CMKL University and TCC Technology to launch national AI supercomputing research infra

CMKL University and TCC Technology (TCCtech) will launch national AI research infrastructure and dataset exchange to provide the high-performance computing solutions to The National Data Platform for AI.

CMKL University was established as a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL). CMKL has leveraged the best practices from CMU, the US- based University, known as the top Grad School in AI field and KMITL, Thailand Based University, also known as the top University in Engineering fields.

With the core value – Beyond Limit, Make it happen, CMKL was initiated to create a new collaboration between the industries and academia. “As many companies moved to Pittsburgh to be near CMU, now we are bringing CMU to Thailand to create the new way of work with business in Thailand and this region. We are pleased to work with TCC Technology, Thailand’s leading infrastructure and solutions providers, in handling the world class infrastructure to support research for our National AI platform” said Dr Supan Tungjitkusolmon, President of CMKL University.

Unleashing AI power in Thailand

AI initiatives will become increasingly important in the near future. This collaboration, with the readiness of high performing infrastructure, is regarded as a significant milestone to create substantial impacts by making technology accessible and accelerating AI work in collaborative R&D fields to benefit for Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economy & society in Thailand and its neighboring countries.

“We encourage universities and businesses to open up and work together in order to combine our strengths so that we can leverage AI power to the fullest extent and be ready to compete in the global stage. Thanks to PMU-C’s support, we can build the new, powerful AI-enabled infrastructure called “APEX,” located here at CMKL University (Carnegie Mellon – CMKL | Thailand). APEX can help unleash high performance for AI workloads without limiting your imagination, as well as accelerate turn-around time for analysis, thus shortening time to market.

For sustainability in providing such AI-infrastructure services in the future, we are collaborating with global partners as well as domestic service providers, like TCC Technology, to build national capability to maximize APEX’s capability and understand how to provide AI-infrastructure services.” pointed out Dr. Orathai Sangpetch, Vice President of Research and Strategy at CMKL University.

APEX Goliath, a key initiative under framework of Thailand’s BCG economy

As part of BCG (Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model) infrastructure development, APEX Goliath is a key initiative, sponsored by PMU-C (Program Management Unit for Thailand’s Competitiveness), Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO), an autonomous public agency affiliated to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation.

APEX Goliath is the data exchange & AI analytics platform across integrated systems for BCG. It will help accelerate to maximize the value of data and AI economy for industries such as medical & wellness, food & agricultural, tourism & creative economy and bio-energy in Thailand.

“TCC Technology is honoured to be part of CMKL’s success in implementing the infrastructure solutions to be the national data exchange & AI analytics Platform under Thailand’s BCG development. This could be regarded as the big step to leap frog our country in AI field and transform Thailand to be a value-based and innovation-driven economy.” noted Teerapan Luengnaruemitchai, Managing Director of TCC Technology

“TCC Technology –as the Technology Trusted Solutions Partner is ready to support CMKL’s central computing node in spearheading the AI initiatives to be beneficial to research and university nodes and businesses across Thailand and Southeast Asia”, said Pipit Jariyavattanavijit, Deputy MD – Commercial and Operation of TCC Technology

CMKL adopts the integrated infrastructure solutions, powered by TCC Technology. The solutions range from data center & containment, network & management appliance, high performance GPU & storage and AI/ HPC appliances. In addition, the end-to-end solutions include the management & monitoring of high speed connectivity linkage to our country’s neutral internet exchange making the performance optimisation and effectiveness possible.

Powerful computing in Southeast Asia

“With 30-petaflop AI computing power, the ‘Apex’ cluster deployed at CMKL is one of the most powerful AI-focused infrastructure in Thailand and this region. The infrastructure will be a part of federated AI computing facilities deployed across universities in Thailand.

It also serves as the central repository for AI corpuses & research datasets supported by MHESI and PMU-C. Its aim is to push AI to solve real-world use cases.

We collaborate with TCC Technology and leading technology companies to make the system available to the much needed areas of research that will enhance the country’s competitiveness. With training speed as the key to success for AI project, high performance computing means more work can be done and more opportunity for researchers to turn AI research ideas to business opportunities,” said Dr. Akkarit Sangpetch, CMKM (Thailand) program director at CMKL University.

Petaflops indicates a unit of computing speed equal to one thousand million million (1015) floating-point operations per second.

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Microsoft Taiwan, TECO and Chunghwa Telecom form alliance to push digital industrial upgrading

The world’s major motor producer TECO, Taiwan’s largest largest wireless carrier Chunghwa Telecom, and global cloud provider Microsoft have signed a memorandum on March 22 to foster the development of Industry 4.0 worldwide, seeking a strategic alliance on the principle of equality and reciprocity.

These three companies will join forces to induce corporate digital  industrial transformation and information-security upgrading, as well as expand their business opportunities in developing smart energy, smart home appliances, smart cloud service centres and other Industry 4.0 solutions. Those products can be distributed via Microsoft global ecosystem.

The alliance also marks the inauguration of TECO’s new operation model “Manufacturing as a Service”. It aims to develop precautionary maintenance for electromechanical products, smart factory solutions, AR remote collaboration, and big-data platform.

“The alliance with TECO will help the latter overhaul its operation and business model, thereby enabling it to make major inroads into the global market,” said Ken Sun, general manager of Microsoft Taiwan.

TECO chairwoman Sophia Chiu said that TECO is poised to carry out a number of major projects, including virtual digital infrastructure, mixed cloud-end structure, information security, and high-performance, safe cross-border operating network, taking advantage of the backing of Chunghwa Telecom and Microsoft to deploy in 5G-based factories worldwide.

Under this partnership, Chunghwa Telecom can provide corporate customers digital-transformation services and various solutions, including new-generation SD-WAN network, cloud-end/IDC, big-data analysis, 5G+AIoT, blockchain, information security, and green energy.

The three parties have pledged their contribution to Taiwan’s industrial transformation. Chunghwa Telecom’s chairman Sheih Chi-mau said that the company would ally with more manufacturers to push smart manufacturing, in order to accelerate Taiwan’s industrial upgrading and help corporate customers transform their operations. Apart from the long-established relationship with Microsoft, Chunghwa annouced in 2019 that it had achieved Advanced Consulting Partner status in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN).

Last year, Microsoft also launched the “Reimagine Taiwan” program, pledging to make the region a digital transformation hub in Asia.

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Indian SMEs to receive banking support from U.K. fintech firm Tide

Tide, the U.K.’s leading business banking fintech, has partnered with RBL Bank to provide business accounts and related banking services with highly connected admin tools for the SME segment in India.

