Indian Agriculture Ministry Partners to Modernise Agriculture – OpenGov Asia – OpenGov Asia

The Ministry of Agriculture signed five memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with five tech giants. Under the collaborations, the private players will conduct pilot projects to integrate digital technology and other best practices in the agricultural sector.
According to a news report, these MoUs are a part of the digital agriculture mission that was initiated for 2021-25 by the government to integrate emerging technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, remote sensing and GIS technology and the use of drones and robots, etc. Establishing a digital ecosystem of agriculture needs to take a long-term view of aspects like interoperability, data governance, data quality, data standards, security, and privacy, besides promoting innovation. A significant requirement is the adoption of a decentralised, federated architecture that assures autonomy to the service providers and all other actors and ensures interoperability at the same time.
To support these projects, the ministry is creating a federated farmers database that will be linked to farmers’ land records from across the country and a unique farmer ID will be created. These technologies will support farmers to make informed decisions on suitable crops to grow, types of seeds to use, and the best practices for maximum yields. The agriculture supply chain players can plan their procurement and logistics on precise and timely information. Farmers can make informed decisions about whether to sell or store their produce and when and where and what price to sell, the report said.
Further, under the unified database for all farmers, users can access the information of all benefits and supports of various schemes of the central and state governments. So far, the database is ready with details of around 55 million farmers. Any attempt to transform the agriculture sector needs to imbibe an ecosystem thinking and a digital ecosystem. The agriculture value chain extends from crop selection to crop management and the market; it involves public and private players in agricultural inputs and services and also logistics.
The country has been using technology to improve crop yield and double farmer incomes. In July, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Mandi (IIT-Mandi) and the Central Potato Research Institute (CPRI) in Shimla developed an AI solution that can detect diseased parts of potato crop using photographs of its leaves. As OpenGov Asia had reported, blight is a common disease of the potato plant. It leads to the rotting of the plant. If left undetected and unchecked, blight could destroy the entire crop within a week under conducive conditions.
IIT-Mandi’s computational tool can detect blight in potato leaf images. The model is built using an AI tool called mask region-based convolutional neural network architecture and can accurately highlight the diseased portions of the leaf amid a complex background of plant and soil matter. In India, as with most developing countries, the detection and identification of blight are performed manually by trained personnel who scout the field and visually inspect potato foliage. This process, as expected, is tedious and often impractical, especially for remote areas, because it requires the expertise of a horticultural specialist who may not be physically accessible.
Automated disease detection can help in this regard and given the extensive proliferation of mobile phones across the country, the smartphone could be a useful tool, according to a researcher on the team. The advanced HD cameras, better computing power, and communication avenues offered by smartphones offer a promising platform for automated disease detection in crops.
Federal agencies looking for cloud solutions may soon be able to check with the General Services Administration’s (GSA) one-stop-shop cloud marketplace. The marketplace would feature both post-award contract management tools and professional IT services, along with a “foundational set of requirements” to ensure cloud solutions comply with a baseline set of security requirements and the Federal Risk and Authorisation Management Program guidance.
“We are looking at how we put together a cloud marketplace that then becomes a buying platform for agencies. We want to put together not just a framework, but a market contractual vehicle that will allow our agencies to buy these core cloud services that we are seeing them need more and more.”
Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Information Technology Category in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS)
GSA has released a steady stream of guidelines around buying cloud services and solutions in recent years, and it set up a cloud information centre to equip agencies with crowdsourced, strategic acquisition resources. The agency eventually realized a vehicle was needed to effectively serve government agencies and industry stakeholders, who oversees more than 7,000 contracts and nearly $30 billion in annual government spending.
Some agencies have to go multiple places to buy cloud, hence GSA decided it was time to take the next step. A request for information is scheduled for release in the coming weeks, the GSA official noted, adding that input from industry stakeholders helps them understand how they need to make decisions.
Changes will not be overnight, but often incremental. FAS Commissioner has already warned that efforts to transform the agency’s buying and selling experience is a long term project. Agencies are working on a set of systems, processes and experiences that have been built over the last 30 years. In fact, today, some of the systems are 40 years old. It is not about just adding a little automation to connect the dots, they have to fundamentally rethink some of these things.
U.S. Administration has developed a new strategy to accelerate agency adoption of cloud-based solutions: Cloud Smart. Cloud Smart equips agencies with actionable information and recommendations gleaned from some of the country’s most impactful public and private sector use cases. Beyond Cloud First, which granted agencies broad authority to adopt cloud-based solutions, Cloud Smart offers practical implementation guidance for Government missions to fully actualiSe the promise and potential of cloud-based technologies while ensuring thoughtful execution that incorporates practical realities.
