Open Gov Asia recently had the opportunity to speak with the Co founder of RESYNC, a cloud-based energy management solution, Dr Jyantika Soni. RESYNC have been shortlisted for this years DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize at the Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition (LKYGBPC) will be awarded to the most innovative business plans / start-ups / early-stage ventures that address pertinent urban challenges faced by cities of today.
“The grid and buildings are evolving faster than ever, with localised generation using solar on their rooftops, electric vehicles in their parking, dynamic pricing from the grid, and a ton of data that can be collected without knowing how it can be utilised. The more troublesome thing is one user is seldom the same as another.”
RESYNC looked at how the grid was changing in areas which lack infrastructure and other expanding urban areas such as Singapore. They looked at diversification and the huge reliance on unsustainable sources of energy and the changing dynamics in the grid required a modern solution and that’s when RESYNC was incepted.
“We saw that multiple mixes of energy in the ecosystem can be very disruptive to the grid and at RESYNC we’re trying to solve that using an AI driven energy cloud which will ensure reliability and resilience to whatever source you are connected to” said Dr Soni.
This is where RESYNC comes in and solves the problem with a simple goal in mind. They figure out how to run a customer’s energy system at the lowest cost possible while maintaining reliability and sustainability when or if applicable. Taking into account your energy assets, both generating like solar and battery and consuming like air-conditioning and electric vehicles, grid pricing, and your appetite to keep your energy supply carbon neutral.
“It is not just about controlling where your energy is coming from but how you are consuming it as well” added Dr Soni
Our machine learning algorithms figure out your evolving consumption patterns and run it through an optimization algorithm to run your electrical systems at optimal cost and energy-efficiency. Using our on-ground real-time control, we provide action on the insights generated by the machine learning algorithms. And all of this can be visualized and analysed from our platform.
RESYNC provides sustainable solutions through forecasting, load shifting and developing a long term energy saving plan.
It is extremely important to forecast and to understand the demand profile of the business. If the only way you get to know about your peak usage is through your electricity, then you are already too late to take corrective actions. It’s essential to be able to forecast, with reasonable accuracy, your maximum consumption.
Load Shifting – with an established platform of ongoing measurement and management, businesses can take energy savings to the next level. Most business have peak as well as off-peak hours. By spreading the electricity usage over longer durations, businesses can lower their maximum energy demand. And RESYNC’s Energy management system solution will help automate this process without compromising on the operating activities.
A comprehensive long-term energy saving plan enables much better capital investment decisions. Armed with detailed data and realistic energy consumption estimates, managers can rationally weigh the benefits of energy-efficient new equipment versus their purchase costs and other related expenses such as decommissioning and disposal cost, production downtime, etc.
Business continuity through the pandemic and future plans
The business has been successful even during the pandemic, “the plug and play aspect really plays to our advantage especially during these times when movements are really restricted but the technology is not.” They are able to ship the product and bring customers on remotely
RESYNC are involved in many projects across Asia such as India Singapore and Indonesia. They operate in the B2B area selling technology to reliable energy developers, for example, Sembcorp in Singapore. Many of the companies they are working with already work with government to improve real time energy efficiency. So far they have been making strides towards many strategic partnerships with utility providers in the region.
In the future they hope to expand to Europe and further in Middle East. They are currently in discussions in the Middle East, regarding energy monitoring for smart buildings. In Europe they have been a finalist for Seedstars and they have deservedly been a recipient of many awards internationally. And now shortlisted for this years DBS Foundation Social Impact Prize.
Taking forward the learnings from a recent cyber attack impacting organisations all across the world, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has rolled out a set of central banking rules to mitigate the technology risks in the financial sector.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) now requires all financial institutions to assess the suppliers of their technology vendors. The updated guidelines apply to all banks, payment services firms such as GrabPay and Singtel Dash, as well as brokerage and insurance firms.
In a typical assessment, suppliers may be asked to prove that their software source code is rigorously tested and they do not use unsafe programming practices. Suppliers may also be asked to reveal their security measures and how often they monitor cyber risks.