Under the first overseas launch of Tide platform, Tide members – small and medium-sized enterprises – can use the platform to open current and savings accounts at India-based RBL Bank as well as make seamless transactions. Launched in 2017, Tide’s platform appeals to customers with its bank account infrastructure and a comprehensive set of highly connected admin tools for businesses, such as full integration with accounting systems. More than 320,000 SMEs are members of Tide, representing over five per cent market share in the U.K.

“With this partnership, we are ready to begin initial testing of Tide India, before entering into similar partnerships with other leading fintech providers to build our platform during the course of 2021,” said Oliver Prill, CEO of Tide.

Tide plans to acquire 25,000 members in India in the next financial year and scale up to two million customers in the next five years. The focus is on serving the unregistered and unorganised sector, helping bring these SMEs into the mainstream.

According to Statista, among 1.26 million registered companies in India, about a half are micro, small and medium enterprises. More than 63 million MSMEs account for an almost 31 percent contribution to the country’s GDP.

Representatives from both sides believe that RBL Bank’s geographical presence across 28 Indian states and Union Territories will allow Tide to quickly scale up its business in India. The NSE- and BSE-listed Bank currently services over 9.08 million customers through a network of 403 branches, 1,344 business correspondent branches and 412 ATMs. Last year, the Bank has carried out a massive digitalisation of its dated hardware-based infrastructure into software-defined solutions, ensuring the delivery of a quality banking experience for its customers, according to CXOToday.

In the long run, Tide’s ambition is to be a leading player in markets accounting for 25 per cent of global SMEs. Over the past six years,  Tide has raised over £100 million in investment from a bunch of global venture firms.

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Are Bank Boardrooms in need of more Air Jordans instead of Pinstripes?

The world’s largest banks continue to lack technology expertise and digital approaches, even as adoption has increased.

According to a new report from Accenture, based on an analysis of the professional backgrounds of nearly 2,000 directors of more than 100 of the world’s largest banks by assets, found that while banks are ramping up their technology investments to keep pace with changing consumer demands ― such as the growing need for digital interaction and remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boards of these banks lack the technology expertise to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of their technology investments.

Rapid tech adoption

“Much of the disruption brought about by the pandemic has led to a rapid shift within banking to more digital touchpoints, requiring speedy technology investments,” said Mauro Macchi, who leads Accenture Strategy & Consulting in Europe. “Banks that are accelerating their cloud adoption to better manage change would benefit from a board with technology experience that can help ensure that technology investments are compatible across various business units.”

The report does not give particular pain points but has chosen to generalise a bank’s approach towards tech adoption. This gives rise to the debate again on whether banks need to leverage tech or become technology companies themselves. One cannot expect the latter as they are not in the business of tech.

According to the report, Accenture recommends that 25 per cent of banks’ Board should have technology experience. While the world’s largest banks have made progress on adding technology experience in the boardroom ― which Accenture defines as executives holding or having held senior technology positions at a company or senior responsibilities at a technology firm ― that progress has been slow.

For instance, only 10 per cent of all board directors, as well as 10 per cent of the CEOs on the boards, evaluated for the report have professional technology experience, up just 4 and 6 percentage points, respectively, from five years ago.

In addition, the number of banks whose board has at least one member with professional technology experience has increased only 10 percentage points in the past five years, from 57- 67 per cecnt ― meaning that one-third of banks still have no board members with professional technology experience.

Tech’s tango with Banker’s trust

So, does this mean that ‘technology experienced’ professionals can better navigate any disruptions around the corner? The answer is nuanced. “Banks are traditionally regulated and resistant to change. Parachuting a few tech-savvy Board members can add some acumen,” says Nitin Kumar, Executive Chaiman at Ligl and author of a new of the book CEO 3.io -Driving Exponential Change.

However, Kumar added that they need to ensure that disruptive and new technology is used to develop new markets or new value propositions and not make the old operations, products and services better.

The report, on a positive note, while only 19 per cent of the directors with technology experience five years ago were women, that figure is currently 33 per cent.

From a geographic perspective, the report found that the boards of banks in the UK, Finland, Ireland and the US have higher percentages of directors with professional technology experience than those in other countries, with sizeable increases compared with the 2015 findings.

However, the percentage of banks’ Board of Directors with technology experience is still very low in Brazil, China, Russia and various countries across Europe, including Austria and Italy.

“While it’s not practical for banks to make a rash number of tech-savvy board appointments to fill the gap in technology credentials, they should consider technology expertise as a factor for new appointments, alongside their other evaluation criteria,” Macchi said.

There are also other, more immediate ways to increase technology expertise among board members — for example, coach members on the latest developments on key technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence and IoT to better understand how the combination of technology and human ingenuity unlocks value.

Boards can also tap into the expertise of third-party suppliers and make time to specifically discuss the technology strategy during board meetings to get the most out of their investments, adds Macchi.

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Pine Labs launches ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ in Malaysia

Asian merchant e-commerce platform Pine Labs, has launched its Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) offering in Malaysia.

Pine Labs has already achieved success with offline BNPL services in India where it has 95 per cent market share. The foray into Malaysia by the company’s subsidiary Pine Payment Solutions Sdn Bhd, which is a subsidiary of Pine Labs Pte Ltd.

The development comes at an interesting time when there is pent-up demand among consumers. After a prolonged period of lockdown, consumers want easier access to credit and merchants are looking for newer ways to revive sales.

Pine Labs’ BNPL launch in Malaysia will further accelerate digital payments adoption in the country and make it possible for merchants to sell more in this tough business environment post the pandemic.

Key investors in Pine Labs include Actis Capital, Mastercard, PayPal, Sequoia India and Temasek.

“We’re quite upbeat about the expansion plans around our very successful tech-focused Buy Now Pay Later product and are excited at its launch in Malaysia. It is an attractive option for all stakeholders, including consumers, who get affordable buying options, merchants who are getting an enticing proposition to woo customers back to the stores and boost their sales, banks and brands who get to build their brand loyalty. This integrated solution that we launched with Mastercard will now be further expanded to newer markets in the region,” said Kush Mehra, Chief Business Officer, Pine Labs.

CIMB Bank, AmBank, HSBC Bank, AFFIN BANK, and RHB Bank are the top banks in Malaysia that are already on Pine Labs’ BNPL platform. Some of the key merchants for which this solution will soon be rolling out include Senheng, DirectD, Ogawa, Gintell, Herbaline, and E.S.H. Electrical.

