The Singapore government has developed a blockchain-based platform that will enable employers to verify the educational qualifications of employees and job candidates who have graduated from local universities, polytechnics and other educational institutions.
Starting from this year, all graduates will receive digital certificates for N, O and A Levels, ITE qualifications, diploma and degree qualifications from polytechnics, LASALLE College of the Arts (LASALLE), Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), Autonomous Universities (AUs) and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC), as well as Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ).
These digital certificates will be stored in the Skills Passports of their individual MySkillsFuture accounts. When they use these certificates for job applications, employers will be able to quickly and easily verify these digital certificates through OpenCerts (opencerts.io). This was announced by Minister for Education, Ong Ye Kung, at Temasek Polytechnic’s Graduation Ceremony.
Jointly developed by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), Government Technology Agency (GovTech), Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), and the Ministry of Education (MOE), OpenCerts is an initiative in support of Smart Nation, to develop deep tech solutions benefiting Singaporeans. This is the first time blockchain technology has been harnessed for use at the national level, and it was first piloted in 2018 by GovTech and NP, to develop and trial the use of blockchain technology for secure and reliable digital certificate verification. The first batch of digital certificates was issued to NP’s graduating cohort last year.
“OpenCerts is another example of how the Government is harnessing technology to deliver secure and easy-to-use digital services for citizens and businesses. We see enormous potential for deploying the OpenCerts technology to develop secure and reliable certificate verification and issuance regimes in other sectors. We look forward to collaborating with industry and government agencies to develop further use-cases,” said Mr Kok Ping Soon, Chief Executive, GovTech.
Blockchain provides secure and authentic certification
With OpenCerts, individuals will receive digital certificates which will each have a unique cryptographic proof embedded within for secure verification. They will no longer need to obtain certified true copies of their education and training certificates for job and academic admission applications. Individuals can instead provide potential employers with digital certificates issued by these institutions. These digital certificates can be easily verified by employers directly through the OpenCerts platform (opencerts.io), which will check the certificate data against its code on the blockchain for validity and to detect any signs of tampering. This automatic verification will simplify and reduce administrative processes and physical paperwork for employers.
Digital certificates will save time and costs
Local educational institutions will also save time and costs by not having to manually verify issued certificates from individuals. Upon completing and graduating from participating institutions and schools, learners and students will have their issued digital certificates automatically populated onto their Skills Passport, which is available on both the MySkillsFuture Portal and Mobile App, when the students graduate and their certificates have been issued by the schools. The Skills Passport will serve as a single digital repository for education and training certificates. It enables all Singaporeans to track their current skillsets and plan for future skills development.
Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology is strengthening ties with Singapore’s information and communications technology (ICT) department to deepen cooperation between the two countries in the field of digital transformation.
Johnny G. Plate, Minister of Communication and Information Technology in Indonesia, announced at the sidelines of the virtual ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting that he had a bilateral meeting with S. Iswaran, Singapore’s Minister of Communications and Information to discuss support activities in technology, a move that forms part of efforts the Indonesian government has set forth to ramp up developments in digital technology.
The bilateral discussion comes on the heels of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) inked back in 2007 for cooperation between the two nations in developing their ICT sectors. Last year, an initial assessment was conducted in anticipation of a renewal of the MoU. The goal behind the assessment and subsequent renewal of cooperation is to make the pact more relevant and comprehensive of the latest developments in digital technology. These improvements include data protection, among others.
The Indonesian Minister further explained that: “Indonesia appreciates and is very open to the initiative to increase this cooperation. This Memorandum of Understanding is also expected to reflect Indonesia’s national principles, especially those related to personal data protection, which will be covered by the Personal Data Protection Act.”
The ICT department of Indonesia has likewise placed a premium on protecting cross-border data flow which is described as an aspect that must be discussed extensively. This is because data exchange through digital means can open avenues for economic development and growth. To illustrate, adopting a more definite policy regarding cross-border data exchange will help the government and private firms to expand to other ASEAN member states. Hence, there is a need for an in-depth discussion on more concrete protocols for data exchange founded upon the principles of lawfulness, fairness, transparency and reciprocity.
The MoU also highlights joint efforts in developing digital talent. Singapore has earlier emphasised that enhancing the workforce’s digital and technical skills, such as knowledge in artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things technology, is crucial to cater to the needs of various industries.
