The Singapore Government have announced a $49 million Low-Carbon Energy Research Funding Initiative at the Singapore International Energy Week 2020. It will support research, development and demonstration projects in low-carbon energy technologies such as hydrogen; and carbon capture, utilisation and storage over the next five years.
These efforts aim to accelerate the technical and economic viability of such emerging technologies to reduce Singapore’s carbon emissions, particularly for emissions-intensive areas like the power and industrial sectors.
Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing said, “Hydrogen, and carbon capture, utilisation and storage, are promising technologies that have the potential to transform Singapore’s energy landscape and help us achieve our long-term emissions reduction goals. This new funding initiative strengthens our current efforts, and will accelerate our transition towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.”
Research projects could include technologies that enable the effective capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from low-concentration emission sources in the industrial and power sectors, and to convert the CO2 into useful products such as building materials, reclamation sand and synthetic fuels.
Test-beds for emerging technologies, such as the blending of low-carbon hydrogen with natural gas in combined cycle gas turbines, will reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation. These test-beds could yield insights in applying low carbon technologies in Singapore’s context, and facilitate future deployment.
Multi Government Agency Initiative
This funding initiative is a multi-agency involving the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the Economic Development Board (EDB), the Energy Market Authority (EMA), the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). It will be co-driven by EDB and EMA to ensure projects are relevant to the industrial and power sectors, with A*STAR as the implementing agency on behalf of the Government.
This initiative seeks to build a more sustainable energy future by harnessing the four switches of energy supply, one of which is the use of low-carbon alternatives. It supports Singapore’s vision for a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced the launch of the 6th edition of the Global FinTech Hackcelerator, with the theme “Harnessing Technology to Power Green Finance”.
The competition aims to unlock the potential of FinTech in accelerating the development of green finance in Singapore and the region. FinTech firms and solution providers around the world are invited to submit innovative solutions to address over 50 problem statements that have been collected from financial institutions and green finance industry players.
These problem statements focus on three key challenges: Mobilising Capital, Monitoring Commitment and Measuring Impact.
Mr Sopnendu Mohanty, Chief FinTech Officer of MAS said, “Green FinTech can be an important enabler to accelerate Asia’s transition to a low carbon future. It can provide much needed innovative solutions, and develop the crucial technology stack, which can help promote green financial services, catalyse efficient allocation of green capital, and facilitate trust in the green data value chain. I encourage all innovators to make use of this platform and showcase their Green FinTech solutions to the world.”
Up to 15 finalists will be shortlisted for a virtual programme where they will be paired with a Corporate Champion (Corporate Champions are teams from Singapore-based financial institutions or organisations that mentor finalists during the Hackcelerator, working with them to refine and contextualise the solution) to develop customised prototypes on the API Exchange (APIX).
APIX is a product of the ASEAN Financial Innovation Network and is a not-for-profit entity formed by the MAS, the International Finance Corporation and the ASEAN Bankers Association, with the objective of supporting financial innovation and inclusion around the world
Each finalist will also receive a S$20,000 cash stipend and be eligible for a fast-tracked application for the MAS Financial Sector Technology and Innovation Scheme Proof-of-Concept Grant of up to S$200,000. Finalists will pitch their solutions at the Demo Day held at this year’s Singapore FinTech Festival.
The Singapore FinTech Festival is the world’s largest FinTech festival and a global platform for the FinTech community comprising FinTech players, technopreneurs, policymakers, financial industry leaders, investors including private equity players and venture capitalists and academics.
It will be held on 8 to 12 November 2021. Up to three winners will be selected, with each receiving S$50,000 in prize money. All FinTech firms and solution providers should submit their applications for the MAS Global FinTech Hackcelerator by 11 June 2021.
The implementation of TraceTogether-only SafeEntry (TT-only SE) will be brought forward to 17 May 2021 from the previously announced 1 June 2021.