Mr Vincent Loy, assistant managing director of technology at MAS, shared that using an external vendor which may, in turn, procure third-party tools brings significant risks to banking systems. “Unknown third-party suppliers are what MAS is most worried about… Financial institutions that do not allocate sufficient financial resources may be more open to unknown third-party suppliers,” he said.
The hacking of Texas-based SolarWinds, a leading provider of IT management software, had subjected hundreds of thousands of firms and government entities around the world to risks. SolarWinds’ IT management tools are common components in the products of many large vendors including Microsoft, FireEye and Cisco Systems.
Mr Tan Yeow Seng, the MAS chief cybersecurity officer, said financial institutions are increasingly reliant on third-party service providers as they adopt new technologies. “The revised guidelines set out MAS’ higher expectations in the areas of technology risk governance and security controls in financial institutions,” he added.
Straits Times reported that an assessment of third-party suppliers was previously not required under the MAS Technology Risk Management (TRM) guidelines, although due diligence on technology vendors was a must. The screening of component suppliers is now clearly spelt out in the revised TRM guidelines, which cover a wide range of topics to help firms fob off and recover from cyber-attacks and system failures.
Risks through the use of open application programming interface (API), a code that lets different applications talk to one another, are also addressed in the newly updated TRM rules. Banks have used APIs to automatically share foreign exchange rates, for example. This has allowed many external developers to build currency conversion apps using the data. Under the revised TRM rules, financial services firms must vet entities that access their APIs by looking at the nature of their business, cybersecurity posture, industry reputation and track record. They must also secure the development of the APIs and encrypt sensitive data transmitted to prevent leaks or hackers injecting malicious codes in the APIs.
In another key change to the TRM guidelines, the board of directors and senior management in financial institutions must vet and approve key technology and cyber-security appointments. “Organisations that do not have a good cyber-security posture usually do not have a board and senior management oversight for IT functions and key appointments,” said Mr Loy, citing findings of the central bank’s own audits.
Last revised in 2013, the TRM guidelines have been updated at a time of increased data sharing that underpins the sector’s digital transformation. The revision took in feedback from a public consultation in 2019 and other expert engagements. The guidelines elaborate on the mandatory requirements set out in the MAS TRM notice, first issued in 2013 and which carries a fine of up to $100,000 for non-compliance under the Banking Act. In the case of a continuing offence, a further fine of up to $10,000 daily may be levied.
“Being a smart nation is not about flaunting glitzy technology, but … applying technology to solve real problems that will make a difference to people’s lives, and across the whole of society.” These were the words of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loog as he addressed the audience at the Smart Nation Summit in 2019.
PM Lee’s statement resonates well with a recent commentary by Carol Soon and Shawn Goh from Institute of Policy studies. They believe that to realise the vision of a Smart Nation for all, the next phase of Singapore’s Smart Nation must pivot and focus on securing impact on citizens in three ways — strengthening our digital psyche, closing the participation gap, and scaling up partnerships.
Singapore has successfully established itself as a digitally advanced nation, one of the few nations who were well placed to manage the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. But the recent debates about the use of Trace Together data for criminal investigations have highlighted that factors like people’s trust and comfort level with the technology greatly impact the adoption of the digital service.
All these debates and discussions have brought forth the fact that becoming a smart nation requires more than making available the hardware and infrastructure requires to implement it. The “software” challenges also need to be overcome to fully enjoy the benefits of digitisation.
To strengthen these ‘softer’ aspects of becoming a smart nation in the true sense, Singapore needs to focus on the following 3 pillars:
Strengthening our Digital Psyche:
With the rapid digital transformation in the last 10 months, citizens have been bombarded with digital scams and misinformation. In a recent study, it was found that Singaporeans of higher age group and lower socio-economic backgrounds, were found to be more susceptible to false information.
People with high confirmation bias and low knowledge of the digital media landscape were more vulnerable. They were more likely to believe falsehoods aligned with their existing beliefs and were unaware of how and where information online originated from.
These findings highlight key areas of improvement in strengthening Singaporeans’ digital psyche. In particular, public education encouraging residents to be introspective about individual biases when navigating the online space can be ramped up to build national resilience against misinformation that exploit such vulnerabilities.
