Minister-in-Charge of Trade Relations Mr S Iswaran and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority Khaldoon Al Mubarak co-chaired the 13th Abu Dhabi-Singapore Joint Forum, held yesterday.
At the Forum, Mr Iswaran and Mr Al Mubarak reaffirmed the strong bilateral economic relations that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Singapore share.
Despite the economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE remains “Singapore’s largest trading partner and investment destination in the Middle East and North Africa region, with bilateral trade amounting to S$12.8 billion in 2020” based on figures from Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Trade Statistics, 2021
Mr Iswaran and Mr Al Mubarak also announced that Singapore and the UAE would explore collaboration in the areas of technology, innovation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), space technologies and public sector partnerships.
Mr Iswaran said, “Bilateral relations between Singapore and Abu Dhabi have come a long way since the first ADSJF in 2007, and have continued to strengthen even amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we enter the next phase of our collaboration, we will leverage the global technology trends, and focus on areas of mutual interest including space technologies, 5G, semiconductors and AI. We also discussed enabling the exchange of electronic trade documents using TradeTrust and identified new areas for collaboration in the green economy, such as Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) and hydrogen.”
Collaborations between UAE and Singapore
Enterprise Singapore (ESG) will partner with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office to encourage exchanges through joint innovation challenges and co-innovation projects. The first joint innovation challenge themed Smart Cities, co-organised and facilitated by IPI Singapore, will be launched in May 2021.
Artificial Intelligence and 5G
In the area of AI, ESG is also working with the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority to offer AI solutions from Singapore companies to the Abu Dhabi Government. An AI workshop was also conducted between the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Personal Data Protection Commission and the UAE AI Office to exchange views on key ethical and governance issues when deploying AI solutions on 18 March 2021.
On 5G, IMDA will work with Abu Dhabi corporates to feature in-market problem statements in the areas of 5G and IoT on IMDA’s Open Innovation Platform. As important technological enablers, collaborations in the areas of 5G and AI will serve as a pathfinder for Singapore and the UAE companies to better navigate the digital space.
IMDA is also keen to collaborate with the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and key private sector players on the adoption of Singapore’s TradeTrust to support the exchange of digital trade documents used in trade financing.
Singapore’s national space office, the Office for Space Technology and Industry (OSTIn) and the UAE Space Agency also signed a Letter of Intent signalling their mutual interest to collaborate in the areas of space technologies, space law and policies as well as human capital development.
Public Sector Collaboration
To facilitate greater and more in-depth exchanges between the public sectors of Singapore and Abu Dhabi, the Civil Service College Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding on knowledge and experience exchange in current and emerging topics such as public sector leadership, governance, public administration and management, digital literacy, and wellbeing with the Abu Dhabi School of Government.
The Indian Institute of Technology Madras’ (IIT-Madras) Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RBCDSAI) is launching the ‘RBCDSAI Industrial Consortium’ to provide information resources on cutting-edge technologies to industries working on artificial intelligence (AI).
The consortium will help industry members learn about the scientific developments and latest trends in AI and data science through broad-based interactions with the centre and its faculty. According to an official at the Institute, RBCDSAI carries out high-quality AI research and the idea is to use the industrial consortium as a means to quickly disseminate the output of the research to industry partners so that they can work together towards launching applications in the field.
As per a news report, currently, the centre offers two membership plans to the interested industries: platinum and silver. The membership plans will enable priority access to four RBCDSAI events, namely, colloquia, quarterly workshops, industry conclaves, and annual research showcases. The centre will organise two special half-day workshops on their voted topic of interest from a slate for its members. Additionally, platinum members will have a dedicated in-domain contact faculty at the centre for close interaction to seek suggestions on their industry’s plans. They will get to exclusively interact with the students to know more about their research and have early access to RBCDSAI publications, reports, datasets, and other research material.
