The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a $220 million investment in 11 new NSF-led Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes. USDA-NIFA and other agencies and organisations have partnered with NSF to pursue transformational advances in a range of economic sectors and science and engineering fields — from food system security to next-generation edge networks.
In the tradition of USDA-NIFA investments, these new institutes leverage the scientific power of U.S. land-grant universities informed by close partnership with farmers, producers, educators and innovators to provide sustainable crop production solutions and address these pressing societal challenges. These innovation centres will speed our ability to meet critical needs in the future agricultural workforce, providing equitable and fair market access, increasing nutrition security and providing tools for climate-smart agriculture.
Director of USDA-NIFA
NSF’s investment will result in AI-based technologies that bring about a range of advances: helping older adults lead more independent lives and improving the quality of their care; transforming AI into a more accessible “plug-and-play” technology; creating solutions to improve agriculture and food supply chains; enhancing adult online learning by introducing AI as a foundational element, and supporting underrepresented students in elementary to post-doctoral STEM education to improve equity and representation in AI research.
The Director of NSF stated that they look to expand the establishment of new NSF National AI Research Institutes into all 50 states. These institutes are hubs for academia, industry and government to accelerate discovery and innovation in AI. Inspiring talent and ideas everywhere in this important area will lead to new capabilities that improve people’s lives from medicine to entertainment to transportation and cybersecurity and position us in the vanguard of competitiveness and prosperity.
Building on the seven awards funded in 2020, this second round of awards expands the reach of the AI Institutes to include a total of 37 states. The new awards, each at about $20 million over five years, will support 11 institutes spanning seven research areas in AI: Human-AI Interaction and Collaboration, AI for Advances in Optimisation, AI and Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, AI in Computer and Network Systems, AI in Dynamic Systems, AI-Augmented Learning, and AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System.
These are three out of the 11 new AI Research Institutes:
The USDA-NIFA Institute for Agricultural AI for Transforming Workforce and Decision Support (AgAID). Led by Washington State University, this institute will integrate AI methods into agriculture operations for prediction, decision support, and robotics-enabled agriculture to address complex agricultural challenges. The AgAID Institute uses a unique adopt-adapt-amplify approach to develop and deliver AI solutions to agriculture that address pressing challenges related to labour, water, weather and climate change.
The USDA-NIFA AI Institute for Resilient Agriculture (AIIRA). Led by Iowa State University, this institute will transform agriculture through innovative AI-driven digital twins that model plants at an unprecedented scale. This approach is enabled by advances in computational theory, AI algorithms, and tools for crop improvement and production for resiliency to climate change.
NSF AI Institute for Engaged Learning. Led by North Carolina State University, this institute will advance natural language processing, computer vision and machine learning to build narrative-centred learning environments, embodied conversational agents, and multimodal learning analytics to yield transformative advances in STEM teaching and learning
AI is being integrated into every industry and every discipline, including journalism, nursing, or nutrition. From retail to real estate, AI is going to be a part of every industry’s future, and everyone needs to be prepared. As reported by OpenGov Asia, U.S. researchers have built a high-fidelity simulation environment that is designed for developing algorithms that improve causal discovery and counterfactual reasoning of AI.
The recent paper took a closer look at this problem and the researchers proposed a new high-fidelity simulation environment. They designed a high-fidelity simulation with the ability to control causal structure. A more robust AI model does more than simply learning patterns. It captures the causal relationships between events.
All organisations that use alphanumeric Sender IDs to send SMS are now required to register with the Singapore SMS Sender ID Registry (SSIR) as part of the measures announced by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) last October. This registration is intended to protect consumers from non-registered SMS that may be scams, a press statement has said.
Starting from 31 January, any non-registered SMS will be labelled as “Likely-SCAM”. This functions similarly to a spam filter or spam bin. Consumers might get non-registered SMS labelled as “Likely-SCAM” and are advised to exercise caution. If unsure, consumers are encouraged to check with family and friends. This will improve IMDA’s overall resilience against scams.
