The world’s first integrated cyber defence, cyber security, and emerging technology event, CYDES 2023, took place at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, highlighting the importance of addressing cyber-threat challenges and fostering collaboration within the ASEAN region.
Cybersecurity leaders across Asia concur that collaboration and breaking down silos among organisations and sectors are essential for success in tackling the complex and ever-evolving challenges of cybersecurity, ensuring the preservation of digital infrastructure.
David Koh, Commissioner of Cybersecurity and Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) of Singapore, emphasised the importance of collaboration among different agencies to effectively address cybersecurity challenges, “Cyber is a team sport. We can’t do this by ourselves.”
For example, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore works closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Communications and Information to share critical information and coordinate responses to cyber threats.
However, to effectively combat cyber threats, government agencies require the cooperation and active involvement of businesses, academia, and civil society as valuable partners in the collective effort to strengthen cybersecurity measures.
According to David, in the rapidly evolving cyberspace landscape, private companies possess valuable intelligence, operational capabilities, and technical know-how that complement government efforts, making partnering with the private sector essential for robust cybersecurity measures.
This collaborative approach fosters a comprehensive and unified response, leveraging diverse expertise and resources to safeguard digital infrastructures and protect against evolving cyber threats.
“Governments must therefore collaborate with the private sector to enhance their cybersecurity posture,” David believes. “Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) play a crucial role in fostering information sharing, promoting collaborative research and development, and driving innovation in cybersecurity, enabling governments and private companies to jointly address the ever-growing challenges of the digital era.”
The successful partnership between the Singaporean government and a private technology corporation during the response to the SolarWinds attack exemplifies how PPPs can leverage private sector expertise to obtain critical technical information and develop actionable indicators of compromise, enhancing the collective cybersecurity defence capabilities.
This is merely one instance in which PPPs can assist the public sector in enhancing its cybersecurity posture. Governments and companies can make the digital world safer for everyone by working together and safeguarding individuals, businesses and critical infrastructures in the digital frontier.
David highlighted the importance of adopting a new perspective, urging governments to share information with private businesses and embrace innovative ideas. This shift is challenging yet essential for effective cybersecurity in the digital world. By adjusting their approach and collaborating with private companies, governments can contribute to a safer digital environment for all.
Indeed, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) play a crucial role in cybersecurity, as they bridge the gap between the public and private sectors. By sharing information, expertise, and resources, these partnerships enhance the collective ability to detect, prevent, and respond to cyber threats effectively.
Moreover, PPPs facilitate the development of new technologies and innovative solutions, fostering a collaborative environment for tackling evolving cybersecurity challenges. Ultimately, such collaborations improve the coordination of cybersecurity efforts, leading to a more robust and secure global digital landscape and the world (digital and physical) a safer place for everyone.
Shamsul Bahri Hj Kamis, Interim Commissioner of Cyber Security Brunei (CSB), highlighted the need to examine current systems to harmonise cybersecurity in ASEAN. In 2017, ASEAN member states developed the ASEAN Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy, outlining directions, objectives, and action plans to strengthen cybersecurity in the region.
The policy aims to tackle communication challenges arising from the multitude of sectoral groups within ASEAN working on cybersecurity. This is particularly challenging due to ASEAN’s consensus-based decision-making process, which can sometimes hinder progress.
However, various measures to address cybersecurity in ASEAN are already underway. The ASEAN Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), which coordinates the response to cybersecurity incidents, and the ASEAN Cybersecurity Capacity Programme, which provides training and assistance to ASEAN member states in developing their cybersecurity capabilities, are two examples.
“To move forward, ASEAN must devise a strategy for more effectively sharing information and collaborating on addressing the most severe cyber threats,” Shamsul elaborates. “This will necessitate tight collaboration among governments, corporations and civil society.”
Shamsul believes that collaboration within ASEAN can create a secure and resilient digital environment for people and businesses. He stressed the need for shared awareness of the region’s risks and challenges, as well as a clear division of responsibilities among the various sectoral bodies.
Strengthening information sharing within ASEAN and with other nations, along with a focus on capacity building in member states, is essential as cybersecurity should be embraced as a shared responsibility by all stakeholders.
“By resolving these issues, ASEAN can make substantial strides towards regional cybersecurity harmonisation,” Shamsul is convinced.
Shariffah Rashidah Syed Othman, Acting Chief Executive of the National Cyber Security Agency of Malaysia (NACSA), agrees that cybersecurity is increasingly becoming a critical concern for governments and businesses globally, particularly in the ASEAN region, where the rapidly growing digital economy necessitates strong cybersecurity measures.
According to Shariffah, the cross-border nature of cyber threats is one of ASEAN’s greatest cybersecurity challenges. Cybercriminals can simply target victims in one country while operating from another. As a result, governments find it difficult to confront cyber threats on their own.
“By combining the resources and experience of governments and businesses, public-private partnerships can assist in addressing this challenge. Governments can provide regulatory and financial support, while businesses can share knowledge about cyber dangers and best practices,” Shariffah says.
Partnerships between the public and private sectors play a vital role in addressing the barrier of a lack of understanding of cyber risks in the ASEAN region. By collaborating, they can raise awareness of internet threats, educate businesses, and individuals on cybersecurity best practices, and collectively work towards creating a safer digital environment for all.
“ASEAN leaders must recognise that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility. Governments, businesses, and individuals must all work together to secure the region from cyber dangers,” Shariffah stressed.
The comprehensive strategy for enhancing cybersecurity in the region must encompass strengthened government cooperation, information sharing on cyber dangers, increased cyber risk awareness, improved critical infrastructure security, and robust protection of personal data. By addressing these crucial aspects collectively, ASEAN can build a more resilient and secure digital ecosystem for its residents and businesses.
