The story making headlines across the globe over the weekend has been what is possibly one of the worst cyber attacks to have ever hit the city-state of Singapore.
A major data breach struck Singapore’s SingHealth database on Friday (20 July 2018), leaving 1.5 million Singaporeans feeling anxious; filled with a previously latent distrust of the security of cyberspace. The public was notified of the attack via a joint press release from the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and the Ministry of Health (MOH).
On 4 July 2018, IHiS’ database administrators detected unusual activity on one of SingHealth’s IT databases. They acted immediately to halt the activity. IHiS investigated the incident to ascertain the nature of the activity while putting in place additional cybersecurity precautions. With heightened monitoring, further malicious activities were observed.
However, this was not before approximately 1.5 million patients who visited SingHealth’s specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics from 1 May 2015 to 4 July 2018 had their non-medical personal particulars illegally accessed and copied.
Investigations by the CSA ascertained that the hackers accessed the SingHealth IT system through an initial breach on a particular front-end workstation. They subsequently managed to obtain privileged account credentials to gain privileged access to the database. The data taken included patient names, NRIC numbers, addresses, gender particulars, race and dates of birth. Information on the outpatient dispensed medicines of about 160,000 of these patients were also exfiltrated. The records were not tampered with, i.e. no records were amended or deleted. No other patient records, such as diagnosis, test results or doctors’ notes, were breached. All patient records in SingHealth’s IT system remain intact. There has been no disruption of healthcare services during the period of the cyber attack, and patient care has not been compromised.
Upon discovery, the breach was immediately contained, preventing further illegal exfiltration.
On 10 July 2018, investigations confirmed that it was a cyber attack, and the Ministry of Health (MOH), SingHealth and CSA were informed. It was established that data was exfiltrated from 27 June 2018 to 4 July 2018. SingHealth lodged a police report on 12 Jul 2018. However, no further illegal exfiltration has been detected since 4 July 2018.
The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) and the Integrated Health Information System (IHiS) noted that this was not the work of casual hackers or criminal gangs. They confirmed that it was a deliberate, targeted and well-planned cyberattack. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal particulars and information on his outpatient dispensed medicines were specifically and repeatedly targeted.
With CSA’s support, IHiS has implemented further measures to tighten the security of SingHealth’s IT systems. These include temporarily imposing internet surfing separation, placing additional controls on workstations and servers, resetting user and systems accounts, and installing additional system monitoring controls. Similar measures are being put in place for IT systems across the public healthcare sector against this threat.
The inspection has not identified evidence of a similar breach in the other public healthcare IT systems. However, it is important to note that the police investigation is ongoing.
According to the press release, SingHealth began progressively contacting all patients who visited its specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics from 1 May 2015 to 4 July 2018 on Friday (20 July 2018), to notify them if their data had been illegally exfiltrated. The patients, whether or not their data were compromised, are to receive an SMS notification between 20 to 25 July 2018.
Patients can also access the Health Buddy mobile app or SingHealth website to check if they have been affected by this incident.
MOH has directed IHiS to conduct a thorough review of our public healthcare system, with support from third-party experts, to improve cyber threat prevention, detection and response. Areas of the review will include cybersecurity policies, threat management processes, IT system controls and organisational and staff capabilities. Advisories have been sent to all healthcare institutions, public and private, on the cybersecurity precautions and measures to be taken.
The Minister-in-Charge of Cyber Security will establish a Committee of Inquiry to conduct an independent external review of this incident.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) received a HK$100 million donation from the Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation Limited (the Foundation) for the promotion of the University’s academic and research development.
In a ceremony officiated by the eldest son of the Foundation’s Honorary Chairman, HKUST named the University’s Robotics Institute the “Cheng Kar-Shun Robotics Institute”. The gift from the Foundation seeks to enhance the University’s research capabilities in areas such as robotics and autonomous systems; deepen student learning in innovation and design thinking competency, as well as advance entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer.
HKUST Council Chairman expressed gratitude to the Foundation’s long-term support of the University’s academic and research work. He noted that the Cheng Kar-Shun Robotics Institute is a key research facility at HKUST and perfectly marks the University’s longstanding partnership with the Foundation. The donation signifies a vote of confidence in the University’s capabilities. He noted that it is crucial for the University to pool its strengths and develop new solutions to the grand challenges of the time.
