According to this year’s Smart City Index, Singapore is the smartest city in the world for the third year running. A “smart city” is an urban setting that applies technology to enhance the benefits and diminish the shortcomings of urbanisation for its citizens. The Smart City Index takes into account input from the cities’ residents of how technology had improved their lives. About 120 residents from each city were surveyed in July this year.
The report also noted that the pandemic highlighted the innovative potential of smart cities to sometimes better address certain challenges — such as organising the distribution of protective equipment, the use of medical facilities and vaccination campaigns — compared to central governments. Strong tech cultures and digital infrastructure helped efforts throughout the pandemic, especially with contact tracing.
Singapore’s achievement is largely due to the policies it pursued at both the city and national level – particularly in e-government services, education and human-centric urban strategies. Its higher degree of social cohesion was also a factor, as well as the availability of digital facilities, typically apps that allowed the close monitoring of how the virus was circulating. But it is still too early to infer from the findings how the pandemic had impacted the survey participants in Singapore.
– Dr Bruno Lanvin, President, IMD Smart City Observatory
Moreover, Singaporeans are able to address challenges related to health, safety, or mobility easily and effectively. Singapore has strong institutions and its residents appreciate the opportunities with respect to work and school available for them. An important reason for success is also the high degree of social cohesion that characterises the city-state.
Participants in each city were asked questions on their ideas of existing infrastructure and technological provisions and services available to them. These were broken down into five key areas: health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities, and governance.
Survey participants were also asked to select five out of 15 priority areas, such as affordable housing or health services, for their city. Other questions posed to the residents included how they feel whether the availability of online information has increased their trust in authorities.
For this year’s rankings, the final score for each city was computed using the answers from residents surveyed this year and in the past two years, with the most weight given to recent replies and the least to those recorded in 2019.
The rankings also take into account economic and social data taken from the UN Development Index, which ranks countries based on health, education and living standards. The team behind this year’s Smart City Index said the findings showed that the top concern worldwide is access to affordable housing. But access to better air quality and health services has become a greater priority in cities worldwide since the COVID-19 pandemic occurred.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, as a global forerunner in smart city initiatives, Singapore believes that technological disruption is a global force to be both confronted and harnessed. This is what drives its Smart Nation ambitions, aimed at transitioning the nation to the next industrial phase.
To achieve that goal requires Singapore to match its smart city ambitions with scalable, beneficial real-world outcomes that embody the city-state with a high level of hyperconnected maturity. The COVID-19 pandemic will not be the only challenge Singapore will face and hence being hyperconnected will set it on the path towards becoming a truly sustainable and smart nation.
Singapore itself is classified as a leader in hyperconnected maturity and has even been dubbed the ‘smartest city in the world’, due in no small part to the proactive innovation measures its government and businesses have been taking in line with Smart Nation efforts.
A team of scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a predictive computer programme that could be used to detect individuals who are at increased risk of depression. In trials using data from groups of depressed and healthy participants, the programme achieved an accuracy of 80% in detecting those individuals with a high risk of depression and those with no risk.
Powered by machine learning, the programme, named the Ycogni model, screens for the risk of depression by analysing an individual’s physical activity, sleep patterns, and circadian rhythms derived from data from wearable devices that measure his or her steps, heart rate, energy expenditure, and sleep data.
Activity trackers are estimated to be worn by nearly a billion people, up from 722 million in 2019. To develop the Ycogni model, the scientists conducted a study involving 290 working adults in Singapore. Participants wore devices for 14 consecutive days and completed two health surveys, which screened for depressive symptoms, at the start and end of the study.
Our study successfully showed that we could harness sensor data from wearables to aid in detecting the risk of developing depression in individuals. By tapping on our machine learning programme, as well as the increasing popularity of wearable devices, it could one day be used for timely and unobtrusive depression screening.
– Professor Josip Car, Director, Centre for Population Health Sciences at NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine
This is a study that can set up the basis for using wearable technology to help individuals, researchers mental health practitioners and policymakers to improve mental well-being. But on a more generic and futuristic application, the researchers believe that such signals could be integrated with Smart Buildings or even Smart Cities initiatives: imagine a hospital or a military unit that could use these signals to identify people at risk.
