Singapore and Australia jointly announced the conclusion of negotiations for the Singapore-Australia Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) during a videoconference today.
The DEA will create a framework for deeper cooperation in the digital economy between both countries to help shape international rules, establish interoperability between digital systems and address frontier issues from emerging technologies.
Singapore’s Second Digital Economy Agreement
This is Singapore’s second DEA, after signing the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement with Chile and New Zealand in January 2020.
Singapore is aiming to establish end-to-end digital trade, enable trusted cross-border data flows and build trust in digital systems through Digital Economy Agreements with other nations.
The DEA with Australia will enable seamless data flows and prohibit data localisation except for specific purposes such as regulatory access. It will also cover other areas like E-payments, Source Code Protection and SME cooperation.
The DEA will complement Singapore’s efforts to develop multilateral rules to create an enabling environment for e-commerce as co-convenor of the World Trade Organisation Joint Statement Initiative on E-commerce.
Singapore and Australia have also signed seven Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) as part of efforts to operationalise the modules stipulated in the DEA.
These MOUs will demonstrate the strong cooperation between the two countries and will identify pilot projects for collaboration that will lead to benefits for businesses and individuals in both countries.
Agreement to strengthen digital connectivity between Singapore and Australia
Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations Mr S Iswaran and Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Mr Simon Birmingham signed two of the MOUs on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data Innovation during the videoconference.
Mr Iswaran said, “The DEA will make it easier for businesses in Singapore and Australia to operate across both countries by strengthening our digital connectivity. The seven MOUs cover emerging areas such as the ethics and governance of AI, and data driven innovation.
“They will remove barriers that companies may face in the digital economy, so that they can create new digital products and services. The DEA will also help companies access AI technologies and talent in Singapore and Australia, so that AI applications can be developed and commercialised more easily.”
Memorandum of Understanding in AI and Data Innovation
Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) will work on three key areas of Artificial Intelligence – AI Development & Deployment, Workforce & Talent and Governance & Ethics.
IMDA and DISER will also promote cross-border data innovation and demonstrate the benefits of trusted cross-border data flows by Identifying and supporting suitable cross-border data sharing projects to test innovative cross-border data sharing use cases.
Following on from its investment in workforce management (WFM), a tech provider of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Payroll Software (PS) in New Zealand and Australia, is set to launch a new solution to market design to help simplify and streamline workforce management for shift-based businesses across the region.
The company says the upcoming release of the new workforce management attachment will mark a new milestone for its Enterprise division, which will now provide mid-market businesses with the opportunity to combine their ERP, PS and WFM software under a single, seamless integrated cloud platform.
As well as being available as an attachment to the new platform, customers managing larger workforces will also be able to take advantage of the new workforce management solution which can be easily added to their existing software.
The tech firm’s Enterprise Head of Product, says that to fulfil their business’ growth potential and remain competitive, it is more important than ever for employers to ensure they are equipped with the right tools to successfully manage their ever-changing workforces. He said that they have seen from the results of the Ministry of Innovation and Employment’s National Survey of Employment Intentions that there is a clear drive amongst mid-market businesses to grow their employee numbers in 2021.
22% of businesses with 20 or more employees are also expecting to increase the number of part-time staff. While it is heartening to see such positivity around hiring ambitions, the benefits of bringing new talent into a business can only really be maximised when the whole process is managed well, he added.
Complete with features that cater to the needs of shift-based workforces, the new cloud-driven workforce management offering will be available in New Zealand from early April and Expressions of Interest are now open for mid-market businesses who want to take advantage of the new release.
Capabilities offered through the new solution will see businesses in industries like retail, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing and construction, create and automate rosters based on employee skills, onboard new starters quickly and easily, streamline timesheet approvals, and seamlessly manage workforces across multiple locations.
In contrast, due to the increased adoption of managed infrastructure services, the emergence of new cloud watering hole attacks also continues to rise. According to research, of all violations identified, 23% correspond to poorly configured managed service offerings largely the result of default security profiles or configurations that offer excessive permissions.