Prof. Wei Shyy stated, “HKUST is deeply grateful to the Foundation’s trust in our academic and research work, which is internationally respected and recently reaffirmed in the Research Assessment Exercise of University Grants Committee. With the Foundation’s generous gift, we will keep up the good work, break new grounds and nurture the right talent to assist the economic and social development of Hong Kong and beyond.”
On top of supporting activities organized by HKUST’s various institutes, the donation will also be used as start-up funds for new faculty – in particular those from the School of Science and School of Engineering, to set up laboratories, recruit research assistants and purchase equipment. In appreciation of the Foundation’s support, the University has named its Robotics Institute with presence in Hong Kong and future Guangzhou campus after Dr Cheng Kar-Shun.
Growing market for robotics
According to the report published by a US-based market research firm, the global robotics technology market generated $62.75 billion in 2019, and is estimated to reach $170.08 billion by 2027, witnessing a CAGR of 13.5% from 2020 to 2027.
An increase in the requirement of automation and safety in organizations, the presence of cost-effective and energy-efficient robots, and the rise in deployment of robots in different industries propel the growth of the global robotics technology market.
However, high costs incurred in implementation and less awareness regarding automation among SMEs hinder the market growth. On the other hand, the adoption of robotics technology in developing countries offers new opportunities in the industry.
The COVID-19 scenario
- Due to the lockdown issued by many governments, the demand for automated machinery from automotive, construction, and other industries has been dried up considerably. In addition, disruptions in the supply chain have impacted the demand as well.
- The research and development activities have been paused in some of the countries due to lockdown. However, many countries have eased off restrictions. So, manufacturing plants have begun their operations and R&D activities have been resumed.
Based on region, Asia-Pacific contributed to the major share in 2019, accounting for more than two-thirds of the total share of the global robotics technology market. This region is estimated to grow at the fastest CAGR of 14.4% from 2020 to 2027. However, North America is expected to witness a CAGR of 13.3% during the forecast period.
Modern problems require modern solutions. In a bid to curb environmental pollution, New Zealand is currently being affected by climate change and impacts are set to increase in magnitude and extent over time. In cities and towns, the problem is a mix of the overuse of private motor vehicles, and the use of vehicles that are over-specified for the tasks they are required to perform.
The government recently announced a rebate scheme for electric and hybrid vehicles. In which, buyers of new electric and hybrid vehicles will be able to receive up to $8625 in rebates beginning July 1st, while buyers of used imported low-emission vehicles will be able to receive up to $3450 in rebates beginning July 1st. From January 1, 2022, the scheme will be funded through levies on high-emission vehicles.
The high-tech solution announced in New Zealand is to transition to an all-electric fleet; with 2035 being designated as the year in which the import of non-electric new urban vehicles will be prohibited, with a view to New Zealand having an all-electric fleet by around 2050. The important new policy to accelerate the promoted transition will be a subsidisation of electric and low-emission vehicles, combined with a tax on high-emission vehicles.
Moreover, New Zealand is said to be one of the world’s worst performers on emission increases, and meeting its climate targets will necessitate a shift in its current trajectory. The country’s emissions rose by 57% between 1990 and 2018 – the second greatest increase of all industrialised countries. Earlier this year, data showed that New Zealand’s emissions had increased by 2% in 2018-2019.
If emissions continue to rise, climate change would become unmanageable especially in New Zealand. This is inherently unfair as climate change amplifies social disadvantage, including the conditions that lead to poorer health outcomes for Māori and Pacific populations.
An article by OpenGov Asia reported that the Otago Climate Change Risk Assessment indicated that climate change puts the region at risk of more heavy rainfall events, drought, coastal erosion and inundation, and more extremely hot days exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in the longer term. The report also projected major implications for communities and the economy.
As the planet continues to warm, climate change impacts are worsening. Over 20% of species currently face extinction, and that number could rise to 50% by 2100 if there are no action taken. It is important to emphasise the significant greenhouse gas emissions caused by the use of fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline, and natural gas. However, they are not the only ways that urban vehicle use contributes to global environmental degradation.
The main advantage of electric vehicles is the contribution they can make to improving air quality in towns and cities. With no tailpipe, pure electric cars emit no carbon dioxide emissions while driving. This significantly reduces air pollution.
Being the first country in the world to enforce such a law means New Zealand has an opportunity to show real leadership and pave the way for other countries to make climate-related disclosures mandatory.
