The Finance Ministry plans to adopt blockchain-based value-added tax (VAT) refund service for foreign tourists, starting from the end of this month.
The blockchain technology for VAT refunds should speed up the process for tourists as details of their purchases will be immediately shared with the Revenue Department and the Customs Department once shops key in the information in the system, according to Thailand’s Finance Minister.
This announcement was made after he signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) along with Krungthai Bank, a state-owned bank under a license issued by the Ministry of Finance, to apply the technology in three pilot projects.
Foreign tourists will be able to claim VAT refunds via an application from 28 November 2019. They are required to identify the channel from which they want to receive the money-back, he said.
At least 2 million foreign tourists purchase goods and services in Thailand, amounting to 50 billion baht a year. An average of 200,000 tourists a month claim a VAT refund, 70% of whom are Chinese travellers who do not like to hold cash.
Blockchain technology can reduce the document verification process and the use of 10 million sheets of paper a year, lower cash management costs and slash congestion at VAT refund counters.
The blockchain-based VAT refund service can automatically approve such claims if the purchase amount is insignificant, said a source familiar with the issue, without specifying an amount.
The VAT refund for foreign tourists is one of three projects that have adopted blockchain technology. The others are scripless savings bond issuance and letters of credit (LC) for electronic procurement.
The Public Debt Management Office plans to allow people to download Bond Direct applications to purchase savings bonds, with values starting from one baht. The first savings bond issuance available through the app is scheduled to be sold in May 2020.
With blockchain technology, people can conveniently access savings bond subscriptions and shorten the scripless bond issuance process to two days from 15 days at present.
The process for blockchain-based LC issuance for state procurement will be streamlined to inspect collateral put up by bidders and build up confidence about collateral security.
The ministry is encouraging agencies under its direction to adopt blockchain technology.
Pushing Blockchain Tech Across All Operations and Processes
According to an article from August 2019, the Revenue Department and the Comptroller-General’s Department launched a pilot project using blockchain technology aimed at streamlining work processes.
The innovative technology also helps provide information associated with value-added tax and inspecting VAT refunds to reduce fraud, said the Finance Minister.
In the next stage, the Minister will work to connect data from three tax-collecting agencies – the Revenue Department, the Customs Department and the Excise Department – using blockchain technology to increase working and inspection efficiency.
The Customs Department is the second government agency in ASEAN to adopt a blockchain-based shipment tracking and information sharing platform to streamline procedures.
Blockchain technology will be a boon to the Finance Ministry, which handles a lot of data. The innovation will enable information to be shared across departments and with outsiders.
In addition, the Finance Ministry plans to harness big data to manage the information of the 14.6 million smartcard holders, including their debt. 29,763 recipients of the welfare scheme are indebted based on National Credit Bureau data.
The Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it will relaunch the multi-billion Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) after it crashed due to the sheer number of Filipinos wanting to register during its launch. Due to the amount of response it received, the government intends to use the PhilSys as another way to queue and register the general population for their vaccination.
NEDA said that they are reviewing the system so that they can increase the capacity to serve more simultaneous users per minute. The agency assures Filipinos that they have experts from all over the world helping them and that they will relaunch the system as soon as they can.
Along with the national ID, the NEDA said that the government is recalibrating its contact-tracing efforts to better manage COVID-19 risks and fast-track solutions. Instead of shutting down the entire economy, the government only close the sectors or the areas with the higher risk and allow 98% of the people with no COVID-19 symptoms or risks to continue working.
The government is also intensifying the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Recover (PDITR) strategy during the lockdown periods to facilitate the reopening of the economy. To strengthen the ‘detect’ and ‘isolate’ pillars, NEDA, the Department of Health (DOH), and other local government units (LGUs), with the help of data scientists from the Asian Institute of Management, are working on a solution to automatically determine likely close contacts of COVID-19 positive cases and immediately notify these people via text message.
Speaking at the recent Philippine OpenGov Leadership Forum, Denis F. Villorente, Undersecretary for the National Information & Communications Technology Assets Index, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), spoke about the potential of a robust national ID system that could facilitate multiple types of transactions necessary for digital ecosystems and societies, saving people, government and businesses time and money and unlock new drivers of economic value and growth.
