The World Health Organisation (WHO) has learned the value of offering learning materials quickly in an outbreak that will provide critical information to fight disease and protect lives through the lessons of past emergencies.
These materials must be easily accessible in the languages of frontline responders. The WHO has rapidly developed and delivered two online trainings to support the response to the 2019-nCoV outbreak that are available on the open learning platform, OpenWHO.org.
The free learning resource is available to anyone interested in novel coronavirus on WHO’s open learning platform for emergencies, OpenWHO.org.The platform was established 3 years ago with emergencies such as nCoV in mind, in which WHO would need to reach millions of people across the globe with real-time, accessible learning materials.
High International Interest in Online Virus Training Resources
More than 25 000 people across the globe have accessed real-time knowledge from WHO experts on how to detect, prevent, respond to and control the new coronavirus since the launch of open online training.
The learning team of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme worked with technical experts to quickly develop and publish the online course on 26 January – 4 days before the 2019-nCoV outbreak was declared an international public health emergency.
Approximately 3000 new users have registered for the training every day since its launch, demonstrating the high level of interest in the virus among health professionals and the general public. In addition, more than 200, 000 people have viewed the introductory video to the course on YouTube.
The online courses currently available are:
This course provides a general introduction to 2019-nCoV and emerging respiratory viruses and is intended for public health professionals, incident managers and personnel working for the United Nations, international organizations and NGOs.
Approximately 26,000 people registered within the first 10 days of its launch on 26 January. WHO teams are working to translate the resources into all WHO official languages and Portuguese. Many countries have also initiated translation into their own local languages.
This course includes content on clinical management of patients with a severe acute respiratory infection. Launched on 6 February, it enrolled 3,500 users in its first 24 hours. The course is intended for clinicians who are working in intensive care units in low- and middle-income countries and managing adult and pediatric patients with severe forms of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection, including severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis and septic shock.
More Online Support in Progress
The following online learning courses are also in production in February: an occupational health and safety briefing for respiratory diseases (ePROTECT); an introductory course on Go.Data (an outbreak investigation tool for field data collection); an introduction to laboratory diagnostics and kits; and additional language versions of the published courses.
WHO online training important in times of emergency
The organisation has been investing in learning and training to strengthen preparedness and real-time response to health emergencies.
“Our job is to work with technical health experts to package knowledge using adult learning principles, quickly so that it is most useful to health workers and our staff,” said Heini Utunen, who manages OpenWHO for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme (WHE).
“Our online platform – OpenWHO – is already accessed by users from every country on earth, providing more than 60 courses in 21 languages. Delivering trainings in the local language of responders is really important, especially in an emergency”.
Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has recently updated its platform known as Chief Technology Officer-as-a-Service (CTO-as-a-Service). The platform enables SMEs to self-assess their digital readiness and needs at any time and from any location, as well as access market-proven and cost-effective digital solutions and engage digital consultants for in-depth advisory and project management services.
This is for any business entity that wants to know how to start going digital, understand what type of solutions to adopt for its specific business challenge, or choose the solution that best meets its needs.
An enterprise can benefit from CTO-as-a-Service through:
- Conduct a self-evaluation of its digital readiness and pinpoint its gaps and needs in terms of digitalisation;
- Study other Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) that have carried out digitalisation projects successfully;
- Receive digital solution suggestions based on the business’s needs and profile; and
- Evaluate the features and costs of various digital solutions.
There are more than 450 subsidised digital solutions available for selection, including those that address industry-specific or general business needs, as well as those that serve to streamline operations, increase business sales revenue, or ensure business resiliency.
The business can also work with digital consultants from the designated operators through CTO-as-a-Service, for digital advisory to assist:
- Seek a deeper comprehension of its business priorities and needs;
- Create training plans and digital solutions specifically for its businesses;
- Include fundamental data usage, protection, and cybersecurity risks in the digitalisation process.
The business may also ask digital consultants to assist with project managing the rollout of its digitalisation initiatives.
