The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy (SRP), Joseph Cannataci presented a report focusing on “First approaches to a more privacy-friendly oversight of government surveillance” to the Human Rights Council on March 8. The report looks at recent trends and developments in the area of government surveillance and its interaction with the right to privacy.
The report stresses the importance of evidence-based ’proportionality’, that is the risk of privacy intrusion created by the bulk acquisition of all kinds of data including metadata as well as content should be proportional to the effectiveness of the measure in reducing in the risk of terrorism. It goes on to highlight a growing tendency to indulge in “gesture-politics” by certain governments, capitalising on ‘disproportionate though understandable fear’ that electorates may have in the face of the threat of terrorism. Wishing to be seen doing something about security, expensive, privacy-intrusive powers could created or existing practices legalised, without demonstrating that this is either a proportionate or indeed an effective way to tackle terrorism,
The data collected is vulnerable to cyberattacks by hostile governments or organised crime and potential abuse by governments themselves in certain situations.
The report reiterates that everyone, everywhere deserves the right to privacy, irrespective of colour, creed, national or ethnic origin, political philosophy or sexual orientation.
To ensure that the rights are not breached, and associated freedom of expression and association are not curtailed, the structure of accountability and transparency within governmental organizations carrying out surveillance need to be clear. It also needs to be clear why a particular set of data is being collected, what is the purpose the analysis and which purposes are not legal. Enforcement of these mechanisms needs to be embedded within the authorities carrying out surveillance and it needs to be clear who is accountable for compliance. External checks can be imposed through oversight authorities with access to domain knowledge, resources and access to relevant information.
In the report, the SRP proposes complementing domestic measures with multilateral agreement enshrined in international law, akin to the systems in place in spaces such as spaces” as diverse as maritime law, space law, atomic weapons, chemical weapons etc.
The complexity of data flows across traditional sovereign boundaries poses an altogether new class of challenges. There is an existing Cybercrime Convention, which has been signed by 25% of the UN’s member states. But it deals only with the criminal justice sector. It does not deal with national security nor surveillance carried out in the name of national security.
An international authority, like the one proposed, would be able to grant the equivalent of an international surveillance warrant or international data access warrant (IDAW) that would be enforceable in cyberspace. This would also clarify the situation for companies operating data centres internationally. They would face an international data access warrant issued on grounds of reasonable suspicion under clear international law and not need to worry about any one state overstepping its boundaries.
The report concludes saying,"However difficult for it to be brought about, it is not impossible, indeed it is both plausible and reasonable that a significant number of states would eventually coalesce around a legal instrument which would regulate surveillance and protect privacy in cyberspace. This would be good for citizens, good for governments, good for privacy and good for business."
There are several reports, reflecting Thematic Action Streams, scheduled to be released during the next four years, till 2021. Later this year, in October, a report on “Big Data & Open Data” is going to be presented to the General Assembly.
Read the complete report here.
Rehabilitation services have gained increasing significance, as highlighted by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during RehabWeek 2023. The demand for rehab services is growing worldwide due to an ageing population and a rising incidence of chronic diseases. To meet this demand and improve outcomes, the field of rehabilitation is embracing innovation, particularly through advancements in technology, robotics, and digitalisation.
Rehabilitation plays a crucial role in enabling individuals, regardless of age, to regain independence and participate meaningfully in daily life. With the World Health Organisation estimating that 1 in 3 people globally may benefit from rehab services, the importance of this field cannot be overstated.
Beyond individual well-being, rehabilitation contributes to productive longevity and reduces downstream medical costs when integrated into holistic care plans. Thus, it aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of “healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages.”
Deputy Prime Minister Heng shared his personal experience as a stroke survivor, emphasising the pivotal role that therapists and early rehabilitation played in his recovery journey. Early rehab interventions were instrumental in mitigating the debilitating effects of extended bed rest in the ICU. Dedicated therapists, combined with intensive rehab, enabled him to regain full functionality, underscoring the transformative potential of rehabilitation services.