Shariffah outlines several key advantages of public-private partnerships in cybersecurity, such as bridging the divide between technical and non-technical skills, fostering trust and collaboration between governments and enterprises, and facilitating the effective implementation of cybersecurity measures.
By leveraging these partnerships, ASEAN can enhance its cybersecurity capabilities, as governments and companies work together to create a safer and more secure digital environment for everyone in the region.
Shariffah advocates practising “cyber hygiene,” urging individuals to be vigilant about online risks and take proactive measures to protect themselves. This includes using strong passwords, regularly updating software, and exercising caution when sharing personal information on the internet. By promoting cyber hygiene, individuals can play an active role in safeguarding their digital security and contributing to a safer online environment for all.
She also stressed the importance of empathy in cybersecurity, highlighting the need to understand diverse perspectives and communicate in a language that is accessible to all. Recognising the different viewpoints held by individuals is crucial in addressing cybersecurity challenges effectively and fostering a collaborative and inclusive approach to cybersecurity initiatives.
“Cybersecurity is more than just a technical problem – it is a societal issue. Thus everyone needs to be included in the discussion. We can all live in a safer digital environment if we all work together,” Shariffah is convinced.
Indeed, understanding that cybersecurity is not solely a tech challenge but also a community one underscores the importance of involving all stakeholders. By acknowledging the broader societal implications of cybersecurity, public-private partnerships can effectively address challenges and implement comprehensive solutions that safeguard everyone in the digital landscape.
Cybersecurity for SMEs: A Workable Model
David Koh, Commissioner of Cybersecurity and Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency (CSA), knows the universal importance of cybersecurity for all organisations but understands there are challenges faced by small and medium-sized firms (SMEs). Due to limited resources and experience, SMEs may find it more difficult to implement effective cybersecurity measures.
The Cyber Security Agency (CSA) in Singapore has created a variety of programmes to assist SMEs in strengthening their cybersecurity posture. The Cyber Essentials mark, which offers a set of fundamental cybersecurity measures that all firms should follow, is one of these initiatives.
The Cyber Essentials mark four important areas including:
- Asset management: Includes cybersecurity awareness for its employees, and classifying and identifying each asset in your company, including its hardware, software, and data.
- Secure and Protect: This entails limiting who has access to and what they can do with the resources of your company.
- Update, backup, and Respond.
“SMEs can begin by adopting Cyber Essentials as a foundational step to strengthen their cybersecurity posture,” David advises. “However, these are just initial restrictions, and SMEs may need to implement additional measures based on their specific requirements and threats.”
If SMEs want to strengthen their cybersecurity posture, they should start with the Cyber Essentials,” David says. It’s crucial to keep in mind that these are merely fundamental, basic restrictions. Depending on their particular requirements and dangers, SMEs may need to implement additional steps, adding that CSA would be happy to share its framework with regional partners like Malaysia and Brunei.
Alongside the Cyber Essentials mark, the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) offers a range of tools to support SMEs in enhancing their cybersecurity. These resources encompass a cybersecurity training programme tailored for SMEs, a dedicated cybersecurity helpline, and a list of certified cybersecurity consultants who can guide SMEs in implementing the Cyber Essentials effectively.
By leveraging the CSA tools, SMEs can significantly bolster their cybersecurity defences and safeguard their businesses against online threats, ensuring the security and protection of their valuable assets and sensitive information.
In addition to CSA’s initiatives, SMEs can bolster their cybersecurity posture through various measures, including ensuring regular software updates, which often include vital security patches to safeguard against known vulnerabilities. Individuals can enhance their cybersecurity by using strong passwords and password management software, while organisations can educate their staff about cybersecurity threats.
Moreover, having a well-defined response plan for cyber incidents is essential for effective cybersecurity management.
“By adopting these measures, SMEs can protect themselves from cyber threats and maintain the security of their businesses,” David concluded.
Shamsul spoke about the Cyber Consortium, a regional programme established in 2021, aimed at bolstering the cybersecurity posture of Southeast Asian SMEs. Comprising academic institutions, IT partners, cybersecurity experts, companies, students, and government regulatory agencies, this collaboration focuses on enhancing cybersecurity resilience in the region.
The Cyber Consortium offers a comprehensive array of services to SMEs, including cybersecurity assessments, training and education, technical support for implementing security measures, and networking opportunities with other SMEs and cybersecurity experts, all aimed at strengthening their cybersecurity defences.
“It is a useful tool for SMEs trying to strengthen their cybersecurity posture. SMEs can get the assistance they need to safeguard their companies against cyber dangers by joining the consortium,” Shamsul believes.
Shariffa acknowledges the dynamic nature of the cybersecurity landscape, with evolving technologies and adaptable cyber threats posing challenges for enterprises and individuals to stay updated with the latest security measures.
“Malaysia’s government has made several efforts to assist businesses in improving their cybersecurity posture,” she reveals. “Funding a programme to assess SMEs’ cybersecurity; collaborating with the local sector to deliver managed security services to SMEs; and collaborating with telcos to impose basic cybersecurity hygiene on their services are all part of this.”
While the mentioned actions are valuable, there are further steps that businesses and individuals can take to bolster their protection against cyber threats. Staying vigilant and informed about the latest cybersecurity risks is crucial, involving keeping abreast of security news, reading security blogs, and participating in security conferences to stay well-prepared.
Adopting a layered security strategy is essential for businesses, involving the implementation of multiple security measures such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems to provide comprehensive protection.
For individuals, safeguarding against cyber dangers includes using strong and unique passwords, being cautious while sharing personal information online, and remaining vigilant about potential phishing scams to ensure greater online safety.
Education plays a crucial role in strengthening cybersecurity. Businesses should invest in training their staff to recognise and respond to cybersecurity threats effectively. Additionally, having a well-defined incident response plan ensures a swift and organised reaction to cyber incidents, minimising potential damage.