Eligible businesses can use digital advisory and project management services for free for the first time. Should the businesses want to keep using digital consultants, future usage or service enhancement will be based on commercial agreements.
Any company that satisfies the requirements below is qualified to use free project management and digital advisory services for the first time:
- Licensed and active in Singapore;
- A minimum of 30 per cent local shareholding;
- Enterprise’s group employment size is no more than 200 employees, or the group’s annual sales turnover is no more than S$100 million;
- Has never previously used CTO-as-a-Service digital consultants.
Meanwhile, SMEs are the backbone of Singapore’s economy. They employ two-thirds of the country’s workers and contribute almost half of Singapore’s GDP. Since digital technology is changing every part of Singapore’s economy, SMEs need to take advantage of digital technologies to grow and do well.
The SMEs Go Digital programme, which was started by the IMDA in April 2017, is meant to make going digital easy for SMEs. More than 80,000 SMEs have used the programme’s digital solutions.
Enterprises can also use advanced and integrated solutions to improve their capabilities, strengthen business continuity measures, and build longer-term resilience. Solutions that are supported by government agencies solve common problems at the enterprise level on a large scale, help enterprises adopt new technologies, and make it easier for enterprises to do business within or across sectors.
IMDA works with sector-led agencies and industry players to find advanced and integrated digital solutions that can be supported and are relevant to their sectors. Companies that want to use these solutions can check the IMDA website to find out when they can apply for each one.
Costs for hardware, software, infrastructure, connectivity, cybersecurity, integrations, development, improvement, and project management can be covered by funding support. With this, the agency has kept helping businesses, and the list of solutions that are supported will grow, with an emphasis on AI-enabled and cloud-based solutions.
Dr Andrew Lensen from the School of Engineering and Computer Science and Dr Marcin Betkier from the Law School are eager to ensure AI has a significant role in the justice system. The researchers based in New Zealand built an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm that predicts the length of court sentences.
But the question that may arise is whether the AI algorithm is fair enough to hand down the sentences. In the current justice system, society trusts judges to hand down fair sentences to the accused based on their knowledge and experience.
But how about AI? Can it judge better because it can eliminate the potential for bias and discrimination? And can AI substitute the judge’s knowledge and experience with its ability to analyse and predict large amounts of data?
Dr Andrew is optimistic that AI can help better sentencing performance in the court. The confidence comes from the use of AI to predict some criminal behaviour, such as financial fraud. Even though he has not tested the algorithm model in the courtroom to deliver sentences, he is confident in his idea that AI can have a role in the sentencing process.
Dr Andrew says when judges handle a case in the court, they have some “inconsistency” when passing a sentence for a convicted criminal. The inconsistency comes from a judge’s consideration of individual circumstances, societal norms and the sense of justice.
The moral decision and the sense of humanity are based on their experience and even sometimes change the law. Each judge uses their prudence in deciding the outcome of a case. Another “undesirable inconsistency” occurs as bias or even extraneous factors like hunger. Research in Israeli courts has shown that the percentage of favourable decisions drops to nearly zero before lunch.
Judges must ensure similar offences should receive similar penalties in different courts with different judges. Usually, to enhance sentence consistency, the justice system has prepared guidelines as a reference. This inconsistency area is the pain point where AI can help.
How AI Helps Judges
Most modern AI is machine learning, a machine learning algorithm that could learn the patterns in a database to predict patterns and outcomes. Therefore, AI can provide better sentence suggestions after the computer algorithm learns the patterns within a set of data.
Dr Andrew’s machine learning algorithm trained with 302 New Zealand assault cases. The sentences in those cases are between 0 and 14.5 years of imprisonment. The model quantifies sentences based on certain phrases and terms when calculating the sentence. Then the algorithm built a model that can predict the length of a sentence for a new case and explain why it made certain predictions.
The relatively simple model worked quite well within the average error of the model in under 12 months. The model associates the words or phrases such as “sexual”, “young person”, “taxi” and “firearm” with longer sentences. While shorter sentences were given to cases with words like “professional”, “career”, “fire” and “Facebook”.
