The United Nations Environment Programme released a detailed report yesterday analysing how developments in Financial technology (Fintech) can enable the achievement of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which it calls FT4SD (Fintech for sustainable development). The report points out that to achieve the SDGs and create an inclusive, green economy, the financial systems needs to be revolutionised or reformed, so that private capital can be re-deployed. The report looks at the drivers, requirements and barriers for the same.
Fintech is defined as covering a wide range of technologies and applications, from mobile payment platforms to high-frequency trading (HFT), crowdfunding to virtual currencies and blockchain. Disruptive innovations in Fintech are predicted ‘threaten the viability of today’s financial sector business models, and indeed the effectiveness of current policies, regulations and norms that have shaped modern finance’.
The report highlights three technologies as the key to the ongoing transformation: Blockchain, the Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). The authors explain the drivers behind their choice, saying that IoT and AI enable the ‘animation of the physical world’, enabling physical and natural assets, machines, and physical and natural infrastructures to sense and interact with each other and respond in in real time. While, smart contracts on the immutable distributed ledger of Blockchain will allow real economy assets, infrastructures and processes to interact with the financial system in predictable ways and with unprecedented business models. Blockchain could solve problems of trust, information asymmetry, and economics of small transactions without the, eliminating the requirement of the current costly and complex risk infrastructures and central intermediaries.
UNEP starts with 8 ‘how’ questions, such as financial inclusion for underbanked, unbanked and SMEs and effective and providing efficient financial markets with a level playing field and with market integrity for long term real economy investors aligned with the SDG agenda.
Fundamental effects of Fintech are listed as below:
- Increased access and decentralization of the financial system
- Increased transparency, accountability and collaboration across sectoral boundaries
- Improved risk management and diversification
- Lower costs through improved efficiency, speed and automation
- Increased competition
- Redefining how we can better account for (sustainable) value
Explaining the last point, the report says “we can create a system of accounting that brings us into the 21st century, migrating away from the reductionist double-entry bookkeeping invented by Pacioli in the 1300s – with an approach that looks beyond numbers in ledgers and utilizes machine learning, multiparty computation and algorithmic representation to redefine “value””. This might be key to how governments approach Fintech.
To achieve the goals, industry-wide standards would have to be set and inter-operability ensured. There will be challenges in migrating away from legacy IT infrastructure and there will be resistance from the inertia of incumbent business models.
The report goes on to use the example of the Internet, born from a US DARPA project, to demonstrate how governments can play a key role as inventors and/or funders at the infrastructure-building stage of Fintech. Governments can also create mission-oriented policies, drawing on frontier knowledge to tackle big challenges, facilitate market creation and put in place support mechanisms.
UNEP envisions multi-stakeholder partnerships, including incumbents from financial industry, FT4SD start-ups, regulators, policymakers, real economy and philanthropic players for fulfilling the transformative potential of Fintech.
*The UNEP report: Fintech And Sustainable Development: Assessing The Implications
The 13th Singapore-US Strategic Security Policy Dialogue (SSPD) was convened, and co-chaired by Permanent Secretary of Defence, Chan Heng Kee and United States Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Sasha Baker. This dialogue, embedded within the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement and Defence Cooperation Agreement, serves as a cornerstone for shaping the future of Singapore-US defence relations.
Beyond the traditional domains of defence, Singapore and the US are venturing into uncharted territory – cybersecurity and critical emerging technologies. This signifies a strategic shift that acknowledges the evolving nature of security threats in the digital age.
Both nations have recognised the enduring strength of their bilateral defence relationship. Singapore’s unwavering support for the U.S. regional presence, outlined in the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Regarding the U.S. use of Facilities (1990 MoU), remains a crucial pillar of their alliance. Simultaneously, the US continues to bolster the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) capabilities through overseas training and technology access. This includes the RSAF’s acquisition of the cutting-edge F-35 fighter aircraft.
The dialogue marked a significant milestone by introducing discussions on cybersecurity. In an interconnected world, where information is power, securing digital infrastructure cannot be overstated.