This means all venues that are required to enforce SE check-in will be required to implement TT-only SE from 17 May 2021. These venues are those that experience higher throughput of visitors such as malls, workplaces, places of worship, schools and educational institutions, as well as places where people are likely to be in close proximity for prolonged periods like dine-in food and beverage outlets and gyms.
This move aims to achieve greater coverage and active participation in the TT Programme, especially for venues or settings where community spread is most likely to occur.
It will strengthen digital contact tracing and help the government better manage the recent rise in community cases, some of which are currently unlinked and have resulted in the formation of community clusters. With more effective digital contact tracing, the speed of isolating close contacts will be improved.
Implementation of TT-only SE
With the nationwide implementation of TT-only SE on 17 May 2021, SE check-in must be performed using a TT App or Token by: using the TT App to scan the venue’s QR code; displaying a TT Token so that a venue staff can scan the TT Token’s QR code or tapping the TT App or TT Token at a SafeEntry Gateway device.
Other modes of SE check-in such as launching your phone’s camera to scan a venue’s QR code and using Singpass App will be discontinued from 17 May 2021. To help ease the transition, scanning of barcodes on personal IDs will be retained until 31 May 2021.
SEGW required to be deployed at more venues
From 15 June 2021, more public-facing venues where people are likely to be in contact for prolonged periods, such as food and beverage dine-in outlets, hotels, and sports and fitness centres, will be required to deploy SafeEntry Gateway (SEGW) to facilitate SE check-in, and help users check that their TT Token is working. The SEGW will not light up or emit a beep sound if the TT Token is not working.
Venue operators can either download the SafeEntry (Business) App to use the SEGW function, or set up the SEGW Box. Venues that are required to deploy the SEGW will be able to apply for free SEGW Boxes. More information on how venue operators can apply for the SEGW Box is available on the SE Website.
TT App Update and TT Token Battery Replacement
As effective contact tracing requires the active usage of the TT App and Token, TT App users should ensure that their App is updated to the latest version, turn on their Bluetooth, and keep the App active in the background; while Token users should ensure that their Token has not run out of battery and always have the Token with them when they leave home.
TT Token users can check if their Token is working by looking out for a green light that blinks about once every minute. If the Token is blinking red, or if there is no light at all, users should replace their Token at any Community Club/Centre (CC), or at Token replacement booths set up at selected malls. Those who have not collected the Token can also do so at any CC islandwide. More information can be found on the TokenGoWhere website.
Importance of TT and SE
The TT Programme and SE are important digital tools that enable contact tracers to quickly identify and isolate close contacts of COVID-19 cases.This also helps to break transmission chains and prevent community outbreaks. While TT data identifies an initial list of close contacts, SE data provides the list of places visited by COVID-19 cases to help Singapore’s contact tracers establish cluster links. The combined use of these digital tools has enabled us to reduce the average time taken to contact trace from 4 days to less than 1.5 days.
These digital tools enable close contacts to be quickly isolated, and the general public to be alerted if they had been to places visited by COVID-19 cases, such as through the TT App or at wereyouthere.safeentry.gov.sg (with Singpass login).
They would then be able to take the precaution of monitoring their health closely for 14 days from the date of visit. Recently, more than 18,000 SMS alerts have been sent to individuals identified by SE as having been to places visited by COVID-19 cases linked to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital cluster.
With the recent community cases, active participation in the TT Programme is crucial for effective contact tracing. Singapore government urges co-operation to use either the TT App or Token, and to remain on guard in the fight against COVID-19.
The number of data breach alerts that the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) of Singapore received, tripled in the February-March period compared with the previous two months.
This comes amid a string of potential personal data leaks reported in recent months. Legal and information technology security experts said the increase could have been due to a new data breach notification requirement companies must follow as well as rising cyber-security threats.
As per reports, the PDPC stated that the February-March breach alerts it received involved organisations such as those from the finance, retail and manufacturing sectors. The personal data compromised in those cases included names, e-mail addresses, personal identity numbers, financial details, phone numbers and postal addresses. Experts said the data could be used for attempts to, for instance, take over victims’ online accounts to spread malware or transfer money to hackers.
