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Open, Accountable Tech Helps Taiwan's Democracy – OpenGov Asia – OpenGov Asia

When it comes to digital democracy, democracy is the main idea, and digital is just an objective to assist democracy. Around the world, there is the other way of ideas that somehow democracy must give way to the public health measures, to counter disinformation measures. However, technology needs to adapt to the people’s will and the people’s norms, and people’s co-creation and real needs.
In authoritarian uses of technology, the main difficulty would be because of the lack of symmetrical communication. The real-time feedback of what is really going on is hampered. For example, if you can only download, it is more like television. If you can only download but there’s no way to upload, then emerging issues do not tend to get notified in time.
– Audrey Tang, Digital Minister of Taiwan
In Taiwan, the system has been successful in hearing younger people. A lot of the most impactful ideas came from very young people. To shorten the time that a genuinely good idea gets thought by a teenager or young people, and the time that it is understood by the senior people and implemented, is key to moving democracy forward. The younger people, because they are digital natives, they do not think that once every four years is sufficient to upload bandwidth, the latency is too high, they prefer to collaborate on a day-to-day basis.
When the coronavirus began spreading, Taiwan quickly established a mask map system that let people know if they could obtain masks if they went to certain pharmacies. The mask availability map was an idea from the civic technologists, not the government’s idea.
First, they already have a lot of experience building maps of this kind. All sorts of disaster response experiences, including earthquakes, typhoons, gas explosions, occupying of departments, various disasters, were met with this kind of real-time, map-based response by the civic tech people. The second reason is that people are very much willing to participate, because in Taiwan broadband is a human right. So, participating online does not cost any extra connectivity, money, for people.
In Taiwan, when people check-in the public venues, everyone chooses either to scan the QR code and send an SMS to 1922 (Taiwan’s 24-hour communicable disease reporting hotline), which is stored in their telecommunications carrier. But the venue owner learns nothing about their phone number. And the telecom carrier learns nothing about the venue code. de-centralized storage makes sure that nobody’s privacy gets compromised because the telecoms do not know what those digits mean.
There are two main reasons why Taiwan has changed from a very conservative to a democratic society. One is that the public service is really committed to working with the civil society leaders when it comes to gender mainstreaming in the gender equality committee to build the impact assessment, evidence-based projects together. And the civil society leaders always have one more vote than the ministers in the Gender Equality Committee.
The second reason is that the statistics, the dashboard, the gender impact dashboard just keep running. So even after the budgeted project runs its course, the gender impact it created is still being monitored for more than a decade for some projects now. Civil society is not just demonstrating against or protesting against something, it is demonstrating for something, demonstrating something works, and working with the people.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Taiwan encouraged other nations to consider Taiwan’s example of open digital development and privacy safeguards in countering digital authoritarianism and affirming democratic values. To elaborate on the tools Taiwan has used to foster transparency and public trust, the key is to work not only for the people but with the people.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has established a new institution for cutting-edge technology and policy research in solid waste recycling issues, a critical area in achieving carbon neutrality to tackle climate change. The Research Centre for Resources Engineering towards Carbon Neutrality (RCRE) will focus its efforts on four research directions, including policy and society, environmental and economic impact, waste-to-resource technology, as well as recycling and sustainable construction.
In Hong Kong, waste is one of the top three sources of carbon emissions. The HKSAR Government aims to reduce carbon emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Meanwhile, China has also pledged to attain national carbon neutrality by 2060.
RCRE pools top researchers from various disciplines, covering most of the solid waste spectrum, including construction waste, waste asphalt, tyres, glasses, incineration residuals, food waste, textiles, waste management policy, and life cycle environmental cost analysis. They will combine their efforts to support the Government’s carbon neutrality strategy, including minimising the waste required to be disposed of at landfills.
RCRE’s recent research includes using sea-sand and seawater eco-engineered panels to enhance marine biodiversity along Lantau’s coastline, developing biochar-enhanced construction materials, and upcycling waste plastics into sustainable asphalt pavements, to name but a few.
The Centre will also leverage the University’s advanced research platforms in water and waste, transport and highway engineering, road, concrete materials, and bioenergy, as well as PolyU’s joint laboratory on solid waste science with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics.
