To support the objectives of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the second edition of the Singapore Energy Grand Youth Challenge will garner ideas using Minecraft: Education Edition (M:EE) from secondary school and junior college students on the following topic – “How would your carbon-free school or neighbourhood in Singapore look like in 2050?”.
The top three teams with the most innovative ideas in each of the two categories will be awarded up to $10,000 in cash prizes.
The Challenge is a partnership between the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and Microsoft Singapore, and supported by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). Registration starts 1 March 2021. It is held as part of the Singapore Together movement where Singaporeans can partner the government and one another to co-create solutions and realise the Green Plan.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a whole of nation movement to advance Singapore’s national agenda on sustainable development. The youth play an important role in reducing carbon emissions and saving resources and energy.
“As part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, Singapore is making the transition towards a carbon-free energy future. To achieve this, we need to change the way we produce and use energy. We encourage youth to envision how emerging low-carbon technologies like carbon capture and innovative energy efficiency solutions can make Singapore more sustainable in the future.” said Mr Ngiam Shih Chun, Chief Executive, Energy Market Authority.
To engage more youth on sustainability issues, this year’s Challenge has been expanded to include junior college students within the new Senior category, together with upper secondary students.
Lower secondary students will be placed in the Junior category. Members of the public will also be invited to vote for the entry which best resonates with their ideas for a carbon-free Singapore.
The inaugural Singapore Energy Grand Challenge for the Youth was launched in March 2020 and invited secondary school students to co-create Singapore’s Energy Story with the question “How would your energy efficient school or neighbourhood in Singapore look like in 2050?”.
92 teams across 29 secondary schools took part in the Challenge. Teams from Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary), Bedok Green Secondary School and St Hilda’s Secondary School were crowned the top three winners and their submissions can be viewed online.
Students interested to participate in this year’s Challenge may register online by 15 April 2021. Students must form teams of two to four schoolmates, and submit a three-minute video showcasing their idea for a carbon-free Singapore with their registration. Shortlisted teams will be contacted and invited to attend specialised workshops to help them with their final submissions.
All submissions will be judged by a panel of representatives from EMA, IMDA, Microsoft Singapore and relevant industry players according to the criteria of relevance, creativity, and presentation. The top three teams from both the Junior and Senior categories will receive their awards in end-July 2021.
The use of a simple organic molecule during the fabrication of a two-dimensional (2D) perovskite results in one of the highest recorded efficiencies for perovskite-based devices. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) employing this 2D perovskite material achieved an external quantum efficiency as high as 20.5%, which rivals the best organic LEDs, according to research co-led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU).
Led by Professor Andrey Rogach, Chair Professor at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, CityU, and his collaborator Professor Yang Xuyong from Shanghai University, the research team has worked on 2D perovskite materials and succeeded to realise such efficient and bright green LEDs.
Their technology yielded the best-reported performance on both current efficiency and external quantum efficiency. This work has now put the perovskite LEDs close on the heels of current commercial display technologies, such as organic LEDs.
The findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, titled “Smoothing the energy transfer pathway in quasi-2D perovskite films using methane sulfonate leads to highly efficient light-emitting devices”.
The key to the powerful change lies in the addition of around 10% of a simple organic molecule, called methane sulfonate. This molecule reconstructs the structure of the 2D perovskite nanosheets, while simultaneously enhancing exciton energy transfer between sheets of different thicknesses. It is also useful in reducing defects in the 2D perovskite structure, contributing to higher efficiency.
The consequences for producing better LEDs are encouraging. The brightness of 13,400 candela/m2 at a low applied voltage of 5.5 V and external quantum efficiency of 20.5% is recorded. This is close to the maximum that can be achieved by many existing LED technologies and has almost doubled the external quantum efficiency level of 10.5% reported in the previous collaborative study of the same groups two years ago.
“The CityU team has built up its expertise on perovskite materials to a very high level in a relatively short period of time, thanks to funding support from Senior Research Fellowship by the Croucher Foundation,” said Professor Rogach.
“The high brightness, excellent colour purity, and commercial-grade operating efficiency achieved marks 2D perovskites as an extremely attractive material for future commercial LEDs, and potentially also display technology. It’s a tangible outcome from both fundamental and applied research into novel nano-scale materials” he adds.