Regularly testing security systems and conducting vulnerability assessments are essential practices to identify and address potential weaknesses in the network. Keeping software up to date with the latest patches and security updates is a fundamental measure to protect against known vulnerabilities and potential exploits.
“The cybersecurity landscape is continuously evolving, but by taking precautions, organisations and individuals may help keep themselves safe from cyber threats,” Shariffa ends. “Combining various efforts can significantly enhance the cybersecurity posture for both businesses and individuals.”
Trust Building in ASEAN Cybersecurity
David believes that focusing on shared goals is a powerful strategy to build trust and foster collaboration among diverse parties in the realm of cybersecurity. Establishing common objectives, such as protecting critical infrastructure from cyber threats, enables everyone involved to unite their efforts towards a collective purpose, leading to more effective and coordinated cybersecurity measures.
“By aligning interests and recognising mutual benefits, stakeholders can work together in harmony to strengthen cybersecurity and safeguard digital environments,” he says.
Sharing information is indeed a crucial approach to building trust and enhancing cybersecurity efforts among different organisations. While it may be challenging to exchange sensitive data, the benefits of sharing outweigh the risks. Timely and accurate information sharing enables organisations to recognise and respond to cyber threats more swiftly and effectively.
“Cybersecurity is a complex challenge, but we can conquer it if we all work together,” David says. “Organisations can construct a more secure and robust digital infrastructure by breaking down silos across organisations and industries and sharing information.”
David stressed the importance of teamwork in cybersecurity, akin to an international team sport requiring countries to cooperate and work together. Global collaboration with partners worldwide was highlighted, as well as, investing in education and training to raise awareness of cybersecurity risks, and developing new technologies to enhance defence against cyber threats.
“We can make the digital world a safer place for everyone if we all work together,” David is confident.
Shamsul appreciates the necessity of trust for effective cybersecurity collaboration, noting that countries lacking trust are less likely to exchange information or cooperate in responding to cyber threats.
Several initiatives are currently underway in ASEAN to strengthen trust and collaboration among member states. Some of these efforts include:
- The ASEAN Cybersecurity Capacity Building Centres in Thailand and Singapore
- The ASEAN Partners Search Information Sharing (APSIS) initiative
- The ASEAN Cybersecurity Cooperation Strategy, which calls for the establishment of an ASEAN Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT)
“These activities are assisting in the development of trust among ASEAN member states as well as the improvement of the region’s cybersecurity posture,” Shamsul explains. “However, more work remains to be done.”
Establishing a shared understanding of cybersecurity threats and risks presents a key challenge for effective collaboration among ASEAN member states. Different countries may have varying levels of awareness and perception of cyber dangers, making it crucial to bridge the knowledge gap and foster common ground for tackling cybersecurity issues.
Furthermore, ensuring the safe and secure sharing of information is paramount to building trust and promoting collaboration in cybersecurity efforts. Governments and organisations need robust and reliable mechanisms to exchange critical data and threat intelligence without compromising sensitive information or exposing vulnerabilities.
Despite the challenges faced in establishing shared understanding and secure information sharing, the progress made in enhancing cybersecurity collaboration among ASEAN member nations is encouraging. By continuing to work together and build trust, these countries have the potential to create a more secure and resilient digital future for the region.
Shamsul underscored the importance of a “tangible platform” for knowledge sharing, highlighting its role in fostering trust among ASEAN member states and ensuring the secure and confidential exchange of information. Having a reliable and accessible platform can serve as a foundation for effective collaboration, enabling countries to share valuable insights, best practices, and threat intelligence in real-time.
The National Trust Framework serves as a valuable resource for ASEAN countries seeking to enhance their cybersecurity posture, offering a comprehensive set of recommendations to safeguard critical infrastructure, personal data, and sensitive information.
By exploring this framework, ASEAN countries can save time and costs while building a strong cybersecurity architecture, avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel as the framework provides a solid foundation for their efforts.
“ASEAN countries, I believe, may collaborate to localise and harmonise the National Trust Framework,” said Shamsul. “It would enhance the regional cybersecurity architecture and would improve effectiveness and readiness of ASEAN countries against cyber threats.”
According to Shariffa, building effective human firewalls requires confidence in the commitment of individuals and organisations to cybersecurity, which involves open and willing information sharing about security procedures, ultimately fostering trust and creating a safer and more robust digital ecosystem for countries.
ASEAN countries are dedicated to enhancing regional cybersecurity through collaboration, acknowledging their diverse capacities and competencies. They are working on a flexible framework to facilitate cooperation at individual countries’ respective paces.
As a result, ASEAN cybersecurity mechanisms were established to:
- be a valuable resource for ASEAN countries. It will provide them with access to information and expertise that they may not have otherwise had.
- help to improve coordination between ASEAN countries. This will make it easier for them to share information and respond to cyber threats.
- assist in raising awareness of cybersecurity risks in the region to protect individuals and businesses from cyber-attacks.
Shariffa emphasised that the implementation of the mechanism will involve designating a unit within each ASEAN country. This agency will be responsible for collaborating with other ASEAN nations, sharing information on cyber threats and incidents, and providing technical support to other countries.
The creation of this mechanism represents a significant advancement in ASEAN’s efforts to improve cybersecurity. ASEAN countries can better protect themselves from cyber-attacks and build a more secure digital environment for all by working together.
“The creation of the ASEAN cybersecurity mechanism is a great step forward. It demonstrates the region’s dedication to enhancing cybersecurity,” Shariffa ends.
ASEAN’s Commitment to Improve Cybersecurity
David explained that ASEAN’s ministers have approved a plan to establish a regional Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) for the region. The ASEAN CERT will serve as a platform for knowledge sharing and skill-building within the region, complementing the existing national CERTs and working collaboratively to enhance cybersecurity across ASEAN.