The new strategy is founded on three key pillars of successful cloud adoption: security, procurement, and workforce. Collectively, these elements embody the interdisciplinary approach to IT moderniSation that the Federal enterprise needs to provide an improved return on its investments, enhanced security, and higher quality services to the American people.
Cloud Smart operates on the principle that agencies should be equipped to evaluate their options based on their service and mission needs, technical requirements, and existing policy limitations. Computing and technology decisions should also consider customer impact balanced against cost and cybersecurity risk management criteria. Additionally, agencies need to weigh the long-term inefficiencies of migrating applications as-is into cloud environments against the immediate financial costs of modernising in advance or replacing them altogether.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed how big data, analytics, and cloud technology are being used in the public health sector. Cloud computing can help public health agencies scale up to accommodate the new data load, with architectures that auto-scale and adapt to changing flows. But the systems themselves must also be architected to support the horizontal scaling enabled by cloud computing.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) recently hosted PropTech Day, a showcase of data-driven innovation and property-centric technology use cases with innovation and technology (I&T) ecosystem stakeholders including government, property owners, facility management & infrastructure development companies and technology providers to accelerate innovation adoption in one of Hong Kong’s economic pillar sectors.
Several market-ready applications and concepts that will spur rapid smart city growth were showcased. Highlights include Airport Authority and HKSTP presenting on digital twin technology potential in Hong Kong, an extension of HKSTP’s STP Platform initiative to create a city-wide virtual lab, plus the MoU on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) IoT Maturity Index.
A panel on the same topic also invited industry leaders to share views on the critical role of standards in driving IoT adoption. Speakers included representatives from the Electric and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO), HK Electric, MTR Corporation, among many others.
The CEO of HKSTP stated that PropTech Day is a key initiative to accelerate digital transformation and smart city development through data-driven innovation. The STP Platform vision is to build a city-wide virtual lab that will help technology providers and adopters overcome the market validation barrier to technology adoption by ensuring more market-ready innovation tailored for sectors like property, finance and I&T.
HKSTP aims to drive a series of collaborative initiatives across the data-driven technology theme to minimise time-to-market for new innovations for the property sector as well other key economic pillars.
Data and IoT are at the heart of digital transformation in property and HKSTP’s MoU signing with the IEEE on the same day aims to drive IoT standards to sustain high-quality technology R&D and solutions in real estate and beyond. Both parties will proactively encourage different industries to adopt the IEEE P2668 IoT Maturity Index which is a global standard in grading all IoT devices and technologies across a 5-point scale.
This will help build best practices for developers and potential technology adopters when assessing sensors, devices, networks, management systems and infrastructure, especially applicable in the property sector.
STP Platform – creating a world-class virtual lab
HKSTP’s STP Platform, a vision for a city-wide virtual lab providing extensive technology testing and development within sector-specific environments. Through a combination of digital twinning, AI, robotics and big data, solutions can be rapidly validated for real-life scenarios enabling faster and wider adoption within Hong Kong’s major economic sectors including property, finance and much more.
The platform builds upon HKSTP’s industry-first validation service for AIR, previously announced in August 2020, featuring unique virtual and physical lab simulation and real-world testing capabilities. HKSTP has built a virtual testbed for a variety of innovative testing and has now successfully extended the concept into a wider network of industry and technology leaders to maximise technology benefits within key economic sectors.
Through the concerted efforts with ecosystem partners, HKSTP aims to build a Hong Kong-wide virtual lab to create and connect the biggest data sets available to power the evolution of Hong Kong into a modern smart city.
PropTech is relatively new to the market. However, it follows the same pattern as such terms as FinTech, EdTech, HealthTech, etc. Each of them represents the robust alignment between tech innovations and their adopters. The same goes for PropTech, which stands for ‘property’ and ‘technology’. The term highlights the importance of using tech in the industry of commercial real estate.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi (IIT-Delhi) have developed a device called the liquid-solid interface triboelectric nanogenerator. It can generate electricity from water drops, raindrops, water streams, and the ocean. The structure of the device consists of nanocomposite polymers and contact electrodes. The device can generate a few milliwatts (mw) of power, which is able to recharge small electric devices like watches, digital thermometers, radio frequency transmitters, healthcare sensors, and pedometers.
