The Philippine Social Security System (SSS) adds more features to its online services portfolio as it steps up efforts to digitalise member and employer transactions.
SSS President and CEO said the initiative aims to address the need to bring SSS services within reach of its members, pensioners, covered employers, and the public because of social distancing and health requirements imposed by the government to stop the spread of the COVID-19. For the past years, the agency has been gradually shifting its stakeholders’ mode of transactions from face-to-face to online. The pandemic motivated them to track their digital transformation initiatives faster, not only to provide stakeholders with more convenient and more efficient means of transactions but also to ensure their safety.
Services in the My.SSS Portal now includes online applications for Calamity Loan, Pension Loan, Retirement Benefit (subject to qualifying conditions for online filing), Unemployment Benefit, and Funeral Claim; submission of Requests for Member Data Change for simple corrections for members; and submission of Sickness Benefit Reimbursement Application for employers.
The SSS has also introduced both members and employers to the Real-Time Processing of Loans Payment Reference Number (RTPL-PRN) facility, Benefit Re-disbursement Module, and improved Disbursement Account Enrolment Module (DAEM) with uploading of proof of account, previously known as the Bank Enrolment Module.
Moreover, the SSS enhanced the online SS Number Application facility and has provided members with access to the Remittance Transfer Company/Cash Pay-out Outlet (RTC/CPO) Reference Number Inquiry.
Aside from the new and improved online services, members also have access to other virtual services, including viewing their contribution and loan records; and inquiring on the status of their benefits claims and eligibility for benefits programmes, among others. These may be accessed using the My.SSS Portal as well as the SSS Mobile App, Text-SSS, and Self-Service Express Terminals.
By using the My.SSS Portal, members can also make an appointment with an SSS branch, send a request for SSS records, enrol in the Personal Equity and Savings Option (PESO) Fund or Flexi-fund, use a simulated retirement calculator, and view details of their Unified Multi-Purpose Identification (UMID) Card or SSS ID, as well as change their account password. With the SSS Mobile App, they can also pay contributions using a third-party e-payment provider or a partner bank.
Since last year, the SSS is building up its information cache on how to use its online services through webinars and other social media content. For more in-depth discussions on these services, companies and organisations may request SSS to conduct free online seminars for employees and members. SSS reiterated that with the continuous digitalisation of procedures, there is a need for stakeholders to familiarise themselves on how to use the agency’s online facilities. They encourage them to join the webinars and monitor posts on social media.
The agency reported that the pandemic combined with their digitalisation efforts to mitigate the impact has resulted in a surge in SSS electronic transactions. The agency said that transactions through the SSS’s electronic channels accounted for 75% of the total in 2020, up from 35% in the previous year. Manual transactions, in turn, dropped from 65% of the total in 2019 to just 25% last year. The agency also registered 11.14 times jump in the download of its mobile app last year from the 3.12 million downloads as of end-December 2019.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the country have urged the SSS and other agencies to continue to invest more aggressively in boosting their “computing capacities” so that they can deliver superior services to the public over the digital space. Agencies should continue to improve and expand their transactions so that their respective members can conveniently do them online.
The Philippines’ Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Department of Education (DepEd) strengthened the partnership between the agencies to clear the path towards the digitalisation of the education sector with the establishment of the Public Education Network (PEN).
The DICT and DepEd started coordinating on the development of the PEN last year. It is aligned with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive during his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year for both agencies to connect all schools, especially last-mile schools, and DepEd offices nationwide.
Under the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed between the two agencies, the DICT will provide medium to long-term assistance to DepEd, including the allocation of bandwidth from the DICT’s high-speed Internet infrastructure project, augmentation of DepED’s future satellite capacity through DICT’s existing very small aperture technology (VSAT) satellite and teleport facilities, the building of internet backbone up to last-mile schools under the DICT’s National Broadband Programme (NBP), and the provision of data transport service using DICT’s fibre optic network under the Government Network (GovNet) project and Microwave towers.
Under the agreement, the DICT will also give immediate assistance to the DepEd on advocating for the presence of ICT service providers in public school premises; provisioning of online resources, materials, and systems for educational use; giving teachers and learners access to DICT’s Tech4Ed facilities and its attached computer laboratories and research facilities; and coordination with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), among others.