As more countries continue to pledge to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, and as technology continues to develop and mature, it is all but assured that the EV revolution is here to stay. Studies estimate that EVs will hit 10% of global passenger vehicle sales by 2025. The number will increase to 28% in 2030 and 58% in 2040.
It is certainly crucial that New Zealanders contribute to the emission-reduction effort, at least in proportion to the influence of greenhouse gases on global environmental harm. By changing the way, we own and use private vehicles represents an important outcome, to which good policymaking can make a valuable contribution.
The Queensland government will invest almost $40 million in cybersecurity and digital service delivery over the next five years as the state’s COVID-19 recovery gets underway. The region’s Treasurer unveiled the state budget recently, revealing a 2021-22 deficit that is $800 million lower than what was forecast just six months ago.
However, despite the significant improvement in the bottom line, budget papers reveal only a handful of IT initiatives for a second year in the wake of the pandemic. While budget papers show that the government achieved $750 million in savings in 2020-21, there is no indication of just how much of this is down to the paused projects. The government has, however, attributed $17.7 million to a reduction in ICT contract costs over four years, including savings in telecommunications contracts.
Funding boost for cybersecurity
Of the new IT initiatives, one of the largest is an $11 million investment in “whole-of-government cybersecurity enhancements” over two years. The funding builds on the $20 million allocated to the state’s cybersecurity protection unit in 2019 over four years, effectively doubling the government-wide spend over the next two years. Cyber security-related initiatives were one of only two areas unaffected by the six-month IT project freeze last year, the other area being critical safety-related initiatives.
The budget also allocates $11.3 million for the ongoing delivery of Smart Service Queensland’s Covid-19 call centre and online services including quarantine compliance and wellness checks. A further $17.3 million, including $4.4 million in 2021-22, will go towards the completion of the digital archives program, which will enable the preservation of digital government records.
The region’s Digital Economy Minister noted that the funding for digital services would ensure “Queenslanders remain connected in the digital world”. She said that the pandemic had “highlighted the ongoing necessity for remaining connected digitally and the growing need to enhance the digital economy”.
Law enforcement upgrades
In addition to the Department of Communities, Housing and the Digital Economy, the budget allocates just under $20 million to Queensland Police across several IT-related initiatives.
More than half of the funding will be spent on general “ICT technology”, while $4 million will be used for new and replacement body-worn video (BWV) cameras. A further $4.1 million will go towards the Queensland Police’s QLiTE tablet program, including $2.7 million for the development of new apps and $1.4 million for 1000 additional devices.
Last year, the government announced it would invest $35 million over five years deploying a further 5000 QLiTE iPads and 4500 BWV cameras to frontline police officers. The force will also receive $4 million to support “information systems development” at Queensland Ambulance Service and $3.7 million to support Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
Queensland Ambulance Service has separately been allocated $5 million in 2021-22 for “information systems development” aimed at enhancing patient care and service delivery. The Department of Justice and Attorney-General will receive $7.4 million to expand and upgrade audio-visual capacity, including “video conferencing and in-custody court appearances”. The Attorney-General stated that the upgrade would “provide for the streamlining of some matters, enabling cost savings in both time and resources”.
The government is also investing $7.7 million in tranche three of the Department of Environment and Science’s government science platform over three years. The platform, which will make “data more accessible, integrated and reliable”, is expected to be used by the department to respond to environmental challenges.
Two hardware manufacturers team up to leverage the raw data to meet their customer needs in a new manner and find the best use and value of the data. The companies displayed technological solutions including data archiving Artificial Intelligence (AI), unified storage, object storage, hybrid flash memory, and series all-flash array.
Both companies agree that object storage has become the fastest-growing storage method. Therefore, one of them has launched object archiving software that can store object data directly on tape to meet custom requirements, optimise performance by packaging objects, and also has the functions of restoring and returning data. They are preparing for research and development in this area and starting to launch more software products.
Archiving means building a bridge between online data and offline data to access and archive. Both companies want to connect their archive function with object storage to get tape data access through the object storage mode and archiving function for accessing long-term data. This direction is promising so it needs more research, development, testing, and optimisation.
As an intelligent data management solution and service provider, the company has been discussing how to manage the underlying data of new infrastructure to make it more intelligent. Therefore, the company launched business continuity protection which is an application of a dual-active system. The system is relatively low-cost, cost-effective, as well as meets a wider range of user needs. The company can provide an overall solution for the entire data life cycle, a set of management models with affordable costs.