All organisations that use alphanumeric Sender IDs must register early with the SSIR. This is to give adequate time as non-registered SMS Sender IDs after 31 January will be labelled as “Likely-SCAM”. Organisations that have not registered their Sender IDs are advised to do so, the statement said.
As of January 2023, over 1,200 organisations have already registered with SSIR, using more than 2,600 SMS Sender IDs. These include financial institutions, e-commerce operators, logistics providers, and SMEs that send SMS to their customers who have registered with the SSIR.
In recent months, IMDA reached out to organisations through aggregators and associations such as the Singapore Business Federation, Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, and Association of Banks in Singapore, to encourage them to register with the SSIR. The mandatory SSIR regime is part of a broader effort to protect against scams, which also includes working with telecom operators to reduce the number of scam calls and SMS coming through the communication networks.
Since the implementation of the SSIR in March 2022, there has been a significant decrease in scams reported through SMS, with a 64% reduction from the last quarter of 2021 to the second quarter of 2022. Additionally, scam cases perpetrated via SMS dropped from 10% in 2021 to 8% in Q2 2022, down from 10% in 2021.
To effectively combat scams, a collective effort from society is needed. Despite implementing various measures, scammers may adapt their methods and tactics. IMDA will continue to collaborate with other stakeholders in the fight against scams, but individual vigilance and awareness are crucial. Consumers should remain vigilant and share scam prevention tips with friends and loved ones, the statement said.
IMDA leads Singapore’s digital transformation with infocomm media. To do this, IMDA is working to develop a dynamic digital economy and a cohesive digital society, driven by an exceptional infocomm media (ICM) ecosystem. It fosters talent, strengthens business capabilities, and enhances Singapore’s ICM infrastructure. IMDA also regulates the telecommunications and media sectors to safeguard consumer interests while fostering a pro-business environment and enhances Singapore’s data protection regime through the Personal Data Protection Commission.
Scams and unwanted commercial electronic messages and calls are an international problem with scammers continuing to prey on unsuspecting parties. Last year, IMDA and Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to boost cooperation and fight scams and spam. The agreement covers cooperation in information sharing and assistance in investigations relating to scam and spam calls and short message services. The two sides also agreed to mutual exchanges of knowledge and expertise and collaboration on technical and commercially viable solutions in relation to scam and spam communications.
The Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, has said that with the involvement of an artificial intelligence (AI) layer, the country’s architecture will become more sophisticated in the future.
He was addressing the first India Stack Developers conference, which aimed to facilitate the adoption of India Stack for countries that are keen to integrate it as per their requirements and to create a robust ecosystem of startups, developers, and system integrators working around it on next-generation innovation. He said the government wants to offer India Stack or part of the stack to those enterprises and countries across the world who want to innovate and further integrate, execute, and implement digital transformation. India Stack is a set of open indigenously-developed APIs and e-governance and public applications.
“What we have now is just [the] India Stack 1.0 version. It will evolve and become more sophisticated and nuanced,” Chandrasekhar explained. A smart dataset programme will be launched soon, and an AI layer will be built into the stack. Seven countries will sign up with the Indian government to use India Stack.
The conference was conducted to bring together the developer community, start-ups, corporations, and foreign governments who are inspired by the India Stack and want to adopt digital public goods like Aadhaar, United Payments Interface (UPI), and Digilocker. Senior officials from Aadhaar, GeM (Government e-marketplace), Diksha, a public ed-tech initiative, and the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission gave presentations on the strategies of each platform. Over one hundred digital leaders from industry associations, system integrators, and start-ups attended the event. It also saw participation from delegates of G20 countries.
Debjani Ghosh, President of the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), stated that India using digital means has achieved financial inclusion for 80% of the population in 6 years as compared to the projected figure of 46 years.
The CEO of Aadhaar, Saurabh Garg, spoke about the impact the biometric identification system has had in the country. It has recorded over 1.3 billion sign ups till now and handles around 75 million daily transactions. The transactions involve e-authentication by various organisations such as fintech, banks, and other Aadhaar-enabled payment services.
Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identification card that serves as proof of identity and address for Indian citizens. As per the latest government data, in November, 287 million e-know your customer (e-KYC) transactions were carried out using Aadhaar, a 22% growth over the previous month. By the end of November, the cumulative number of e-KYC transactions had reached 13.5 billion. As OpenGov Asia reported, the Aadhaar e-KYC service is playing an increasingly crucial role in banking and non-banking financial services. It provides transparent and enhanced customer experiences.
An e-KYC transaction is executed, only after the explicit consent of the Aadhaar holder, and eliminates physical paperwork, and in-person verification requirements for KYC. Telecom operators and fintech firms, among others, have seen ease in the onboarding of new customers through eKYC. In November, 1.95 billion Aadhaar authentication transactions were carried out, 11% more than in October. Most of these monthly transactions were carried out by using fingerprint biometric authentication, followed by demographic and OTP authentication.
The Philippines has begun issuing individual electronic land titles (e-titles) to 1,839 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the Eastern Visayas region. The Department of Agrarian Reform will give the ARBs their personalised e-titles (DAR).
DAR stated that 2,591 electronic titles (e-titles) totalling 3,922 hectares of the agricultural property would be given on Jan. 26 as part of the Support to Parcelisation of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT Project). The first batch of individual titles developed by the SPLIT Project will be distributed in the Visayas State University-Tolosa Campus auditorium.
According to DAR Secretary Conrado Estrella III, this is per President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s direction to hasten the issuance of land titles to ARBs this year and to provide support services to help them better their living conditions.
“We will issue individual e-titles to preserve and affirm our ARBs’ property rights,” he explained.
The SPLIT initiative proposes fast-tracking the subdivision of national collective certificates of land ownership award (CCLOAs) of around 1.3 million hectares of land. The World Bank supported the SPLIT initiative to partition CCLOAs and tribute individual titles to ARBs.
According to DAR Eastern Visayas Regional Director Robert Anthony Yu, the SPLIT project includes approximately 17,496 CCLOAs encompassing a total of 220,473 hectares of agricultural properties throughout the region. Yu stated that the area has verified around 67,601 hectares, while 3,922 hectares have been granted with e-titles.
The SPLIT project seeks to fully implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme by allowing farmer-beneficiaries to have clear and defined ownership of the parcels of land they are tilling. The e-titling aim to stimulate farmers to grow their crops and make long-term progress on their ground. The award to ARBs was also established to stabilise requests, tenure ship, govern lands, and generate short-term economic opportunities for project workers who will be employed in the project.
Estrella stated in an earlier interview that farmers could not successfully use the land to make income because they needed to know the metes and bounds of the land assigned to each of them. Estrella believes that by granting farmers individual rights, more ARBs will be inspired to enhance their landholdings, resulting in higher agricultural output and household income.
The Philippines pushed land management digitalisation. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Land Management Bureau (LMB) has fully integrated the Land Administration Management System (LAMS) databases of 16 local and community environment and natural resource bureaus in the Philippines into their respective regional offices.
LAMS is a computer-based information system consolidating the country’s land data and records. It is geared for quick and straightforward land information processing, tracking, and retrieval. As a result, the DENR-NCR and DENR-Calabarzon Regional LAMS datasets were combined to create LMB-LAMS.
LMB also pooled and assessed 19 towns undergoing Digital Cadastral Database Cleansing through different DENR regional offices. LMB Director Emelyne Talabis adds that the agency is happy with its accomplishments this year on critical programmes, which resulted in improved delivery of land-related services to Filipinos.
The Philippines generally attempted to improve its digital competencies after falling behind. The Philippines placed last among Southeast Asian countries in the 2022 World Digital Competitiveness Ranking. Furthermore, it is the 13th largest economy in Asia, trailing only Mongolia.
The Senate has rolled out an act to push the complete e-governance implementation in the Philippines. All government agencies, offices, and instrumentalities, including local government entities, are required under the bill to disclose all necessary information in both traditional and online formats. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will be the principal agency in enforcing the provisions of the Act.