The agencies also inked a separate MOA for the use of suitable real estate properties owned or under the administration of DepEd as sites or locations for the implementation of DICT’s Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure (PTTI) or the Common Tower Initiative.
According to the DICT, education shall continue to play a key role in the socio-economic prosperity of a nation. Hence, the country needs to envision how education can emerge stronger, more responsive, and more effective from this global crisis than ever before. To do this, the agency is continuously assisting the DepEd with the transition from a traditional classroom setting to blended learning and shall continue to draw on the benefits provided by ICT to make this shift possible.
The DepEd said this partnership is designed not only to deal with COVID-19 but also to deal with the future. The agency hopes to improve the education sector with the help of partner agencies.
Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, the Philippine 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.
With COVID-19, digital transformation in the government has taken on a sense of urgency. Contract tracing and distribution of aid could be smoother if data is harmonised, and digital systems are put in place more comprehensively. Lawmakers in the country plan to harmonise collected personal data of Philippine citizens, businesses, land, and transactions, among others. Further, it will open opportunities that will likely drive the government to invest in developing additional organisational capability and staff competencies.
With all these plans taking on urgency in the light of the pandemic, the government predicts it will be expedient to build a Digital Transformation Department to manage the ambitious and yet highly practical investment. The department would be expected to support and roll out the office’s digital transformation strategy. Lawmakers in the country stressed that there is no reason to delay the drive to realise the full modernisation of government services to serve Philippine citizens – adequately, efficiently, and securely.
During the virtual signing ceremony of the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) 01-2021, the Philippine Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) reminded local government units (LGUs) that they should have automated their business one-stop-shop (BOSS) before June 17 of this year.
The JMC establishes the guidelines for processing business permits, related clearances, and licenses in all cities and municipalities. This year, the country is hoping to have 500 LGUs to be automated by the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) Integrated Business Permits and Licensing System (IBPLS) software.
The DICT project manager for IBPLS said the department has signed a memorandum of agreements with 446 LGUs, of which more than 200 are already in the operational stage of the system. The agency is making sure that everyone is onboard for IBPLS, which is an online system.
Meanwhile, the DICT also said that the IBPLS software works well even with smaller LGUs. The agency urged highly urbanised cities to fast-track the adoption of the integrated system so their BOSS can go online before the June 17 deadline.
Under the newly signed JMC, the E-BOSS should have the following functions:
- Accepting electronic submission of application.
- Electronic issuance of tax bill or order of payment.
- Accepting online payment, releasing of an electronic version of permits, licenses, and clearances; and
- Providing gateway facility linked to courier service where applicant prefers hard copy of the documents.
The JMC also limits the documentary requirements and will implement a unified application form with a unique identification number.
The ARTA reminded LGUs that they should not require notarisation of the requirements, adding that barangay clearances related to business permit applications shall be integrated and processed by the Business Processing and Licensing Office (BPLO). The agency added that the number of signatories in the documents shall be limited to three and that LGUs should also process the application within three working days.
Accordingly, as reported by OpenGov Asia, The 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 law 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 following 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.
Also, lawmakers in the country spoke about the e-Gov Master Pan and the related e-Gov and Integrated Government Philippines (iGovPhil) programmes that have been launched by the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Office. However, lawmakers believed that the Philippines has been slow in integrating digital technology to improve the delivery of services and experience a sense of modernisation in the country.
With COVID-19, digital transformation in the government has taken on a sense of urgency. Contract tracing and distribution of aid could be smoother if data is harmonised, and digital systems are put in place more comprehensively. The proposed law plans to harmonise the collected personal data of Filipino citizens, businesses, land, and transactions, among others. Further, it will open opportunities that will likely drive the government to invest in developing additional organisational capability and staff competencies.
With all these plans taking on urgency in the light of the pandemic, the government predicts it will be expedient to build a Digital Transformation Department to manage the ambitious and yet highly practical investment. The department would be expected to support and roll out the office’s digital transformation strategy.
Two tech firms operating under the Hong Kong Smart Government Innovation Lab recently announced that they have launched new solutions which are now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.
