Enterprise Singapore announced the expansion of the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) network to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) yesterday, helping Singapore technology startups move into the emerging innovation scene in Vietnam, boosting startup collaborations between Singapore and Vietnam, and creating more internship opportunities for Singapore students in startups and innovative companies in Vietnam.
Memorandum of Understanding to boost collaboration between Singapore startups and Vietnamese counterparts
Enterprise Singapore, Quest Ventures and Saigon Innovation Hub (SIHUB) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to boost collaborations between Singapore startups and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), and their counterparts in Vietnam. Under the MOU, the three partners will organise curated programmes to introduce Singapore startups to the innovation ecosystem in HCMC, and connect them to partners, investors and customers in Vietnam.
GIA was launched in 2017 as part of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) recommendations to strengthen Singapore’s connections to major innovation hubs around the world. This will create more opportunities for Singaporeans, students, entrepreneurs and businesses to gain overseas experience, connect, and collaborate with their overseas counterparts.
Quest Ventures is a Singapore-based leading venture fund for companies that have scalability and replicability in large internet communities. Officially opened in 2016, SIHUB is a government-backed agency under the Department of Science and Technology of Ho Chi Minh City focusing on establishing the city into a startup and innovation hub of Southeast Asia.
This will help Singapore startups set up, test-bed and commercialise their solutions, as well as form business partnerships in HCMC and Vietnam. It will also support Vietnamese startups to set up in Singapore.
Targeted to commence in September 2019, the first part of the programme will involve up to ten Singapore startups, with another two runs of the programme expected to take place over the next twelve months.
Singapore Students to participate in Internship programmes in Vietnam
As part of the GIA, Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) signed six MOUs with Vietnamese startups. Under the MOU, NP aims to send 100 students over the next two years through its Global Entrepreneurial Internship Programme to undertake internships with their MOU partners, and expose them to the vibrant innovation ecosystem and business scene in HCMC. To support this initiative, NP will also be setting up its first GIA office in HCMC this August.
Vietnam is a growing market for technology startups and SMEs, given the young and increasingly tech-savvy population and strong government support. With the expansion of our GIA network to Ho Chi Minh City, Enterprise Singapore will help Singapore enterprises and startups plug into one of the largest innovation ecosystems in Asia. Said Mr Png Cheong Boon, Chief Executive Officer, Enterprise Singapore.
“Similarly, we encourage Vietnamese startups to leverage Singapore’s established innovation ecosystem, to connect with multinational corporations (MNCs) and leading Asian enterprises based here to scale their business further.”
Startup exchanges are already happening between Singapore and Vietnam. Last week, a group of 22 Vietnamese students were in Singapore for a startup immersion programme organised by Lead The Change Community, a global community for youths and startups empowering young people by exposing them to entrepreneurship training, mentorship, and networks. The students interacted with the startup community here, and also had the opportunity to pitch ideas to a panel of mentors.
The GIA network now has connections to 11 cities globally – Bangkok in Thailand; Beijing, Suzhou and Shanghai in China; Berlin and Munich in Germany; Jakarta in Indonesia; Paris in France; Tokyo in Japan; San Francisco in the US; and now HCMC in Vietnam.
In Singapore, there are already seven car-sharing players and it is about to get even more heated with the entry of a new player that promises to adapt to accelerated changes brought on by COVID-19 and provide the next evolution of carsharing in the country. The company has launched a fleet of 400 cars across 300 locations and it hopes to expand the fleet size to 1,000 vehicles across over 600 locations island-wide by the end of 2021, making it the country’s largest carsharing service provider.
With the app, users can book, unlock and lock the vehicles without the need for an access card or retrieve a physical key. Their vehicles feature keyless ignitions, users simply need to push a button to start the engine and drive. Users need to be at least 19 years old and have at least one year of driving experience with a valid Class 3, 3A, or 3C driving licence.
Furthermore, the company’s entire fleet is equipped with advanced telematics which enables predictive maintenance and refuelling operations. Since petrol is taken care of by the company, it means that users do not have to pay for petrol and waste time refuelling vehicles for every single trip.
