Governments around the world are talking about citizen-centric services. Public sector CIOs are attempting to understand user needs and behaviour, so that they can design, develop and deliver services citizens will use and benefit from. But how exactly do you understand user citizens’ needs and wants, how do you factor them in your technology design, how do you design an interface which users will adopt, use and benefit from.
Behavioural science could provide some of the answers. In a 2008 book, ‘Nudge’, University of Chicago economist Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein talked about nudges or interventions that steer people in a particular direction while preserving freedom of choice. They were drawing on ideas first defined by Nobel prize winner, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Daniel Kahneman summarised his life’s work in the book, ‘Thinking, fast and slow’. He proposed two systems of thinking: "System 1" is fast, instinctive and emotional; "System 2" is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.
What is behavioural science?
Behavioural science is fundamentally about cognitive biases associated with each type of thinking. From framing choices to people's tendency to replace a difficult question with one which is easy to answer, they proposed and verified through studies over decades that too much confidence in rational human judgement.
The way a question or choice is framed or presented can influence people’s decisions and answers in numerous subtle ways. In the public sector, this could mean that governments can gently nudging citizens toward certain choices.
Examples of the sort of critical insights which behavioural science provides are:
Availability/recency heuristic: People rely on the most immediate examples that come to a given mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision. This is because of the notion that if something can be recalled, it must be important, or at least more important than alternative solutions which are not as readily recalled.
Sunk cost fallacy: People tend to persist on a course of action once they have invested some effort into it to avoid ‘wasting’ resource that is unrecoverable.
Loss aversion: People prefer avoiding losses to making gain. Loss aversion implies that one who loses $100 will lose more satisfaction than another person will gain satisfaction from a $100 windfall.
Rising use in government
Starting from 2014, behavioural insight teams have been created within several governments to inform policy decisions and apply specific practical guidance to drive real desired outcomes. The first such unit to be created within government was the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) in the British government. It was originally located within the Cabinet Office but was spun off in 2014 as a social purpose company, partly owned by the Cabinet Office, employees and Nesta. The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) was established by President Barack Obama in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Australian government set up the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government (BETA), a joint initiative of 17 agencies, hosted by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. The European Nudging Network (TEN) was created in 2014 to ensure a scientifically and ethically responsible dissemination of applied behavioural insights throughout Europe and beyond. The Network is managed by The Center for Science, Society and Policy (ISSP) in a collaboration between ISSP, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and HEC Paris.
Technology and behavioural science
Behavioural science and technology could be related in three ways, sometimes one leading to another, forming a virtuous cycle.
- Implementing Behavioural Science insights using technology
- Designing, implementing or increasing uptake of technology using behavioural insights
- Using technology to gather better, real-time and more accurate data for improved behavioural science insights
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a report called ‘Behavioural Insights and Public Policy: Lessons from Around the World‘ this year in March. It said that behavioural insights till now have primarily been used for policy implementation. However, there is great scope for using them for policy design.
The report emphasises that good or reliable data is key to applying behavioural insights. Also, that data does not equal evidence and statistical significance must be taken into account. The short and long term effects have to be continuously monitored, the work published for transparency and accountability and the costs to government measured.
We pick several examples from the OECD report of behavioural insights being applied in governments from Canada to Colombia, from Kenya to UK and add information from other sources. These examples were selected because of the involvement of technology in one or more of the three ways described above.
Encouraging adults to stick with literacy and numeracy programmes(Country- UK; Area- Education)
In September 2014, the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) established the Behavioural Insights Research Centre for Adult Skills and Knowledge (ASK), in collaboration with BIT. ASK was established with the aim of conducting research, running trials to produce evidence-based policy practical tools for employers, training providers and adult learners.
In one of its first trials, ASK tried to find if behavioural science insights could encourage adults with low maths and English skills to stick with literacy and numeracy programmes. Two thousand students were sent multiple text messages and prompts on behalf of the college, telling them that what the students are learning is important, that they can succeed, that practice matters and that they belong in college. They were also sent messages helping them plan attendance, and revise course materials. Learners in control classes received no text messages. Average attendance increased by 7% compared to control group, while dropout rate decreased by 36%. Several colleges in the UK are considering implementing a similar text message regime.