Another is to equip people with more knowledge on the digital media and tech landscape, so they can better appreciate and assess the credibility of the online information they receive.
Such interventions are resources we can turn to when enhancing digital literacy programmes here by adapting what works for our local context.
Closing the Participation Gap:
The second pillar of focus is to reduce the participation gap due to age, income, and occupational lines. The idea is to not leave behind a single citizen and ensure that they can leverage the technology to its full potential.
A first step to closing these disparities is to establish a national framework that maps out key digital skills all Singaporeans should possess to fully participate in today’s digital world. Countries that have established such guidelines setting minimal standards residents should work towards have seen their efforts bear fruit.
These include digital foundational skills that underpin all other digital skills, such as knowing how to connect to the Internet and maintain online login information.
The framework also outlines digital communication skills, such as communicating with others via email or instant messaging apps and using word processors to create and share documents like a personal resume.
Yet another group of skills looked at those needed for online transaction skills, like being able to access digital financial services and fill in request forms for public goods and services.
Establishing a similar framework for Singapore will help map out basic but critical digital literacies and identify the digital skills gap for different segments of society. This will aid the design of targeted interventions whether by the Government, self-help groups or non-profits to plug existing participation gaps.
Scaling up Partnerships:
The third pillar is to focus on Several new digital initiatives like Seniors Go Digital, and Hawkers Go Digital to speed up the roll out the National Digital Literacy programme.
The private sector has been also been bolstering public sector efforts in meeting the needs of targeted segments. Organisations such as the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Singapore Airlines and Temasek Foundation donated and distributed mobile phones to various communities during the pandemic, in addition to face masks, hand sanitisers.
The people sector has also stepped up to provide ground-up solutions to help fill existing gaps. Initiatives like Engineering Good collected and donated laptops to low-income students. Others, like SG Bono and Readable Asia, have conducted classes for children on how to access the Internet safely.
Singapore has achieved great feats in its smart nation journey and has been able to accelerate it throughout the pandemic. The next step in this journey should be to make technology and digital initiatives more inclusive and citizen-friendly.
In collaboration with
As you might know, Singapore scores pretty well amongst the world’s smart cities – Otherwise, why else would they shoot WestWorld here?
That said, we’re not the only one out there. Cities around the world are all racing to compete as ideal places to live, work and play, improving the lives of their citizens.
Smart cities have numerous benefits, including reducing wastage, saving on manpower costs, being environmentally sustainable, and of course, improves the lives of its citizens by making government services either more accessible, or more efficient.
As part of our 3-part New Year special series, we’re taking a break from looking at initiatives in Singapore, and focusing on some other smart cities around the globe instead.
First off, the capital of Holland – Amsterdam
Fun fact: Apart from being amongst the world’s top 10 smart cities, Amsterdam shares more than a few similarities with Singapore. It was once a fishing village, and though our urban landscapes differ, their colourful 17th century low-rise historical buildings are somehow reminiscent of our Straits-Chinese shophouses (if you use a little bit of imagination).
They say great minds think alike – let’s see what our Dutch friends are up to!
The Mijnbuur app
The Mijnbuur app is probably the most wholesome thing you’ll hear about. It connects you with your neighbours, the local police, or your neighbourhood director if you’re in need of help (be it a robbery, or if some day-to-day maintenance issues). In the Netherlands, apartment owners are expected to work together to maintain and keep their apartment complexes clean.
This is done through the charging of a monthly fee, and you’ll be able to request for compensation from the pot of accumulated finances if, for instance, your neighbour’s pipes were to burst and damage your ceilings. Or, you could just use the Mijnbuur app to get a coffee with your neighbours. The best part: you don’t have to know Dutch to use the app, it auto-translates your messages for you.
Singapore’s One Service app serves a similar function, except you won’t be liaising with your neighbours, but your feedback on municipal issues will directly be routed to the relevant agencies.
