With the pandemic still at the fore and knowing that the global economy will remain stunted, the Singapore Government led by Department of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat allocated over S$24 billion over the next three years to help businesses and workers transition to a post-pandemic world, well-equipped with technological resources. This budget also aims to enable firms and businesses to emerge stronger, together. About S$1 billion will be allocated to mature firms to get co-funding for the adoption of digital solutions and technological improvements.
Mature enterprises, ranging from micro to large firms, should invest in new and emerging technologies to sharpen their competitiveness, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday while unveiling Budget 2021, aiming to improve Singapore’s digital connectivity. The budget will also enhance the Productivity Solutions Grant – Job Redesign by raising the government co-funding ratio to 80%, from 70% previously, till end-March 2022. This is to help businesses redesign jobs.
A new tech program will co-fund the costs of trials and the adoption of frontier technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence and trust technologies. This will help businesses commercialise their innovations and diffuse technology downstream. New software capable of notarising and verifying COVID-19 digital test and vaccination results/records is also in place. This is to further check and certify any results involving mass testing.
A start-up digital platform which aims to assist the food and agriculture sector is also in the works. The platform will help farmers in developing countries to increase crop yield, access credits and connect directly to buyers. This will help with the rising global food demand and for the income of farmers.
In addition, the Open Innovation Platform will be enhanced to increase the speed and scale of digital innovation through new features such as a discovery engine. This will make the platform gain access to automated recommendations and provide agencies with solution providers.
Enhancements will also be made to the Global Innovation Alliance, which helps to improve cross-border collaboration between Singapore and major global innovation hubs. The network has 15 city links to the likes of Bangkok, Jakarta, London and San Francisco, and will be expanded to more than 25 cities over the next five years. It will be given a boost by the Co-Innovation Programme, which will support up to 70% of qualifying costs for cross-border innovation and partnership projects.
A new Digital Leaders Programme will support promising firms in hiring a core digital team and in developing and implementing their digital transformation roadmaps.
Finance Minister Heng said that Singapore has been stepping up its connectivity with South-east Asian nations, noting that the region has significant growth potential. Among efforts to strengthen its links in the region include the inaugural South-east Asia Open Innovation Challenge, which was launched last December. It drew participation from companies from countries including Indonesia and Thailand.
Mr Heng said that Singapore will continue to work closely with fellow ASEAN members, to enhance digital tech and to get ready for the fourth Industrial Revolution, building on initiatives such as the Asean Smart Cities Network.
Singapore will also continue to enhance its infrastructure investments in the region. The various projects by the government such as emerging technological platforms and solutions aim to continuously improve digital connectivity and cybersecurity of the nation. Beyond these new schemes, the government will also extend to end-March 2022 the enhanced support levels of up to 80 per cent for existing enterprise schemes. These existing initiatives include the Scale-up SG programme, Productivity Solutions Grant, Market Readiness Assistance, and Enterprise Development Grant.
On the increased funding to redesign jobs, Mr Heng said Singapore must leverage technology to develop senior-friendly workplaces. “In the coming years, a critical part of business transformation will be in job redesign,” he added. With technological advances, many physically demanding or repetitive tasks can be better done by machines.
These moves, to co-fund the transformation of mature enterprises, are part of a suite of capital tools announced under this year’s Budget. The government is looking to catalyse a wide range of capital to co-fund and enable businesses to innovate, transform and scale.
The Chief Minister of the state of Tamil Nadu recently launched an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled panic button and CCTV surveillance project to make travel safer. The initiative will be implemented in phases, aiming to cover 2,500 buses in Chennai city. Under the first phase, 500 buses in the metro city have installed four panic buttons, an AI-enabled mobile network video recorder (MNVR), and three cameras each.
According to a report by the government’s AI portal, the MNVR will be connected to a cloud-based control centre via a 4G GSM SIM card. In case of inconvenience, discomfort, or threat, passengers will be able to press the panic button and record the incident. At the same time, an alarm will go off at the control centre along with a video recording of the incident on the bus. The operator at the control centre will be able to monitor the situation and facilitate, in real-time, the next course of action, the report said.
The control centre has been linked to the distress response centre of the city police and Greater Chennai Corporation. The state government has noted that 31 bus depots and 35 bus terminuses of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) have been brought under surveillance. The project will also help detect missing persons and identify criminals and other works of the GCC, transport department, and the police.
