The pandemic has vaulted the governments and businesses into the next stage of digital transformation and online services. Everywhere, organisations have been compelled to accelerate and bring forward their digital transformation strategies.
Data is increasingly at the core of any business or organisation and is a critical raw material for intelligent analytics and the driving force behind digital transformation. Personalisation, efficiency, and effective services are only possible with a comprehensive, 360o view of citizens and customers. This understanding is built on and powered by data. More than ever, data has become integral for organisations interested to get ahead of the curve, gaining a competitive advantage and engaging their customers more effectively.
To become a truly data-driven organisation that operates in real-time, agencies must deploy multiple modernisation initiatives, including application modernisation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud, edge computing and analytics.
At the same time, organisations also need to have the right platforms and architectures that can support the new demands of digital transformation, being able to turn data insights into actionables and adapt to the new working realities of hybrid work.
This was the focus of Day 4 of the Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum, which focused on how organisations leverage technology on their digital transformation journey, generate feasible corporate solutions that result in real and quantifiable benefits and find platforms that can support them for the future.
Digital transformation in a post-covid world
Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia, kicked off the session with his opening address.
COVID-19 changed many realities and a caused significant paradigm shift in digital thinking. For one, working from home became accepted as part of the work culture. “People want the hybrid model,” Mohit stressed.
However, the question is: does the existing technology in organisations allow them to cope with the rapid changes in the new normal?
While the world is evolving in a big way, there are key pillars on which this transformation currently rests. Mohit shares his acronym of ACDC2, where ‘A’ stands for augmented intelligence, ‘C ‘stands for convergence (of the physical and virtual), ‘D’ is data, ‘C’ stands for cyber resilience and C2 represents critical events.
“The concept of identity and how we determine or confirm it, is being fundamentally altered,” Mohit states emphatically. “For the last 15 years, we have been focusing on identity – banks, healthcare, public and private sector. When Facebook came into the picture, people started being able to create their own identities. Today, Facebook is an authenticator of identity. Even that will change – with the rise of the Metaverse.”
Some of the most forward-looking initiatives today are focused on decentralised identity, which uses blockchain and distributed ledger technology to create identity databases that are controlled by algorithms rather than institutions. Pilot projects involving decentralised identification built on Microsoft platforms are taking place in the UK, Tokyo and Belgium. Additionally, the EU has stated that blockchain technology should play a part in “enhancing” the European digital identity framework.
Positions and perspectives are also subject to change – sometimes diametrically opposed to the initial ones. In 2013, the US Securities And Exchange Commission said that cryptocurrency is fake – it was denounced. Yet today, SEC is regulating cryptocurrency.
The world is changing rapidly and the ways that people do business are also developing. “Technology is flying and people have to get ready for tomorrow,” Mohit contends.
To cope with the new demands of the citizens, organisations need to leverage data, embrace AI and pivot towards automation. “These trends are here to stay,” Mohit opines. “10 years ago, cloud was a fancy notion but today the Singapore government is pouring money into it.”
He encouraged delegates to look for partners who are experts in their field of work who can help organisations keep their glass full so that they can focus on their business objectives.
Establishing trust in a nation’s digital ecosystem
Dominic Phoon, Deputy Director National Digital Identity, Government Technology Agency of Singapore(GovTech) spoke next on the journey of National Digital Identity in building trust in the digital era.
“Why is digital identity important?” Dominic asks.
Across the globe, countries have implemented or have started to implement their own national digital identity, each with its own degree of success. However, both government and private sector businesses are recognising digital identity as a core foundation of the digital economy.
Many countries focus their national digital identity programme on the issuance of a digital credential to the citizens, either in the form of a smart card, or a mobile and crypto-based identity. In Singapore, where the latter has been employed, there is a belief that digital identity can be much more than that – laid out in the 3 main objectives for its digital identity:
- Digitally empower: Providing a convenient and secure means for individuals to transact digitally with more confidence, with both public and private sector services
- Digitally enable businesses: Providing a series of trusted services, so that businesses can digitalise operations and capture the opportunities that come with digitalisation
- A digital ecosystem of trust: Promote trusted data flows
Singapore is an open interconnected global city that has built a world-class infrastructure for the movement of goods and people, Dominic asserts. This has made Singapore a trade hub and the people hub of the world. In the digital era, people need to have a trusted digital infrastructure that facilitates the movement of data, enabling trusted data flows across boundaries of systems, organisations and even borders.
And to support this digital platform, the nation started by building and then maintaining a high performing, secure and resilient on-cloud architecture. The focus of this architecture centres around the following pillars:
- Reliability – ensure services work as expected all the time
- Performance Efficiency – optimise and scale all processes to get the fastest possible outcome.
- Security – protect the confidentiality and integrity of assets
- Operational Excellence – active monitoring of all systems as well as continual improvement to operating processes and procedures
A stable and robust foundation enables the easy proliferation of products as well as helps foster trust and confidence from both consumers and businesses in using the national platform.
With the architecture in place, the next task is to drive adoption for both consumers and businesses by enabling useful digital services from both public and private sectors alike. The benefit for these businesses is that they need not host or build their own architecture, they can simply leverage the government platform. For consumers, the architecture provides seamless and trusted access to businesses.
Over the last 3 years, GovTech’s focus has been on building these components of the digital infrastructure and platform. This includes 7 API (Application Programming Interface) products for businesses, as well as the Singpass app, which is the key product citizens will use to transact with government and private sector services that offer higher assurance and trust.
GovTech has scaled up resources to support SafeEntry and COVID-19 contact tracing. Using their infrastructure, they were able to roll out SafeEntry within 3 weeks which was subsequently enabled across 200K venues islandwide, amounting to more than 300 million transactions a month.