According to a news report, while comparing with the use of other effects such as the piezoelectric effect, the current device will be able to generate more electricity. The piezoelectric effect can generate an electric charge when a certain amount of mechanical stress is applied. But IIT-Delhi researchers have been working to generate electricity with the use of wasted mechanical vibration by using an effect named triboelectric effect, which derives and stores the energy. The researchers have demonstrated how the device produces electricity when water rolls over its surface. The device can also store the energy in batteries for further use.
The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology have supported the research under the Nanoelectronics Network for Research and Applications project (NNetRA). The group has filed an Indian patent on the various aspects of the use of ferroelectric polymer for harvesting mechanical energy, including the device. The researchers successfully incorporated nanostructures into a polymer matrix, which enhanced the film’s surface roughness, polarizability, and hydrophobicity, among other characteristics, as a result.
Due to the enhancement, the flexible film is used to fabricate the device where raindrops have to slide down and can generate electricity. The artificially-created rough surface allows to generate more charge and superhydrophobic properties of the solid surface help to roll the water drop without getting stick to the surface. Additionally, the IIT-Delhi research team has explored the mechanism by which the device generates electricity when the water drop comes in connection with the solid surface. While exploring the mechanism, the research team found that the saline water drops produce more electricity than freshwater.
Meanwhile, IIT-Delhi also recently set up a laboratory that will enable the measurement of the electrical performance of devices and circuits that are used in equipment like mobile phones, space satellites, and quantum computers. The lab it said will help researchers of IIT-Delhi as well as researchers from other institutions who are conducting research in the area of integrated electronic circuits and devices.
The Advanced Electrical Characterisation Laboratory was set up with an investment cost of IN₹170 million (US$2.3 million). The IIT-Delhi noted that the institution has significantly enhanced its research infrastructure in the last few years in the areas of nanofabrication, materials characterisation, testing, and prototype manufacturing. He added that this electrical characterisation facility is a welcome addition to the existing facilities. The laboratory in-charge explained that the institute is now equipped to perform various types of electrical measurements on a wide variety of packaged and on-wafer devices in a broad range of temperatures, with the highest levels of precision possibly anywhere in the world.
According to a global study, the Philippines is ranked 48th out of 110 countries based on a set of five fundamental digital wellbeing pillars. The rankings are based on the third annual edition of the Digital Quality of Life Index (DQL), which included data from 90% of the world’s population. It was carried out by a cybersecurity firm. The Philippines performed well in terms of Internet quality (20th) and e-security (30th), however fell short in terms of Internet affordability (72nd), e-infrastructure (63rd), and e-government (67th).
Despite falling one notch from last year’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index (GII) report, officials from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said that this is still an accomplishment. Although the Philippines’ GII ranking of 51st out of 132 countries is a step back from its upward trajectory since 2014, the country believes it is still an innovator.
The study says the country’s Internet quality is among the best in the world – the Philippines ranked 20th and has the fastest year-on-year growth in mobile and broadband speed. E-security in the Philippines is also about 20% higher than the global average. The country is ranked 30th in the world, surpassing New Zealand, Australia, and South Korea, one of the DQL leaders.
Overall, the Philippines improved significantly compared to the DQL 2020, rising from 66th to 48th and surpassing Indonesia. In addition, the country’s Internet affordability increased by 156%. The study also revealed that the Philippines has room for improvement in terms of e-infrastructure, with the country ranking 64th and being surpassed by neighbouring Thailand and Malaysia.
“Digital opportunities have proved to be more important than ever during the Covid-19 crisis, stressing the importance for every country to ensure fully remote operational capacities for their economies,” explained the CEO of the cybersecurity company. “That is why, for the third year in a row, we continue the Digital Quality of Life research, which provides a robust global outlook into how countries excel digitally. The index sets the basis for meaningful discussions about how digital advancement impacts a country’s prosperity and where improvements can be made.”
Although the Philippines GII ranking of number 51 among 132 countries is a step backwards from the upward trajectory since 2014, we believe we are still an innovation achiever.
– DOST Undersecretary
Meanwhile, DOST Secretary said that the government’s support for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as private firms, is one of the reasons why the Philippines has a strong innovation capability. He believes that innovation plays a critical role in the country, particularly during the pandemic. Most businesses and communities require innovation to maintain access to high-quality goods and services while also ensuring the safety of their employees and customers.