According to a cloud cyber resilience specialist, attackers increasingly strive to leverage weaknesses that enable them to deliver malware to end-users, gain unauthorised access to production environments or their data, or completely compromise a target environment.
This strategy is known as a watering hole attack, and researchers have seen them emerge in cloud environments where they can cause even more damage. This is partly because development processes in the cloud that leverage managed services are not hidden inside the organisation as they are in on-premises environments, they are largely exposed to the world.
When criminals can exploit misconfigurations in development pipelines, it can spell disaster not only for the company but also its customers. To address this risk, enterprises should assume the entire development process is easily accessible and restrict access to only the users who need it. They added that the cloud infrastructure must be continuously monitored in runtime for configuration changes and assessed for risk.
Moreover, rapid cloud adoption, targeted remote working, double extortion ransomware attacks and mobile targets are amongst the key cybersecurity trends resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to researchers.
Therefore, as reported by OpenGov Asia, New Zealand Tech Alliance (NZTech) whose purpose is “to connect, promote and advance tech ecosystems and help the New Zealand economy grow to create a prosperous digital nation”, feels that the government must be more proactive in educating the population on cybersecurity.
OpenGov Asia also reported on a study done by a New Zealand cybersecurity firm that says as organisations accelerate their spending on cloud migration and digitalisation to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, many may be overestimating their ability to protect their systems and their processes. It is estimated that about 80% of cybercrimes could be prevented. Simple measures like using and updating complex passwords and installing updates go a long way in safety.
Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently said that if the country is not brave enough to invest in science and technology and innovation, Vietnam would get stuck in the low-productivity, low-added value and middle-income trap.
Investing in technology and innovation is vital for the nation to bring products to new levels and escape the rut of being the outsourcing hub for others – a reputation which the country has been associated with for decades. This is not only true, he said, for technology firms but for all enterprises in the economy. Applying and inventing new technologies can help increase productivity and heighten enterprises’ positions.
The “Make in Vietnam” initiative, promoted by the Ministry of Information and Technology (MIC) has infused fresh vitality in the startup community. Vietnam has become the fifth country in the world mastering 5G technology, producing 5G infrastructure equipment and 5G smartphones. This stems from Make in Vietnam pride. Over 13,000 digital technology firms were established just in the last year, raising the total number of digital technology firms to 58,000.
In fact, 2020 saw a rigorous start to digital transformation in all fields. The Ministry of Information and Communications built numerous programmes and plans over the course of the year to facilitate a prompt digitalisation process towards digital transformation as well as the engagement of businesses in the information technology sector. Noteworthy was that the IT sector quickly teamed up with others to develop digital products serving efforts in COVID-19 prevention and control and adapting to the “new normal”.
If Vietnam continues is to continue outsourcing, it should only be a very small part of the value chain. Domestically, there is a range of sectors and products that Vietnam has had significant success in. Electric cars, mobility and smartphones are an area that the Vietnamese versatitlity and expertise of shows.
State-owned Viettel, one of the fastest-growing telecom operators, is building a digital business culture with the focus on flexibility, creativity, customer orientation, digital thinking and openness. Other than telecommunications, the company also has expertise in hi-tech research and manufacturing, postal services, construction and commerce. It has accelerated digital transformation in internal administration, applying modern technologies with international standards. All documents at Viettel have been digitised, 50% of manual work has been liberalized, and 30-40 percent of tasks have been automated. Its ecosystem of digital products provides B2C and B2B services in a wide range of fields, from finance, digital marketing and OTT, customer care e-government and smart cities.
In order to accomplish that, the space for creativity must be expanded, while management thinking needs to be reformed, so that creativity is not hindered by rigid regulations and officials’ bureaucracy. The deputy head of the Vietnam Economics Institute stressed that Vietnam needs to reform the way of thinking and the institutional regime with the aim of encouraging participation of non-state sectors in science and technology development and innovation. He believes that information technology and digital transformation should be seen as an important push and pillar to support the recovery process, strengthen resilience, and improve growth quality.
Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Manh Hung said, ” Becoming a pioneer has always been the aspiration of the Vietnamese nation and every Vietnamese citizen. It is difficult to implement this, but it is not impossible.”
While Vietnam may currently be behind many countries, missing opportunities along the development path, Vietnam has made up for that. Now it is among the top countries in the region and the world in some fields, such as telecommunications and power, maintaining high growth rates. With more power from the 4.0 industrial revolution and its digital transformation strategy, Vietnam’s growth engine will have an additional push to achieve its aspirations of becoming a high-income country by 2045 into reality.
With the pandemic still at hand, countries from all over are looking for further improvements on COVID-19 testing procedures. In Singapore, clinics authorised to conduct pre-departure COVID-19 tests (PDTs) for outbound travellers will now have to issue digital test result certificates, instead of the current physical certificates.
The digital test results will look to improve Singapore Airlines’ (SIA) existing online portal testing programme where passengers can choose from a list of recognised testing facilities and book appointments for pre-departure Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serology tests. This is part of a digital health verification process based on the International Air Transport Association (Iata) Travel Pass framework.
The digitalisation initiative was supposed to start recently, but it had been delayed to allow clinics and labs additional time to set up the capability to digitalise the PDT certificates.
The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) said that the new digital certification system is based on HealthCerts, an open-source framework for issuing digital COVID-19 test result certificates. The use of HealthCerts for digital PDT certificates enables an inter-operable, verifiable, and tamper-proof solution that will smoothen and expedite check-in processing and customs clearance at foreign and local immigration checkpoints.
Travellers will need to notarise the digital COVID-19 test certificate – which means having the document certified by the Ministry of Health – so it can be recognised at the airport and overseas. The certificate will need to be uploaded on the Government’s Notarise website, after which a notarised digital PDT certificate containing a QR code will be sent to travellers.
Airline and immigration officials can scan the QR code to check the authenticity of the PDT certificate using a tool called Verify, developed by a technology agency, or by a verification tool currently being piloted by the SIA. The platform will be able to check whether the digital certificate was tampered with and whether the certificate has been notarised by the Health Ministry.
Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative in the Prime Minister’s Office Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament during the debate on the PMO’s budget that the notarised pre-departure test results will be available on the SingPass Mobile app. The notarised test results will also be sent via e-mail.
Meanwhile, the Government will also look to expand this measure on vaccine certificates.
However, SNDGO noted that the World Health Organisation’s current recommendation is that COVID-19 vaccinations should not be imposed as a condition of entry. They also added that the Government is closely monitoring international developments on the use of digital vaccination certifications for travel and is in discussions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and various countries on the mutual recognition of such certifications.
There are currently nine HealthCerts-compliant technology providers, which clinics can buy from to start issuing digital certificates. SNDGO clarified that the individual’s data remains private with the digital test certificate.
This is all in line with the country’s efforts in providing a robust system to verify the authenticity of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. A standardised system is essential to reopen borders and resume international travel, he said in a special address to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Agenda 2021. He further said that countries need to strengthen international cooperation, which is essential in tackling the global pandemic. If countries are to tackle COVID-19 coherently, international cooperation and multilateral efforts, as well as an international order underpinned by stable great power relations, are critical.
Australian government sector IT spend is on track to grow 6.2% this year to $13.26 billion as government organisations continue to embrace remote work and connected public services, according to an IT service management company.
Spending is tracking to increase across all categories, with the biggest growth expected to be seen in software, which is set to experience another year of double-digit growth. The IT service management company predicts spending will increase by 10.5% to $3.39 billion, which compares to a 14.1% growth in 2020.
Meanwhile, data centre spending is expected to rebound from a 5% decline in 2020 to grow 7.4% to $426 million in 2021. Telecom services spending is likewise expected to recover from a 2.4% decline in 2020 to grow 7.1% to $741 million this year.