The consortium membership will also provide enhanced interaction with the RBCDSAI research ecosystem and help develop a specialised workforce that can benefit member companies. It will act as a forum that leverages synergistic capabilities of the eventual users, solution providers, solution platform developers, and academicians, the report stated. An RBCDSAI Consortium membership is an opportunity for players to establish themselves as key players in data science and Al with the potential to secure new and significant revenue streams.
RBCDSAI is one of India’s preeminent interdisciplinary research centres for data science and AI, with 28 faculty spanning ten departments of IIT-Madras working on various aspects and applications of AI. The centre explores areas like deep learning, network analytics, reinforcement learning, natural language processing, theoretical machine learning, and ethics and fairness in AI. It also carries out applied research in multiple verticals such as financial analytics, manufacturing analytics, smart cities, systems biology, and healthcare.
In August, IIT-Madras inaugurated the country’s first consortium for virtual reality called the ‘Consortium for VR/AR/MR Engineering Mission in India’ (CAVE). The consortium comprises a group of academic institutions, industries, start-ups, and government bodies. It will enable members to create new advanced technologies and applications in virtual reality, augmented reality, XR, and haptics technology.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the consortium will promote best practices and create a dialogue with stakeholders, government policymakers, and research institutions. It aims to become a resource for industry, academia, consumers, and policymakers interested in virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. The key outcomes envisaged from CAVE include developing indigenous VR/AR/MR and haptics hardware and software and setting up a ‘VR Superhighway’ or ‘VR Corridor’ where many start-ups can work together to make India a global hub for XR and haptics needs.
Thailand’s cabinet, on 25 October 2021, approved a draft decree to regulate digital platform service businesses to maintain financial and commercial stability and to prevent damage to the public, a government spokesman said.
Such businesses, both in and outside of Thailand, will need to notify the government before operating, the spokesman said in a statement. The law will apply to various digital platform services including online marketplaces, social commerce, food delivery, space sharing, ride/car sharing and online search engines, he said. The spokesman also noted that they are all increasingly important to the economy and society, so there is a need to oversee them.
Since 1 September 2021, Thailand has followed in the footsteps of many countries in imposing a value-added tax (VAT) charge of 7% on non-resident digital service providers. It is a significant step for the country in capturing revenue created by the digitalisation of the economy.
The ‘e-service tax’ obliges non-resident digital service providers that earn over THB1.8 million per year to pay the VAT. The department expects around 100 foreign e-service providers to register to pay VAT in Thailand during the initial stage of tax enforcement.
So far, about 70 foreign e-service operators have registered, of which 20 are giant online platform operators. Since the tax is not a direct tax on income but an indirect tax via VAT, some e-service providers are likely to pass the tax burden onto customers. As such, those who pay the tax are not those e-platform operators but local end-users.
However, some doubt remains about how effective the tax scheme will be. The department is faced with several questions. How can the Revenue Department verify the amount of VAT that those foreign digital platform providers have to pay? What can the government do if they fail to pay the tax, especially when several operators have no physical presence?
E-service tax can ensure fairer treatment for local digital service providers who bear a higher cost burden as they are obliged to pay VAT. However, as the digital economy is growing, VAT collections alone might not ensure fair competition.
While other foreign businesses and investors including local digital service providers pay Thai corporate tax on income, non-resident digital service providers do not have to as they are not physically present in Thailand. So, these service providers still have an upper hand.
Digitalisation and the digital economy are continuing to grow. Figures by DataReportal show that there were 48.59 million internet users in Thailand in January 2021. The number of internet users in Thailand increased by 3.4 million (+7.4%) between 2020 and 2021. Internet penetration in Thailand stood at 69.5% in January 2021.
There were 55.00 million social media users in Thailand in January 2021. The number of social media users in Thailand increased by 3.0 million (+5.8%) between 2020 and 2021. The number of social media users in Thailand was equivalent to 78.7% of the total population in January 2021. Moreover, device ownership also grew and diversified.
These statistics highlight the fact that a growing digital economy requires a comprehensive and effective tax and regulation strategy, which is now in the works in Thailand.