It is also worthy to note that the car-sharing service operates on an A-to-A return trip car-sharing model, which allows users to collect and return the vehicle at the same point. The developer reasoned that “an A-to-B service is not financially viable” without significant operational scale and user adoption. The company also adopts a “pay-as-you-go pricing model”, which means that users are charged after each trip for the duration and mileage charges incurred.
When it comes to encouraging responsible usage, the company penalises users who cause inconvenience to other users. They may be fined, or in more severe cases, get banned from using the service.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, as part of the initiative to move on from the negative effects brought upon by the pandemic, the government further encouraged the early adoption of shifting from traditional petrol-fuelled vehicles to electric vehicles or EVs. The Government will allocate S$30 million for projects and initiatives supporting the shift.
They will also introduce more incentives to narrow the “cost differential” between electric cars and internal combustion engine cars, announced Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech. Accordingly, the new car-sharing service provider’s current fleet already has a significant number of hybrid vehicles, but they have plans to progressively “electrify” it. As such, the company is looking at working with more fleet partners, including potential strategic partners, that are keen to provide electric vehicles.
In the long run, the company said that they also aim to reduce the demand for vehicle ownership by 100,000. By taking vehicles off the roads, they intend to help the country free up its economic resources for more productive pursuits and protect the environment, in line with the government’s car-lite masterplan.
The country has made a good start in planning for a “car-lite” city. Since their first Concept Plan in 1971, planners have consciously applied a transit-oriented urban planning approach to ensure that all new towns and commercial centres are well connected by a comprehensive bus rail public transport system. Since then, the government introduced measures such as the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) and the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) to control the ownership and usage of private vehicles.
Moreover, the company’s service and platform has been designed and built to tackle specific pain points for existing car-sharing users and to remove any barriers for potential new adopters. They believe that a simple, flexible, and accessible car-sharing service, operated at a significant scale, will be a legitimate and serious alternative to car ownership.
As the digital economy grows and matures with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the “smart cities” movement is gaining momentum. For most, it represents the promise of high-tech cities, cars equipped with advanced tech rolling the streets, AI-powered drones delivering food, and connected devices everywhere helping citizens experience digital haven.
With this end-goal in mind, Indonesia and Singapore team up to build Southeast Asia’s digital hub of the future. The two countries called this project, “Nongsa D-Town”. This will serve as a digital bridge between Indonesia and Singapore connecting Batam’s high-tech future with its industrial past.
Located just 40 minutes by ferry from Singapore’s Harbourfront, the digital hub provides an opportunity for rising start-ups from both countries to collaborate within close physical proximity. The settlement is built upon the three philosophical pillars of ecological, digital, and physical sustainability. Rather than the hyper-urban culture typical of many downtown tech hubs, life at D-town is designed to accommodate sustainable mobile work.
Designed by a Singaporean firm and developed by two of Indonesia’s largest conglomerates, the interconnected layout of D-Town includes a residential village, tech campuses, a town plaza, and a commercial centre and is set to house 8000 tech talents when completed. There are currently about 1000 tech talents at the existing NDP working for tech companies and start-ups from the two countries.
Singapore and Indonesia are home to Southeast Asia’s most vibrant tech ecosystems. Eleven out of the thirteen tech unicorns operating in ASEAN are headquartered in either country, seven out of those eleven are homegrown start-ups.
The two countries have produced companies that dominate the regional market by first-mover advantages over their neighbours through superior technology, as is the case with Singapore, and massive population size, as is the case with Indonesia, their respective start-up scenes share and compete for talent, resources, and market share.
Overlapping time zones between Indonesia and Singapore facilitate ease of work across borders. Due to the accelerated transition to digital within the last year, cross-border collaboration between remote teams has become a common occurrence. Despite Singapore’s technological advancement compared to its neighbours, it faces a shortage of tech talent. Nongsa D-Town will allow talent from Indonesia and Singapore to collaborate directly within the same area, providing a solution to the shortage while further tightening economic ties between the two nations.