“At DirectD, our mission is to help every Malaysian stay connected via smart devices. We believe consumers today are looking for affordable ways to pay for their purchases. Pine Labs’ integrated technology-backed solution makes the Pay Later activation a seamless process, hence improving customer journey. We look forward to leveraging Pine Labs’ capabilities in enhancing our current system.” said Amy Tan, Communications Director, DirectD Retail & Wholesale Sdn Bhd, the largest and fastest-growing mobile phone retailer in Malaysia.

Also, Pine Labs subsidiary, Qwikcilver has made significant progress in evangelising and pioneering the Prepaid Stored Value and Gift Card category in the Southeast Asian region over the last two years.

The Qwikcilver Stored Value technology platform is now the most preferred Gift Card suite adopted by the leading organisations and networks in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Some of the flagship enterprises, networks and brands that have deployed the Qwikcilver Stored Value technology suite include Lazada, CapitaLand, Frasers Group, PT. Mitra Adiperkasa (MAP Group), Indonesia amongst others.

Pine Labs provides an offline payments solution where on a single terminal, multiple credit issuers can make BNPL offers to customers. This could be an interesting offering in Malaysia, an economy that is expected to post positive growth this year as per a projection by The World Bank.

The company has ambitious plans to launch BNPL in the rest of the Southeast Asia markets. Late last year, Pine Labs had announced its intent to launch an integrated pay later instalment solution in partnership with Mastercard to markets like Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and Indonesia.

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NTT Global acquires 55 acres of land from Indian steel maker Mukand for $106 mn

Steel maker Mukand has completed the transfer of 55 acres of surplus leasehold land to NTT Global for $106 million.

The surplus leasehold land is at Thane, a district close to Mumbai and was sold to NTT Global Nav2 Pvt. Ltd.

“The realised amount will be utilised for debt repayment of the steel maker,” Mukand said in a letter to shareholders. Mukand had a total debt of almost $300 million. In December 2020, Mukand entered into an agreement for transfer of this 55 acres of land and the accompanying structures at the Trans Thane Creek Industrial Area (TTC Industrial Area), Dighe and Navi Mumbai.

For NTT Global, this is a part of its ongoing efforts to increase its data centre infrastructure play. In September last year, NTT Limited had said that is planning to invest $2 billion in the next four years for building additional data centres, solar parks and investing in its undersea cable network.

The investments will go into Data Centres, setting up of multiple solar parks, expansion into cities such as Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru and construction of the optical submarine cable, connecting Singapore, Myanmar and India. “We are increasing our footprint seeing a significant growth in demand for IT infrastructure related needs in the country,” Sharad Sanghi, CEO of NTT Ltd had said.

NTT Ltd’s Global Data Centers and Cloud Infrastructure division in India currently operates with 10 data centers across 4 major cities with 1.5 million sq. ft. and over 150 MW of power capacity. Apart from Mumbai, NTT India recently got allotted six acres of land for bringing up 70 MW of capacity data centre, again in the Greater Noida region in India’s most populated state- Uttar Pradesh.

According to 451 Research, the data center market is growing at 23 per cent CAGR due to increased demand from global cloud providers and a proposed data sovereignty law by the Indian government, as well as other geopolitical factors.

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Japan seeks help from Taiwanese semicon companies after recent fire

Japan has sought help from some Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturers, after a fire had hit one of the chip plants, according to a Reuters report.

Industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said: “We are in communication with several manufacturing equipment makers (in Taiwan) to speed up procurement.” Earlier this month, A Renesas Electonic Corp-owned Naka chip plant in northeast Japan was hit by fire earlier this month due to a power surge in one of the machines.

This move is seen by the industry as an alternative approach for production of semiconductors, at a time when there is a shortage of semiconductors.

After the cabinet meeting, Kajiyama also added that the ministry will work together for a swift recovery by using all possible means.

The company, which has about a 30 per cent share of the global market for microcontroller unit chips used in cars, had initially said 11 machines were damaged in the fire. However, it now believes the situation is more serious than first thought.

An extended outage could add to a global shortages of chips which is disrupting some production of cars and electronic devices, Reuters said.

The Japanese government has called on equipment makers to help Renesas restore its production, with bureaucrats contacting companies at home and overseas to request they provide parts and machinery to the fire-hit company, a trade ministry official had told Reuters. Earlier this month, South Korea granted its approval to chipmaker SK Hynix for its $106 billion project to build a semiconductor complex.

South Korea said the latest investment is expected to ease supply shortages in the global market as well. South Korea’s exports of chips increased 5.6 per cent to $99.1 billion in 2020.

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Keppel, Facebook and Telin to jointly own & develop high-speed transmission cable across the Pacific Ocean

Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation Limited (Keppel T&T), through a wholly owned subsidiary, Keppel Midgard Holdings Pte. Ltd. (KMH), a subsidiary of Facebook Inc. and PT. Telekomunikasi Indonesia International (Telin), a subsidiary of PT Telkom Indonesia (Persero) Tbk have entered into a joint build agreement to jointly own and develop the Bifrost Cable System.

This is the world’s first subsea cable system that directly connects Singapore to the West coast of North America via Indonesia through the Java Sea and Celebes Sea.

The subsea cable system is expected to be completed in 2024 and spans over 15,000 kilometres. The Bifrost Cable System will connect Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Guam and the west coast of North America. When fully commissioned, the multiple fibre paired, high performance Bifrost Cable System will also be the largest capacity high-speed transmission cable across the Pacific Ocean, company officials said.

Keppel Telecommunications & Transportation (Keppel T&T) is a subsidiary of Keppel Corporation Limited, which is listed in Singapore. KMH’s share of the total project costs as a joint build partner will be approximately US$350million. Keppel T&T, Facebook and Telin have appointed Alcatel Submarine Networks (ASN) for the supply and installation works of the cable system.

Thomas Pang, CEO of Keppel T&T, said, “One key component of Keppel’s Vision 2030 is our connectivity business. With the development of the Bifrost Cable System, we take a significant step towards strengthening and broadening our connectivity platform by building a new adjacent and complementary business to our data centre business.

“We are happy to collaborate with our consortium partners, Facebook and Telin, for the Bifrost Cable System project as this will be a transnational critical infrastructure which will enhance Singapore’s role as a digital hub, as well as support and accelerate the region’s growing digital connectivity needs. In line with Keppel’s asset-light model, we can also collaborate with funds managed by Keppel Capital to help provide funding for the project.”