At the online inauguration ceremony of the new centre, Hong Kong’s Secretary for the Environment noted that technological development plays a pivotal role in achieving carbon neutrality. He noted that the Government supports local universities and private enterprises to develop low-carbon and green technologies. A $200 million Green Tech Fund was set up to provide better and more focused funding support for R&D projects which can help Hong Kong decarbonise and enhance environmental protection, as Hong Kong strives to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050.
At the same time, according to the Waste Blueprint for Hong Kong 2035 with the vision of waste reduction, resources circulation and zero-landfill, the Government will also continue to step up promotion of innovation and technology development, promote the R&D and trial of decarbonisation technologies, and consolidate and strengthen downstream recovery, recycling and waste-to-resource capabilities.
The President of PolyU stated that as a university with a strong emphasis on societal impact, PolyU started researching solid waste management in the early 1990s. PolyU now has the largest research team and facilities among all the universities in Hong Kong focusing on resources engineering towards carbon neutrality and has established a strong track record and recognised reputation in the waste management research community.
RCRE, which is part of the PolyU Academy for Interdisciplinary Research, will fulfil the University’s motto of ‘To learn and to apply, for the benefit of mankind, he added.
The Director of RCRE, Chair Professor of Sustainable Construction Materials and Head of Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering noted that waste reduction and resources circulation are key to driving carbon reduction, and often require complementary policies to facilitate the wide and efficient application of these cutting-edge decarbonisation technologies. RCRE aspires to become a leading global research centre in solid waste recycling issues, promoting Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area as models of resources engineering towards a circular economy.
Fraudsters have been running schemes on government programs essentially since those programs were first created. However, COVID-19 created an environment especially ripe for fraudulent activity. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, government unemployment offices were flooded with both legitimate requests as well as hits from scammers looking to take advantage of the system and the chaos caused by the flood of claims.
Access to new technology like bots and Artificial Intelligence has given criminals, both those acting individually and larger organized crime syndicates, the power to submit fraudulent benefit applications on a tremendous scale.
First, fraudsters either buy stolen IDs, many of which are purchased from the dark web or create synthetic IDs by combining various bits of identity data from different sources. Then, they employ bots to completely inundate government systems and slip in fraudulent applications, which often go unnoticed among the flood of legitimate ones.
As the government attempts to limit criminal activity, many agencies are working to deploy technology solutions that allow them to capture anomalies and detect fraud in programs like UI, Medicare/Medicaid and even the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
With nearly 30% of the fraudulent UI claims in larger states based on stolen Social Security numbers, it’s much more difficult for government agencies to catch anomalies. Implementing an automated identity verification (AIV) system can be a lifesaver for agency IT teams that are understaffed and overworked for several reasons:
A 2020 report commissioned by researchers at the Administrative Conference of the United States found that federal agencies were closing the gap and that 45% of the 142 agencies surveyed were also using AI and/or machine learning to assist in fraud analysis in two key areas:
Data analytics can help supplement IT and financial auditing teams and improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of their post-mortem audits. Analytics make it possible to quickly and efficiently compare the data from disparate systems, more confidently identifying anomalies between them.
As important as fraud detection, prosecution and recovery are, using behavioural analytics to help prevent fraudulent activity by verifying identity before a claim is ever paid out is the real opportunity.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, bipartisan members of the house recently introduced legislation that would require the government to drastically modernise the United States’ digital identity infrastructure. This bill establishes the Improving Digital Identity Task Force to establish a government-wide effort to develop secure methods for governmental agencies to validate identity attributes to protect the privacy and security of individuals and support reliable, interoperable digital identity verification in the public and private sectors.
According to a development guideline of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025), China is striving to establish a modern agricultural science and technology innovation system by 2025.
The CAAS aims to achieve breakthroughs that can help improve grain yield, self-sufficiency of oil-bearing crops such as soybeans, and the utilisation rate of irrigation water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. China also needs self-developed technologies to reduce dependence on importing certain crops, livestock and poultry varieties.
The guideline focuses on major fields such as seeds, cultivated land, agricultural machinery and bio-safety. It calls for boosting the construction of new key laboratories, a grain crop science centre, a molecular design breeding centre, a national crop germplasm resource bank, livestock and poultry bank and an agricultural microorganism bank.
China basically stands on its own feet in agricultural science and technology but lags behind some leading developed countries. China still lacks significant achievements in areas of modern biotechnology, such as genome-wide selection, gene editing and synthetic biology, as well as in emerging information-technology fields, such as the Internet of Things, big data, blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and their application in agriculture.