Collaboration under the MoU will be further discussed between the two government officials, along with other agencies including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The renewal of the agreement will form part of government initiatives to shore up innovative developments in its governance frameworks. Some of the projects laid out by the Indonesian government include innovations in urging citizens to adopt healthier lifestyles. According to a report by OpenGov Asia, the Ministry of Youth and Sports said it is implementing the Fitness Measurement System, an application that tracks the fitness levels of end-users. The mobile app was developed by the Ministry of Health in an attempt to help the public be more physically fit amidst the global health crisis.
Enhancing broadband connectivity
While data security remains a top priority for both economies, Singapore announced that it is keen on supporting Indonesia to boost its broadband services. The Singapore government said it anticipates an open exchange of best practices between the two countries to accelerate the development of new infrastructures that can handle 5G networks.
Both economies are intent on enhancing their 5G network services. Singapore earlier said it plans to implement 5G connectivity across the country by 2025. Indonesia is likewise vocal about its goals of rolling out a 5G network in key public places this year. To achieve this, the Indonesian Minister encouraged internet service providers to develop new technology options and 5G schemes.
Indonesia’s ICT Minister added that the adoption of 5G services will have a massive impact on helping the government gear up towards digital transformation. He said they are hopeful that in the next two years, they will be able to provide improved broadband solutions to all villages and regions in the country.
The official portal of the Laos – Vietnam Cooperation Committee was put into operation at a ceremony in Vientiane, last week.
The site was the outcome of the first phase of a project sponsored by Startech, a Vietnamese IT company operating in Laos. The second phase will build software to serve the committee’s project and administrative management, according to a news report.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment and Vice Chairman of the committee, Khamphuei Keokinaly, stressed that the launch of the website presents an opportunity for the committee to boost its employment of advanced science and technology serving its work in a new period.
The website is a tool to spread information on Laos’ policies for attracting foreign investors, including those from Vietnam, he noted. Once completed in December this year, the Startech project is expected to help the committee digitise its data on operations, investment promotion, and management of Vietnam – Laos cooperation projects. It will also facilitate access by Vietnamese agencies and firms to information on the two nations’ collaboration developments.
In 2019, state-run organisation Viettel planned to roll out 5G technology in Laos. This was Vietnam’s third overseas launch of the service. The country planned to expand this list to four Southeast Asian nations. Viettel had been testing 5G in Myanmar and Cambodia through local arms.
Founded in October 2009, the Viettel subsidiary operates across all 17 provinces and cities in Laos and has led the market for eight consecutive years. It is also the Laos government’s partner in implementing the country’s key e-government systems.
As OpenGov Asia reported, Unitel, Viettel’s Laos unit, became the first operator to offer the 5G technology in Laos. In 2019, Unitel boasted 6,000 3G and 4G base stations, covering 95% of the country. It commanded more than half the local market with about 3 million subscribers. In February 2019, Unitel helped introduce SIM cards to Laos, which led the country to rank 7th out of 10 ASEAN member states in terms of advanced telecommunications services.
In the same year, Viettel broadcast its first end-to-end 5G network in Ho Chi Minh City, offering the public a chance to experience 5G services for the first time. The organisation said it had set up 5G base stations in Ward 12 in the city’s District 10.
Last year, Viettel was the pioneer in announcing commercial 5G trials in late November with coverage in the Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, and Hai Ba Trung Districts of Hanoi. Owners of 5G-enabled devices can now use the service for free at a speed of up to 1.5 gigabits per second, far higher than 4G.
Further, the number of 5G subscribers nationwide is expected to reach a figure of 6.3 million by 2025, with the deployment of 5G services anticipated to help Vietnamese mobile service providers increase their annual revenue by US$300 million.
To keep up with demand, Vietnam needs to invest between US$1.5 billion and US$2.5 billion in the technology over the next five years. The Vietnamese government is pursuing an industry 4.0 strategy, with a specific focus on upgrading infrastructure, improving human resources, and deploying e-government services. E-commerce transformation is expected to boost the number of electronic firms to 43% over the next five years.