A partner company of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) unveiled “ARIA-diabetes risks”, a retinal imaging tool for non-invasive pre-screening of diabetes. This solution aims to tackle the problem of millions of undiagnosed diabetes patients worldwide.
The International Diabetes Federation reports that in 2021, nearly half of all adults with diabetes were unaware of their condition, amounting to 239.7 million individuals worldwide. In Hong Kong alone, at least 600,000 individuals have diabetes and more than 110 million in mainland China. This is a significant issue that has both local and global implications, as people with diabetes are at an increased risk for serious and potentially life-threatening complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss.
The Automatic Retinal Image Analysis (ARIA) technology uses artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques to detect various health issues. The solution provides a non-invasive pre-screening tool for diabetes that delivers results within minutes and has an accuracy rate of over 90%. It does not require a blood test and offers a faster and more accessible way for early diabetes diagnosis.
The partner company formed a joint venture called “Oneness Health” with an HKSTP incubatee to capitalise on the potential for remote healthcare offered by the ARIA-diabetes risks solution.
The joint venture combines the partner company’s retinal analysis technology with the incubatee’s network of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners, as well as their software and hardware development capabilities. This creates a one-stop service platform under the name “Oneness Health” that provides high-risk patients seeking TCM treatment with added convenience and flexibility, with the goal of “disease prevention”.
The Oneness Health platform will offer features such as online appointments, mobile assessments, diagnosis, and personal health management in the first quarter of 2023.
In the near future, it will also provide prescriptions for traditional Chinese medicines that can be dispensed through auto-dispensing machines at over 100 convenient locations in 18 districts of Hong Kong or collected at various NGO centres. Additionally, door-to-door courier service will be available for single elderly individuals or needy families.
The CEO of HKSTP stated that the Park is dedicated to promoting innovation by providing a comprehensive support system for translational research, product development, and commercialization. The ARIA-diabetes risks solution from the two firms which is now being offered under the Oneness Health platform is a prime example of how innovative solutions can be developed in Hong Kong and at the Science Park.
The combination of breakthrough science, world-first technology, advanced software, and hardware to create an innovative primary healthcare delivery platform through Oneness Health, is a testament to the speed, talent, infrastructure, and innovation capability of Hong Kong’s I&T ecosystem.
In line with the HKSAR Government’s Primary Healthcare Blueprint announced in December 2022, the Oneness Health platform will contribute to the government’s goal of establishing a more community-based primary healthcare system. The platform will significantly improve healthcare convenience, expand treatment options, lower patient costs, and alleviate the burden on Hong Kong’s hospitals and clinics.
The Blueprint sets out a strategy road map towards establishing a primary healthcare system that can improve the overall health and quality of life for popular in a stable manner, under the challenges brought on by an ageing popular and increasing chronic disease prevalence.
Multiple local governments in China announced measures to increase digital economy growth in 2023. Some cities, like Shanghai, and provinces, such as Zhejiang, Fujian, and Hebei, have set goals for economic progress for this year.
They emphasised the importance of the digital nation’s growth. They advocated for attempts to create blueprints for future sectors such as the metaverse, an immersive virtual environment enabled by virtual reality and augmented reality.
Zhang Yunming, The Vice-Minister of Industry and Information Technology, urged telecommunications companies to increase infrastructure construction and deployment. He pushed national telecom companies to deepen efforts in promoting an innovation-driven development strategy and accelerate the integration of digital and real economies.
As a result of the statement, connected business stocks surge. On Thursday, shares of nearly ten firms, including China National Software and Service Co, rose by the daily limit of 10%, demonstrating investors’ optimism about the rise of the digital economy in 2023.
Previously, consumer-oriented internet applications such as e-commerce drove China’s digital economy, but today business-oriented applications such as industrial internet play a far more prominent role. This demonstrates that the digital economic model has improved.
According to the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank, China’s digital economy is predicted to exceed 60 trillion yuan (US$8.84 trillion) by 2025.