Innovations in rehabilitation leverage broader trends like robotics and digitalisation. These innovations offer precision rehabilitation, tailoring treatment plans to individual needs. They also mitigate manpower constraints by augmenting human efforts with technology.
For instance, robotics-assisted physiotherapy and games-based cognitive exercises are becoming increasingly prevalent. Moreover, virtual rehabilitation has gained prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic, enhancing convenience and empowering patients to take charge of their rehab journeys from home.
Many societies are facing the dual challenge of an ageing population and a declining workforce to provide rehabilitation services. Technology is critical in augmenting these efforts to meet growing demand. Innovations in rehabilitation enhance its effectiveness and accessibility, ensuring that patients follow through with and benefit from rehab programs.
Singapore is at the forefront of innovative rehabilitation practices. Its acute hospitals offer excellent rehab care services and conduct research to improve care. Notably, Tan Tock Seng Hospital is a pioneer in rehabilitation medicine. Changi General Hospital houses the Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology (CHART), facilitating the synergy between clinical needs and technological innovation.
The One-Rehab Framework is a recent innovation in Singapore, ensuring timely access to rehabilitation care. This framework enables seamless care coordination across different settings and care team members through a common IT portal and harmonised clinical outcomes. It streamlines the sharing of relevant patient information and encourages right-siting of care within the community, reducing the burden on acute hospitals.
According to Deputy Prime Minister Heng, RehabWeek serves as a platform for delegates with diverse expertise and a shared commitment to advancing rehabilitation care. It encourages the sharing of best practices and useful technologies to strengthen collective impact, especially when addressing global challenges.
Singapore stands ready to collaborate with international partners, offering its strong ecosystem in research, innovation, and enterprise to advance the field of rehabilitation for the benefit of people worldwide.
He added that rehabilitation is evolving and embracing technological innovations to meet the increasing demand for its services, especially in ageing societies. “Collaboration, innovation, and a focus on the last-mile delivery of care are crucial for ensuring that individuals can live well and maximise their potential through effective rehabilitation,” Deputy Prime Minister Heng said. “Singapore’s commitment to these principles makes it a valuable partner in advancing the frontiers of rehabilitation on a global scale.”
The Vietnamese government has said that digital transformation and green transformation are inevitable global trends. They have a crucial role in enhancing economic growth, labour productivity, competitiveness, production, and business efficiency. They also reduce reliance on fuel sources that cause pollution and minimise carbon footprint.
To discuss digital and green transformation for sustainable development and to foster networking opportunities for businesses to accelerate their green transitions, the Ministry of Science and Technology held a forum in the northern province of Quang Ninh.
Domestic and international scientists, along with representatives from organisations and technology companies, deliberated on strategies to speed up green and digital transformations. They underscored the importance of advancing technological innovation and implementing reforms in human resource management, training, and quality enhancement to create new products and processes. This, in turn, will boost business value, aid in the delivery of better goods and services to society, and expedite Vietnam’s industrialisation and modernisation processes.
Participants suggested the establishment of a support mechanism for industries implementing green and digital transformation solutions in Vietnamese businesses. They also stressed that it is necessary to promote Horizon Europe’s international cooperation programme on joint research and innovation for Vietnam and have comprehensive digital transformation solutions for businesses.
During the forum, Quang Ninh province representatives, the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), businesses, and organisations exchanged memoranda of understanding regarding collaboration in the domains of digital transformation and green transformation.
Vietnam has been introducing emerging technologies in the agricultural sector to promote sustainable growth. Earlier this year, the government announced plans to introduce artificial intelligence (AI) for the optimisation of farming practices, including weather prediction, monitoring of plant and livestock health, and enhancing product quality.
AI can improve crop productivity and help control pests, diseases, and cultivation conditions. It can improve the performance of farming-related tasks across food supply chains. Advancements in the manufacturing of AI-controlled robots are assisting farmers worldwide in utilising less land and labour while simultaneously boosting production output.