Exploring the rationale of the Philippines’ national ID system, he conceded that there was a need for a foundational ID system. The over 25 functional ID systems do not offer digital authentication services to third parties and highly dependent on paper-based and manual processes. This has led to high costs and fraud in service delivery and prevents the shift to online services.
In terms of public services, the current identification landscape in the Philippines has not just created exclusion but also exacerbated inequality. Citizens often need to provide two or more matching physical documents which is a barrier for many to access services. About 1 in 5 of the poorest (40%) Filipinos have been unable to apply for government services because they lacked the required IDs. Similarly, 1 in 6 of this group have been unable to receive government financial support because they lacked the required IDs.
PhilSys is designed as an enabling platform that unlocks new services and systems for the digital economy, especially online transactions. It underpins sectoral IDs and databases to enhance accuracy, interoperability and integrity. The system boosts the digital transformation of existing services and systems reducing cost, time and fraud. The PhilSys-enabled services will allow governments and businesses to use technology to change how they do business, shifting to transactions that are paperless, automated, and online.
Denis said that by the end of 2021, up to 70 million Filipinos will have been registered to PhilSys and been issued their PSN and PhilIDs. He emphasised that the PhilSys present opportunities for service providers to simplify, secure, and reduce the cost-of-service delivery to citizens/clients. Government CIOs have a critical role to play in ensuring the preparedness and readiness of their agencies in unlocking the opportunities and value of the system.
The U.S. Justice Department announced a court-authorised operation for The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to copy and remove malicious web shells from hundreds of vulnerable computers in the United States. This action is a part of a government effort to contain the continuing attacks on corporate networks running a tech company’s software.
The FBI is deleting malicious code installed by hackers to take control of a victim’s computer. Hackers have used the code to access vast amounts of private email messages and to launch ransomware attacks. The authority the Justice Department relied on and the way the FBI carried out the operation set important precedents.
Since at least January 2021, hacking groups have been using zero-day exploits. Such a cyber attack targets an unknown software vulnerability to the software vendor or antivirus vendors. The hackers use this access to insert web shells, software that allows them to remotely control the compromised systems and networks. Tens of thousands of email users and organisations have been affected. One result has been a series of ransomware attacks, which encrypt victims’ files and hold the keys to decrypt them for ransom.
The FBI is accessing hundreds of these mail servers in corporate networks. The search warrant allows the FBI to access the web shells, enter the previously discovered password for a web shell, make a copy for evidence, and then delete the web shell. Although, the FBI was not authorised to remove any other malware that hackers might have installed during the breach or otherwise access the contents of the servers.
What makes this case unique is both the scope of the FBI’s actions to remove the web shells and the unprecedented intrusion into privately owned computers without the owners’ consent. The FBI undertook the operation without consent because of the large number of unprotected systems throughout U.S. networks and the urgency of the threat.
The total number of compromised firms remains murky given that the figure is redacted in the court documents, but it could be as many as 68,000 Exchange servers. This would potentially affect millions of email users. New malware attacks on the tech company’s servers continue to surface. The FBI continues to undertake court-authorised action to remove the malicious code.
The shift towards a more active U.S. cybersecurity strategy began with the establishment of the U.S. Cyber Command in 2010. The emphasis at the time remained on deterrence by denial which means making computers harder to hack. This includes using a layered defence, also known as defence in-depth, to make it more difficult, expensive and time-consuming to break into networks.
In a statement, Acting U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Texas said that combatting cyber threats requires partnerships with private sectors and government colleagues. This court-authorised operation shows the U.S. Justice Department’s commitment to using any viable resource to fight cybercriminals. They will continue to do so in coordination with our partners and with the court to combat the threat until it is alleviated. Therefore, they can further protect our citizens from these malicious cyber breaches.