Solution one – City Traffic Simulation System
The system that the firm provides allows users to trial virtual routes using dummy cars (virtual vehicles) so that they can experience the latest routes and collect feedback on them without having to wait until the roads are built to find out the problems.
Firstly, the system can improve the effectiveness of traffic route design. Secondly, the system can reduce and avoid road traffic congestion caused by road design. Third, collected data can be used for further development of many other technologies including autonomous driving AI.
The solution was developed to be applied in the areas of City Management, Commerce and Industry, Development, Environment, Health, Housing, Population, Recreation and Culture, Social Welfare as well as Transport.
The developed using the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Analytics, Deep Learning and Virtual Reality.
The collected data can be used for the further development of many other technologies, including autonomous driving artificial intelligence. Although the development of this new technology requires a lot of data, the firm found that realistic and games are the perfect tool for acquiring large amounts of data.
Solution two – micro-segmentation solution
The second innovation is a micro-segmentation solution that prevents the spread of breaches inside data centres and cloud environments. Various global enterprises use the firm’s system to reduce cyber risk and achieve regulatory compliance.
The firm’s platform uniquely protects critical information with real-time application dependency and vulnerability mapping coupled with micro-segmentation that works across any data centre, public cloud, or hybrid cloud deployment on bare-metal, virtual machines, and containers.
The solution was meant to be applied across the areas of Broadcasting, City Management, Climate and Weather, Commerce and Industry, Development, Education, Employment and Labour, Environment, Finance, Food, Health, Housing, Infrastructure, Law and Security, Population, Recreation and Culture, Social Welfare, Transport as well as in public organisations.
The solution employs the latest in Data Analytics, Deep Learning, Machine Learning and Cybersecurity.
The tech company has assisted many organisations to reduce firewall complexity rules by 95%. Moreover, the solutions have seen 15,000 firewalls rules reduced to 40 security policies and had saved over US$300,000 in labour and transformation costs.
The firm also segmented development and production environments without having to shift infrastructure or re-architect their network, saving over US$200,000 in re-architecture costs.
The tech company provides precise protection of critical applications, enabling Zero Trust control against the spread of potential attacks, easy-to-deploy micro-segmentation with quick time to value; reliability and confidence from testing; visibility for cross-team collaboration; and millions in savings vs. ACI and NGFWs.
About the Smart Government Innovation Lab
In 2018, the Government established the Smart Government Innovation Lab to explore hi-tech products such as AI and relevant technologies, including machine learning, big data analytics, cognitive systems and intelligent agent, as well as blockchain and robotics from firms, especially local start-ups.
The Lab is always on the lookout for innovation and technology (I&T) solutions that are conducive to enhancing public services or their operational effectiveness. I&T suppliers are encouraged to regularly visit the Lab’s website to check on the current business and operational needs in public service delivery and propose innovative solutions or product suggestions to address them.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series covering the Public Sector Innovation Day – Singapore. Read Part 1 here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the world. It has ushered in a new normal, bringing a different era of governance and business operations. Technology is at the fore of this front, helping adapt to these disruptive changes in an unprecedented manner. The scale of this transformation is incredible – experts say CVOID-19 has driven two years of digital transformation in two months.
The public sector is at the heart of the response to COVID-19. The response has required action on multiple fronts, using technology advancements, not just for health measures, but to aid efforts to mitigate the economic effects on households, firms, and industries.
The crisis has drawn attention to the tools and technologies that governments need to have to protect their citizens and enterprises as agencies struggle to minimise associated negative impact, deliver public services, and ensure the continued development of critical national infrastructure.
A digitally enabled government must go beyond merely digitising processes and offering services online. It must also find innovative ways to raise productivity in workplaces and bring convenience and efficient services to citizens.
As the world prepares for the new normal and all the economic, social, and political question marks that accompany it, many are looking to the tools of data science to continue to inform this trajectory. Advanced data science, and the technology it powers, is rapidly becoming an essential component of nearly every industry.
The Singapore government, too, is looking to ramp up the adoption of digital technologies and the nation to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Simultaneously national tech agencies developing new digital tools and services to support citizens and businesses. This requires a comprehensive approach including the ability to rapidly integrate new data, make accurate, multilevel forecasts and provide data-driven insights for policymakers.
