Recently, extra concerns have been raised regarding child safety after the alleged abuse and neglect reporting incidents at a children’s caring home, demanding better monitoring and enforcement of the law. Meanwhile, the Omicron outbreak has also placed a heavy burden on public health care and isolation facilities, where a surge of infection cases has been recorded.
Thus, video monitoring appears to be an alternative, helping to ease the shortage of healthcare staff at both clinical and elderly facilities during the pandemic situation. Nevertheless, security and privacy remain some of the concerns of video monitoring that have to be resolved. In light of this, the Data Science Lab at the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science (SAAS), The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has developed several real-time video analytics apps using the first Hong Kong-made edge computing AI chip donated by an HK-based technology company, making them able to detect human body movements (e.g., walking, falling, leaving the room, etc.) and facial expressions (e.g., crying, yelling, etc.).
Applying the techniques of bounding box detection, object detection, and motion classification, the team built the apps with “ResNet-32”, a Deep Learning Neural Network specified in image recognition, and “Flasks”, the framework of programming language Python, for video analysis, and used over 5,000 images on average collected from the Internet to train each model.
Densifying the data centre network, the edge computing AI chip allows faster computing, better data security, and efficient control over the continuous operation – it is ten times faster than the market edge-based AI chip in terms of computation power.
Since the video analysis are done in the AI chip itself, it does not require running the apps in a cloud computing platform, thus overcoming the security and privacy concerns of video transmission on the Internet. In addition, the AI chip can be implemented in any device such as robotic pet, surveillance camera, etc. It can be used in homecare/childcare/elderly care centres, offices, shopping malls, or hotels for risk detection and personal care monitoring.
In the case of child abuse at children’s caring homes, the video analytics apps can be deployed for childcare monitoring. Also, the apps can assist nurses in monitoring patient risks in isolation wards, alerting them if patients leave the ward, asking for help or deliberately self-extubate their endotracheal tubes, and helping elderly homes to detect elderly care risks such as falling and yelling for help, etc.
The CEO of the tech company that donated the chip is the first edge computing AI chip developed by the firm in Hong Kong. He thanked the Data Science Lab for deploying the newly invented AI chip with their real-time novel video analytics apps that overcome the security and privacy concerns on video analytics and surveillance.
Other than security and safety monitoring, the AI chip can also be used in the processing and analysing big data in finance and medicine, for investment and disease diagnosis decision-making, virtual reality, robot automation, smart home, physical and cognitive training, drug and gene discover.
The Deputy Director of the HKU SAAS Data Science Lab stated that the Lab is currently researching a novel parallel and distributed AI algorithm and is planning to deploy it in an environment of clustered edge computing AI chips. In this way, real-time big data analytics with supercomputing power can be done and is a breakthrough in AI development.
About HKU SAAS Data Science Lab
The project team of the Data Science Lab at HKU comprises Head of Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science (SAAS) Professor Guosheng YIN, Director of the SAAS Data Science Lab Dr Eddy LAM, Deputy Director Dr Adela LAU, as well as undergraduate and taught postgraduate students in the Department.
Singapore’s Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations, S. Iswaran and Secretary of State Anne-Marie Trevelyan signed the UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA). The DEA is the most innovative trade agreement ever signed, and the first by a European nation. It will strengthen our trading relationship with Singapore – worth £16 billion in 2020 – by ending outdated rules that affect both goods and services exporters, making it easier for UK businesses to target new opportunities in both Singapore and the wider region.
The deal links two of the world’s most dynamic hi-tech and services hubs and will capitalise on the UK’s strength as the world’s second-largest services exporter. A third of our exports to Singapore are already digitally delivered, including in finance, advertising and engineering, and this deal will create new opportunities to expand modern services and help level up the country.
The digital sector alone adds £151 billion to the economy and lifts wages, with workers earning around 50% more than the UK average. UK services companies already operating in Singapore are well placed to take advantage of the deal, including financial giants, telecoms firms or software companies. The deal will also cut red tape for goods exporters, streamlining cumbersome border processes and replacing time-consuming and costly paperwork with e-signatures and e-contracts.
Singapore is a gateway to the wider Indo-Pacific region and the DEA will support our bid to join Singapore and 10 other nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Membership would mean access to an £8.4 trillion free trade area with vast opportunities for UK business.
In addition to signing the Digital Economy Agreement, the UK and Singapore also agreed to revitalise the existing FinTech Bridge, a move that will support innovative financial services and strengthen cooperation on emerging technologies.