With their platform and products in place, they partnered with businesses to co-create more innovative and value-added services. Organisations can leverage the ready suite of Singpass APIs to help them enhance services and customer experience.
Dominic shared the many ways in which GovTech has value-added services. It includes Myinfo, Login with Singpass, verify with Singpass, face verification with Singpass, Sign with Singpass and the Singpass App.
While the SingPass app was launched in Oct 2018, GovTech has since adopted an agile approach in releasing new features and improvements progressively. The user adoption has, to date, exceeded 3.5 million users.
Another important benchmark is their monthly active users which exceeded 2.9 million, indicating that over 90% of users use SingPass app at least once a month. Singpass can now be used to access more services with both the Government and private sector, be it viewing a CPF (Central Provident Fund) balance, accessing a bank account or even donating.
GovTech has come a long way since 2017, Dominic states. When the national digital identity was launched as a strategic national project, giving recognition of its importance as a digital enabler not only to the government agencies but also to the private sector.
Since the launch of their platform, the number of services facilitated by Singpass has quadrupled from just a year ago to date. Residents can access more than 1,900 services using Singpass, with over 200 million transactions conducted each year.
Today, businesses have seen benefits in harnessing GovTech’s trusted platform to deliver value to their customers and they expect more businesses to take advantage of this platform to further grow their services for even more customers.
He encouraged delegates who are interested in finding out more to reach out to him.
Democratising and Scaling AI and Intelligent Automation Initiatives
Picking up on the conversation on automation, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia and Ravi Bedi, Head & Practice Lead AI-Led NEXT Solutions, NCS discussed various automation initiatives undertaken by NCS.
With rapid digital transformation, a skilled workforce is key, Mohit thinks, and is keen to hear Ravi’s opinions about the manpower shortages in the field of AI, “How can Singapore as a nation amplify its workforce sustainably in AI?”
Ravi firmly believes that Singapore is a testament to how it is possible to “pull a rabbit out of a hat,” moving from at breakneck speed in advancement. NCS is focused on nation-building and changing for the next generation in Singapore. The issue of training the next generation has been on their minds from the get-go.
NCS is focusing on what Ravi calls, applied innovation. They have been pushing the concept of the citizen data scientist. Many other tools are esoteric, requiring expertise in data science and training. Elevate is a completely mechanised AI-as-a-service platform where people who may not have the training can utilise the platform.
The platform has taken out the hardcore data science requisite and put it into a platform with AI advisors so that one will know what data to select – it can even assist in data cleansing. Their objective is to put the platform in MOE so that Singapore can produce native data scientists to solve problems that the nation has.
NCS has a marketplace where employees can build hyper-personalised finance, HR or procurement AI applications that can be uploaded to a marketplace. There, the rest of the community can utilise and reuse the applications. With such an initiative, a false multiplier is created within organisations.
Ravi believes in the importance of being able to apply at scale internally before offering the idea to other organisations. A platform that NCS has developed is “So How,” which has conversational AI, speech recognition and embedded enabling technology but packaged it as a service to NCS employees. They have done away from coding and designed it to have API level integration.
A great example of the utility of “So How” was its free availability for Singaporeans in submitting ART results. One of their staff built a computer-vision capability into “So How” for ART submissions as a free service for all Singapore.
To use it, individuals can sign into WhatsApp or Telegram and send an image via the chat and it will be received by the consolidator on the other end. The computer-vision will determine if someone is positive or negative, the brand of the test kit and other information. The results are then generated as an excel spreadsheet with a photograph.
On AI and automation, Mohit is eager to have Ravi’s insights on its future in Singapore. In response, Ravi shares that NCS is looking into bringing the democratisation of AI skills to schools.
Mohit opines that the COVID-19 pandemic has made AI and Intelligent Automation a boardroom imperative and the urgency to scale up these technologies is stronger now than ever. He asks for Ravi’d thoughts on how AI is becoming the ‘new run-time of an organisation” and getting embedded in their operating model.
To set the context of his reply, Ravi believes that every technology needs a catalyst. Moreover, he feels that the focus is too much on the technology as opposed to the outcome. It is key to understand the human being.
As far as embedding AI into operating models, Ravi says, “It’s not just about one product.” Technologies that are strung together will become the run-time, he believes, and NCS is making the run-time by developing new Intellectual Property.
Revolutionise Operations, Materialise Innovation and Realise the Future of Work
Following the conversation on AI and automation, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia and Dan Ternes, Chief Technology Officer APAC, Blue Prism discussed how Intelligent Automation is operationalising and democratising AI, turning it from just a research project to a pragmatic, feasible corporate solution, resulting in real and quantifiable benefits.
Mohit kicks off the fireside chat by referring to a study commissioned by Blue Prism. In that survey, 73% of Singapore business leaders are facing difficulties in applying RPA further, while 71% feel more thought needs to be put into its application. In light of these statistics, he asks for Dan’s thoughts and recommendations for these organisations.
Dan believes that the expresses reason people struggle with RPA is that organisations begin their journey with the wrong expectations. Organisations evaluate poorly because there are not enough people with real experience of what it takes to apply RPA correctly. People do not know the questions to ask. “We are building our marathon team to run 400m sprints.”
Apart from that, organisations see RPA as being the solution to the mundane and menial. However, mundane and menial are bywords for non-tangible value or non-business outcomes. Some organisations need to rethink, others need a reset.
It is said that often because some of these organisations have been automating tasks rather than processes and hence, they are facing these roadblocks to scaling up their RPA projects. “What is your advice to these organisations so that they are geared up to move across and scale beyond?”, Moht asks.
Dan remarks that organisations are looking at automating tasks but that they should be looking at automating processes. The things that create real value for the stakeholders, processes instead of tasks are what needs to be addressed.