Beyond Decision Making
In the future, AI could be used as an evaluation tool for judges. They could understand better their sentencing decisions and perhaps remove extraneous factors. The models also have the potential to be used by lawyers, providers of legal technology and researchers, to analyse the sentencing and justice system. Moreover, AI also can be used for controversial sentences and help create some transparency around controversial decisions.
Of course, the use of AI in the justice system may still be controversial. Most people are still keen that the final assessments and decisions on justice and punishment should be made by human experts. But maybe it is the right time need to give an opportunity to an “algorithm” or “AI” in the judicial system for the common good.
New Zealand is not the only country that explores the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in courtrooms. Several other countries like China and Malaysia have done similar things. In China, robot judges can decide on a small case. While in Malaysia, some courts have used AI to recommend sentences for offences such as drug possession.
The Counter Ransomware Task Force (CRTF), which was formed to bring together Singapore Government agencies from various domains to strengthen Singapore’s counter-ransomware efforts, has issued its report.
Singapore’s efforts to promote a resilient and secure cyber environment, both domestically and internationally, to combat the rising ransomware threat are guided by the recommendations in the CRTF report.
According to David Koh, Commissioner of Cybersecurity, Chief Executive of CSA and Chairman of the CRTF, ransomware poses a threat to both businesses and individuals. Economically, socially, and even in terms of national security, it can be detrimental. Both internationally and across domains, ransomware is a problem.
“It requires us to collaborate and draw on our knowledge in a variety of fields, including cybersecurity, law enforcement, and financial supervision. It also necessitates that we work with like-minded international partners to identify a common problem and develop solutions,” David explains.
He exhorts businesses and individuals to contribute as well, strengthening the nation’s overall defence against the ransomware scourge.
Cybercriminals use malicious software known as ransomware. When ransomware infects a computer or network, it either locks the system or encrypts the data on it. For the release of the data, cybercriminals demand ransom money from their victims.
A vigilant eye and security software are advised to prevent ransomware infection. Following an infection, malware victims have three options: either they can pay the ransom, attempt to remove the malware, or restart the device.
Extortion Trojans frequently employ the Remote Desktop Protocol, phishing emails, and software vulnerabilities as their attack vectors. Therefore, a ransomware attack can target both people and businesses.
The ransomware threat has significantly increased in scope and effect, and it is now a pressing issue for nations all over the world, including Singapore.
The fact that attackers operate internationally to elude justice makes it a global issue. Ransomware has created a criminal ecosystem that offers criminal services ranging from unauthorised access to targeted networks to money laundering services, all fed by illicit financial gains.
Singapore must approach the ransomware issue as a cross-border and cross-domain problem if it is to effectively combat the ransomware threat.
Other nations should adopt comparable domestic measures to coordinate their financial regulatory, law enforcement, and cybersecurity agencies to combat the ransomware issue and promote international cooperation.
Three significant results were the culmination of the CRTF’s work. For government agencies to collaborate and create anti-ransomware solutions, they first developed a comprehensive understanding of the ransomware kill chain.
Second, it examined Singapore’s stance on paying ransom to cybercriminals. Third, for the government to effectively combat ransomware, the CRTF suggested the following policies, operational plans, and capabilities under four main headings:
Pillar 1: Enhances the security of potential targets (such as government institutions, critical infrastructure, and commercial organisations, especially small and medium-sized businesses) to make it more difficult for ransomware attackers to carry out successful attacks.
Pillar 2: To lower the reward for ransomware attacks, disrupt the ransomware business model.
Pillar 3: To prevent ransomware attack victims from feeling pressured to pay the ransom, which feeds the ransomware industry, support recovery.
Pillar 4: Assemble a coordinated international strategy to combat ransomware by cooperating with international partners. Singapore should concentrate on and support efforts to promote international cooperation in three areas that have been identified by the CRTF: law enforcement, anti-money laundering measures, and discouraging ransom payments.
The appropriate government agencies will take the recommendations of the CRTF under consideration for additional research and action.