The remote work boom will meanwhile see device spending grow 4.3% to $563 million, with IT services spending up 5.7% to $5.58 billion and internal services spending up 1.8% to $2.56 billion.
The firm’s VP for Executive Programs stated that public health and safety measures, including vaccinating citizens, are the top concern for public sector organisations in Australia, pushing them to continue to accelerate their digital transformation. Most technologies spend is now linked to digital programs, for example, cybersecurity and digital identity programs.
“We’re seeing the public sector changing IT operating models and innovating at a quicker pace by adopting commercially available technology solutions and software — particularly software as a service. Government budgets will continue to address the recovery and growth needs of communities and businesses in 2021. In addition, investments to address digital equity and access to remote government services will be prioritised,” he said.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that COVID-19 is proving to have some benefit for Australian businesses, according to findings from an international research company. Ecommerce is now a bright spot in the Australian economy and a lifeline for consumers who are working and sheltering at home. Businesses that quickly transitioned to the new normal to survive are now debating if these are not short-term adjustments wondering how long this change will last and if further investments are essential for long-term e-commerce sustainability and growth.
All the signs point to a long-term change in consumer behaviour and the need to step up e-commerce functionality. Findings indicate that the e-commerce market in Australia has been on a steep growth curve during the past few years and has received an additional boost from the COVID-19. The pandemic is expected to ramp up e-commerce sales in the country at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3% between 2020 and 2024.
Experts argue that the pandemic has altered consumer buying behaviour and are increasingly shifting from offline to online channels. The crisis opened the e-commerce market to a whole new set of consumers, who were not using online channels.
OpenGov Asia also reported that The federal government has expanded the scope of Australia’s fledgeling permanent migration scheme for highly-skilled technologists after tripling the program’s intake for this financial year. The change is contained in a new direction for the two feeder visas used for the ‘Global Talent Independent’ (GTI) program – subclass 858 and subclass 124 – issued last month.
The direction (direction 89) will be replacing an earlier one outlining the target sectors for the GTI program when it was first launched in November 2019 to attract tech talent from across the globe. New target sectors of note are education, tourism and the “circular economy”, while the remaining seven areas are largely an expansion of the original seven.
The remaining seven sectors are resources; agri-food and agtech; energy; health industries; defence, advanced manufacturing and space; digitech; and financial services and fintech. They are broadly similar to the former fields, with ‘Digitech seemingly covering what was previous ‘quantum information, advanced digital, data science and ICT, as well as cybersecurity.
A recent report has estimated that by 2025, the tech jobs in demand will be cloud architecture designers and original digital content creators for software and web applications. India will require nine times as many digital workers by 2025 as it does currently, and premiere Indian Institutes are partnering with industry players to train students and early-stage professionals in emerging technologies to meet the demand.
With the rapidly evolving digital landscape, the increasing transition of work, education, shopping and entertainament online, it is becoming imperative to create a safe and secure cyber environment. Given the increasing use of the internet in all spheres of life, it is becoming critical to be able to protect against cyber-attacks. In this context, and people with skills to develop digital security and cyber forensic tools will be important.
The cybersecurity market in India is set to grow to US$3.05 billion by 2022, at a growth rate that is nearly 1.5 times the global growth rate of cybersecurity expenditure. It has the potential to create over two million new job opportunities by 2025.
However, during the first nine months of 2020 alone, it is estimated that organisations and individuals lost about US$6 trillion due to cyber thefts; companies with the highest levels of security also fell prey to cybercrimes. Research has further predicted that by 2027, over 900 million Indians will have a digital presence, significantly increasing the potential for cyber-attacks.
Consequently, businesses and enterprises are scouting for trained cybersecurity professionals. However, the supply does not meet the demand. In fact, digitally-skilled workers only represent 12% of India’s total workforce. The country will need far more digital expertise by 2025 than it has right now. Further, the average Indian worker will need to develop seven new digital skills by the same period to keep pace with tech advancements and demand.