The NSW government has opened tendering for a gigabit fibre network to provide high-speed, reliable internet services to Wamboin, Bywong and Sutton in the state’s Southern Tablelands. The network, which is slated for rollout from 2022, will be the first piece of major infrastructure delivered under the government’s $400 million regional digital connectivity program.
The program – first announced with a budget of $50 million in 2017, but later bolstered with additional funding – aims to improve telecommunications infrastructure in under-served regions of the state.
Connectivity gaps in regional NSW were highlighted in the government’s most recent state infrastructure strategy, which also makes it clear that this will continue to widen without intervention. The government has put the ‘digital divide’ down to a combination of inadequate infrastructure and a “lack of compelling commercial incentives for private operators”.
“Given the ever-increasing demand for digital connectivity, researchers anticipate that, without intervention, the digital divide will continue to grow,” it said in tender documents released recently.
To remedy this, the government is calling on suppliers to “install and operate a fibre-based network” to replace the satellite internet service that currently serves the three towns. Tender documents reveal the government is seeking a range of proposals from suppliers outlining multiple solutions, including an “all fibre” response and “technology innovation” response.
Suppliers will be expected to both design and construct the fibre network, as well as any related backhaul, and operate and maintain it.
The all-fibre response – considered the conforming response – will consist of fibre backhaul to Canberra, intertown backhaul, a spine network and lead-ins for properties. The technology innovation response, on the other hand, is less prescriptive, though will include a fibre backhaul to Canberra and intertown backhaul.
Tenderers will be asked to propose a technology solution which is commercially viable and achieves the most competitive tender, tender documents state. This could include non-fibre technologies, a mix, and/or alternative delivery model linked to the proposed access network technology.
The successful proponents will be expected to deliver speeds of 100/40Mbps to residents and 10/10Gbps to businesses through “Layer 2 Ethernet access services to facilitate an RSP [retail service provider]. The proponent must provide network services on an open wholesale basis to RSPs and access seekers on a non-discriminatory basis,” documents states.
The successful tenderer is expected to develop a detailed design and technology architecture within six months of securing the contract or one month before construction. Submission to the tender will close on 3 March, with the contract expected in late 2021.
In a statement, the Department of Regional NSW said it was looking forward to “innovative proposals from the private sectors to make the best technologies available to residents”.
The tender will help provide a blueprint for how government investment can capitalise on and expand existing fibre infrastructure to deliver a faster and more reliable service to towns on a satellite internet service,” it added.
India is looking to bolster its innovation and transformation journey by ensuring strong policies are in place. As India reorients itself in the present context of the COVID-19 crisis, a new Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP) was initiated in mid-2020. India’s sustainable development pathway must include economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. If it is to achieve an “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (Self Reliant India), a greater emphasis may be needed on promoting traditional knowledge systems, developing indigenous technologies and encouraging grassroots innovations.
The emergence of disruptive and impactful technologies poses new challenges and simultaneously greater opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a compelling opportunity for R&D institutions, academia and industry to work in unison for sharing of purpose, synergy, collaboration and cooperation.
The draft STIP was put together by STIP Secretariat with guidance from the Office of Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India and the Department of Science & Technology (DST). and was released for public consultation on 31 December 2020. Prior to the draft, there were 300 rounds of consultations. For the first time, the consultations included states, line ministries, and Indian diaspora. These kinds of consultations would make the document more inclusive said Dr. Akhilesh Gupta, Advisor, DST and Head STIP Secretariat.
A post-draft consultation drew inputs from India’s top experts and thought leaders from a range of disciplines. The collaborative initiative aims to strengthen the initial version of the 5th National Science Technology and Innovation Policy. Professor K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India confirmed that the policy document is designed to taking everything into consideration to shape the future of the country
He went on to add that there has been a digital revolution with immense changes in technology in last few years. While assimilating and embracing the evolution, he felt, it was critical to have it rooted within the culture and context of the nation. Practical implementation and large-scale learning of STI will be directly linked to this. One step in that direction is strengthening of language labs. He stressed the need to incorporate the Policy Process Framework Document and the implementation strategy in the final document.
To be ready for the future, states need to connect with the centre and use science, technology, and innovation to solve their problems. At the same time, international connects and science diplomacy needs equal attention, said Secretary, DST Prof Ashutosh Sharma. In India, he opined, we focus on generated knowledge, but we need to consume them properly to bring innovation-connecting innovation to knowledge.