Other collaborators include researchers from CityU, Shanghai University, Jilin University, University of Science and Technology of China, Nankai University, Wuhan University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Innovation in LED tech
According to an earlier OpenGov Asia article, researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) have discovered a novel way to enhance the efficiency of the ultraviolet (UVC) light-emitting diode (LED) disinfection technique and developed a closet that could kill 99.99% of the bacteria and viruses on the garment inside within a minute. The closet is now in use at three special schools under Po Leung Kuk.
UVC is widely used for disinfecting purposes in private and public facilities, but the light source of existing UVC disinfection products are mainly mercury lamps, which not only has lower germicidal efficiency but is also bulkier with a much shorter lifespan than the LED light.
Moreover, mercury lamp has a longer disinfection cycle and requires time for warming up while LED emits light instantly. Since last year, over 140 nations, including the US, EU, China, Japan and Australia, have implemented a treaty on gradually phasing out the use of toxic mercury in commercial and industrial processes.
However, despite LED lights’ superiority over its mercury-based counterpart, it is not yet widely adopted in sterilisation products due to its narrow beam angle and low output efficiency with traditional single-layer reflector.
Dozens of students, lecturers, and officers at the Posts and Telecommunications Institute of Technology (PTIT) can now use motorbike parking services, keep track of class schedules, check exam scores, and pay for meals entirely on their smartphones.
PTIT is a key human resource research and development unit of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC). With the aim of promoting digital transformation to improve the quality of training and research, the Institute deployed the PTIT S-Link mobile application for students, lecturers, and managers with essential functions.
PTIT S-Link sends students alerts about an upcoming lesson. It notifies the user about learning subjects, venues, and other detailed information about the class. The app was made operational in late 2020 and has over 12,000 downloads.
According to a press release, a digital university is taking shape at PTIT. In September 2020, during a talk with PTIT members, the MIC Minister, Nguyen Manh Hung, noted that PTIT, a “miniature society” with young dynamic people has favourable conditions to build a digital society. To prepare the labour force for digital transformation, an online university is the best way to “train digital citizens”. The Institute plans to unveil D-Lab, an online practice platform, S-Class, a smart class platform, and an intelligence operation centre (IOC), shortly.
The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) said Vietnam is striving to become a leading country with a fully digitised educational sector. It wants to produce a Vietnamese workforce that has globally recognised digital transformation knowledge and skills.
Though the institute has been using IT in its activities for many years, it still faces difficulties upgrading the application. The biggest problem is the lack of a digital university model and transformation at the Institute. In the first period, PTIT is focused on researching and shaping the architecture of the digital university and completing the digital transformation plan by 2025.
With the spirit of carrying out digital transformation in accordance with the “miniature digital nation”, the institute studied national policies and built its digital transformation plan under the three pillars of the national digital transformation programme: digital administration, service, and society.
“The fourth quarter of 2020 and first quarter of 2021 will be the time for the institute to cooperate with a digital technology firm to build a digital university,” Hung said. The Minister’s proposal spurred on development in the institute, the release noted.
In December 2020, Minister Hung stated that one digital university has likely become eligible for pilot transformation. With instructions from the Minister, the institute has become one of the pioneers in building and applying a digital university model. PTIT is not, however, the only digital school in the country.
The targets set in the Hanoi National University’s development strategy by 2030 are: reforming teaching methods towards modernisation, integrating personalisation into IT platforms, and creating learner-centric infrastructure. It also aims to establish intelligent university management and organisation models, execute comprehensive digital transformation in all activities, and operate the shared digital data knowledge system synchronously. The university will interconnect data for effective administration, management, and the renewal of teaching, learning, and research activities. One of the key tasks in 2021-2025 of the school is perfecting the modern university management and organisation model in association with building smart universities.
The Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Education (DepEd) strengthened the partnership between the agencies to clear the path towards the digitalisation of the education sector with the establishment of the Public Education Network (PEN).
The DICT and DepEd started coordinating on the development of the PEN last year. It is aligned with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year for both agencies to connect all schools, especially last-mile schools, and DepEd offices nationwide.
Under the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed between the two agencies, the DICT will provide medium to long-term assistance to DepEd, including the allocation of bandwidth from the DICT’s high-speed Internet infrastructure project, augmentation of DepED’s future satellite capacity through DICT’s existing very small aperture technology (VSAT) satellite and teleport facilities, the building of internet backbone up to last-mile schools under the DICT’s National Broadband Programme (NBP), and the provision of data transport service using DICT’s fibre optic network under the Government Network (GovNet) project and Microwave towers.