At 270 million people, Indonesia is the largest market in ASEAN. Indonesians are notoriously early adopters of new technologies when given the chance, with 32% of the population keen to use new tech products as soon as they enter the market, according to a survey. The sheer volume of Indonesian consumers eager to try new technologies makes the country an ideal steppingstone for Singaporean start-ups that intend to scale regionally, often through Batam as a port of call.
At the same time, within the perimeter of the D-Town Masterplan that will be launched, there is Nongsa Digital Park (NDP), an initiative supported by both Indonesian and Singapore Governments which is frequently mentioned in high-level bilateral meetings between President Jokowi and Prime Minister Lee. D-Town leverages on the initial success of NDP that saw several international companies have already taken advantage of the access to talent and the economic incentives currently offered to set up in the digital downtown.
Indonesia’s National Special Economic Zone Council, chaired by Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto, announced that NDP has the potential to create employment and boost economic growth, hence it was recommended to President Jokowi to be confirmed as a new Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
As reported by OpenGov Asia, these digital ventures were recently mentioned as part of Singapore’s investment budget over the next three years. Deputy PM Heng Swee Keat announced that Singapore will be allocating around $24 billion over the next three years to enhance its digital connectivity and global presence, a plan which includes cross-country investments like NDP and its next phase of development, Nongsa D-Town.
A student start-up at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a fleet of self-driving robots that deliver in a smarter, greener and contactless manner, making it a safe option in a pandemic.
The FoodBot is a four-wheeled electronically powered robot. The robots have delivered over 6,000 lunch and dinner orders on the NTU campus since June 2020 when Singapore started Phase 1 of its exit from the circuit breaker. Its pilot is carried out with Cates, a food delivery mobile app developed by Wecome, another start-up that was incubated in NTU.
FoodBot is the creation of Whizz Mobility, a student start-up that grew out of the Renaissance Engineering Programme, NTU’s flagship interdisciplinary undergraduate engineering programme. The first prototype was designed and built on the NTU Smart Campus. Whizz Mobility now operates out of a maker’s space at the Launchpad @ Jurong Innovation District, which is located next to the NTU campus at CleanTech Park.
Each FoodBot is designed to carry a 50kg load. It travels at a safe speed of 5km/h on pre-mapped delivery routes. Its onboard cameras and algorithms developed by the Renaissance Engineering Programme students help it to navigate around people and objects.
The footage captured on the cameras is fed to the algorithms to constantly improve their performance. A supervisory team at Whizz remotely monitors the camera feed in real-time so they can take control of the robots’ movements if necessary, usually for safety reasons.
NTU Deputy President and Provost Professor Ling San said: “The FoodBots built by Whizz Mobility is a wholly made-in-NTU product, and is a prime example of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and an entrepreneurial mindset – all of which are goals under the recently announced NTU 2025 strategic plan. It also shows how the NTU Smart Campus is the ideal place to research and testbed new smart technologies to enrich and improve the way we learn, work, and live.”
Student Start-Up enters autonomous food delivery market
Whizz was first launched in 2018 with an autonomous scooter prototype winning two out of five prizes at the 2019 Youth Innovation Awards organised by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
But due to Personal Mobility Device regulations that were introduced by the Singapore authorities, the team of eight students – seven from NTU and one from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) had to change direction. They moved into the food delivery market with FoodBot.
The move proved to be timely, with food deliveries in demand due to the COVID-19 outbreak. They built their first robot during the circuit breaker in April last year, and the fleet has since grown to five robots.
Melvin Foo, a third-year Renaissance Engineering Programme student and founder and CEO of Whizz Mobility, said: “The FoodBot represents a cleaner and smarter delivery alternative on the market, and is an engineering dream for us. Almost every part of the robot is made by us, from 3D printed parts to self-designed custom printed circuit boards. We also wrote our own robotic software, fleet management software, and algorithms.”