Now, even as the journey to a post-COVID-19 recovery has begun, the question is still relevant: does the public sector has the necessary tools and technologies to respond effectively, recover quickly, rebound efficiently and reimagine the future which is critical to national interests?
OpenGov Asia held a Public Sector Innovation Day 1 for Singapore at Intercontinental Singapore. The session aimed to impart knowledge on how public sector agencies can accelerate digital transformation and innovation to emerge stronger post-COVID-19.
Attended by key policymakers from the public sector and technology industry experts, the session served as a great peer-to-peer learning platform to gain insights and practical solutions to understand the value of cutting-edge technologies available to make better, faster, and more cost-effective, data-driven decisions that make a difference in the lives of the citizens post-pandemic.
How COVID-19 Accelerated Public Sector’s Digital Transformation
To kickstart the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia delivered opening remarks.
As early as 2019, there was consensus on the benefits of remote working, but it did not happen in any significant way. Then, at the end of 2019 came a crisis so debilitating that it brought the world to a halt almost overnight and it kept going relentlessly.
but not all were equipped to do so and many just emulated what the other countries were doing. None the less, public services globally have been significantly boosted.
Countries from all over the world were looking to adapt to the challenge. Citizens needed access to government services more intensely and urgently. New information and data were being generated incessantly, necessitating new plans and decisions.
In the early stages, people were excited at the opportunity to work from home. Interestingly though, the step was considered a “pivot” – with the connotation of reaction rather than strategic. People and organisations were said to be “pivoting” to manage and mitigate the issues the pandemic brought like making people work from anywhere, anytime.
Beyond a doubt, the public sector did its job in terms of providing relevant services and initiatives throughout the age of COVID-19. But the question remains, were those initiatives innovative and intentional and sustainable? Were they just a good-to-have or a must-have?
The good brings with it the bad, the unsafe and the difficult. As the initial euphoria of remote working wears thin, people, once happy about the shift, realise that the new normal disrupts their work-life balance and their well-being. Other measures are facing the same reaction. Lacking data, this so-called digital transformation is rapidly losing its sheen and is being considered a band-aid solution.
With COVID-19 seemingly waning and the economy starting to open, governments are looking for ways to boost their economy. In this sea of change and disruption, often reverting to the known is comforting. Knowing this penchant, Mohit asked the delegates, “Do we want to go back to the old norm because it was beneficial at that time? Or should we welcome the wider adoption of technologies that helped us adjust to the new norm?”
Mohit reminded the delegates that by staying true to the lessons learned from COVID-19 and by increasing the usage of technologies like AI, Cloud and Data Analytics, agencies can move further along on their digital transformation journey.
Governments must find the right balance in their digital transformation journey between technology, people, and processes. They must also find leadership and the will to empower the workforce with the right tools to achieve the ultimate end goal of a complete digital transformation in the new normal.
In closing, Mohit emphasised the need for agencies to find a suitable partner in this digital journey. They must find the right people who do what they do best for them to stay on the right path towards a full digital transformation.
Responsible and ethical use of AI in the public sector challenges, and best practices
After Mohit’s opening remarks, the forum heard from Dr Ian Oppermann, Chief Data Scientist and CEO, NSW Data Analytics Centre, NSW Government on how the public sector can use AI responsibly and ethically.
Highlighting the importance of data, Ian said it now affects all aspects of citizen-focused outcomes, based on life journeys such as starting a family, education, jobs, serious illness and injury and retirement plans. In New South Wales (NSW), data has been empowering these social and community areas and will be used to assess the performance of future smart initiatives developed by the NSW Government and its partners.
NSW recently released a Smart Places Strategy with a citizen-centric view, building on years of work and enhanced by digital twins, data sharing, security and privacy. The NSW government Smart Places is is designed to deliver outcomes to benefit the citizens, businesses, employees and partners.
