As companies are turning to technology to revamp their offerings and seize digital opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital-focused agreements between Singapore and Chongqing are more relevant now than ever.
17 Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between Singapore and Chongqing businesses were signed on the side lines of the Smart China Expo (SCE) Online, as businesses continue to explore opportunities amid the pandemic restrictions.
The MOUs ranged from collaborations in built environment and manufacturing to logistics and tourism for markets in Chongqing, Western China and Singapore.
Last year Singapore and Chinese companies signed 13 deals for the collaborative efforts to employ digital technologies in education, manufacturing and telecommunications at the annual Smart China Expo in Chongqing.
“Chongqing is a key node into Western China, Singapore is likewise, a gateway into South East Asia. It is heartening to see that business engagements have continued, despite COVID restrictions, enabled by moving from the physical onto the Digital domain,” said Mr Lew Chuen Hong, Chief Executive, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
The annual SCE is Chongqing’s most significant platform for tech leaders and the digital community to promote innovation and forge partnerships. 32 Singapore companies and organisations participated in this year’s virtual exhibition, the first time the SCE has gone completely digital amid COVID restrictions. This was made possible by the International Dedicated Connectivity (IDC), launched in September last year, allowing for the live streaming of the conference.
The IDC provides high quality and low latency digital connectivity between Chongqing and Singapore, enabling new business opportunities and digital projects between Western China and Southeast Asia.
The Joint Innovation Development Fund
To further seed innovative collaborations, Singapore and Chongqing companies jointly submitted more than 30 joint proposals to the initial tranche of the Joint Innovation Development Fund (JIDF) over the past year.
14 joint proposals were subsequently endorsed by the Joint Evaluation Committee comprising industry and academia from Chongqing and Singapore.
The JIDF launched in 2019 is an RMB$40M initiative by IMDA, Enterprise Singapore and Chongqing Application Development Administration Bureau to promote the joint development of innovative products and solutions.
The fund aims to accelerate projects which show the most potential to be mutually economically beneficial for both companies and both countries.
The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), on 25 September, introduced a Vietnamese virtual assistant platform, developed by the Army Telecommunication Industry Corporation (Viettel). Named the Viettel Cyberbot, the platform aims to help businesses automate customer care processes based on Vietnamese language processing technologies.
According to a press release, the Viettel Cyberbot uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to understand the messages that customers want to convey. It automatically improves the system based on real interactions. The platform also helps businesses build an automatic switchboard system by interacting with customers by message (chatbot) or by voice (callbot).
The virtual assistant uses language processing and can help the callbot’s voice sound natural, almost like a real human voice. A distinctive feature of the Viettel Cyberbot is the combination of speech processing technologies with Vietnamese natural language processing technology at the same time.
Specifically, in each communication with users, the system can simultaneously handle speech recognition, guess customers’ intent, process information, and answer customers. It creates a complete solution that is fully applicable and flexible according to real situations.
Viettel Cyberbot is expected to help businesses optimise up to 40% of their customer care resources while improving the customer’s experience and satisfaction. The developers are seeking ways to improve Viettel Cyberbot into a comprehensive Vietnamese virtual assistant platform to be deployed as an independent customer care switchboard system without the need for an internal switchboard.
The launch of Viettel Cyberbot is part of a series of events to introduce “Make in Vietnam” digital platforms in the realisation of the National Digital Transformation Program by 2025, with a vision to 2030, as approved by the Prime Minister.
In August, MIC debuted the akaChain blockchain platform, developed by Vietnam’s largest tech firm. It supports enterprises in quickly building their business network systems and distributed applications using blockchain technology. It shortens the time spent on several tasks like electronic-know your customer (eKYC), credit scoring, customer loyalty programs, and origin tracing. Soon, it will be further developed for strengthened security and transparency.
In Vietnam, early research and application of this technology will be an opportunity for the country to actively keep pace with the development of the global economy. With the potential of blockchain, it is likely that soon these technical applications will dramatically transform lives.
Earlier this month, OpenGov Asia reported on the Viettel AI Open Platform, an AI platform, developed by Viettel. The platform provides platform technologies using AI to help automate, optimise, and efficiently operate organisations and businesses via the world’s most advanced techniques. The platform is currently focusing on areas such as Vietnamese speech processing technology, Vietnamese natural language processing technology, and computer vision technology.