The CAAS will focus on seeds, cultivated land, agricultural machinery and equipment, and agricultural biosafety and promote the trial of transgenic industrialisation, aiming to support high-quality development with high-quality science and technology.
– Wu Kongming, CAAS President
In addition, the country’s grain-crop yield is at a relatively low level, so it is urgent to advance technical research on increasing yields. Wu called for efforts to build a national agricultural science and technology innovation centre, strengthen original and independent innovation, explore new frontier fields, and achieve world-class scientific discoveries and major breakthroughs in key technologies.
Wu also stressed strengthening international cooperation, including the Belt and Road cooperation, in agricultural science and technology. The CAAS will accelerate international cooperation in disease prevention and control in both animals and plants and biotechnology.
According to Statista around 25% of China´s workforce are in agriculture, but the sector is based largely on small, family-owned farms, and it is in many cases still quite old fashioned. In part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the global food shortage is growing, and China has for years known that there will be a battle of resources in the future to feed the world´s largest nation. One of the answers that are also backed by the national government is using tech to optimise output.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is at the top of the national agenda, however mostly applied in sectors such as finance, healthcare and smart city solutions. A report made it clear that farming was one of the industries left furthest behind in smart technologies, but also one of the areas with the biggest potential to upgrade.
China will improve efforts to create higher yields and higher quality production of major food crop varieties, and self-sufficiency in major livestock and poultry varieties by 2030 by deploying technology, as reported by OpenGov Asia. China released an action plan to promote the national seed industry late last month in Sanya, South China’s Hainan province, where the Nanfan Scientific and Research Breeding Base is located.
The plan lays out the necessary theoretical, scientific and technological developments for the industry to improve seed varieties and grain yields, and ensure the protection of national germplasm resources. Since the beginning of the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), China’s ability to innovate in breeding technology has continued to rise. However, China is still in the process of developing breeding theories and key technologies.
By 2030, the self-sufficiency rate of vegetable varieties, such as broccoli, carrots and spinach, will rise from the current 10% to more than 50%. Moreover, a platform will be built to boost seed industry technology, integrating basic research, technological innovation, variety creation, big data, and industry incubation.
American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) – in partnership with DOC’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA)’s Bureau of Trade (BOFT) – will cooperate through a new Technology Trade and Investment Collaboration (TTIC) Framework that aims to strengthen critical supply chains, including semiconductor supply chains. The Commerce Department’s move is a sign that the Biden Administration may seek to continue to deepen ties with Taiwan as a part of a broader free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.
The Taiwan-U.S. Economic Prosperity Dialogue (EPPD) show how important the Taiwan-U.S. relationship is to US national security and the robust US-Taiwan economic relationship. Both countries discussed collaboration on critical and emerging technology issues and their impact on the existing US-Taiwan economic relationship. Specifically, the two discussed countering foreign economic coercion, strengthening 5G network security, and advancing collaboration across science and technology (S&T) fields.
Taiwan’s role is important in building resilient and safe supply chains, stressing the importance of US-Taiwan ties to ensure they remain safe and secure. In order to do that, some of both the components and products of the supply chain would need to be built on American and other nations’ shores.
– Sandra Oudkirk, Director, AIT
AIT has played a key role in building up Taiwanese direct investment in the United States, including a Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). TSMC plays a unique role within the US-Taiwan relationship as a “technological powerhouse” and a key provider of components for many critical technology industries. Currently, TSMC produces 92% of the world’s advanced chips and is the world’s largest contract chip producer.
TSMC’s critical lines of production include national security-sensitive chips for F-35 fighter jets, high-performance chips for US military suppliers, and other Department of Defense (DoD)-approved military-grade chips, leading to calls from US lawmakers for TSMC to move some of its production capabilities to the US.
Another important potential avenue of cooperation that Taiwan and the United States should pursue is further coordination on the development of 5G open radio access networks (RAN). Open RAN networks provide an alternative method for developing, testing, and deploying advanced 5G telecommunications networks that are not reliant on inputs from Chinese companies (namely Huawei). Taiwan represents an excellent opportunity as an export market for US 5G capabilities and ICT companies that specialise in telecommunications hardware.