Over the past year, as the pandemic has changed the way education is delivered and spotlighted the need for digital transformation, Indian universities and organisations have been developing courses in emerging technology to bridge the digital gap and equip students and the Indian workforce with the skills they require to thrive in the new normal.
For example, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) launched two 12-week long online courses on AI/ML and cybersecurity. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) announced the launch of a 10-month Advanced Certification Programme in Deep Learning, which offers a practical understanding of how ML algorithms can be developed and optimised for hardware.
Further, earlier this month, the IIT-Patna and WileyNXT announced they would offer post-graduate certification programmes in cybersecurity and blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), and big data engineering. The courses are specifically designed for final-year students and early-stage professionals who aim to develop a career in the respective fields. After completing the programme, the participants will get a joint certificate from WileyNXT and IIT-Patna, a media report noted. Overall, there has been an increase in IIT placements for AI/ML, with a few institutes already surpassing last year’s total number of offers in emerging technologies.
Also this month, IIT-Jodhpur launched an Advanced Certification Bootcamp in Cyber Defense. As OpenGov Asia had reported, it offers mentoring from industry experts and access to advanced cloud-based labs on the latest cyber tools and techniques.
Most recently, the IIT in Delhi launched a six-month certificate programme in digital marketing. The course offers 18 modules that cover website planning and development, email marketing, and advertising. It is industry-oriented and will explore internet/digital analytics, advertising and marketing. Lectures will be delivered by leading IIT-Delhi faculty and industry experts.
The overall drive for upskilling is in line with the nation’s desire to make the e-development of India an engine for transition into a developed nation and an empowered society. The country believes in e-governance for empowering citizens, promoting the inclusive and sustainable growth of the Electronics, IT & ITeS industries, enhancing India’s role in internet governance, adopting a multipronged approach that includes the development of human resources, promoting R&D and innovation, enhancing efficiency through digital services and ensuring a secure cyberspace.
As tests and vaccinations for communicable diseases gradually become mandatory requirements for travel, they also become targets for counterfeiters. Fraudsters are selling fake Covid-19 test and vaccination certificates on the black market according to Europol.
Thus, to support the safe re-opening of international economies, a Hong Kong-based technology firm developed MatriX-iPass – a secure test and vaccine management platform designed for COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. MatriX-iPass allows citizens to travel with confidence and businesses to operate safely again.
Fake certificates and test results have become rampant as travellers seek to cross borders or gain entry to particular establishments, tourist destinations, or other countries. MatriX-iPass solves this through a counterfeit-proof verification process using blockchain technology and counterfeit-proof paper-based solutions to bar entry to holders of fake certificates and tampered test results.
The VP of the tech firm stated that MatriX-iPass is designed to be an end-to-end solution, from managing test or vaccination registration, issuing health passports, continuously updating health status, as well as inspecting the health passports’ unique multi-level security features.
Additional modules are available to deter and detect fraud, corruption and other illegal activities with the help of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.
Currently, the MatriX-iPass system is being used by the Philippines’ largest Covid-testing company at a popular tourist destination that draws over 2 million tourists per year pre-pandemic.
As the largest Covid-testing company in the Philippines, LABx needed highly secure technology for our test certificates. Fake certificates were becoming rampant in the country just for people to cross borders, the CEO of LABx stated. The technology confirms travellers’ Covid-test status and their vaccination records which are critically needed in protecting citizens from the risk of communicable diseases.
HealthMatriX is supporting the LABx Vpass Health Visa program, to provide document and digital solutions to manage vaccination programs and verify health credentials. The physical Health Visa is designed with banknote-grade security printed features, while the money-transfer type of digital security is applied to store, interchange, and validate the sensitive private health data.
Within the MatriX-iPass App, citizens can register and see their test results and vaccination status. A counterfeit-proof Health Passport would then be issued to them by the facility that administered the vaccine or test.
MatriX-iPass inspection app and other tools can be used to determine the veracity of vaccine certificates or test results being presented to them. This makes for a closed-loop system that can effectively protect the integrity of vaccine certificates and test results.