The other company also provides a differentiated solution for cold data storage to contribute to the new infrastructure. Through offline storage of critical data, important data be protected from the risk of permanent loss and information leakage caused by sudden power failure, human error, and ransomware attacks. It can also help the data centre reduce power usage efficiency and contributes to China’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2060.
The new infrastructure can achieve massive storage, diversified utilisation, and real-time processing of data storage, and solve the problems of how to store and manage data, which will provide new opportunities for the entire industry. To gain maximum benefits, companies cannot rely on one product but they need to partner with other enterprises to provide various products and solutions to meet customers’ demands.
To help users from various industries to have a more targeted understanding of tape storage applications in the display, many companies show data storage solutions that can meet customers’ differentiated needs. The technological solutions include applications in the field of audio and video production, security applications, and solutions for after-sales testing of tapes.
Traditional storage forms are gradually being less popular and software-defined storage will become a major trend. Storage is no longer just simply placing data, but it has a higher degree of automation more convenient. It can separate the software function from the array control device, and better realise the coordinated distribution function of data in heterogeneous storage devices. Diversified storage solutions have their own characteristics and complement each other.
To become a leader in science and technology, China aims to popularise sophisticated technologies by displaying them to the public. As reported by OpenGov Asia, College students from a Chinese public university displayed and demonstrated their tech products for representatives of participating enterprises to observe. These products are designed to solve the actual needs of everyday issues tackled by organisations.
This course replaces the traditional graduation design and focuses on the actual problems faced by enterprises through students’ self-selection of topics, team-building, cooperative research, and problem-solving. It aims to cultivate engineering leaders to solve practical problems and display teamwork spirit, engineering ethics, and an international vision.
Over the past three years, many participating companies have acknowledged the ingenuity of the students’ products, and more and more companies are willing to join the program. The exhibition attracted more than 40 business leaders and representatives from companies.
Due to limitations on physical movement that are imposed amidst the pandemic, more Filipinos are turning to digital channels for transactions and shopping for necessities and other commodities. Some consumers claimed that they were not given sufficient customer care support either making a transaction or receiving an item that has been purchased. This led to a “significant” increase in the number of consumer complaints related to online transactions in 2020 till today compared to previous years.
To address this, The Department of Trade Industry (DTI), through its Consumer Policy and Advocacy Bureau (CPAB), had announced that they will begin the pilot run of the online complaint software to boost up the country’s improved online system to receive and resolve consumer complaints.
The highest number of complaints of 8,045 were during the months of April and May when the strictest level of Community Quarantine was in effect in major areas of the country. Due to the limited movement of people, consumers heavily relied on online shopping for their basic and essential needs.
The online system will be piloted by the DTI and will eventually serve as the Web-based consumer complaints portal of the country. The online complaint software will automate the entire consumer complaints-handling process of the government by interlinking all the member agencies of the Consumer Network (ConsumerNet), or the group of government departments with consumer protection function, to provide redress to those consumers who will file a complaint through the system wherever they may be in the world.
To operationalise the system, the online complaint system will undergo three phases, including assessment; functional specifications and workshop; and compliance with data privacy, security, risk management and systems development.
The first phase is the development and operationalisation of consumer complaints filing, tracking, ageing, reports generation, and status updating to be put by the DTI. Phase two is the development of virtual mediation conference and possible online resolution of complaints and Phase 3 is linkage with the online complaint system for effective resolution of cross-border consumer complaints.
The DTI is responsible for ensuring that the process of handling and resolving consumer complaints and disputes is streamlined and harmonised through the online system, as well as providing dedicated channels of communication for easy access to consumer queries and complaints, such as but not limited to telephone, e-mail, and social media platforms. When executing and implementing such a system, there must be checks and balances in place so that, as consumers and consumer groups, can act as watchdogs and ensure that the process is completed effectively, efficiently, successfully, and on time.
The system also aims to maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of personal data stored via the online complaint system, as well as strict compliance to the Philippines Data Privacy Act of 2012.
Many businesses have discovered that deploying a software application to track complaints from submission to resolution is the most efficient way to do so. Considering complaints are sensitive, having a software tool allows companies to outline procedure and then focus on keeping customers happy and safe while protecting the company’s reputation and compliance status. Not only would companies profit from implementing these techniques but so would the country’s digital sector and its economy would be improved.
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.