“Connectivity is at the heart of our mission to give people the power to build community,” said Kevin Salvadori, Vice President, Network at Facebook. “We are committed to bringing more people online to a faster internet, to support the growth of digital economies, and to do this in collaboration with local partners.”

Sukardi Silalahi, CEO of Telin said, “The development of the digital economy in Indonesia has by far contributed significantly to national economic growth, shown by the highly use of online services in droves, with online businesses have emerged as new frontiers for the country’s digital economy. The collaboration in Bifrost Cable System will cater a massive demand of internet from Indonesia to the world and vice versa, as well as to realise Telin’s vision as the Global Digital Ecosystem Enabler.”

Alain Biston, President of ASN is of the view that ASN will mobilise its enhanced production facilities to deliver a reliable and high-capacity system, thanks to the company’s SDM technology.

Along with Bifrost, another undersea cable called ‘Echo” is being built to provide new connections between the Asia-Pacific region and North America. While these projects are still subject to regulatory approvals, when completed, these cables will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy and reliability.

Bandwidth demand surges

With global data bandwidth demands reaching unprecedented levels, surging cloud adoption, exponential growth in mobile device usage and 5G deployment, the surging demand for more bandwidth highlights the critical impact subsea cables have on global connectivity. In addition, there has been an increasing demand for more capacity through the Pacific region due to the significance and the growth of Asian markets.

In the Asia Pacific, according to the Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018 – 2023), number of internet users are expected to hit 3.1 billion users by 2023, from 2.1 billion users in 2018.

This open cable system will cater to the burgeoning connectivity needs of the Southeast Asia region by providing not only seamless direct connectivity to North America, and low latency, but also network diversity.

The Bifrost cable system will incorporate state-of-the-art optical submarine transmission equipment, benefitting the region’s governments and businesses, including cloud operators, telecommunications operators, network providers, over-the-top (OTT) providers, data centres, governments, enterprises, and consumers by offering them competitive pricing and capacity resilience.

The above development is not expected to have any material impact on the net tangible assets per share or earnings per share of Keppel Corporation Limited for the current financial year, company officials said.

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Indonesia requests non-bank financial institutions to place data centres inside country

Financial Services Authority of Indonesia (OJK) has issued a new regulation that prohibits non-bank financial institutions to place their data centres and disaster recovery centres outside the country’s borders.

They can host their data centres overseas, only after receiving approvals from the authorities.

Indonesian authorities have formulated a regulation, denoted as POJK 4/2021, regarding the implementation of risk management in the use of information technology by non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs). Insurance companies, pawnshops, pension funds, fintech businesses, and social security administration bodies are among the types of institutions being regulated.

POJK 4/2021 has been taking into effect since March 17, amid the increasing IT adoption in the country’s financial sector. Accordingly, based on the size of the company’s assets, NBFI will have to operate a data centre or back up its data generated from IT deployments.

Companies with assets up to IDR 500 billion (about $34,6 million) are only required to back up data, while companies with larger assets from IDR 1 trillion (about $69,3 million) or the majority of their business operations are carried out using IT are required to have both a data centre and a disaster recovery centre.

Geographical factors are among the most strictly regulated provisions. “NBFIs are required to place its data centre and disaster recovery centre in the territory of Indonesia,” Binis quoted a statement from the authority on March 22.

Promulgated by Indonesian Ministry of Law and Human Rights and stipulated by OJK Board of Commissioners, POJK 4/2021 only allows abroad placements of data centres when NBFI meets a number of conditions related to the regulations of its country of origin, the specific business practices of its parent company, or the scale of its customers.

Chairman of the OJK Board of Commissioners Wimboh Santoso wrote in a summary of POJK 4/2021 that its issuance solves the lack of regulations regarding risk management in the use of IT in various types of NBFIs. He also underlinded that the country encourages companies to use IT in order to boost productivity and business, though it is critical to pay attention to risk management measures to prevent potential hazards to its consumers.

As companies are increasingly exploiting technologies such as machine learning to operate the big data of consumers, nations are beginning to look at the information as a new national resource and enhance security over this asset. Last year, Nikkei Asia reported that Asian countries have been some of the most active in this movement, with five out of eight countries requiring to localise the storage of data collected, within their borders. Experts say that this is an effort of nations to manage the impact of the rapid digitalisation owing to the pandemic.

In 2019, Vietnam issued the Law on Cybersecurity, which requires onshore and offshore service providers to store data of Vietnamese users in Vietnam. The regulation, however, is said to decrease the country’s competitiveness in terms of foreign investments. Last year in India, a group of 30 companies, including Microsoft and Siemens, also announced in a joint statement that the proposed personal data protection law in the country would stifle competition.

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Magnite opens new data centre in Singapore, replaces its Hong Kong facility

Magnite has opened a new data centre in Singapore to replace its Hong Kong facility.

The launch of the new data centre helps Magnite, the world’s largest independent sell-side advertising platform, serve the pandemic-led demand surge for online activities in the APAC region.

The move which co-locates its platforms to the same city will standardise the company’s operations and strengthen its ability to support increased traffic, which surged 47% year over year globally in 2020, as per a CBRE’s report.

“By unifying and standardising our omnichannel platform, we’ll be more agile, proactive and efficient,” said Magnite chief technology officer Tom Kershaw. “Our tech stack needs to evolve with the demands of the industry.”

Having launched after a merger deal between Rubicon Project and Telaria, NASDAQ-listed Magnite debuted in April 2020 and operated across North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific.

The company reported a 69 per cent year on year revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 2020. Connected TV (CTV) and Online Video (OLV) formats contribute two-thirds of its total revenue.

There is more clarity needed in the new investment in the data centre of Magnite as Singapore’s halt in data centre construction has still been in place since 2019. The moratorium has tightened its co-location data centre vacancy to below 5 per cent, among the greatest in Asia Pacific Tier 1 markets (Tokyo, Sydney, Singapore and Hong Kong SAR), according to CBRE.

Last year, the impact of the national security law in Hong Kong led many companies to shift their data centres to Singapore.

“The role of Singapore has become more vital especially after Hong Kong has faced a new security law and associated rising political tensions,” Cynthia Ho, senior research manager for Enterprise Server and Data center at IDC Asia/Pacific, told Futurecio. “We have seen companies gradually moving their IT/datacenter investment decisions from Hong Kong to Singapore in the past 6-12 months.”