Roll-out of smart meters (Country- UK; Area- Energy)
The UK government has been using behavioural science insights in Smart Energy GB, the national campaign for smart meter rollout in every home and small business across Scotland, England and Wales by 2020.The government requires energy companies to install smart meters for their customers, and has set out rules around data access and privacy, security technical standards for the smart metering equipment and meeting the needs of vulnerable consumers. However, consumers are free to choose whether to install one.
A study published in July 2016, titled ‘A smart route to change’ summarised the lessons derived from theory, surveys and consumer focus groups to find the most effective interventions which would build consumer confidence in smart meters and motivate them to install one. Insights from the qualitative research from blogs by users and non-users included points like perceived ‘hassle’ is a major barrier to engagement and installation. Examples of findings from the focus groups included positive response to interventio
ns which brought greater clarity to energy usage and the impact of changes in behaviour. It was found that ideally interventions should tap into existing behaviours and avoid creating additional effort and that more personalised feedback and advice would help to maintain behaviour change.
Encouraging healthy behaviour among citizens (Country- Canada, Singapore; Area- Healthcare)
Nearly 1 in Canadian children and youth and 6 among 10 adults are overweight or obese. Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) wanted to see if it could use behavioural science to tackle this complex problem.
Canadians are amongst the highest users of loyalty points in the world. Using nudge theories, PHAC launched a mobile app called ‘Carrot rewards’ which awards users loyalty points (Aeroplan® Miles, Petro-Points™ and more) a for their chosen programme for learning about and adopting healthy behaviours. They are awarded for downloading the app, for referring friends and family, for taking healthy actions, such as taking a healthy heart quiz, learning about healthy eating choices, participating in physical activity or visiting a local YMCA.
It is an ongoing project. Partners include British Columbia Ministry of Health, Newfoundland and Labrador Government, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Diabetes Canada, and YMCA Canada.
It was launched in British Columbia in 2016 and will be extended to interested provinces and territories over 5 years, till 2020. Success will be measured by data on acquisition of new users, levels of engagement, attrition/retention rates, demonstration of improved knowledge against a baseline and information from wearable devices (the programme has been designed so that it can be linked to wearable devices). Analytics is used to drive modifications and tailored offers.
In Singapore, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) is leveraging behavioural insights and wearable technology to influence lifestyle changes and nudge Singaporeans to integrate more physical activity into their daily lives. Consulting with the UK’s BIT and the Ministry of Manpower’s Behavioural Insights and Design Unit.
For example, HPB used the concept of gamification where points are earned based on the number of steps taken in the National Steps Challenge™, integrating the use of wearable technology with a steps tracker and HPB’s Healthy 365 mobile application to incentivise participants to sustain behaviour change.
Preventing patients from stopping tuberculosis treatment using virtual observation(Country-Moldova; Area- Healthcare)
Moldova is facing an increased incidence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. One of the major reasons is the low drug adherence rate, people stopping treatment after leaving the hospital. Patients are required to take the pill in the presence of a medical professional. This Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) is to ensure that infection is completely eliminated. However, the travelling to-and-fro from the hospital, to swallow a pill in front of a doctor, proved too high a cost.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with a local NGO, Act for Involvement and the UK BIS is testing the replacement of DOT with VOT or Virtually Observed Treatment. It would eliminate the need for the patient to travel to the hospital He/ she can do it in front of a computer and send a video message using an app. Four hundred randomly chosen patients have been placed under VOT, with a control group of 200 patients receiving DOT to judge whether VOT leads to better adherence rates and health outcomes.
Reduction in missed follow-up doctor appointments(Country- UK; Area- Healthcare)
In 2014-15 around 5.6 million (9% of the total) NHS outpatient appointments were missed in England. Missed first outpatient appointments cost the NHS up to £225 million in 2012 to 2013.
Patients may miss their appointment because they forget. Tackling this by telephone or text message reminders substantially reduce missed appointments.
