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Increased Funding for Digital Economy Initiatives in Australia – OpenGov Asia

In the 2021-22 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO), the Treasury detailed that the federal government would part with an additional AU$ 252.5 million over four years to implement further initiatives under the digital economy strategy.
The total amount will be divided across several projects; the largest share of AU$161 million will go towards the digital identity system; AU$27 million to the Office of the National Data Commissioner to improve the sharing and promote greater use of public sector data; and nearly AU$3 million for the Australian Bureau of Statistics to scope enhancements to the data.gov.au website to improve public access to government data.
AU$111 million will be used to support the commercialisation, adoption, and use of quantum technology, which includes AU$  70 million for the quantum commercialisation hub that was announced recently by the federal government under its new Blueprint for Critical Technologies.
A further AU$22.6 million will be put towards round two of the 5G innovation initiative to support private sector investment in 5G testbeds and trials, while AU$ 800,000 over two years will be used to identify interventions to meet Australia’s digital skills and inclusions needs in consultation with industry, education, and training sectors.
As a response to recommendations from the inquiry into future directions for the consumer data right, the government said it would also fund AU$1.8 million over two years to make Victorian energy reference data available through the CDR and provide an AU$ 6 million concessional loan to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in 2021-22 to enable AEMO to build the necessary IT system to share data through the CDR regime.
MYEFO stated that the Digital Economy Strategy provides the foundations to grow the digital economy and focuses investment on the settings, infrastructure, and incentives to ensure businesses can lift productivity and be globally competitive.
Meanwhile, the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), will receive an additional AU$ 59 million over four years to continue to provide enhanced digital and IT oversight and advice. In other areas, the Australian Space Agency will be given an additional AU$ 23 million over five years, as well as AU $2 million per annum ongoing to support the growth of the local space sector, including for the creation of Australia’s Mars rover.
Other winners of MYEFO include the National Archives of Australia, which will get AU$68 million over four years to preserve at-risk records, provide additional staffing and capability to improve digitisation on-demand services and invest in cybersecurity and future digital enhancements.
Separately, the National Collecting Institutions will be provided AU$50.5 million over four years, with which AU$ 8.5 million over two years will be used to support the National Library of Australia’s digital information resource.
The federal government also announced that it would expand its digital games tax offset from 1 July 2022 to include ongoing development work, known as “live ops”, on digital games following their public release. An extra AU$ 19.6 million will be used to back this expansion.
With regards to aged care, a further AU$ 154 million will be forked out for two years to replace the aged care IT system and begin work on an IT system to support a new in-home care program.
The MYEFO also detailed that Treasury would receive an additional AU$ 23.5 million that will partly be used to implement government reforms in relation to the payments system and crypto-assets.
On Thursday, the NSW government also released its 2021-22 half-year review, in which it indicated there would be new investments allocated from the Digital Restart Fund. These include AU$187 million over four years to create a whole-of-government ERP system for the six “clusters” Regional NSW, Stronger Communities, Premier and Cabinet, Treasury, Customer Service and Planning, and Industry and Environment; AU$122 million over three years to further modernise the licencing and compliance program; AU$32.5 million over three years to support the Department of Communities and Justice cybersecurity project; and another AU$23.5 million over three years to deliver the NSW police cybersecurity transformation program.
In daily life, there are many reliability and safety issues. Electronics degrade due to complex electronics ageing, latent software faults, and the interactions between the two. Also, electronic system failures are inevitable because of the current methods to assess reliability and safety. These issues are very likely to lead to serious consequences.
In view of this, two universities, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and the University of Maryland – College Park (UMD), have jointly established a research and development laboratory, namely the – Centre for Advances in Reliability and Safety (CAiRS).
The Centre gathers top researchers from all over the world, uses the most advanced equipment and leverages innovative artificial intelligence technology to conduct various product reliability and system safety research to accurately predict the occurrence of failures and prevent them from occurring.