Artificial intelligence is on the verge of radically altering our society and industry. The AI trend of technological singularity is rapidly growing, and it is being used in a wide range of human endeavours, including education, medicine, business, engineering, and the arts. This cutting-edge technology has been integrated into the government and business sector all around the world.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) emphasised that innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) can help the nation thrive in a post-pandemic environment. Global challenges can be better managed through innovative technologies, and Philippine companies cannot be left behind in this regard. In a post-pandemic world, the trade undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba stressed the importance of harnessing the power of emerging technologies for local businesses to remain competitive.
In a statement, the minister said, “while we recognise that collective efforts are instrumental in addressing challenges that are global in scale such as the pandemic, we acknowledge that innovative initiatives, like AI, must be harnessed and be placed at the core of all our endeavours to ensure that we will not only overcome overwhelming obstacles but also guarantee that our industries will remain adoptable amidst our ever-changing economic landscape.”
Innovative initiatives, for instance, AI must be harnessed and be placed at the core of all our endeavours to ensure that we will not only overcome overwhelming obstacles but also guarantee that our industries will remain adoptable amidst our ever-changing economic landscape and that they will thrive moving forward.
– Rafaelita Aldaba, Undersecretary, Department of Trade and Industry
The DTI noted that apart from being aware of innovative technologies, local firms would be able to embrace and adapt to new economic realities, which includes AI and other similar technologies. Continuing in this vein, the government through the DTI is working endlessly to reach a higher level of recent technological and innovative breakthroughs to propel the country’s economy forward and improve the competitiveness of its industries, particularly at a time when the global economy is being rocked by disruptions from all directions. DTI will host the Inclusive Innovation Industrial Strategy (I3S) to carry out its objective, which will bring together participants from government, industry, and academia.
The event will feature some of the country’s top AI experts, who will enhance and widen participants’ understanding and appreciation of this innovative technology. It will also focus on discussions surrounding the proposed National Centre for AI Research, as well as experiences and insights on the adoption of AI by businesses, particularly considering the lingering pandemic, and critical issues surrounding AI, particularly those related to ethics, governance, and regulations.
The Philippines was ranked 51st out of 132 economies in the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s (WIPO) Global Innovation Index (GII) study released last month, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 and a decreasing budget for research and development (R&D).
OpenGov Asia recently reported on the growth of the business process outsourcing sector in recent decades. The processing of artificial intelligence is expected to be an emerging industry for the Philippines. Reporting to the President and the Nation, Department of Trade, and Industry (DTI) Secretary stated that the government and private sector are working together to expand AI technology in the country. He was confident that the Philippines could be a big data processing hub and that AI would be the next centre for excellence after BPO – which the Philippines is known for
When the DTI released the industry blueprint last May, the Philippines became one of the first 50 countries in the world to launch a national AI roadmap. The national AI roadmap aims to transform the country into an AI powerhouse in the region. AI adoption, according to a research firm, has the potential to add USD92 billion to the Philippine economy by 2030. According to the national AI roadmap, the country will establish the government-initiated National Centre for AI Research, which will be led by the private sector (NCAIR).
The DTI’s AI roadmap also seeks to provide direction on the use of AI to sustain local industries’ regional and worldwide competitiveness, as well as identify priority areas for government, industry, and broader society to invest time and resources in both research and development and technology application.
In providing guidelines and operationalising digital banking, the Financial Services Authority (OJK) has officially released the Blueprint for Digital Banking Transformation. The launching is intended to be a policy milestone in addressing the issues and risks associated with banking’s digital transformation.
The Blueprint for Digital Banking Transformation also aims to set rules for the banking industry, according to Heru Kristiyana, the Chief Executive of OJK Banking Supervision. “We will communicate the newly printed banking blueprint to all stakeholders,” he said today during the virtual introduction of the digital transformation blueprint. According to Heru, over time, traditional banking will be eroded if it does not carry out digital transformation.