Taiwan and the US have worked in conjunction on these issues for several years, including at a GM Taiwan event that promoted integrated 5G solutions between US and Taiwan companies and a 2021 event showcasing US software solutions for Open RAN technology
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Taiwan’s Minister of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and U.S. Secretary of Commerce have announced the establishment of the Technology Trade and Investment Collaboration (TTIC) framework. The TTIC framework aims to bolster bilateral trade, investment, and industrial cooperation while diversifying critical supply chains. The TTIC talks were conducted by senior officials and are a remarkable indicator of the economic and trade development between Taiwan and the U.S
TTIC also focuses on promoting a two-way investment environment, studying industry trends, and exploring new opportunities and investments in the US market. The two sides are to designate representatives at the bureau level to plan and convene the first meeting of the TTIC in the coming months, the statement said, while providing few other details about the framework’s functions.
The Taiwan-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement talks are likely to be positive for US interests centred around technology supply chains, while mildly disappointing for Taiwan which is looking for greater market access, according to analysts. Talks on the trade and investment framework will take place against the backdrop of a global semiconductor shortage that has challenged signature American consumer electronics firms.
Singapore has embraced technology as a crucial engine of the nation, where digitalisation is a key pillar of its public service transformation efforts. It leverages data and harnesses new technologies to continuously better citizen services as part of broader efforts to build a digital economy and digital society. Against this backdrop, digital technologies and solutions need to be made secure to ensure there’s no disruption to citizen services and to make sure citizen data entrusted to the government is protected.
Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia, acknowledges the work culture is shifting significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Remote working or hybrid working has become the new default and will likely stay this way for the foreseeable future.
In the early stages of the pandemic, government agencies and corporations understandably used Band-Aid measures—ad hoc technology and make-shift solutions—to stay afloat and ensure continuity. Considering the suddenness, sheer scale, and severity of the situation, many of these provisions can’t be seen as genuine digital transformation.
This raises two fundamental questions: what will modernising the delivery of citizen services look like in 2022 and beyond? And how can governments improve security and infrastructure to deliver seamless citizen-centric digital services?
OpenGov Asia had the opportunity to speak exclusively with Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds, to talk about transforming digital services in the public sector and how SolarWinds can help governments in their digital transformation journey.
Sascha has more than 10 years of technical IT experience, four of which have been as a senior pre-sales engineer at SolarWinds. As a senior pre-sales engineer, Sascha was responsible for product training for SolarWinds channel partners and customers.
Culture Shift to Remote Work
Sascha started by exploring the big question about the direction of the workforce and its evolution. In his role, he works with IT professionals in different countries and contexts and has gained a wider and richer understanding of the remote working shift. Most people, he feels, don’t want to go back to the days of fully working from the office after experiencing the benefits of remote work during the pandemic.
Another phenomenon is the “Great Resignation,” which is the ongoing trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs. According to The Great Resignation Update, three main reasons why employees quit are burnout, inflexible jobs, and leaving for a more caring culture providing organisational support for employee well-being.
To solve this problem, many companies have adopted hybrid work, which allows employees to alternately work from the office and their home. As the whole workforce shifts, however, it’s particularly difficult for IT teams, as organisations generally weren’t prepared for this massive transition. In the best of times, IT usually takes a long time to deploy or accommodate any change, upgrade, or platform. The pandemic demanded instant change, so mistakes were bound to happen.
The fact is, even now, this is an evolving situation. With new strains and seasons come new measures and needs. This lack of certainty and clarity means no one fully knows what the work model is going to be. Regardless, Sascha firmly believes the future of work is hybrid—a fluid mix of remote and in-office working. Whatever the case, he’s confident IT teams can manage the situation.
Helping the Public Sector Undergo Real Digital Transformation
Mohit believes 2022 is the year where genuine, long-term digital transformation will happen in the public sector. In this constantly evolving digital landscape and VUCA environment, how can governments simultaneously deliver digital services quickly and keep them safe? And how does SolarWinds help the public sector in attaining a secure digital transformation?
Sascha explained most organisations, both public and private, want to increase their presence with more services and better access. Hence, they’re always exploring ways to provide more digital offerings across any platform and device—anytime, anywhere. For this to happen, he says, the public sector must leverage technology across the entire gamut of services, from birth, education, and living to taxes, business, registrations, and more. Technology is no longer an enabler but a disruptor of business models. It can improve lives in a way previously unimaginable.
Singapore is an excellent example of an advanced country when it comes to delivering digital services, in Sascha’s opinion. Through Government Technology (GovTech), it harnesses the best info-communications technologies to make a difference in the everyday lives of Singaporeans. The nation also regularly involves citizens in participating and co-creating technologies with the government, determining the services they wish to have.