Robot food delivery more efficient than human labour
Since the pilot delivery service began in June 2020, Whizz’s delivery robots have been plying selected routes on the NTU campus, where deliveries are more efficiently done by robots than by human labour. More recently, the FoodBots have been making deliveries out of campus to the nearby CleanTech Park.
The robot works when a customer orders food through the Cates mobile app and selects which location to collect the food from. Once the order is ready, the merchant loads it into a FoodBot which is parked near the canteen or restaurant. The robot then travels to the selected collection point.
Start-Up looks to future by growing it’s team and developing partnerships
The start-up is also looking to grow its team, which currently include NTU students Victor Gwee, Zechary Hoe, Herh Peng Leng, Lakshyajeet Dwivedee, and SUTD student Ho Rui En.
Whizz is now in talks with food and beverage partners on potential collaborations and is exploring the option of extending its delivery services to non-food partners, and working with more testbed partners and facilitators.
The role that technology plays in society is becoming an increasingly urgent topic of discussion today as the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll. The advancements in technology are lightning-fast, which is evident as more and more data becomes available through cloud technology. As the digital landscape continues to evolve at a rate that seems to outpace our innate, online culture, organisations without sufficient digital foundation and cybersecurity measures are at risk.
Worldwide digital transformation and the paradigm shift to cloud tech is imperative and it continues to gather momentum with the pandemic accelerating the transition. This is a timely opportunity for organisations to pause and reflect on their current digital makeup.
These were the focal points discussed by digital executives from various tech sectors during the OpenGovLive! Virtual Breakfast Insight held on 24 February. The topic – Start Small, Scale Fast, Transform Securely: Embracing a Paradigm Shift in Cloud-Native Applications and Protection Strategies – was highly pertinent and relevant to the current times.
The pandemic’s effect on digital transformation and cloud migration
To kickstart the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia explained that cloud technology has been around, but it has been magnified today because of COVID-19.
The paradigm shifts towards cloud-native are here to stay, he asserted. The public sectors around the region have been juggling numerous applications to keep the services going. In today’s new normal, citizens no longer have the luxury of walking up to a government office to ask for assistance – it has all been moved to the digital space.
Mohit reiterated that a digital system should be as seamless and innovative as possible, creating a user-friendly experience. Yet, many government agencies are grappling with mission-critical legacy applications and therefore, it is vital to have a clear strategy and overall framework to modernise these applications. While doing that, a cloud system must be incorporated – providing accessibility from any device, any where, any time.
At the same time, scalability must be at the forefront of this digital shift. The modernisation of critical applications can be gradual, and organisations can start by streamlining the current portfolio of applications to achieve scalability. As technology advances, so does the level of cyber risk that organisations must manage; security must be built into the process.
However, with time pressure to get a project up and running, the lack of sensible security measures will create a hindrance for governments to achieve true cyber resilience and vigilance.
In conclusion, Mohit advised delegates and organisations to find the right partners in this ever-evolving journey of digital transformation and application modernisation, instead of attempting to handle everything in-house.
Modernising digital solutions for today’s immediate needs
The COVID-19 pandemic created new norms in society, triggering significant pressure on organisations to provide modern digital solutions. This was the key premise, Sanjay Deshmukh, Vice President & Managing Director for Southeast Asia & Korea, VMware, elaborated on with fellow speakers and distinguished delegates from the Singapore public sector.
He started with the fact that VMware has been working with different agencies all over the world, especially during the pandemic, to build the right foundation for digital government. He acknowledged that there is unprecedented pressure on governments and digital service providers brought by the on-going pandemic.
The escalating pressure to modernise and the urgent need for mobile workplaces and services are just some of the community’s expectations. At the same time, protection from cyber threats is vital as these threats are on the rise. All these issues and needs have been compounded and accelerated by COVID-19.
Sanjay added that the biggest challenge lies in legacy systems. These systems create a digital divide between what the citizens are expecting and what agencies can deliver. Every agency wants to deliver and automate digital services, but legacy systems are a major hindrance. The lack of agility in response time from this system magnifies this issue.