An international team led by The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s Faculty of Medicine (CU Medicine) has successfully developed the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) model that can detect Alzheimer’s disease solely through fundus photographs or images of the retina. The model is more than 80% accurate after validation.
Fundus photography is widely accessible, non-invasive and cost-effective. This means that the AI model incorporated with fundus photography is expected to become an important tool for screening people at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the community. Details have been published in The Lancet Digital Health under the international journal The Lancet.
Limitations of Alzheimer’s disease current detection methods
In Hong Kong, 1 in 10 people aged 70 or above suffers from dementia, with more than half of those cases attributed to Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is associated with an excessive accumulation of abnormal amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, leading to the death of brain cells and resulting in progressive cognitive decline.
The Clinical Professional Consultant of the Division of Neurology in CU Medicine’s Department of Medicine and Therapeutics stated that memory complaints are common among middle-aged and elderly people, and are often considered a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
It is sometimes difficult to make an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease based on cognitive tests and structural brain imaging. However, methods to detect Alzheimer’s pathology, such as an amyloid-PET scan or testing of cerebrospinal fluid collected via lumber puncture, are invasive and less accessible.
To address the current clinical gap, CU Medicine has led several medical centres and institutions from Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States to successfully develop an AI model using state-of-the-art technologies which can detect Alzheimer’s disease using fundus photographs alone.
Studying disorders of the central nervous system via the retina
The S.H. Ho Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Chairman of CU Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences explained that the retina is an extension of the brain in terms of embryology, anatomy and physiology. In the entire central nervous system, only the blood vessels and nerves in the retina allow direct visualisation and analysis.
Thus, it is widely considered a window through which disorders in the central nervous system can be studied. Through non-invasive fundus photography, a range of changes in the blood vessels and nerves of the retina that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease can be detected.
The team developed and validated their AI model using nearly 13,000 fundus photographs from 648 Alzheimer’s disease patients (including patients from the Prince of Wales Hospital) and 3,240 cognitively normal subjects. Upon validation, the model showed 84% accuracy, 93% sensitivity and 82% specificity in detecting Alzheimer’s disease. In the multi-ethnic, multi-country datasets, the AI model achieved accuracies ranging from 80% to 92%.
Accessibility, non-invasiveness and high cost-effectiveness of the AI model using fundus photography help the detection of Alzheimer’s cases both in the clinic and the community
A Professor of Medicine and Director of the Therese Pei Fong Chow Research Centre for Prevention of Dementia at CU Medicine stated that in addition to its accessibility and non-invasiveness, the accuracy of the new AI model is comparable to imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
It shows the potential to become not only a diagnostic test in clinics but also a screening tool for Alzheimer’s disease in community settings. Looking ahead, the team aims to validate its efficacy in identifying high-risk cases of the disease hidden in the community, so that various preventive treatments such as anti-amyloid drugs can be initiated early to slow down cognitive decline and brain damage.
The Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at CU Medicine said that in addition to applying novel AI technologies in the model, the team also tested it in different scenarios. Notably, their AI model retained a robust ability to differentiate between subjects with and without Alzheimer’s disease, even in the presence of concomitant eye diseases like macular degeneration and glaucoma which are common in city-dwellers and the older population.
Their results further support the hypothesis that the team’s AI analysis of fundus photographs is an excellent tool for the detection of memory-depriving Alzheimer’s disease. To move this research towards clinical application, the team is developing an integrated, AI-based platform to combine information from both blood vessels and nerves of the retina captured by fundus photography and optical coherence tomography for the detection of Alzheimer’s disease. Their findings should provide more evidence to move AI from code to the real world.
The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) announced it would roll out Internet advertising management measures at a conference in Hanoi earlier this week. Participants at the event discussed how advertising in cyberspace has become the norm. Domestic and foreign firms choose it because it is easier to access customers and it offers flexible costs and larger reach. However, the limited management of ads poses potential risks to the safety of brands, the Ministry has said.