The ASEAN CERT will strengthen sharing information about cyber threats and incidents; coordinating CERT capacity building programmes in the region; coming up with and supporting best practices for cybersecurity; and educating people about cybersecurity risks and making them more aware of them.
“The ASEAN CERT is a move in the right direction for the region’s attempts to improve cybersecurity,” said David. “By working together, ASEAN countries can protect themselves better from online threats and make the internet safer for everyone.”
The ASEAN CERT will be a valuable resource for member countries, providing access to knowledge and information that may not have been readily available before. By fostering better collaboration and information sharing among the nations, the ASEAN CERT will enhance their collective ability to address cyber threats effectively and strengthen their cybersecurity posture as a united front.
By providing valuable insights into hacking risks, ASEAN CERT will empower individuals and businesses to better protect themselves from cyber-attacks, contributing to a safer digital environment for all. This initiative showcases the region’s commitment to improving cybersecurity and fostering a collective effort to address cyber threats effectively.
Shamsul shares that the ASEAN CERT will collaborate with both foreign and regional groups to advance ASEAN’s cybersecurity objectives and interests. Currently, there is no official platform for CERTs to communicate with one another, making it vital for ASEAN CERTs to foster collaboration, share knowledge, and exchange best practices.
“This collective effort will strengthen the region’s ability to address cyber threats effectively and establish a more secure digital landscape for all ASEAN member states,” he is confident.
The ASEAN CERT will establish partnerships with businesses and higher education institutions, appreciating the valuable information and expertise they possess to enhance cybersecurity. Collaborating with these sectors ensures access to the latest knowledge and skills, enabling ASEAN CERTs to effectively address emerging cyber threats and trends.
By fostering these alliances, the ASEAN CERT can stay at the forefront of cybersecurity advancements, making the region more resilient and better equipped to safeguard its digital landscape.
Shamsul concurs that the establishment of the ASEAN CERT marks a significant advancement in ASEAN’s efforts to enhance cybersecurity. Through collaboration with international and regional organisations, as well as industry and education sectors, the ASEAN CERT can play a crucial role in creating a safer digital environment for everyone in the region.
By fostering partnerships and sharing knowledge, the ASEAN CERT aims to bolster cybersecurity measures, effectively respond to cyber threats, and promote a more secure digital landscape in the ASEAN community.
Shariffa reiterated support for ASEAN initiatives like ASEAN CERT, highlighting that the Malaysian government is actively engaged in strengthening cybersecurity measures. They are currently working on a new Cybersecurity Bill aimed at granting the National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA) enhanced authority to safeguard the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.
The proposed Cybersecurity Bill in Malaysia seeks to enforce robust security measures for critical national information infrastructure (CNII) owners and operators. By mandating appropriate security measures, the bill has the potential to significantly enhance Malaysia’s cybersecurity posture, bolstering the nation’s resilience against cyber threats and safeguarding its vital information assets.
Shariffa explains that the proposed Cybersecurity Bill aims to grant NACSA expanded investigative and response capabilities, while also imposing a requirement for CNII owners and operators to implement robust security measures.
This comprehensive approach would significantly bolster the protection of Malaysia’s critical infrastructure from cyberattacks, thereby reducing the risk of cyber espionage and enhancing the nation’s overall cybersecurity resilience.
Shariffa sees the proposed Cybersecurity Bill as a positive and transformative step that has the potential to make Malaysia a more secure nation in the digital age.
“With its comprehensive measures to strengthen cybersecurity, the bill can significantly enhance Malaysia’s resilience against cyber threats and safeguard the nation’s critical infrastructure and digital ecosystem,” she believes.
The CYDES 2023 event showcased the determination of ASEAN nations to address cybersecurity challenges and advance in this critical domain. With a focus on cooperation, a wealth of cybersecurity expertise and initiatives like the ASEAN CERT, the region is taking substantial steps towards enhancing its cybersecurity posture.
By continuing to invest in cybersecurity measures, fostering collaboration among member states, and leveraging their unique assets, ASEAN countries are well-positioned to create a safer and more secure digital environment for their residents and businesses in the ever-evolving digital age. Together, they can forge a path towards a more resilient and protected ASEAN region in the face of emerging cyber threats.
In a stirring address at the Emerging Enterprise Awards (EEA) 2023, Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How underscored the pivotal role of continuous learning and skills acquisition in navigating the dynamic landscape of the modern world.
Emphasising that education should be viewed as a lifelong journey, extending beyond formal academic years, he articulated the need for individuals to adapt to the evolving demands of an ever-changing workplace.
Acknowledging the government’s commitment to supporting Singaporeans in this quest for perpetual learning, Tan Kiat How also appealed to business owners and industry leaders to create an enabling environment for employees to upgrade their skills. He highlighted the Forward Singapore report, a comprehensive guide to the nation’s major developmental shifts, urging those unfamiliar with it to explore its insights.
The Senior Minister of State asserted that embracing technology as a strategic enabler is integral to overcoming traditional constraints and enhancing competitiveness. He underscored Singapore’s pioneering role in digital technology adoption, dating back to the 1980s when the nation became one of the first in the world to integrate computers into its public service and workplaces.
Singapore places a paramount emphasis on the pivotal role of digitalisation in revolutionising its educational landscape. With a focus on enhancing learning experiences, fostering global competitiveness, and preparing students for the future workforce, the nation is embracing innovative teaching methods and personalised learning through advanced digital tools.
The integration of technology not only streamlines administrative processes but also facilitates seamless transitions between in-person and online learning models. This commitment to digitalisation reflects Singapore’s dedication to staying at the forefront of educational innovation, equipping students with essential technological skills for the evolving global landscape.