Harnessing its advanced equipment and, top-notch scientific research talents, CAiRS is dedicated to the research and development of breakthrough technologies. Their research solutions can be widely adopted by all industries in Hong Kong that value reliability and system safety, according to the Deputy President and Provost of PolyU.
CAiRS has been admitted as one of the research laboratories in the InnoHK Clusters, a major initiative of the HKSAR. CAiRS has carried out five research programmes to date. They are “Anomaly Detection and Syndromic Surveillances”, “Innovative Diagnostics for Health Management”, “Prognostics for Remaining Useful Life Assessment”, “Safety Assurance: Improve functional safety” and “Data Analytics Platform for Reliability” (Totally have 15 projects).
The range of applications of the research is extremely wide and includes robots, medical equipment, vehicles, telecommunications, consumer goods, public utilities, transportation, microelectronics, electrical installations, sensors, IoT products and other advanced manufacturing technology. Moreover, CAiRS has signed cooperation agreements with 28 well-known local companies to jointly conduct research and improve the reliability and safety of products and systems.
The Deputy President and Provost of PolyU also stated that the University has been actively cooperating with world-renowned universities and establishing close partnerships with industry to benefit society through cutting-edge research. I believe that CAiRS can effectively translate scientific research results to real-world solutions, creating a positive impact for various industries as well as society.
The Centre Director and Executive Director, Centre for Advances in Reliability and Safety (CAiRS) noted that CAiRS focuses on the use of artificial intelligence to develop new personalized management models. The application and results of the Centre’s research are very important to the development of smart cities.
The scientific research team of CAiRS and I am delighted to use their expertise to collaborate with partners in different industries. CAiRS will build an international brand for the products and systems in Hong Kong, and contribute to the development of smart cities and advanced manufacturing.
PolyU is committed to conducting state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research in response to the needs of industry and society. With over 20 specialists and scholars from the Faculty of Engineering of PolyU and UMD, UMD’s excellent research foundation in product reliability, and strong support from industry, CAiRS will bring benefits and contributions to smart city development and advanced manufacturing.
A lot of effort has been devoted by researchers to unlock more natural forms of communication without requiring contact between the user and the device. Voice commands are a prominent example that has found their way into modern smartphones and virtual assistants, letting us interact and control devices through speech.
Hand gestures constitute another important mode of human communication that could be adopted for human-computer interactions. Recent progress in camera systems, image analysis and machine learning have made optical-based gesture recognition a more attractive option in most contexts than approaches relying on wearable sensors or data gloves.
To tackle these issues, a team led by Zhiyi Yu of Sun Yat-sen University, China, recently developed a new hand gesture recognition algorithm that strikes a good balance between complexity, accuracy, and applicability. As detailed in their paper, which was published in the Journal of Electronic Imaging, the team adopted innovative strategies to overcome key challenges and realise an algorithm that can be easily applied to consumer-level devices.
One of the main features of the algorithm is adaptability to different hand types. The algorithm first tries to classify the hand type of the user as either slim, normal, or broad-based on three measurements accounting for relationships between palm width, palm length, and finger length. If this classification is successful, subsequent steps in the hand gesture recognition process only compare the input gesture with stored samples of the same hand type.
Traditional simple algorithms tend to suffer from low recognition rates because they cannot cope with different hand types. By first classifying the input gesture by hand type and then using sample libraries that match this type, we can improve the overall recognition rate with almost negligible resource consumption.
– Zhiyi Yu, Lead Author
Another key aspect of the team’s method is the use of a “shortcut feature” to perform a prerecognition step. While the recognition algorithm is capable of identifying an input gesture out of nine possible gestures, comparing all the features of the input gesture with those of the stored samples for all possible gestures would be very time-consuming. To solve this problem, the prerecognition step calculates a ratio of the area of the hand to select the three most likely gestures of the possible nine.
This simple feature is enough to narrow down the number of candidate gestures to three, out of which the final gesture is decided using a much more complex and high-precision feature extraction based on Hu invariant moments. The gesture prerecognition step not only reduces the number of calculations and hardware resources required but also improves recognition speed without compromising accuracy.