China has laid the groundwork for the digital economy’s next era. According to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, more than 2.3 million 5G base stations will have been completed in China by the end of 2022, and the country will be able to link over 500 million residences to a gigabit optical network.
Furthermore, according to the ministry, digital connectivity for the mobile internet of things in China reached 1.84 billion in 2022, making China the first leading economy in the world to have more mobile IoT connections than mobile subscribers. The internet of things is a network of devices, cars, and other items equipped with software or sensors that facilitate interaction and share data. According to Zhao Zhiguo, the ministry’s spokeswoman, China’s mobile IoT connections account for 70% of the global total and cover the 45 major sectors of the national economy.
According to Wang Zhiqin, vice president of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, China has established a competent telecom infrastructure that will serve as a solid basis for China’s digital economy’s high-quality development. According to a forecast released by China’s Cyberspace Administration, the digital economy in China will be worth 45.5 trillion yuan in 2021, making it the world’s second-largest after the United States.
Liu, Vice Premier He said in a speech at the World Economic Forum’s annual conference in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday that China “must always make constructing a socialist market economy the direction of our transformation.
“We must allow the market to play a decisive role in resource allocation while also allowing the government to play a more active role. Some believe China will pursue a planned economy. That is not conceivable,” Liu remarked.
The remarks were consistent with the tone-setting Central Economic Work Conference, which concluded in December and underlined the importance of working “unwaveringly” to consolidate and strengthen the public sector and encourage, support, and guide private-sector development.
Tencent Holdings vice president Xu Yan believed that the government had increased its efforts recently to establish a world-class business environment for private enterprises. Tencent is stepping up its efforts to accelerate the merger of the physical and digital economies through innovation. The corporation has invested 150 billion yuan in R&D over the last three years.
Furthermore, the Chinese digital yuan has gained popularity. According to estimates from the country’s central bank, the quantity of digital yuan in circulation will reach 13.61 billion yuan (US$2.01 billion) by the end of 2022.
Digital yuan, like the physical renminbi, is a component of Chinese money as a legal tender in digital form. According to Xuan Changneng, vice governor of the bank, it is vital to integrate data and analysis while also undertaking general management of the two types of money.
The National Institute of Transforming India’s (NITI Aayog) Atal Innovation Mission, the Central Board of Secondary Education, and a private player are collaborating to improve the education sector by adding IT skills to the formal curriculum.
The larger aim is to align the National Education Policy 2020’s (NEP 2020) guidance to increase the pace of tech integration for youth, bridge the future skills gap in the country, and optimise the current infrastructure (including Atal Tinkering Labs) towards making India AI-ready. Together, they launched the AIoT Integration in School Curriculum in September 2022 and initiated a pilot.
A recent showcase, which was the outcome of the pilot programme, included a display of AIoT integration-based lesson plans created by teachers after they were trained by experts from the academic and technology sector. It also included a demonstration of AI and AIoT-enabled social impact projects built by students using tinkering and AI, with guidance from their teachers. The hosting organisations also released a compendium with 70 lesson plans to promote digital readiness.
The compendium is a collection of lesson plans created by the teachers and each one provides a comprehensive understanding of how AIoT integration can be used to enhance learning in a classroom. For example, one of the lesson plans for class 9, helps to guide the students to analyse the reason for back pain and develop an AI-led solution where an LED light glows every time it detects incorrect posture and green light glows once the correct posture is retained.
In another lesson plan for social science, a student is guided to first make use of the design thinking process to understand why plants die in winter. The student is given insight into using tinkering tools like sensors and Arduino UNO to record the moisture level of the soil and then supported to deploy a supervised AI model to predict the plant’s health by making use of the recorded data.
According to an industry expert, the new methodology will enable the shift in teaching pedagogies from traditional to digital with several additional benefits and increased efficiency. Integrating AI with lesson plans and making them part of everyday teaching-learning activities can help enable the students to imbibe the digital-first mindset.
One of the objectives of the project is to empower teachers with skillsets, mindsets, and toolsets to integrate AI and Tinkering. Through this methodology, students are expected to gain a thorough understanding of how emerging technologies can be used impactfully and responsibly.