An enhanced FinTech bridge will help provide extra support for the UK and Singaporean firms and investors to expand into each other’s markets, so both countries can capitalise on opportunities in our advanced FinTech sectors.
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.
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.
The state government of Haryana has proposed setting up an institute of emerging technologies to foster professional training in artificial intelligence (AI), additive manufacturing, big-data analysis, and cryptography. The institute aims to help students master the latest technologies, enabling them to solve some of society’s most pressing issues. Earlier this month, the government held a meeting with consultancy companies in the Gurgaon district to discuss the idea and structure of the institute and asked the companies to submit their concept papers for the institute by the end of March.
At the meeting, officials reportedly decided that the institute would not focus on providing a degree or diploma but on producing professionals who would help solve societal problems. Apart from researching and developing cutting-edge technologies, the institute will build strong connections with industries. According to an official, the state is in need of highly-skilled, qualified tech professionals who can tap into the potential of technologies that are emerging across the world. The institute aims to bridge that gap. To compete with the advanced economies in knowledge and technology, a modern, autonomous institute must be established with the help of national and international institutes of repute.
Officials, including representatives from the Technical Education Department, the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), and the Deputy Commissioner of Gurgaon, discussed the infrastructural requirements of the institute both physical and digital. An official explained that it would be a greenfield project on unused land, and the government wants to develop it as one of the best technical institutes in the world. After receiving the concept papers from the companies, the department will study and prepare a summary report that will be shared with all stakeholders before further action is taken in this regard, the official noted.
The country has been pushing educational initiatives in technology, aiming to meet the rising demand for IT experts. In fact, according to reports, for the past year, India has been experiencing an unprecedented increase in the number of blockchain-related courses, as the demand rises for blockchain-educated professionals in the country. Several major institutes in India have already jumped on the bandwagon and introduced courses in blockchain technology. There’s a need for blockchain analysts, architects, remote trainers, and other professionals with ‘blockchain’ in their job descriptions.
Last month, the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) Pravartak Technologies Foundation announced it would educate students at government schools in rural areas of Tamil Nadu in computer science. OpenGov Asia had reported that IIT-Madras partnered with an educational provider to set up two Rural Technology Centres with plans to establish more centres this year.
After assessing the students, the centres will teach basic digital literacy and the basics of programming. The IIT-Madras Pravartak Technologies Foundation will provide the project with financial and technical support. Students from government schools in Classes 9 to 12 will learn about advanced technologies like drones, 3D printing, robotics, AI, animation, webpage design, and hardware-based programming. According to IIT-Madras, some of the objectives of the project are to encourage the use of new technology, allow children to experience new technologies under the guidance of teachers, and develop students’ computational thinking. It aims to foster design thinking skills and provide students with a chance to express their creativity through interesting projects. Overall, the target is to spread the knowledge of technology and its benefits to rural areas.
Wanting to meet rising demand, Taiwan is racing to set up specialised “chip schools” that run all year round to train its next generation of semiconductor engineers. Such a timely move should cement its dominance of the industry.
The plans to come up with quality talent in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry was championed by President Tsai Ing-wen. Last year, under the country president’s initiative, the public and the private sector invested US$ 300 million to kickstart graduate school programs aimed at the semiconductor industry. This time around the private sector is infusing far more capital to ensure the lifeblood of the industry.
Amid a global shortage, semiconductor companies plough billions of dollars into capacity expansion to make the “brains” that power everything from smartphones to fighter jets. The demand for quality ICT talent is never as pronounced as Taiwan’s biggest chip manufacturer. The chip giant alone will spend up to US$ 44 billion this year while looking to hire more than 8,000 employees.
Chip companies need a lot more and better talent to compete on the global stage. Indeed, I’m devoting some of my golden years to talent development.
– Jack Sun, Dean, Taiwan Semiconductor Graduate School
Seeing the country’s need to step up, industry stalwarts are putting their attention into talent development. Jack Sun used to be the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Taiwan’s largest chip manufacturer. Now, along with a host of colleagues, he devotes his time developing the next generation of semiconductor engineers.
Sun and other industry heavyweights turned educators embody the government’s strategy of strengthening industry-academia ties to remain a critical node in the global chip supply chain. Indeed, a concerted effort is needed as the country is racing against time when it comes to the chip industry’s need for talent. Tsai pointed this out in December at the unveiling of National Tsing Hua University’s College of Semiconductor Research.
