What’s next for the cloud and AI in Asia-Pacific governments

By Shirley Tay

Experts from Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Australia discussed at a recent GovInsider webinar.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” said Apple’s founder Steve Jobs. Today, citizens are expecting governments to lead the way in innovation - and in the recent year, agencies did not disappoint.

Covid-19 has “turbo-charged” digitalisation, said Mohamed Hardi, Director and Chief Information Officer of Singapore’s National Heritage Board (NHB). Governments across the world have used AI and the cloud to pivot, build personalised services, and scale digital systems.

Five leading tech innovators came together to discuss what’s next for cloud and AI at the recent Scaling for a hyper-digitalised government webinar.

Smart, personalised services

South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety is developing a government chatbot platform, said Sungjoo Son, the Director of the International Digital Cooperation Division. It will create common natural language processing modules to train the bots, and share training data among agencies.

The nation is also using AI for public and cyber safety. The tech monitors blind spots on streets and alerts drivers to incoming pedestrians; while AI-based threat detection and response systems protect government data centers from cyber attacks, he added.

Singapore’s NHB is looking to deliver interactive and immersive “phygital” experiences. That involves combining the best of digital and physical experiences, Hardi explained.

Roots.sg, NHB’s interactive heritage portal, uses AI to predict and suggest information users may be looking for, Hardi said.

Partnerships are crucial in making this possible, he said. The Infocomm Media Development Authority’s open innovation platform, for instance, enabled NHB to partner startups and quickly build a 5G-powered online platform for users to remotely experience Singapore’s tourism sites.

Tapping on tools provided by NHB’s private sector partners enabled the agency to develop tech in “agile sprints”, Hardi added.

Building trust and security

Building trusted, secure services was also a key topic of discussion at the webinar.

The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages manages masses of personally identifiable data, and cannot afford a lapse in security, said Dwain Lindsay, its Service Delivery Manager for Digital Transformation.

It uses a cloud monitoring tool to keep its databases secure, he added. The company helps them detect signs of malicious actors trying to breach their systems. “Having those security controls in place enables us to provide a higher level of service.”

Societies are becoming more complex and technologies are changing quickly - bringing drastic changes to privacy and safety, said Hiroki Habuka, Deputy Director for Global Digital Governance, at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Traditional governance models do not work anymore, he added. Instead, governments need to rapidly and continuously design new rules and standards with the academia, private sector, and citizens.

A cloud-first approach

South Korea’s government must consider a cloud-first approach by law, Son said. 46 per cent of government systems have been migrated to or developed in the cloud.

In Victoria, birth registrations used to be carried out via paper-based forms, and that could take up to 60 days, Lindsay said. Moving to the cloud has reduced the time taken to under 7 days. More than 90 per cent of births in Victoria today are registered online through a mobile app, he added.

AI can help to do the “heavy lifting” and help organisations understand their existing environment and which services can be improved or migrated to the cloud, said Rafi Katanasho, Asia-Pacific Chief Technology Officer at Dynatrace.

AI and the cloud hold the potential for building personalised citizen services. With trust and security factored in, governments will pave the way for a better digital future.

Watch the full replay of the webinar here.