The acting Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division said that this operation is an example of the FBI’s commitment to combatting cyber threats through their enduring federal and private sector partnerships. Their successful action should serve as a reminder to malicious cyber actors that they will impose risk and consequences for cyber intrusions that threaten the national security and public safety of the American people and our international partners
At the National Cybersecurity Summit, the FBI’s announced its new strategy for countering cyber threats. The strategy is to “impose risk and consequences on cyber adversaries”. This will make it harder for both cybercriminals and foreign governments to use malicious cyber activity to achieve their objectives. The new strategy allows the FBI to play as an indispensable partner to federal counterparts, foreign partners, and private-sector partners.
The FBI will use their role as the lead federal agency with law enforcement and intelligence responsibilities. It will enable their partners to defend networks, attribute malicious activity, impose sanctions for bad behaviour, and take the fight to their adversaries overseas.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 6 May 2021 with the Finance Academy (Hong Kong) and an education instituted under a Chinese multinational technology conglomerate holding company, abbreviated to TFAHK, to nurture FinTech talent.
Leveraging HKUST’s outstanding academic foundation in FinTech and the tech company’s practical industry experience, the MoU – witnessed by representatives from the HKSAR Government, HKUST and TFAHK – aims to establish a strategic partnership in fostering the development of FinTech by nurturing talents and collaborating on education and research and development projects. It sets out the plan for both parties to collaborate on the FinTech case study series for tertiary education purpose, to provide real business cases for students to comprehensively improve their knowledge on FinTech.
The parties will also work together on developing a curriculum on FinTech, with HKUST integrating the tech giant’s extensive business experience to promote the development of an innovative talent model. Other initiatives include internship opportunities for HKUST students, joint FinTech-related research and development projects, guidance on conducting research projects and potential education outreach programs to improve public awareness on FinTech.
The MoU signing ceremony was part of a Youth Forum hosted by the TFAHK, which aimed to enable audiences to better understand the development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and help young talent explore the thriving career opportunities in the region.
The Chief Executive of the HKSAR Government, and the Vice President of the tech giant, Chairman of Fusion Bank, and Dean of TFAHK delivered the opening speech and welcome remarks respectively in the forum; followed by keynote speeches from the Secretary for Innovation and Technology as well as the HKUST President. A group of aspiring youth representatives also shared their first-hand experiences and learnings working in the GBA.
The HKSAR Chief Executive stated in her speech that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Development has enormous development potential. To assist young people to seize the opportunities brought about by the GBA development, the Government has introduced the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme in January this year to encourage enterprises with operations in Hong Kong and GBA Mainland cities to recruit Hong Kong graduates and post them to be stationed and work in these cities.
The Scheme will assist graduates to develop their careers in the Mainland and gain a better understanding of the lives and culture of the country.
The HKUST President stated that Hong Kong’s public and private sectors have strived to support and encourage innovation and related science and technology appropriate to the city and beyond. Fintech is a clear example in this domain as it has already been transforming our lives in every aspect from banking, retail payment to e-commerce.
“We have launched our first Fintech postgraduate program jointly by Schools of Business and Management, Engineering, and Science. We have also been actively collaborating with multiple banks and other enterprises. Today, we are delighted to join hands with Tencent to further our efforts on creating new knowledge and nurturing talent in a context in which HKUST can make substantial contributions,” he added.
The TFAHK Dean noted that through the Academy, TFAHK has been organising a range of activities that include internships, research opportunities and visits. These initiatives allow the youth in the GBA to learn about the leading internet and information technology, experience the growth momentum of the GBA and the Mainland, as well as enhance their innovative and entrepreneurial capabilities and competitiveness.
The Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme will help the youth to integrate their study, work and daily life into the GBA, and to experience how the technology enterprises focus on innovation, which helps to nurture FinTech talent.
“We are also pleased to collaborate with HKUST, a top university in Hong Kong, in enhancing the development of FinTech through a number of areas, including the FinTech case study series, FinTech curriculum development, internship opportunities, the establishment of Student Chapter, joint research projects and public awareness enhancement,” he said.
The fourth industrial revolution has strongly affected every sector of the economy and subsequently promoted digital transformation. ASEAN countries have been working hard to adopt smart production. In Vietnam, the Prime Minister issued a directive on enhancing the capacity to access and adopt Industry 4.0 technologies.