To ensure that certificates and test results are authentic and safe from hacks, MatriX-iPass employs blockchain technology, cryptographic features, and AI-powered counterfeit threat detection systems to further enhance security.
MatriX-iPass can also be integrated with other systems and can be used for vaccination tracking and tracing. It’s also scalable for a wider implementation such as nationwide government pandemic response and augmenting existing contact tracing efforts.
- A complete 4-in-1 solution that includes a digital MatriX-iPass health record management system, a convenient mobile app, an anti-copy physical health passport, and a high-security stamp and ink with forensic security features.
- Blockchain encryption with built-in AI for spotting probable cases of fraud introduced to the system.
- Track & trace system for secure document distribution designed to eliminate misuse of original Health Passports.
- Reliable verification process through a cloud-hosted server for digital verification and a high-security anti-copy physical health passport for offline use cases.
A total of RM15 billion (US$ 3.7 billion) will be invested over 10 years for the implementation of 5G technology throughout the country. The multi-billion investment is among four important types of digital infrastructure initiatives outlined by the government under the MyDigital — the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint – to accelerate innovation and create an effective digital ecosystem in the country.
At the virtual launching ceremony of the MyDigital today, the Prime Minister said such efforts would be carried out by a special purpose vehicle under the government and is expected to create some 105,000 employment opportunities. He said all licenced telecommunication companies will have equal access to these infrastructures, in marketing their 5G services to their respective customers.
The infrastructure’s cost-sharing enables telecommunication companies to generate higher returns and, in turn, provide better and cheaper 5G services to consumers. This is expected to boost the use of 5G, thus enhance economic capability in triggering more product and service innovations. By the end of this year (2021), 5G technology will be enjoyed by the rakyat in stages. With this, Malaysia will emerge as one of the first countries in this region to build a 5G ecosystem using internet and cloud services in real-time to enable instant sharing of information,” the Prime Minister stated in his speech at the virtual launching ceremony.
It was also noted that 5G technology will serve as a game-changer as more smart services with direct impact will be made available for the well-being of the people. 5G technology not only promises better and faster internet access, but more importantly, it also enables various important applications to be in the hands of end-users, including health monitoring applications for chronic patients, smart emergency assistance, and special applications for senior citizens who are living alone, he said.
According to another article, Malaysia is speeding up 5G deployments in the country through a “special purpose vehicle” (SPV) that will receive 5G spectra, as well as build, operate and lease 5G infrastructure to new and existing telecoms by the end of 2021.
Speaking to the media to elaborate on the government’s 5G plans, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Chairman, said the SPV will be fully owned by Malaysia’s ministry of finance (MOF). The yet-to-be-named SPV is expected to invest a total of RMB15 billion over the next decade and will be given the appropriate spectrum to own, implement and manage 5G infrastructure. 5G services will be commercially available by the fourth quarter this year.
The frequency bands chosen for 5G in Malaysia are 700MHz, 3.5GHz and 28GHz. Spectrum bands already allocated to existing operators cannot be repurposed for 5G usage to ensure continued focus on 4G development. The head of Malaysia’s industry regulator said urban and industrial areas would likely have commercially available 5G coverage by the fourth quarter, in addition to some rural centres to bridge the digital divide.
According to the MCMC Chairman, the Covid-19 pandemic had galvanised the government to consider the importance of connectivity, especially in suburban and rural areas where even 4G coverage and quality is marginal at best.
He said internet traffic in Malaysia has not only increased by up to 70% but has shifted to residential areas by the same percentage. Speeds have reduced by up to 40% and complaints on poor indoor coverage have increased by up to 70%.
The MCMC Chairman said another factor exacerbating these challenges is the high investment needed for 5G network roll-outs, which could cost between 25% and 75% more than what was needed for 4G, citing an unnamed study.
“Covid-19 has been a stress test for Malaysia’s digital infrastructure,” he said. “A new approach is now needed to address the demand for a better digital economy, and that is why we need a new national approach to managing Malaysia’s 5G roll-out.”