Following a recent series of security breaches affecting healthcare patients in Singapore, another health public sector agency reported that personal information of 808,201 blood donors was left vulnerable after a third-party vendor failed to securely protect a server containing data. The database had contained registration-related information such as donors’ name and national identification number and, in some instances, blood type and weight.
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) was alerted on 13 March 2019 that one of its vendor’s servers contained a HSA database that was not adequately safeguarded against access over the internet. The vendor provides services to HSA and was working on a database containing registration-related information of the blood donors: Name, NRIC, gender, number of blood donations, dates of the last three blood donations, and in some cases, blood type, height and weight. The database contained no other sensitive, medical or contact information.
Cyber expert uncovered the vulnerability in the database
A cybersecurity expert had discovered this vulnerability and alerted the Personal Data Protection Commission. HSA immediately worked with SSG to disable access to the database.
The HSA have also made a Police report. The expert has confirmed to HSA that he does not intend to disclose the contents of the database. HSA is in contact with the expert on deleting the information.
Health Services Authority apologises for data breach
Chief Executive Officer of HSA, Dr Mimi Choong, said: “We sincerely apologise to our blood donors for this lapse by our vendor. We would like to assure donors that HSA’s centralised blood bank system is not affected. HSA will also step up checks and monitoring of our vendors to ensure the safe and proper use of blood donor information.”
Third-party vendor failed to put in place adequate security measures
Investigations are ongoing. Preliminary findings from HSA’s review of the database logs show that other than the cybersecurity expert who raised the alert, no other unauthorised person had accessed the database. HSA had provided the data to the vendor for updating and testing.
They then placed the information in an internet-facing server on 4 Jan 2019 and failed to put in place adequate safeguards to prevent unauthorised access. It had done so without HSA’s knowledge and approval, and against its contractual obligations with HSA.
Amid the social restrictions and quarantine policies imposed during the global spread of COVID-19, human mobility patterns changed dramatically. To better understand the relationships between human mobility, government policies and cases of COVID-19, U.S. researchers have developed an interactive web application that illustrates the connections between human mobility, government policies, and cases of COVID-19.
The app was built with data from three independent sources: a map, which provides data on human movement via walking, driving and public transportation; COVID-19 Government Response Tracker, which provides data on government policies implemented during the pandemic; and global cases of COVID-19. Users can select a specific state or county in the U.S. as well as another country and see how mobility and COVID-19 cases changed over time or in response to government policies or social circumstances.
At a macro level, understanding movement patterns of people can help influence decision making for higher-level policies, like social gathering restrictions, mask recommendations, and tracking and tracing the spread of infectious diseases. At a local level, understanding the movement of people can lead to more specific decisions, like where to set up testing sites or vaccination sites.
Since the initial launch, the researchers have continued to update the application with appropriate data at regular intervals. The web application produces interesting visualisations that can reveal fascinating trends specific to a given area that might otherwise not be recognised.
During their exploration of the data, the researchers found a handful of case studies that suggested interesting trends. For example, in New Orleans, the application shows a spike in human mobility at the end of February 2020, which coincided with Mardi Gras celebrations. Coincidentally, there was a corresponding spike in COVID-19 cases almost a month after the event.
Although the application is specific to the pandemic, the framework could be modified rather easily to create a similar application for natural disasters as long as appropriate data sets are available. Understanding historic mobility patterns are needed for policymakers to make informed decisions regarding transportation systems and other areas both under normal circumstances and in response to extreme events like a pandemic or a natural disaster.
According to a page, this data shows the number of COVID-19-related policy responses taken by the government on a given day. Indicators include containment and closure policies such as school closures, workplace closures, public event cancellations, restrictions on gatherings, public transportation closures, stay at home requirements, restrictions on internal movement, and international travel controls. Other indicators include health system policies such as public information campaigns, testing policies, contact tracing, and facial covering policies.
Other U.S. researchers have also been using data by an online tool to provide insights into people’s online behaviour, specifically people’s response to COVID-19. As reported by OpenGov Asia, A research project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) develops an online tool called CitizenHelper. This tool can sort through millions of tweets to identify behaviours that could assist emergency agencies and give them an understanding of the population’s attitudes. The tool uses artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to filter the posts and then determine the relevance and information level of each tweet.