This commitment to technological advancement has persisted, forming the bedrock of Singapore’s digital foundation. Senior Minister Tan shed light on the government’s SMEs Go Digital programme, an initiative integrating emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud services into Industry Digital Plans (IDPs).
These IDPs serve as roadmaps, guiding businesses across various sectors in adopting digital solutions and upskilling their workforce. In a recent example, the Tourism (Attractions) IDP incorporated AI to streamline workflows and provide data-driven insights, enhancing decision-making for attraction operators.
The government’s holistic approach extends beyond specific sectors, with a thorough examination of industry disciplines sector by sector. This involves updating strategies, incorporating emerging technologies, and ensuring that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can boost productivity and competitiveness while navigating the complexities of digital transformation.
Senior Minister Tan cited the Chief Information Security Officers-as-a-Service initiative, where cybersecurity consultants aid firms in enhancing cyber resilience through “check-ups” and tailored health plans.
Encouraging firms and networks to actively engage with these programmes, Senior Minister Tan emphasised the need for Singapore to embrace its agency in shaping its future. He urged the nation to leverage its strong foundation and the strategic roadmap outlined in Forward Singapore.
As Singapore charts its digital odyssey, the EEA 2023 serves as a platform not just for acknowledging achievements but for inspiring a collective commitment to a future where technological innovation and lifelong learning propel the nation to new heights.
The Senior Minister of State added that Singapore’s exceptionalism relies on collective ambition, hard work, and unity, ensuring that the nation continues to defy the odds and stand as a beacon on the global stage.
Union Minister of State for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and Electronics & IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar shared comprehensive insights into India’s tech landscape at the 26th Edition of the Bengaluru Tech Summit.
Minister Chandrasekhar navigated through a spectrum of crucial tech domains, unravelling India’s transformative journey and the role of entrepreneurship and innovation in the digital economy. He shed light on India’s burgeoning semiconductor industry, the transformative potential of AI, and the instrumental role of startups in shaping the nation’s economic future.
Minister Chandrasekhar reflected on the dynamic shift in India’s semiconductor narrative, echoing the sentiments articulated by India’s Prime Minister at the Semicon India 2023 Summit. He underscored the evolving perspective from “why India” to “when in India” and “why not in India.”
This transformation signifies the growing confidence and capabilities within India’s tech ecosystem, a testament to the nation’s progress in diverse domains such as AI, semiconductors, electronics, Web 3, supercomputing, and high-performance computing.
“Pre-2014, India’s semiconductor story was a series of missed opportunities,” reflected Minister Chandrasekhar while tracing the trajectory of the semiconductor industry’s evolution.
Despite lacking a design legacy, Minister Chandrasekhar emphasised India’s strides in the semiconductor sector. Acknowledging the catch-up game after missed opportunities, he highlighted India’s leapfrogging approach, skipping a generation to explore novel opportunities for the next decade.
The focus on talent, design, packaging, and research has propelled India towards becoming a significant player in the global semiconductor ecosystem, marking a definitive trajectory of growth.
Minister Chandrasekhar reiterated India’s emphasis on harnessing AI’s transformative power resonates deeply with India’s commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technology for societal betterment and enhanced living standards across diverse segments of the population.
“We believe that AI when harnessed correctly, can transform healthcare, agriculture, governance and language translation”: MoS Rajeev Chandrasekhar
By integrating AI technologies into these sectors, the aim is to revolutionise service delivery, streamline operations, and democratise access to advanced services for all citizens. However, he also addressed the inherent risks posed by the potential misuse of AI by bad actors, stressing the need for legislative guardrails to ensure safety and trust in AI applications. Aligning with global sentiments, Chandrasekhar highlighted the necessity for regulatory frameworks to prevent misuse and foster ethical AI deployment.
“The world is now aligning with India’s view that we need guardrails of safety and trust for the Internet,” he said.
In an increasingly tech-dependant world, Mnster Chnadrashekhar believes that innovation and entrepreneurship are vital – startups are the pillars of India’s tech evolution. Elaborating on India’s startup landscape, Minister Chandrasekhar showcased the pivotal role played by startups since 2014, citing the emergence of 102 unicorns and a substantial influx of FDI.
He emphasised how startups are not just economic entities but integral components of India’s tech vision, contributing significantly to the digital economy’s $1 trillion goal. With a focus on nurturing the futureDESIGN DLI startups, Chandrasekhar envisaged their potential to become the unicorns of tomorrow, driving innovation across AI, semiconductors, and next-gen electronic systems.
Minister Chandrasekhar’s insights underscore India’s rapid tech evolution, emphasising the nation’s strides in semiconductors, the transformative impact of AI, and the pivotal role of startups. As India charts its course towards a $1 trillion digital economy, its vision encapsulates the imperative of regulatory frameworks, innovative strides, and collaborative efforts in harnessing technology for inclusive growth and global relevance.
OpenGov Asia reported that Minister Chandrasekhar, who spoke at two influential tech events: the Indian Express Digifraud & Safety Summit 2023 and YourStory Techsparks’23, expressed similar views on India’s technological advancements, regulatory policies, and the nation’s promising future in the global tech landscape.
At these tech summits, Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar outlined India’s ambitious technological trajectory, reinforcing the government’s dedication to fostering innovation, ensuring a safe digital environment, and harnessing the transformative power of technology for the nation’s progress.
In emphasising the importance of inclusivity, technology must cater to individuals with physical impairments who face challenges in using traditional input devices like mice and keyboards, which often leads to their exclusion from technical professions.
To foster inclusive accessibility, multiple alternative methods should be actively identified and implemented to facilitate individuals with physical impairments to engage in coding activities. The evolution of these alternative input methods signifies a positive shift towards a more inclusive and accessible technological landscape.