The team tested their algorithm both in a commercial PC processor and an FPGA platform using a USB camera. They had 40 volunteers make the nine hand gestures multiple times to build up the sample library, and another 40 volunteers to determine the accuracy of the system. Overall, the results showed that the proposed approach could recognise hand gestures in real-time with an accuracy exceeding 93%, even if the input gesture images were rotated, translated, or scaled. According to the researchers, future work will focus on improving the performance of the algorithm under poor lighting conditions and increasing the number of possible gestures. Gesture recognition has many promising fields of application and could pave the way to new ways of controlling electronic devices.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, China has made great achievements in scientific and technological innovation during the 13th Five-Year Plan period. As China embarks on a new journey to build a modern socialist country in all respects, sci-tech innovation will play a vital role in promoting the country’s overall development.
Taiwan has been known as the leader in the global industrial production line of semiconductor processing, where its mature supply chain in the semiconductor manufacture industry has already realised the different levels of relevant technologies and applications.
In the last decade, the invention of Si photonics has led to the advancement of photonics integration circuits by using semiconductor manufacture production line, allowing the advantages of multi-functional and cost-effective optical signal processing techniques, such as broadband, high resolution, low power consumption and low EM interference, to be built inside a small chip.
In the light of such technology trends, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has promoted the special topics project, to fulfil the future technology development in the future. Si photonic fibre gyroscope is one of the funded projects in the Department of Photonics, National Sun Yat-sen University. The team uses several new designs of optical and electrical circuits in silicon photonic integration chips, not only reducing the overall size of a chip but also setting up a new level of angular velocity sensing capability. The unmanned vehicle and aerial camera with such a light-sensing tool can be made with a stabiliser.
In addition, the Si photonics gyroscope has lots of potential for consumer purposes, such as bioengineering, autonomous cars, robot, and navigation, in comparison to other types of gyroscopes. Interferometric fibre optical gyroscope (IFOG) is one of the indispensable components for sensing angular velocity in medium- and high-end navigation systems, such as aerospace, military, underwater and unmanned vehicles.  Ring laser gyroscope (RLG) and hemispherical resonant gyroscope (HRG) are the most stable and highest resolution ones as per up records till now. However, the complicated structure needs delicate assembly engineering, resulting in high costs. On the other hand, a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) gyroscope fabricated in semiconductor foundry can be adapted to the mass production line, thus leading to the lowest cost per piece.
Nevertheless, the mechanical properties render it to be low precision from up-to-date technologies. In the viewpoint of gyroscope performance, IFOG could vary from high-end modules to medium-end ones, depending on the design and its related assembly technologies. With the promotion of Si photonic technologies, photonics integration offers an excellent solution for future gyroscope and related technologies.
The team of Si photonic gyroscope in the Department of Photonics at NSYSU has been funded by MOST for 4 years. Base on Si photonic technology, several industrial partners have been tied within the project, forming a collaboration link. In the past three years, excellent research work and Si photonic IFOG submodule have been attained, including the patents, top international conference and journal paper publication.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, MOST announced that 20 tech startup companies would showcase Taiwan’s Biotech capabilities to the world connect with the global ecosystem, resources and industries in the forum organised by Taiwan Tech Arena (TTA). There are 20 TTA startup teams are selected by industrial experts and focused on global bio-industrial market potential startups.
Taiwan has demonstrated how to democratically tackle the COVID-19 threatening and how to be a truly global partner by utilising technologies. Taiwan’s efforts and commitments have drawn international attention and the relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. has become stronger than ever in the past year. The U.S. is leading the trends of advanced science and technology development and has a vivid startup ecosystem, while Taiwan has renowned semiconductor and ICT industries and long supported technology startups.
By working together, Taiwan can speed up the transition from scientific findings into practical technology applications and create a win-win situation and achieve future possible collaborations in the US. The companies presented disruptive biotech innovations such as vocal implant systems, AI Video-based telemedicine solutions and detection of respiratory function with ultrasound technology.
