A press statement released by the Ministry of Information and Communications said that artificial intelligence (AI) is developing rapidly and gradually affirming that it is a pillar and breakthrough technology in the fourth industrial revolution. Technological powers have long built their own AI development strategies, taking this technology as the core for accelerating economic development.
Over the last few years, more organisations have started developing and applying AI in various fields. Including education, telecommunications, retail, healthcare, and others, which have not only gradually dominated the market but also earned huge profits.
Currently, AI is the focus of the global technology circle and governments around the world. Many countries have spent billions of US dollars on AI development strategies with the ambition to be the frontrunners of AI.
Vietnam is not outside this development trend either. In recent years, Vietnam’s AI industry has made visible strides with increasing AI content in various products, the release noted.
Large domestic technology corporations are interested in investing in and building AI sources in addition to implementing AI projects. Many domestic companies as well as innovative start-ups, also tend to invest in AI and carry out many new applications in new business models.
However, like many countries that prioritise AI investment, Vietnam lacks large databases, infrastructure, resources, and a solid foundation from AI businesses.
International technology corporations and the world’s leading AI companies have opened branches in Vietnam to take advantage of well-trained resources to make products for their markets.
These activities have attracted a significant force from Vietnam’s fledgling human resources in this field. Meanwhile, the training of human resources in the AI area in Vietnam remains weak, in addition to having only a small number of people who can provide training in AI technology. Therefore, it is necessary for Vietnam to take suitable steps in training human resources to develop AI.
Notably, there are quite a lot of Vietnamese people who are conducting AI research and applications abroad, including excellent AI experts in developed countries. Thus, it is necessary to connect with them and build policies to encourage them to contribute to the country.
Opinions raised at recent domestic and international AI conferences have shown that Vietnam has a lower starting point compared to many countries, if Vietnam follows the trend of AI development like developed countries with solid AI resources, it will be difficult for the country to keep up with them.
The focus on solving small and specific problems in real life is a trend that has been recognised and selected by AI companies. But they are still small and separate units that have not found a common voice in forming a shared platform and data sources on technologies to serve the AI ecosystem.
Therefore, Vietnam must have its own direction for the AI industry. The state plans to develop preferential policies to train and develop talent in the high technology area. Also, it will connect AI communities, which have formed spontaneously, to boost the sharing of data, research, and applications towards building a strong AI platform.
In Singapore, there are already seven car-sharing players and it is about to get even more heated with the entry of a new player that promises to adapt to accelerated changes brought on by COVID-19 and provide the next evolution of carsharing in the country. The company has launched a fleet of 400 cars across 300 locations and it hopes to expand the fleet size to 1,000 vehicles across over 600 locations island-wide by the end of 2021, making it the country’s largest carsharing service provider.
With the app, users can book, unlock and lock the vehicles without the need for an access card or retrieve a physical key. Their vehicles feature keyless ignitions, users simply need to push a button to start the engine and drive. Users need to be at least 19 years old and have at least one year of driving experience with a valid Class 3, 3A, or 3C driving licence.
Furthermore, the company’s entire fleet is equipped with advanced telematics which enables predictive maintenance and refuelling operations. Since petrol is taken care of by the company, it means that users do not have to pay for petrol and waste time refuelling vehicles for every single trip.
It is also worthy to note that the car-sharing service operates on an A-to-A return trip car-sharing model, which allows users to collect and return the vehicle at the same point. The developer reasoned that “an A-to-B service is not financially viable” without significant operational scale and user adoption. The company also adopts a “pay-as-you-go pricing model”, which means that users are charged after each trip for the duration and mileage charges incurred.
When it comes to encouraging responsible usage, the company penalises users who cause inconvenience to other users. They may be fined, or in more severe cases, get banned from using the service.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, as part of the initiative to move on from the negative effects brought upon by the pandemic, the government further encouraged the early adoption of shifting from traditional petrol-fuelled vehicles to electric vehicles or EVs. The Government will allocate S$30 million for projects and initiatives supporting the shift.
They will also introduce more incentives to narrow the “cost differential” between electric cars and internal combustion engine cars, announced Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech. Accordingly, the new car-sharing service provider’s current fleet already has a significant number of hybrid vehicles, but they have plans to progressively “electrify” it. As such, the company is looking at working with more fleet partners, including potential strategic partners, that are keen to provide electric vehicles.
In the long run, the company said that they also aim to reduce the demand for vehicle ownership by 100,000. By taking vehicles off the roads, they intend to help the country free up its economic resources for more productive pursuits and protect the environment, in line with the government’s car-lite masterplan.