Vietnamese enterprises have gradually mastered core technologies and developed technology platforms for digital transformation. MIC created an initiative to weekly launch Vietnamese platforms to honour and promote Vietnamese ICT products. So far, dozens of platforms have been launched.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative made a speech at the Smart Nation Ambassadors Emerging Stronger Conversation and Appreciation Event on 25th September 2020. The Minister began by thanking the 1600 volunteers who have joined the Smart Ambassador movement since January last year.
The Smart Nation Ambassadors range from university students teaching coding to underprivileged youths, techie maker groups who have been passionately fixing old devices, making them “smart” again, making them available to the wider public and especially to the less privileged, to grandmothers who want to teach other seniors how to use apps like Life.SG and Singpass Mobile.
The Minister highlighted the contributions of a few Star Ambassadors and paid special tribute to those who have gone over and above, to motivate others along their digital journey.
Star Ambassadors are individuals who have contributed to Smart Nation efforts in various capacities – from taking the initiative to lead and coordinate our events to rallying their friends and communities to become better advocates of Smart Nation. We hope to award more Star Ambassadors in the coming years as they continue to be role models for our community.
Smart Ambassador Initiatives
The RSVP Organisation of Senior Volunteers is collaborating with Smart Nation Digital Government Office to develop a training curriculum and portal. It will have relevant and exciting e-learning modules on Smart Nation initiatives, as well a showcase of soft skills for engagement especially in the areas of communication and active
For Smart Nation Ambassadors with young children or are keen to volunteer with kids, the Minister announced that the government are working with TOUCH Community Services, Facebook and MeshMinds to produce an Augmented Reality book for children aged five to seven years old. They hope to distribute to all pre-schools and libraries. The book will take kids on a journey to discover the possibilities of how technology can improve the way we work, live and play.
Using Tech for a greater purpose
The Minister highlighted that technology is to enhance everyday lives. He said “This is actually a very important reminder that it is not about tech but about human beings, human relations, and human interaction. There’s still no substitute for face-to-face meetings and direct contact, and that is why the other idea that we perhaps need to, in the next phase, look at organising our Smart Nation Ambassadors at a regional or local level, makes sense. It also dovetails with the idea that real value is when the virtual world meets the real world.”
“This interface ultimately reminds us of what we are trying to do; which is to make our real world a better world using digital technology and the virtual world. It’s not the other way around. We’re not trying to leave the real world to enter a purely virtual world. Of which, some parts are not necessarily edifying, pleasant or unified. So that’s one key idea which I have taken away; to not forget the human dimension and the human touch.”
Another key point that the Minister highlighted was that Smart Ambassador initiatives ensure that no-one is left behind. “We need to make sure we are inclusive regardless of age, language, and digital familiarity. And that’s why all the efforts which you all have put in such as direct hand-holding of seniors, of people who are disabled or people who are just less familiar and even scared of technology. These efforts are absolutely critical, and I just want to thank all of you who have really put your energy and passion into making sure no one is excluded from the digital revolution.”
With the recent announcements by India’s Prime Minister on 15th August 2020, the nation plans to ensure high-speed internet connectivity via an optical fibre network for the more than 600,000 villages across India within 1000 days. The stated objective of the initiative is to convert every village into a Digital Village, enhance digital empowerment and awareness and to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural settings. The coverage aims to enable India’s digital revolution to reach the farthest corner of the nation and to foster inclusive socio-economic growth for all.
The first steps towards this pan-nation coverage came with the launch of a project to connect all 45,945 villages in Bihar with Optical Fibre Internet Service. According to Ravi Shankar Prasad, on completion, Bihar will be the first state in India to connect all its villages by optical fibre. The Common Service Centre Special Purpose Vehicle (CSC SPV) will provide 1 Wi-Fi and 5 FTTH connections for one year free of cost to identified government Institutions, primary schools, Anganwadi Centres, Aasha workers and Jeevika Didi, etc. Additionally, 1 Wi-Fi provision will be made at a public place in every village.
The project will be executed with the combined efforts of the Department of Telecom which has already connected 1.5 lakh Gram Panchayats across India with optical fibre internet service, along with Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and Common Service Centres (CSC).
The CSC has 34,821 Centres throughout Bihar and it will utilise this workforce to not only implement this project but also make it professionally run to provide Optical Fibre Internet Services for common citizens at every village of Bihar. This project will be completed by Q1 of 2021 at an approximate cost of Rs. 1,000 Crore (US$ 137 million).