By engaging in collaborative efforts to enhance their cyber defences, Singapore and the US are not only safeguarding their interests but also contributing to global cybersecurity resilience. This proactive approach sets a precedent for other nations to follow suit and collectively combat cyber threats.
Also, the emphasis on critical and emerging technologies highlights the foresight of both nations. In today’s fast-paced technological landscape, advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, and biotechnology can tip the scales of national security.
By pooling their expertise and resources, Singapore and the US are positioning themselves at the forefront of innovation, ensuring they are well-prepared for the security challenges of the future.
The dialogue also featured discussions on regional developments and the continued engagement of the US in the Asia-Pacific region. The ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus framework serves as a platform for constructive dialogue and cooperation among ASEAN member states and their partners. Singapore and the US both recognise the significance of this framework in promoting regional stability and security.
Regular bilateral and multilateral training exercises form another vital facet of this partnership. Exercises like Tiger Balm, Pacific Griffin, Commando Sling, Red Flag, and Super Garuda Shield serve as platforms for joint training and skill development. These exercises not only enhance the operational readiness of both armed forces but also foster greater cooperation and understanding between Singapore and the US.
One noteworthy aspect of this collaboration is the US’s support for SAF’s overseas training, exemplified by Exercise Forging Sabre. This training, conducted at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, has played a pivotal role in honing the skills of RSAF personnel.
In 2023, two RSAF detachments, Peace Carvin II (F-16 fighter aircraft) and Peace Vanguard (Apache AH-64 helicopters), marked their 30th and 20th anniversaries of training in the US, respectively. These milestones are a testament to the enduring nature of the Singapore-US defence relationship.
The 13th Singapore-US Strategic Security Policy Dialogue not only reaffirmed the steadfast commitment of both nations to their long-standing defence partnership but also showcased their readiness to adapt to the evolving security landscape.
As reports cited the inclusion of cybersecurity and critical emerging technologies in the discussions reflects the forward-thinking approach to safeguarding the national interests of both nations. As they continue to train together, exchange knowledge, and invest in cutting-edge technologies, Singapore and the US are poised to navigate the complex challenges of the future, hand in hand.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced the initiation of the Green Fintech Competition, which will serve as a pivotal step towards promoting the integration of innovative green fintech solutions within the Hong Kong banking sector. The primary objective of this initiative is to bolster the resilience of the banking industry against the looming climate risks.
The competition is a call to action for both local green fintech companies and their international counterparts. It invites these innovative firms to participate and demonstrate how their technological solutions can be harnessed effectively within the banking industry. The competition centres around four key themes, each addressing a crucial aspect of sustainable finance:
- Net-zero Transition or Transition Planning: This theme emphasises the pivotal role of fintech in facilitating the transition towards a net-zero economy. It aims to uncover innovative solutions that can assist banks in their journey towards carbon neutrality.
- Climate Risk Management: Climate risks have become a central concern in the financial sector. Fintech solutions are sought to help banks better understand, assess, and manage these risks effectively.
- Green and Sustainable Finance: The theme of green and sustainable finance underscores the importance of fintech in enabling financial institutions to channel their resources towards environmentally responsible investments.
- Sustainability or Climate-related Disclosure and Reporting: Transparency and disclosure are critical components of sustainable finance. Fintech solutions that enhance the disclosure and reporting of sustainability and climate-related information are in high demand.
These themes were carefully crafted in response to industry feedback, reflecting the pressing challenges faced by the Hong Kong banking sector. The competition encourages participating firms to develop market-ready solutions that align with at least one of these themes. Detailed problem statements for each theme can be found on the official competition website, offering valuable guidance for prospective participants. Firms are also free to propose alternative problem statements that they believe are relevant to the overarching themes.
A panel of judges will evaluate the submitted solutions, comprising representatives from the public and private sectors. This panel includes experts from the banking and technology sectors, professional associations, and academia. The winners of the competition will be granted a unique opportunity to fast-track their entry into the Cyberport Incubation Program. This program is designed to provide comprehensive business support, aiding in the development and growth of green fintech solutions.