One of the important steps to prevent infection, wound separation and other complications is monitoring surgical wounds after an operation. However, when the surgical site is deep in the body, monitoring is normally limited to clinical observations or costly radiological investigations that often fail to detect complications before they become life-threatening. Hard bioelectronic sensors can be implanted in the body for continuous monitoring, but may not integrate well with sensitive wound tissue.
To detect wound complications as soon as they happen, a team of researchers from the NUS Electrical and Computer Engineering as well as the NUS Institute for Health Innovation & Technology has invented a smart suture that is battery-free and can wirelessly sense and transmit information from deep surgical sites. These smart sutures incorporate a small electronic sensor that can monitor wound integrity, gastric leakage and tissue micromotions while providing healing outcomes that are equivalent to medical-grade sutures.
Currently, postoperative complications are often not detected until the patient experiences systemic symptoms like pain, fever, or a high heart rate. These smart sutures can be used as an early alert tool to enable doctors to intervene before the complication becomes life-threatening, which can lead to lower rates of re-operation, faster recovery, and improved patient outcomes.
– John Ho, Assistant Professor, NUS
The NUS team’s invention has three key components: a medical-grade silk suture that is coated with a conductive polymer to allow it to respond to wireless signals; a battery-free electronic sensor; and a wireless reader used to operate the suture from outside the body.
One advantage of these smart sutures is that their use involves minimal modification of the standard surgical procedure. During the stitching of the wound, the insulating section of the suture is threaded through the electronic module and secured by applying medical silicone to the electrical contacts.
The entire surgical stitch then functions as a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag and can be read by an external reader, which sends a signal to the smart suture and detects the reflected signal. A change in the frequency of the reflected signal indicates a possible surgical complication at the wound site.
The smart sutures can be read up to a depth of 50 mm, depending on the length of stitches involved, and the depth could potentially be further extended by increasing the conductivity of the suture or the sensitivity of the wireless reader. Similar to existing sutures, clips and staples, the smart sutures may be post-operatively removed by a minimally invasive surgical or endoscopic procedure when the risk of complications has passed.
In experiments, the team showed that wounds closed by the smart sutures and unmodified, medical-grade silk sutures both healed naturally without significant differences, with the former providing the added benefit of wireless sensing.
The team also tested the polymer-coated sutures and found their strength and biotoxicity to the body was indistinguishable from normal sutures, and also ensured that the power levels needed to operate the system were safe for the human body.
In future, the team is looking to develop a portable wireless reader to replace the setup currently used to wirelessly read out the smart sutures, enabling surveillance of complications even outside of clinical settings. This could enable patients to be discharged earlier from the hospital after surgery.
The team is now working with surgeons and medical device manufacturers to adapt the sutures for detecting wound bleeding and leakage after gastrointestinal surgery. They are also looking to increase the operating depth of the sutures, which will enable deeper organs and tissues to be monitored.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, a research team from the NUS’ Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Institute for Health Innovation and System (iHealthtech), as well as clinical collaborators from Singapore General Hospital developed a smart wearable sensor with a platform that combines an electronic chip, and a mobile app has been developed that could assess chronic wounds in real-time.
With resolution 1,000 times greater than a light microscope, electron microscopes are exceptionally good at imaging materials and detailing their properties. But like all technologies, they have some limitations.
To overcome these limitations, scientists have traditionally focused on upgrading hardware, which is costly. But researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are showing that advanced software developments can push their performance further.
Our method is helping improve the resolution of existing instruments so people don’t need to upgrade to new expensive hardware so often.
– Tao Zhou, Aassistant Scientist, Argonne & Lad Author
Argonne researchers have recently uncovered a way to improve the resolution and sensitivity of an electron microscope by using an artificial intelligence (AI) framework uniquely. Their approach, published in npj Computational Materials, enables scientists to get even more detailed information about materials and the microscope itself, which can further expand its uses.
Electrons act like waves when they travel, and electron microscopes exploit this knowledge to create images. Images are formed when a material is exposed to a beam of electron waves. Passing through, these waves interact with the material, and this interaction is captured by a detector and measured. These measurements are used to construct a magnified image.