The tool helps these researchers to scale work that would be difficult for humans to do alone. The head of the research team says that humans are good at contextual understanding to filter content but they cannot scale. Machines, on the other hand, are good at scaling, but they do not deeply understand the context very well. Hence, a human-AI teaming approach is invaluable. The algorithms need humans to help them improve their accuracy. CitizenHelper allows this very seamless interactive mechanism for humans and computers. The humans can provide feedback to the machine on what the machine has predicted.
Vietnam has introduced an artificial intelligence (AI) application that issues warnings when facemasks are not being worn on public transport. The computer vision app alerts authorities of passengers who are not wearing or improperly wearing masks. The app is connected to surveillance cameras on public transport vehicles and can access image data and automatically analyse it. It sends appropriate notifications to the server of the transport company if it detects someone not wearing a mask or wearing one incorrectly.
The app, which was introduced earlier this month, was developed by the Binh Anh Electronic Technology Development Co. (BA GPS). The company’s Chairman said AI technology not only brings about many benefits to public transport owners but also helps improve safety for passengers. According to a news report, other apps developed by BA GPS are to be piloted on public transport soon. The country is promoting technology in the form of health declaration sites, contact tracing, and testing applications to fight against the virus. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh recently affirmed that technology is one of the three prongs of the COVID-19 response strategy in the new period.
The Deputy Minister of Science and Technology and head of the quick information response team at the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control said the team has continually applied technology to evaluate the situation. They use it to make a forecast on the pandemic’s developments in Vietnam and the world, set up mechanisms for monitoring people entering Vietnam and those under quarantine, and gear up response plans for special circumstances.
A group of scientists from the Medicine Faculty at the Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City has unveiled a technological solution that combined the internet of things (IoT) with AI to concurrently manage people in quarantine sites and crowded places. Further, medical and delivery robots have been put into use at quarantine sites to replace health workers in transporting food, medicine, and essential goods and collecting waste, thus minimising direct contact. Many other organisations have also created a number of high-quality scientific and technological products such as testing kits and vaccines and commercialised them to help with the pandemic combat.
BKAV, a cybersecurity and software company, developed Bluezone- a contact tracing application. Bluezone is believed to be the most effective tracking solution in the fight against the virus. The latest report of the Authority for Information Technology Application (AITA) shows that as of 24 May, there were 33.06 million Bluezone downloads, which meant an increase of 2.5 million Bluezone installations compared with 28 April, when the fourth wave broke out.
Of the 33 million Bluezone users, more than 20.58 million people have entered their mobile phone numbers on the app. As such, the number of people providing their phone numbers to state agencies had increased by 1 million. Hanoi and HCM City are leading the country in the number of Bluezone downloads, with 3.1 million and 2.83 million, respectively.
Researchers at the University of South Australia have designed a digital tool to help the police, defence industry – and now child protection services – translate complex data into a visual story, saving hundreds of hours of time.
The narrative visualisation tool, developed by Dr Andrew Cunningham, Dr James Walsh, and Prof Bruce Thomas, has already allowed the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to create snapshots of crime by distilling mountains of case notes and briefs into image-based stories. The software helps prosecutors, lawyers and juries get up to speed in the courtroom so they can more easily understand complex facts, saving hours of admin and time.
Dr Walsh, a postdoctoral researcher at UniSA STEM, says the software identifies key events of a criminal case, selecting the most relevant data from case notes and presenting it in an easy-to-grasp snapshot, whilst still being able to dig into the details.
Another domain that has expressed interest is child protection. For each child coming into foster and emergency care, government departments are having to plough through years of their history. The tool can help to build a narrative of each child by identifying key dates, events, and an overall summary of their life.
The narrative combines text with images, video, scans, and voiceovers to present a snapshot that filters out the most critical information. It was noted that the tool is a marriage of computer science, statistics, graphs, artificial intelligence, artistic design and storytelling. For digital systems, the team is collecting more data, whether that’s from notes, automated sensors, spreadsheets, video, audio and even x-rays. The researchers have worked on the tool to integrate with data from different domains.
A new project with BAE Systems is also examining other narrative visualisation concepts to map the life cycles of defence machinery, tracking the operational and service histories of warships, combat vehicles and aircraft. The tool is useful wherever there is huge complexity – in logistics, transport, healthcare, and finance, for example – and need to summarise the most important elements.
“The beauty of it is that we can create specific models for each domain. For criminal cases, we can focus on pulling out information that relates to charges. For loan applications, we can identify a person’s financial history. Basically, we can rank the material to prioritise the information we care about and then present it in a visual form,” Dr Walsh says.
Dynamic graphics and interactive news stories have been part of the online media landscape for several years now, as a response to waning attention spans, the slow death of print, and a global embrace of digital media.