PDPC added that data breaches are often caused by human error as well as malicious activities such as phishing or cyber-attacks.
Meanwhile, a United States-based cyber risk analytics firm said while it does not have comprehensive data for Singapore, it still recorded at least three data breaches in the first quarter. This is already a third of the at least nine cases it logged for Singapore for the whole of last year.
The biggest case recorded in Singapore for January to March this year was that for a furniture retailer. In that data breach, a hacker group claimed to have stolen the data of more than 300,000 customers.
Other cases reported in the last three months include those that affected third-party vendors of Singtel, Singapore Airlines and the National Trades Union Congress’ Employment and Employability Institute, as well as a breach that hit a local security firm.
The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) said that, for now, the local security firm and Singtel incidents, as well as one affecting e-mail servers have not affected Singapore’s critical information infrastructure, like those in the transport and telecoms sectors.
Also, for Singapore, the ransomware detection number increased by 45% in the second half of last year compared with the first half.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, cybersecurity has risen to the top of both national and international agendas. Government leaders from all over the world said that without cybersecurity there is no real national security. The boom of the digital economy and the digitalisation of businesses and society especially during the COVID-19 pandemic has now put the private sector at the centre of cybersecurity debates. Recent data mismanagements, or the revelations that social media sites compromised the data of millions of their users, highlight the central role that the private sector plays in cybersecurity. Undeniably, corporations are key players in the digital realm whether it is as distributors of malicious software, victims of cyber-attacks, or first responders to security breaches.
A partnership between both public and private sectors can help in trying to boost cyber resiliency policies and programmes. A lot of the technologies coming out are from industries, academes, and civil societies.
Therefore, Mr David Koh from the CSA believes that a multi-stakeholder engagement is an ideal method to improve cyber resilience on a bigger scale. Mr Koh noted that at an intellectual level, everyone understands cyber so everyone must also be committed to trying to find viable solutions.
He also emphasised that cybersecurity is the key factor in achieving an open and secured internet environment that can help boost domestic and international economies. Mr Koh and the CSA view cyber capacity building as a collective effort.
Horng Shya Chua, Managing Director, Oracle Singapore, shares an expert opinion on how Smart Cities must think.
Digital innovations developed across Southeast Asia in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are a testament to the region’s ongoing commitment to building a range of “smart” infrastructure and applications.
The Singapore government, already a leader with its cutting-edge Smart Nation initiative, has deployed two mobile apps—SafeEntry and TraceTogether—to curb future COVID-19 infections by determining if individuals were in close proximity to someone who later tested positive for the virus.
Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the Malaysian government has developed the MySejahtera app to assist it in monitoring COVID-19 outbreaks, help users monitor their health and risk of infection, and assist them in getting treatments if needed. State agencies in Thailand collaborated on developing the DDC-Care mobile app, which helps people self-assess whether they have contracted COVID-19 and tracks those who travelled from at-risk countries and thus must quarantine themselves for 14 days.
The pandemic has taught us that there are no simple solutions, but we can overcome them together. A vital platform is the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, where cities from the 10 ASEAN member states learn from one another’s experiences working with global partners to adopt smart technology, as they advance their common goal of sustainable urban development. “We must deepen collaboration and create new opportunities to exchange information and experiences at the regional level,” emphasized Dr Amy Khor, Singapore’s senior minister for sustainability and the environment, at a recent event.
Make better, faster decisions together
Partnerships with vendors play a crucial role in bringing emerging technologies to the public sector. For example, in late 2018, the Singapore government announced a five-year plan to migrate most of its on-premises IT systems to commercial cloud services. As of late last year, it reportedly had moved more than 150 such systems to the commercial cloud and had negotiated contracts that year alone valued at over S$870 million to double its number of commercial cloud systems.
While Singapore’s ambitious moves make it an exceptional example for aspiring smart cities, other countries in Southeast Asia are not far behind. According to a recent study by think tank ESI ThoughtLab, sponsored by Oracle and other partners, most of the region’s major cities are investing heavily in cloud and cloud-based AI technology services, and more plan to do so within three years.