“You have to create a centralised team of experts and create some real wins,” Dan asserts. “Organisations would want someone with critical thinking and political capital to be running the RPA programme, rather than someone that does not want to make mistakes.”
On RPA’s potential to be used as a platform – and not merely a productivity tool – to give local organisations access to digital technologies such as AI, Mohit was keen to gain ingts from Dan.
“It is not just a potential but essential,” Dan says. “Productivity is not the source of it.”
For Dan, it is about utilising RPA to address problems and improve user experiences. Problems often require solutions from different technologies. Blue Prism RPA handles the end-to-end activity between systems and hence becomes a platform that solves problems.
How should organisations ensure that their employees are properly prepared to face a change in the way they work so that they do not miss making real progress? He believes in emphasising service quality over costs and walking the talk. People want to see things actualised instead of lip service. When that is done, people have buy-in.
Mohit remarks that organisations across the industries have realised the importance of AI and have made investments in it to re-shape their business model so that it is more responsive, more efficient, and more resilient. Many of these same organisations, however, have struggled with getting the ROI they expected. Mohit was keen on hearing Dan’s thoughts on how to operationalise AI, turning it from just a research project to a pragmatic, feasible corporate solution, resulting in real and quantifiable benefits.
AI is more than research projects and it cannot exist in a vacuum in an organisation, it must be integrated upstream and downstream. Sometimes, that is made difficult because of legacy systems. At the upstream level, organisations need to have a good mechanism for pulling data from diverse sources and correlating that together, preparing the inputs for the AI algorithm. Downstream, the results need to be turned into operations. Only that way can people turn AI results into a corporate outcome.
Polling Results for Morning Session
Throughout the session, delegates were polled on different topics.
In the first poll, delegates were asked about their organisation’s biggest challenge in digital transformation strategy. Well over half (58% ) indicated that culture is the biggest issue. Over a third (38%) were hampered by skills that they have while only 4% found the technology a challenge.
On the percentage of their overall IT investment that delegates see being committed to their digital transformation strategy over the next 2 years, delegates were fairly evenly spread over a range of 30%-50% (38%), between 10%-30% (35%) and more than 50% (27%).
Asked to vote on the most important outcome they are seeking in their organisation’s digital transformation journey, more than half (57%) expressed that operational efficiency is the most important outcome. The remaining delegates felt that the speed of developing and deploying changes (29%) and the reliability of newly deployed changes (14%) are the most important.
On the role delegates see open-source software playing in their company’s digital transformation, the majority (43%) found it somewhat critical. The remaining delegates found it marginally critical (30%), supercritical (22%) or not critical (4%).
About the external help delegates think is needed most to accelerate their digital transformation journey, most (33%) felt that mindset change and new ways of working is needed. The remaining delegates think that building the framework and a standard platform (28%), automation (22%), training and enablement for cloud technologies (11%) and agile integration (6%) are needed most.
On the area of priority that delegates will position automation for, a large portion (45%) said they would prioritise citizen and customer engagement. The other delegates indicated co-agency/inter-departmental collaboration (36%) and cybersecurity (18%) as priorities.
When asked about what delegates thought the most important skill set needed for their employees to remain relevant in the modern workspace, delegates were evenly divided between the skills of being a team player and having cross-cultural literacy (39%) and the ability to learn using digital tools (39%). The remaining delegates also equally indicated the ability to work independently (11%) and time management (11%) as important skill sets.
Inquiring on the area of interest that delegates value the most, the majority (41%) were interested in tools that can deliver automation in areas like compliance and data classification. Other delegates were interested in the ease of doing business through a simplified technology consumption model (32%), delivering business resiliency through available applications and workloads (23%) and visibility into cross-system data and infrastructure to identify unexpected changes and potential risks (5%).
In the final poll for the morning session, delegates were asked what they would spend on if they had an unlimited budget. Over a third (39%) would spend on integrating disparate systems, while a third would spend on staff training / upskilling (33%). Slightly less than a quarter (22%) would spend their money on updating legacy technologies and only 6% would spend on resources to improve delivery time.
Digital Platforms for Smart Nation Citizens
Sean Sim, Cloud Solutions Director ASEAN, Red Hat spoke next on building a modern digital service platform.
In the digital age, citizens are very discerning customers. Governments, thus, must respond with high-impact digital services which are user-centric in design. A key element of being user-centric is the ability to get feedback quickly and incorporate the feedback into updated digital services through iterative development.
Leading governments today are using modern application development practices such as DevOps and Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD) to respond quicker and better to citizen needs. This needs to be coupled with key technology enablers, such as microservices running on lightweight containers that can run across hybrid cloud environments seamlessly.
Many organisations have transformed because of COVID-19, yet a lot remains to be done because organisations are looking at the process linearly. Innovation is done in silos. However, digital transformation gives people the ability to get resources self-service.
Organisations need to know what they need to develop e-services. Red Hat’s role is to provide organisations with the means so that they can spend less time evaluating technology and spend more time thinking about how to elicit change.
According to Sean, the current IT landscape looks like a museum with eras of IT history that don’t belong together and demand great effort to keep business running. Some observations include:
- Innovation is slowed as support for new technologies (containers, mobile, microservices) is slow or missing.
- Rogue IT often erupts and results in security risks
- Ticket systems constrain the flow of innovation with longer than necessary waits for resources
- Hardware expansion is constrained by budget and procurement
- Promotion of changes is manual, exhaustive and error-prone
- Management is complicated by mismatched tools with competing functions and fragmented views
- Security is weakened by fragmented approaches, vendor-specific capabilities, rogue IT and shadow ops
Often, it is easy to imagine new technologies newly implemented and working like a charm in environments. In reality, it is like remodelling your current house. While, in theory, the best thing is to tear everything down and rebuild from scratch, one does not do this with one’s house for practical concerns. Just like your systems.