This trend is now spreading beyond the confines of newsrooms and becoming part of the fabric of many industries, the researchers say. The tool has been acquired by a Melbourne-based software company for commercialisation.
According to recent market research, the global data visualisation tools market is projected to grow from US$5.9 billion in 2021 to US$10.2 billion by 2026, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.6% during the forecast period.
Various factors such as the growing demand for an interactive view of data for faster business decisions and increasing developments in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to enable the interaction of companies with data in 3D formats are expected to drive the demand for data visualisation tools.
The data visualisation tools market has witnessed several advancements in terms of tools offered by the industry players. Verticals such as manufacturing, retail, and energy and utilities have witnessed a moderate slowdown, whereas BFSI, government, and healthcare and life sciences verticals have witnessed a minimal impact.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to the increased use of line charts, bar charts, and choropleth maps in the news. Simple data visualisations have become the key to communicating vital information about the coronavirus pandemic to the public.
While these terms might not be familiar to all, the visualisations themselves certainly are. One of the most interesting developments due to the current COVID-19 crisis is that organisations that excel at the developments of dashboards centralise analytics and decision-making approaches and scale them exponentially across all connected channels.
A new smartphone app called NKT aims to make the lives of disabled people in Vietnam easier by giving them better access to support. The app gives people with disabilities, particularly survivors from accidents with explosive ordnance, the chance to provide and access data about their disabilities. They can obtain a disability certificate to receive government assistance and communicate other needs to authorities. The application is currently being upgraded with additional support functions to assist people during registration.
The digital platform for registry and information management for persons with disabilities (PwD) was launched on 15 June in Hanoi as part of the Korea-Vietnam Mine Action Project (KV-MAP). The project partners are the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Vietnam National Mine Action Centre (VNMAC). It is also supported by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA). An estimated six million people in Vietnam, accounting for 7% of the population, live with a disability. The digital platform aims to make their lives easier and support the provision of needs-based assistance.
According to a news report, the information registered in the database will be kept confidential. An official said that the application is user-friendly and easy to navigate. For social protection officers, the digital platform transforms the management of support for citizens with disabilities. It enables MOLISA and its provincial departments to develop the national database with timely and accurate information on persons with disabilities in support of evidence-based policymaking and targeted assistance.
The digital platform has been successfully tested in Quang Binh, Binh Dinh, Khanh Hoa, Thanh Hoa, Quang Ninh, Quang Nam. and Vinh Long provinces. As well as Hue and Da Nang cities; 90,000 persons with disabilities have already agreed to be registered. These include the 75,000 people who decided to register when the initial district-level pilot was scaled up to a provincial-level assessment covering both Quang Binh and Binh Dinh, thanks to the Korea-Vietnam Mine Action Project.
The report claimed that this experience helped make the online platform ready for use throughout Vietnam, and this has become easier with the launch of the app for smartphones using either iOS or Android operating systems. “We will promote these applications widely, while at the same time continue developing the skills of social workers enabling them to meet the needs of those they serve,” said Nguyen Van Hoi, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.
The platform is entirely web-based, and the data is centrally stored and managed. 70% of the Vietnamese population own a smartphone and that is why the app was developed for electronic devices. It aims to enhance access to government services for the public.
At the launch of the digital platform, UNDP Resident Representative Caitlin Wiesen emphasised the importance of promoting innovative solutions to solve issues for persons with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable populations in society and have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19. An official said the app is an initiative contributing to the greater goal of making society more inclusive.
With COVID-19 dramatically changing the healthcare industry, organisations have been forced to adapt their practices and embrace digital transformation. Hence, Taiwan’s Development Center of Biotechnology (DCB) is prepared to demonstrate Taiwan’s pharmaceutical innovation on new cancer drugs and cell therapies in the world’s largest virtual biotech.
Twelve innovative drug discovery technologies have been selected to be displayed. DCB then invited many government officials, tech and health experts to discuss issues on public health, pharmaceuticals, therapeutics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and strategies to boost bio-innovation under the pandemic. This initiative is supported by Taiwan’s Department of Industrial Technology (DoIT) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA).
To cope with future infectious diseases and the fast-changing COVID-19 variants, Taiwan must utilise its strengths in Information and Communications Technology, AI, and data analytics to improve its healthcare system. These technologies can also minimise physical contact and facilitate smart hospital management in the hospital. Furthermore, the global collaborations between governments and biotech companies have shown the importance of solidarity in combating the pandemic.