Besides being able to accurately determine if individuals had a higher risk of contracting depression, the researchers successfully associated certain patterns in the participants’ behaviours to depressive symptoms, which include feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, and changes in appetite or weight.
From analysing their findings, the scientists found that those who had more varied heart rates between 2 am to 4 am, and between 4 am to 6 am, tended to be prone to more severe depressive symptoms. This observation confirms findings from previous studies, which had stated that changes in heart rate during sleep might be a valid physiological marker of depression.
Over the next year, the team hopes to explore the impact of smartphone usage on depressive symptoms and the risk of developing depression by enriching their model with data on smartphone usage. This includes how long and frequent individuals use their mobile phones, as well as their reliance on social media.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, NTU Singapore has produced more advanced COVID-19 tools, hitting another milestone in the country’s efforts to combat COVID-19. A group of university scientists recently developed a laser-powered device that can trap and move viruses using light. Since it can precisely ‘move’ a single virus to target a specific section of a cell, the device, which can manipulate light to act as ‘tweezers,’ could contribute to the development of new approaches to disease diagnosis and virus studies.
The technology would also benefit vaccine development as it allows scientists to identify damaged or incomplete viruses from a group of thousands of other specimens in under one minute, compared to present techniques that are time-consuming and inaccurate, according to the scientists.
Associate Professor from NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, a medical geneticist who co-led the research, said: “The conventional method of analysing viruses today is to study a population of thousands or millions of viruses. We only know their average behaviour as an entire population. With our laser-based technology, single viruses could be studied individually.”
The Indian Institute of Technology in Madras (IIT-Madras) is collaborating with a private player to research 5G technology. Through the partnership, the two sides will innovate in the 5G space and enable 5G frameworks validation. They will promote research towards the development of a low-cost and low-frequency 5G network setup for better connectivity in far-flung parts of the country. The objective of this partnership is to create a 5G base station and a single-box solution to enable better connectivity in rural areas. The private player, a global technology consulting company, will provide its expertise on the research capabilities and offer relevant infrastructure to support this initiative.
An expert stated that 5G promises to facilitate the next level of innovation to build a smarter society, but it is important to ensure that these benefits reach every part of the country. The partnership aims to leverage the technology to connect people from remote parts of India in a better way. An official from IIT-Madras noted that the Institute’s 5G testbed project is an effort to encourage Indian start-ups and the industry to take an early lead in 5G. The goal of the project is to build a testbed that closely resembles real-world 5G deployment.
A representative from the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT-Madras said that the 5G technology has immense potential and could prove to be the best option to bridge the digital divide in India. For evolved urban areas, it will help advance and enhance the benefits of digital technologies over a faster connectivity network. The partnership will build and validate use cases leveraging the 5G testbed for application in domains like smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0, smart cities, and media.
Last November, the Minister of Communication announced that the government would indigenously design and manufacture telecom software and equipment to run 6G networks. The technology will also be exported to other countries. Apart from 6G, the government also plans to launch indigenous 5G technology, with the development of core software for the technology to be completed by the third quarter of next year.
As OpenGov Asia reported earlier, the auctions for the 5G spectrum are also likely to happen in the second quarter of 2022. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reportedly started the consultation process for 5G spectrum auctions, and this is expected to be completed by February or March 2022. TRAI has granted an extension to the telcos for 5G trials, and the deadline has been shifted to 31 March 2022.
Earlier this year, the Cabinet had approved a set of nine structural and procedural reforms to address the short-term liquidity needs as well as long-term issues of telecom companies. As part of these reforms, the government had given the telcos an option to go for a four-year moratorium on payment of deferred spectrum and adjusted gross revenue dues. About 26% of the mobile subscriptions in India by 2026-end are expected to be 5G. 4G subscriptions could grow at a CAGR of 3%, going from 680 million in 2020 to 830 million by 2026. Currently, India ranks second in the average data usage in the world. The average data usage in India was 13 GB per month till the year 2019, which increased to 14.6 GB in the year 2020. By 2026, the average data consumption in India is expected to be 40 GB per month.