The outcomes span six key areas and were developed using insights from engagement with communities across regional and metropolitan NSW. The Smart Places Strategy focuses on:
- Skills, jobs, and development: grow knowledge capital of people and businesses in NSW to benefit from the transition of the global economy
- Safety and security: provide safer places for people and increase a sense of security
- Environmental quality: (increase sustainability by reducing emissions, resource consumption and environmental impacts
- Equity, accessibility, and inclusion: will improve physical and digital access for the people of NSW to participate in economic and civic life
- Health and well-being: improve the quality of life and well-being for the people of NSW
- Collaboration and connection: bring people, businesses and governments, their data, and services together in a seamless way
More recently the NSW government launched an AI Strategy programme to improve service delivery and government decision-making. Undeniably, AI can play a key role in automating inefficient and manual processes to deliver better services to citizens and free up staff time for more critical or frontline work. AI can also assist in decision-making concerning resource allocation based on community need.
However, Ian confirmed, AI will not be used to make unilateral decisions that impact citizens or their human rights. While can assist in decision-making and service delivery, any AI-informed decision remains the responsibility of the agency using the technology. The government will carefully monitor the consequences of such decisions.
Further, the NSW Government approach is clear that no AI-informed decision will be made without those impacted being able to access a quick and efficient review. Citizens should be able to understand how their data is being used and for what purpose. Additional safeguards will need to be in place to ensure the right questions are being asked of the technology and that the correct legislative interpretation is informing the AI solution.
Recognising the speed at which technology develops and the need to build AI maturity, the immediate implementation of a mandatory AI policy and user guide was necessary. The policy sets clear requirements that agencies must address before sourcing and using AI. It will ensure a consistent approach to privacy, security, transparency and procurement of AI solutions.
Ian felt it was important that AI adopters know the key points and phases to consider when deploying AI systems namely:
- Pre-deployment phase: choose a data set that closely resembles the production system, select tools to test data, identify and eliminate data biases, execute non-functional testing, and perform data sanity checks.
- Post-deployment phase: review output from continuous feedback, establish failure threshold, use AI-monitoring platform(s) to identify code progressions, classify any required changes, identify new data parameters.
Most AI systems are unable to determine whether a task is appropriate or ethical. For AI systems to be successful, testers need to define the operational boundaries of the system and monitor them periodically to pre-empt problems. AI assurance systems utilise both human expertise and technology monitoring to help improve AI performance.
Reliant on data for training, AI adapts over time and show sensitivities to the quality of outputs. The learning allows the tool to generate better / more accurate results than earlier. AI algorithm may be extremely sensitive to the quality of data sets much more than others; e.g. adult/ not adult versus date of birth. An algorithm may initially produce a high-quality result but drift over time once an initial supervision training period is completed.
Ian feels that, ultimately, agencies must ensure a solid framework to help understand the entire data lifecycle from its storage up to the point of knowing its purpose. As better tools are built and more precise data microscopes and AI programmes are created, they must be used to deliver value to citizens.
Fireside chat: How can the public sector leverage data revolution to respond, recover and reimagine next-gen citizen-centric services?
The session proceeded to the fireside chat segment where Mohit and Remco den Heijer Vice President – ASEAN SAS discussed how the public sector can leverage data revolution to respond, recover and reimagine next-gen citizen-centric services.
Mohit started the discussion by asking Remco den Heijer how he sees data as the heart of the COVID-19 recovery. Remco explained that data analytics and AI are the perfect elements in terms of recovering from the pandemic because data is everywhere, both in the private and public sectors.
The world should embrace technologies that are scaling and continuously evolving. Disruptive technologies can extract actionable insights from this data, which is why both sectors must use this development and advantage to recover from the pandemic. Software, hardware, and related skills must be enhanced to leverage technology and data for recovery purposes. Technologies that are scaling and continuously evolving should be embraced.
Remco touched on the topic of AI being used by governments in their processes. AI adopters, he advises, must continuously update their AI models with new and updated data to strengthen their predictive capabilities that will provide possible solutions for present endeavours. He is convinced that that AI functions at its finest when it is incorporated with human intelligence. Having that human lens on top of the tech will always be an important aspect.
Remco urged delegates to continue doubling down on networks and partnerships and to continue learning from each other in this journey.
Power Talk and Interactive Discussion
After the informative presentations from distinguished speakers, Mohit joined Benedict Tan, Group Chief Digital Strategy Officer and Chief Data Officer, Singapore Health Services, Jason Loh, Head of Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, Asia Pacific, Global Tech Practice, SAS, Dr Steve Bennett, Director -Public Sector and Financial Services Practice, SAS, and Dr Yemaya Bordain, Director – IOTG Global, Public Sector Sales, Intel in the session’s Power Talk segment aided with polling questions.