The first biotech innovation on display is the FLT3 inhibitor for patients with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) shows promise in the AML market since its 5-year survival rate is only 15% to 20%, and this drug candidate is proven to be highly specific and can induce high activity.
Next is the Tri-mannosyl-ADC platform, an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) developed by DCB. It is created by using enzymes to combine chemicals in the form of 4 single molecules (4A) or 2 different molecules (2A2B) with antibodies. Compared to other ADC drugs, the Tri-mannosyl-ADC platform demonstrated a higher potential to increase efficacy and overcome certain adverse events, making it a better candidate to commercialise.
In addition, DCB developed a new CAR-T therapy with an autocrine immune checkpoint inhibitor and new targets. In the lab setting, the therapy expressed high specificity and toxicity toward the solid tumour in gastric cancer, showing 60% effectiveness on tumour inhibition. DCB now is expecting to tackle issues with the tumour microenvironment and leads to a stronger cytotoxic effect on solid tumours. DCB then developed a high throughput CHO cell production system with great potential in the market. The technology would be one of the main focuses in the display and would attract biopharma firms.
During the display, two leading Taiwanese start-ups are also set to exhibit their product portfolios. Taiwan’s medical device company will showcase a smart remote management system including curative effect tracking and treatment management cloud platform. A smart health company will present its digital therapeutics that provide customised, scalable, and data-driven chronic disease management. The platform was deployed across 240 healthcare providers and has been available for more than 650,000 patients in Taiwan and Japan.
The pandemic drove drug discovery and selection to an unprecedented speed. It forced pharmaceutical companies to come up with new drug innovations within months. By utilising the power of AI, data science, and genomics, the fast-paced innovations are feasible. The biotech display is a great opportunity to show the world Taiwan’s unique viewpoints and development in biotech, AI, digital medicine, and drug discovery. Taiwanese firms must venture for more overseas channels and business opportunities.
Taiwan has been focusing on utilising advanced technologies in the health sector including promoting the use of AI. As reported by OpenGov Asia, healthcare is the ideal field to expand the use of AI given the technology’s ability to quickly conduct big data analyses and modelling. Taiwan’s National Health Insurance (NHI) Research Database contains over two decades worth of data and images to assist in this process. Taiwan is also an ideal place to integrate the latest and greatest technologies into the biotech and medical sectors.
The Australian Government Department of Health will use a Swedish business analytics platform’s technology to deliver data analytics capabilities in support of the Department’s reporting of COVID-19 related information to key stakeholders.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Australia, the Department of Health has been using the firm’s platform to provide health offices with a clear perspective on COVID-19 related statistics. The company’s data visualisation and analytics solutions underpin COVID-19 public announcements, pandemic incident management and COVID-19 updates on the Department of Health website.
The Department needed a rapid data solution that was external facing, easily adaptable and could support the National Incident Room to provide curated data daily, to keep the Australian public informed on the unfolding pandemic.
The company offered an end-to-end solution, allowing the Department to join many disparate datasets quickly and produce a range of reporting formats. They provided a prototype platform to the Department at the onset of the pandemic, with a live public website available shortly after to provide information to support approximately half a million hits a day.
The solutions were used across a range of areas, including COVID-19 public service announcements and an Informatic Placement — a manually constructed visual dashboard that highlighted key figures related to the spread of COVID-19. This was later updated to enable automated reporting, reducing time spent by staff in the National Incident Room to curate the information by five to six hours daily.
Pandemic Incident Management (PIM), a user-centric dashboard that was created by combining different data models and the company’s apps to create analytics for internal use was also provided.
For its work, the Australian Government Department of Health was presented with the firm’s Excellence in Healthcare Award at the company’s Australia and New Zealand Health & Public Sector Digital Transformation Awards 2021.
Australia’s COVID-19 response has been the envy of countries around the world, one article notes. Even after experiencing a second surge of cases between May and October last year, the country adapted quickly and cases have not gone beyond the 1,000 mark since.
Data dashboards have proved useful in the fight against COVID-19, specifically in the area of decision making. In the US, NYU Langone Health’s source-of-truth dataset and de-identified COVID-19 data repository enabled operational leadership to make informed decisions regarding resource allocation and strategic planning.
The Director of Industry Solutions for Healthcare and Public Sector at the company stated that Australia’s well-regarded approach to the COVID-19 pandemic can be attributed to a well-coordinated and collaborative effort across government, the healthcare sector and the private sector, which was underpinned by data-driven decision-making.