Under the agreement, the DICT will also give immediate assistance to the DepEd on advocating for the presence of ICT service providers in public school premises; provisioning of online resources, materials, and systems for educational use; giving teachers and learners access to DICT’s Tech4Ed facilities and its attached computer laboratories and research facilities; and coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), among others.
The agencies also inked a separate MOA for the use of suitable real estate properties owned or under the administration of DepEd as sites or locations for the implementation of DICT’s Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure (PTTI) or the Common Tower Initiative.
According to the DICT, education shall continue to play a key role in the socio-economic prosperity of a nation. Hence, the country needs to envision how education can emerge stronger, more responsive, and more effective from this global crisis than ever before. To do this, the agency is continuously assisting the DepEd with the transition from a traditional classroom setting to blended learning and shall continue to draw on the benefits provided by ICT to make this shift possible.
The DepEd said this partnership is designed not only to deal with COVID-19 but also to deal with the future. The agency hopes to improve the education sector with the help of partner agencies.
Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the Philippine Full Digital Transformation Act of 2020 mandates all government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), instrumentalities and Local Government Units (LGUs) to adopt a digital plan that aligns with the Philippine Digital Transformation Strategy 2022.
With COVID-19, digital transformation in the government has taken on a sense of urgency. Contract tracing and distribution of aid could be smoother if data is harmonised, and digital systems are put in place more comprehensively. Lawmakers in the country plan to harmonise collected personal data of Philippine citizens, businesses, land, and transactions, among others. Further, it will open opportunities that will likely drive the government to invest in developing additional organisational capability and staff competencies.
With all these plans taking on urgency in the light of the pandemic, the government predicts it will be expedient to build a Digital Transformation Department to manage the ambitious and yet highly practical investment. The department would be expected to support and roll out the office’s digital transformation strategy. Lawmakers in the country stressed that there is no reason to delay the drive to realise the full modernisation of government services to serve Philippine citizens – adequately, efficiently, and securely.
The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) announced the launch of the #SayaDigital Movement on a national level. This initiative had been originally introduced to improve the digital skills of Malaysians, enabling them to seize opportunities in the digital economy.
It also includes being fully aligned with the country’s ongoing economic recovery plan. This initiative will provide strong support to the Malaysian Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL) that the Prime Minister announced in February 2021.
MDEC’s implementation programme is strongly supported by the Prime Minister’s Department; Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia; Ministry of Rural Development and Community; and Rural Internet Center. This is due to its ongoing focus on four main themes, namely, Digital Simplifies Life; Digital Increases Income; Digital Empowers Careers; and Digital Expands Business.
The programme is designed to get the B40 group, youths and senior citizens involved with the digital economy. To kickstart the momentum of #SayaDigital, three pilot programmes were held to raise the digital literacy awareness involving 301 participants, with the latest being held at Kampung Desa Temuan in Bukit Lanjan last month.
The participants attended a series of interactive workshops that exposed them to the digital skills needed to face challenges in the new normal.
This year’s #SayaDigital Movement focuses on four components, namely, training young people to become “Geng #SayaDigital” volunteers; creating awareness through digital literacy activities; conducting digital readiness assessments; and providing basic digital skills training to the community.
To date, 25 “Geng #SayaDigital” have already been formed including those in Sabah and Sarawak to further enhance the programme nationwide. The campaign, as a whole, aims to benefit 10,000 Malaysians in socio-economically vulnerable rungs across the country.
Concurrently, participants who have registered online have been connected to major MDEC programmes such as eUsahawan, PeDAS, eRezeki, MyDigitalMaker, GLOW and eBerkat. Presently, these programmes have benefited Malaysians through digital skills enhancement, digitally-driven business, involvement in the e-commerce sector, and workforce participation on global digital platforms.
In addition, eight #SayaDigital online programmes have been streamed via Facebook Live and have already gained more than 16,000 views to date.
“MDEC’s move to launch #SayaDigital to enhance digital skills among the B40 group, youths, senior citizens, and socio-economically vulnerable groups is timely as our country strives to achieve its ambition of becoming a major regional digital economy market. This is in line with the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030), an initiative that will not marginalise any groups of people,” the Prime Minister of Malaysia stated.
The Minister of Communications and Multimedia stated that #SayaDigital supports MyDIGITAL’s comprehensive strategy that sets out a roadmap to achieve the vision of making Malaysia a regional leader in the digital economy by 2030.