OpenGov Asia reported that this blueprint will serve as a policy response to the various challenges and risks associated with banking digital transformation. The blueprint for digital banking transformation, according to OJK Deputy Commissioner for Banking Supervision, is said to be a more detailed description of the acceleration of digital transformation in the Indonesian banking development roadmap.
The fintech industry was still afflicted by a slew of digital issues, including fraud, information hacking via the sniffing method, and money mule schemes in which perpetrators ask victims to transfer money to someone else’s account. The ministry has proposed precautionary measures to ensure that the fintech industry grows in tandem with the bolstering of Indonesia’s digital economy ecosystem.
Moreover, as per Heru, technological disruption has allowed new actors in the financial ecosystem to emerge, such as fintech and others, who may provide services like those provided by banks without having a physical presence. “At the moment, banks are just getting started with digitisation. Even banks that do not wish to move on will be told that it is too late if a new bank opens now. Customers will eventually depart, I believe. But, in my opinion, it is never too late; what matters is that we are prepared to confront the challenges that lie ahead,” he remarked.
This Blueprint is focused on five elements of banking digitalisation development which include:
- Data covering data protection, data transfer, and data governance.
- Technology that includes information technology governance, information technology architecture, and information technology adoption principles.
- Information technology risk management includes commercial bank cyber security and outsourcing.
- Collaboration that includes sharing platforms, bank collaboration in the digital ecosystem; and
- Institutional arrangements include funding support, leadership, organisational design, human resource talent, and culture.
These five elements are strategic approaches to encourage banks to develop innovative financial products and services that meet and exceed customer expectations. The Blueprint was developed by considering several factors, including future banking research, banking digitisation conditions, international standards, banking sector best practices, stakeholder involvement, and alignment with key authorities’ laws and regulations.
In addition, aspects of Balance and Neutral Technology are prioritised in this Blueprint. The Balance element aims to strike a balance between encouraging banking innovation while also paying attention to prudential issues to keep banking performance in a safe and sound state. The Technology Neutral element is used to be more flexible in the application of specific technologies to keep up with future advances.
Three main attributes are also presented in this Blueprint. The first step is to accept the Principle-Based idea. This Blueprint establishes guidelines in the form of guiding principles to allow the industry to grow. Second, it adopts a more facilitative approach. The third category is Living Documents. The Blueprint is dynamic, and it will be modified to reflect changes in the banking industry.
OJK’s commitment to promoting digital banking transformation as outlined in several policies before the release of the Blueprint for Digital Banking Transformation, including the Master Plan for the Indonesian Financial Services Sector 2021-2025 (MPSJKI) Pillar 3 and the Roadmap for Development of Indonesian Banking 2020-2025 (RP2I) Pillar 2. Encouraging banks to speed digital transformation while maintaining proper IT governance and risk management.
Queenstown, Singapore’s first satellite town, is set to become a health district as part of a pilot programme aimed to assist residents in living healthier and more productive lives. The Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National University Health System (NUHS), and the National University of Singapore (NUS), in collaboration with several stakeholders from the public, private and people sectors, are embarking on a first-of-its-kind collaboration to establish the Health District @ Queenstown pilot.
Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for National Development and Communications and Information, oversees the Queenstown Health District, along with Rahayu Mahzam, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Communications and Information, and Eric Chua, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Ministry of Social and Family Development.
Queenstown was chosen as the Health District’s pilot site because its demographics closely resemble Singapore’s expected national demographics by 2030. Currently, the municipality boasts one of the city-oldest state’s populations, with about one in every four Singaporeans aged 65 and above.
We will leverage the broad range of expertise of our partners to create integrated solutions to enhance the health and well-being of residents across their life stages.
– The Housing & Development Board, the National University Health System and the National University of Singapore
There are opportunities to pilot interventions for bettering citizens’ well-being, promoting health-seeking behaviours, and encouraging social connections in conjunction with other forthcoming development and rejuvenation plans for Queenstown. The trial will focus on facilitating intentional longevity by giving participants chances to volunteer, work, and engage in lifelong learning. It also aims to encourage residents to follow preventive health recommendations by moving services from hospitals to or near their homes.