Ultimately, the aim of the Mijnbuur app is to foster a sense of social responsibility, and to allow neighbours to peacefully solve disputes among themselves. Besides improving community relationships, data from the app provides government agencies with a clearer idea of the common issues faced by residents in different neighbourhoods.
Waste detection using cameras
Waste management has always been a challenging task for modern cities. Each area has its own pattern of garbage production and the optimisation of waste collection helps to both reduce costs and maintain the cleanliness of the city.
As the city of Amsterdam relies on its residents to drop off their trash bags at designated collection points at specific times, the collection process has to be optimised to avoid the accumulation of trash at these points.
To counter this problem, Amsterdam is currently teaching an image recognition system to identify different types of waste, and its garbage trucks will soon be fitted with smart cameras which can quantify the amount of rubbish there are on the streets and at collection points.
In Singapore, we manage our waste slightly differently – waste is consolidated in rubbish chutes and bins. That said, towns in Pasir Ris and Tampines are rolling something out that’s pretty similar – a smart waste system that informs collectors when the system is almost full!
Easier access to parking lots
The stress of driving is sometimes too overwhelming, especially if you’re hyper-aware of the line of cars queuing up behind you as you very slowly and shoddily attempt a parallel park. In fact, a whopping 30 percent of city traffic is caused by drivers seeking a parking space. Finding a parking space faster would thus lead to a reduction of congestion, fuel use, air pollution levels and of course, drivers’ stress levels.
Smart Flow, an IoT cloud-based platform, monitors sensors to report traffic flow and parking availability across Amsterdam. When Smart Flow was first launched, the average time required to find a parking space was significantly reduced by 43 percent. On top of that, it helps drivers to make more fiscally responsible choices by listing the cheapest options within the area.
Well, Singapore isn’t too far behind either with something in the works by our very own ST Electronics – the Smart Car Park Platform. Combined with smartphone technologies, drivers will eventually be able to search and book for car park spaces, check parking rates and even apply for season parking through the mobile app.
Energy efficiency is one of the biggest goals of a smart city. Unfortunately, though the lights along the streets of many cities use timers or light sensors to limit the length of time the lights are turned on for, the intensity of the lights cannot be adjusted. Not only is this a waste of energy, light pollution can pose a threat to the health of wildlife and plants.
To solve these problems, Luminext developed an urban lighting system that regulates light intensity according to the needs of citizens. This smart lighting system operates through remote sensors, and can also be adjusted from a control centre depending on how bright or dim specific streets the city authorities desire them to be. Streetlights reach maximum intensity once vehicles or people pass by and return to the lowest intensity when the motion sensors do not detect anything in its periphery.
Back home, we’ve also realised the potential for lighting systems to improve urban planning and operations. Our smart lampposts in Singapore may not adjust their intensity automatically, but they do have sensors that can detect and monitor changes to environmental conditions like humidity, rainfall, temperature and pollutants in the air!
In addition, mounted cameras have analytic capabilities to count and analyse crowd build-ups, as well as count, classify and monitor the speed of Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) to enhance safety in public spaces!
So there you have it – great minds (and great cities) do think alike!
Stay tuned for the next Smart City, Helsinki!
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the world are standing their ground in capitalising on digital technology to provide seamless transactions during the new normal despite safety restrictions. In line with these efforts, government agencies and even state-owned firms are rethinking their operation models to be more equipped in providing services to the citizen base.
This scenario is evident in Indonesia, where the government has early on committed to accelerating its digital transformation to boost public service and governance. In fact, according to an earlier report by OpenGov Asia, the Ministry of National Development Planning emphasised the role of information and communications technology to boost the country’s social capital index. This index is the measure of the whole population’s social stability and well-being.
Building on this commitment, Indonesia’s state-owned electricity company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) announced that it has formulated a new innovative strategy to provide services to households across the country. In a statement, the company said that consumers can easily apply for a COVID-19 electricity stimulus package through the PLN Mobile application.
The electricity firm ensured that they are distributing 450 volt-ampere (VA) and 900 VA subsidised electricity packages to 32 million household consumers. It added that this number excludes the 450 VA power packages to 459,000 business customers.