“This enabled the government to swiftly act and provide clear communication to citizens and state authorities on the rapidly changing situation to help limit the spread of COVID-19 within the community,” she said.
An earlier report notes that the Australian government is strengthening the country’s digital economy with a strong emphasis on technology, in the Australian federal budget for 2020 and 2021. Alongside investments in artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity and digital government services, Australian businesses are set to benefit from technology commitments to boost the country’s global competitiveness.
The Australian technology sector has welcomed the proposed allocations. The funding for enhancing AI capabilities, empowering organizations in how they can capitalise on digital data (for consumers, businesses, and for managing the environmental impact), and upgrading the country’s digital infrastructure readiness was particularly praised.
This includes allocating A$421.6 million over two years (and A$38.7 million in capital funding) to continue the My Health Record system and funding for the Australian Digital Health Agency, including for the Intergovernmental Agreement on National Digital Health.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), together with key stakeholders in Singapore’s data centre industry, have established a new research programme to develop innovative and sustainable cooling solutions for data centres located in tropical locations. A state-of-the-art testbed facility will be set up in NUS to promote the co-creation and demonstration of such advanced cooling technologies.
The new Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT) – the first of its kind in the tropics – will serve as an innovation hub for academia and industry to work together to future-proof the region’s data centre industry. The programme will see researchers develop and demonstrate energy-efficient cooling technologies to achieve breakthroughs in the tropical data centre environment. The testbed facility is expected to be operational by 1 October 2021.
This programme is jointly funded by the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF), and an anchor industry partner. The research is led by NUS and NTU and is supported by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and other industry partners.
The new STDCT will be housed on the NUS Kent Ridge campus. The new facility will house state-of-the-art equipment such as a novel desiccant-coated heat exchanger design, and a StatePoint Liquid Cooling System (SPLC). The SPLC helps data centres operate more efficiently in tropical locations.
The combination of these technologies will enable a more energy-efficient cooling solution for buildings in a tropical climate that make use of ambient air that is otherwise hot and humid. Innovative chip-level hybrid cooling will be adopted to keep the servers cool. Smart operation of these technologies using Artificial Intelligence (AI), with the digital twin capability, will not only be more water and power-efficient but will also ensure the longevity of the data centre’s equipment and servers in the long run.
This flexible and full-scale live data facility enables the identification of potential operational risks of the solutions being tested so that de-risking measures that are well-suited for the tropical climate can be designed.
The STDCT will be part of the NUS Living Laboratory, a strategic initiative to transform NUS into a major testbed for pilots and trials at a scale that has not been possible in the past. This will facilitate the translation of scientific discoveries in the laboratory into useful technologies and capabilities for solving real-world problems and industry applications.
Research at the STDCT will be co-led by researchers from both NUS, NTU and data centre industry partners, with active inputs from relevant government agencies. Companies will share their needs and requirements with the research community to ideate and innovate the solutions.
The rise of the digital economy has led to the growing demand for data centres that house computing and data storage infrastructure. As computer servers generate a lot of heat, these data centres are currently air-cooled at temperatures between 23 and 27 degrees Celsius, and an ambient humidity of 50 to 60 per cent as the industrial practice. Maintaining such controlled environments require high energy consumption, resulting in high cost and carbon emissions – particularly for tropical countries like Singapore.
Singapore supplies about 60 per cent of the data centres located in Southeast Asia. Data centres in Singapore consume almost 7 per cent of the country’s total energy needs, a figure projected to reach 12 per cent by 2030. Thus, there is an increasing need to reduce power consumption and carbon footprint in packing more computing power within the same floor area, while developing solutions to sustain the cooling demands of data centres.
Experts say that data centres are the backbone of the digital economy and they require constant cooling for optimal operations. The new STDCT will accelerate the development and test-bedding of innovative and sustainable solutions for data centres, towards commercial deployment. As part of the country’s Energy Grid 2.0 programme, the testbed facility will also support Singapore’s journey towards becoming a low-emissions economy.
While the IMDA said that Singapore’s digital economy continues to generate and use data at exponential rates. The agency affirmed that it would work closely with industry partners to push technological boundaries to bring about more energy-efficient data centres and encourage the adoption of best-in-class technologies, solutions and standards. This will enable the country to grow its data centre ecosystem sustainably and further entrench Singapore as one of the world’s leading data centre hubs.
In the longer term, the STDCT envisions recommending operating guidelines and setting new standards based on proven findings from the new technologies, for greener data centre operations.