Finalists will be invited to participate in and host exhibition booths at the HKMA’s “Green and Sustainable Banking Conference,” scheduled for December 2023, offering a platform for in-depth exchanges with industry professionals and an opportunity to showcase their solutions. It also serves as a valuable forum for exploring potential collaborations with key stakeholders in the financial sector.
In addition to these benefits, participants will have access to tailored consultation services provided by InvestHK. These services are designed to offer further insights into the Hong Kong market, ensuring that their fintech solutions are finely tuned to meet the specific needs and demands of this dynamic financial hub.
The initiative represents a significant step forward in embracing innovative fintech solutions to address critical environmental and sustainability challenges. By inviting participation from both local and global green fintech firms, the competition aims to harness the collective power of technology and finance to build a more sustainable future for the banking industry in Hong Kong and beyond.
Previously, OpenGov Asia reported on the recent bilateral meeting between the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) holds great significance for the Green Fintech Competition initiated by the HKMA. During the meeting, the central banks agreed to strengthen collaboration in key areas including financial infrastructure, financial market connectivity, and virtual asset regulations, all of which align with the competition’s objectives.
This collaboration, along with the establishment of a joint working group and knowledge-sharing initiatives, is set to amplify the impact of initiatives like the Green Fintech Competition by creating a more interconnected and sustainable global financial ecosystem.
The Centre for Memory Studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has introduced the ‘MovingMemory’ application, which harnesses both augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies to capture diverse moving models of memory through digital reconstruction. It was designed to enhance the tourist experience at cultural and heritage sites. It offers virtual tours of famous places in India.
The app’s features allow users to choose their preferred avatar and navigate through three-dimensional spaces. According to a statement from IIT-Madras, it is embedded with additional layers of video, audio, 3D images, and interactive elements which may be used as models for sustainable and heritage-oriented pedagogic and research approaches.
Once the app becomes available to the public, MovingMemory can be accessed from both Android and iOS devices, as well as through browser-based platforms, setting it apart as a uniquely inclusive application. It is a spatial app created with the capability to exist within the metaverse realm.
MovingMemory was introduced at the second annual conference of the Indian Network for Memory Studies, titled ‘Memory, Ecology, and Sustainability.’ It was organised jointly by the Indian Network for Memory Studies and the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT- Madras. It covers a wide range of human-centred technologies and policies related to cultural memory and sustainable development goals, both within India and on a global scale.
At the inaugural event, IIT-Madras Director, V. Kamakoti, said, “It is crucial that we foreground the urgent need to incorporate collective memory in our understanding and ability to anticipate policies related to ecological issues such as climate change. Human as well as non-human forms of memory (such as the memory of water and the memory of nature) such as the Spanish Flu and the 2015 Chennai floods may be studied through interdisciplinary and collaborative formats in order to further memory studies as a discipline.”
The conference aims to connect rituals of remembering and experiencing the environment to systems of sustainability, which assume material, cultural, and technological dimensions through significant events like disasters and floods and long-term processes of change.
The international conference attracted approximately 100 presenters and more than 500 attendees from across India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Morocco, Canada, Sweden, Bangladesh, and other countries.
An official at the event said that the conference, like all other research activities at the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT-Madras, seeks to bridge technology studies and humanities. Its purpose is to provide a more complex model of engaging with memory, ecology, and sustainability, while also connecting to issues such as disaster studies, anticipatory governance, and durability.
Another expert from IIT-Madras noted the importance of reexamining pre-modern modes of memory and resilience and integrating those with the post-modern modes through which ecology and sustainability practices may receive a more nuanced understanding. These interdisciplinary practices have triggered a paradigm shift in both humanities education and research.