Last year, Reuters also reported that South Korea’s internet giant Naver also moved its data centre from Hong Kong to Singapore. Still, Hong Kong accounted for 54 per cent of total investment into the APAC data centre market in 2020.

According to BRE’s new Asia Pacific Data Trends 2H2020 report, Singapore and Sydney registered the strongest data centre demand, mostly originated from hyperscale cloud providers such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Tencent Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud. Last year, Cushman & Wakerfield (C&W) also ranked Singapore among the top six competitive data-centre markets worldwide.

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Industry body FICCI partners with ThinkThrough Consulting Bangladesh for promoting grassroot technologies

FICCI and ThinkThrough Consulting Bangladesh have announced partnership to jointly promote and commercialize grassroot technologies developed in India and Bangladesh.

The announcement was made on the side-lines of the visit of Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, as as part of the RuTAG Technology Commercialisation Programme which is led by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and implemented by FICCI.

A bouquet of 49 technologies under the RuTAG (Rural Technology Action Group) programme will be offered to industry, social start-ups and NGOs in Bangladesh. These technologies have been developed at RuTAG centres housed across seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in India and focus on problems associated with marginal communities in rural areas. RuTAG innovations such as floating fish cages for inland aquaculture, powerless solar dryer for food processing, cold storage powered by pico hydro among others respond to real life problems faced by rural populations.

Tech spectrum

The technologies cover a spectrum of areas including environment, agriculture and farming, textiles, manufacturing, food processing and aquaculture among others. Besides technology transfer, capacity building support and virtual training sessions will also be provided to Bangladesh entrepreneurs to seamlessly absorb the Indian technologies.

Prof K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India stated, “Science and Technology collaboration between India and Bangladesh is towards social and economic development in the region. Both nations can gain immensely through knowledge exchange and technology partnerships. The RuTAG program provides a wide range of grass root innovations that have the ability to create rural livelihood opportunities in Bangladesh.”

Dr Ketaki Bapat, Senior Scientist and Co-ordinator RuTAG program, at the Office of the PSA said, “The RuTAG technologies have been developed at the finest institutions in India. We wish to share these technologies with social entrepreneurs in Bangladesh assuring complete handholding support and leveraging digital technologies for successfully adopting these technologies.”

Mr Sanjay Nayak, Chair, FICCI S&T Committee and MD, Tejas Networks reiterated, “Through the RuTAG Program, FICCI remains committed to scale Indian innovations in BIMSTEC countries with a special focus on Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been a long-standing development partner of India and there is tremendous potential for our nations on collaborating on the technology front.”

Speaking on the partnership, Mr Parul Soni, Global Managing Partner, Think through Consulting stated, “We are delighted to partner with the RuTAG Technology Commercialisation Programme. Technological innovations can help rural communities in the world by increasing their income and their yields. While these reduce their risks arising on account of climate change and other natural disasters, these increase their opportunities too.”

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NEXTDC kicks off its largest data centre construction in Sydney

NextDC has started construction of one of its largest data centres, dubbed S3.

It is located in Artarmon on Sydney’s lower North Shore. Besides employing a “hybrid” scheme to support heavy plant and equipment, the structure includes a range of environmentally sustainable design features, according to company officials.

The project is expected to be completed in the second half of 2022 by the construction company Multiplex, which was involved in establishing NextDC’s 20MW facility in Perth and the 30MW S2 centre in Sydney’s Macquarie Park.

“We’re excited to draw upon our experience building ground-breaking high-rise data centres and help expand NEXTDC’s world-class operation of data centres across Australia,” said Multiplex regional managing director NSW David Ghannoum.

As of 2021, NEXTDC is the only data centre infrastructure solutions provider in Australia to operate at a NABERS 5-Star independently certified rating for energy efficiency, the pinnacle of data centre efficiency ratings from the Australian Government.

The new facility targets 80MW in its IT load, the largest among three centres in Australia. Therefore, NextDC will use a combination of reinforced and post-tensioned concrete and structural steel for lateral support of S3’s structure. The complete facility will cover 34,000 square metres (366,000 sq ft) over eight stories and deliver more than 20,000 square metres (215,000 sq ft) of IT space to organisations and critical local access to the leading public cloud platforms.

Designed by architects Greenbox, S3 will connect with NextDC’s existing S1 and S2 data centres and the rest of NEXTDC’s national footprint. It offers on-site parking, undercover loading dock, customer breakout area, meeting rooms, spare parts, crash carts, and 4,000 square metres (43,000 sq ft) of critical office space, as stated on NextDC’s website.

“S3 will bolster the wider national footprint, ensuring we continue to deliver our customers a 100 per cent uptime advantage, minimise energy consumption and optimise the overall efficiencies we drive for our customers,” the company noted.

Reduced energy consumption cooling system will be one of S3’s key environmental-friendly features, which helps improve operations by optimising efficiency levels.

This is in line with NextDC’s newly launched programme, named NEXTneutral, on March 18. The programme aims to achieve data centre carbon neutrality, the ‘first of its kind’ in the country’s data centre market. Under the programme, NextDC will negate its carbon footprint generated within its data centres by exploiting several ecological projects in Australia.

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Finland’s UpCloud opens new data centre in Sydney

Finnish cloud hosting company UpCloud has announced the opening of its new data centre in Sydney, Australia.

Named AU-SYD1, the facility marks UpCloud’s first data centre in Oceania. It is located in Equinix’s flagship Sydney data centre campus, SY5, which is Equinix’s largest data centre in Australia.

UpCloud CTO Joel Pihlajamaa explains that UpCloud’s proximity to Equinix’s SY5 means better latency and improved service offerings to businesses with clients in Australia and Oceania.

“We’ve had a large base of users from Australia and New Zealand using our Singapore data centre for a long time. Many of them asked us to expand our service offering to Australia,” said UpCloud CEO Antti Vilpponen on the company’s decision to establish a new facility in Australia.

“We also believe that Australian users will value a new cloud provider offering a more premium level of features, such as 100 percent uptime SLA, 24/7 technical support and personal approach,” he added.

The company launched three new data centres in New York, Madrid, and Warsaw last year. AU-SYD1 is their twelfth in the world. UpCloud also said that it hopes to launch more data centres in multiple new locations this year.

Australia’s data centre market continues to flourish

UpCloud’s forage into Sydney continues to illustrate the city’s status as one of the world’s largest data centre markets.

This week, several data centre players have made moves that would greatly contribute to Australia’s data centre ecosystem. Homegrown providers Fibre Expressway and Leading Edge Data Centres have unveiled plans to bring data centres to regional and rural areas in the country.