The Politburo issued a resolution that gave orientations for making national industrial development policies until 2030 with a vision to 2045. The Prime Minister approved the national programme on supporting businesses to improve productivity and goods quality for 2021-2030, which includes the promotion of smart manufacturing.
In 2020, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) proposed an initiative to build a roadmap and adopt solutions to foster smart production in Southeast Asian countries. Vu Thi Tu Quyen, an official from MST’s Directorate for Standards, Metrology, and Quality, said the results of the agency’s survey of smart manufacturing methods pointed out the importance of smart manufacturing solutions in the region amid ongoing global trends. The survey was conducted with 93 enterprises from ten ASEAN countries.
According to a news report, Industry 4.0 has shown that promoting the development of digital production by boosting the digitalisation of and connectivity between products, value chains, and business models will contribute to GDP growth.
The official cited many reports suggesting that to increase workplace productivity, fostering production by linking machinery, data, and value chains towards digital transformation and smart manufacturing is crucial.
Smart production is forecast to grow strongly in the ASEAN region from 2025, Quyen added. ASEAN countries have been taking different steps in accessing and promoting smart production, proving that Vietnam’s initiative to build a roadmap and adopt solutions to foster smart production in the region is necessary and more practical than ever.
Meanwhile, MST adopted a national science and technology programme, and “Make in Vietnam” was launched by the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) to step up digital transformation and the domestic ICT industry.
Nghiem Xuan Thanh, the Chairman of the Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (Vietcombank), stressed that in its development strategy for 2030 and with a vision to 2045, the bank looks to become the leading financial banking group in the country. Further, it aims to be one of the 50 largest banks in Asia and one of the top 200 financial banking groups in the world.
To that end, it will bolster digital transformation, improve operational efficiency, invest resources in innovation, science-technology development, and strengthen cooperation with foreign partners in technology transfer.
The report on the roadmap and solutions to boost smart manufacturing in ASEAN noted that many member countries have been implementing policies to support and facilitate smart production to make breakthroughs for their economies.
The ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) is the body coordinating with partners and relevant committees of ASEAN in this regard. As Chair of ACCSQ, Vietnam is responsible for working closely with other member countries to effectively carry out the roadmap and solutions to boost smart production in the region, thus contributing to regional integration and assisting enterprises to develop sustainably.
OpenGov Asia had earlier reported that the country’s digital economy will likely reach US$52 billion in value by 2025. With the gross merchandise value (GMV) of its Internet economy accounting for over 5% of the country’s GDP in 2019, Vietnam is emerging as the most digital of all economies in the region.
Deputy Director at Food and Drug Administration, Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that the Medical Devices Act which has been designed to ensure that medical devices firms will have sufficient time to make appropriate adjustment as well as allow the government to have enough time to draft the relevant regulations. The Medical Devices Act will establish a system to effectively regulate medical devices throughout the medical device life cycle, marking a new start for medical device management in Taiwan and is in effect from May 1 of this year.
Following world trends, Taiwan has amended its Pharmaceutical Affairs Act and stipulated a new law specifically for the management of medical devices. With the Medical Devices Act in place, Taiwan could establish an appropriate management system that considers the characteristics of medical devices.
The new act covers repair and maintenance of medical devices, sale and supply of medical devices, quality management system and distribution management of medical devices. It also covers an electronic listing system for some low-risk products, the flexible validity period for issuing licenses, medical device clinical trials, safety monitoring of medical devices, proactive reporting and more. This Act aims to protect consumer safety and improve the management of medical devices.
According to Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA), they completed the drafting of relevant regulations and regulatory orders related to the Medical Devices Act, including Regulations Governing the Classification of Medical Devices, Regulations Governing Issuance of Medical Device License, Listing, and Annual Declaration, Regulations of Medical Device Tracking Management, and Regulations for Management of Medical Devices Technicians.