In this uniquely formatted session, the audience was asked to vote in real-time to a set of questions. Speakers reflect on the responses and share their perspectives, making it a highly interactive and engaging session.
In the first poll, delegates were asked what percentage of their workforce would continue working remotely for the next six to twelve months. Over 57% of the delegates said between a quarter to a half (26%-50%) of their workforce will continue working from home.
Continuing along this line, the delegates were also asked if they think public sector employees would be allowed to work from home for more than 60% of the time. Votes were almost evenly divided, with 37% saying no, 33% felt they would be allowed and 29% were not sure.
Reflecting on this issue, Dr Steve Bennett felt that the emotional attachment between workers and a feeling of connectedness was what was missing in this new working structure. Technology must fill in the void of informal/personal connections only attained by working on site. So, while the current set up is good, he believes, there are ways to go beyond what is being applied today.
Benedict Tan added to this discussion by pointing out the limitations of remote working for the healthcare sector. The medical and care arena is not likely to further adopt the new working set up as hospitals and healthcare facilities are designed to be utilised on-site. Beyond the healthcare sector, he believes new infrastructure should improve on these new processes.
Dr Yemaya said that the new normal and the adjustments it brought made people appreciate how much innovation helped in an impromptu manner. However, from a citizen’s perspective, she explained that not having visible on-site workers to deliver public services can be problematic. Citizens sometimes think that if there is no one to facilitate these services personally, they are sub-par, even though results are consistent for physical and digital setups.
On being asked about how well equipped is the public sector in supporting a 75% remote workforce, almost half of the delegates said there is a lack of collaboration tools for seamless remote work and the appropriate solutions are still be explored. The remaining group (42%) said they have the tools needed to allow remote work seamlessly.
Dr Yemaya Bordain firmly believes that if governments can find the right collaboration tools in this new working set up, it would boost the morale of their workers who will adopt this change in engagement.
In the new working environment, Jason Loh felt that people are more connected than ever before because remote working bridges gaps and crosses borders effectively.
Delegates were about the ways on how they measure the level of satisfaction of their hybrid workforce. Just over half (52%) indicated they have the tools but are not sure of the effectiveness. About a third (32%) said that they would like to measure the level of satisfaction and productivity of employees and are looking for appropriate solutions.
In light of the previous answers, delegates were asked if they felt they were in the right position to roll out new citizen services or initiative while having a remote workforce. An overwhelming majority (81%) felt they were well placed to do so but they have limited functionalities. Just under a fifth (18%) said they would like to roll out these new citizen services, but they need help to do it.
Dr Steve Bennett agreed that there was a wide range of positive outcomes when working remotely but the issue of burnout does come up. Governments and organisations must find the right balance in this new working environment.
Asked about data playing an integral role in recovery plans post-pandemic, 91% of the delegates agreed that data would be critical in the world’s recovery phase.
However, Dr Yemaya Bordain said that the usage of data needs to be in context and must apply to all backgrounds. It needs to have details attached to it to reap its benefits.
Exploring the obstacles, the agencies should overcome to make data science and AI useful and integral in crises, 45% agreed that the lack of skills poses the biggest challenge. A quarter (25%) considered the change in public sector policies as an obstacle while the remaining 25% felt that cultural shifts hinder the adoption of these technologies.
To round off the discussion, delegates were asked about the areas they plan to prioritise in terms of IT spending for the second half of 2021. Over a third (37%) said they would invest in advanced analytics and AI, while 12% indicated spending for communications technologies and automation workflows software was a priority.
The OpenGov Public Innovation Day 2 – Singapore – Virtual Edition ended with the closing remarks from Remco den Heijer.
At the end of the day, Remco said, the public sector exists to serve citizens. If anything can be done to improve, or even save lives, that is rewarding enough. He added that the digital age is an exciting time to be in, and governments must utilise this era to improve more lives. The promise of data analytics, AI and other disruptive technologies are real. To reap their full benefits, everyone must be open to partnerships, collaborations, sharing data, technology choices, and exploring new ideas – connectedness must be promoted if the world is to learn and improve as a society.