The country has made a good start in planning for a “car-lite” city. Since their first Concept Plan in 1971, planners have consciously applied a transit-oriented urban planning approach to ensure that all new towns and commercial centres are well connected by a comprehensive bus rail public transport system. Since then, the government introduced measures such as the Certificate of Entitlement (COE) and the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) to control the ownership and usage of private vehicles.
Moreover, the company’s service and platform has been designed and built to tackle specific pain points for existing car-sharing users and to remove any barriers for potential new adopters. They believe that a simple, flexible, and accessible car-sharing service, operated at a significant scale, will be a legitimate and serious alternative to car ownership.
New Zealand Tech Alliance (NZTech) whose purpose is “to connect, promote and advance tech ecosystems and help the New Zealand economy grow to create a prosperous digital nation”, feels that the government must be more proactive in educating the population on cybersecurity.
The body believes that New Zealanders must be educated about cyber risks through government funding to some extent. It’s time, they feel, that the government allocate funds for educating people on avoiding becoming victims of cybercrime, much in the same way as there is funding for road safety.
NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says as New Zealand businesses operate within an increasingly digital environment, cyber threats are growing in sophistication and magnitude. Organisations and businesses are facing increasing and rampant cybercrime threats and the situation is deteriorating. Almost a million New Zealanders are falling victim to cybercrime every year. According to a recent report, hundreds of the country’s businesses with online capabilities are now losing money to cyber-criminals.
In the third quarter of last year, 281 Kiwis’ businesses reported cybersecurity breaches and many others are likely to have suffered the same fate, without reporting it. The average direct financial loss for small to medium business is still relatively minor, only a few thousand dollars, so, it often goes unreported. However, it was also noted that at least 13 Kiwi businesses lost more than NZ$100,000 each near the end of last year.
According to Muller, about 87% of New Zealanders concede security of their personal information online is important, but 40% say safeguarding their information is inconvenient. Additionally, almost a third of New Zealanders do not regularly check the privacy settings on their social media accounts. Roughly the same number of people do not use two-factor authentication when logging into an online account.
He confirms that “the world of cybersecurity and attacks are rife, and CERT NZ, the government entity that tracks cyber breaches, says Kiwis are not protecting their digital systems. Ransomware has become the biggest threat, used by criminals to lock up people’s systems and data and then demand a ransom in return for their release. In the United States, agencies including the FBI have warned that the healthcare system is facing an increased and imminent threat of cybercrime. Furthermore, cybercriminals are unleashing a series of extortion attempts in the new frontier of crime aimed at locking up hospital information systems. Local businesses and organisations must act quickly to prevent future cyber hacks.
The government must do its part to encourage organisations and businesses to bring cybersecurity to the front of their digital strategy to ensure they are operating at their peak and to protect both customers and staff. As part of its efforts to promote cybersecurity education, NZTech had the biggest cyber risk summit in Wellington on February 24. Attendees heard experts and peers at the front lines of cybersecurity discuss the realities of cyber risk in the modern business environment.
Statistics released in the summit revealed that 66% of businesses attacked make no substantial changes to prevent future attacks. With criminals often only taking small amounts the individual cost feels small, whereas the collective economic cost is huge. What businesses do not normally consider is the risk of reputational damage if data is stolen and the public finds out about it. There are also costs of fixing systems that get damaged by hackers.
OpenGov Asia reported on a study done by a New Zealand cybersecurity firm that says as organisations accelerate their spending on cloud migration and digitalisation to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, many may be overestimating their ability to protect their systems and their processes. It is estimated that about 80% of cybercrimes could be prevented. Simple measures like using and updating complex passwords and installing updates go a long way in safety.
The Minister for Science, Technology, and Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan, discussed a range of scientific and technical issues and possible multilateral collaborations with a high-level delegation led by the Brazilian Minister for Science, Technology, and Innovation, Marcos Cesar Pontes.
The deliberations focused on India- Brazil collaboration in the areas of healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and COVID-19 vaccines. The two sides will also cooperate on biotechnology, energy, nanotechnology, information communication technologies (ICTs), artificial intelligence (AI), and cybersecurity.
The countries agree to monitor biomes and agricultural areas, oceans, water quality, air quality, and atmospheric pollution by satellite. Further, they will develop earth system modelling for weather forecasting and climate change.
According to a press release, the Indian Minister informed his counterpart that a series of scientific events have been planned, which will be steered and coordinated by India as Chair of BRICS in 2021. India is also keen to collaborate with Brazil in atmospheric sciences, renewable energy, low-carbon technologies, agriculture, cyber-physical systems, pollution, circular economy, space, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
The Minister emphasised that the mobility of researchers is key for the success of any collaboration. The project-based mobility for researchers and students needs to be increased to build long-term strategic collaboration and networking among the scientists and research organisation of both sides.