AU-SYD1 will be available from 31 March 2021.

Tencent announces Q4 2020 results, rakes in $20.5 billion

China’s Tencent has released its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2020. The tech giant has earned $20.5 billion (133.7 billion Yuan) in Q4, reporting a 26 percent year-on-year increase.

Of its total revenue, value added services (VAS) raked in the most revenue for the company at $10.2 billion (66.9 billion Yuan), a 28 percent increase year-on-year.

Revenue from cloud computing and other business services showed a similar 29 percent year-on-year increase to $5.9 billion (38.5 billion Yuan) thanks to Tencent’s penetration into the industrial internet with its flagship Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products and upgraded cloud infrastructure.

The company also invested in enhanced Internet-as-a-Service (IaaS) technology, including its ‘Star Lake’ customised cloud server solutions that are able to power the latest AMD chips, and self-developed ‘T-block’ data centre technology.

“While 2020 was a year of unprecedented challenges, solid results across all our businesses testify to our focus on user value, technology innovation and business sustainability,” said Tencent Chairman and CEO Ma Huateng.

“We extended our leading position in the consumer internet space with enriched content and innovations across our products, while making notable progress in international expansion, starting with games,” he added.

Tencent also said that it will continue to invest in cloud infrastructure and technology, and work with partners to upgrade its aaS solutions.

Fibre Expressway is building 3 data centres for $1.5 billion in Australia

Australian network infrastructure company Fibre Expressway has announced its plan to build three data centres in the country that would cost a total of $1.5 billion.

Project Koete will see the company build three greenfield Tier IV data centres in Northwestern Australian cities Perth and Dampier, and the Northern Territory’s capital city of Darwin.

All three data centers will have a combined capacity of 20Megawatts (MW). Once completed, they will be able to serve not only Indigenous communities in the region, but also expand the cloud capacity of APAC markets, such as Sydney, Melbourne, and Singapore.

“This will be the most significant technological investment Western Australia and the Northern Territory have ever seen,” said Gary Kennedy, CEO of Fibre Expressway.

“This facility will combine the benefits of greater interconnectivity between north and western Australia and the world, encouraging greater investment in the region, and improving data security and sovereignty,” he explained.

Peter Bannister, Group Managing Director at Fibre Expressway, also said that under Project Koete, the company is partnering with wind, solar and, in the longer term, ocean and clean hydrogen providers to satisfy the need for 100% renewable energy access over time.

“We’re targeting 30 plus years’ scalability assuredness, enabling customers to plan for decades, not just years. By working with our global partner network, we’re confident Project Koete will be delivered under world-leading governance and rule-of-law standards,” he added.

An 800km subsea cable will also be constructed as part of this project, which will link Perth and Darwin, and stretch across Southeast Asia to Malaysia via Indonesia and Singapore.

The data centres are estimated to be ready for service in 2023, whereas the subsea cables are scheduled for completion by 2025.

Australia’s data centre landscape

Australia’s data centre industry is one of Asia Pacific’s strongest, with Sydney being ranked as the third largest market in the world. Its major players include Equinix, homegrown data centre provider NextDC, and homegrown telcos Telstra and Vocus Group.

Such is the booming state of the Australian market, that rural regions are not left behind either. In March, local company Leading Edge Data Centres announced its plan to roll out modular data centres throughout regional New South Wales.

Adani Green to acquire 2 Solar Plants with 75 MW capacity

Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL), one of the largest renewables energy companies in India, has acquired a 100 per cent stake in two Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) holding 74.94 MW solar projects.

These are operating plants of Sterling & Wilson- a Shapoorji Pallonji group company, which is one of India’s largest real estate companies. The projects, commissioned in 2017, are located in Medak District of Telangana and have long-term Power Purchase Agreements(PPA) with the Southern Power Distribution Company of Telangana Limited, the company said.

The enterprise valuation of the target SPV is Rs.446 crore. AdaniGreen Energy Limited (AGEL), a part of India-based Adani Group, has one of the largest global renewable portfolios with 15.2GW of operating, under-construction and awarded projects catering to investment-grade counterparties. The company develops, builds, owns, operates and maintains utility-scale grid-connected solar and wind farm projects. Key customers of AGEL include the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and various state distribution companies or discoms.

With this acquisition, AGEL will increase its operating renewable capacity to 3,470MW with a total renewable portfolio of 15,240 MW.

Vneet S. Jaain, MD & CEO, Adani Green Energy Ltd, said: “Strengthening our portfolio through organic and inorganic growth opportunities is an integral part of our vision to build a capacity of 25 GW by 2025 and become the largest renewables company in the world. We will leverage the strength of our platform and capital management philosophy to achieve operational improvements and value-accretive returns from the project.”

The closing of the transaction is subject to customary approvals and conditions. Adani Green is listed in the Indian bourses.

Adani Group’s renewable energy portfolio has exceeded the total capacity installed by the entire United States solar industry in 2019.

According to a report by research firm Mercom, Adani’s solar portfolio is 12.32 Gwac. At the end of 2019, the United States had about 1,100,546 MW—or 1.1 billion kilowatts (kW)—of total utility-scale electricity generating capacity, according to data from US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Further, Adani’s solar energy generation will displace 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide, Mercom said. Gautam Adani, Group Chairman has set target of 25 GWac of renewable power in installed generation capacity by 2025. India has set a renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022.

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Tech investments into UAE expected to go up after Abraham Accords

The normalisation of business ties between UAE and Israel following the Abraham Accords, is starting to see a rush in technology investments.

In October 2020, Israel reached a bilateral agreement with UAE to provide incentives and protection to investors dealing with each country. Called the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement, it has opened up billions of dollars in trade and investment opportunities.

As a part of the deal, investors would be protected from arbitrary changes in regulation and political situations and will be able to transfer funds out of the country, thereby putting investors’ minds at ease.

Business uptick

Following the signing of the Abraham Accords, business has picked up steam. UAE has said that it will launch a $10 billion fund to invest in strategic sectors in Israel. This includes energy, manufacturing, water, space, healthcare and agri-tech, according to reports.

Recently, Waterfall Security Solutions, one of the leaders in OT cybersecurity, have announced their expansion into the UAE.

The Israeli cybersecurity company has opened an office in Abu-Dhabi. The normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE, as well as several other countries in the Gulf, has generated strong interest in the region for Waterfall’s suite of unidirectional OT security products, as well as for partnerships and joint ventures with Waterfall Security.