The Digital Government Exchange (DGX) allows senior leaders from digital governments to discuss relevant issues related to digitalisation. Organised and hosted by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group Singapore, DGX is a one-of-its-kind international platform that has developed a community of like-minded leaders, facilitating information exchange, sharing of experiences, mutual learning, and exploration of potential areas for international collaboration and cooperation.
The platform also features technical Working Groups (WGs) where countries and cities deep dive into specific subject matters pertinent to governments’ drive for digitalisation. Designed with the intent of providing an open conversation yearly, the DGX WGs bring together international experts in their respective fields to conduct in-depth analysis. The 2021 edition saw representatives share experiences and opportunities on the topics of Cloud, Digital identity, Data governance, and Digital maturity.
The cloud WG dwelled on the momentous shift in the delivery of private/public information systems, where a new service delivery model provides benefits including agility and velocity, innovation, digital transformation, scalability, resiliency, cost-savings, data security, and transparency. Policy approaches and technology strategies were shared on risk management with cloud adoption.
The data governance WG focused on key trends in data governance policies, data governance regulations, and data organisational structures in supporting member countries’ broader big data ambitions. The WG also produced valuable insights on data stewardship and how processes, people, and technology are key enablers of data governance.
The digital identity WG produced insights on how countries utilise digital identity and models that might enable mutual recognition and/or interoperability. Given the pandemic, information was shared openly on respective governments’ experiences with leveraging digital ID for appropriate COVID-19 responses.
The digital maturity WG developed a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) framework for understanding different levels of digital maturity and conducted research interviews with member countries to validate the 7 elements of digital maturity in reimagining and redesigning governments’ digital estate. These elements are user-centred design, a culture of digital by design, data-driven approach, appropriate technology and infrastructure, senior leadership buy-in and appropriate governance, appropriate institutional funding and capacity, and digital capability.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, a special edition of the Digital Government Exchange Safe Travel Working Group was convened in 2021. Digital governments and smart cities discussed safe travel solutions such as the generation of digital health certificates, cross-border verification, and open-sourced technical specifications or frameworks.
Singapore’s National Digital Identity (NDI), is one of the Smart Nation strategic national projects. As a foundational digital infrastructure, the NDI is critical to achieving Singapore’s vision of improving the lives of citizens, creating opportunities for businesses, and transforming the capabilities of government agencies. Singpass offers Singapore residents greater confidence, convenience and accessibility when transacting with the Government and private sector, online and in person.
Moving forward, a wider variety of transactions will be conducted digitally, from verifying identity and health certificates to cross-border data transfers. The National Digital Identity is expected to support a growing range of use cases for digital identity. NDI is exploring new initiatives that build on the principle of adopting open standards which support interoperability with different digital services and international partners.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Singapore and the United Kingdom will work more closely to facilitate digital trade between the countries by signing three Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) in the areas of Digital Trade Facilitation, Digital Identities and Cybersecurity. The partnership will make digital transactions by businesses easier, safer and cheaper.
Under the Digital Identities Cooperation MoU, Singapore and the UK will work more closely to develop mutual recognition of digital identities between the countries. The MOU is an important step in the route to achieve interoperability of digital identity regimes between different jurisdictions, which can allow for more reliable identity verification and faster processing of applications, among other things.
Digital transformation made remarkable progress last year, with technology awareness among state agencies, businesses, and citizens significantly improving, according to the Deputy Minister of Information and Telecommunications, Nguyen Huy Dung. He stated that digital transformation has become a trend in the wake of COVID-19. It is a new engine driving the country’s socio-economic development and facilitating virus response and economic recovery. Digital technology has found its way into every governmental, economic, and social activity.
According to a news report, there has been a surge in digitisation across the country. In Da Nang, residents can register for electricity supply and pay power bills via their smartphones. Village chiefs in Lang Son are leading community-based technology groups that teach the villagers how to develop digital shops on e-commerce platforms, helping raise sales of agricultural products 174 times. In Quang Ninh, the chairman of the provincial People’s Committee has deployed a digital system to check the progress of public administrative services delivery.