The DOST Secretary said despite the lower ranking compared to last year, the Philippines still performed well as it ranked 100th in 2014. “The DOST continues to support the MSMEs through the agency’s technology upgrading programme. The DOST has also focused on supporting projects that cater to the needs during the pandemic. Among these include the locally developed test kits, biomedical devices, and other applications. “Now that we know which sector, we are most needed, this will serve as a guide in funding allocation.” He added.
All whilst, the DOST Undersecretary asserted that the DOST has been assisting businesses through the Business Innovation Through Science and Technology programme. Furthermore, the DOST has been promoting university-business collaborations through its CRADLE (Collaborative Research and Development to Leverage the Philippine Economy) programme.
It is stated that the DOST is hoping for the passage of the Science for Change (S4CP) Bill, which seeks to address the disparity in research and development (R&D) funding in the regions, as well as the lack of R&D in the private sector, as an initiative to sustain innovation efforts. The Undersecretary then mentioned that the approval of the S4CP Bill would also mean equitable and sustained efforts for innovation, emphasising the importance of innovation to national resiliency.
The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) recently announced the launch of the Go-eCommerce Expo 2021, a virtual eCommerce conference that will run from 20 to 23 September 2021. The initiative aims to spur local businesses to adopt eCommerce by leveraging on the Belanjawan 2021 Go-eCommerce initiative with assistance and support from various participating partners.
It will also be working closely with a total of 23 partners to ensure a wider audience reach and boost uptake among local businesses.
The objective of the initiative is to promote the use of eCommerce as a new revenue channel that will open doors to more opportunities among local businesses in Malaysia. This will, in turn, promote a multi-channel sales approach that will help local businesses capture a wider audience and drive higher sales.
The CEO of MDEC stated that the pandemic has made it abundantly clear that digital adoption is a necessity for the success of our businesses. MDEC, through the nation’s #SayaDigital initiative, will continue to strongly support local businesses leveraging on the Belanjawan 2021 and the recent PEMULIH programme.
MDEC is positive eCommerce will create more opportunities and revenue streams thereby advancing an inclusive digital economy in line with the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL) and Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.
According to the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL), the digital economy is set to contribute 22.6% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025, targeting 875,000 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to adopt eCommerce.
The Expo will feature experienced industry speakers who will share their experience and tips on how to successfully create brand awareness and sales funnel to driving sales, as well as using social media to boost eCommerce. Last year, the Go-eCommerce Expo attracted over 3,000 registrations and more than 30,000 total viewers through the 12 webinars and 23 speakers featured.
OpenGov Asia also recently reported that MDEC in collaboration with an e-commerce service in Malaysia announced the launch of the Malaysia Select Campaign (via a Malaysia-Taiwan shopping platform) which aims to assists Malaysian businesses to expand to Taiwan.
The campaign is scheduled to run from 1 October to 10 October 2021 and is supported by the Commerce Development Research Institute of Taiwan, Exabytes, EasyParcel and Janio. This online sales campaign also targets to provide support to at least 800 local businesses to increase their sales by at least 30% and gain significant brand exposure in Taiwan.
It was noted that public-private initiatives such as this are important as the Government works to grow Malaysia as an eCommerce producer rather than just merely consumers, in line with the goals of National eCommerce Strategic Roadmap (NESR) 2.0 which aims to place the nation as the largest eCommerce market in the ASEAN-6 region by 2025.
The Chief Digital Business Officer of MDEC stated that the agency aims to further catalyse the growth of eCommerce in Malaysia and is of equal importance, sustaining livelihoods and jobs in the process.
The aim is to accomplish the goals of MyDIGITAL and place the nation firmly on course towards creating a globally competitive digital nation, anchored on inclusivity, sustainability and shared prosperity, firmly establishing Malaysia as the Heart of Digital ASEAN.
In 2020, Malaysia’s e-commerce market is worth US$4.3 billion and is expected to double to $8.1 billion by the year 2024; at 14% CAGR. Malaysia is now catching up to bring its e-commerce infrastructure, including product availability, payments, delivery and regulatory requirements, in line with more established online shopping markets.
Archaeologists can now use advanced excavation techniques thanks to advances in technology, allowing for greater recovery of fragile artefacts. The latest digital project, which will involve researchers from across the University as well as the University of Otago and the Otago Museum, will use instrumentation, computational modelling, and machine learning to record and analyse large collections of cultural artefacts. The goal is to create digital repositories of our cultural heritage that are widely accessible to iwi and archaeologists worldwide.