Taiwan’s government has partnered with leading chip companies to pay for these schools. The first four were established at top universities last year. To meet rising demands, each university is handed a quota of churning out about 100 master and PhD students. Other schools have been added to this list.
Moreover, Tsai has asked these semiconductor schools to stay open year-round. That means these schools have to work double-time, plough through winter and summer to ensure talent is ready in time.
The President of an industry group confirmed this saying that even before the global chip shortage, companies worried a talent crunch could hobble the booming industry. He, together with other chip executives, has been urging the government to act since 2019.
But Taiwan is facing an uphill climb. To date, Taiwan has one of the world’s lowest birth rates. Although demand for workers has soared, the island nation has been producing fewer engineers over the past decade. Even fewer are enrolling in the doctoral programmes that best prepare engineers to develop breakthrough technologies. With limited local prospects, other semiconductor firms in Taiwan are looking elsewhere and expanding their search for talent overseas.
If it plays its cards right, Taiwan should be able to maintain its global dominance in the chip industry. The country’s ability to pivot and turn itself into a digital powerhouse has been noteworthy in its commitment to move its economy forward. Lately, it has started regulating its cryptocurrency industry — long observed at an arm’s length.
As OpenGov Asia reported, Taiwan has installed an AI HUB that should put the country at the forefront of Artificial Technology in the region and in the world.
The Philippines is partnering with Israel to further boost the country’s dairy sector. In a signing ceremony held recently, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar and Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss signed a joint declaration that would jumpstart technical and economic partnerships between Filipino stakeholders and Israeli agri-food industry players.
We aim to introduce smart and precision agriculture while using Israeli technology that’s adjusted to local conditions to address the local challenges. Signing the joint declaration is a strong signal that MASHAV, Israel’s agency for development cooperation, will be happy to support the Philippines through technical assistance and capacity-building programs, especially in the dairy industry.
– Ilan Fluss, Israel Ambassador to the Philippines
In its proposed 2020-2025 Dairy Road Map, Manila is seeking to increase the country’s dairy input to provide milk locally, specifically to Filipino children. That should address the pervasive malnutrition and poverty in the country.
Dar disclosed how much Israel is a model to the country in terms of smart dairy farming. Thus, the Philippine government is eager to learn from Israel’s best dairy practices, in the desire to know more about the technologies.
As a matter of fact, Israel has gone a long way in smart agriculture. Today, its cows have been acclaimed as the highest milk production in the world. In 2018, the average milk yield per Israeli cow was 12,010 kg — a lot higher than global standards. What makes it all the more challenging is Israel as a country does not offer the best conditions to raise a farm, much more to maximise dairy output. As a Middle East country, it harbours unfavourable conditions that include extreme heat and humidity, not to mention the country’s lack of resources.
Israel’s accomplishment today is a product of decades of hard work. While careful breeding plays a central role in its growth, intelligent farm management, and advanced technologies have all contributed to making the Israeli dairy industry the best in the world.
In the 1950s, Israeli’s milk production was at about 4,000 kg of milk annually. Today, Israeli dairy farms produce over 12,000 kg in a year. What makes it a great undertaking is the number of farms in the country has actually fallen (from about 1,100 to 774), but the annual production per farm has risen. To date, dairy production is just one of the many industries that have been drastically affected by the infusion of Information and Technology (ICT). Indeed, technology has transformed dairy farms into smart farms, giving the dairy sector a boost.
The application of the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been integral to the success of smart farming. Top of the line is Israel’s model. Dr Luis Tedeschi of Texas A & M University, a leading smart farming expert, expounded that the integration between precision farming and computer modelling yields maximum profitability for a dairy farm. This is done by optimising individual dairy cows’ performance to the point that animal welfare and productivity are embedded into decision-making support systems.
Certainly, the future looks bright for the dairy sector of the Philippines with Israel’s timely aid. Smart farming calibrated to the country’s weather conditions and terroir should deliver the quality dairy output the country needs over time.
The advent of digital technology has expanded the way services are delivered to people all over the world. And the digital transformation of the Philippines should boost its economy dramatically. Mindful of that, the FinTech leaders of the country have recently asked upcoming leaders to commit to technology and innovation in light of the coming national elections this May.
In the meantime, the Philippines is slowly pivoting its economy to play a role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Already, the nation is attracting investment in ICT by setting the CREATE law into motion, as reported on OpenGov Asia.
The University of Queensland has been selected as one of the first launch institutions in the world to partner with a US pharmaceutical and biotechnology company to research and develop vaccines to tackle the world’s greatest global public health threats.