For more on OpenGov Asia’s Public Sector Innovation Day – Singapore: “Accelerating Digital Transformation, Resiliency, and Innovation for Public Sector in Post-Pandemic Recovery”, read Part 1 here.
Three initiatives for the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) have been inaugurated by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). NIXI will play a significant role in helping Indian entities learn about and adopt IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6). IPv6 is the most recent version of the Internet protocol.
It provides identification and location information for devices and networks connecting to the Internet. A news report explained that the protocol is considered especially important with the impending move to 5G, which will increase the total number of devices connecting to the Internet. Last February, the Department of Telecom (DoT) had mandated all government organisations to transition to IPv6 by March 2020.
It said that IPv6 could offer better traceability and interaction between networks and devices in the future. This is a crucial factor, given the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), which is expected once 5G networks start rolling in.
NIXI was formed in 2003 and works to provide improved Internet services in the country. It was set up for peering ISPs among themselves to reroute domestic traffic within the country, instead of from abroad. This enhances the quality of service (reduced latency) and reduces bandwidth charges for ISPs by saving on international bandwidth.
IPv6 Expert Panel (IP Guru)
The IP Guru group was created to support Indian entities that have technical trouble migrating to and adopting IPv6. Additionally, the IPv6 expert group will identify and hire agencies to help end customers by providing the necessary technical support to adopt IPv6. The panel will guide and aid IPv6 adoption. It comprises members from DoT, MeitY, and private organisations.
The NIXI Academy educates technical and non-technical people in the country about technologies like IPv6, which are generally not taught in educational institutes. The platform helps network operators and educators understand networking best practices, principles, and techniques. It shows users how to manage Internet resources better and use Internet technologies more effectively.
The NIXI Academy consists of an IPv6 training portal, which was developed by several technical experts. It offers mass training tools. The beginner training materials offered initially will be available for free, but advanced courses may be offered in the future and will be chargeable. Successful candidates (that have passed the examination) will receive a certificate from NIXI, which will be useful to find jobs in the industry.
NIXI has also developed an IPv6 index portal for the Internet community. It will showcase the IPv6 adoption rate in India and across the world. It can be used to compare IPv6 domestic data with other economies in the world. The portal will provide details about IPv6 adoption and traffic, shortly. It is expected to motivate organisations to adopt IPv6. It will collect input and research for planning by technical organisations and academicians.
Organisations and governments aim to abolish the old IPv4 protocol, which was based on 32-bit systems. It could only accommodate 4.3 billion devices. This is not enough for the proliferation of devices connected to the Internet today. IPv6 is more secure, efficient, and mobile-friendly, making it a suitable system for use in the future of 5G. “The idea is that IPv6 addresses will be used as identifiers for both external and internal devices in your organization,” according to a technical policy analyst.
The Indian Supreme Court recently launched its first artificial intelligence-driven research portal, the Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court’s Efficiency (SUPACE). It is an AI-enabled assistive tool to improve the efficiency of legal researchers and judges by aiding the extraction of relevant information about a case. It can read case files, manage teamwork, and draft case documents.
As per a news report, the portal is accessible through a login ID and password. It provides easily accessible summaries, files, and documents of cases in the database. Tasks and the details of progress and people are also displayed. A universal search allows a user to scan through all the files in the database.
Through the portal, the Supreme Court intends to leverage machine learning to deal with the large amount of data received while case filing. Chief Justice SA Bobde, who inaugurated the portal, described it as a “hybrid system” and “a perfect blend of human intelligence and machine learning”.
The news report outlined the four parts of SUPACE’s AI-powered workflow:
- File Preview: The case files, typically available as PDFs, can also be converted into text. There is also a search tool to browse through the case files.
- Chatbot: The text and voice-enabled chatbot provides a quick overview of the case, by answering questions such as “What is the matter about?” or “Which fundamental rights of the petitioner are violated?” The Chatbot can switch between documents for the answer while allowing the user to check the source. It suggests further questions for a better understanding of the case. The user can print the entire question summary.
- Logic Gate: The fact extraction system for the chatbot is divided into four parts: Synopsis, FAQs, Evidence, and Case Law. These give information about the case such as the overview, chronology, and judgement. In the near future, with enough training and refinement of the algorithm, the chatbot will have the ability to answer any questions about the case- whether factual or contextual.