Along with creating magnified images, electron microscopes also capture information about material properties, such as magnetization and electrostatic potential, which is the energy needed to move a charge against an electric field. This information is stored in a property of the electron wave known as a phase. Phase describes the location or timing of a point within a wave cycle, such as the point where a wave reaches its peak.
When measurements are taken, information about the phase is seemingly lost. As a result, scientists cannot access information about magnetization or electrostatic potential from the images they acquire. Knowing these characteristics is critical to controlling and engineering desired properties in materials for batteries, electronics and other devices. That’s why retrieving phase information is important.
Retrieving phase information is a decades-old problem. It originated in X-ray imaging and is now shared by other fields, including electron microscopy. To resolve this problem, Argonne computational scientists propose leveraging tools built to train deep neural networks, a form of AI.
Neural networks are essentially a series of algorithms designed to mimic the human brain and nervous system. When given a series of inputs and output, these algorithms seek to map out the relationship between the two. But to do this accurately, neural networks have to be trained. That’s where training algorithms come into play.
Using these training algorithms, the research team demonstrated a way to recover phase information. But what makes their approach unique is that it also enables scientists to retrieve essential information about their electron microscope.
Their method also improves the resolution and sensitivity of existing equipment. This means that researchers will be able to recover tiny shifts in phase, and in turn, get information about small changes in magnetization and electrostatic potential, all without requiring costly hardware upgrades.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory has received nearly $3 million in funding for two interdisciplinary projects that will further develop artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology.
The two grants were presented by the DOE’s Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR). They will aid Argonne scientists and collaborators to seek AI and machine learning work in the development of approaches to handle enormous data sets or develop better outcomes where minimal data exists.
By integrating mathematics and scientific principles, they will construct strong and accurate surrogate models. These types of models can greatly reduce the time and cost of working complex simulations, such as those used to forecast the climate or weather.
China has pledged to achieve breakthroughs in core robotic technologies and related high-end products by 2025. China also aims to become an innovation hub for the global robotics industry by 2025, as it works to achieve breakthroughs in robotics components and widen the application of smart machines in more sectors.
The move is part of the nation’s broader push to cope with a greying population and leverage cutting-edge technologies to advance industrial upgrades. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a five-year plan that the operating income of China’s robotics industry is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 20% from 2021 to 2025.
China has been the world’s largest market for industrial robots for eight consecutive years. In 2020, the manufacturing robot density, a metric used to measure a country’s level of automation, reached 246 units per 10,000 people in China, nearly twice the global average
China aims to double its manufacturing robot density by 2025. High-end, advanced robots are expected to be used in more sectors such as the automobile, aerospace, railway transportation, logistics and mining industries. More efforts will also be made to achieve breakthroughs in core robot components, such as speed reducers, servomotors and control panels, which are recognised as the three basic building blocks of sophisticated automated machines.
– Wang Weiming, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology
The goal is that by 2025, the performance and reliability of these homegrown key components can reach the level of advanced foreign products. From 2016 to 2020, China’s robotics industry grew rapidly, with an average annual growth rate of about 15%. In 2020, the operating income of China’s robotics sector exceeded 100 billion yuan ($15.7 billion) for the first time, data from the ministry show.
In the first 11 months of 2021, the cumulative output of industrial robots in China exceeded 330,000 units, marking year-on-year growth of 49%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. As key equipment for modern industries, robots can lead an industry’s digital development and upgrades of intelligent systems. Meanwhile, service robots can also serve as assistants to an ageing population and improve people’s quality of life. Thanks to technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence, service robots can play a bigger role in elderly healthcare.
The International Federation of Robotics predicted that globally industrial robot installations are expected to rebound strongly and grow by 13% year-on-year to 435,000 units in 2021, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, exceeding the record achieved in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven changes in the logistics industry, which includes the acceleration of innovation, automation and digitalisation in the workplace.