An industry expert stated that at an early stage, the national digital transformation and the journey towards a digital economy and society still have a long way to go. Every person and business is increasingly aware of how digital technologies are profoundly changing the delivery of public administrative and healthcare services. The national portal for public administrative services has been operational for over a year, with nearly 3,000 services made available.
The remote medical consultation and support network Telehealth, which connects around 1,000 clinics nationwide, has bridged the gap in service quality among regions and reduced overloads at centralised hospitals. Many hospitals now provide digital health records, remote health services, and e-payments.
Do Cong Anh, the Director of the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications’ Information Technology Application, emphasised that it is not only about technology and equipment but also regulatory frameworks, policies, awareness, and personnel. Technology contributes some 20% to an organisation’s successful digital transformation while the remaining 80% depends on its awareness and how its personnel translates digital plans into reality, according to Anh.
By 2030, Vietnam sets to develop an e-government and digital economy which contributes around 30% to the GDP. The country also aims to be among the top 50 countries in e-government development and the third in ASEAN by the end of this decade. Vietnam is expected to be the fastest-growing e-commerce market in Southeast Asia by 2026, with e-commerce gross merchandise value (GMV) reaching US$56 billion by 2026, 4.5 times the estimated value of 2021.
Vietnam is at the forefront of driving change and seizing opportunities to thrive based on digital transformation in a post-pandemic future. A study surveyed about 16,700 digital consumers and more than 20 C-level employees in six Southeast Asian countries, including 3,579 survey participants from Vietnam. The report described Southeast Asia as a leader of digital transformation in the Asia-Pacific region and Vietnam as one of the best performers.
As cyber threats increase, becoming ever more sophisticated and evolving to match cyber resilience measures, new approaches and strategies are needed. Traditional ideas and methods that protect a tangible periphery no longer work, more so in the increasingly common remote workforce. These plans cannot be static but must be revisited periodically, upgraded frequently and monitored constantly.
Organisations that support the public and private sectors must be far more proactive than before, keeping a vigil on bad actors, both internal and external, foreign and domestic. Cyber resilience systems must learn to adapt to ever-morphing and clever attacks against core systems, infrastructure and equipment.
The cyberattack on the SolarWinds software build environment in December 2020 emphasises how dangerous the current landscape is and how concerned cyber resilience teams should be. The risk is no longer limited to a department or organisation but now threatens entire national functioning.
There is no doubt broad consensus and common development of sound practices across industry and government. Firm in their belief that transparency and cooperation are the best tools to help prevent and protect against future attacks, SolarWinds remains committed to sharing their learnings from the attack. Secure by Design is their guiding set of principles, with a focus on people, infrastructure and software development.
Their whitepaper, Setting the New Standard in Secure Software Development: The SolarWinds Next-Generation Build System is an excellent resource. Read on the learn more on software development and the build process improvements they’ve made in an accelerated timeline this year.
Singapore and the Republic of Colombia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to deepen economic ties between the two countries and promote closer collaboration between Singapore and Colombian companies. Businesses in Singapore and Colombia will have more opportunities to collaborate in areas such as technology and innovation.
This is the first bilateral MOU between ESG and ProColombia, the government agency in charge of promoting the export of goods and services, foreign direct investment, and tourism. Under the MOU, ESG and ProColombia will work together to facilitate business partnerships between Singapore and Colombian companies, in key areas of technology and innovation (emerging technologies such as Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and digital industries), trade, infrastructure (smart city and smart governance) and energy.
This MOU builds on Singapore’s economic relations with Colombia and affirms our commitment to work together. The consumer, trade and infrastructure sectors are important growth drivers of the Colombian economy. The country is also making inroads into technology and innovation. With Colombia also a part of the Pacific Alliance, this MOU will facilitate Singapore companies with aspirations to diversify to Latin America as well.
– Tan Soon Kim, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Enterprise Singapore
Colombia is Latin America’s fourth-largest economy, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$683.9 billion (S$920 billion). It is expected to grow 5.5 per cent this year. The country was Singapore’s sixth-largest trading partner in Latin America and the Caribbean last year, with total trade in goods amounting to $327 million – a 17 per cent increase from 2020.