To bolster the rate of digital literacy in the country, state governments have been urged to offer courses and initiatives in AI and other emerging technologies. Last year, the Indian Institute of Technology of Madras (IIT-Madras)’s Robert Bosch Centre for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (RBC-DSAI) invited students to the national-level ‘Summer Internships 2022’ programme. The goal was to help students gain hands-on experience working on cutting-edge discoveries, with some of the country’s leading experts in data science and AI, as OpenGov Asia reported.
Last May, the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) and the Indian Institute of Technology of Delhi (IIT- Delhi) jointly designed a curriculum for schools that include robotics, AI, machine learning, and data science. The curriculum was for grades 9 to 12 in schools affiliated with the CISCE board.
The Ministry of Administrative Reform and Bureaucratic Reform (PANRB) join forces with a government IT firm to create a digital Public Service Mall (MPP). The initiative is a follow-up to President Joko Widodo’s directive to establish MPP Digital.
According to Minister PANRB Abdullah Azwar Anas, the IT government company is more advanced in digitalisation implementation. MPP Digital incorporates numerous services into the hand to make it easier for people to access high-quality government services.
“MPP Digital provides effective and efficient service delivery while enhancing information security for government digital services. The government IT company team will expedite the President’s vision for MPP Digital,” he explained.
MPP Digital is also expected to increase investment by allowing for faster and easier licencing, leading to job possibilities. In addition, the local administration will not need to construct a massive MPP building but will rely on digitalisation that everyone can access.
MPP Digital is expected to be ready by May 2023, following the President and Vice President’s directives. The creation of MPP Digital is also under the government’s present implementation of the Electronic Based Government System (SPBE).
At the same time, Ririek Adriansyah, the Main Director of the government IT company, declared his willingness to support the government’s initiative. He conveyed that the construction of MPP Digital was proceeding as planned because the digitalisation of services has enormous potential benefits for both the government and the general public.
Additionally, the government is working hard to progress SPBE, including introducing Digital Public Service Malls (MPP) as one of SPBE’s expressions. SPBE is also a component of President Joko Widodo’s Thematic Bureaucratic Reform, which is aimed at digitising government services.
The next Electronic-Based Government System (SPBE) aims to strengthen unity by offering a single access system for the country’s digital services, resulting in higher public service quality. Nowadays, the state’s digital public sector is still fragmented by agency, sector, and silo-based systems. As a result, citizens are frequently required to submit similar data and register several accounts to access various digital-based public sector services.
As a result, Anas will pursue a single sign-on account for users to access various government services. Users can utilise their accounts to access all public services e-services, such as population issues, business permissions, and other certifications. Digital MPP has done so following President Jokowi’s and Vice President Ma’ruf Amin’s objective to achieve bureaucratic reform with simple, powerful, and quick replies to the community.
More MPPs have been built and inaugurated by the government. In the future, all regions will have physical and digital MPPs, with all government services based on demographic numbers (Digital ID). MPP Digital, on the guidance of the President and Vice President, has become the PANRB ministry’s short-term focus.
As of December 2022, 103 MPPs (20% of the total of 514 regencies/cities in Indonesia) had been inaugurated in regencies and cities. Thus, fewer than 80%, or approximately 411 districts/cities, still need MPP. The Vice President aimed for roughly 150 new MPPs in 2023, with all towns and regencies having MPPs by the end of 2024.
The Ministry of PANRB has evaluated 10-15 MPPs (Public Service Malls) for inclusion in the future Digital MPP development process. These MPPs were chosen for their uniqueness, benefits, and good qualities. In general, the MPP Digital application development will be divided into four stages: requirements, design, testing, and upgrading.
Anas emphasised that government digitisation is a critical driver in enhancing the quality of public services, which would increase people’s well-being. Bureaucratic reform must increase investment and streamline business services, boosting the economic level of society. Improving the community’s financial level will undoubtedly influence the lowering poverty rate.