Other states across the country have also deployed technology-enabled solutions to better monitor traffic. In April, the Ministry of Electronics and Information developed and launched indigenous onboard driver assistance and warning system (ODAWS), a bus signal priority system, and a Common Smart IoT Connectiv (CoSMiC) software to improve road safety.
ODAWS uses sensors to monitor driver propensity and vehicle surroundings and send out acoustic and visual alerts. The ODAWS algorithm is used to interpret sensor data and offer real-time notifications to the driver. The bus signal priority system is an operational strategy that modifies normal traffic signal operations to better accommodate in-service public buses at signal-controlled intersections.
CoSMiC is middleware software that provides the standard-based deployment of the Internet of things (IoT), which follows the oneM2M-based global standard. It facilitates users and application service providers in vertical domains to use application-agnostic open standards and interfaces for end-to-end communication with well-defined common service functionalities. The CoSMiC common service layer is used to interface with any vendor-specific standards and to increase interoperability with smart city dashboards.
More recently, the Kerala state government announced it would deploy AI-based cameras on traffic-heavy roads in a bid to reduce accidents by half within the next two years. As OpenGov Asia reported, the government expects traffic rules to be more effectively enforced after the software is put in place, as it automates detecting road violations and issuing fines. Once the system captures the breach of the road rules, the footage will be sent to the central government’s server. The vehicle owner will receive an SMS regarding the fine, and, at the same time, the information will directly be sent to court. This will reduce corruption as it limits local authorities from waiving the penalty.
Researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) have invented a microsize-gap multiple-shot electroporation (M2E) device that has the potential to increase the efficiency with which cancer treatment is offered at a cheaper cost. The researchers came to the conclusion that the instrument would benefit from having transparent electrodes installed in it so that it could better visualise anti-cancer medications.
According to Desmond Loke, an assistant professor at SUTD and the primary investigator of this research, the scientific community wants to create a simple, low-cost cancer treatment system. “The narrow gap between electrodes allows us to achieve a sufficiently strong electric field using a few volts rather than several tens of volts applied in traditional electroporation.”
Assistant Prof. Loke revealed that the device that was built by SUTD did not require any specialised components, expensive materials, or a tedious fabrication process. He stated that this was one of the most important aspects of the device.
The M2E device, which is connected to the development of cancer treatments, was put through its paces by researchers utilising a variety of substances. Because of this new technology, cancer cells can now display a two-hour window in which they are able to take in chemicals.
The time frame offered by conventional electroporation equipment is approximately 400% shorter than what is supplied. In addition to that, it may be utilised more than once. According to the results of the study, the M2E system has the potential to be beneficial in the treatment of COVID-19 when combined with associated drugs.
Electroporation is a technique that involves the application of a very weak electric pulse to cells in order to momentarily create holes in the membranes of such cells. The goal of this technique is to transfer genetic material across cells. The goal of using this method is to facilitate the movement of chemicals into and out of the cells.
This method has the potential to increase the likelihood of drug delivery for the treatment of cancer patients. The chemotherapy and radiation therapies for cancer can be administered through these holes if they are large enough. It is possible that the effectiveness of cancer treatments, as well as patients’ access to those treatments, could be improved through the integration of electroporation into treatment protocols.
This contrasts with how electroporation was traditionally performed, in which several tens of volts were applied. This low voltage, together with the transparent electrode, serves to minimise energy use and facilitate visibility, avoiding dangerous drug use and restricted imaging of drug transport during drug testing, both frequent concerns with conventional electroporation devices. Low voltage also prevents dangerous drug use.
In addition, the permeability of tumour cells can be improved through the utilisation of electroporation in the treatment paradigm of electrochemotherapy to achieve the desired outcomes. Because of this, the cancer cells can more effectively absorb chemotherapy drugs like bleomycin and cisplatin.
After the researchers have finished working on ways to improve the M2E system, they anticipate that it will be a few years before the device finishes the clinical study and is ready for widespread use. The M2E technology has the potential to pave the way for much-enhanced delivery of cancer medicines and a more uniform distribution of cancer treatments to under-resourced and underserved places all over the world.
Vietnam has launched its first official legal entity, the Vietnam Blockchain Union, which specialises in blockchain technology. The union was established under a decision issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. It was set up to promote the nation’s digital economy, making Vietnam a top global contender in terms of emerging technologies. Blockchain is a form of data storage and transmission technology using encryption. Its transparency in data sharing is the reason countries and the finance, logistics, and retail industries are investing heavily in its application.