Additionally, security and compliance are known factors in creating this digital divide.
Through a secure and flexible digital foundation – with consistent infrastructure, consistent operations, and intrinsic security, powered by digital infrastructure – agencies can enhance mission delivery and productivity; continually defend against cyberthreats, and meet dynamic mission requirements— all while relieving IT burdens.
Yet achieving these agency goals with a digital foundation requires rethinking the IT architecture.
Governments to act as solution providers, not as mere policymakers
Following Sanjay’s presentation, Adam Carthew, Chief Information Officer of Service Victoria to over. He started by sharing that Service Victoria was first instituted as a start-up aiming to provide a place where citizens can go digitally, irrespective of the structure of government. The company launched a successful pilot using lean methodology in government services, so citizens do not need to go out and conduct their businesses, which proved to more cost-effective for all concerned parties.
With the foundation set, the company went from start-up to scale-up. At first, they did not target infrastructure building nor even had a team to handle services right away. So, what they did was they partnered with someone with a plethora of digital capabilities that could run in a cloud environment, that could scale and be cost-effective.
Service Victoria eventually redesigned their digital transactions by making services such as identity identification, payment gateways, police check etc., all possible on the digital space.
Adam also said that the ones who are winning right now are marketplace organisations. These types of organisations do not care about brands, bricks and mortar, or any of these. They only care about the customer. Hence, from the government’s perspective, Service Victoria had to get away from thinking like policymakers and start thinking about what is best for customers.
Accordingly, Service Victoria picked up various products and services and integrated them into their standard way of operating in the cloud. They improved the products’ capabilities and flexibility. But then, COVID-19 struck, and as Adam described, it was like a 40kph wind behind them. Service Victoria needed to adapt once more and create leverage with this wind behind them. Even with the tech they had, as good as it was, it still was not fast enough, and it just could not take them to where they want to go.
With the government making swift policy changes, Service Victoria needed to be agile enough to keep up. They did away with the tech that they had and started to used servers. They also needed to scalable because of the high volumes of changes. Volumes that were not constrained to a single platform.
Adam revealed that with the on-going pandemic, they improved their digital permit system so that it did not force citizens to navigate from one place to another during lockdown situations. Adam added that with the cloud-native approach and advanced tech applications, various projects from frontend to backend, ones that can stem from 3 months to accomplish, can be achieved in 3 weeks or even just a matter of days.
Polling questions and discussion
After the engaging and informative presentations by the speakers, the session transitioned to an interactive discussion with polling questions posed to the audience. The questions revolved around the main challenges and drivers of application modernisation.
When asked what the current state of their organisation’s public cloud adoption is, 42% of the delegates said they currently have small workloads in the cloud. A delegate from the health sector said that most of their data, like patient details, are still on their private cloud. But they are pushing for the migration of data containing useful clinical information to the public cloud.
The next question focussed on their main challenges in cloud migration. Most of the delegates said that digital processes are the biggest challenge because government policies hinder full migration. Sanjay from VMware reiterated that infrastructures must complement the cloud to achieve benefits in the long run. For him, the future is hybrid and multi-cloud heavy.
However, 43% of delegates said that re-factoring or developing new cloud apps is preferred, rather than migrating existing apps to the cloud. Some delegates also said that re-platforming their apps or utilising Kubernetes is also appreciated.
Mohit on the other hand suggested that retiring processes/apps that prove to be outdated are also useful for governments for them to focus on what is effective and not get disoriented by multiple platforms and applications.
For over 70% of the delegates, the lack of developers and operator skills is the top challenge when adopting Kubernetes in their organisations. Resources are also limited, so they need to get partners on board. Compounding that, unfamiliarity with the tech bothers some of the attendees – primarily because of its security capabilities.
On the topic of security, the delegates were asked which of the following security strategies namely, Endpoint, Workload, Workspace, Network and Cloud are on the companies’ radar for the next 12 months. About 21% of the delegates voted for Workload and Endpoint securities, while the same number of attendees voted for Network and Cloud securities. Only 16% voted for Workspace security.