Postpaid customers under the 450 VA group are entitled to a 100% electricity discount while a 50% power subsidy is given to postpaid consumers under the 900 VA power segment. PLN’s Executive Vice President for Corporate Communication and CSR Agung Murdifi said: “postpaid customers will immediately reduce the cost of electricity bills. Then for 450 VA, prepaid tokens can be obtained through the method described. Meanwhile, for subsidised 900 VA household customers, a stimulus is received when purchasing electricity tokens.”.
The Executive Vice President added that they “see that the distribution process is running smoothly and customers have enjoyed the electricity stimulus.”
The state-owned firm emphasised that using the PLN app is easy and convenient during the new normal. The application can be downloaded via Playstore and App Store. Once downloaded, customers can register for the power subsidy by clicking on ‘PLN Cares for Covid-19’ under the Info and Promos tab. They will then be prompted to enter their Customer ID or their electricity meter number. A free token will appear which can be entered by customers in their meter reading to avail of discounts.
For those who have trouble accessing or downloading the PLN app, they can log on to the PLN website or send a message through WhatsApp. The company’s Executive Vice President stated that they have launched these additional services to provide as many alternative options to citizens who are in need of discounts on their electricity bills. He added: “PLN adds Channels through the PLN Mobile Application to make it easier because customers can just open the application on their cellphones, enter the Customer ID / Meter Number, and get the token number.”
The introduction of subsidised electricity is part of the government’s IDR 695.2 trillion (US$ 49.4 billion) stimulus package during the pandemic. This government effort aims to shore up the country’s economy which has taken a hit since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Through this initiative, the government is also optimistic that the stimulus package will help maintain employment levels.
Since August last year, over 30 million households, businesses and industries have been seeing lower amounts in their electricity bills following the release of an IDR 15.4 trillion (US$ 1.09 billion) funding for power relief measures. This amount is on top of the IDR 54.79 trillion (US$ 3.89 billion) yearly electricity subsidies set aside by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.
Singapore’s smart nation initiative was launched with the vision of better living, stronger communities and the creation of more opportunities for all. A technology-driven, up-to-date healthcare system with the capability to ensure the wellbeing of all its citizens is a pre-requisite to support this powerful mission. Such healthcare infrastructure takes on added relevance and urgency in the light of the current global crisis.
To better understand how the government of Singapore is utilising technology to realise this vision of better living and a stronger community for the nation, OpenGov Asia had an in-depth conversation with Sutowo Wong, Director, Analytics and Information Management Division, Ministry of Health.
Sutowo confirmed that technology and innovation in healthcare procedure and processes support MOH’s strategic shift from Healthcare to Health. Wearable technology, healthcare mobile applications, digitising in-person transactions like payments and on-line registrations are all technology use cases that help the government track and ensure the good health of its citizens.
It was fascinating to know how technology has enabled supporting senior citizens through user-friendly apps like the Moments of Life App (a smart nation and Digital Government office initiative) and has taken healthcare beyond the hospital walls into homes and community of patients using TeleHealth.
Sutowo acknowledged that the Singapore healthcare sector harnesses innovative technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in various health care applications and models. AI and ML-driven solutions are, in fact, the key to many of their initiatives and strategies.
- No-Show Predictive Model: Using ML, this model identifies patients who are potential no-shows. This allows administrators to send them reminders or to allocate their slot to another patient. The solution optimises clinic resources as well as maximise available time.
- Multiple Readmission Predictive Model: This model analyses data to create a list of high-risk patients for care teams to focus on. Patients within the elevated risk category are automatically identified for enrolment into intervention programs eliminating up to 90% of nurses’ manual assessment workload, freeing them up to spend more time in taking direct care of patients.
- Singapore Eye Lesion Analyser Plus (SELENA+): Based on a deep learning, artificial intelligence software system, the solution can detect three major eye conditions by highlighting areas with potential vision-threatening eye diseases. This technology has proven to be highly efficient in delivering fast and accurate results.
- National University Health System (NUHS) Automated Diagnosis Engine: The engine helps diagnose appendicitis using clinical notes.The objective of this work is to develop an automated diagnosis system that can predict the probability of appendicitis given a free-text emergency department note and additional structures information(e.g. lab test results). The model can learn important features, and symptoms of patients from unstructured free text notes from doctors helping to make better diagnosis.