In addition, NUHS will also launch an updated My Health Map initiative to boost residents’ access to preventative health services by providing health screenings to residents on-site when appropriate and holding community health lectures. They can also get suggestions for health exams and vaccines based on their demographics and health status using the app’s My Health Map function. Patients can also use the app to schedule in-person visits, register for a queue number, and view the number of patients ahead of them in the queue.
“The launch of the teleconsultation feature is extremely opportune considering the Covid-19 scenario,” said Ms Clara Sin, chief operating officer of NUH and NUHS’ group service transformation and medical records offices. The agency aims to ensure that all patients receive consistent care and that they do not have to travel to the hospital, especially the elderly.
In an interview conducted by OpenGov Asia, Associate Professor Thomas Lew, Group Chief Data & Strategy Officer, National Healthcare Group, explained that Singapore is a densely connected city-state where the complexities of an internet-enabled telehealth consultation compete with the standard physical visit to the doctor. According to Associate Professor Lew, telehealth must be contextualised for value, grounded on trust-based relationships, in areas such as real-time biological monitoring, and round-the-clock trusted advice and alerts.
“For the healthy population, the potential of health coaching for individuals and organisations has yet to be fully realised. To envision telehealth beyond transactional efficiency much remains to be done,” he explains.
Artificial intelligence and automation services and systems also significantly benefit healthcare. Yet, Associate Professor Lew believes, while AI is not in the consciousness of mainstream healthcare workers, it is ubiquitous without their realisation.
The Housing and Development Board (HDB), the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the National University Health System (NUHS) are also working together to develop affordable and usable technology to improve the lives of residents, beginning with solutions co-developed with residents, caregivers, and family/community support networks. Ultimately, the agencies said that they will collaborate with the industry to test and deploy applicable technology that allows individuals to remain self-sufficient, aids in illness prevention, and enhances healthcare delivery.
Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Gan Kim Yong, stated that the country is considering several options to decarbonise its power grid, including boosting solar power and importing low-carbon energy from the region. Mr Gan spoke at the inaugural Singapore Green Plan Conversation hosted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Mr Gan also stated that the country intends to use regional electricity systems. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project has also begun, with cross-border power trading of up to 100MW between the four nations participating.
Over the last five years, Singapore’s solar energy capacity has increased by more than sixfold. By 2030, the goal is to increase solar energy deployment by fivefold to at least two gigawatts, which would power roughly 350,000 homes annually.
“We are embarking on a trial with Malaysia to import up to 100MW of electricity. This trial will allow us to build up our knowledge on larger-scale low-carbon imports from the region,” he added. “For us, climate change is an existential challenge.”
Singapore is a small city-state – without natural resources, land, nor climatic conditions for large-scale deployment of renewable energy sources. We, therefore, take sustainable development very seriously.
– Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 was unveiled earlier this year as a plan for the country’s carbon reduction efforts. City in Nature, Sustainable Living, Energy Reset, Green Economy, and Resilient Future are the five pillars of the strategy. Ministers of state for trade and industry Low Yen Ling and Alvin Tan also attended the Singapore Green Plan Conversation, which intended to engage businesses and representatives from trade sectors.
The minister went on to say that the green economy will open up new doors for Singapore. “Singapore has the potential to become a carbon services centre. Companies will demand competence to control their carbon footprint as the world moves toward a low-carbon future. We aim to work with regional stakeholders to help them achieve their decarbonisation goals “he remarked. In addition, companies and employees are also urged to improve their competencies and seize new chances.
OpenGov Asia reported that per a joint press release from two countries, Singapore will join Australia in drafting a Green Economy Agreement (GEA). The cooperation intends to hasten both countries’ transition to a greener, more sustainable future, while also creating jobs and reducing carbon emissions. The agreement will highlight initiatives to encourage and ease trade and investment, with an emphasis on reducing regulatory burdens on businesses. It also aims to eliminate non-tariff obstacles to trade in environmental goods and services and to speed up the adoption of low-emission green technology.