The project has received $1 million in MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) Endeavour – Smart Ideas funding. A professor from the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI), whose research focuses on using mathematical modelling of complex biological systems to better understand and treat the disorders that can affect them, was excited at the expansive use. He feels it is an opportunity to take their research outside the bioengineering field and re-purpose it to record, analyse and popularise cultural heritage – much of which lies in large collections of repositories and museums.
The initiative will address the critical shortage of resources in archaeology and museums by developing tools that allow for the automatic identification, measurement, processing and interpretation of these artefacts. These have been discovered as a result of archaeological research or when archaeologists are called in to preserve valuable historical remains prior to housing or commercial development.
Professors of archaeology were acutely aware of a problem in the recording and analysis of our cultural heritage. The country has a large number of stone artefacts excavated from the past, but it lacks the resources and expertise to do anything about it – going through so many artefacts take a long time.
They were alerted to the other department in computational modelling and imaging techniques developed at the ABI, as well as the machine-learning research of another Professor and his team in the School of Computer Science, through serendipitous connections and “one degree of separation”. It occurred to them that they could collaborate to piece together the past using cutting-edge technologies and expertise that represent the future in many ways.
The project will involve the creation of a database that distinguishes, first and foremost, human-modified artefacts from those created by natural environmental forces. Next will entail ‘teaching’ a machine to distinguish one from the other and to identify the shape, size and characteristics of each object. Combining archaeological expertise, imaging capabilities and machine-learning capabilities, AI programmes will be able to quickly recognise what these objects are. This would improve the ability to manage and interpret heritage records, fragmented across museums, labs and storage facilities.
They are confident that this method could change the approach to heritage in New Zealand and around the world. As the professor notes, this is likely to be of immense value to archaeologists and heritage globally. “If we can succeed in this, we can use it nationally, but sell the technology internationally, including to Australia which has such vast areas and so many such valuable Indigenous objects to analyse.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced the establishment of a new office unit to oversee the fintech industry to promote financial inclusion and protect consumers and investors. Under its Corporate Governance and Finance Department (CGFD), the PhiliFintech Innovation Office (PIO) will focus on the regulation of the use of fintech or financial technology, in the Philippines. The PIO is mandated to perform the following:
“Integral to our mission of championing the business sector, the capital market, and the investing public, is fostering innovation,” SEC chairperson said in a statement. The agency supports new and emerging business concepts while taking a proactive stance against any excessive risk build-up to ensure market integrity. The PhiliFintech Innovation Office has been created to be at the helm of building an enabling regulatory environment for fintech.
The SEC’s mandate includes regulating innovative trading markets and technology-based ventures, as outlined in Republic Act No. 8799, or the Securities Regulation Code. The Securities and Exchange Commission previously supervised the registration and granting of licences for non-traditional securities and instruments through its Non-Traditional Department, which was later abolished following the creation of the Insurance Commission in 2010.
Since then, the SEC has delegated regulation of non-traditional securities and fintech initiatives to other departments and has treated them on a case-by-case basis. To better prepare the country for fintech innovation, the SEC created the PIO to give greater regulatory focus on the industry.
OpenGov Asia reported according to a global study, the Philippines is ranked 48th out of 110 countries based on a set of five fundamental digital wellbeing pillars. The rankings are based on the third annual edition of the Digital Quality of Life Index (DQL), which included data from 90% of the world’s population. It was carried out by a cybersecurity firm. The Philippines performed well in terms of Internet quality (20th) and e-security (30th), however fell short in terms of Internet affordability (72nd), e-infrastructure (63rd), and e-government (67th).
The PIO, in collaboration with the appropriate agency department, will expedite the registration of new fintech companies. It will also be the first point of contact for existing fintech companies that have been operating without proper regulation or authorization, or that will launch new fintech products. It is also responsible for documenting, analysing and comprehending fintech business models and their potential impacts on the market and its participants. Through this, it will be able to formulate and implement regulatory responses aimed at protecting investors and market participants while also promoting the growth of fintech firms.
Before the establishment of the PIO, the SEC issued rules and regulations in response to new technologies that emerged in the market. The agency approved the Rules and Regulations Governing Crowdfunding in 2019, which gave start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses easier access to funding. It gave its approval to the country’s first crowdfunding portal.
Meanwhile, the SEC is developing rules governing digital asset offerings and digital asset exchanges to give investors more options while also protecting them from the misuse of such emerging assets. They are acutely aware that with new and emerging business concepts and innovation there comes associated risks. To mitigate and manage these, the Commission plans to embed safeguards in every policy action. It will intensify enforcement and education campaigns to protect investors and financial consumers as well as the overall integrity of the business sector.

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