According to a press release by MIC, ad agents affirmed that without the cooperation of cross-border platforms in modifying algorithms to filter and censor content, ad violations will remain rampant. The Ministry will penalise agents and brands that cooperate with platforms that do not fall in line with MIC regulations. On the other hand, the Ministry will support ads on domestic and foreign digital platforms that comply with domestic laws, MIC’s Deputy Minister, Nguyen Thanh Lam, noted. This will protect brands and build a healthy, safe, and fair ad business environment.
The Ministry will also increase inspection and clampdown on violations of Internet ads activities, he said. Cross-border ad firms that fail to comply with Vietnam’s laws will not be allowed to operate in the country. MIC has also generated a Whitelist consisting of licensed e-newspapers, magazines, general information websites, and social media. Other websites, registered accounts, and information channels are also in the pipeline for the list, the release said. The list will be publicised on the portals of the Ministry and Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information. Ad service providers, agents, and brands were also urged to use the list for their work.
Nearly 80% of the population in Vietnam are digital consumers, as OpenGov Asia reported earlier in October. Over the past year, the average contribution of e-commerce to total retail has continued to grow at 15%. Higher than growth in India (10%) and China (4%), with an online-to-total retail share of 6%. Now that the world is in the post-pandemic stage, regional consumers are prioritising an integrated shopping experience, combining online and in-person services. During the ‘discovery’ phase of their shopping, 84% of Vietnamese shoppers use the Internet to browse and find items. This is a period when they use more platforms than ever before, with the dominance of the e-commerce market accounting for 51% of online spending.
At the same time, social networking sites account for nearly half of online discoveries, including images (16%), social media videos (22%), and related tools such as messaging (9%). These tools were paramount channels for 44% of survey respondents. Consumers’ openness to interaction and experimentation has also led to behavioural changes, with 64% of respondents saying they have interacted with a business account in the past year. As customers seek more engagement, the content creation economy is able to grow exponentially.
In the context of digital consumption, Vietnamese users switch brands more often and increase the number of platforms they use to find a better value, with 22% of online orders made on various e-commerce platforms. The number of online platforms Vietnamese consumers use has doubled from 8 in 2021 to 16 in 2022. Therefore, it is important to put in place proper ad regulations as Internet usage grows.
Thailand’s Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) has recently launched the AI Governance Clinic (AIGC) which will serve as a source of Thai and overseas knowledge and expertise on governance related to artificial intelligence (AI) and its adoption.
ETDA is joining forces with the nation’s National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC), the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Medical Services, and the Department of Health Service Support. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between ETDA and the three partners was signed during the nation’s “Building Trust and Partnership in AI Governance” event.
AI is currently having a significant impact on almost every aspect of people’s lives, including work, business, education, finance, health, and electronic transactions, according to ETDA Executive Director Dr Chaichana Mitrpant. “These issues all involve the application of AI.”
A six-year national AI implementation plan for national development between 2022 and 2027 was recently approved by the Cabinet. The adoption of AI with governance along with pertinent laws and regulations is one strategy outlined in the plan for ensuring that users understand social responsibility.
Thailand is getting ready to adopt AI, another cutting-edge technology that is gaining popularity and relevance. ETDA is an organisation that supports a secure and reliable ecosystem for electronic transactions.
To achieve the objectives outlined in the implementation plan, the agency is collaborating with NECTEC. A study on Thailand’s AI standard landscape to develop AI adoption measures and a study on measures to assess AI-based computer programmes to increase the capacity of Thai entrepreneurs in all industries in accordance with international standards are among their important joint projects.
To create a framework for AI governance regarding electronic transactions that are in line with Thailand’s context and international standards, ETDA and its partners – both in Thailand and abroad – established the Clinic.
The Clinic is collaborating with the Academy of Digital Transformation by ETDA to provide resources for capacity development at all levels. Additionally, the AIGC has a substantial library of knowledge sources on pertinent topics, as well as experts from numerous nations who are prepared to provide guidance on AI policies and governance.