In an initiative to encourage digital inclusion and technological education, a KidBright Workshop has targeted students and teachers from 10 schools catering to children with disabilities. This workshop showcased the power of the KidBright AI Platform in guiding participants to construct embedded system projects.
Dr Patchralita Chatwalitpong, The National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) Vice President for Science and Technology Human Resources Development, emphasised the significance of advancing science and technology education among disabled individuals. “Disabilities children also have the right to gain knowledge in this digital realm. Physically impairment is not merely the obstacle for it,” she addressed.
KidBright, a coding learning tool developed by NECTEC-NSTDA, emerged as a beacon of innovation. As an open-source embedded programming platform, KidBright enables children to learn coding through its embedded board and KidBright Integrated Development Environment programme (KidBright IDE). The platform’s accessibility and user-friendly interface empower young learners to delve into coding seamlessly.
The genesis of this impactful project traces back to 2018, when NSTDA initiated a pioneering effort to promote coding skills specifically tailored for children with disabilities. From 2018 to 2020, KidBright boards and UtuNoi STATION packages were distributed across these schools, accompanied by a series of workshops for both students and teachers. These workshops provided comprehensive training on programming KidBright boards and equipped participants with the skills to create embedded system projects.
The inclusion of data science knowledge in 2019 and 2020 further enriched the project, empowering educators and students to devise innovative solutions catering to the needs of people with disabilities. Notably, several of these inventive creations garnered accolades in innovation contests.
The project’s trajectory leapt in 2023 with a strategic expansion into artificial intelligence (AI). This follow-up session spotlighted the development of science projects utilising the KidBright AI Platform. Led by the adept Educational Technology Research Team and spearheaded by Dr Saowaluck Kaewkamnerd, this workshop aimed to deepen participants’ understanding of AI and encourage the creation of innovative projects with real-world applications.
This multifaceted project exemplifies the commitment to advancing education in emerging technologies and ensuring inclusivity in digital literacy. Integrating coding, embedded systems, data science, and AI into the curriculum empowers students, especially those with disabilities, to become adept in the digital landscape. The KidBright AI Platform catalyses nurturing creativity, problem-solving skills, and a passion for technology among the younger generation, transcending barriers and fostering a more inclusive and technologically literate society.
Further, the recognition of inclusivity has gained global attention, exemplified by its acknowledgement in the United States. The Alliance for Access, the Computing Career Centre from Washington University, outlined several approaches that can enhance programming accessibility for students with diverse disabilities. To illustrate:
- Clear Instructions and Examples: Providing clear instructions and relevant examples universally benefits all students, promoting a better understanding of programming concepts.
- Speech Input Software: Students who face challenges with conventional keyboards can leverage speech input software.
- Macro-Writing Programmes: Utilising a macro-writing programme for individuals with mobility impairments becomes invaluable. This programme facilitates the creation of shortcuts, simplifying the typing process.
- IDE Features: Integrated development environments (IDEs) may incorporate features specifically beneficial for students with disabilities.
- Word or Syntax Auto-Completion: Predictive typing assists users by anticipating their input.
- Syntax Highlighting: Color-coded representation of typed code enhances visual distinction.
- Variable Name Highlighting: Ensures consistent spelling of variable names.
- Inline Spell-Check: This feature can benefit some students, promoting accurate coding.
By highlighting and implementing this in the programming environment among disabled children in Thailand, educators can create a more inclusive and supportive learning experience for students with disabilities, not only enhancing the knowledge of students but also fostering inclusivity and equality.
Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Defence, Heng Chee How, and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health, Dr Janil Puthucheary, recently visited the Critical Infrastructure Defence Exercise (CIDeX) 2023, underscoring the government’s commitment to fortifying national cybersecurity.
The exercise, held at the National University of Singapore School of Computing, witnessed over 200 participants engaging in operational technology (OT) critical infrastructure defence training.
Organised by the Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS) and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), with support from iTrust/SUTD and the National Cybersecurity R&D Laboratory (NCL), CIDeX 2023 marked a collaborative effort to enhance Whole-Of-Government (WoG) cyber capabilities. The exercise focused on detecting and countering cyber threats to both Information Technology (IT) and OT networks governing critical infrastructure sectors.
This year’s edition boasted participation from DIS, CSA, and 24 other national agencies across six Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) sectors. With an expanded digital infrastructure comprising six enterprise IT networks and three new OT testbeds, participants operated on six OT testbeds within key sectors—power, water, telecom, and aviation.
CIDeX 2023 featured Blue Teams, composed of national agency participants serving as cyber defenders, defending their digital infrastructure against simulated cyber-attacks launched by a composite Red Team comprising DIS, CSA, DSTA, and IMDA personnel. The exercises simulated attacks on both IT and OT networks, including scenarios such as overloading an airport substation, disrupting water distribution, and shutting down a gas plant.
The exercise provided a platform for participants to hone their technical competencies, enhance collaboration, and share expertise across agencies. Before CIDeX, participants underwent a five-day hands-on training programme at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)’s Cyber Defence Test and Evaluation Centre (CyTEC) at Stagmont Camp, ensuring readiness for cyber defence challenges.
On the sidelines of CIDeX 2023, the DIS solidified cyber collaboration by signing Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with key technology sector partners, expanding its partnerships beyond the earlier agreement with Microsoft earlier in the year.
Senior Minister Heng emphasised the importance of inter-agency cooperation, stating, “CIDeX is a platform where we bring together many agencies throughout the government to come together to learn how to defend together.” He highlighted the collective effort involving 26 agencies and over 200 participants, acknowledging the significance of unity in cybersecurity.