The partnership, brokered by two of the University’s leading researchers Professor Mark Walker and Professor Paul Young, will allow UQ scientists access to Moderna’s mRNA platform to develop mRNA vaccines for neglected and emerging viruses.
Professor Young stated that the partnership is a coup for UQ with advances in vaccine delivery potentially saving thousands of lives in developing countries. It is also recognised that UQ is a centre of excellence in vaccine research and discovery. It was noted that there were at least 10 disease research projects underway at UQ that could benefit immediately from the mRNA Access partnership.
The biotech company will set up a portal where researchers in this collaborative agreement will have access to their mRNA technology to target these identified pathogens, he said. The partnership will focus on diseases that have the potential to emerge as a future pandemic and diseases that are already a problem in low- and middle-income countries, like dengue, malaria, tuberculosis and zika virus.
Professor Walker said it was a crucial collaboration. He noted that what they will be getting from them is a “full package – we would provide the sequence; they would provide back to us a formulated vaccine that we would put into pre-clinical studies,” he said. UQ brings disease-specific expertise to be able to design and test vaccines and demonstrate efficacy – those are the things that UQ does very well.”
Professor Walker said the partnership would speed up the production of new vaccines. This is rapid turnaround technology and the identification of a new vaccine to clinical use stage could happen in as little as 100 days, he noted. There is no doubt that the production of vaccines to target these diseases will be delivered more quickly by this collaboration.
Professor Young said the partnership could also result in commercial opportunities. Several UQ researchers have already been exploring mRNA vaccine delivery and it’s quite a challenging pathway to get right, so having this partnership is going to make a significant change to the way we can progress these studies forward, he said.
For example, if the mRNA technology can be successfully applied to generate an effective dengue vaccine, something that has been a goal for many decades, then not only will we be addressing a long-term global disease threat but also helping to support our local biotechnology industry. Professor Walker added that there could also be applications for bacterial diseases which are resistant to antibiotics.
While much of the recent narrative has been around viral and pandemic vaccines, targeting anti-microbial resistant bacterial diseases is another important goal of this partnership. Researchers are starting to think about trying to resolve this growing global threat via vaccines instead of antibiotics.
The Global mRNA Vaccines and Therapeutics Market is forecast to grow. The market growth is essentially attributed to the rising prevalence of infectious and chronic diseases, including HIV, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
Additionally, the inability of the traditional vaccine approaches to perform at a critical time boosts the market growth. Further, technological advancements support the growth of the market as mRNA vaccines and therapeutics are developed with the help of advanced technologies so that these vaccines are highly effective in crucial times.
COVID -19 has been the biggest game-changer in our generation and has driven organisations to focus on leveraging technology to recover and thrive in the new normal. Security teams are accustomed to anticipating and responding to the unexpected.
With the onset of the pandemic, cybersecurity concerns increased around the world with many organisations exposing themselves to a greater number of attack vectors given the global move to prioritise remote working.
Organisations worldwide had to immediately contend with an increase in risk and needed to pivot quickly to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to cyberattackers capitalising on the pandemic. What’s more, the cyber breaches were also the result of a rise in state-sponsored cyberattacks, rather than stand-alone bad actors.
With lockdowns across the world, organisations experienced difficulties with online connectivity and communicating with their employees, suppliers and customers, in addition to issues with rising security risks – both physical and cyber.
In a matter of days, organisations had to respond to dramatic changes. Adapting to new remote working demands with creaking connectivity issues, they had to brave it all. What did not change, however, were customer expectations. With everyone moving online, the demand for scalable, optimised, secured and unified digital services have grown exponentially. Customers expect a seamless and secured digital experience, every time.
The rise of cybercrime has highlighted the fact that cyber and physical security measures can no longer be treated as separate conversations. Physical security professionals must partner with their counterparts in IT to understand the true limits of the security perimeter and mitigate against risk.
This requires solidifying a resilient cyber-physical security framework, to ensure trusted devices are integrated with the network and subsequently configured, updated and managed throughout their operational life.
The realities of COVID-19 and the subsequent shift to work at home, have emphasised the value of technology that can provide greater insight and control. As a result, video analytics, access control and identity management are all identified as strategic technologies for 2022 and beyond.
Modern organisations use a range of smart physical security solutions to keep their people and assets safe – but it’s important that they also acknowledge that these security tools can be an entry point for threat actors to gain access to corporate networks.