The day was considered historic, as not only for the state of Bihar but for the entire country as the government is taking major steps to make its villages the mainstay of AtmaNirbharBharat (self-reliant India).
India is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of digital transactions. In August 2020 alone about Rs 3 lakh crore (USD 40 billion) worth transactions were made through UPI. While India has been aggressively pushing digital commerce and e-transactions, the pandemic is driving education, healthcare and daily life online. With the huge increase in internet demand to live life across India, it is necessary to ensure that even villages of the country have good quality, high-speed internet.
The approach is outcome-based with special focus on utilisation of the BharatNet with Service Level Agreement (SLA) commitment. On completion and running, a socio-economic impact assessment would be carried out by national premier institutions to understand the benefits and success of this pilot project. There will be a comprehensive Consumer Redressal Mechanism; a full-fledged customer care service shall be established by CSC-SPV for redressal of consumer grievances.
Speedier connectivity would provide many online benefits as well as access to global markets for all sectors. This project will boost digital services like e-Education, e-Agriculture, Tele-Medicine, Tele-law and other social security schemes. Real-time data on weather, education, business, health and safety will allow India and Indians to thrive in a COVID-19 era.
The management of critical events is becoming an increasingly important and widespread practice. From significant weather events, natural disasters and global pandemics, critical events create operational disruptions and have an enormous financial impact.
The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps the aptest example of this. Some nations have buckled under the pressure generated by the economic upheaval and setbacks the virus has caused. Other nations, like Malaysia, have risen to the challenge and have employed technology in innovative and efficient ways.
For example, in March 2020, the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) rolled out a digital tracking device to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the state. The digital surveillance solution gave the state disaster management committee the “scalable capability” to monitor the disease at all points of entry in Sarawak.
Under the solution, all those entering Sarawak were issued a QR-coded wristband based on two categories: person under investigation (PUI) and 14-day stay home notice. Wearers were required to report their situation twice daily by scanning their wristband’s QR code to submit the information.
Data collated will allow the state disaster management committee to make informed decisions and to conduct random checks on the wearers. The wearers’ location enables the committee to establish hotspots, a key strategy to curb further spread of the disease, the SMA General Manager had said in a statement.
At the time, various tracker systems had been deployed in China, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong where the data collected was crucial in managing the shape and evolution of the virus’ spread.
The state disaster management committee had earlier enlisted SMA to develop a digital system to track persons undergoing self-quarantine for Covid-19. Ultimately, this solution will be integrated into the ‘Permission to Enter/Exit’ system to effectively monitor Sarawak’s entry points.
This move resulted in the state, and Malaysia, being lauded for its efforts in combating the virus. On 22 September 2020, the Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee’s (SDMC) utilization of technology to curb the Covid-19 pandemic was recognised as the committee was awarded the Malaysian Technology Excellence Award (MTEA) by Singapore Business Review 2020 in Kuala Lumpur.
SDMC’s initiative for the development of two key applications, namely i-Alerts and enterSarawak, and the seamless integration of both systems was acknowledged by the judging committee from Deloitte Asia Pacific, KPMG Malaysia, BDO, Crowe Growth Consulting as well as Ernst & Young Advisory Services as riding the disruption wave and leading the technological revolution by leveraging on technology as a key catalyst to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in Sarawak.
The award was received by the General Manager of the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) on behalf of the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee. He stated that the agency aims to be the leader in the Digitalisation of Malaysia; being at the forefront, realising The Right Honourable Chief Minister of Sarawak’s vision of a robust Digital Economy.
As strategised by SMA, the applications, which focus on data interoperability, allows for the harmonised approach of collecting and transmitting data between stakeholders, decision-makers and the public. This empowered the State to channel all relevant information via a single and globally interoperable information structure thus avoiding the unnecessary complexity in systems and improve overall efficiency.
The uniformity of these platform creates speed, systemization and standardization which improves overall efficiency across the entire disaster lifecycle thus allowing enterSarawak to be seamlessly applied across 33 Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security centres (ICQS) in Sarawak immediately during MCO creating touchless border security while i- Alerts acts as the Core Integrated Disaster Management Platform for SDMC.