The government has also introduced various measures to give medical device firms a reasonable transition period to make adjustments and to minimise the impact on the industry. Director-General of Taiwan FDA states that Taiwan’s medical device management system will continue to follow international trends. Taiwan will work to harmonise with international regulations and reduce regulatory barriers that Taiwanese medical device dealers face when they attempt to compete in the international market.
At the same time, Taiwan will also work to protect consumers’ safety when they use medical devices, promote the development of the medical device industry and enhance the competitiveness of medical device businesses in the international arena.
Taiwan’s FDA is responsible for activities related to imminent threats to human health or life. This includes detecting and responding to public health emergencies, continuing to address existing critical public health challenges, and managing recalls, including drug shortages, and outbreaks related to foodborne illness and infectious diseases. Other vital activities that will continue are surveillance of adverse event reports for issues that could cause human harm, the review of import entries to determine potential risks to human health, determining conduct for cause and surveillance inspections of regulated facilities, and criminal enforcement work and certain civil investigations.
The Medical Devices Ac is also in line with the mission of Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare. The Ministry pursues holistic healthcare, happiness, and the well-being of all people. They also seek to provide living environments that promote worry-free child-rearing, healthy development, and active ageing. At the same time, we offer social welfare benefits and policies that support health equity and social equality
To achieve the mission, the Ministry utilises technology to provide information to doctors for reference and offer health insurance information to the general public. To ensure medication safety and to improve the quality of care, the administration built the NHI MediCloud system. Doctors and pharmacists can use the system to check a patient’s medication records, operative reports, discharge summaries, etc.
The individual cloud service My Health Bank is also available for people to check their recent doctor visits and medication records as well as preventive healthcare information which allows them to better understand health condition and engage in self-health management.
Researchers at the University of Auckland are embarking on a 12-month study to evaluate an online mental health platform designed especially for the Māori community (indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand).
With funding from a telecommunications company, the university researchers will work with Māori to evaluate the health platform called Clearhead. The researchers want to understand how Māori engage with Clearhead, with a specific focus on what encourages and prevents Māori from using an online platform to support mental health and wellbeing.
A University of Auckland senior clinical research member says that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected New Zealanders’ mental health, evidenced through increasing rates of distress. The team wants to find out if an online platform such as Clearhead could provide mental health support. This is particularly important as mental health needs are on the rise and pressures are increased on the healthcare workforce.
The Clearhead platform, designed by an Auckland-based local business, includes an AI-powered wellbeing assistant that can triage, refer, and educate users based on their risk profile. The assistant also creates a personalised wellbeing plan that monitors mental health progress over time.
The tech developers say that the Māori are more likely to experience mental health distress but are also less likely to seek help. By providing the platform and a mobile phone app, they believe that mental health support will be more accessible.
The tech company also has strong networks with Māori communities including those with lived experience of mental health. Therefore, they will use these connections to reach out to Māori communities to identify the factors influencing engagement with the online platform to see if it is an acceptable, safe, and effective way of delivering mental health support.
The results of the study are expected in late 2022.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, in New Zealand, high-value research is not only produced from the Universities but also genius ideas of everyday people, developing to address global health problems. Kiwi-made innovation is providing New Zealanders with first access to ground-breaking medical technology while creating high-value local jobs. As reported, six emerging health tech start-ups are stemming from homegrown talents. The common aim for all these technologies is to help medical professionals do their jobs better, reducing bottlenecks so that they can spend more one-on-one time with patients.
The six emerging health tech start-ups are:
- Tech on reducing female incontinence. One in three women suffers from stress urinary incontinence. The innovation aims to help more women overcome this by improving the effectiveness of pelvic floor exercises. The device uses a patented configuration of sensors to measure profiles along with the vagina, where users get real-time visual feedback on their smart device about their pelvic floor contractions.
- Tech about life-saving real-time data analysis. The innovation brings together the wealth of data created each second by what can be up to 8 different monitoring devices in ICU, for instance, to help clinicians make better and quicker decisions. It can alert staff to issues that are happening to the patient earlier before typical visible signs.