This was the focus of an exclusive OpenGovLive! Virtual Insight Session that aimed at imparting knowledge on how to deploy your security systems to do more than safeguard people, assets and data. The session discussed and deliberated on how an integrated security framework could provide the foundation to meet organisational needs today and evolve as the business changes.
Staying Ahead in a VUCA World
To kickstart the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia delivered the opening address.
Mohit began by saying that in this hyperconnected world today, one of the most important things is security, both physical and cyber. Everything is moving at an unprecedented level in this rapidly evolving world. Organisations are trying to protect themselves from every angle. Pre-pandemic, Australia has a lot of challenges when it comes to natural disasters, but they were isolated incidents. People may have read about it but few were directly impacted.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted many things, indeed almost everything, because it has affected everyone. Currently, this means, about 70% of the workforce want to continue working from home. As people’s habits are changing, the requirements of cyber and physical security are also changing drastically. On a global basis, the massive challenges are cloud technology and the security landscape.
Mohit emphasises that whatever tech is available on the platform, is also available to everybody else that is trying to get into the platform.
Regardless of how massive the security threat is, Mohit firmly believes that if organisations keep a huge distance between the last wall and their core information, organisations can keep themselves secure. The question is: how to build trust so that everybody in the team feels secure.
In this scenario, partnership with experts that know what they are doing is vital. They can help build or maintain the platform quickly, efficiently and, for the most part, get it right the first time. Having competent experts who can focus on keeping organisations safe and secure, allows organisation employees to focus on their main tasks and key deliverables.
The Three Trends: Cybersecurity, Unification, Cloud
Léon Langlais, Chief Product Officer, Genetec APAC, was the next speaker who talked about solutions that Genetec could offer in this situation.
From its inception, Genetec’s focus has been on delivering innovation that makes life work better. The company builds resilient, connected solutions that go beyond security to provide operational insights that allow organisations to improve their business and environment.
A leading research and advisory group recognises Genetec as the world leader in Virtual Memory System (VMS) and the fastest-growing access control software provider in the world. Genetec is certified ISO/IEC 27001 standard for information security management systems (ISMS). It was the winner of the 2017 Public Sector: Public Safety and National Security Award. Genetec does not sit on its laurels but continues to improve its products.
Genetec gets close to the end-users and the industry they work in to understand the challenges that are being faced. This way, Genetec can help organisations achieve business outcomes more efficiently.
A core team of engineers focuses on security which is protecting the people, the asset and the infrastructure. Equally important, Genetec has invested in business intelligence and the improvement of operations. As data keeps increasing and becoming more complex, Genetec focuses on making sense of the data to gain actionable insights. Second, Genetec helps organisations leverage security systems to be more efficient in driving business outcomes through automation, collaboration, and standardised SOP.
One of the top areas f priority is cybersecurity. Remote work as a result of the pandemic has increased the attack surface and probability. Without a doubt, the infrastructure of employees at home is not as secure as the business one. Cybersecurity is not a product’s feature, it is a product’s property and it should be built in from the ground up and must be constantly evolving to meet the evolving threat.
The second trend is unification. The amount of data that gets sent to the security system keeps increasing.
Lastly, it is about cloud technology. Léon believes that manufacturers should offer a solution that is called Hybrid First: strong both on-prem and cloud. This flexibility is important going forward.
The forum next heard from George Dionisopoulos, Head of Security, NEXTDC. Digital infrastructures are empowered by the data centres that support them.
With organisations relying on Hybrid Cloud environments to enable them to create innovative products, services and digital experiences, digital infrastructure supported by an ecosystem of partners, clouds and networks are now the cornerstones for successful digital businesses.
NEXTDC’s data centres and custom colocation solutions are engineered to grow in line with the dynamic nature of the business. Enabling greater flexibility, speed and agility through solutions that scale and prevent friction, supported by the country’s most network-dense and highly skilled ecosystem of cloud platforms and digital services providers.
In recent years, there are more and more cybersecurity threats to essential services, businesses and government. Security risk management is integrated into NEXTDC’s purpose, governance, strategy, objectives and operations ensuring a positive security culture.
NEXTDC helps organisations to reduce risks from day one. The partnerships directly benefit customers to secure and protect systems and data.
After the informative presentations, delegates participated in interactive discussions facilitated by polling questions. This session is designed to provide live-audience interaction, promote engagement, hear real-life experiences and impart professional learning and development for the participants. It is an opportunity for delegates to gain insight from subject matter experts, share their stories and take back strategies that can be implemented in their organisations.