Research was conducted to test how different reminder messages affect missed appointment rates. It compared the existing standard reminder message in use at Barts NHS Trust with 3 new messages designed by the research team. The message stating specific costs to the NHS for each appointment missed was found to be the most effective, more than an appeal to empathy or social norms or a statement regarding costs in general without stating a number.
Increasing uptake of online renewal of vehicle license stickers(Country- Canada; Area- Government digital services)
The government of Ontario, the second largest province of Canada tried to use behavioural science to boost uptake on online renewal of vehicle license stickers. The license is renewed annually.
A randomly selected sample of over 620,000 vehicle owners were sent modified renewal notices. The concepts of ‘salience’ and ‘gain-loss framing’ were tested.
The black text of the subject line regarding renewal was embedded in a blue background to make it stand out on the exterior of an otherwise standard black-and-white ServiceOntario envelope. Secondly, to increase the salience of benefits from online renewal, in the subject line on the envelope, the wording “Instant and easy renewal online” (highlighting the ease) rather than “Renew online and receive a 10-day extension (not all consumers require a 10-day extension.)
Research has demonstrated that when people think about an immediate action, they often primarily focus on hassles or the mental effort required to perform the action instead of the benefits. To address this, the original messaging about the online renewal option printed on the back of the renewal form found inside the pressure-sealed envelope was changed to prompt consideration of the benefits before a person had time to think about any hassles or costs associated with undertaking an unfamiliar process. In the second intervention, people’s attention was directed to gains or positives associated with the online renewal. In the third intervention, the negatives, particularly the time cost, of not choosing to renew online.
The salience-gain and salience-loss letters had significant positive effects on online renewals and only the salience-gain letter had any effect on on-time renewals. The salience-gain letter prompted the best response. The increased use of online renewal service during the eight-week study saved the government approximately C$28,000 in transaction fees by reducing the number of in-person transactions in ServiceOntario centers. Annual savings of C$612,000 were projected if the best-performing salience-gain treatment condition is adopted permanently in Ontario, and this gain would be achieved at virtually zero cost to the government.
Encouraging businesses to regularly update central registry data (Country- Denmark; Area- Government digital services)
The Danish Business Authority maintains a register, where Danish businesses have to register their data and keep it up to date. The data in the register is publicly available and used by businesses in their dealings with each other.
It is very difficult to estimate the accuracy of the data because of the nature of the register. So, DBA created a nudge intervention to help businesses keep an eye on their own data. There were two separate behavioural barriers to overcome, a lack of attention (for updating information such as change in contact person or address) and a lack of understanding of the procedure for updating. The proposed solution was a pop-up on a homepage by DBA, virk.dk, where businesses go to submit forms for getting subsidies, filing VAT returns and many other activities. The page is visited by most businesses several times a year.
As soon, as businesses logged in on the page, the pop-up prompted them to accept or change the current information about their company in the database. During a 20-day testing period, the pop-up was shown 14,377 times. 52.5% of users confirmed their current company data, 41.6% pressed ‘Correction’ and only around 6% chose the option, ‘I am not responsible for business data’. 42% of people who picked ‘Correction’ did not make corrections. The reason for that was found in a later user survey to be anti-intuitive characteristics of the flow for changing. However, the pop-up itself was effective in getting the attention of busy businessmen who might not consider updating registry information as a priority task.
Increasing citizen engagement with government by sharing work updates on mobile app (Country- USA; Area- Government digital services)
The Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) wanted to find ways to use technology for improving civic engagement. Citizens were using an app called Citizens Connect to submit public service requests to the city government. Using the app, MONUM provided the citizens with images of work being done of requests they had made, for example, filling potholes, cleaning graffiti and fixing streetlights.
In the following months, number of public service requests submitted by citizens jumped by 19.6% and the requests were made in 9.3% more categories. Operational transparency had a positive impact on Boston residents’ trust in the city government, which increased engagement.
Tackling behavioural problems in digital cash transfer for food aid (Country- Kenya; Area- Social welfare)
Cash for Assets (CFA) is a joint World Food Programme (WFP)/Government of Kenya conditional cash transfer scheme that reaches food insecure households in seven arid and semi-arid counties in eastern and coastal Kenya, where recipients work on community assets to build resilience against drought.