- Notebook: The portal offers an integrated word processor. The user can produce a summary of the case by simply collating all information auto-extracted from the database using the AI tool. Further, the portal offers a voice dictation option to prepare notes. Therefore, without typing a word, a summary document can be prepared as a soft or hard copy.
Justice L Nageswara Rao, who was present during the unveiling, is the current chairman of the Supreme Court’s Artificial Intelligence Committee. SUPACE has been designed to only process information and make it available to the Judges. Government officials have stressed the portal will not be involved in the decision-making of a case. For now, only the Judges in the Delhi and Bombay High Courts that deal with criminal cases will use the portal on an experimental basis. According to Justice SA Bobde, AI is better at processing words and figures and will only collect the data, discover facts, and present it to the Judges. The final call will rest with the Judges. AI in the judiciary system enables the automation of mundane processes. Legal teams have to process numerous amounts of data and implementing AI will reduce pendency and costs and increase speed and efficiency.
Researchers at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute have developed a promising new process that could eliminate water stress for millions of people, including those living in many of the planet’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. A team led by Associate Professor Haolan Xu has refined a technique to derive fresh water from seawater, brackish water, or contaminated water, through highly efficient solar evaporation, delivering enough daily fresh drinking water for a family of four from just one square metre of source water.
At the heart of the system is a highly efficient photothermal structure that sits on the surface of a water source and converts sunlight to heat, focusing energy precisely on the surface to rapidly evaporate the uppermost portion of the liquid. While other researchers have explored similar technology, previous efforts have been hampered by energy loss, with heat passing into the source water and dissipating into the air above.
“Previously many of the experimental photothermal evaporators were basically two dimensional; they were just a flat surface, and they could lose 10 to 20 per cent of solar energy to the bulk water and the surrounding environment,” Dr Xu says. “We have developed a technique that not only prevents any loss of solar energy but actually draws additional energy from the bulk water and surrounding environment, meaning the system operates at 100 per cent efficiency for the solar input and draws up to another 170 per cent energy from the water and environment.”
In contrast to the two-dimensional structures used by other researchers, the team developed a three-dimensional, fin-shaped, heatsink-like evaporator. Their design shifts surplus heat away from the evaporator’s top surfaces (i.e., solar evaporation surface), distributing heat to the fin surface for water evaporation, thus cooling the top evaporation surface and realising zero energy loss during solar evaporation.
This heatsink technique means all surfaces of the evaporator remain at a lower temperature than the surrounding water and air, so additional energy flows from the higher-energy external environment into the lower-energy evaporator.
The team are the first researchers in the world to extract energy from the bulk water during solar evaporation and use it for evaporation, and this has helped their process become efficient enough to deliver between 10 and 20 litres of fresh water per square metre per day.
In addition to its efficiency, the practicality of the system is enhanced by the fact it is built entirely from simple, everyday materials that are low cost, sustainable and easily obtainable.
The main aim of their research was to deliver for practical applications, so the materials we used were just sourced from the hardware store or supermarket, Assoc Prof Xu said. “The only exception is the photothermal materials, but even there we are using a very simple and cost-effective process, and the real advances we have made are with the system design and energy nexus optimisation, not the materials.”
In addition to being easy to construct and easy to deploy, the system is also very easy to maintain, as the design of the photothermal structure prevents salt and other contaminants building up on the evaporator surface. Together, the low cost and easy upkeep mean the system developed by the team could be deployed in situations where other desalination and purification systems would be financially and operationally unviable.
In remote communities with small populations, for example, the infrastructure cost of systems like reverse osmosis often too great to justify. However, the team’s technique could deliver a very low-cost alternative that would be easy to set up and essentially free to run. Moreover, as the system is simple and requires virtually no maintenance, there is no technical expertise needed to keep it running and upkeep costs are minimal.
Assoc Prof Xu stated that the technology has the potential to provide a long-term clean water solution to people and communities who can’t afford other options, and these are the places such solutions are most needed. In addition to drinking water applications, the team is currently exploring a range of other uses for the technology, including treating wastewater in industrial operations.