The open standards for the system also ensure enhanced scaling and improved efficiency of the timeliness of the transfer of information. Furthermore, by making full use of existing data in the disaster management sector, i-Alerts can adopt mechanisms that ensure resource verification, findability, accessibility, interoperability, reuse and leverage the growth of existing Government Open Data initiatives.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) will organise a mega virtual summit on artificial intelligence (AI), Responsible AI for Social Empowerment 2020.
RAISE 2020 will be held from 5-9 October. It will be a global meeting of minds to exchange ideas and chart a course for using AI for social transformation, inclusion, and empowerment in areas like healthcare, agriculture, education, and smart mobility, among other sectors.
The summit is a first of its kind, a global meeting of minds on AI to drive India’s vision for digital transformation. The event will witness robust participation from global industry leaders, key opinion makers, government representatives, and academia.
According to a press release, at the summit, delegates and experts in research, policy, and innovation on AI will come together from across the world. Keynote speeches and panel discussions will frame the summit, on cross-sector subjects like leveraging AI for pandemic preparedness, the impetus that innovation places on digitisation, inclusive AI, and partnerships for successful innovation.
The RAISE 2020 Summit will also feature startups working in AI-related fields. Startups chosen through the AI Solution Challenge will showcase their solutions in the AI Startup Pitchfest. This is part of the government’s continuing support to tech entrepreneurs and startups by providing exposure, recognition, and guidance.
Speaking about the Summit, Ajay Prakash Sawhney, the MeitY Secretary, noted that AI has emerged as a catalyst across industries and can play a transformative role in accelerating development. The summit will explore in-depth, the role of AI in accelerating social empowerment. RAISE 2020 has tracks like AI for health, agriculture, education, skilling, mobility, fintech, research, inclusive AI, the future of work, and responsible AI. The summit will serve as a platform for the meeting of some of the best minds in the world on AI.
Home to the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem, elite science and technology institutions like the IITs, robust and ubiquitous digital infrastructure, and millions of newly-minted STEM graduates every year, India is well-positioned to become a global leader in the development of AI, the release claimed.
Industry analysts predict that AI could add up to US$ 957 billion to India’s economy by 2035. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, plans to leverage AI for inclusive development, representing the country’s ‘AI for All’ strategy. The country aims to stand out in the international community not just as a leader in AI but also as a model to show the world how to responsibly direct AI for social empowerment.
Amitabh Kant, the CEO of NITI Aayog, explained that from agriculture to fintech and healthcare to infrastructure, AI is a transformative force. India is uniquely positioned to become the AI laboratory of the world and contribute to inclusive development and growth through empowerment. The summit aims to help create a data-rich environment, which is a stepping stone to eventually transform lives globally.
In August, NITI Aayog, in collaboration with the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), launched the ATL AI Step-Up Module for students, which will drive AI education and innovation across the country. The initiative was launched after the AI project, ATL AI Modules by the Atal Innovation Mission.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the AI Step-up Module provides a comprehensive set of learn-it-yourself advanced modules to those who want to expand their knowledge base after becoming familiar with the basics of the AI technology.
The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is collaborating with a communications service provider in Malaysia to promote corporate innovation among businesses in Malaysia, from start-ups or large corporations, to stimulate the ecosystem and spur the country’s digital economy.
The partnership was formalised with both parties signing a Memorandum of Understanding detailing the framework for its cooperation. Through the year-long collaboration, the parties will jointly develop mentorships and programmes to provide coaching to start-ups and corporates embarking on their digital transformation journeys.
Additionally, both parties will facilitate events and engagements that will foster a conducive environment for networking and collaboration between start-ups as well as larger corporations to generate business leads for the industry and accelerate corporate innovation.
The Chief Executive Officer of the leading converged solutions provider in Malaysia stated that, in this challenging and increasingly competitive business environment, the company firmly believes that innovation will be a key success factor in re-evaluating business models and digital transformation strategies.
Their collaboration with MDEC is, therefore, an important one as it allows the firm to collectively provide the right tools, support, and resources, to bring together the best of technologies to help businesses to always be ahead in a changing world. The parties will further explore and co-create initiatives to fuel corporate innovation in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, MDEC’s CEO lauded the firm’s proactive stance in supporting organisations to take the digital leap and heighten their readiness for IR4.0. She further encouraged Malaysia-based MNCs to join the effort to build the nation’s digital ecosystem and support local digitally-empowered businesses to grow globally.