An important and indistinguishable aspect of digital services is security, especially for citizen data in the public sector. Citizen data is extremely valuable and needs to be simultaneously secure and available. Maintaining the balance between the two aspects is especially challenging.
To store and secure citizen data, many organisations adopt a cloud strategy. Due to different regulations and compliance requirements in every country, however, organisations can’t put everything in the cloud.
One of the customers SolarWinds supports is a national health organisation linked to a European Ministry of Health, and SolarWinds has helped them improve the delivery of public health services. The customer initially started with basic server monitoring nearly eight years ago and has subsequently moved on to the management of applications and databases. As the organisation continued to grow, the support SolarWinds offered expanded to supporting the network team, where it monitored connectivity between regional branch offices and its headquarters.
In line with the wider government’s direction to create a “cloud-first” initiative, this organisation is shifting resources to a private cloud and uses SolarWinds tools to forecast the impact of data transfer from various locations. This includes placing parts of the monitoring system in the cloud.
In terms of data management, the organisation moved all sensitive data to a private cloud with limited access. It uses the public cloud for the rest of its data, as the public cloud has limitless resources and numerous technologies a private cloud doesn’t offer.
Maintaining Cyber Resilience Amid Perpetual Ransomware Attacks
As cyberattacks continue to happen, maintaining cyber resilience is a critical part of the modernisation of digital services in the public sector. Without a doubt, the most common of these is ransomware. Bad cyber actors are getting more ruthless as they target critical infrastructures, including public health systems and water cleaning facilities. Such attacks suggest human lives don’t matter anymore—they’ll do whatever it takes, even if the attacks cause real danger to people.
Sascha believes mitigating ransomware attacks is a big step towards better security and elaborated on two ways to diminish the damage. As soon as there’s an indication of suspicious activities, the first step is to shut down the machines before any further degradation or infection can occur, preventing the worst. The second line of defence is backups. These backups must also be regularly tested and updated to ensure their efficacy.
Due to the huge amount of data governments have, the backup process is much more complicated. Moreover, data is likely to be highly distributed because branches of local authorities have different sets of data. Additionally, the level of expertise of the IT teams in each agency might vary significantly. Therefore, governments need to find a baseline for security measures.
Mohit points out there’s no such thing as 100% safe from ransomware attacks, so the pertinent question is “how do agencies measure their level of security, and how can they be reasonably safe from such attacks?”
Nearly every industry was confronted with the rise of high-level cybersecurity breaches, highlighting the potential risk of incomplete security policies and procedures. SolarWinds makes a yearly IT Trends Report and polls thousands of IT executives about certain topics—this year’s topic is about security, reveals Sascha.
The findings of the IT Trends 2021 Building a Secure Future uncover a reality in which exposure to enterprise IT risk is common across organisations, but perceptions of apathy and complacency surrounding risk preparedness are high as businesses exit a year of pandemic-driven “crisis mode.”
The findings are based on a survey fielded in March/April 2021, yielding responses from 967 technology practitioners, managers, and directors from public and private sector small, mid-size and enterprise organisations worldwide. Most IT leaders feel their organisations are prepared to manage and mitigate cyberattacks. For Sascha, when people feel secure, they lower their shields and become complacent.
To measure the effectiveness of security protocols, certain tools can be used to check for network security threats, including penetration testing tools and vulnerability checkers. Sascha offers an interesting and progressive idea for security measurement: organisations should hire a group of hackers on the dark web to hack them so they know the vulnerabilities in their systems.
Another thing organisations can do is rely on proper tools for basic mitigation. Sascha believes organisations need to adopt a zero-trust model, which is a security framework requiring all users—whether they’re inside or outside the organisation’s network—to be authenticated, authorised, and continuously validated for security configuration and posture before being granted or keeping access to applications and data.
Rooted in the principle of “never trust, always verify,” organisations must assume they’ve already been breached. Instead of providing permanent access, organisations should provide temporary access for project-based work, external employees, or contractors to minimise the risk of a breach.
Mohit agrees zero trust is the future. The problem is there’s a lot push back from team members, as it complicates their tasks. The question then becomes “how do you implement this unpopular yet crucial methodology?”