Waterfall Security Solutions provides the strongest practical protection for industrial control system and Operational Technology networks and systems, and already protects many critical infrastructure sites in the region and throughout the world.

Waterfall counts customers in national infrastructures, power plants, nuclear plants, off-shore and on-shore oil and gas facilities, manufacturing plants, power, gas and water utilities’ companies as its clients. It has deployments throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

“Waterfall sees the Emirates as both an important market and as a gateway to the region, and we are moving quickly to provide direct support in the UAE,” said Lior Frenkel, CEO and Co-Founder of Waterfall Security. “We also recognise the importance of local support and existing customer, government and other relationships, and we are actively engaging with partners to complement our efforts in the new office.”

Waterfall’s Abu-Dhabi office is part of the company’s continued rapid expansion, despite the global pandemic and economic downturn. With the new office, Waterfall will initiate sales and marketing activities and provide solutions architecture and technical support to partners and end users.

“More investments involving technology will flow between these countries post COVID-19. Countries are interested in cybersecurity, healthcare, agri-tech and other technology from Israel,” said an analyst from a multinational research firm.

Similar to this development, the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Registration Authority (RA), and the Registrar of Companies in the Israeli Corporations Authority, have entered into a Statement of Co-operation (SoC) to facilitate more business.

Dhaher bin Dhaher Al Mheiri, CEO of the ADGM Registration Authority, said: “In light of the UAE’s momentous signing of the Abraham Accords, we at ADGM are pleased to partner with the Registrar of Companies in the Israeli Corporations Authority to facilitate and realise the benefits arising from the increase of joint relations these two jurisdictions. We are confident that this agreement will result in fruitful outcomes for entities residing in both the UAE and Israel, serving as a gateway to valuable expansion and investment opportunities across both thriving business hubs and the wider region.

According to Dubai Customs statistics, the emirate’s trade with Israel in the five months (Sep 2020 -Jan 2021) reached a value of Dh1 billion and a volume of 6.217k tonnes. Of this, imports were valued at Dh325 million (718 tonnes), exports at Dh607million (5.4k tonnes), and transit trade at Dh98.7million (52.4 tonnes). The mutual trade expected to grow to Dh15 billion in the next few years.

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HTSC posts record profits in 2020, on the back of digitalisation push

On the back of a strong digital push, Chinese financial services major HTSC posted record profits in 2020.

For the whole year, Net Profit grew 20.23 per cent, the company said. This growth was possible due to a combination of factors- with digital push being the strongest one.

During the year, ZhangLe Wealth, HTSC’s flagship wealth management App, has seen monthly active users also set a new securities industry record, exceeding 10 million in July 2020, and continuing to lead the industry for the fifth consecutive year. ZhangLe Wealth is now fully integrated with HTSC’s investment advisory cloud system, providing investment advisors with a platform that greatly supports their decision making and improves their work efficiency, the company said. Also, ZhangLe Global now enables users to tap into the Hong Kong and US stock markets with various offerings.

HTSC saw 3.23 million new clients in 2020, and now boasts a total base of over 17 million. Total assets of client accounts grew significantly to RMB 4.47 trillion, up 41 per cent year-on-year, while the scale of financial products sold increased by 88% year-on-year, amounting to RMB 705.33 billion.

Buoyed by this surge in new users, HTSC’s trading volume of stocks and funds was RMB 34.19 trillion, an increase of 66 per cent year-on-year, maintaining the securities industry’s top spot. Zhou Yi, CEO of HTSC said: “Standing at the new starting point of the 30th anniversary, we are firmly convinced that technology is a key variant in breaking traditions and triggering the reform of business models. We will continue to deepen the technology-empowered ‘two-pronged’ strategy, refine the full-service chain system with the platform-based and ecological development philosophy and build unique brand and competitiveness.”

New frontier with Digital

The advent of the global COVID-19 pandemic hastened the digital transformation and platformization of HTSC’s institutional services, further augmenting the company’s core advantages and adding new value to the overall business chain. HTSC’s US subsidiary AssetMark – a leading US turnkey asset management platform (TAMP) and another advanced digital platform within the Company’s arsenal – also grew steadily, with total assets under management reaching USD 74.52 billion at the end of 2020, up 20.96 per cent year-on-year, bolstering HTSC’s global revenue.

The value of HTSC Connect App, developed for institutional services, was prominently featured amid the ongoing pandemic. HTSC Connect is an open platform which features online application of IPOs, private placement and convertible bond deals, client engagement in research activities, and customization of financial products.

These offerings and services were widely accepted by institutional clients, with registered users of HTSC Connect increasing 24-fold by the end of 2020 compared to the previous year, and more than 200 roadshow livestreams were conducted for listed companies, the company said. HTSC’s digital platforms have bolstered the competitiveness of securities lending business, significantly augmenting the balance of the business, which increased by 984.97 per cent on a yearly basis, to reach RMB 25.41 billion and gain 18.55 per cent of the market share.

Investment trading biz

HTSC’s investment trading business also benefited from the ongoing digital transformation and platformisation, as evidenced by the industry leading OTC (Over The Counter) derivatives and OTC options trading volume in 2020. Since 2015, HTSC has worked with WuXi App Tech on a wide range of projects including its US stock privatization as well as its Shanghai and Hong Kong IPOs, indicating its contribution to the new economy in China.

In 2020, HTSC furthered its support of China’s new economy by facilitating WuXi App Tech in securing over RMB 10 billion in equity financing. HTSC’s 2017 investment in RemeGene has been similarly fruitful, with the Company being the only Chinese sponsor for its Hong Kong IPO in 2020.

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Vietnam’s underbanked: Are fintech startups ready to take on telco giants?

As the mobile money pilot project takes into effect this March, Vietnamese fintech startups, including over 30 e-wallet providers, will face fresh competition from national telecommunications companies.

At the beginning of March, Vietnam’s Prime Minister has approved the “Mobile Money” pilot project, allowing telecommunications businesses to implement mobile money services in the next two years. The pilot project is expected to strengthen the exponential growth of Vietnam’s financial services, promoting financial inclusion and signalling an initial success of a cashless society in Vietnam.

In a talk with a local newspaper, Trung Thanh Vu, manager of Military Commercial Joint Stock Bank, a partner with Viettel Pay to provide mobile money service in the country, said that this method will be an “extended arm” of the banking industry as it could cover the underbanked market in rural areas.