Dr Janil echoed this sentiment, emphasising CIDeX’s role in the Whole-of-Government (WoG) cyber defence effort. He remarked, “Defending Singapore’s cyberspace is not an easy task, and it is a team effort.”
He commended the strong partnership between the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore and the Digital and Intelligence Service, recognising the exercise as a crucial element in strengthening the nation’s digital resilience and national cybersecurity posture.
By leveraging collaboration, innovation, and a robust defence strategy, Singapore aims not just to protect its critical infrastructure but to set a global standard in cybersecurity practices.
CIDeX 2023 serves as a compelling embodiment of Singapore’s unwavering dedication to maintaining a leadership position in cybersecurity practices. This strategic exercise underscores the nation’s commitment to cultivating collaboration and fortifying its resilience against continually evolving cyber threats.
Beyond a training ground for sharpening the skills of cyber defenders, CIDeX 2023 encapsulates the government’s profound commitment to adopting a robust, collaborative, and forward-thinking approach to safeguarding the integrity and security of the nation’s critical infrastructure in the dynamic landscape of the digital age.
The Cyberport Entrepreneurship Programmes’ 20th Anniversary Celebration and Graduation Ceremony was a major event attended by notable personalities, distinguished guests and budding innovators.
Cyberport is Hong Kong’s digital technology flagship and incubator for entrepreneurship with over 2,000 members including over 900 onsite and close to 1,100 offsite start-ups and technology companies. It is managed by Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited, wholly owned by the Hong Kong SAR Government.
With a vision to become Hong Kong’s digital technology hub and stimulate a fresh economic impetus, Cyberport is dedicated to cultivating a dynamic tech environment. This commitment involves nurturing talent, encouraging youth entrepreneurship, aiding startups, fostering industry growth through strategic partnerships with local and international entities, and driving digital transformation across public and private sectors, bridging new and traditional economies.
Professor Sun Dong, the Secretary for Innovation, Technology, and Industry, Hong Kong highlighted Cyberport’s incredible journey and the achievements of its vibrant community. Expressing his delight in commemorating Cyberport’s two-decade-long legacy, he emphasised the institution’s pivotal role as an ICT powerhouse in Hong Kong.
From its humble beginnings to its present stature, Cyberport has emerged as a catalyst for innovation, nurturing over 2,000 technology companies and startups and showcasing an exponential growth rate over the past five years.
Cyberport’s community has attracted a staggering US$38 billion of investment, marking its significance as an ICT flagship in Hong Kong. The establishment takes pride in its contribution to nurturing numerous innovative ideas and fostering dynamic business ventures, with seven notable unicorns in fintech, smart living, and digital entertainment sectors.
Cyberport excelled at the prestigious Hong Kong ICT Awards, with 25 startups securing 28 accolades, including the esteemed Award of the Year. This achievement showcased the institution’s exceptional calibre and innovation prowess nurtured within its ecosystem.
Acknowledging the pivotal role of startups in Cyberport’s success story, Professor Sun Dong shared how these young enterprises, often starting with a simple idea at a small table, grow in tandem with Cyberport’s support. The institution provides not just financial aid but also a nurturing environment where entrepreneurs can leverage extensive networks, collaborative spaces, and expert guidance to cultivate their ideas into commercial successes.
The graduation of more than 200 startups from the Entrepreneurship Programme stood as a testament to Cyberport’s commitment to fostering entrepreneurial talent. This initiative empowers startups to translate their ideas into tangible commercial solutions and market breakthroughs, laying the foundation for their future success.
Looking ahead, Professor Sun Dong outlined Cyberport’s exciting plans, including the upcoming expansion block slated for completion in two years, aimed at providing additional space for the community’s development. He also highlighted Cyberport’s initiative to establish the Artificial Intelligence Supercomputing Centre, a pioneering endeavour set to commence in 2024, envisioned to be a pioneering and substantial facility in Hong Kong.
Cyberport’s extraordinary journey showcases significant achievements while charting a promising future, embodying the core values of innovation, collaboration, and collective growth.
Professor Sun expressed gratitude on behalf of the Government, acknowledging their hard work and contributions to the tech ecosystem emphasising the importance of collective participation for a better future.
The vibrant success of events like the Cyberport Venture Capital Forum 2023 resonates with Cyberport’s commitment to fostering innovation and collaboration, further cementing its role as a catalyst for technological advancement and entrepreneurial growth in Hong Kong.
The Cyberport Venture Capital Forum (CVCF) 2023 saw a turnout of over 2,500 participants during its two-day hybrid event. Themed “Venture Forward: Game Changing through Innovation,” the forum convened 80 global visionary venture experts, entrepreneurial pioneers, and influential thinkers. With more than 120,000 page views and over 300 fundraising meetings facilitated, it solidified its position as a pivotal platform fostering networking and collaborative opportunities.
In a significant stride towards technological innovation and sustainable development, the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) have joined forces to revolutionise India’s construction and wastewater treatment sectors.
This pioneering collaboration under the “Access to Knowledge for Technology Development and Dissemination (A2K+) Studies” Scheme of DSIR is aimed at aligning with India’s Smart Cities Mission and its ambitious commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2070.
DSIR’s allocation of two crucial research studies to TERI signifies a pivotal step in bridging the informational gap on advanced building materials, designs for energy efficiency, and the assessment of membrane-based sewage wastewater treatment systems for reuse and recycling.
A significant milestone in this partnership was marked by a high-profile Stakeholder Consultant Meeting held at the prestigious India Habitat Center in New Delhi. Attended by key decision-makers, esteemed experts from academia, industry leaders, and policymakers, this event became a platform for insightful discussions and collaborations.
Dr Sujata Chaklanobis, Scientist ‘G’ and Head of A2K+ Studies at DSIR, emphasised the importance of promoting industrial research for indigenous technology development, utilisation, and transfer in her address. Her words underscored the crucial role of research and innovation in fostering sustainable technological advancements.