However, while government agencies recognize that cloud services will enable them to innovate at scale faster than ever before, they still have security, regulatory compliance, and budget concerns. That could be why 83% of ASEAN city leaders say they prefer a hybrid cloud approach to deploying smart city services. Hybrid clouds allow cities to keep the most sensitive data and workloads on premises, integrated with more open, citizen-centric, collaborative workloads in the cloud.
Meanwhile, cloud service providers and other large organizations with specialized expertise are working hand-in-hand to move this emerging technology beyond the research labs and into the mainstream. For instance, Singapore-headquartered iviva has developed and implemented proprietary software solutions for workplace management and smart buildings. With the facilities management solution of iviva’s application suite, iviva.facility, hosted on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), iviva’s mission is to help its customers coordinate management of day-to-day operations of existing premises, delivering time and cost savings and operational efficiencies over the entire building life-cycle.
Another area where AI holds great promise is in relieving traffic congestion, a major cause of environmental pollution as well as frustration in major Southeast Asian cities such as Manila, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur. Road congestion currently costs Asian economies 2% to 5% of their gross domestic products every year, according to a McKinsey report, an amount forecasted to exceed US$35 billion by 2030.
Singapore’s Smart Mobility 2030 plan aims to help city planners reduce those environmental and economic costs, by working with industry partners to apply AI algorithms to diverse datasets in order to manage train, bus, car, and bicycle traffic in real-time. The Malaysian state of Selangor is pursuing a similar agenda with its Smart Selangor initiative.
Adopt a ‘whole-of-world’ approach, building an ecosystem of opportunities
The main goal of these public-private digital initiatives and information-sharing is to enhance the quality and accessibility of services, and thereby improve the quality of citizens’ lives.
Global dialogues such as the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting and the World Cities Summit, both taking place in Singapore this year, bring city leaders and industry experts together to discuss the most pressing urban challenges, share solutions, and forge new partnerships.
Collectively, leveraging innovation and entrepreneurship strengthens the region’s capacity to create an ecosystem of opportunities as well as demonstrate what is possible for the rest of the world to emulate.
While the right digital infrastructure and services give smart cities the capabilities they need to solve their most important challenges and seize the biggest opportunities, just as important is building an ecosystem of trusted partners to develop and extend those sustainable solutions.
Horng Chua is speaking at an OpenGov event on – Making Smart City System More Efficient, Robust and Event Smarter with Digital Twin
With cyber threats to operational technology, especially industrial control systems, increasing in frequency and sophistication, the Singapore Cyber Security Agency (CSA) announced that it had established the Operational Technology Cybersecurity Expert Panel. The panel will strengthen local cybersecurity capabilities and competencies in the operational technology sector.
Singapore’s operational technology cybersecurity practitioners, operators, researchers and policymakers from the Government, critical information infrastructure (CII) sectors, academia and other operational technology industries will have direct access to the experts. The 11-panel members come from both public and private sectors, locally and internationally.
CSA said the experts will discuss issues ranging from governance policies and processes, evolving operational technologies, emerging trends, capability development, supply chain, threat intelligence information sharing and incident response. They will also recommend best practices to address cybersecurity challenges and gaps in the sector.
During closed-door one-to-one workshops, the experts will share with incident response teams from stakeholders their insights based on their own experience handling global cybersecurity incidents. The panel complements CSA’s operational technology cybersecurity masterplan announced in 2019 to protect Singapore from cyber-attacks on critical sectors like transport and water supply.
The plan aims to grow the talent pool of cybersecurity professionals and facilitate the exchange of information between the public and private sectors. Insights and recommendations from the panel will help shape initiatives under the plan, such as a code of practice and training programmes, said CSA.
The threat of a cyber-attack on Singapore’s critical infrastructure services remains low but the maritime sector has been in the crosshairs of hackers, said the members of an international panel appointed by the CSA.