When an electronic payment system was launched in 2010, recipients faced issues of overcharging, battery problems, unfair treatment, service unavailability due to network outages, unreliable service hours and forgetting PINs.
CGAP (the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) supported WFP Kenya to identify measures to deal with these problems based on insights from behavioural science. CGAP and WFP conducted two mystery shopping experiments in August 2014 and August 2015 in Isiolo county in Kenya. It sought answers to the questions around merchant and user behaviour. For instance, in busy shops with long lines, will merchants lose patience with beneficiaries trying to use their cards, mishandling their personal information and refraining from explaining how the system works? Or would there be a “lottery effect” with beneficiaries, where they treat the electronic payments less cost-consciously than “earned” money?
The study showed indications of positive effects on shoppers’ price sensitivity by mandating itemized receipts from POS devices. Merchants charged varying prices for the same item across customers. However, most consumers were not negotiating on prices, contrary to usual shopping behaviour in Kenyan markets. This could be due to the “lottery effect”. To address this, the introduction of mandatory itemized receipts was suggested to strengthen beneficiaries’ capacity to protect themselves from additional charges and put merchants on alert that their pricing is being monitored.
Several merchants did not fully protect PIN information of beneficiaries, entering the information themselves or asking beneficiaries to leave their PIN and/or card with them. A possible remedy could be to integrate mystery shopping on a permanent basis into the programme. An award system could be created for merchants that comply with these good practices where mystery shoppers provide them with “good practice” stickers or certificates when they refuse to sell non-permitted items or make consumers enter their PIN in the POS device on their own.
Improving understanding of telecom service conditions (Country- Colombia; Area- Telecom services)
Comisión de Regulación de Comunicaciones (CRC) or the Commission for Regulation of Communications in Colombia found that users of mobile telephony and Internet services had very poor information about consumer rights and obligations. They lacked even superficial legal knowledge while signing post-paid contracts.
Working with Konrad Lorentz University, CRC conducted a number of experiments on a sample of 851 mobile users, across different socio-economic strata, of both genders, between the ages of 18 and 65 with pre-paid and post-paid plans from different operators.
Principles of bounded rationality (Rationality of individuals is limited by the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make a decision) were applied. To simplify the contracts, all information relevant to the user was presented in a clear and organised manner, such that it could be read in 12 minutes.
Researchers studying the effect of the simplified contract among sample users found that reading time is related to perceived risk and invested money, oral communication was often preferred and using introductory titles allowed for easy contextualisation of topics. Level of education was not a significant factor in understanding. Consistent users expressed confidence in the operator based on past experience. And when users believed they had no choice but to accept the conditions laid down by the operators, the ‘helplessness’ reduced their motivation to read.
CRC concluded that the success of simplifying contracts would depend on a combination of consumer psychology, behavioural science and visual communication techniques.
The OECD report stresses that results must be validated through replication to ensure that observed results are correct in the same context and setting and also in different ones, where governments might be thinking of applying them. Context is crucial.
Government actions will be necessarily targeted at a group and conclusions which might be statistically valid for a population might be difficult to apply for every single individual within the same population group. Technology (AI applied through mobile applications based on data from wearables for example) can help in making the interventions more targeted and personalised.
There could be ethical concerns in attempting to ‘modify’ behaviour. Thaler and Sunstein dealt with this by talking about ‘Choice architecture’ which describes the way in which decisions are influenced by how the choices are presented. People can be "nudged" by arranging the choice architecture in a certain way without taking away the individual's freedom of choice.
Transparency about the interventions could also go a long way in maintaining trust. Ultimately the aim is not to intercede and decide on behalf of citizens but to enable them to take the ‘best’ possible decisions, ‘best’ being decided by themselves.
Technology can help implement the interventions or the interventions can increase adoption of technology. These examples demonstrate repeatedly how simple and often cost-free interventions, derived from behavioural science research can be applied to help people make better decisions, without restricting freedom. It could be as simple as a well-placed pop-up or a change the background colour in which a message is embedded.
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.