Under the ‘Vaccine Maitree’ mechanism proposed to make safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines available at affordable prices to the highest risk populations, India is committed to providing supplies of vaccines to partner nations. Last month, Brazil received two million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from India.
The Brazilian Minister noted that the side was keen to collaborate with and receive technical help from India to prepare for the future and also tackle situations like the recent pandemic. Both sides acknowledged the ongoing collaboration between the two countries in the fields of science, technology, and innovation at the meeting.
Recently, India announced it will collaborate with the European Union (EU) to develop and adopt a long-term strategic perspective for research and innovation. The India-EU joint steering committee on science and technology said that it plans to accelerate the clean energy transition, necessary for a carbon-neutral planet. Cooperation on health beyond COVID-19 pandemic areas through global fora was also reinforced.
Both sides underlined the cooperation on polar sciences and discussed future cooperation under Horizon Europe. They also reiterated their commitment to human capital development, including researchers’ training and mobility, based on mutual interests and the reciprocal promotion of each other’s equivalent programmes, aiming at a more balanced flow of researchers between Europe and India.
As OpenGov Asia had reported, the Indian side presented the key elements of the new Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy (STIP 2020). The policy aims to create a fit for purpose, accountable research ecosystem promoting translational and foundational research, the indigenous development of technology, and facilitating open science, equity, and inclusion.
India also proposed Implementation Arrangement (IA) for co-funding future joint projects under the India-EU science, technology, and innovation cooperation to address certain issues on project evaluation, selection, funding, monitoring, and IPR sharing/data sharing/materials/equipment transfer mechanisms.
The Philippines Railways Institute (PRI) will undergo digital transformation to further adapt to the demands of the new normal brought by COVID-19. The PRI is a rail transportation research and training centre that deals with research and development on the management, operation, and maintenance of railways and training of personnel in the rail transportation industry in the country.
In a statement, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) undersecretary and the PRI officer-in-charge, stressed that the PRI is now able to provide remote learning sustainably during this pandemic. She said that the agency is now part of a growing number of institutes and organisations that have adopted this kind of learning platform in the country.
Existing railway personnel and maintenance staff can now access self-paced training courses through an online learning platform launched by the PRI with the help of a PHP307-million grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
PRI’s learning management system (LMS) is an online learning platform that allows self-paced learning, while still encouraging the trainees’ participation through facilitated contact sessions. Further, the LMS gives PRI instructors and railway trainees an academic and scalable digital learning environment alongside the existing video platform being used by the Institute. It is also mobile-friendly, which allows trainees and instructors seamless access to learning materials anytime and anywhere.
The PRI has recently conducted the first LMS-delivered refresher training course, with 30 railway personnel and 15 graduating college students as participants. The PRI noted that the pandemic disruption has accelerated technological trends in the fields of learning and education. Instructional methodologies are evolving with the adoption of innovations to address limitations set by health and safety protocols to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Before the strict community quarantine was imposed due to the pandemic, the PRI was conducting the Refresher Training Course (RT) face-to-face with a total of six batches of trainees completing the course. Since then, the learning institute shifted to the Web Refresher Training Course (WRT), an online course conducted through the Zoom platform, with 15 batches completing it.
The PRI also expanded the scope of its WRT to include graduating college students with a railways-relevant background and returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with railway operation and maintenance experience.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the country’s “Full Digital Transformation Act of 2020” mandates all government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), instrumentalities and Local Government Units (LGUs) to adopt a digital plan that aligns with the Philippine Digital Transformation Strategy 2022.
The bill of full digitalisation of government services promotes a zero-contact policy and facilitates ease of procedures. All of this is meant to streamline government services under Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, Republic Act No. 11234, the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop Act and other applicable laws.
The Government reiterated that digitalisation is no longer just another trend, but it is the way the world is heading to, the rationale emphasised by lawmakers in the country. They added that full digitalisation is in the nation’s vision two years from now, and this transformation can be achieved through business and wireless networks, resulting in higher efficiency and lower costs.
At the same time, the rapid adoption of digital technologies can help the country overcome the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, recover from the crisis, and achieve its vision of becoming a middle-class society free of poverty, according to the report released by the World Bank and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
COVID-19 is proving to have some benefit for Australian businesses, according to new findings from an international research company. Ecommerce is now a bright spot in the Australian economy and a lifeline for consumers who are working and sheltering at home. Businesses that quickly transitioned to the new normal to survive are now debating if these are not short-term adjustments wondering how long this change will last and if further investments are essential for long-term e-commerce sustainability and growth.