The session ended with the closing remarks by Adrian Hia, Country Manager, Singapore for VMware. He closed the session by emphasising two points.
The first was the need for continuous production of modern applications for training and learning in the digital world. The second was the current trend where fresh graduates are mainly interested in cloud technology. This should prompt and inspire organisations to adapt and migrate to the cloud as soon as possible, taking advantage of the available talent and skill. Together, they could create an effective and cost-efficient digital government.
He encouraged delegates to reach out to them and explore ways they could collaborate for a better, efficient and resilient government for the benefit of all.
Technology has been central to Singapore’s COVID-19 response, and more broadly to its government’s work. The government has progressively built up the digital infrastructure and engineering capabilities of the country to combat the effects of the pandemic. This enables them to respond decisively and swiftly to the COVID-19 outbreak with a wide array of digital tools to help disseminate timely and accurate information to Singaporeans and to enable other agencies to better manage the crisis.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently said that while the country has a supportive environment for technology, the key factor is talent. Therefore, to further aid the national effort against the pandemic, an application developed by a Singapore start-up conducts mini-medical check-ups just by using a smartphone. In just 45 seconds, the app can tell the user of their heart rate, oxygen levels and even his/her stress levels. It can also tell the user if he/she should see a doctor.
It offers a diagnosis of the user’s health condition, relying solely on a smartphone camera that can measure heart rate by picking up changes in the reflectivity of light on the user’s skin between heartbeats according to blood flow underneath.
Workers at various sites have used the application as part of a government-initiated programme that provides companies with trial-stage technology to help them adjust to the new pandemic-era norms. The construction firm that used the app believes that a medical check-up is the first line of defence against another outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The city-state has kept a tight lid on its infections and wants to avoid a repeat of last year when a series of clusters emerged in migrant worker dormitories.
The tech’s founder said that the government was very interested in the technology, and they see the most traction coming from healthcare providers, both private and public, which will help further help in the country’s mission of containing the virus. The app is still undergoing local review but the Director of the National University of Singapore’s Institute of Health Innovation and Technology said it could have a big impact if approved by regulators.
Department of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat allocated over S$24 billion of the Budget over the next three years to help businesses and workers to be well-equipped with technological resources. This budget also aims to enable firms and businesses to emerge stronger. About S$1 billion will be allocated to mature firms to get co-funding for the adoption of digital solutions and technological improvements.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, governments from all over the world, not just in Singapore are pushing for the development of these innovative apps to aid their effort in containing the coronavirus. One of which is a contact-tracing app. The public sector is keen to introduce a digital contract tracing as traditional methods are slow. Transmission of the virus is fast, many of the infected do not show symptoms straight away and by the time authorities have identified those who have been exposed, they have already transmitted the virus to others.
Motivated by these challenges and constraints, got Mohit Sagar, founder and CEO of Access Anywhere, envisioned a solution that would empower citizens to take responsibility for their wellbeing in their own hands. He partnered with industry leaders Microsoft, SAS and Confluent to create a cloud-based solution that gives people real-time risk assessment of their health: Liberty and Passage.
Liberty and Passage is a total outbreak management system application that offers users the ability to continue routine activities like going to work and socialising with friends without compromising their own or the health of those around them.
Gerard Mcdonnell, the Regional Solution Director of Fraud & Security Intelligence of SAS, said the Liberty App as a digital risk assessment tool can proactively warn organisations’ corporate management about the health risk status of employees.
Researchers from NUS Design and Environment and Yale-NUS College have collaborated with ETH Zurich and other Singapore universities to start a Future Cities Lab Global (FCL Global) – an international, interdisciplinary research collaboration that aims to develop solutions to help cities and their surrounding regions achieve sustainable growth.
NUS Deputy President -Research and Technolog, Professor Chen Tsuhan said that NUS adopts a systems approach to solving real-world problems concerning climate change and sustainability.