Vietnam’s commitment to technological advancements in agriculture extends beyond AI, as highlighted by the government’s plans to harness biotechnology. In September, the Politburo issued a resolution under which Vietnam aims to be among the top ten Asian countries in biotechnology production and services by 2030.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the biotechnology sector is on the verge of becoming a significant economic and technological industry, with an expected 50% rise in the number of companies in terms of investment size and growth rate. Additionally, it is projected that half of the imported biotechnology products will be substituted by domestic production. This sector is anticipated to make a 7% contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Vietnam aims to establish a thriving biotechnology sector by 2045, positioning itself as a prominent centre for smart production, services, biotechnology startups, and innovation in Asia. This sector is expected to contribute 10% to 15% to the GDP by that year.
As a result of its tropical climate and its economic shift away from agriculture, biotechnology plays a vital role in Vietnam’s industrialisation and modernisation efforts. It contributes significantly to ensuring food security, facilitating economic restructuring, and promoting sustainable development. Furthermore, in environmental conservation, biotechnology has brought forth numerous solutions. These include the breakdown of inorganic and organic pollutants, waste treatment, industrial waste processing, and the use of microorganisms to address oil spills and incidents of oil contamination.
Vietnam can focus on developing various aspects within the biotechnology sector, such as agricultural advancements in crop and animal breeding, manufacturing veterinary drugs, developing vaccines, and creating bio-fertilizers.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has inaugurated several digital projects for the Defence Accounts Department (DAD) as part of its 276th Annual Day celebrations. The initiatives include:
The Summary of Accounts, Budget, and Expenditure for Raksha Mantralaya (the Ministry of Defence) tool aims to provide a more accurate and objective view of defence financial information like payment, accounting, and budgeting in India.
This analytics tool integrates, compiles, sanitises, and standardises financial data from various applications, data sources, and databases. It then offers a real-time, comprehensive platform with dashboard features, allowing users to visualise trends, display metrics, present graphs illustrating key performance indicators, and generate reports, among other functionalities.
SARANSH will function as a complete dashboard for higher management, offering a quick overview of all defence expenditures. It enables centralised monitoring and encourages data-driven decision-making for all defence organisations.
The Bill Information and Work Analysis System will function as a dashboard for various Principal Controllers of Defence Accounts (PCsDA)/ Controllers of Defence Accounts (CsDA), providing different infographics to monitor and analyse the whole process flow of bill management. It will also generate reports on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). It provides real-time detailed analyses of bill processing, with interactive visualisations of granular data flowing through the various office automation systems within a controller office.
E-Raksha Awaas is a centralised and comprehensive software package designed to enhance and streamline the process of generating rent and related charges for rentable buildings within Defence Services. It also facilitates the prompt remission of these charges to government accounts. This package acts as a unified online platform for all stakeholders engaged in the generation, recovery, and remission of rent and allied charges.
Minister Singh described the DAD as the guardian of defence finance and commended its efforts to strengthen the country’s defence capabilities through transparent and efficient systems, praising its prudent resource management and output optimisation.
He suggested ways to improve the department’s efficiency such as encouraging DAD officials to enhance their professional skills to address the challenges posed by “constantly evolving times”. He urged them to partner with organisations like the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to create and implement customised training modules, as per requirements.
Providing financial advice is one of the DAD’s most crucial responsibilities, the Minister noted. The DAD should consider two key aspects when offering financial advice: a realistic assessment of the demands of the user agency and a thorough understanding of the product’s market.
He explained that it is important to evaluate whether there is a need to purchase a product and whether a similar product of equal or greater effectiveness is available in the market at a lower cost. This understanding will enhance the quality of financial advice.
Furthermore, to foster such an understanding, Singh suggested establishing an in-house mechanism—a standing committee of experienced individuals who can research and analyse market forces and offer valuable insights to field officers. “Big banks and financial institutions develop in-house economic intelligence and research teams. On similar lines, the DAD needs to develop an in-house team for market research and intelligence,” he stated.