IIT-Madras has undertaken several initiatives in the field of AR/VR. In April, it announced it was developing instructional and educational models that use AR/VR technologies, aimed at assisting secondary schools in rural regions of the country. As OpenGov Asia reported, the initiative provides students with unique opportunities to engage in immersive and experiential learning through VR-enabled technology. Subjects like social science, history, sciences, and languages can be effectively taught using AR/VR world-building, digital storytelling, and educational games. An inaugural AR-based mobile app was launched to capture the history of the transnational Anglo-Indian community across 500 years.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi highlighted the digital dimension in the country’s counter-terrorism strategies during her recent address at the Ministerial Plenary Meeting of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) in New York.
Minister Retno emphasised the significance of comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration (R&R) efforts within Indonesia. Notably, these efforts extend beyond former terrorist inmates, encompassing strengthening communities and the environments that receive them. The focus on digital aspects of R&R is evident in Indonesia’s approach.
Indonesia has adopted a multifaceted strategy to counter extremism, as outlined in its National Action Plan for Prevention and Countering Extremism. This strategy underscores the “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approaches, highlighting the collaborative roles of the government and civil society. Combining hard and soft approaches, Indonesia actively engages communities and fosters international cooperation in its counter-terrorism efforts.
The digital dimension is also prominent in Indonesia’s second pillar of counter-terrorism strategy, which aims to harness technological advancements while ensuring they are not misused for extremist purposes. The rapid evolution of technology has created opportunities for disseminating extremist ideas, demanding constant vigilance. In response, Indonesia introduced the “Pusat Pengetahuan Indonesia (I-KHub),” or the Indonesian Knowledge Hub.
I-KHub is not merely a digital repository of information but a dynamic platform that actively contributes to Indonesia’s counter-terrorism endeavours. Integrating data systems and facilitating evidence-based decision-making empowers policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and community leaders with actionable insights.
One of the critical features of I-KHub is its ability to analyse trends and patterns in extremist activities. Leveraging advanced data analytics, it can identify emerging threats and hotspots, allowing for proactive measures to be taken. This early warning system is instrumental in preventing extremist ideologies from taking hold in vulnerable communities.
Moreover, I-KHub is a collaborative space where experts, researchers, and stakeholders from various sectors can share knowledge and best practices. This collective intelligence enriches the understanding of extremist narratives and recruitment tactics and facilitates the development of effective counter-narratives.
The platform’s outreach extends to educational institutions, where it supports curriculum development aimed at countering extremism. I-KHub is vital in promoting digital literacy and critical thinking among students by providing educators with relevant resources and insights. This proactive approach helps inoculate young minds against the allure of extremist ideologies.
In the digital realm, I-KHub monitors online spaces where extremist content proliferates. It can promptly identify and report such content through advanced algorithms and data analysis. This collaborative effort with tech companies and social media platforms contributes to removing extremist material from the internet, disrupting the digital recruitment efforts of extremist groups.
The third aspect of Indonesia’s counter-terrorism strategy focuses on creating a secure environment to counter extremism. This includes digital-driven educational programmes targeting women and children. Minister Retno highlighted that extremist ideologies thrive in environments rife with hatred, emphasising the role of digital tools in promoting understanding, tolerance, and peace.
In her closing, Minister Retno expressed that GCTF member countries would firmly commit to ensuring the inclusive implementation of the R&R strategy. The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum is a vital international platform for global cooperation and information exchange on counter-terrorism and violence-based extremism.
Indonesia underscores the country’s commitment to harnessing technology for a safer and more peaceful society. Indonesia’s multifaceted counter-terrorism approach, particularly its emphasis on digital knowledge sharing through I-KHub, reflects its dedication to addressing the global challenge of extremism with modern tools and strategies.
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing emphasised China’s resolve to promote high-level openness in the digital sphere at a time when global digital cooperation was at a turning point. This announcement was made during the second high-level digital conversation between China and the EU which Zhang and Vera Jourova, Vice President of the European Commission, co-chaired.
The meeting was a big step forward in the ongoing conversation between China and the EU. They talked in depth about many important issues in the digital world. The growing field of artificial intelligence (AI), communication technology standards, the moving of data across borders, and the safety of non-food items were some of the topics that people were interested in.