Through this, the Government aims to create 500,000 jobs; implement digitalisation initiatives to benefit 875,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro-entrepreneurs, and become the catalyst for 5,000 start-ups.
MDEC had designed 12 adaptation and digital literacy programmes with 2,000 participants who are expected to participate in a basic digital literacy training course. They will be working closely with 100 volunteers who are also known as “Geng #SayaDigital” ambassadors.
Participants will answer the Digital Readiness Assessment to measure their level of digital literacy. The test results will then determine the Basic Digital Literacy Learning Module that they will be assigned to. The programme also includes three main modules – digital communication; internet banking and e-wallet; and digital service applications that are used in other countries.
The MDEC Chairman said that the goals outlined in MyDIGITAL are based on the confidence that we can empower Malaysians to face challenges head-on that the new norm had brought about. After all, the goal is to create a technology-integrated society through Malaysia 5.0.
Equipping people with digital capabilities is a key factor for the synergy between digital infrastructure and the digitally-skilled workforce that acts as the backbone for a sustainable digital ecosystem in Malaysia, he added.
The Chief Executive Officer of MDEC noted that individuals with efficient digital skills such as coding, animation, Big Data analysis, machine learning and Cloud Computing are greatly needed in driving forward the digital economy during this pandemic.
According to the latest MDEC study, there are currently 47,000 digital job opportunities advertised on major job search portals in Malaysia. This shows that the country’s digital-skilled labour market remains competitive amid these challenging times. It also provides a sign of the country’s digital economic growth.
The #SayaDigital campaign kickstarted in 2020 as MDEC’s efforts to support Malaysians and local businesses to step up digitalisation measures that will help to reduce the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.
Through the campaign, MDEC introduced several initiatives, such as SME Digital Summit; #YoungCreators Movement; #MYDigitalWorkforce Week; and Gig and Freelance Expo (GFX) as high-impact engagements for those who want to improve their skills as well as for young individuals just entering the workforce.
Leveraging MDEC’s extensive network of international experts and companies, participants gained opportunities to get the best advice and tools from leading industry leaders to assist them in exploring their respective digital journeys.
India is pushing to meet its target to have one million electric two-wheelers on road by March 2022 under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme. The electric mobility sector suffered from a post lockdown-induced dip in sales but is on the road to recovery.
The electric vehicle segment sold 135,000 units of EVs in the last financial year (2020-21), according to a news report. Two-wheeler and three-wheeler EVs made up for nearly 96% of the sales during this period. Three-wheeler EVs made up about 65% of all EV registrations. The two-wheeler EVs contributed around 30% of all EV registrations during the same period. The two-wheeler EVs sold during this period only includes the ones with speeds greater than or equal to 25 kmph.
The report explained that while Delhi has taken several steps to promote electric vehicles with its EV policy, it does not figure as one of the top EV markets in India yet. The top three spots are owned by the states Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Karnataka.
Uttar Pradesh alone contributed 23% of the country’s sales, with 31,584 EVs sold in FY21. The top 10 states together made 88% of all EVs sold in India. Tripura, however, leads with the highest share of EVs per 1,000 internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, with 52 EVs sold for every 1,000 ICE vehicles in FY21.
An industry expert said that electric mobility is poised to be at the forefront of India’s green recovery. In the coming years, the Central and state governments need to reduce uncertainty by rolling out detailed and clear long-term policies. Further, targeted efforts are needed to solve critical challenges such as higher upfront cost of EVs, lack of end-user financing, consumer range anxiety, and inaccessible charging.
The report highlighted that electric vehicle registrations formed 0.88% of all vehicle registrations in India during the period, which is the highest share ever achieved. Since 2011-12, India has added over 638,000 electric vehicles on the road so far.
FAME’S second phase has achieved only 4.25% of its sales targets till now. One of the major barriers could likely be that buyers are not aware of the incentives available, like user subsidies and significant exemptions from road tax and registration fees.
Another important aspect in electric mobility, which has remained a concern for all, is the charging infrastructure. India still has less than a thousand EV charging stations across the country. Among them, Andhra Pradesh leads other states with 433 public charging stations. Telangana with 160 and Karnataka with 126 public EV charging stations are placed second and third. Delhi features at fourth with only 78 public EV charging stations.