The Colombian government has a special interest in strengthening trade and investment ties with Singapore, a key partner for its expansion to the Asia-Pacific region. Singapore’s regional leadership and strengths in areas such as urban and airport infrastructure and logistics.
There are some examples of Singapore companies that have successfully expanded into Colombia. The company is among the top five coffee exports in Colombia with seven warehousing and three processing facilities in the country.
Technology solutions company was commissioned by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2016 to connect the Single Electronic Windows for Foreign Trade of the Pacific Alliance Countries. This involved developing a customised interoperable solution that allows the Pacific Alliance countries to exchange, validate and mutually accept data, permits and authorisations in real-time to increase the efficiency and transparency of the foreign trade in the region.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Singapore and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have launched negotiations on a new Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA) last year. The agreement seeks to deepen bilateral cooperation in new emerging digital areas, such as in personal data protection and cross-border data flows, digital identities, fintech, as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI) governance frameworks. It also aims to support and foster greater collaboration between both countries’ SME communities in the digital economy.
Recently, Singapore and ROK have concluded negotiations on the Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA). The KSDPA will be Singapore’s fourth Digital Economy Agreement (DEA), and the first with an Asian country. The agreement will deepen bilateral cooperation in the digital economy between both countries, by establishing forward-looking digital trade rules and norms to promote interoperability between digital systems. This will enable more seamless cross-border data flows and build a trusted and secure digital environment for our businesses and consumers.
The KSDPA is part of a series of DEAs that Singapore has embarked upon. These agreements are an inter-agency effort led by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Communications and Information, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, to advance collaboration in the digital economy and enhance digital connectivity.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Vu Duc Dam, has signed a decision on adjustments and supplements to several articles on a project to promote the transfer, mastering, and development of foreign technologies to Vietnam. The project focuses on prioritised industries and fields to 2025 with an orientation to 2030. Accordingly, by 2025, Vietnam expects to build a database on 4,000 dossiers of foreign technologies, receive the transfer of 400 technologies from abroad, and master 10 technologies. The respective figures are expected to reach 10,000, 1,000, and 30 by 2030.
As many as 4,000 technicians and administrators in businesses and organisations are expected to receive training on seeking, decoding, mastering, and transferring technologies through both direct and online formats by 2025, which will increase to 10,000 by 2030. Meanwhile, a network of 200 and 500 international technology partners is expected to be set up by 2025 and 2030, respectively. The number of FDI projects that include the transfer of technologies to local firms is hoped to increase 10% each year by 2025 and 15% per year by 2030. At the same time, 30% of businesses producing major products in prioritised areas are expected to build their own research and development facilities serving the transfer and absorption of technologies. According to reports, the percentage is expected to increase to 70% by 2030.
Under the new decision, greater attention will be paid to enhancing human resource quality through in-depth training at home and abroad and inviting foreign experts to work and give training in Vietnam. Along with receiving assistance to improve their capacity to seek, negotiate, evaluate, transfer, and absorb technologies, businesses and organisations will be supported to implement projects to transfer, decode, master, and develop technologies from abroad to Vietnam.
The country, which is pursuing a policy on the development of digital technologies, has set the goal of having ten technology firms with annual revenue of over $1 billion by 2025. As OpenGov Asia reported earlier, under a plan, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) will draft a Law on Digital Technology to institutionalise guidelines and policies of the Party and the State on digital technology development.
Other tasks for 2022 are building and protecting the growth space and developing a digital economy based on research, creation, production, supply, and indigenously-developed technology products and services. It’s expected that by 2025, the ICT industry will shift from outsourcing and assembling to designing and manufacturing technology products locally. The Ministry aims for the sector to master or invent technologies with local content of over 45%. Vietnam plans to have 100,000 digital technology firms by 2025 and have at least 10 firms compete in global markets with revenues of over US$1 billion. It also wants to have 10 localities with revenues of over US$1 billion from ICT and 10-12 IT zones.
Last year, the total revenue of Vietnam’s ICT segment was estimated at an all-time high of VND3,462 trillion (US$151 billion), growing 9% year on year. The ICT segment alone contributes over US$136 billion to the sum, increasing by some US$11.5 billion from last year, according to data from MIC.