In response to this question, Sascha reflected on the December 2020 SUNBURST cyberattack on the SolarWinds software build environment, which illustrates a concerning new reality for the software industry and illuminates the increasingly sophisticated threats made by outside nation-states to the supply chains and infrastructure on which we all rely. The breach was a wake-up call for the software development community, and one of the biggest learnings is security requires constant vigilance and learning and must be part of the mindset of every security team member.
Early on, SolarWinds recognised it was likely a target because of its position as a market leader in monitoring and because it serves a plethora of companies – private, public, small, and large – worldwide. It’s a gateway of sorts, making it a highly valuable target. And while the company believed its prior security practices were representative of the practices within the larger software industry, armed with what they learned from this attack, they further sought to secure their environment and systems against vulnerabilities through its Secure by Design initiative. This includes, among other things, adopting zero-trust and least privilege access mechanisms, addressing risks associated with third-party applications, and, most recently, implementing a triple-build process that aims to set the new standard in secure software development.
From the beginning, SolarWinds has been open in its communication with its customers. The company published its findings from the cyberattack weekly, has worked with various agencies to offer information and remains committed to sharing its learnings broadly given the common development practices in the industry and their belief that transparency and cooperation are the best tools to help prevent and protect against future attacks.
Sascha’s main advice to the public sector is to manage their supply chain, as many organisations don’t even know who has access to their resources. Although organisations might have perfect control of their own environment, they usually don’t know what happens with external parties.
Building Citizens’ Trust in Government Services
When talking about trust in government services, Sascha recognises there’s still a generation not used to the digital world—mobile phones, the internet, online transactions, etc. Governments can’t instantly become fully digital, as there are still those who won’t or can’t cope with these changes. The more they’re pressured, the more they’ll resist giving their personal data to governments, creating a further lack of trust from this community.
Governments need to explain to the public why they’re going digital and how it benefits citizens—all citizens. The public needs to be involved from the beginning, and they need to understand why these changes are necessary to make each citizen’s life better and easier.
Sascha spoke about a SolarWinds product designed to solve a problem for which solutions are still lacking in the market. Many technologies are available to monitor data in the data centre and the cloud separately. However, many organisations don’t monitor the connectivity between on-premises environments and the cloud. When something isn’t working, organisations have to start troubleshooting and figure out what went wrong.
SolarWinds NetPath, a network path analysis feature included in SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager, and SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, warns IT professionals where a problem is located. NetPath measures the performance characteristics of each network node and link, making it easy to spot slowdowns. It monitors connectivity from the users to the services and determines what infrastructure is in the path and where traffic slowdowns are occurring. It provides additional infrastructure data only when it appears to be related to a real problem.
With NetPath, organisations can isolate network slowdowns and determine the actual person they need to contact to solve them. This tool fills the gap in the market, as Sascha points out. At the end of the day, troubleshooting is a game of responsibility.
In closing, Sascha emphasises SolarWinds has done a lot to offer excellent digital products and put various security measures in place at the same time. SolarWinds establishes trust by putting significant investment into providing excellent and secure services.
The Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) on Information and Communications Co-operation between the Government of the Republic of Singapore and the Government of Malaysia had a strong digital theme. Both countries discussed digital transformation efforts and explored areas where bilateral digital cooperation could advance post-pandemic recovery.
Both parties discussed issues relating to enabling trusted data flows between the two countries, and to better connecting the respective innovation and technology ecosystems to support businesses and start-ups. In addition, both are committed to implementing projects to demonstrate the benefits of cooperation in this rapidly developing digital domain to support the recovery of our respective economies.
In addition, the JCM also discussed how media production, distribution and consumption are being disrupted by technologies and online platforms, including growing volumes of information and the rapid spread of falsehoods.
The JCM is a platform of increasing importance, to deepen the bilateral cooperation between Singapore and Malaysia. The pandemic has driven many companies to digitally transform and seize new opportunities. Through the JCM, we have initiated meaningful digital cooperation projects to increase the adoption and interoperability of digital technologies in both countries. Our collaboration will serve as a springboard to enhance connectivity between our businesses and people and to support our recovery from the pandemic.
– Yong Ying-I, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore
Malaysia continues to embrace digital technology and develop unique technologies and business models to assist the country in establishing new development engines. With the growth of the digital economy, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and ever-evolving technology, Malaysia looks forward to exploring potential collaboration in this sector in the future. Malaysia is stepping up efforts to assist Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) and business owners in adopting digital technology, and will continue to advance plans to establish an inclusive and progressive digital economy for all.