Recently, the Minister of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Nitin Gadkari claimed that lithium-ion batteries are to be manufactured fully in the country over the next six months. India is set to become the number one EV maker in the world soon. He said that the government is also working to launch hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technology. It uses chemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen to generate electrical energy, eliminating the use of fossil fuels. E-mobility will be an important tool to develop pollution-free transport.
Two tech firms operating under the Hong Kong Smart Government Innovation Lab recently announced that they have launched new solutions which are now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.
Solution one – City Traffic Simulation System
The system that the firm provides allows users to trial virtual routes using dummy cars (virtual vehicles) so that they can experience the latest routes and collect feedback on them without having to wait until the roads are built to find out the problems.
Firstly, the system can improve the effectiveness of traffic route design. Secondly, the system can reduce and avoid road traffic congestion caused by road design. Third, collected data can be used for further development of many other technologies including autonomous driving AI.
The solution was developed to be applied in the areas of City Management, Commerce and Industry, Development, Environment, Health, Housing, Population, Recreation and Culture, Social Welfare as well as Transport.
The developed using the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Analytics, Deep Learning and Virtual Reality.
The collected data can be used for the further development of many other technologies, including autonomous driving artificial intelligence. Although the development of this new technology requires a lot of data, the firm found that realistic and games are the perfect tool for acquiring large amounts of data.
Solution two – micro-segmentation solution
The second innovation is a micro-segmentation solution that prevents the spread of breaches inside data centres and cloud environments. Various global enterprises use the firm’s system to reduce cyber risk and achieve regulatory compliance.
The firm’s platform uniquely protects critical information with real-time application dependency and vulnerability mapping coupled with micro-segmentation that works across any data centre, public cloud, or hybrid cloud deployment on bare-metal, virtual machines, and containers.
The solution was meant to be applied across the areas of Broadcasting, City Management, Climate and Weather, Commerce and Industry, Development, Education, Employment and Labour, Environment, Finance, Food, Health, Housing, Infrastructure, Law and Security, Population, Recreation and Culture, Social Welfare, Transport as well as in public organisations.
The solution employs the latest in Data Analytics, Deep Learning, Machine Learning and Cybersecurity.
The tech company has assisted many organisations to reduce firewall complexity rules by 95%. Moreover, the solutions have seen 15,000 firewalls rules reduced to 40 security policies and had saved over US$300,000 in labour and transformation costs.
The firm also segmented development and production environments without having to shift infrastructure or re-architect their network, saving over US$200,000 in re-architecture costs.
The tech company provides precise protection of critical applications, enabling Zero Trust control against the spread of potential attacks, easy-to-deploy micro-segmentation with quick time to value; reliability and confidence from testing; visibility for cross-team collaboration; and millions in savings vs. ACI and NGFWs.
About the Smart Government Innovation Lab
In 2018, the Government established the Smart Government Innovation Lab to explore hi-tech products such as AI and relevant technologies, including machine learning, big data analytics, cognitive systems and intelligent agent, as well as blockchain and robotics from firms, especially local start-ups.
The Lab is always on the lookout for innovation and technology (I&T) solutions that are conducive to enhancing public services or their operational effectiveness. I&T suppliers are encouraged to regularly visit the Lab’s website to check on the current business and operational needs in public service delivery and propose innovative solutions or product suggestions to address them.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series covering the Public Sector Innovation Day – Singapore. Read Part 1 here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the world. It has ushered in a new normal, bringing a different era of governance and business operations. Technology is at the fore of this front, helping adapt to these disruptive changes in an unprecedented manner. The scale of this transformation is incredible – experts say CVOID-19 has driven two years of digital transformation in two months.
The public sector is at the heart of the response to COVID-19. The response has required action on multiple fronts, using technology advancements, not just for health measures, but to aid efforts to mitigate the economic effects on households, firms, and industries.
The crisis has drawn attention to the tools and technologies that governments need to have to protect their citizens and enterprises as agencies struggle to minimise associated negative impact, deliver public services, and ensure the continued development of critical national infrastructure.
A digitally enabled government must go beyond merely digitising processes and offering services online. It must also find innovative ways to raise productivity in workplaces and bring convenience and efficient services to citizens.
As the world prepares for the new normal and all the economic, social, and political question marks that accompany it, many are looking to the tools of data science to continue to inform this trajectory. Advanced data science, and the technology it powers, is rapidly becoming an essential component of nearly every industry.