These discussions had positive results, highlighting the possibility of cooperation and understanding between these two significant figures on the international scene. The recognition of China and the EU’s complementary roles in the digital sphere and their common interests was a recurring subject in the talks.
To support the expansion of the digital economy, both parties were unwavering in their resolve to cultivate a cooperative spirit, further improve exchanges, and create an environment that is open, inclusive, impartial, fair, and non-discriminatory. This concerted effort has the ability to not only spearhead the global digital transformation but also make a major contribution to the ongoing global economic recovery process.
At the heart of this cooperative spirit is Zhang’s call to businesses everywhere, particularly those in Europe, to take advantage of the growing prospects China’s digital economy offers. This invitation highlights China’s willingness to interact with other countries and signals a new era in which win-win scenarios and cooperative relationships are not only welcomed but actively pursued.
Vera emphasised the solid basis and promising future of cooperation between China and the European Union in the digital domain affirming that the EU is keen to engage in practical cooperation with China in a range of pertinent topics, to facilitate more thorough interactions, and to expand conversation. A forward-thinking strategy that crosses boundaries and capitalises on the combined strengths of nations is exemplified by the reciprocal readiness to investigate opportunities for collaboration.
This conversation has far wider implications than just the meeting space. It represents a coming together of interests and an understanding of how interwoven the world’s digital landscape is. Partnerships like these have the power to influence the course of innovation and development in an era where digital technologies drive economies, industries, and communities.
China has led the way in developing cutting-edge technology and promoting digital transformation domestically. It expands its boundaries and enhances the global digital ecosystem by reaching out to international stakeholders and offering cooperation.
On the other hand, the EU is proud of its own innovation and knowledge pools. By working together, the EU can take advantage of the vitality of the Chinese digital economy and open up new markets. This conversation also reflects a larger trend: the realisation that digital cooperation is becoming a requirement rather than just a question of choice.
In a time where digital data is growing exponentially, AI is pervasive, and technological sectors are converging more and more, countries need to work across borders to solve problems and take advantage of possibilities. The two nations are eager that they can build a more affluent and connected digital future through communication and cooperation, instead of giving in to protectionism and divisive narratives.
New South Wales (NSW) is partnering with key stakeholders, including universities and businesses, to develop an Innovation Blueprint aimed at revitalising the state’s innovation sector. The backdrop for this initiative is the stagnation in university-industry collaboration and the lack of progress in commercialising research outcomes, as highlighted by the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council. Simultaneously, R&D intensity in the region has been declining, emphasising the need for strategic interventions.
However, the government is mindful of fiscal constraints while working to restore the state’s finances and essential services. As a result, all expenditures must align with the best interests of NSW residents. The Innovation Blueprint is designed to be a collaborative effort, drawing insights from sector leaders and experts to position NSW as a global leader in attracting investments, fostering innovation, and attracting talent.
To facilitate this process, the Minister for Innovation, Science, and Technology will lead roundtable discussions on various topics, including venture capital, government support, startup growth, innovation adoption by industries, and talent attraction. These discussions will be instrumental in shaping the final blueprint.
The Innovation Blueprint cannot be overstated and has the potential to spark innovation across emerging sectors and crucial enabling technologies like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, data science, cybersecurity, sensors, and robotics. These innovations are expected to have a profound impact across diverse sectors, including energy, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, and agrifood, all vital for NSW’s future economic growth.
The Minister leading this initiative underscored the government’s commitment to nurturing a robust innovation sector. In his view, a thriving innovation sector not only creates high-value jobs but also enhances productivity within high-growth industries. The government believes that by fostering innovation and cutting-edge industries, it can secure the jobs of the future and attract top-tier talent to NSW.
Thus, the NSW Labor Government is working to revitalise NSW’s innovation sector through collaborative efforts with universities, businesses, and sector experts. This initiative addresses longstanding challenges in university-industry collaboration and the need to reverse declining R&D intensity.
While fiscal responsibility is paramount, the government recognises that strategic investments in innovation are essential for NSW’s long-term prosperity. Through the Innovation Blueprint, NSW aims to position itself as a global leader, attracting investments, talent, and industries that will define the future.
