and ASTRI’s Chief Executive Officer at HKUST’s campus in the presence of HKUST’s President and ASTRI’s Board of Directors Chairman.
As per the MoU, HKUST and ASTRI will jointly screen and select eligible candidates who will work as full-time R&D staff at ASTRI while pursuing a part-time PhD degree at HKUST. The selected candidates will have the chance to participate in leading-edge research projects that encompass artificial intelligence, big data, wireless communications, smart city, and advanced materials. Additionally, they will also be involved in R&D projects related to their PhD studies. Experienced R&D staff members from ASTRI may be appointed as HKUST’s adjunct professors and serve as co-supervisors for the PhD students.
With the backing of the nation, the Hong Kong government emphasised the significance of advancing innovation and technology (I&T) in the “2022 Policy Address.” The “I&T Development Blueprint” created by the government in December outlines a comprehensive plan for Hong Kong’s I&T growth in the next 5 to 10 years, including strategies such as improving the I&T environment and expanding the pool of I&T talent.
The Joint PhD programme aims to contribute to these efforts by fostering talent who can turn their research into commercial success while gaining the necessary knowledge and credentials to prepare for their careers.
The Chairman of the ASTRI Board of Directors stated that as Hong Kong’s top R&D organisation, ASTRI is dedicated to supporting the government’s initiatives outlined in the “I&T Development Blueprint” and “Competing for Talents” plans.
The first launch of the Joint PhD Programme with HKUST is anticipated to draw and retain talented individuals in I&T who want to pursue PhD studies or research in Hong Kong, thereby providing a strong pool of I&T talent to help make Hong Kong a smart city and a global hub for I&T.
The President of HKUST stated that the University is committed to its mission of promoting knowledge through education and research. With its strong foundation in basic research and partnerships with various industrial partners, including ASTRI, HKUST is well-positioned to bridge the gap between fundamental and applied research.
This will not only enhance Hong Kong’s innovation and technology ecosystem, cultivate top-notch talent for Hong Kong, the nation, and beyond, but also enable the commercialisation of HKUST’s research results for the benefit of society.
The Chief Executive Officer of ASTRI stated that bringing research and development results to fruition is a central objective of ASTRI. To maintain close ties with the academic community, the Memorandum of Understanding with HKUST was signed to foster joint R&D and technology commercialisation in February 2022, followed by this Joint PhD Programme a year later. The programme is expected to will effectively sharpen students’ creativity, critical thinking, and global perspective, enhancing their competitiveness on a global scale and hastening the implementation of HKUST’s R&D breakthroughs.
HKUST’s Provost expressed excitement about the joint PhD programme with ASTRI, stating that it is crucial to talent development for Hong Kong’s growth into an international innovation and technology hub.
The programme will use the strengths of both organisations to provide specialists with opportunities to acquire skills and qualifications while conducting R&D projects. The programme is expected to enhance Hong Kong’s talent development and expand its talent pool.
Senator Win Gatchalian advocated that the online filing of tax returns includes overseas Filipino workers so they can meet their obligations while away from the country. In addition, non-residents and those working abroad will find it easier to pay real estate and estate taxes, among other things, thanks to the online payment system.
According to BIR data, internet payment has increased tax payment participation. Tax returns are expected to rise dramatically in 2020 to approximately 94% of total tax returns filed electronically, up from only 43% in 2015. As a result, abroad and non-resident tax subjects should be accommodated through the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s Electronic Filing and Payment System (BIR).
“If we want to enhance our efficiency in tax collection, we need to make it easy for our people to pay their taxes. “We need to fix our system and provide better options for our taxpayers to increase tax compliance,” Gatchalian stated.
Gatchalian’s Senate Bill 1346, or the Ease of Paying Tax, incorporates the proposal, which proposes administrative tax changes by altering several parts of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.
Apart from allowing taxpayers to file their returns and pay their taxes electronically, the measure also intends to enable taxpayers to pay their taxes at any authorised agent bank (AAB) rather than simply AABs in the revenue district office where the taxpayer is registered.
According to the World Bank 2020 study, the Philippines ranks 95th in paying taxes, 120th in registering property, and 171st out of 190 nations in terms of beginning a business. As a result, the House of Representatives asks the government to react to the industry’s changing needs by establishing programmes and solutions to transition to a digital economy.
Senate Bill No. 1574, also known as the “Act Institutionalising E-Governance in the Government,” mandates that all government agencies, offices, and instrumentalities, including local government units, disclose all essential information via traditional and internet channels. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be the primary agency in charge of executing the Act’s requirements.
It sought to build the Integrated Government Network as the master plan and principal way of sharing and transmitting resources, information, and data among government departments through digital and electronic platforms. The regulation also required establishing and maintaining a “GovMail” network for all communications, information dissemination, and exchange.
Vietnam is making similar efforts to avoid tax losses. They tighten management and strengthen control of e-commerce activities to uncover infractions and potential tax liabilities associated. The E-commerce and Digital Economy Agency of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) will collaborate with departments from the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) and the Ministry of Finance to share data and better regulate commercial activities on social media and in cyberspace.
Following plans approved by the Minister of Industry and Trade, the E-commerce and Digital Economy Agency will continue to collaborate with other government agencies such as the Market Management Agency, the Department of Cybersecurity and High-Tech Crime Prevention, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and MIC to inspect and monitor e-commerce businesses for compliance with the law.
In December, the General Department of Taxation (GDT) launched its e-commerce information portal and enabled electronic billing from cash registers. The portal serves three purposes: it assists e-commerce platforms in information supply and tax declaration on behalf of individuals, and it helps individuals file tax declarations.
According to the GDT, the tax sector reduced administrative procedures from 304 in 2021 to 234 in 2021 and finished integrating and providing online public services on the National Public Service Portal, saving time and money in tax administrative operations.