The Singapore government, too, is looking to ramp up the adoption of digital technologies and the nation to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Simultaneously national tech agencies developing new digital tools and services to support citizens and businesses. This requires a comprehensive approach including the ability to rapidly integrate new data, make accurate, multilevel forecasts and provide data-driven insights for policymakers.
Now, even as the journey to a post-COVID-19 recovery has begun, the question is still relevant: does the public sector has the necessary tools and technologies to respond effectively, recover quickly, rebound efficiently and reimagine the future which is critical to national interests?
OpenGov Asia held a Public Sector Innovation Day 1 for Singapore at Intercontinental Singapore. The session aimed to impart knowledge on how public sector agencies can accelerate digital transformation and innovation to emerge stronger post-COVID-19.
Attended by key policymakers from the public sector and technology industry experts, the session served as a great peer-to-peer learning platform to gain insights and practical solutions to understand the value of cutting-edge technologies available to make better, faster, and more cost-effective, data-driven decisions that make a difference in the lives of the citizens post-pandemic.
How COVID-19 Accelerated Public Sector’s Digital Transformation
To kickstart the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia delivered opening remarks.
As early as 2019, there was consensus on the benefits of remote working, but it did not happen in any significant way. Then, at the end of 2019 came a crisis so debilitating that it brought the world to a halt almost overnight and it kept going relentlessly.
but not all were equipped to do so and many just emulated what the other countries were doing. None the less, public services globally have been significantly boosted.
Countries from all over the world were looking to adapt to the challenge. Citizens needed access to government services more intensely and urgently. New information and data were being generated incessantly, necessitating new plans and decisions.
In the early stages, people were excited at the opportunity to work from home. Interestingly though, the step was considered a “pivot” – with the connotation of reaction rather than strategic. People and organisations were said to be “pivoting” to manage and mitigate the issues the pandemic brought like making people work from anywhere, anytime.
Beyond a doubt, the public sector did its job in terms of providing relevant services and initiatives throughout the age of COVID-19. But the question remains, were those initiatives innovative and intentional and sustainable? Were they just a good-to-have or a must-have?
The good brings with it the bad, the unsafe and the difficult. As the initial euphoria of remote working wears thin, people, once happy about the shift, realise that the new normal disrupts their work-life balance and their well-being. Other measures are facing the same reaction. Lacking data, this so-called digital transformation is rapidly losing its sheen and is being considered a band-aid solution.
With COVID-19 seemingly waning and the economy starting to open, governments are looking for ways to boost their economy. In this sea of change and disruption, often reverting to the known is comforting. Knowing this penchant, Mohit asked the delegates, “Do we want to go back to the old norm because it was beneficial at that time? Or should we welcome the wider adoption of technologies that helped us adjust to the new norm?”
Mohit reminded the delegates that by staying true to the lessons learned from COVID-19 and by increasing the usage of technologies like AI, Cloud and Data Analytics, agencies can move further along on their digital transformation journey.
Governments must find the right balance in their digital transformation journey between technology, people, and processes. They must also find leadership and the will to empower the workforce with the right tools to achieve the ultimate end goal of a complete digital transformation in the new normal.
In closing, Mohit emphasised the need for agencies to find a suitable partner in this digital journey. They must find the right people who do what they do best for them to stay on the right path towards a full digital transformation.
Responsible and ethical use of AI in the public sector challenges, and best practices
After Mohit’s opening remarks, the forum heard from Dr Ian Oppermann, Chief Data Scientist and CEO, NSW Data Analytics Centre, NSW Government on how the public sector can use AI responsibly and ethically.
Highlighting the importance of data, Ian said it now affects all aspects of citizen-focused outcomes, based on life journeys such as starting a family, education, jobs, serious illness and injury and retirement plans. In New South Wales (NSW), data has been empowering these social and community areas and will be used to assess the performance of future smart initiatives developed by the NSW Government and its partners.
NSW recently released a Smart Places Strategy with a citizen-centric view, building on years of work and enhanced by digital twins, data sharing, security and privacy. The NSW government Smart Places is is designed to deliver outcomes to benefit the citizens, businesses, employees and partners.