The countries claimed this “world-first agreement” will deepen their bilateral connection through strengthened economic and environmental relations in a joint vision statement released following the conference. The agreement’s larger goal is to serve as a guide for multilateral and regional policy development by establishing policies, standards, and initiatives that will not only create good jobs in green growth sectors but also strengthen environmental governance and global capacity to deal with environmental issues.
Singapore and Australia already have an open, liberalised trade and investment relationship and are both prominent proponents of a global trading system based on open norms. Singapore is also collaborating with Australia on a solar power project that would provide green energy to Singapore via a 4,200-kilometre underwater cable from Darwin, Australia.
Moreover, the Singapore government is following up on the results of two feasibility studies, one on low-carbon hydrogen and the other on carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technology. As a developing country with limited access to alternative energy, these technologies are likely to play an essential part in the country’s transition to a low-carbon future.
Finally, the CCUS technology will assist the government in meeting its climate action obligations and goals, as outlined in the upgraded 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution and Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy, as well as the Singapore Green Plan 2030.
The central city of Da Nang has topped the Digital Transformation Index (DTI) 2020 rankings for localities nationwide in all three key pillars, namely, the digital government, digital economy, and digital society. The rankings are a part of the DTI 2020 report, which was released at a conference in Hanoi recently. The report aimed to provide an overview of the digital transformation situation in Vietnam in 2020, helping government ministries, agencies, and localities design solutions to promote their digital transformation in the time to come. Along with Da Nang, the top ten cities and provinces include Thua Thien-Hue, Bac Ninh, Quang Ninh, Ho Chi Minh City, Tien Giang, Can Tho, Ninh Binh, Kien Giang, and Bac Giang.
According to a news report, the DTI 2020 report is based on four major sources:
- Data from reports of ministries, ministry-level agencies, government-run agencies, and centrally-run cities and provinces in 2020
- Data collected from people, entrepreneurs, state officials, and public servants
- Experts’ assessments on digital transformation and information technology
- Evaluations collected through the Internet under the supervision of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC)
In the rankings for ministries and ministry-level agencies, the Ministry of Finance was placed in the top position with 0.4944 points. It was followed by the State Bank of Vietnam (0.4932 points), the Ministry of Planning and Investment (0.4701 points), the Vietnam Social Security (0.4643 points), and the Ministry of Health (0.4582 points). So far, 12 out of 63 localities nationwide have issued their own resolutions to support digital transformation.
Meanwhile, 50 out of 92 ministries, ministry-level agencies, government-run agencies, and centrally-run cities and provinces have designed programmes or plans for digital transformation in the 2021-2025 period. Last year was the first year that MIC had compiled the Digital Transformation Index of ministries, agencies, and government departments. It was also the first time that a survey had been conducted to collect data serving the work through the official website.
Last year, the government issued the National Digital Transformation Programme to 2025, with a vision to 2030. It aims to develop a digital government, economy, society, as well as form Vietnamese digital technology enterprises capable of going global. Under the strategy, the government aims to use technology to help deliver better quality services, support efficient decision-making, formulate better policies, optimise resources, and aid socio-economic development. Other tasks include operating specialised network infrastructure securely, connecting four administrative levels from the central to the commune level, and building a government cloud computing platform.
Vietnam also intends to develop the National Data Exchange Platform and application platforms on mobile devices for all e-government services. It will complete the National Public Service Portal and build the National Data Portal and a platform for digital collaboration. The strategy outlines the roles and responsibilities of ministries, industries, and local governments in leveraging digital technologies like cloud computing, big data, mobility, the Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain.
The country intends to be among the top 50 countries in the ICT Development Index as early as 2025. It aims for the digital economy to account for one-third of the country’s GDP by the end of the decade, instead of only 5%. To achieve this, Vietnam must upgrade infrastructure, encourage the application of digital technology, and attract investment to create conditions for small businesses to participate in the digital economy. Vietnam also needs to equip workers with digital skills to help them become more dynamic in adapting to new technologies.