It is also vital to strengthen the internal vigilance mechanism to detect and review suspicious activity. This will not only expedite addressing issues but also enhance public trust in the department, the Minister said.
Scientists from Washington University in St. Louis have created a sonobiopsy method to diagnose brain disease. The Sonobiopsy method employs ultrasound and microbubbles to momentarily breach the barrier, enabling brain RNA, DNA, and proteins to enter the bloodstream for analysis. While this technique was initially tested on animals, a recent study demonstrates its safety and viability for human use. This innovation may pave the way for non-invasive brain disease and tumour diagnostics.
Eric Leuthardt, MD, co-senior author and co-inventor of the technology, stated that Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) drastically transformed brain disease diagnosis in the 1980s and ’90s, offering structural and functional brain imaging capabilities.
Leuthardt, the Shi Hui Huang Professor of Neurosurgery and a professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine in biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering referred to sonobiopsy as the third revolution, emphasising its molecular aspect. This innovative technique allows blood sample collection reflecting gene expression and molecular characteristics at the brain lesion site, essentially performing a brain biopsy without the associated risks of surgery.
Eric Leuthardt and Hong Chen, PhD, Associate Professors of Biomedical Engineering at McKelvey Engineering and Neurosurgery at the School of Medicine, developed the groundbreaking technique, focusing on multidisciplinary research to create engineered solutions for neurological diseases.
The technique employs focused ultrasound to target a brain lesion at a millimetre scale. Subsequently, microbubbles are injected into the bloodstream, travelling to the designated area and bursting, creating minuscule, temporary openings in the blood-brain barrier. These openings naturally close within a few hours, causing no lasting harm. Within this time frame, brain lesion biomolecules can exit the bloodstream, facilitating their collection through a standard blood draw.
Hong Chen, another Senior Co-author and co-inventor of the technology described this innovation as initiating a new field for brain-related conditions. It offers the capability to noninvasively and nondestructively access all brain regions, enabling the retrieval of genetic information about tumours before surgical procedures.
This information aids neurosurgeons in determining the best approach to surgery, helping confirm the nature of suspicious findings on imaging. Furthermore, it paves the way for studying diseases that typically don’t undergo surgical biopsies, including neurodevelopmental, neurodegenerative, and psychiatric disorders.
Initially, the researchers utilised a commercially available ultrasound device combined with an MRI scanner, a setup limited by cost and MRI availability. To streamline the procedure, Hong Chen’s team designed a portable, handheld ultrasound probe that could be attached to a stereotactic pointer commonly used by neurosurgeons for pinpointing brain lesions. This device was seamlessly integrated into the clinical workflow, requiring no additional training for neurosurgeons.
Eric Leuthardt emphasised the user-friendliness of this device, stating that it was efficiently utilised during the study in the operating room but could also be employed in a clinic or at a patient’s bedside in a hospital. He noted that this approach was a significant step toward making advanced diagnostics more accessible, enabling the examination of patients’ brains without needing a high-tech, multimillion-dollar scanner.
In their research, the team conducted sonobiopsies on five individuals with brain tumours using this device. Subsequently, the tumours were removed surgically following the standard care protocol.
The analysis of blood samples collected before and after sonication revealed that the technique increased circulating tumour DNA, ranging from 1.6-fold to 5.6-fold, depending on the specific type of DNA examined.
Circulating tumour DNA holds crucial information about genetic alterations in a patient’s tumour, which guides treatment decisions regarding the tumour’s aggressiveness. Notably, the procedure showed no signs of causing damage to brain tissue, affirming its safety.
A collaboration in science and technology has emerged as the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation of Thailand (MHESI) joined forces with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) of the People’s Republic of China. The two nations came together to review the progress of ongoing collaborative projects and chart a course for future technological innovations.
The meeting was attended by figures in the field of science and technology, including Prof Dr Sirirurg Songsivilai, Permanent Secretary of MHESI, and Mr Zhang Guang Jun, Deputy Minister of MOST. Notably, Executive Vice President Dr Uracha Ruktanonchai represented the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), underlining the significance of the collaboration.