Other experts stressed on the need for a roadmap and implementation mechanism coupled with timelines for manpower and financial plan for increased investment in science and technology. Additionally, the role of social sciences, humanities as well as ethics is equally important in any country, and the policy should reflect this.
The role of academies in the country and the academics, especially in science diplomacy was seen as key. Involving them in more engaging ways would be critical, allowing them to become active and contribute more meaningfully. The integration of disciplines in the policy and the need for fostering a culture of excellence throughout the country was stressed. Highlighted, too, was the need for training of supervisors who would supervise research and the necessity for the strengthening of institutional collaboration.
A balance between society, environment and economy was advocated. Grassroots innovation and traditional knowledge is the strength of India and often offer solutions to problems. Women play a key role in the majority of grassroots innovations and their role should be acknowledged. In a country like India, where the larger population lives in rural areas, the policy must reflect their needs and aspirations. There is a need for the scientific validity of traditional knowledge.
Three 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 – Smart Office Solutions
A traditional office might provide constraints on productivity and excessive resources on operation due to lack of automation. It might be necessary to be considered with some innovative ideas to bring up colleagues’ motivation and creativity at work for big and important projects. Meeting Room, Visitor and Hotdesk Management, the company that developed Smart Office Solutions created an All-in-one Smart application to match users’ specific needs.
The solution was developed to be applied in the areas of Development, Environment as well as Infrastructure.
The solution was developed using the latest in Internet of Things (IoT), Mobile Technologies, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
- Improve concierge resources focus, fewer papers, more efficiency
- Accumulable system of VIP preference
- Reduce Administrative workload, better Administration planning
- Better space utilization
- IoT integration
- Energy-saving, Green office
Solution two – Anti-Phishing Bot (APBot)
Anti-Phishing Bot (APBot) is a cloud-based privacy-by-default anti-phishing SaaS tool. Act as an extension on MS O365 and Google GSuite, it enables the user to identify fake senders. The AI function can learn from past emails to create whitelisted sender profiles.
The solution was developed to be applied mainly in the area of Infrastructure.
The solution was developed using the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well as Cloud Computing.
APBot prioritises usability and enhances the tool through community crowdsourcing. With just one click, the user could detect and report a phishing email, at the same time, similar emails will be flagged within the APBot community, and through this ecosystem, the detection accuracy of the AI-assisted tool will gradually improve.
To protect users’ privacy, APBot also follows “privacy-by-default” principle to detect email frauds based on the sender’s behaviour and network profile without reading the email content. One of the benefits is to help elderly people who not able to distinguish phishing emails.
Solution three – VR Mapping
The solution allows users to preview their VR path to the destination using only one QR code. The user no longer needs to search the map; they only need to scan the QR code and follow the VR pathfinding their destination. The VR Mapping solution is the easiest way to help users getting to their destination.
The solution was developed to be applied in the areas of City Management, Housing, Infrastructure and Transport.
The solution employs Mobile Technologies and Virtual Reality predominantly.
Members of the public can use the VR mapping to preview the destination. It improves the public service and saves cost for the staff.
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.
Government agencies in the Philippines are looking at adopting more digital initiatives in an attempt to streamline their projects this year and bring their activities closer to the public through virtual means. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) joins this roster of government departments, all intent on accelerating digital transformation amidst the global health crisis. In a press release, the DTI announced that it is putting up its first Virtual National Trade Fair, which will be held from 27 January to 2 February.
The event has gained popularity as an avenue for consumers who wish to purchase their favourite products from different regions in the country. It was also considered as a platform where buyers can negotiate with sellers and place bulk orders of merchandise.
This year, the DTI said it will be hosting the trade fair using a different medium due to the new normal, but with the same intent of providing sellers in different areas of the country the chance to showcase their products. The department added that as the fair would be held virtually, they are anticipating that it will become more accessible to a larger consumer market, even consumers outside Metro Manila and those outside the country.