There are running services that represent the business and there are legacies to contend with. The existing enterprise service bus or ETL still need to run. At the same time, organisations wish to create more new services the modern microservices way on top of them. They need a regular middleware stack featuring familiarity like Springboot Java that have successfully have been modernised itself to be still dependable on internet-scale. Modern concepts like a streaming platform for data flows to be more efficient and easier to connect should also be part of the stack.
Importantly, these tools, both old and new, should be readily available and be in an environment that is easily available for developers to explore and rapidly experiment with to get confident.
According to Sean, once organisations have put in place a stack that considers new and old appropriately, they stand to gain from the open-source possibilities that are developing today. He encourages the use of fundamental modern capabilities and being able to do things like have data flowing into the correct applications in real-time, share information with other agencies or third parties needing them or even create instantaneous responses to requests. That is where efforts should be focused on while the technology stack should be an established provider.
In conclusion, Sean believes that once organisations have everything unified under a single architecture, other problems like security will be addressed. Red Hat offers unified management. Apart from that, Red Hat also helps customers systematically tackle digital transformation. They can conduct discovery workshops to understand why organisations want to embark on digital transformation and offer advice on how to better improve their capabilities.
Accelerate, Innovate and Transform – Connect people, functions and systems to accelerate innovation, increase agility and enhance productivity
In the final sharing of the day, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov and Willie Hui, Director – Solution Consulting, Asia, ServiceNow explore how to help organisations innovate quickly, realise fast time-to-value, improve productivity and deliver great experiences.
Post COVID-19 recovery phase is an opportune time to reimagine the citizen experience for government and enterprise leaders who were already making progress on digital transformation, Mohit asserts. The sudden need to allow millions of staff to work from home during the pandemic has thrown digitisation plans into top gear. Mohit is curiou to know Willie’s thoughts on how this momentum of delivering intuitive, consumer-like services is possible with the usage of modern self-service tools.
Willie notes that in the last 2 years, the digital transformation has been accelerating. Working from home and hybrid working is a norm. To achieve working from home, government organisations and enterprises are looking at how to make work easier for employees and how to create better experiences for the customers and users. The other factor is that the new generation is familiar with self-services.
Willie also observes that all organisations are looking at how to transform from old methods of doing service to the new way of having digital services and self-service.
In terms of how to become more agile, he suggests 3 areas to focus on:
- Experience: Intuitive and personalised
- Digitising workflow: Middle and back-office needs to be digitalised so that organisations can identify what is happening and areas to automate
- Intelligence: Embedding intelligence in the workflow
There is no shortage of data in organisations. The important thing is to be able to turn the data into actionables. ServiceNow is a platform that provides simplicity for the different applications that an organisation has – HR, finance, workplace and security.
For Mohit, hybrid work is the future. He is eager to have Willie’s insights on how productivity can be measured.
Willie clarifies that the baseline is to build an environment wherein employees have a system that is connected and unified for people to do the work. In terms of measurement, there is no need for new KPIs. Rather than add new measurements, the KPI can be about what is the adoption of services. Willie mentions that well-being is a new indicator that has been added.
In the final question, Mohit was keen to know how organisations can improve their response to change or any future crisis across their entire organisation.
For Willie, ServiceNow has 3 zero goals: Zero data centre, zero downtime and zero incidents reported. The first goal is not having to manage a data centre and the solution is to move to cloud. Secondly, ServiceNow considers how there can be zero downtime and how organisations can leverage AI, AL and Machine Learning to prevent problems from occurring. Finally, ServiceNow strives for zero incidents reported. Instead of waiting for customers to report the incidences, ServiceNow proactively identifies the problems.
Polling Results for Afternoon Session
Throughout the session, delegates were polled on different topics.
In the first poll, delegates were asked about their organisation’s biggest challenge in digital transformation strategy. A majority (68%) indicated that culture is the biggest challenge, followed by skills (32%).
On the percentage of their overall IT investment that delegates see being committed to their digital transformation strategy over the next 2 years, delegates were equally divided on more than 50% (38%) and between 10%-30% (38%). The remaining delegates saw themselves being committed between 30%-50% of their time (27%).
On the most important outcome they are seeking in their organisation’s digital transformation journey, 60% said that operational efficiency is the most important outcome. The remaining delegates equally felt that the speed of developing and deploying changes (20%) and the reliability of newly deployed changes (20%) was the most important.
Regarding the role delegates see open-source software playing in their company’s digital transformation, a majority (67%) found it somewhat critical. The remaining delegates found it marginally critical (27%) and supercritical (7%).
About the external help delegates think is needed most to accelerate their digital transformation journey, most (40%) felt that mindset change and new ways of working is needed. The remaining delegates think that agile integration (30%), building the framework and a standard platform (20%) or automation (10%) is required.
When asked about what delegates thought was the most important skill set needed for their employees to remain relevant in the modern workspace, delegates opted for being a team player and having cross-cultural literacy (54%) and the ability to learn using digital tools (38%). The remaining delegates found the ability to work independently (8%) an important skill set.
In the poll on the area of interest that delegates value the most, just over a third (38%) were interested in tools that can deliver automation in areas like compliance and data classification. Other delegates were equally keen on the ease of doing business through a simplified technology consumption model (25%) and delivering business resiliency through highly available applications and workloads (25%). Visibility into cross-system data and infrastructure to identify unexpected changes and potential risks resonated with 13%.
In the final poll for the morning session, delegates were asked what they would spend on if they had an unlimited budget. Delegates were split between integrating disparate systems (31%) and resources to improve delivery timeline (31%), followed by staff training / upskilling (15%), Improving security and compliance (15%) and updating legacy technologies (8%).