All the signs point to a long-term change in consumer behaviour and the need to step up e-commerce functionality. Findings indicate that the e-commerce market in Australia has been on a steep growth curve during the past few years and has received an additional boost from the COVID-19. The pandemic is expected to ramp up e-commerce sales in the country at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3% between 2020 and 2024.
The initial counter pandemic measures disrupted Australia’s nearly three-decade recession-free streak, with the economy shrinking by 7% in Q2 2020. Retail was hard-hit as nonessential outlets had to close with no footfall. However, people rapidly rallied and transitioned to online platforms. While overall retail spending declined by 2.5% in April 2020, online goods spending came back. By Q2 of 2020, e-commerce average spend-per-visit was all higher than Q1 2020 or Q2 2019.
More than 200,000 Australians shopped online for the first time in April according to reports, including many older consumers who never felt the need to foray into e-commerce. Currently, 46% of Australian consumers are shopping online more often. The shift is most pronounced among younger people, with 62% of 18- to 25-year-olds and 57% of 26- to 35-year-olds buying online more frequently.
Analytics reveals that e-commerce payments in Australia are estimated to have grown by 13.9% in 2020 to A$52.2 billion (US$36.7 billion) riding on COVID-19 mitigation measures which kept wary consumers at home, relying on online platforms for almost all essential transactions. The report shows that the trend is likely to continue and, if so, then online commerce in the country is likely to top A$77.1 billion (US$54.2 billion) by 2024.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that online sales in Australia registered a 55% rise in December 2020 compared to the same period last year. Additionally, more than 5.6 million Australian households did business digitally in December 2020 according to the Australia Posts Online Shopping Report published in January 2021. This reflects a 21.3% growth as compared to 2019 the average.
As Australian consumers continue to embrace online shopping, the use of electronic payments will increase as consumers move away from cash, GlobalData states. Payment solutions like e-wallets, portals and cards have also benefitted from this trend.
The research company’s 2020 Banking & Payments Survey conducted in Q1 2020 showed that payment cards were the top choice of payment for e-commerce purchases in Australia with a lion’s share of 52.3%. Other alternative payment solutions were responsible for 38.1%.
Experts say that the pandemic has altered consumer buying behaviour and are increasingly shifting from offline to online channels. The crisis opened the e-commerce market to a whole new set of consumers, who were not using online channels. While this may not be a choice, safety norms and rules have forced the closure of many physical stores; as such, shoppers have had to embrace e-channels for daily life.
“A significant rise in consumer preference for online channels during the pandemic coupled with the proliferation of online retailers and customised payment solutions will further drive e-commerce growth in Australia,” said the data company’s Banking and Payments Senior Analyst.
A senior executive at an international consultancy firm feels that the rapid shift to online may have “caught many retailers unprepared [but] has also seen businesses with strong digital DNA and e-commerce capabilities thrive, and their growth rapidly accelerate”.
This week, Amazon Web Services (AWS) released the report, “Unlocking APAC’s Digital Potential: Changing Digital Skill Needs and Policy Approaches.” Prepared by strategy and economics consulting firm AlphaBeta and commissioned by AWS, the report analyzes the digital skills applied by workers in their jobs today and the digital skills required by workforces over the next five years. The report focuses on six Asia Pacific countries: Singapore, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea.”
Divided into three parts, the report assesses the extent to which different digital skills are being applied at work in 2020 for the surveyed countries in APAC, identifies potential digital skill needs over five years, and provides workforce skills development recommendations for policymakers. The report also identifies current skill levels and gaps for each of the six countries.
Key findings show gaps in current workforce
Almost 150 million workers in the six countries in the study apply digital skills in their jobs today. Each country varies in their level and extent of skills, but cloud computing expertise is among the most commonly applied digital skills in each country. The study found that 48% of the digital workers across these six countries who are not applying cloud skills today believe cloud skills will be a requirement to perform their jobs by 2025.
The report identifies four types of workers who will need to gain new digital skills by 2025: currently digitally skilled workers, currently non-digital workers, future workforce (today’s students), and individuals who are unemployed or involuntarily excluded from the workforce.
The findings showed that digitally skilled workers will need to enhance their skills, non-digitally skilled workers will need to learn digital skills to remain in their roles or access better jobs, students will need to learn in-demand skills to improve their employability, and unemployed individuals will have to learn digital skills to gain access to jobs.