Mr Sanjay Seth, Senior Director of TERI’s Sustainable Infrastructure Programme highlighted India’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2070. He stressed the imperative integration of cutting-edge technologies and innovative designs in buildings to significantly reduce energy consumption, a key step towards a sustainable, low-carbon future.
The first session of the consultation centred on leveraging emerging technologies and innovative solutions for advanced building design to enhance energy efficiency. Experts from various domains provided insightful suggestions and information, fostering dialogue on energy-efficient building designs and sustainable construction practices.
The second session delved into the current status and prospects of membrane technologies in India for sewage treatment. Insights from academia, including professors from prestigious institutions, shed light on research gaps and opportunities for commercialisation in the domain of membrane-based technologies.
Industry experts also provided valuable perspectives on the current membrane market, innovations, and opportunities, creating a comprehensive understanding of the landscape and paving the way for future developments.
The amalgamation of insights from academia, industry, and end-users enriched the discussions, providing a roadmap for future innovation and development in these critical sectors. The event culminated with a commitment from both DSIR and TERI to embark on an innovation journey, heralding a sustainable and resilient future for India.
The DSIR-TERI collaborative consultation stands as a beacon of transformative progress in advancing sustainable building practices and sewage treatment technologies. It underscores the power of partnership in driving technological evolution for a more sustainable tomorrow.
India’s ambitions intertwine technological progress with a steadffast commitment to sustainability, envisioning a future where innovation not only drives economic growth but also champions environmental stewardship.
Through strategic initiatives and cooperation, India aims to leverage cutting-edge technologies to address pressing global challenges, ensuring a harmonious balance between technological advancement, environmental preservation, and societal well-being.
NITI Aayog, in collaboration with CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, initiated the India Australia Rapid Innovation and Startup Expansion (RISE) Accelerator under the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) to bolster circular economy startups from both countries, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.
The Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT-Kanpur) and the African-Asian Rural Development Organisation (AARDO) jointly organised an international training programme, focused on exploring the application of nanotechnology in promoting plant growth and crop protection for sustainable agriculture.
According to an IIT-Kanpur statement, the programme served as a forum for experts from diverse fields to discuss and deliberate on solutions to meet the urgent global challenge of achieving food security and promoting sustainability in agriculture.
The Indonesian government actively strives to implement thematic Bureaucratic Reform (RB) directly addressing societal issues. Minister of State Apparatus Empowerment and Bureaucratic Reform (PANRB) Abdullah Azwar Anas emphasised that innovation is one way to realise impactful bureaucracy.
To create impactful bureaucracy through innovation, the PANRB Ministry, which oversees public services, encourages local governments to replicate innovations through the Public Service Innovation Replication Forum (FRIPP). This is done to expand the reach of inventions and make them an integral part of the Bureaucratic Reform effort. The PANRB Ministry, as the overseer of public services, pays special attention to the steps local governments take in implementing innovations in public service delivery.
The Public Service Innovation Replication Forum (FRIPP) is a platform for local governments to share and discuss their experiences adopting specific innovations. By sharing best practices and learnings, local governments can gain valuable insights to enhance the quality of public services at the local level.
Furthermore, Abdullah Azwar Anas emphasised that inter-government collaboration is critical to building an innovative and positively impactful bureaucracy. “Through FRIPP, we encourage local governments to inspire and adopt innovations that have proven to provide real benefits to the community,” said Minister Abdullah Azwar Anas.
As previously reported by OpenGov Asia, the PANRB Ministry, along with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Administrative Agency (LAN), successfully launched the National Public Service Innovation Network (JIPPNas) website as a knowledge management system and the national database for public service innovations.
JIPPNas represents a concrete step in building an innovation ecosystem at the national level. This platform allows local governments to share ideas, projects, and innovative solutions in delivering public services. With this platform, other local governments can easily access and adopt innovations, accelerating the spread of best practices.
“Therefore, the presence of JIPPNas is expected to be an effort to grow new public service models through collaboration to achieve the future government,” said Minister Abdullah Azwar Anas.
In the discourse of Future Government, Minister Abdullah Azwar Anas outlined four main focus areas of the Thematic Bureaucratic Reform, which serve as the foundation for ambitious goals: poverty alleviation, increased investment, digitisation of government administration, and accelerating the current President’s priorities. Emphasis on these areas is crucial to ensuring that the bureaucracy is an effective and efficient driving force in realising the government’s vision and mission.
Minister Anas stressed the importance of a prime bureaucratic condition as a foundation to achieve the desired goals. Like a machine that must be well-maintained, the bureaucracy is directed to be able to drive the “vehicle” of the government towards the desired direction. Thus, the success of implementing the Thematic Bureaucratic Reform involves not only structural transformation but also upholding the quality and readiness of the bureaucracy as the primary driver of development.
Addressing Future Governance or Governance 5.0, Minister Anas detailed a significant paradigm shift. The “government regulating society” transitions to “Government working together with society,” or more precisely, considering society as a partner. This concept marks an evolution in how the government interacts with society, creating closer and more inclusive collaboration.
The importance of support from strategic partners such as Indonesia Infrastructure Project Governance (IIPG) is also highlighted. As a supporter of public governance reform, IIPG significantly contributes to maintaining synergy and harmonisation of roles across multi-sectors, both from the private and public sectors. This synergy is crucial in maintaining optimal performance and achieving public governance reform goals.
In line with the paradigm shift and focus on reform, these steps mark the government’s severe efforts to build a foundation for an adaptive, responsive, and actively engaged Future Government. Thematic Bureaucratic Reform is not just about structural transformation but also an effort to create a governance ecosystem capable of meeting the challenges and demands of the times effectively and competitively.