The outcomes span six key areas and were developed using insights from engagement with communities across regional and metropolitan NSW. The Smart Places Strategy focuses on:
- Skills, jobs, and development: grow knowledge capital of people and businesses in NSW to benefit from the transition of the global economy
- Safety and security: provide safer places for people and increase a sense of security
- Environmental quality: (increase sustainability by reducing emissions, resource consumption and environmental impacts
- Equity, accessibility, and inclusion: will improve physical and digital access for the people of NSW to participate in economic and civic life
- Health and well-being: improve the quality of life and well-being for the people of NSW
- Collaboration and connection: bring people, businesses and governments, their data, and services together in a seamless way
More recently the NSW government launched an AI Strategy programme to improve service delivery and government decision-making. Undeniably, AI can play a key role in automating inefficient and manual processes to deliver better services to citizens and free up staff time for more critical or frontline work. AI can also assist in decision-making concerning resource allocation based on community need.
However, Ian confirmed, AI will not be used to make unilateral decisions that impact citizens or their human rights. While can assist in decision-making and service delivery, any AI-informed decision remains the responsibility of the agency using the technology. The government will carefully monitor the consequences of such decisions.
Further, the NSW Government approach is clear that no AI-informed decision will be made without those impacted being able to access a quick and efficient review. Citizens should be able to understand how their data is being used and for what purpose. Additional safeguards will need to be in place to ensure the right questions are being asked of the technology and that the correct legislative interpretation is informing the AI solution.
Recognising the speed at which technology develops and the need to build AI maturity, the immediate implementation of a mandatory AI policy and user guide was necessary. The policy sets clear requirements that agencies must address before sourcing and using AI. It will ensure a consistent approach to privacy, security, transparency and procurement of AI solutions.
Ian felt it was important that AI adopters know the key points and phases to consider when deploying AI systems namely:
- Pre-deployment phase: choose a data set that closely resembles the production system, select tools to test data, identify and eliminate data biases, execute non-functional testing, and perform data sanity checks.
- Post-deployment phase: review output from continuous feedback, establish failure threshold, use AI-monitoring platform(s) to identify code progressions, classify any required changes, identify new data parameters.
Most AI systems are unable to determine whether a task is appropriate or ethical. For AI systems to be successful, testers need to define the operational boundaries of the system and monitor them periodically to pre-empt problems. AI assurance systems utilise both human expertise and technology monitoring to help improve AI performance.
Reliant on data for training, AI adapts over time and show sensitivities to the quality of outputs. The learning allows the tool to generate better / more accurate results than earlier. AI algorithm may be extremely sensitive to the quality of data sets much more than others; e.g. adult/ not adult versus date of birth. An algorithm may initially produce a high-quality result but drift over time once an initial supervision training period is completed.
Ian feels that, ultimately, agencies must ensure a solid framework to help understand the entire data lifecycle from its storage up to the point of knowing its purpose. As better tools are built and more precise data microscopes and AI programmes are created, they must be used to deliver value to citizens.
Fireside chat: How can the public sector leverage data revolution to respond, recover and reimagine next-gen citizen-centric services?
The session proceeded to the fireside chat segment where Mohit and Remco den Heijer Vice President – ASEAN SAS discussed how the public sector can leverage data revolution to respond, recover and reimagine next-gen citizen-centric services.
Mohit started the discussion by asking Remco den Heijer how he sees data as the heart of the COVID-19 recovery. Remco explained that data analytics and AI are the perfect elements in terms of recovering from the pandemic because data is everywhere, both in the private and public sectors.
The world should embrace technologies that are scaling and continuously evolving. Disruptive technologies can extract actionable insights from this data, which is why both sectors must use this development and advantage to recover from the pandemic. Software, hardware, and related skills must be enhanced to leverage technology and data for recovery purposes. Technologies that are scaling and continuously evolving should be embraced.
Remco touched on the topic of AI being used by governments in their processes. AI adopters, he advises, must continuously update their AI models with new and updated data to strengthen their predictive capabilities that will provide possible solutions for present endeavours. He is convinced that that AI functions at its finest when it is incorporated with human intelligence. Having that human lens on top of the tech will always be an important aspect.
Remco urged delegates to continue doubling down on networks and partnerships and to continue learning from each other in this journey.
Power Talk and Interactive Discussion
After the informative presentations from distinguished speakers, Mohit joined Benedict Tan, Group Chief Digital Strategy Officer and Chief Data Officer, Singapore Health Services, Jason Loh, Head of Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, Asia Pacific, Global Tech Practice, SAS, Dr Steve Bennett, Director -Public Sector and Financial Services Practice, SAS, and Dr Yemaya Bordain, Director – IOTG Global, Public Sector Sales, Intel in the session’s Power Talk segment aided with polling questions.