In conclusion, Mohit emphasised the criticality of digital transformation in the age of COVID-19. Staying abreast of the technologies that can enable business outcomes, adapting to shifting cultures and taking risks are necessary if organisations want to continuously innovate and achieve operational efficiency.
The National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) has been on a remarkable journey of advancements in cardiovascular research, particularly in the prevention, diagnosis, and management of heart diseases. With the global rise in heart disease cases, NHCS’s dedication to scientific knowledge and innovation has become increasingly vital.
Since its establishment in 2014, the National Heart Research Institute of Singapore (NHRIS) at NHCS has positioned itself as a leading institution for cardiovascular research in the region. Over the years, NHRIS has achieved significant breakthroughs that hold the potential to transform patient outcomes.
NHRIS’s research encompasses a wide spectrum of disciplines within cardiovascular medicine, spanning basic, translational, and clinical research. Notable achievements include Heart Stem Cell Therapy and Preventing Fibrosis.
By studying patients’ heart stem cells, researchers have uncovered new treatments for heart diseases. For example, a breakthrough treatment using myeloperoxidase has been discovered for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an inherited condition characterised by thickening of the heart muscle.
Also, through the study of heart tissue from patients undergoing surgery, NHRIS researchers have identified a potential treatment involving interleukin-11 antibodies to prevent inflammation and fibrosis in the heart and other organs. This innovative therapy has the potential to improve outcomes for patients with various inflammatory and fibrotic conditions.
The next phase of NHCS’s research efforts over the coming years will focus on three key areas:
- Discovery of New Treatments: Ongoing research aims to develop new treatments for heart diseases, enhancing patient outcomes.
- Utilising Artificial Intelligence: NHCS is at the forefront of integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into cardiovascular care. AI holds promise in predicting, diagnosing, and monitoring heart diseases with greater precision and efficiency. The APOLLO study, initiated in 2021, is building an AI-driven national platform for coronary angiography analysis, offering detailed reports on patients’ conditions and future cardiovascular disease risk.
- Clinical Trials and Population Health Studies: NHCS’s research agenda includes conducting clinical trials and population health studies to prevent the onset of heart disease.
NHRIS is pioneering innovative approaches, including Visualising Energy Pathways and AI Applications.
Disturbances in energy-producing pathways in heart muscle contribute to heart conditions as Hyperpolarised magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a novel imaging technology available only in a few centres worldwide, allows the measurement of these metabolic pathways, potentially leading to new treatments for heart disease.
On the other hand, AI accelerates research in the field of cardiovascular science. By processing vast datasets and identifying patterns, AI systems assist researchers in identifying novel treatment methods, risk factors, and disease mechanisms. These insights lead to breakthroughs in treatment and prevention methods, advancing the overall understanding of cardiovascular diseases.
With this, NHCS is leveraging AI to detect, predict, and diagnose heart diseases by analysing complex imaging data. AI provides clinicians with invaluable insights, enabling personalised care and early intervention.
In addition, NHCS collaborates with other heart research institutes and hospitals through CADENCE (Cardiovascular Disease National Collaborative Enterprise), a national platform that combines heart research capabilities in data science, clinical trials, and AI. This collaboration ensures a collective effort to advance cardiovascular research and improve patient care.
NHCS’s groundbreaking research initiatives in AI applications, clinical trials, and collaborative efforts underscore its commitment to enhancing patient care. As NHCS continues its pursuit of research excellence, its impact extends beyond Singapore, benefiting individuals across the region and around the world. The institution is poised to make substantial progress in preventing, diagnosing, and managing cardiovascular diseases, ultimately reshaping the future of cardiovascular medicine.
An innovative microscope developed by a research team at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is poised to revolutionise the field of cancer surgery. This cutting-edge microscope, powered by artificial intelligence, has the potential to transform the way surgeons detect and remove cancerous tissue during operations, thereby sparing patients from the distressing prospect of secondary surgeries.
Lung cancer, a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, has been a focal point for this ground-breaking research. Professor Terence Wong Tsz-Wai, the principal investigator of the project and an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at HKUST, highlights the urgency of their work.
He notes that between 10% to 20% of lung cancer surgery cases require patients to return for a second operation due to incomplete removal of cancer cells. This uncertainty has long plagued surgeons, who often struggle to determine if they’ve successfully excised all cancerous tissue during the initial surgery.
The HKUST research team, led by Prof. Wong, is eager to see their innovation make a significant impact. Collaborating with five hospitals, including Queen Mary Hospital, Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong, and three mainland Chinese hospitals, they have embarked on a large-scale clinical trial involving around 1,000 patient tissue samples. The goal is to have the microscope officially in service locally by 2024 and on the mainland by 2025.
The current methods for imaging cancer tissue offer either accuracy with lengthy delays or speed at the cost of accuracy. Traditional microscopy, considered the gold standard, is highly accurate but can take up to a week to generate results. This means patients must endure a week of anxious waiting to know the outcome of their surgery. In cases where the operation is deemed unsuccessful, patients face the daunting prospect of a second surgery to remove the remaining cancer cells.
The alternative, known as the frozen section, provides quicker results within 30 minutes but sacrifices accuracy, with an estimated accuracy rate of only around 70%.
The HKUST research team’s breakthrough technology, termed “Computational High-throughput Autofluorescence Microscopy by Pattern Illumination” (CHAMP), has changed this landscape. It can detect cancer cells in just three minutes with an accuracy rate exceeding 90%, rivalling the gold standard but with significantly faster results.
CHAMP employs ultraviolet (UV) light excitation to image tissue surfaces at a specific wavelength. Subsequently, a deep learning algorithm transforms the obtained greyscale image into a histological image, facilitating instant interpretation by doctors. This real-time feedback empowers surgeons to ensure they have completely removed all cancer cells during the operation.