It was interesting to learn that the Ministry of Health follows a 2-pronged approach to better respond to rapid changes in the technological landscape.
The first prong is a top-down approach through the National AI Strategy, which maps out how Singapore will develop and use AI to transform the economy and improve people’s lives. AI can also be used to analyse clinical and genomic data, medical images, and health behaviours to better assess the risk profile of patients.
Second is the bottom-up approach which comprises initiatives like AI in Health Grand Challenge. Such programmes and initiatives encourage the development of innovative approaches that use AI to enhance primary care and disease management in Singapore and the world. It supports groundbreaking research ideas that adopt AI technologies and innovations to address current challenges in the medical field.
Speaking about the future for robotic doctors /nurses for treatment and surgeries and the current proximity to achieving this, Sutowo shared that “with the declining old-age support ratio coupled with low birth rates, it is imperative that healthcare is made more proactive to guide people to take pre-emptive steps to keep themselves healthy or to better manage their well-being”.
Leveraging assistive technology and robotics in healthcare is one way of doing it. Explaining further, he shared the example of RoboCoach Xian. A robot trainer enhanced with sensors, it imitates human movements and can teach a range of exercises to senior citizens. It can also help provide cognitive therapy to seniors who have suffered strokes or have other age-related disorders.
The Centre for Healthcare Assistive & Robotics Technology (CHART) has been established with the support of Ministry of Health and Economic Development Board to enable health care professionals to work closely with industry, academia and research institutions to co-develop and testbed impactful healthcare solutions in assistive technologies and robotics.
One such technological enabler is the development of the Robotic Middleware for healthcare (RoMi-H). It standardises communication messages among heterogeneous robotic systems, sensors and information systems, thus facilitating interoperability among multiple systems and easing system integration effort in a bid to digitalise healthcare and automate processes.
Apart from CHART, other bodies or organisations that contribute to creating tech innovations for the healthcare industry are the MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation (MOHT) and Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS). Both the organisations have pushed boundaries in the digitalisation of healthcare, architecting the national IT strategies and roadmaps for healthcare, connecting and analysing complex systems across Singapore’s health ecosystem.
Sutowo concluded the conversation by reiterating MOH’s vision to be a leader in developing and deploying scalable, impactful technology-driven healthcare solutions to the nation’s citizens. The Ministry continues to relentlessly work towards this vision in future as well.
Enterprises and government agencies alike are increasingly shifting their gaze to online payment portals as tools that can help them navigate through public transactions more conveniently. This is as the world recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic which has left major economies accelerating faster in their digital transformation journey.
In the Philippines, several government departments are experimenting with ways to integrate online payments into their operations. These include teaming up with other agencies and those in the private sector to ensure a speedy and more efficient turnaround in transactions.
This vision is shared by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) which in a statement announced that it has inked a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with state-owned LandBank of the Philippines (LBP) for the integration of web-based payments for MARINA services.
The agency explained that under the agreement, the MARINA Payment Facility will be integrated with the Landbank LinkBiz portal. This portal is currently being used as a virtual payment channel that allows government and members of the private sector to have cashless payments for MARINA’s products and services.
The LinkBiz portal was earlier launched to lessen direct and indirect costs that are attributed to cash and physical distribution of in-kind goods. The LBP likewise aims to foster accountability and effective tracking of funds on top of prioritising online payments instead of cash transactions to unclog traffic and in turn, save on operation costs.
The portal is equipped to handle large-value funds and quick confirmation of payments through email. It can be accessed by the government and the public sector seven days a week, except during system maintenance.
According to Capt. Jeffrey Solon, who is the Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Deputy Administrator for Planning of MARINA, the department is optimistic that the new virtual payment facility will bring in more convenience and efficiency in government transactions. He also expressed gratitude on behalf of his organisation to Landbank for the collaboration.