Reports say that hackers have used increasingly sophisticated tools to target operational technology systems that run critical infrastructure services, such as those in the energy, water and transport sectors. The systems control everything from the electricity grid, traffic light controls, train-signalling systems and even sensors detecting the chemical content in drinking water.
At present, the damage created by such cyber-attacks has not surfaced in Singapore. However, it is important that businesses do not become complacent and should ensure they have an effective incident response or business continuity plan in place, said one tech security expert.
Mr David Koh, the commissioner of Cybersecurity and CSA’s chief executive, said while operational technology systems were traditionally separated from the Internet, increasing digitalisation has led to more IT and operational technology integration. Hence, it is crucial for operational technology systems to be better protected from cyber threats to prevent outages of critical services that could result in serious real-world consequences, said David.
To this end, he added that they are glad to have notable operational technology experts join them in sharing their expertise to develop and strengthen localised capabilities in operational technology cybersecurity, he added.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, from a larger perspective, David also mentioned that a rules-based framework must be implemented when dealing with cybersecurity. Therefore, the United Nations (in general) is an appropriate platform for cyber discussions to take place, given its open and inclusive nature for all 193 member states. By conducting discussions on the forum, UN members can now see the importance of cybersecurity for their respective countries. The broadening of the conversation on cyber resiliency and producing a consensus report from the UN OEWG is a significant achievement.
Accordingly, David said that if the approach in cybersecurity is in the same direction, whether it be for the potential impacts of cyber threats, up to the solutions that can deal with them, countries can expect a positive outcome in terms of strengthening cyber resiliency. Leaders and decision-makers must recognise that cybersecurity is an issue, and they need to work together so everyone can move forward in this journey of full digital transformation.
Enterprise Singapore is collaborating with a venture capital firm in Singapore to launch a new virtual programme that will support aspiring entrepreneurs. Called 500 Ignition Singapore, the initiative assists entrepreneurs to create their start-ups from scratch.
This programme is ideal for those who do not have business experience or may have had experience as small business owners. Entrepreneurs of selected start-ups in the city-state will be mentored through all the steps involved in creating innovative ventures. Start-ups with an innovative idea or technology can search for relevant problem statements to propose solutions to, and access co-development, test-bedding and market opportunities with major organisations.
While the applications for the first cohort of 500 Ignition are already closed, individuals can apply for its second cohort from today until May 21. The 12-week programme includes helping them assemble founding teams, discover and secure potential opportunities, connecting them with an industry expert for mentorship, choosing the right co-founders, and providing them with shared resources to facilitate long-term growth.
The programme will take place in three stages. In the first stage, participants will be divided into teams to learn the best way to gather insights and to craft captivating value propositions for their products and services. The second stage will be about helping start-ups develop a minimum viable product (MVP) that enables them to create a version of a product with enough features to attract early-adopter customers. In the third stage, the teams will learn various components that contribute to the success or failure of a start-up, such as marketing, sales, etc.
The 500 Ignition Singapore programme is currently running in Cambodia and similar programmes will be run across ecosystems with emerging start-up talent. This initiative aims to stimulate new job creation and engage more young generations to be entrepreneurs.
Singapore has been bullish about diversifying its start-up ecosystem. According to the Research Innovation Enterprise 2020 plan, new economic activity in Singapore is being catalysed by R&D investments and the start-up ecosystem is getting increasingly vibrant. Singapore is already home to more than 3,600 technology start-ups and 100 start-up enablers. It ranks first in Asia and 10th in the world for best start-up nations. In the information and communications technology sector, it boasts two unicorns – privately held startup companies valued at over one billion dollars.
In its annual report, Enterprise Singapore indicated a desire to strengthen Singapore’s start-up and innovation ecosystem. Last year, 2000 start-ups gained access to funding, incubation and mentorship. Its investment arm SEEDS Capital co-invested S$ 51 million into 65 start-ups, catalysing S$ 356 million in private investments.