CHAMP’s potential has garnered local, regional, and international acclaim, leading to the establishment of a start-up supported by HKUST and funded by the Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU). Beyond developing the technology, the company plans to manufacture CHAMP microscopes for medical institutions in Hong Kong, mainland China, and overseas markets.
This endeavour represents the culmination of years of meticulous research, starting with Prof. Wong’s PhD training at Washington University in St. Louis and the California Institute of Technology. During this period, Prof. Wong, under the guidance of biomedical imaging expert Prof. Lihong Wang, developed a microscope capable of analysing breast cancer tumours with an accuracy rate comparable to the gold standard but with results in just one to two hours.
The shift in focus to lung cancer occurred when a pulmonologist approached Prof. Wong, recognising the potential of the technology to enhance precision during lung cancer surgery. This decision led to the development of CHAMP microscopy, which is approximately 100 times faster than Prof. Wong’s earlier work during his PhD training. This breakthrough makes CHAMP clinically useful and impactful.
The applications of CHAMP extend beyond lung and breast cancers. The research team is conducting tests on smaller scales for conditions such as liver, colorectal, kidney, and skin cancers, as well as prostate gland conditions. Prof. Wong is confident that CHAMP will elevate medical imaging and diagnosis to new heights, benefiting not only Hong Kong hospitals but also healthcare institutions nationwide and abroad. This pioneering technology represents a beacon of hope for cancer patients, offering the promise of quicker, more accurate surgeries and improved outcomes.
OpenGov Asia reported that the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) spearheaded an initiative aimed at promoting innovation and technology in the biotech sector, showcasing Hong Kong’s pioneering advancements and entrepreneurial spirit.
This initiative was part of the “Think Business, Think Hong Kong” event organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) in Paris recently. The event was a platform to underscore the potential for cross-border collaboration between Hong Kong and France in the field of biotechnology and innovation.
The government has unveiled the Intelligent Grievance Monitoring System (IGMS) 2.0 Public Grievance Portal and Automated Analysis in the Tree Dashboard portal under the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG). It was unveiled by Jitendra Singh, the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and Technology.
The IGMS 2.0 Dashboard was developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-Kanpur) as part of an agreement with the DARPG through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in 2021. It enhances DARPG’s Centralised Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System Information Systems (CPGRAMS) by integrating artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. CPGRAMS is an online platform available to citizens round-the-clock to lodge their grievances to the public authorities on any subject related to service delivery.
The dashboard offers instant tabular analyses of both grievances filed and disposed of. It provides data categorised by state and district for grievances filed, and it also offers Ministry-wise data. Additionally, the dashboard can help officials identify the root causes of grievances.
The CPGRAMS portal receives an increasingly high caseload of issues raised by the general public. Given the public’s expectations for the timely resolution of their grievances, the portal receives approximately 2 million grievances annually.
Due to the substantial volume of grievances received, the manual classification and monitoring of cases is not feasible. The IGMS portal will assist the DARPG in generating draft letters for specific schemes or ministries. This automation expedites the grievance redressal process carried out by the respective ministries and departments involved.
According to Minister Singh, the Prime Minister has repeatedly emphasised the significance of grievance redressal as a crucial element to keep the government accountable and promote citizen-centric governance. In alignment with this vision, a more robust human interface mechanism has been introduced, which includes counselling services provided after the resolution of grievances.
The Minister praised DARPG for ensuring that the CPGRAMS portal is accessible in 22 Scheduled languages, in addition to English, ensuring that the benefits of the portal are accessible to the common man. He also emphasised the importance of integrating state public grievance (PG) portals and other government portals with CPGRAMS for more effective and streamlined grievance redressal processes.
He claimed that thanks to the reforms implemented by DARPG in the CPGRAMS, the average time it takes for central ministries and departments to resolve public grievances has decreased. There has been a decline of almost 50% in the average disposal time for central ministries and departments from 32 days in 2021 to 18 days in 2023.
Minister Singh also launched the Swachhata Special Campaign 3.0 and unveiled the Precedent Book (e-book) developed by the department. He praised the DARPG for achieving the transition to a fully paperless office, where all communication is conducted through the eOffice portal.
During the past two Swachhata campaigns, an impressive 9 million square feet of prime office space has been successfully cleared and repurposed for productive use. Additionally, 456,000 public grievances have been effectively redressed, and 8,998 references from Members of Parliament (MPs) have been addressed. The Swachhata campaign has also played a pivotal role in promoting an eOffice work culture within the government, resulting in over 90% of file work being transitioned to an online format.
Public transportation is a crucial service for enhancing the general satisfaction the government provides. In light of this, the Indonesian government has established high-speed rail infrastructure for Jakarta-Bandung mobility.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kominfo) fully supports the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Train (KCJB) WHOOSH operation. Kominfo’s Budi Arie Setiadi expressed continuous monitoring for the availability and reliability of digital connectivity, particularly telecommunications networks along the first high-speed rail route in Indonesia.
“We, along with the telecommunications ecosystem, conducted tests. Kominfo is tasked with supporting signal-related issues. We assessed the signal quality along our journey and found that we could use devices and frequencies for communication,” he explained.
Minister Budi Arie emphasised that KCJB, as a technological leap for Indonesia’s progress, needs full support from the latest telecommunications technology. With advancements in transportation paralleled by digital technology, it will undoubtedly facilitate more efficient access for the public.
“This is a technological leap for Indonesia’s progress. Because this train is solid, the tracks are seamless, and the signal is robust. Our duty and responsibility are to support it,” he added.
Kominfo assured that the quality of telecommunications services would sustain the overall KCJB service. According to them, the journey from KCJB Halim Station to KCJB Padalarang Station and vice versa proceeded smoothly.