The first question asked as more organisations look toward technology to provide business intelligence, which of the following insights would be useful. More than three quarters (78%) chose aggregation of data from varied sources.
Leon feels that data aggregation is a big challenge as it is very hard to make something complex simple; hence it needs a great platform.
The remaining delegates were equally split (11%) between people counting/occupancy/office utilisation and incident management and reporting.
The second question inquired whether compliance or regulations – both often a moving target – are in delegates’ current focus. Almost half (44%) focus on privacy and data protection while just over a third (34%) chose others, such as critical infrastructure. A little more than one-fifth (22%) chose physical identity and access management.
As remote working has forced an increased need for better/safer ways to collaborate, participants were polled on the greatest barrier for their organisation. Almost half (49%) chose others, such as the shift in culture to be the biggest challenge for collaboration. A quarter (25%) chose disconnected/incompatible systems to be the barrier. The balance delegates were evenly divided (13%) between siloed departments and out of date or lack of policies.
As cloud utilisation becomes more relevant, the delegates were asked what would be an enabler to help move operations and security to the cloud. Almost two-thirds (66%) chose others such a business understanding that moving to the cloud is no less secure and there is no downside to moving to the cloud. Delegates were equally split (17%) between cost optimisation and improved compliance controls.
In closing, Léon expressed his gratitude to everyone for their participation and highly energetic discussion. He reiterated the importance of having an open, unified platform, what it can bring beyond security and that there are tailored, specific solutions to help collaborations. The platform also provides more actionable insights.
As a call to action, Léon invited delegates to think about how they can leverage their significant security investment to actually make business better. He invited the delegates to reach out to his team and him to explore ways of working together.
Selected full-time national servicemen (NSFs) will undergo a newly-launched Digital Work-Learn scheme and serve as digital specialists under the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) newly established Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS). The scheme will see the selected national servicemen serve for four years, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
The Defence Ministry announced the SAF will launch the fourth service. These digital specialists will develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications and perform software engineering tasks in support of real-world military operations. During their service, these NSFs will take up modules to earn academic credits at NTU that contribute to a degree in Data Science and AI, Computer Science or Computer Engineering.
After their Basic Military Training and vocational course, they will attend classes for one semester every year and work for the remaining period of the year. At the end of the four-year period, they will earn 50 per cent of academic credits and can complete their studies in another two years. Digital specialists will receive a regular service salary after they complete the minimum period as NSFs.
NSFs selected for the scheme will serve in specialised digital roles during their four years of service. These include roles in data engineering, AI model experimentation, development and evaluation, operational deployment of models, software engineering, user experience and user interface design. They will also receive the DigiSpec Award, which includes a “competitive salary and benefits such as leave and medical coverage.
Digital specialists will undergo vocational training, on-the-job training and academic training, said MINDEF. Vocational training will equip servicemen with knowledge and skills, including how AI and digital solutions are applied in MINDEF/SAF’s context. They will then be deployed to operational units for on-the-job training, where they will receive supervision and guidance to develop software and AI models as well as perform operational tasks.
As for academic training, three NTU degree programmes are currently available under the scheme: Computer Engineering, Data Science and AI, and Computer Science. At the end of the four-year period, they will earn 50 per cent of academic credits. Academic credits at NTU may be eligible for credit transfer to other universities, subject to the academic policy of the respective universities.
All national service pre-enlistees can apply. Applicants are required to secure a place in the affiliated university degree programmes on their own merit. The selection process for the scheme will begin one year ahead of enlistment. Shortlisted applicants will be put through “rigorous selection tests assessing their aptitude and digital skills”, with successful applicants offered the DigiSpec Award before enlistment.
Prior experience and knowledge of programming, AI and software development will be useful. There is no extension available under the scheme. Once these digital specialists complete their four-year contract, they may consider a career in MINDEF or the SAF.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, NTU Singapore has partnered with a big tech company to fuel innovation and transform the future of education with its cloud-enabled Smart Campus. With a digital-first strategy and the adoption of technologies, NTU Singapore is set to accelerate innovation and thrive amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
As of January 2022, NTU has successfully converted over 2,600 fixed phone numbers to the company’s phone system. With the cloud-based phone system, calls become richer and more collaborative, as NTU employees can make and receive calls on their business number from all their internet-enabled devices, while using the same tool they use to chat and host video meetings. In addition to cost savings for the University, employees remain productive, as they can also seamlessly transfer their calls across multiple devices, including laptops, PCs, tablets and mobile phones.
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