One of the projects under this collaborative effort is centred around rail technology. It combines the expertise of the Rail and Modern Transport Research Centre of NSTDA, the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR), and the China Railway Company. Their goal is to establish the China-Thailand Belt and Road Joint Laboratory on Rail Transit.
Public transportation is vital to modern urban life, shaping how people move within cities, reducing traffic congestion, and minimising the environmental footprint. As Thailand and China embark on collaborative endeavours in rail technology, they contribute to enhancing public transportation systems, which stand as a cornerstone of sustainable mobility.
This laboratory will be a hub for cutting-edge research and testing on rail transit systems. With Thailand’s high-speed train project on the horizon, this laboratory is poised to play a crucial role in ensuring its successful implementation.
The Thailand-China Technology Transfer Centre (TCTTC), a collaborative initiative led by NSTDA, represents another milestone in this partnership. TCTTC has fostered collaboration by facilitating researcher exchanges, supporting training programmes, and enabling business matching between Thai and Chinese enterprises. These initiatives have yielded positive outcomes for both nations.
As the collaboration looks ahead to 2024, TCTTC has set its sights on ramping up technology transfer activities in several key areas. Notably, the focus will be on digital technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and technologies. These forward-looking endeavours are driven by a shared commitment to addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leveraging innovation for sustainable growth and development.
The plans for 2024 reflect the landscape of technology and innovation. They also underscore Thailand and China’s shared commitment to harness innovation’s power for sustainable growth and development. As technology continues to reshape the global landscape, these collaborative efforts are set to make significant contributions across various sectors. Together, these two nations aim to create a powerful technological synergy that promises a brighter and more connected future on the global stage.
This recent meeting between MHESI and MOST marks a promising partnership at the intersection of science, technology, and innovation. With ongoing endeavours in rail technology and technology transfer, as well as forward-looking plans for digital technology and AI in 2024, the collaboration is poised to make significant contributions to the advancement of both Thailand and China. As these two nations combine their strengths, they stand to create a technological synergy that promises sustainable development and a brighter future on the global stage.
The advent of big data has opened up new possibilities for driving sustainable development and informed decision-making. In the context of New Zealand, harnessing the potential of big data presents numerous opportunities to address social, economic, and environmental challenges.
Police agencies in New Zealand are increasingly turning to advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology to bolster their emergency response and risk assessment capabilities. Recent tragic incidents, such as the shooting of an unarmed constable in West Auckland in 2020, have prompted the development of innovative safety programmes aimed at improving law enforcement effectiveness. One intelligence system has emerged as a central component in this technological transformation.
By collaborating closely with major multinational technology companies specialising in data-driven policing systems, police agencies are harnessing the power of AI to redefine how they assess risks during emergencies. The intelligence system represents a leap forward in enhancing police intelligence systems, enabling law enforcement officers to make more informed decisions swiftly.
One of the critical achievements of the intelligence system is its ability to overcome the limitations of previous intelligence systems. The traditional system struggled to access essential information about criminal organisations, particularly gangs and firearms. This fragmentation hindered the ability of law enforcement to connect the dots and respond effectively to emerging threats swiftly.
However, the intelligence system has revolutionised this process by providing instant access to vital connections and associations. This newfound capability significantly enhances police efficiency and decision-making in the digital age.
The intelligence system’s impressive functionality extends beyond mere data access. It leverages advanced AI technologies to deliver more valuable intelligence, particularly concerning firearm-related threats.
By integrating data from various sources and employing machine learning algorithms, the intelligence system rapidly analyses and disseminates pertinent information. Front-line officers now can receive real-time updates directly on their smartphones, enabling them to respond effectively to evolving situations.
While the incorporation of advanced AI technology in law enforcement holds promise, it inevitably raises concerns surrounding privacy, transparency, and potential bias. This is not an isolated issue, as similar data-driven policing systems worldwide have grappled with these challenges. To address these concerns effectively, it is essential to conduct comprehensive privacy impact assessments and ensure the utmost transparency in the deployment of such technology.