“Overall, the management and governance of the high-speed train are excellent,” he noted.
At this trial event, Minister Budi Arie Setiadi was joined by Deputy Minister of Kominfo Nezar Patria and senior officials from the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. Minister Budi Arie encouraged the telecommunications service provider network to oversee and guarantee the quality of the network.
Ismail, the Director-General of Resources and Equipment of Posts and Information Technology at Kominfo, explained that the test conducted by Kominfo officials and telecommunications service providers is part of the initial process to support digital connectivity for KCJB. Kominfo has prepared radio frequency spectra for quality telecommunications signal transmission.
“And, fortunately, the signal used, or the frequency used, is now in collaboration with one of the biggest telecommunication companies in Indonesia. This cooperation began about two or three years ago. And, thank God, we witnessed today that the train’s communication system worked well. No signal interruptions,” he stated.
Director-General Ismail states that 5G telecommunication networks are available at Halim KCJB Station and Padalarang KCJB Station. This network supports connectivity and signifies that Indonesia is ready for full-scale and comprehensive digital transformation, even in minor details.
“For these two station locations here (Halim) and in Padalarang, the 5G signal has already been covered. Passengers at these stations can now enjoy 5G services. The remaining task is to improve the signal for passengers during the journey. So, from Jakarta to Padalarang and Bandung, we hope there will be no frequency or cellular signal interruptions,” he explained.
Next, Henry Mulya Syam, the President and Director of the Telecommunication company, stated that they would address several remaining telecommunications service challenges at various points along the KCJB route.
“There are several sites to be added, both outdoor and on the KCJB panel. We have conducted evaluations, so hopefully, within 6 to 9 months, because new towers need to be built,” he clarified.
Previously, together with President Joko Widodo and several members of the Indonesia Maju Cabinet, Minister of Communication and Information Technology Budi Arie Setiadi conducted a test journey on the KCJB from Halim Station, East Jakarta, to Padalarang Station, West Bandung Regency. The KCJB, WHOOSH, travels 350 kilometres per hour, making it the first high-speed train in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has introduced the Centre for AI Security Research (CAISER) to confront the existing threats stemming from the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence by governments and industries worldwide. This move concedes the potential benefits of AI in data processing, operational streamlining, and decision-making while acknowledging the associated security challenges.
ORNL and CAISER will collaborate with federal agencies such as the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Information Directorate and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate. Together, they will conduct a comprehensive scientific analysis to assess the vulnerabilities, threats, and risks associated with emerging and advanced artificial intelligence, addressing concerns ranging from individual privacy to international security.
Susan Hubbard, Deputy for Science and Technology at ORNL, emphasised this endeavour, “Understanding AI vulnerabilities and risks represents one of the most significant scientific challenges of our time. ORNL is at the forefront of advancing AI to tackle critical scientific issues for the Department of Energy, and we are confident that our laboratory can assist DOE and other federal partners in addressing crucial AI security questions, all while providing valuable insights to policymakers and the general public.”
CAISER represents an expansion of ORNL’s ongoing Artificial Intelligence for Science and National Security initiative, which leverages the laboratory’s unique capabilities, infrastructure, and data to accelerate scientific advancements.
Prasanna Balaprakash, Director of AI Programmes at ORNL, emphasised that AI technologies substantially benefit the public and government. CAISER aims to apply the lab’s expertise to comprehensively understand threats and ensure AI’s safe and secure utilisation.
Previous research has highlighted vulnerabilities in AI systems, including the potential for adversarial attacks that can corrupt AI models, manipulate output, or deceive detection algorithms. Additionally, generative AI technologies can generate convincing deepfake content.
Edmon Begoli, Head of ORNL’s Advanced Intelligent Systems section and CAISER’s founding director emphasised the importance of addressing AI vulnerabilities. CAISER aims to pioneer AI security research, developing strategies and solutions to mitigate emerging risks.
CAISER’s research endeavours will provide federal partners with a science-based understanding of AI risks and effective mitigation strategies, ensuring the reliability and resilience of AI tools against adversarial threats.
They provide educational outreach and disseminate information to inform the public, policymakers, and the national security community.
CAISER’s initial focus revolves around four national security domains aligned with ORNL’s strengths: AI for cybersecurity, biometrics, geospatial intelligence, and nuclear nonproliferation. Collaboration with national security and industry partners is critical to these efforts.
Col Fred Garcia, Director of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate, expressed confidence in CAISER’s role in studying AI vulnerabilities and safeguarding against potential threats in an AI-driven world.
Moreover, as ORNL celebrates its 80th anniversary, CAISER embodies the laboratory’s commitment to solving complex challenges, advancing emerging scientific fields, and making a global impact. With its established cybersecurity and AI research programmes, ORNL is well-suited to pioneer AI security research through CAISER.
Moe Khaleel, Associated Laboratory Director for National Security Sciences at ORNL, highlighted the laboratory’s legacy of scientific discovery in various fields and emphasised CAISER’s role in scientifically observing, analysing and evaluating AI models to meet national security needs.
The Digital Government Development Agency (DGA) recently updated Thailand’s digital government progress to enhance nationwide digital services. They plan to expand their government application for all age groups, with over 400 million digital service usages, excluding infrastructure services.
The estimated economic value exceeds 8 billion baht. Their strategy focuses on more accessible, faster, and transparent access to government services, fostering a Smart Connector role. This enhances digital government levels, promoting a Smart Nation and Smart Life for Thai citizens, aligning with their quality of life improvement goals. Dr Supot Tiarawut, Director of DGA, presented these 2023 mission results, emphasising their commitment to effectively serving citizens, businesses, and government entities.
