A future in digitalisation beckons us


Speed up digitisation of public service

Editorial

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan

It is important to digitise public administration and make it more user-friendly for the people. The government should clearly present its outlook for the future and a road map.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has announced his administration’s intention to establish a digital agency as one of its key policies. The government plans to submit a related Bill to the ordinary Diet session next year.

Unifying digital policies that have straddled multiple ministries and agencies to establish a structure to promote digitisation is highly significant. It must be tackled in a speedy manner.

What should be taken up first is digitising the administrative services of central government ministries and agencies and local governments.

In measures to respond to coronavirus infections, confusion arose over the online application for the cash benefit of 100,000 yen (S$1,300) per person.

The sharing of information on the infectious disease between the central and local governments stalled, and schools were notoriously unprepared, such that they were unable to offer remote classes. Teleconferences between ministries and agencies did not go as smoothly as had been intended.

Such incidents occurred because each ministry and agency has its own computer system and there is no government-wide strategy.

The digital agency is envisioned as serving as a control tower to improve such situations. The challenge will be to create an effective structure that enables a unified response that transcends the vertical divisions of ministries and agencies.

In addition to the internal government systems, the government must also promote digitisation in various areas of society, including the economy, medical care and welfare, and education.

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It must not be forgotten that the essential purpose of digitisation is to increase convenience for people.

Digital reasons for China’s economy

Zhang Jun

China Daily, China

Despite taking a serious hit from Covid-19 lockdowns, China’s economy has proved resilient, although it has not fully bounced back, as some activities, especially in the service sector, cannot be revived.

Yet unlike most of the world, China seems unlikely to become mired in a long recession, not least because of its rapid digital transformation.

China’s digital economy was growing strongly before the pandemic. In 2018, it already accounted for 31.3 trillion yuan (S$6.3 trillion), or 34 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). While this is only about one-third the size of the United States’ digital economy, it represents years of growth that outpaced that of nominal GDP. The Covid-19 crisis is set to reinforce this trend.

The pandemic has destroyed some businesses and industries, but it has also greatly accelerated the uptake of digital technologies.

Unable to leave their homes, people embraced shopping and catering platforms such as JD.com, Meituan, Pinduoduo and Eleme, which enabled them to purchase food, oil, vegetables and other daily necessities online.

Moreover, within a month of closing their classrooms and evacuating their campuses, schools and universities moved online – a shift that spurred the rapid development of online conferencing and learning platforms. Likewise, companies took advantage of digital tools – from communication platforms like Enterprise WeChat and DingTalk to e-contracts – to keep their businesses running. More than 20 million online meetings, with more than 100 million total participants, have been initiated on DingTalk in a single day.

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Just as technology helped life go on during lockdowns, it has enabled China to roll back restrictions without risking public health.

A growing number of local governments are implementing health code – a mobile-phone app that assigns users a colour code indicating their health status.

But the health apps of new digital technologies extend much further, and are transforming China’s entire healthcare industry. Beyond the rise of online medication purchases, 5G-based remote medical consultation platforms, such as Ping An Good Doctor, have been flourishing, laying the groundwork for a new industrial model.

Technology is also propelling research and development in health.

A similar digital transformation is sweeping China’s financial industry. With 562 million users, China’s mobile banking apps were the third-largest category of apps by customer base – after short-video and shopping apps – at the end of March. Chinese mobile banking apps now average 50 million monthly active users.

The growth of China’s digital economy has been a boon for employment as well. The China Information and Communications Technology Academy reports that in 2018, the digital economy created 191 million jobs and accounted for one-quarter of overall employment – an 11.5 per cent year-on-year increase.

China may well be the only major economy to realise positive growth this year. It owes this, in no small measure, to a decade of commitment to heavy investment in tech-driven structural transformation.

Data at the heart of change

Syafri Bahar

The Jakarta Post, Indonesia

Covid-19 has put technology at the heart of many companies. Consumer behaviour has shifted dramatically over the past few months, and ever more transactions are taking place online. While the pandemic has brought financial and operational challenges to all markets, technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI), proves that growth is still possible during times of crisis.

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Indonesia, with its large population and deep smartphone penetration, presents a huge opportunity for data-intensive technology.

At the core of AI lies machine learning, which allows machines to learn from a set of examples.

Imagine that instead of thinking about what rules to tell a machine, we can show examples for the machine to learn how to make scalable decisions. This is a great advantage as it allows businesses to be more efficient and to scale their operations faster.

Through data-driven/informed decision making, you can predict future trends, identify new opportunities, optimise your current efforts and produce actionable insight more efficiently.

A big technological change is happening. Brace yourselves and be the first ones to be prepared for the changes.

• The View From Asia is a compilation of articles from The Straits Times’ media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 24 news media titles.





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