The company possess market knowledge, resources, established networks, and the validation that all businesses aspire to attain; tech start-ups possess the agility and novel ideas that corporations value, she said. MDEC aims to harness these complementary strengths to both advance the nation’s digital agenda and foster the creation of local deep-tech solutions that could shape the way the most pressing global issues are solved.
As the first of their joint initiatives, the two parties will be launching a digital Design Thinking workshop for MDEC’s corporate partners in October 2020. The two-week workshop aims to promote the use of Design Thinking as a methodology to deeply understand problem statements of companies and challenge assumptions in an attempt to solve them creatively and innovatively.
According to another article, MDEC and Malaysia’s leading communications provider have a new history of innovative partnerships. The two have been collaborating on several fronts since 2019, with a shared goal of accelerating the digitalisation of the businesses in Malaysia in line with the Government’s digital economy agenda.
Some of the telecom’s key initiatives include the ecosystem development of IoT in May 2019, which saw the launching of the firm’s immensely popular IoT Challenge and the launch of its second installation on 4 September.
MDEC was also a key partner for the firm’s Market Access Day, the largest pitching session that provided a platform for 100 start-ups to showcase their ideas to approximately 70 of Malaysia’s leading corporates, venture capitalists and angel investors, for business matching and networking opportunities.
Recently, the firm was identified as a Technology Solutions Provider by MDEC for the SME Digitalisation Grant under Budget 2020, which enabled Maxis to offer the widest range of connectivity and digital solutions to help SMEs achieve their digitalisation aspirations.
Meanwhile, through its flagship community programme, eKelas, the company is currently working with MDEC to repurpose the latter’s STEM content and develop learning videos for eKelas students. Concurrently, it is supporting MDEC’s various initiatives under its #mydigitalmaker movement via content sharing and capacity building in Computer Science.
While glass is a sound-proof material, researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have discovered a way which allows sound transmission for glass, opening a new horizon for the potential development of smartphones and other electronic devices that can function underwater, while also offering greater flexibility to building design.
Using the theory of local resonance, a research team led by Prof. WEN Weijia from the Department of Physics has found that by crafting a structured pattern of openings in between glass panes, the sound waves’ mode of vibration will be altered, allowing sound to pass through.
The concept is similar to playing the flute, where players can change the tone by adjusting the position of holes on the instrument. The glass with inlaid cavities can also transmit different sound frequency through the adjustment of those cavities’ shape and size.
The finding, made in collaboration with researchers from Chongqing University and Shenzhen Fantwave Tech. Co was recently published in top physics journal Applied Physics Letters.
Prof. Wen stated that the discovery overturns the concept regarding the use of glass in acoustics and provides a theoretical basis for new applications. If holes or openings in glasses are no longer required for sound transmission, manufacturers can design more long-lasting water-proof mobiles or electronic devices.
Interior settings which require both transparency and sound transmissions – such as those of the bank teller counters or prison reception cells, may also find our technology useful.
As a renowned scientist in advanced functional materials, Prof. Wen’s discoveries span across microsphere and nanoparticle design and fabrications, soft matter physics, smart materials, metamaterials, electronic materials and microfluidics, many of which were eventually transferred into commercial products.
A thermal sensitive nano gel which he discovered in 2009 for example, has recently been applied in the production of a smart glass which transparency changes automatically according to the ambient temperature and solar radiation intensity. This automatic atomizing glass can block up to 70 per cent of the sunlight, effectively reducing the indoor temperature by 5 to 8 degrees and minimizing energy consumption by air conditioning.
Sunlight-blocking glass has been a product made of well-known technology, but for installation on a building, they all require power in changing opacity. The material developed by Prof Wen was the first one that allows the glass to serve such purpose without needing external power.
The smart glass is now deployed in at least 8 mainland cities and provinces including Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Guangdong on facilities ranging from schools and hospitals to residences and exhibition halls.
In the paper’s abstract, it is not that the team is introducing a kind of acoustic metamaterial, which can greatly enhance the transmission at subwavelength ranges and keep its hyaline and air-proof characteristics simultaneously.
In contrast to the state of the art, this originally conceived passive metamaterial makes full use of the resonance of glass plates without any complex or expensive materials. The team’s work provides the design of the decorated window, numerical simulation, and experimental demonstrations for this kind of metamaterial and analyses the underlying physical mechanism.
Furthermore, they show that more transmission peaks can be realized by introducing multilayer resonance coupling of this decorated window. This meta-window should have many potential applications where both the sound and visible light transmission are required without any ventilation.