OpenGov Asia recently reported that the Government of Western Australia is offering over AU$3 million in grants through the Local Capability Fund (LCF) to boost local small to medium-sized businesses. These grants aim to enhance their competitiveness and capacity, making them eligible for government and private sector contracts.
This initiative aligns with the Minns Labor Government’s Innovation Blueprint in New South Wales (NSW), which seeks to drive innovation and economic growth. While the LCF focuses on empowering local businesses to secure contracts, the Innovation Blueprint in NSW takes a broader approach, promoting innovation across various sectors.
Both initiatives share the goal of fostering economic development. The LCF in Western Australia offers targeted support, including assistance for Aboriginal-owned businesses, compliance with national and international standards, and upcoming digital transformation support. These align with the Innovation Blueprint’s focus on innovation in sectors like energy, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing.
Collaboration is key in both efforts. Western Australia partners with local businesses, while NSW collaborates with universities, businesses, and experts. These initiatives collectively contribute to enhancing Australia’s economic landscape by empowering local businesses and driving technological advancement.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has introduced an artificial intelligence (AI)-based Chatbot for the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Scheme. Under the Scheme, Indian farmers receive income support of up to IN₹ 6,000 (US$ 72) per year. The AI Chatbot will improve the effectiveness and reach of PM-KISAN, ensuring that farmers receive timely, clear, and reliable answers to their inquiries.
The chatbot has been incorporated into the PM-KISAN grievance management system. It aims to empower farmers with a user-friendly and easily accessible platform, the government said in a press release. In its initial development phase, the AI chatbot will aid farmers in obtaining information about their application status, payment details, eligibility status, and other scheme-related updates.
Accessible via the PM KISAN mobile app, the chatbot is seamlessly integrated with Bhashini, providing multilingual support that caters to the linguistic and regional diversity of PM-KISAN beneficiaries. This incorporation of cutting-edge technology not only improves transparency but also empowers farmers by enabling them to make informed decisions, the release noted. Presently, the chatbot can be used in English, Hindi, Bengali, Odia, and Tamil. Soon, it will be accessible in 22 languages spoken in the country.
During the launch of the chatbot, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Kailash Choudhary, claimed that the initiative aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to enhance the well-being of farmers and improve governance by leveraging technology.
He suggested expanding the service to link it with other related issues like weather information, soil conditions, and bank payments. Choudhary commended the Ministry officials for swiftly onboarding the technology, highlighting its potential to streamline the workload for agricultural officials at both the central and state levels. This is the first AI chatbot integrated into a major flagship scheme of the government. In the coming months, the technology will also be deployed for other significant initiatives of the Ministry.
Launched in February 2019, the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme supports the financial needs of land-holding farmers in the country. It offers an annual financial benefit of US$ 72 in three equal instalments to eligible farmers’ families through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode. Since its inception, over IN₹ 2.61 trillion (US$ 31.4 billion) has been disbursed to more than 110 million farmers so far, making it one of the largest Direct Benefit Transfer schemes globally.
India is reliant on its agricultural sector and modernising it is a pivotal step in improving the quality and reliability of its process and products. The government has launched several technology-based solutions across various segments of the sector. Earlier this month, the Unified Portal for Agricultural Statistics (UPAg Portal) was launched to tackle complex governance issues in the sector. It is designed to optimise and elevate data management within the agricultural sphere, contributing to a more efficient and responsive agricultural policy framework.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the portal standardises data related to prices, production, area, yield, and trade, consolidating it in a single location. This eliminates the necessity to compile data from multiple sources. The portal can also conduct advanced analytics, providing insights into production trends, trade correlations, and consumption patterns.
It can produce granular production estimates with increased frequency, improving the government’s capacity to respond swiftly to agricultural crises. Commodity profile reports will be generated using algorithms, reducing subjectivity and providing users with comprehensive insights. Users also have the flexibility to use the portal’s data for crafting their own reports, fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making.