- Tech about digitally connecting elderly to loved ones as well as healthcare. The innovation is a field-tested device that helps connect the elderly to people in the outside world in the simplest way possible, which is by using the TV and remote that they already use every day.
- AI-driven app for mental health. Described as a ‘therapist in your pocket’, the innovation has made cognitive behavioural therapy digital to make it accessible to more people who need it.
- Automated diagnosing of cardiology issues. The innovation uses artificial intelligence to autonomously analyse echocardiogram images, alongside the cardiologist, to improve the diagnosis.
- Wearable muscle rehabilitation. It is a new rehabilitation tool born out of research with elite sportspeople. It delivers localised vibration therapy to muscles, ligaments and joints in a practical, wearable form.
Callaghan Innovation, New Zealand’s Innovation Agency handles these projects. It offers innovation, R&D and commercialisation support, connections and co-funding for ambitious New Zealand innovators.
On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has recently announced that it has conditionally approved $103.3 million towards three commercial-scale renewable hydrogen projects, as part of its Renewable Hydrogen Deployment Funding Round.
The three successful projects are:
- Engie Renewables Australia Pty Ltd (Engie): ARENA will provide up to $42.5 million towards a 10 MW electrolyser project to produce renewable hydrogen in a consortium with Yara Pilbara Fertilisers at the existing ammonia facility in Karratha, Western Australia;
- ATCO Australia Pty Ltd (ATCO): ARENA will provide up to $28.7 million towards a 10 MW electrolyser for gas blending at ATCO’s Clean Energy Innovation Park in Warradarge, Western Australia;
- Australian Gas Networks Limited (AGIG): ARENA will provide up to $32.1 million in funding for a 10 MW electrolyser for gas blending at AGIG’s Murray Valley Hydrogen Park in Wodonga, Victoria.
To support these projects ARENA has increased the funding envelope, originally $70 million, by $33.3 million. In total, these three projects have a combined project value of $161 million. At 10 MW, the electrolysers in these hydrogen plants will be among the largest so far built in the world. The projects will also play a significant role in supporting commercial-scale deployments of renewable hydrogen in Australia and help progress Australia’s pathway to achieving the Australian Government’s goal of ‘H2 under $2’.
Engie will use renewable hydrogen to produce ammonia at the Yara Pilbara Fertilisers site, while ATCO and AGIG’s projects will use renewable energy to produce renewable hydrogen for gas blending into existing natural gas pipelines.
Last year, ARENA launched the funding round to support Australia’s first commercial-scale hydrogen projects to fast track the development of renewable hydrogen in Australia. The funding round called for expressions of interest from large scale hydrogen electrolyser projects across Australia to drive the commercialisation of key component technologies and facilitate cost reductions for producing renewable hydrogen. ARENA received 36 expressions of interest from across Australia, and following an initial assessment, seven projects were shortlisted and invited to submit full applications.
After an extensive assessment process, three projects were selected for funding. Engie, ATCO and AGIG must now satisfy several development conditions and achieve financial close before funding is released. ARENA will continue to work with the companies to achieve this.
The CEO of ARENA stated that renewable hydrogen presents an opportunity to help reduce emissions globally and locally, transform our energy system, and create a new export industry for Australia. The company is excited to have chosen three projects we believe will help kickstart renewable hydrogen production in Australia on a large scale. One of the projects will see clean hydrogen used to make ammonia for export and the other two will blend clean hydrogen into our gas pipelines to help decarbonise our natural gas networks.
The hydrogen industry in Australia is in its infancy, so the lessons learned from these three projects – and the entire funding round – will be important in driving our future hydrogen economy. With more than $100 million in funding, the nation is confident of building some of the biggest hydrogen electrolysers in the world, with the ultimate goal of bringing down the cost of hydrogen produced using renewable energy and growing our skills and capacity to meet future global demand for hydrogen.
ARENA has been active in the clean hydrogen sector since 2016 and has already committed over $57 million to hydrogen projects including $22.1 million towards 16 R&D projects, as well as feasibility studies into large scale projects and smaller-scale demonstrations looking at renewable hydrogen production, power to gas and hydrogen mobility.