Malaysia has a sustainable and solid economic foundation, comprehensive business-ready environment and dynamic skilled workforce. As an attractive cost-competitive investment location in the region, she is fast becoming a preferred centre for shared services and leading technology industries. Singaporean companies who are looking to expand into Malaysia should pay attention to the launch of the Future 5 Strategy, and evaluate how their businesses can fit into this plan in order to anchor a foothold into the market.
The five industry sectors that have been identified as key drivers are AgTech, HealthTech, Islamic Digital Economy and FinTech, CleanTech and EduTech. These industries are based on the strategic national industries for digitalisation and have also been mapped to Malaysia’s national priority sectors.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Singapore and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have also launched negotiations on a new Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA) last year. The agreement seeks to deepen bilateral cooperation in new emerging digital areas, such as in personal data protection and cross-border data flows, digital identities, fintech, as well as Artificial Intelligence (AI) governance frameworks. It also aims to support and foster greater collaboration between both countries’ SME communities in the digital economy.
Recently, Singapore and ROK have concluded negotiations on the Korea-Singapore Digital Partnership Agreement (KSDPA). The KSDPA will be Singapore’s fourth Digital Economy Agreement (DEA), and the first with an Asian country. The agreement will deepen bilateral cooperation in the digital economy between both countries, by establishing forward-looking digital trade rules and norms to promote interoperability between digital systems. This will enable more seamless cross-border data flows and build a trusted and secure digital environment for our businesses and consumers.
The KSDPA is part of a series of DEAs that Singapore has embarked upon. These agreements are an inter-agency effort led by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Communications and Information, and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, to advance collaboration in the digital economy and enhance digital connectivity.
With the Omicron variant making its way into the local community, the HKSAR Government announced tightening COVID-19 measures to contain the epidemic. The public should stay vigilant to maintain good personal hygiene at all times to strengthen individual defence against the pandemic.
At present, some public facilities such as doorknobs in public toilets and lift buttons have poor cleanliness and can become breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria, thus posing a threat to public health.
An interdisciplinary research team from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has successfully developed the world’s first “anti-virus 3D printing material” (material) that can kill the COVID-19 virus on surfaces as well as most common viruses and bacteria. The main component of the material is resin, added with anti-viral agents such as cationic compounds, to damage the membrane of the virus and destroy its structure to kill the virus and bacteria.
Dr Kwan Yu Chris LO, Associate Professor of PolyU’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing, who led the research team, said that laboratory tests confirmed the material can kill 70% of the COVID-19 virus and other viruses/bacteria surviving on a surface within two minutes; eliminate over 90% of viruses within 10 minutes, and terminate almost all viruses and bacteria on a surface in 20 minutes.
Dr Lo stated that this material is a resin material with high anti-virus performance. Using 3D printing technology, it can be produced in different forms catering to different needs. It is therefore highly flexible and can be used extensively in public facilities to provide epidemic prevention support to the community.
The team has already applied patent of this technology and application and will use it for commercial purposes in future.
In the past year, with the support of the laboratory of PolyU’s University Research Facility in 3D Printing (U3DP), the research team has collaborated with the Home Affairs Department, the Hong Kong Wetland Park and an environmental organisation to produce recycling bin handles, toilet doorknob covers, lift buttons, braille boards and more, in order to conduct further tests and trials of the effectiveness and durability of the material in killing viruses.
Prof. Chi-wai KAN, a member of the research team and Professor of PolyU’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing stated that even after use for a year, not only is the handle on the recycling bin still in good condition, no COVID-19 virus, Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus are detected on the handle’s surface.
He noted that this proves that the efficacy rate of the material only diminishes gradually after three years of use, and is effective in fighting against viruses and bacteria. Since the material kills viruses via physical means, it can still exert the same effect on mutant viruses.”
Prof. Kan added that because the disinfection components of the material are embedded in the products rather than coated on the surface, daily cleaning with disinfectants such as bleach does not compromise its anti-virus performance.
The research team will also collaborate with the Sham Shui Po District Office to produce doorknob protective covers for over 100 unmanaged “Three-Nil” buildings in the district and install these covers on doors frequently used by residents, so as to reduce the risk of virus transmission in buildings.
The team hopes to apply the material to primary and secondary schools, healthcare facilities, and public transportation systems.

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