The Trade and Industry department thus urged the public to attend the online trade fair which can be accessed through a website dedicated to that purpose. It advised those who wish to participate in the trade fair to visit the website and register. After completing the registration process, participants will receive a confirmation email that contains a unique access link to be used to enter the programme during a particular date. On the day of the event, end-users may simply click on the access link from their emails and proceed to join the virtual trade fair of the DTI.
Upon entering the site, attendees may browse through various tabs on the homepage, including those for the Exhibition Hall, Conference Hall, Featured Products and List of Participants/Visitor Guide. By clicking the Exhibition button, users will be able to see the virtual booths of sellers and be able to browse their product offers. Consumers may also talk to sellers to ask for more details about the latter’s items. For any concerns that may arise during the fair, a live hotline representative will be available to assist through chats and video calls.
Each virtual booth shall contain the background information of the seller company and their contact information. Downloadable files including product brochures and catalogues shall likewise be made available. Also, participants of the online trade fair may attend some scheduled learning sessions and webinars which can be accessed under the Conference Hall tab. The DTI also mentioned that the fair will be open to the public for free for 8 hours starting at 10 am.
The integration of physical transactions into digital platforms is one of the goals of several government agencies in the country. New digital schemes, including e-commerce and virtual payment schemes, have been adopted even before the onset of safety restrictions due to the pandemic.
As reported earlier by OpenGov Asia, the Maritime Industry Authority of MARINA announced that it has signed a deal with a state-owned lender to integrate cashless payments for MARINA services. Under the agreement, MARINA’s payment facility will be connected to the bank’s virtual payment channel. This would allow the government and members of the private sector to cash in on MARINA’s products and services with the ease and convenience provided by online transactions. The portal was launched in a bid to lessen physical contact and limit indirect costs that come along with cash and physical transactions of in-kind goods.
The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation’s (MDEC) expectation to hit 20 per cent growth in e-commerce contribution to the digital economy can be achieved as the COVID-19 pandemic has given a huge boost to digital adoption among entrepreneurs.
The Vice-President of digitally powered businesses (industry-supply) stated that in 2019, the digital economy had contributed 19.1 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP). Sectors like MedTech, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) and Agri Tech will be forerunners in 2021, contributing to the rise in digital revenue, he said.
ASEAN is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Connecting and promoting Malaysian tech business to the region, as a start, will be a huge boost. He said Malaysia is already holding a leadership position in many tech sectors.
Export programmes such as MDEC’s GAIN must be intensified to move this further to position Malaysia as the heart of digital ASEAN. Reskilling, upskilling and producing good digital talent is crucial for the digital economy moving forward, he explained.
The gig economy is on the rise, this needs to be harnessed and grown to stay globally competitive. Programmes like GLOW assists those in need of crowdsourcing platforms to generate digital revenue. From January to June last year, GLOW generated an income totalling over RM190 million, the Vice-President said.
Meanwhile, the Digital Content Ecosystem (DiCE) – from January 2020 to June 2020 – saw 324 companies participate; it also generated over RM1.6 billion in revenue and over RM260 million in total exports.
For the e-commerce segment, the National eCommerce Strategic Roadmap (NESR) helped nearly 80,000 SMEs adopt e-commerce and helped nearly 8,000 companies adopt e-commerce for exports from January to June 2020.
With regards to Internet of Things (IoT), MDEC’s data shows that from January to June 2020, the National IoT Framework helped to garner over RM140 million in investments, involved 283 companies, generated over RM230 million in revenue and generated over RM120 million in total exports.
On drone technology – the Global Test Bed has involved 84 companies and raised over RM124 million in investments.
On whether the implementation of the National Entrepreneurship Policy can turn Malaysia into a true entrepreneurial nation by 2030, the VP noted that the policy needed to be led and driven by various agencies under the government, with digital being the main driver.
The government needs to also embrace digital transformation in their ministries and agencies, he added. Policies and regulations need to keep up with the fast-paced technology innovation in areas such as Fintech, Industry 4.0, drone tech and AI, and we need to ensure that the policy is inclusive and will benefit many.
Malaysian start-ups are poised to be regional champions. They have all the necessary support to become global players. Malaysian tech companies need to continue innovating to stay ahead of the game. Malaysian companies need to also start thinking global. Don’t build solutions for one market. Build for the global market and start addressing global problems.
He advised them to take advantage of the ample government support – MDEC, the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and others.