Skilling the workforce for the future
To keep pace with technological change, the number of workers applying digital skills in these countries will increase by over five-fold from 149 million workers today to 819 million workers in 2025. To achieve this level of skilling in the six countries, the average worker in the six surveyed countries will need to gain seven new digital skills by 2025, and 5.7 billion digital skill trainings will be required.
Advanced cloud computing and data skills will become more important for current digitally skilled workers and future workers (today’s students), with these skill needs projected to triple by 2025. Cloud architecture design consistently emerged as one of the top five most “in-demand” skills by 2025 in all countries. Another advanced cloud computing skill—specifically, the ability to help organizations transition from on premises-based to cloud-based infrastructure—will also become more important, including in non-technology sectors.
Current digital workers will need to focus on training in advanced cloud computing skills as well as advanced data skills. These skills include cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), and are projected to see the largest required increase across all digital skills in the six countries by 2025, with the number of workers needing these skills expected to triple over the next five years.
Bridging Digital Skills Gaps with AWS
AWS helps bridge digital skills gap with training programs for the most in-demand cloud computing skills. To date, AWS offers more than 500 free, on-demand online courses with many courses available in multiple languages such as Bahasa Indonesia, Japanese, Korean, Simplified and Traditional Chinese; interactive labs, and virtual day-long training sessions through AWS Training and Certification.
AWS also provides in-person and virtual classroom training courses taught by accredited AWS instructors for workers interested to upskill or reskill, and organizations who want to upskill employees. These one-to five-day foundational, intermediate, and advanced courses cover a range of topics like cloud architecture, cybersecurity, and data analytics.
Additionally, students can gain access to free, self-paced, online learning content for cloud career pathways related to in-demand jobs such as cloud engineer, cybersecurity specialist, machine learning scientist, and data scientist.
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The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) has released part one of an approach document titled, ‘Towards Responsible AI for All’. It builds on the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (NSAI) discussion paper that the organisation had released in June 2018.
The document aims to establish broad ethical principles for the design, development, and deployment of AI in India, drawing on similar global initiatives but grounded in the Indian legal and regulatory context. It explored the ethical implications of ‘narrow AI’, which is a broad term given to AI systems that are designed to solve specific challenges that would ordinarily require domain experts.
The paper noted that AI systems have gained prominence over the last decade due to their vast potential to unlock economic value and help mitigate social challenges. It is estimated that AI has the potential to add US$957 billion, or 15% of the current gross value added to India’s economy in 2035. It is projected that the AI software market will reach US$126 billion by 2025, up from US$10.1 billion in 2018.
The rapid increase in adoption can also be attributed to the strong value proposition of the technology. The document claimed that NSAI had successfully brought AI to the centre-stage of the government’s reform agenda by underlining its ability to improve healthcare, agriculture, and education. AI can improve the scale of delivery of specialised services (remote diagnosis or precision agriculture advisory) and enhance inclusive access to welfare services (regional language chatbots or voice interfaces), creating new paths for government intervention in these sectors.
In India, large-scale applications of AI are being trialled every day. Uttar Pradesh installed 1,100 CCTV cameras for the Prayagraj Kumbha Mela in 2019. The cameras would raise an alert when the crowd density exceeded a threshold, and the connected Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs) provided security authorities with the relevant information. In Tamil Nadu, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) are looking to use AI to predict the risk of expectant mothers dropping out of healthcare programmes to improve targeted interventions and increase healthcare outcomes for mothers and infants.
While the potential of these solutions to improve productivity and efficiency is well established, AI systems must be handled responsibly. The document stated that around the world, there have been instances of unjust uses of AI systems. For example, the system to allocate healthcare in the United States was found to discriminate against black people.
The black-box nature of AI and its ‘self-learning’ ability makes it difficult to justify its decisions and in apportioning liability for errors. AI systems often lack transparency, and the user is unaware that they are dealing with a chatbot or an automated decision-making system. Unequal access to AI-powered applications for marginalised populations can further the digital divide.
The document outlined seven principles to manage AI systems responsibly:
- Safety and Reliability
- Inclusivity and Non-discrimination
- Privacy and Security
- Protection and Reinforcement of Positive Human Values
The second part of the Responsible AI strategy, which will be released shortly, explores means of operationalising the principles across the public sector, private sector, and academia.
Regulating AI is complex and there are diverse views regarding what degree and forms are most effective. Currently, India does not have an overarching guidance framework for the use of AI systems. The closest to one is the draft Personal Data Protection Bill (2019) (PDP) designed as a comprehensive legislation to outline various facets of privacy protections that AI solutions need to comply with. It covers the limitations on data processing, security safeguards to protect against data breaches, and special provisions relating to vulnerable users like children.