An additional Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by ETDA and its partners NECTEC, the Department of Medical Services, and the Department of Health Service Support for the joint development of an AI governance framework that is appropriate for the Thai context for the country’s healthcare industry.
The collaboration aims to advance the sharing of innovation and AI technology knowledge among the participating agencies and to inform pertinent agencies about AI governance. Thailand’s AI strategy was inspired by a desire to boost the nation’s economy and the quality of life for its people as well as a competitive spirit.
Thailand strives to develop the human capacity and skills required for an AI ecosystem despite the difficulties it faces in developing AI capabilities. They created a formal network and consortium as a result. Thailand will train future AI professionals through structured academic programmes in Thai universities, in addition to bridging the gap between existing academic and industrial experts.
ETDA is the primary agency responsible for developing, promoting, and supporting electronic transactions and it is part of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. Its primary responsibility is to research, study, and support the operation of the Electronic Transaction Committee and other related agencies, hence, it contributes to the development and promotion of Thailand’s electronic transactions.
Researchers at the University of South Australia are trialling a simple finger prick technology that could soon be all it takes to save the lives of pregnant mothers and their babies who are at risk of a dangerous pregnancy complication known as preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia affects four per cent of all pregnancies in Australia and can cause organ failure, blood clotting, restricted foetal growth and be life-threatening for the mum and baby. However, current diagnosis methods are complex and can take up to 24 hours in rural areas – time that is critical when dealing with the health of an unborn baby.
In a move which could revolutionise the diagnosis and care of the condition, scientists from UniSA’s Future Industries Institute have developed new technology which requires only a few drops of blood to test for preeclampsia – and the result returned within 30 minutes. This means the test can be done quickly and accurately in a rural setting by a primary healthcare team, without the need to send it to an advanced laboratory.
The Hospital Research Foundation Group is now funding the testing stage of their device, in the hope that earlier and more accurate diagnosis can improve prenatal care and save lives.
Chief investigators Dr Duy Phu Tran and Professor Benjamin Thierry said the device would be most critical in regional settings where emergency care is limited, with preeclampsia one of the main reasons for emergency retrievals by the Royal Flying Doctors Service.
The technology is designed to enable rapid and accurate point-of-care testing for preeclampsia biomarkers, allowing for quicker interventions and likely improved pregnancy outcomes for women living in rural Australia.
The current tests for preeclampsia in primary care involve a combination of blood pressure measurements, urinalysis and/or biochemical and haematological testing. Blood biomarkers have recently been identified but testing can only be carried out in large laboratories, for example, at the Women’s & Children’s Hospital.
Concurrently, preeclampsia can progress very quickly – in some cases hours – and have catastrophic consequences. We hope our device can bridge this gap in care for rural women.
An AU$132,000 grant from The Hospital Research Foundation Group will help accelerate the testing and commercialisation of the device through a trial of at-risk pregnant women in hospitals. If validated, the trial will then extend to mothers seen by the Royal Flying Doctors Service retrieval team, with the hope to then expand even wider with more funding. The 3D-printed device is being manufactured locally by the South Australian node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UniSA’s Mawson Lakes campus.
The Director of the National Emergency Response and the Public Health Research Unit at the Royal Flying Doctors Service said if the trial was successful, the technology would have a significant impact on prenatal care in regional areas. He noted that preeclampsia is a substantial risk during pregnancy, which is exacerbated in remote communities, where diagnosis and subsequent treatment can take significantly longer than in major city areas.
The hospital conducts roughly 750 retrievals associated with pregnancy per year, with pre-term labour, premature rupture of membranes and preeclampsia being some of the leading transfer reasons.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service has seen, first-hand, the impacts of poorly managed preeclampsia and this technology is an exciting and much-needed step forward in improving rural and remote patient outcomes and in closing the gap, he added.
Meanwhile, the CEO of The Hospital Research Foundation Group, said the organisation was pleased to be advancing testing of the device. He noted that women’s health and bridging the gap between country and city care are important healthcare needs. The revolutionary technology, if validated, will be an exciting development to give all mums and bubs the very best start in life, he added.