At the Government-to-Citizens (G2C) level, the DGA has linked over 112 government services via the government application, functioning as a comprehensive government SUPER APP. This app integrates services from various government agencies to address citizens’ needs effectively. It boasts more than 112 services, with over 7.5 million cumulative users and 607,041 downloads. This offers citizens a convenient single-channel solution for accessing government services, streamlining the process for all age groups and reducing the complexities associated with traditional government service usage. The plan for 2024 involves introducing critical services such as personal land tax checks, insurance information (Life/Non-Life), and interest payment services (pawning).
The Government Open Data Centre elevation aims to provide high-quality open datasets that cater to the populace’s needs and serve software developers, enabling their appropriate and optimal utilisation. This strategic move aims to enhance future competitiveness. Currently, there are 10,226 open datasets with 3,871,796 users.
The plan for 2024 includes boosting information exchange and utilisation among the public, private, and international sectors. Additionally, the Digital Transcript project, which offers digital transcripts, enhances convenience for students, reduces financial burdens, eases document verification processes for staff, and trims university expenditure on document issuance. This initiative has already produced over 1 million cards across 82 universities nationwide.
The DGA promotes transparency and public engagement through the central legal system, where the government seeks general feedback on law drafts and assesses their effectiveness. Over 1,000 regulations have been open for public comment, with 191,683 submissions. Additionally, the Tax Pai Pai system, providing government expenditure data, enhances public participation in monitoring corruption, with 16,187,604 projects disclosed.
In the G2B sector, the Biz Portal streamlines government-business interactions, benefiting SMEs. Over 124 government licenses have been obtained by 15,881 active operators, simplifying business startup processes. The Digital Entrepreneur Centre for Government Agencies (Me-D e-Marketplace) lists 595 digital technology entrepreneurs from various agencies for government procurement.
In G2G collaboration, the DGA enhances data sharing through the Government Data Exchange Centre (GDX), linking 13 agencies through 74 service data APIs with 133.44 million data exchanges. The Digital Government Personnel Development Institute (TDGA) has already benefited over 1,942,443 individuals, with plans to expand to local-level staff in 2024, offering region-specific digital courses and on-site training through the system with over 300,000 learners.
The Digital Local System is a crucial initiative, a cornerstone of local-level digital government adoption. It streamlines the administration and services of 659 Local Administrative Organisations, incorporating systems from 117 agencies. This enhances service provision, making it accessible and convenient nationwide, ultimately improving people’s quality of life in various regions.
During a visit to Bang Saray Subdistrict Municipality in Chonburi Province, the DGA observed the successful Digital Local System pilot project, which enables convenient access to services, reducing the need for physical visits to government offices and improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The initiative also established B-Buddy Bang Saray, a network of volunteers aiding those unfamiliar with digital systems to promote inclusivity.
In his closing remarks, Dr Supot highlighted these projects as examples of the DGA’s role in advancing Thailand towards becoming a Smart Nation, enhancing citizens’ quality of life. These efforts have consistently improved Thailand’s digital government development rankings assessed by the United Nations.
Government agencies in New Zealand are entering the digital age by launching their new Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS) and All-of-Government (AoG) collaborative contracts dashboards. These innovative digital tools are set to revolutionise procurement practices, offering unprecedented insights into spending patterns and benchmarking features.
The GETS and AoG dashboards have been developed with a digital-first approach to provide agencies with comprehensive insights into their procurement practices. One of the key goals of these dashboards is to enhance transparency in government spending, allowing agencies to make more informed decisions and facilitating strategic, intelligence-led procurement processes.
The GETS and AoG dashboards leverage cutting-edge data visualisation technologies to present complex procurement data in a clear and accessible manner. Interactive charts, graphs, and visual representations make it easier for users to gain insights from the data, promoting better decision-making.
Early agency feedback has been positive, with many highlighting the value of the benchmarking features. These features enable agencies to compare their procurement practices with others, fostering healthy competition and sharing best practices. This benchmarking capability not only improves transparency but also helps agencies identify areas for improvement.
One of the core objectives of this initiative is to make the dashboards even more user-friendly and comprehensive in future versions. The development team aims to streamline the user experience, making it easier for agencies to access and interpret the available data. Additionally, the dashboards will be expanded to include data from all participating agencies, further enhancing procurement data transparency.
In the pursuit of transparency and efficiency, government agencies actively seek input from users and stakeholders. They have invited agencies and individuals to share their suggestions and ideas on improving the dashboards. This collaborative approach ensures that the tools meet the needs of agencies and the broader public, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
Moreover, this new GETS commits to making the dashboards more user-friendly and reflects a user-centric design approach. Agencies will likely collaborate with UX designers to ensure the dashboards are intuitive and tailored to users’ needs, ultimately improving the overall user experience.
Implementing a user-friendly UX is not only making a profound statement about the New Zealand government’s commitment to improving public services but also acknowledging that the success of these dashboards hinges on their adoption and utilisation by a diverse user base. In government procurement, where various stakeholders, including procurement officers, administrators, and policymakers, interact with these tools, catering to their varied needs is paramount.
It will also employ artificial intelligence (AI) to provide intelligent insights. With the emergence of technology, the roles of AI algorithms can be analysed deeper and more accurately. It can generate historical spending data and suggest trends, helping agencies identify cost-saving opportunities and optimise procurement strategies.
The GETS and AoG dashboards represent a significant milestone as government agencies continue their digital transformation journey. These tools provide a glimpse into the future of procurement practices, where data-driven decisions and transparency take centre stage. With ongoing efforts to improve user-friendliness and expand data coverage, these dashboards will play a pivotal role in shaping the procurement landscape for years to come.
In the era of digital government, the commitment to harnessing technology for improved governance and public service is evident. As agencies embrace innovative digital tools, the government sets a precedent for other sectors, fostering a culture of digital innovation and data-driven decision-making for the New Zealand government.