A recent report wrote that the Vietnam Blockchain Union will connect with blockchain organisations and communities around the world. It will enable members to share experiences and resources to research, test, apply, deploy and trade blockchain technology. It will also attract investment for the blockchain industry and train and develop digital human resources. According to an official, the Vietnam Blockchain Union will raise community awareness and guide the development of legal corridors, standards, and regulations in the application and creation of products and services on the blockchain technology platform.
Vietnam has been focusing on researching and applying blockchain. The state has supported the development of blockchain technology applications in socio-economic fields, in which pilot priority is given to businesses deploying feasible blockchain projects, which are expected to aid society at large. Currently, blockchain is mainly applied in the financial sector, especially in digital assets and currencies. Countries around the world are forming policies and laws to regulate this technology.
For example, in March, Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) formalised the designation of business activities surrounding cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrency businesses will be listed under the category of “finance, insurance and real estate” as “virtual currency platforms and trading businesses” rather than under the category of “software design services.” Security Token Offerings (STO), a type of public offering for digital tokens using blockchain or distributed ledger technology, will be listed under the subcategory of securities firms. As such, it will be subject to the same supervision as existing businesses in the securities industry. MOEA made the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) the main authority responsible to oversee cryptocurrency operations. The commission will work with tax and law departments to set up rules to regulate the evolving but volatile cryptocurrency market.
In Singapore, the Monetary Authority (MAS) has created a two-pronged approach to the crypto ecosystem. Firstly, it will bolster digital asset capabilities. The digital asset ecosystem encompasses an entire range of crypto-related services, and MAS is working to enable a conducive environment for these activities to flourish. For instance, it is clarifying tax treatment, promoting talent development, offering innovation grants, and working with the industry to explore the potential of blockchain through real value experiments.
The second part of the approach is to manage risks, including money laundering and terrorism financing. MAS aims to be adaptive, continually evolving, and consultative as the crypto ecosystem is a fast-moving space. It claimed it will issue guidelines before using legislation. It will continue to provide clarity to the industry on its regulatory thinking and concerns, but at the same time, leave the door open for opportunities to co-create solutions with the industry.
Under the Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F), the National Environment Agency of Singapore has increased its grant for Energy Efficient Technologies up to 20% starting last month, the supported maximum was raised from 50% to 70% of qualifying expenditures per project.
This lowers the barrier for industrial enterprises, including SMEs, to adopt energy-efficient solutions that will help them save money on energy and cut their carbon emissions. The E2F grant application and pay-out process were simplified to save time and money for applicants.
The Energy Efficiency Technology Centre (EETC), which provides low-cost energy evaluations for SMEs, will also be developed in collaboration with the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). These policies will assist manufacturing SMEs in identifying and funding energy efficiency projects, as well as preparing for a low-carbon future.
The E2F was introduced in April 2017 and is administered by the NEA. It helps industrial organisations, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), increase their energy efficiency. The E2F supports a variety of energy efficiency and low-carbon activities, including energy assessments and resource-efficient facility design. Currently, the E2F grant scheme co-funds up to 50% of such projects’ qualifying costs.
The E2F has financed 27 energy-efficient technological initiatives as of January 2022. LED lighting, high-efficiency air-conditioning systems, variable-speed air compressors, and boiler systems are among them. These projects have saved an estimated 1,600 tonnes of carbon each year, which is the equivalent of taking 500 cars off the road.
The amount of money given to projects will depend on how much carbon is saved. Higher financial funding is available for projects that deliver greater carbon reduction. From April 1, 2022, E2F applications accepted by NEA will be eligible for this higher support cap. The sector is encouraged to take advantage of the increased funding and invest in energy-efficient solutions as soon as possible.
NEA is also making it easier for businesses to use the E2F to save time and money. The procedure of measuring and verifying energy savings will be simplified, the same with the grant application and payment processes for conventional retrofit projects involving LED lights or small energy-efficient air conditioners.
Companies just getting started on their energy efficiency journeys should take advantage of the EETC’s affordable energy evaluations, which have been available since 2020 as a collaboration between the NEA and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).
The energy assessments will assist businesses in obtaining an accurate view of their present energy profile, allowing them to make informed decisions about the energy efficiency improvements they may make.
Aside from energy assessments, the EETC is also working to grow Singapore’s workforce, including training a pipeline of engineering students in industrial energy efficiency and upskilling existing engineers or energy efficiency practitioners.
As Singapore transitions to a low-carbon economy, NEA will collaborate with SIT to build the next phase of the EETC, which will focus on developing human capacities in energy efficiency. The EETC will be improved by the establishment of a training and simulation centre, which will allow learners to study and practice their craft in a controlled and safe environment while simulating real-world settings.