Beyond growing local enterprises, Enterprise Singapore aims to establish Singapore as a leading global hub for start-ups, global trading and infrastructure. Their networks, partnerships and business ecosystem put them in an ideal position to contribute expertise and solutions to the region and beyond. Their position as a hub above the rest also relies on the continued trust the world has in Singapore’s products and services.
In line with their strategy to grow Singapore into a Global-Asia node for technology, innovation and enterprise, the organisation works closely with partners to build an ecosystem in Singapore that is conducive for start-ups to flourish. Many of these partners are global players that provide market access opportunities to start-ups to scale in Asia and beyond.
A senior executive involved in the initiative said the past year has witnessed significant disruption across myriad sectors and hence fresh ideas are needed to meet ever-evolving demands. As a private entity, they are eager to partner with Enterprise Singapore in the endeavour to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the foundation and mentorship needed to launch a business.
Nguyen Thanh Phong, the Chairman of the city People’s Committee, recently announced that the city would focus on the research and development of artificial intelligence (AI) applications in HCM City to become a smart city over the next few years.
Under the programme to become a smart city by 2025, a database of all sectors, ranging from housing, transport, and environment to healthcare, will share data with all of the city’s administrative departments. This will help social organisations, businesses, and residents have better access to public information and services online through mobile devices and other means, according to Phong.
A press release informed that the city will also focus on developing AI technologies and improving human resources by using AI in education and training and enhancing academic connections with foreign AI professionals. Additionally, an innovative urban area in the eastern part of the city will be built. The city has already approved the establishment of Thu Duc New City by merging the three eastern districts of 2, 9, and Thu Duc.
The new city will cover more than 211sq.km and be home to more than 1.1 million people. It is expected to promote economic growth in the city and the southern region. It will serve as a centre for three main functions: scientific and technological research and application; education and training of high-quality human resources; and the production and trade of hi-tech products and services. It is expected to contribute a third of the city’s GDP, accounting for 7% of the national GDP.
The city has been working on the eastern innovative urban area project, including the Thu Thiem New Urban Area in District 2, the Northwest urban area, and the Can Gio sea tourist urban area, according to Phong. He pointed out that the city needs more capital for public investment in infrastructure. For example, from 2016-2021, the city needed VNĐ302.8 trillion (about US$13 billion) to implement nearly 1,950 public transport projects, but the city only managed to allocate about half of that amount.
The city has asked the central government to raise the budget-revenue retention ratio to 24% in the 2021-2025 period, and 33% in the 2026-2030 period. The latter ratio was granted to the city back in 2003. The ratio refers to revenue that the city gives to the central government. The new ratio will ensure that the city will achieve sustainable development Phong claimed. With a population of 13 million, HCM City, as the nation’s economic locomotive, contributes 24% of the country’s GDP and 27% of the national budget.
Phong also announced that two transport projects worth more than VNĐ12 trillion (US$521.8 million) have been approved. These include the An Phu Intersection in Thu Duc New City and the renovation of Tham Luong, Ben Cat, and Nuoc Len canals, to be implemented from now to 2025.
It will cost VNĐ3.926 trillion (about US$170 million) to build the An Phu intersection, including VNĐ1.8 trillion (about US$78 million) from the central State budget and VNĐ2.126 trillion (about US$92 million) from the city budget. The three-level intersection will have overpasses and a tunnel. It will start from the approach road to the HCM City-Long Thanh-Dau Giay expressway and end at the Luong Dịnh Cua Street, which is often heavily congested.
Additionally, the upgrade of the canals will need VNĐ8.2 trillion (about US$355 million), including VNĐ4 (about US$173 million) trillion from the State budget and VNĐ4.2 trillion (about US$182 million) from the city budget. The 32km-long project goes through District 12 and Binh Tan, Tan Phu, Tan Binh, Go Vap, Binh Thanh, and Binh Chanh districts. It is expected to help reduce flooding in the central business district and the northwestern part of the city. It will also improve waterway connections between the city and southern provinces.