In this uniquely formatted session, the audience was asked to vote in real-time to a set of questions. Speakers reflect on the responses and share their perspectives, making it a highly interactive and engaging session.
In the first poll, delegates were asked what percentage of their workforce would continue working remotely for the next six to twelve months. Over 57% of the delegates said between a quarter to a half (26%-50%) of their workforce will continue working from home.
Continuing along this line, the delegates were also asked if they think public sector employees would be allowed to work from home for more than 60% of the time. Votes were almost evenly divided, with 37% saying no, 33% felt they would be allowed and 29% were not sure.
Reflecting on this issue, Dr Steve Bennett felt that the emotional attachment between workers and a feeling of connectedness was what was missing in this new working structure. Technology must fill in the void of informal/personal connections only attained by working on site. So, while the current set up is good, he believes, there are ways to go beyond what is being applied today.
Benedict Tan added to this discussion by pointing out the limitations of remote working for the healthcare sector. The medical and care arena is not likely to further adopt the new working set up as hospitals and healthcare facilities are designed to be utilised on-site. Beyond the healthcare sector, he believes new infrastructure should improve on these new processes.
Dr Yemaya said that the new normal and the adjustments it brought made people appreciate how much innovation helped in an impromptu manner. However, from a citizen’s perspective, she explained that not having visible on-site workers to deliver public services can be problematic. Citizens sometimes think that if there is no one to facilitate these services personally, they are sub-par, even though results are consistent for physical and digital setups.
On being asked about how well equipped is the public sector in supporting a 75% remote workforce, almost half of the delegates said there is a lack of collaboration tools for seamless remote work and the appropriate solutions are still be explored. The remaining group (42%) said they have the tools needed to allow remote work seamlessly.
Dr Yemaya Bordain firmly believes that if governments can find the right collaboration tools in this new working set up, it would boost the morale of their workers who will adopt this change in engagement.
In the new working environment, Jason Loh felt that people are more connected than ever before because remote working bridges gaps and crosses borders effectively.
Delegates were about the ways on how they measure the level of satisfaction of their hybrid workforce. Just over half (52%) indicated they have the tools but are not sure of the effectiveness. About a third (32%) said that they would like to measure the level of satisfaction and productivity of employees and are looking for appropriate solutions.
In light of the previous answers, delegates were asked if they felt they were in the right position to roll out new citizen services or initiative while having a remote workforce. An overwhelming majority (81%) felt they were well placed to do so but they have limited functionalities. Just under a fifth (18%) said they would like to roll out these new citizen services, but they need help to do it.
Dr Steve Bennett agreed that there was a wide range of positive outcomes when working remotely but the issue of burnout does come up. Governments and organisations must find the right balance in this new working environment.
Asked about data playing an integral role in recovery plans post-pandemic, 91% of the delegates agreed that data would be critical in the world’s recovery phase.
However, Dr Yemaya Bordain said that the usage of data needs to be in context and must apply to all backgrounds. It needs to have details attached to it to reap its benefits.
Exploring the obstacles, the agencies should overcome to make data science and AI useful and integral in crises, 45% agreed that the lack of skills poses the biggest challenge. A quarter (25%) considered the change in public sector policies as an obstacle while the remaining 25% felt that cultural shifts hinder the adoption of these technologies.
To round off the discussion, delegates were asked about the areas they plan to prioritise in terms of IT spending for the second half of 2021. Over a third (37%) said they would invest in advanced analytics and AI, while 12% indicated spending for communications technologies and automation workflows software was a priority.
The OpenGov Public Innovation Day 2 – Singapore – Virtual Edition ended with the closing remarks from Remco den Heijer.
At the end of the day, Remco said, the public sector exists to serve citizens. If anything can be done to improve, or even save lives, that is rewarding enough. He added that the digital age is an exciting time to be in, and governments must utilise this era to improve more lives. The promise of data analytics, AI and other disruptive technologies are real. To reap their full benefits, everyone must be open to partnerships, collaborations, sharing data, technology choices, and exploring new ideas – connectedness must be promoted if the world is to learn and improve as a society.
For more on OpenGov Asia’s Public Sector Innovation Day – Singapore: “Accelerating Digital Transformation, Resiliency, and Innovation for Public Sector in Post-Pandemic Recovery”, read Part 1 here.