The grant aims to encourage manufacturers, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, to invest in energy-efficient equipment or technology by co-funding up to 70% of eligible costs, such as external labour, equipment, or technology, as well as professional services.
The award is available to any Singapore-registered owners or operators of existing or planned manufacturing facilities with a group annual sales turnover of less than S$500 million. The project’s implementation facility must be located and operational in Singapore.
The project must include the installation and usage of energy-efficient equipment or technology at an industrial facility with a documented track record of energy savings. The project must result in energy savings that can be measured and verified.
The Ministry of Communication and Information of Indonesia will take advantage of its internet connectivity to drive the development of the country’s digital ecosystem with the aim of creating more opportunities to promote the expansion of its digital economy.
Philip Gobang, Special Staff to the Minister of Communication and Information for Political Communication is ensuring that the proposed stages of implementing the Analogue Switch Off (ASO) run according to the government’s plan for 2022. He acknowledged that the migration of analogue broadcasts to a digital one offers many benefits for the community and the country. “The benefits we will get from the migration of analogue TV to digital TV are related to the internet and more integrated economic activities.”
He added by utilising access to internet services, various creative ideas can be generated for the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) businesses that can avail the opportunities and convenience to access a larger market by using the internet.
According to Gobang, the sooner people migrate to digital television, the more available the radio frequency spectrum will be for internet services. The spectrum that was previously reserved for analogue broadcasts can now be utilised to promote the digital economy. The Ministry of Communication and Informatics will continue to provide stimulus to the public so that the benefits of the ASO program can decrease the digital gap among the localities.
The so-called digital dividend, which is derived through the transfer of analogue TV transmissions to digital, is also an economic advantage for society. This boosts the digital economy’s growth all the more.
Since people were accessing and using internet services more frequently during the pandemic, digital economic growth grew every year. The ASO Programme, which is expected to be completed on 02 November 2022, will result in frequency savings that can be used as a digital dividend for cellular telecommunications services.
Digital TV broadcasting also creates a lot of job opportunities, as well as the formation of innovative firms that take advantage of the increasingly open digital arena, while the general people may enjoy digital broadcasts with a bigger network, faster access, and clearer picture.
Analogue TV Blank Spot Areas Will Be Reached by Digital TV Broadcasts
Meanwhile, Nursodik Gunarjo, Director of Media Management, Directorate General of Information and Public Communication (IKP), Ministry of Communication and Information announced that the digital TV broadcasts would reach the areas with “blank spots” or those places that TV transmissions have not filled.
According to Nursodik, the blank spot is caused by analogue TV broadcast technology’s inability to reach locations with varying geographical circumstances, such as the eastern part of Indonesia, particularly Papua, resulting in limited broadcast coverage.
As a result, after the ASO programme is implemented, the government, through its broadcasting institution has assured to establish digital TV broadcast network infrastructure in the leading, outermost, and underdeveloped areas, including the blank spots.
TVRI, the main national public television channel owned by the Republic of Indonesia plans to develop a network over the next two years so that the 226 blank spot regions can receive digital TV broadcasts.
The rise of community creativity in developing good and creative TV material with local expertise is also projected to be triggered by digital TV broadcasts. It will provide innovative content from local communities as digital TV broadcasts develop, and ASO hopes to decrease the challenges of TV broadcasting in Indonesia’s remote districts.
The first step of the transition from analogue to digital television transmission in Indonesia began in April of this year, with the second phase projected to be completed by August and is expected to finish before 2022 ends.
Digital transformation efforts by the Vietnam Social Security (VSS) have helped provide chip-based ID cards for health insurance at more than 4,000 medical facilities across the country. Over the years, VSS has improved its operational efficiency through IT applications to cater to 88 million people with health insurance. According to the Vice Director of VSS’s Information Technology Centre, VSS has been developing a national insurance database, while also sharing population data.
After the national population database was put into operation, VSS connected with the system and has been working with the Ministry of Public Security to link the demographic information. So far, the system has identified about 40 million people, the Vice Director stated. VSS has provided social and health insurance information for more than 21 million people to the national population database. VSS will continue to synchronise its data with the national population database to form a complete connection between insurance and population data.
The work is scheduled for completion by the end of 2022. In February, the Ministry of Health asked the health departments of localities and medical facilities across the country to pilot the use of chip-based ID cards for health check-ups and treatment services covered by health insurance. On 1 March, VSS started to implement the scheme in all of its branches nationwide.