He said, “Harnessing our deep and broad expertise in areas such as green technologies, design, engineering, sciences, social sciences and public policy, we aim to advance integrated sustainability solutions that are optimised and resilient for tropical, urban and Asian settings.”
Launched in December last year, the five-year collaborative venture seeks to address the globally significant challenges of expanding urbanisation, where existing cities are fast growing and new cities are emerging in the face of rapid population growth.
Tapping on the deep expertise of 120 engineers, architects, environmental scientists, economists and social scientists from Singapore and Switzerland, the collaboration builds on the work of the now-completed Future Cities Laboratory Programme which focused on cities and their development.
Supported by Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF), FCL Global expands the focus to address corridors and networks between cities and the surrounding regions – such as roads, ports, rivers, and airports, as well as their impact on land use and ecology.
The collaboration will be co-hosted in two research laboratories: ETH Zurich, and Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) – a partnership established between ETH and NRF at the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE).
NUS researchers are involved in six of the eight projects that are currently being carried out. These will focus on topics such as green buildings and neighbourhoods in dense urban areas, new technologies for recycling building materials, and solutions to aid tropical coastal cities in Asia that are distressed or at risk of flooding.
Prof Lam Khee Poh, Dean of NUS Design and Environment and a member of the FCL Global Steering Committee, observed that Singapore is one of the most liveable cities in Asia and the world. Stressing on the need to focus on a holistic people-centric design to build a resilient city of tomorrow, he added, “NUS’ multi-disciplinary research in collaboration with FCL Global will develop future-ready solutions for sustainable and healthy cities. This will also help advance Singapore’s multi-ministry effort to achieve the Singapore Green Plan 2030.”
When COVID-19 broke out in some localities, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control, ministries and branches, and provincial and municipal authorities to implement urgent measures to prevent and fight the virus.
He said it was necessary to ask people to install the Bluezone app on their phones and follow the 5K principle: Khau trang (facemasks), Khu khuan (disinfection), Khoang cach (distance), Khong tu tap (no gathering), and Khai bao y te (health declaration).
Bluezone is a Bluetooth, low-energy solution that can be installed on smartphones. The platform, developed by government-owned military group Viettel, can provide services like remote medical consultation, remote surgery consultation, remote training, and remote tech transfers, among others. All Bluezone users are anonymous to others. Only competent health authorities know those who are infected and those who are suspected of infection.
Bluezone will alert a user if they have had close contact with people who have COVID-19, thereby minimising the spread of the virus to the community, helping people return to their normal lives. When there is a new case of infection, the user can learn whether they had close contact with this case or not, simply by accessing Bluezone.
As per a press release, over the past year, the government has emphasised the need to apply technology to effectively deal with the pandemic. The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has applied many informational measures to persuade agencies and units to use Bluezone in the fight against COVID-19, saying that the app, together with other medical declaration apps available in Vietnam, will form an ecosystem that helps to effectively trace the origins of infection.
According to MIC’s Authority of Information Technology Application, as of mid-February this year, there had been more than 29 million installations of Bluezone. The number has increased by 5.5 million compared with late January, the time when a COVID-19 community-transmitted resurgence occurred.
The release noted that Vietnam had not reported any COVID-19 case for around two months until the third outbreak. As a result, many Bluezone users uninstalled the app as they thought they no longer needed it. However, as the virus has reoccurred, the government has said it is necessary to download the app again. Bluezone has helped trace thousands of suspected infection cases. Experts estimate that Bluezone will offer the highest possible effect if 60% of Vietnamese adults use it. They think that it is necessary to require people to install and use Bluezone as a compulsory app at this time to prevent the spread of the virus.
In some localities, people think Bluezone is only a supporting measure to help trace suspected cases that are used with traditional measures. Agencies have complained that they are facing difficulties in tracing sources of infection as many patients remain uncooperative.
The reliance on traditional traceability measures costs money and time and also creates holes in management, increasing the risk of spreading the virus. Experts believe that instead of using Bluezone as only a supportive measure, it should be used as a major solution.