Furthermore, the emergence of the intelligence system underscores the critical role of collaboration among organisations and the need for strategic partnerships to drive innovation. This initiative exemplifies how technology partnerships can push the boundaries of what’s possible and enhance capabilities beyond individual and organisational limits. In an era marked by rapid technological advancements, collaboration stands as the linchpin of resilience, enabling organisations to collectively address multifaceted challenges and fortify their defences against cyber threats.
The integration of advanced AI technology, exemplified by the intelligence system, into law enforcement operations, has the potential to bring public safety and police effectiveness. However, it simultaneously underscores the paramount importance of ethical considerations, transparency, and the responsible use of such technology to mitigate potential risks and biases.
In the pursuit of a safer and more secure digital future, collaboration remains indispensable, not just for technological advancement but also for achieving the overarching goal of creating a society where innovation thrives and security reigns supreme.
In an exciting collaboration between LASALLE College of the Arts (LASALLE) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), the future of electric vehicle (EV) design is undergoing a remarkable transformation. This pioneering effort, a testament to engineering excellence and design innovation, has birthed an avant-garde electric vehicle prototype that is making waves at LASALLE College of the Arts as part of Singapore Design Week.
Led by Nathan Yong, Programme Leader of BA (Hons) Product Design at LASALLE and a recipient of the President’s Design Award, three students from LASALLE, namely Choong Yu Haun, Namjot Kaur, and Joel Yong, joined forces with SUTD’s Electric Vehicle Club (EV Club) to embark on a journey that reimagines the art of electric vehicle design.
At the heart of this transformative project lies the innovative use of 3D printing technology, a disruptive force that is reshaping the automotive landscape. Drawing inspiration from the intricate and efficient forms found in nature, particularly in insects, the collaborative team has pushed the boundaries of design to create a body shell that epitomises speed, agility and a new benchmark for future electric vehicles.
In doing so, they have also made substantial strides towards sustainable transportation design, underscoring their commitment to environmental stewardship and technological advancement.
The result of this remarkable collaboration is the TITHONUS design, crafted by LASALLE students and based on the open-top tandem two-seater electric sports car initially designed and built by SUTD students.
This lightweight chassis houses a quad-motor electric powertrain capable of short 2-second bursts of up to 1,000Nm of torque. With double-wishbone suspension all around and 18-inch wheels regulated by disc brakes, TITHONUS is a testament to the fusion of creativity, engineering acumen, and digitalisation in the pursuit of a sustainable and thrilling automotive future.
LASALLE receives tuition grant support from Singapore’s Ministry of Education and is a founding member of the University of the Arts Singapore. Besides, the partnership between LASALLE and SUTD has not only pushed the boundaries of electric vehicle design but also showcased the transformative power of 3D printing technology and digitalisation in the realm of transportation.
Singapore’s commitment to sustainable mobility is evident in its ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change. The government’s “Green Plan 2030” outlines a clear roadmap for transforming the country’s transportation sector. At the forefront of this transformation are electric vehicles, which are seen as a pivotal solution to reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation industry.
Digitalisation is the driving force behind Singapore’s electric vehicle revolution. The integration of digital technologies into every facet of the EV ecosystem is unlocking new possibilities and reshaping the way we perceive and use electric vehicles.
Also, central to the success of EVs is a robust charging infrastructure. Digitalisation has enabled the development of a smart charging network across Singapore. EV owners can easily locate charging stations through mobile apps, check availability in real time, and even make reservations. Additionally, predictive analytics help optimise the placement of charging stations based on usage patterns, ensuring convenience for users.
Digitalisation has transformed the way EVs are managed and maintained as advanced telematics systems allow for remote diagnostics, real-time monitoring of vehicle health, and over-the-air software updates. This not only enhances the overall reliability of EVs but also minimises downtime and reduces maintenance costs.