The state aims to build an e-government, hoping to digitally transform its key operations, under the national digital transformation programme approved in 2020. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) issued electronic identification (eID) codes for its agencies and units. As reported by OpenGov Asia, the ministry gets the eID Level 1 code and the advisory units (the office, inspectorate, and authorities of the ministry) are issued Level 2 codes. Level 3 is for its departments and their subordinate centres, and Level 4 is for the Institute of Post and Telecommunications Technology and its subordinate units.
MIC has already launched a national data exchange platform (NDXP) to help connect, integrate, and share data among ministries, sectors, and localities nationwide. All 22 ministries, ministry-level agencies, and 63 provinces and cities are now connected with the NDXP. In the first quarter of 2022, more than 134.5 million transactions were made on the NDXP, surging 24-fold from a year earlier, according to MIC.
Furthermore, the National Committee on Digital Transformation has approved a plan to increase the rate of online public services to 80%, the rate of administrative procedures dossiers processed online to 50%, and the rate of digitisation of dossiers and results of administrative procedures to 100%. Also, it will increase the rate of reports made online by state administrative agencies to 50% as well as the rate of state agencies providing full open data by category to 50%. There are 18 tasks assigned to the committee’s members, which include universalising smartphones, electronic identities, and broadband fibre optic cables. The committee will enhance network information safety and security, develop electronic health records, support online teaching, and digitally transform small and medium-sized enterprises.
A novel technology designed to precisely image aggressive brain cancers and guide treatment is being developed by the University of South Australia and an Australian cancer diagnostic company potentially helping thousands of people who are diagnosed with the deadly condition each year. The new MRI nanotechnology targets a specific marker that is found in more than 90% of solid tumours, including high-grade brain cancers.
Already yielding promising preclinical results in a prostate cancer model, the new MRI technology has the potential to have a significant impact on aggressive brain cancers. The new funding will progress the technology towards a first-in-human trial.
UniSA’s Dr Nicole Dmochowska will lead the research, supported by a REDI Fellowship, announced recently. Dr Dmochowska says there is a critical need for better imaging of high-grade brain tumours. She noted that the prognosis for high-grade brain tumours such as glioblastoma remains abysmal, so new technologies that can potentially enable more precise targeting of tumours must be progressed.
The REDI Fellowship program provides financial support to companies in the medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals (MTP) sector to bring researchers, clinicians and MTP professionals in-house for up to twelve months to work on priority medical research projects.
This research will advance a cutting-edge imaging technology developed in collaboration with the partnering company and with the support of the NeuroSurgical Research Foundation designed to more accurately image and, therefore, treat brain tumours with no additional neurotoxicity.
Dr Hien Le, a radiation oncologist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and one of the Chief Investigators in the seed funding for this work, says the research has the potential to advance cancer treatments. “As someone who specialises in the management of brain cancer, I understand the importance of accurate tumour delineation.”
It was noted that better imaging means the tumour target can be more confidently defined, precise treatment delivery can be facilitated, whilst damage to normal healthy tissues can be minimised. In 2021, there were 1896 new diagnoses of brain cancer (1191 males and 725 females). Glioblastoma is the most common brain malignancy with a five-year survival rate of only 5%.
The R&D Manager at the company stated that the research will streamline preclinical validations for the technology for brain tumours, in preparation for a phase 1 ‘first-in-human’ clinical trial. She noted that the company is determined to transform the precision of cancer imaging, surgery and therapy to ensure that everyone diagnosed with cancer is given the best possible care.
The new technology builds on the firm’s cancer staging technology FerroTrace currently undergoing clinical trials in several cancer types. By bringing together the best minds in chemistry, bioengineering and oncology, the firm is continuing to push the boundaries to help make sure no one dies unnecessarily because the cancer was missed.
The global cancer diagnostics market size was valued at us$ 168 billion in 2020 and is projected to reach us$ 280 billion by 2028, registering a CAGR of 6.9% from 2021 to 2028. Cancer diagnostics is a method of identifying different biomarkers, proteins, and some signs that lead to the identification of the presence of a cancerous tumour.
Efficient diagnostic testing is used to validate or rule out the existence of illness, monitor the progression of the disease, and schedule and review treatment outcomes. Diagnostic procedures for cancer may include imaging, tumour biopsy, laboratory tests (including tests for tumour markers), endoscopic examination, surgery or genetic testing.
Nationwide lockdown, government regulations, and continuous increase in infection rates across countries created a widespread financial impact on neurology hospitals and clinics.