According to a paper, the Chinese robot market is one of the largest in the world although the robot density remains far lower than that of many other industrialised nations. Major users include the electrical and electronics sector and the automotive industry, together with growing applications in the burgeoning hospitality and logistics sectors.
China has been utilising robots in various fields, including healthcare with the development of vascular interventional surgical robots. As reported by OpenGov Asia, Chinese researchers from the Beijing Institute of Technology have cooperated with Beijing Tiantan Hospital and other units to research core technology optimisation and special consumables of vascular interventional surgery robots. The surgery robot has become the interventional robot product with the fastest research and development progress in China.
With the support of the project of the National Key R&D Programme of China “Industrialisation Research and Application of Minimally Invasive Vascular Interventional Surgery Robot”, the development of the robot was fully completed. At present, the surgical robot, after further technological upgrades, has taken the lead in entering the clinical trial stage registered by the NMPA (National Medical Products Administration), and 123 clinical trial cases have been completed.
Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), in collaboration with commercial partners have successfully concluded the world’s first cross-border digital trade financing pilot of its kind.
The pilot used IMDA’s TradeTrust framework to facilitate the transfer of electronic records between jurisdictions that have adopted the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR). This harmonises the legal recognition of digital documents such as electronic bills of lading (eBLs) across both jurisdictions and complements the larger global trade movement by the G7 economies on adopting electronic transferable records in international trade.
Cross-border trade finance is largely paper-based and vulnerable to fraud, due to the complex flow of transactions and the multiple number of parties involved. IMDA developed TradeTrust as an interoperable framework that provides proof of authenticity, origin and ownership of digital documents used in trade finance.
This enables trading counterparties and transacting banks to validate documents digitally and securely even when they are on different trade finance platforms, and allows such documents to be exchanged with another party in real-time. This helps mitigate the risk of fraud, reduce costs, and improve trust and efficiency.
The adoption of MLETR into statute law also provides increased legal confidence and commercial predictability to parties in both Singapore and ADGM in the recognition of electronic documents and digitalised transactions. This will pave the way for a more seamless, easier, and faster way to transact digitally.
The commercial partners collaborated closely with IMDA, MAS and FSRA in this pilot, and used IMDA’s TradeTrust to validate, review and transfer ownership of simulated eBLs. In doing so, these partner banks gained insights into potential benefits such as reducing the operational costs of fraud detection and document verification.
The digital economy is the future. Digitalisation and technological disruption, accelerated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, have transformed consumer behaviours and business models considerably and created new opportunities. For example, e-commerce has enabled manufacturers to reach consumers directly.
The rise of platforms and apps with multiple integrated services from transport to finance and telemedicine have changed how services are consumed. Businesses are also increasingly reliant on electronic transactions and digital solutions, from sourcing to invoicing and payments. Secure and seamless cross-border data flows are essential to the growth of the digital economy and to ensure that consumer’s interests are safeguarded.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Singapore and the United Kingdom (UK) have substantially concluded negotiations on the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (UKSDEA). The trade deal – Singapore’s third DEA – is intended to boost digital trade and data flows, such as the promotion of interoperable e-payment systems and the prohibition of local data storage requirements. It will also encourage digital economy participation, through channels such as online consumer protection rules, and e-commerce platform access for small businesses.
The agreement includes binding disciplines on cornerstones of the digital economy, such as data, as well as cooperative elements in a wide range of emerging and innovative areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), fintech and regtech, digital identities and legal technology.
Under the UKSDEA, Singapore and the UK are also pursuing cooperative projects that provide a dynamic framework for bilateral cooperation on forward-looking and emerging issues. Singapore and the UK enjoy strong economic ties, with the UK being Singapore’s largest services trading partner in Europe. In 2019, bilateral services trade exceeded S$22 billion, of which around 70% could have been digitally delivered.
The UK is also Singapore’s second-largest European investor and European investment destination, with over S$100 billion worth of UK investment stock in Singapore, and close to S$60 billion worth of Singapore investment stock in the UK.


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