He added during the virtual signing ceremony: “With the eventual implementation of this memorandum of agreement, the MARINA looks forward to maximising the use of this e-payment facility as our modest contribution to the government’s efforts for ease of doing business, and also to adhere to the principles and practices of good governance.”
This statement was echoed by officials from the LBP, adding that they are anticipating that the cashless payment service will enable them to also fast-track their financial dues from MARINA. Marilou Villafranca, the Senior Vice-President of the North National Capital Region Branches Group of the LBP, noted: “Following our MOA signing today, this e-payment facility will be made available to your clients, allowing them to settle their monetary obligations to MARINA in a faster, more secured and convenient manner.”
The MoA signing was well-attended by officials of both MARINA and the LBP, including the Senior Vice-President and the OIC of MARINA’s Office of the Deputy Administrator and the MARINA Administrator Vice Admiral. Officers of LBP’s North NCR Branch Groups Cluster also attended the online event.
The agreement is alongside government efforts to improve the current business climate in the Philippines and government transparency. Republic Act 11032, which promotes the ease of doing business and efficient delivery of government services, was enacted in 2018. It enhanced and amended the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 by reducing processing time and eliminating red tape activities in government.
To achieve these goals, many agencies in government are gearing towards digitalisation to fast-track transactions and lessen turnaround time. As earlier reported by OpenGov Asia, a local government in the Philippines has adopted a zero-contact policy. The programme required all departments within the local government to adopt electronic means in the submission of government applications, requests and payments.
India deployed the world’s largest WhatsApp chatbot , MyGov Corona Helpdesk, in March 2020 to aid the country’s fight against the pandemic by disseminating timely and right information.
According to a report, the onset of the global pandemic brought about a panic wave in the country, so the government took it upon itself to curb the spread of rumours and misinformation. The government wanted a solution that would empower citizens with the right steps to take precautionary measures for staying safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key objective was to offer a 24/7 helpdesk that answered COVID-19 queries and helped prevent the spread of false information. It was also important to handle the scale and diversity of queries being directed from millions of users across the country in English and Hindi.
Haptik is a Conversational AI company that built the MyGov Corona Helpdesk in record time. This Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) is essentially an AI-powered WhatsApp chatbot that provides accurate information. The chatbot has the following functionalities:
- Help users check symptoms and get a diagnosis.
- Provide tips and precautionary measures to stay safe.
- Share the latest updates and advisories from the Ministry of Health.
- Bust myths around COVID-19.
- Share information about the official helpline.
Timely and accurate communication has been a key pillar in the fight against COVID-19. This has been greatly strengthened with the MyGov Corona Helpdesk, which has been handling millions of diverse queries in both English and Hindi. Since its launch, the helpdesk has successfully catered to over 25 million users with over 36 million queries. Remarkably, the chatbot was deployed in a record time of only five days.
A similar application was launched to help the public deal with COVID-19. Under the Digital India programme, in collaboration with Accenture and Microsoft, the government unveiled MyGov Saathi, enabling citizen communication. The bot uses AI and natural language processing to understand customer questions and provide appropriate responses.
The bot also directs residents to webpages with comprehensive information. Initially started in English, it has now been expanded the bot to Hindi and other regional languages so that it can reach more citizens in a personal, direct way. Currently, the bot has around 250,000 monthly users, and daily active sessions range from a few hundred to a few thousand, with total active sessions over a 16-day period nearing 600,000.
Further, another chatbot, Aaple Sarkar Bot, allows users to access information regarding public services managed by the state government and can process many queries every day such as analysing, maintaining records, and providing the user with the most useful information.
Through the app, an individual can search for services such as permanent water connection, driving licenses, and access-related information including prerequisites for the application, tracking the status of the application, and monitoring progress.
A news report explained that as part of the Right to Services Act of 2015, the bot is deployed to complement existing mobile apps and websites that help with queries related to healthcare, education, public utilities, rural development, revenue, and other public related services. The chatbot comprises of a range of algorithms that has the ability to process many queries every day, such as analysing, maintaining records, and providing the user with information. Haptik used its own personalised tool for creating the bot which comprised of three parts, including a bot-builder, human chat agent, and analytic dashboard.