As recorded in 2018 by Euromonitor, World Bank and Bain and Temasek, 69 per cent of Vietnamese adults do not have bank accounts, the highest rate in Southeast Asia.

Though the number dropped drastically to only 37 per cent as of the end of 2019, according to the State Bank of Vietnam, experts said that the banking industry meet difficulties in serving the remaining potential customers as most of them reside in rural and remote areas, which favour transaction in cash and beyond the reach of financial services.

Meanwhile, by the end of October 2018, Vietnam had 130 million mobile subscribers, 1.3 times higher than its population. Around half of them use 3G and 4G, and 43.7 million, or 45 per cent of the population, using smartphones, as per a report from the country’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC). In other words, Vietnam is among the top nations achieving this extensive coverage of mobile telecommunication and mobile money can be the missing piece of the complete picture.

Without linkage to a bank account, a person employing a mobile money service can still make transactions via mobile phone. The involvement of this method can help remove the current incumbent that others have not resolved entirely for the unbanked users, such as paying for small-value goods and services.

From a global perspective, in 2019, more than one billion people have registered mobile money accounts, accounting for one-seventh of the world’s population, according to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association. The total amount of spending via this method is approximately $2 billion daily and has witnessed a 20 per cent growth rate annually.

Imminent competition between fintech startups and telco giants

Vietnamese economist Hieu Tri Nguyen said that mobile money and e-wallet would be each other’s archrivals, BNews reported.

The late birth of mobile money also poses a certain barrier to its future development. People are getting used to other payment intermediaries, such as credit cards, e-wallets, or QR Code by VNPAY.

Before mobile money, payment via mobile phone channels (including mobile banking, e-wallets) has already increased by 125% compared to the same period in 2019, according to the statistics of the Payment and Settlement Department of the State Bank of Vietnam.

In a broader outlook, mobile money will join a crowded market with a marked number of fintech startups in Vietnam, which saw a considerable growth of more than 179 per cent between 2017 and 2020, according to a report by Fintech News Singapore. Payment remains the biggest segment, accounting for 31 per cent of all Vietnamese fintech startups as of October 2020. The country is also home to 39 licensed non-bank payment services providers, with MoMo, Payoo, Moca, ZaloPay and ViettelPay being the five biggest e-wallets.

Challenges in the horizon

But the looming challenges to those startups are not lying on the “mobile money” itself, but the telco giants that embark on this business with their huge customer base and long-built ecosystems.

Earlier last year, three telecommunications giants in Vietnam – Viettel, MobiFone and VNPT, which are serving nearly 96 per cent of Vietnamese mobile subscribers – registered to add payment intermediary to their business lines, paving the way for penetrating the mobile money market.

Kien Trung Pham, CEO of Digital Viettel, a Viettel subsidiary, told ICT Vietnam that the company can immediately provide mobile money services for its 60 million mobile subscribers, leveraging the payment method through its 2,600 stores, malls, post offices, 270,000 points of sale and more than 30,000 employees providing service support for customers nationwide.

VNPT also shared its plan to integrate mobile money payment method into its existing ecosystem, ranging from healthcare, education to television and mobile. Around 100,000 VNPT’s points of sale are ready to provide the new service. What’s more, as VNPT has been assigned to implement the national public service portal since 2020, the company possesses a huge advantage to roll out this type of cashless payment method for public services.

MobiFone representatives once said that they are aware of the fierce competition with other financial intermediaries such as e-wallet providers. Still, they are confident with their reputation within Vietnam, primarily through their countrywide mobile telecommunications network coverage.

Potential collaborations to better serve underbanked people

Some experts said that the direct competition between those telco giants and other payment intermediaries (like e-wallet) might not happen, as mobile money has a slightly different market.

Mobile money will tap into only the “niche” market, which resides mainly in rural areas and prefer a better way to make small purchases. To be more specific, mobile money only allows a maximum transaction limit of VND10 million per month (about $432) for each register, according to the regulation. This is much lower than the current ceiling of VND100 million (about $4,320) per month for each e-wallet account.

In terms of other traditional money transfer operators, they can also work with mobile money providers to offer cross services. In Africa and other developing countries, Western Union has joined forces with Safaricom M-PESA in Kenya and PayMaya in the Philippines to provide cash transfer services through mobile. Bangladesh-based bKash mobile money is also collaborating with Mastercard to deliver remittance services.

Many startups also look at the entry of telecommunications behemoths as an opportunity rather than a challenge.

Gimo, which has just received an undisclosed amount of seed funding from local investors, is a fintech startup employing Earned Wage Access (EWA) platform to address the financial needs of underbanked workers, who are also the target customers of telco giants’ mobile money services.

“We see them as potential partners,” said Quan Nguyen, co-founder and CEO of Gimo, told W.Media. “This is where we could work together to create value for our joint customer base.”

Nguyen highlighted the possible partnerships with telco companies to enable users to route their advance payment to a registered mobile number, supplementing their current option of a dedicated bank account.

“It’s a great opportunity to enhance our user experience and scale our user base,” he stressed.

Experience in other parts of Asia are mixed. In the Middle East, and parts of Southeast Asia, telcos call the shots. In India, fintechs are in the forefront. Ultimately, Vietnamese customers will decide what is beneficial for them.

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China’s “Two Sessions” impact on the Data Centre industry

Thousands of China’s political, business, and social elite converged in Beijing in March for the country’s most important political event, known as the “two sessions”. The annual gatherings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the National People’s Congress (NPC) serve as a weather vane of China’s politics, revealing the central government’s priorities and plans for the coming year. Especially, this year-2021, it marks the start of the next five-year plan (China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, 2021-2025) and marks the Communist Party’s centenary year.

Many firsts

China has for the first time unveiled an ambitious roadmap for its plans to transform into a world-leading power by 2035, which rest on technological innovation and scientific research. With further strengthening the national strategic scientific and technological strength, data centers as the infrastructure are the foundation to empower the development.

Although the Chinese government has decided to ease restrictions on foreign investments, telecommunication sector for information security purposes remain largely off-limits to foreign investment, e. g. telecom operators must be majority-owned by Chinese firms.

Cybersecurity laws require operators of telecommunication infrastructure to store collected domestic key data and personal information in China. Foreign telecommunication business must therefore store data generated by China-based internet services in China. Regulators have also limited foreign investment in value-added telecommunication services.

On Oct. 21, 2020, China published a draft of the Personal Information Protection Law (Draft). Once formally promulgated, the Personal Information Protection Law, along with the Cybersecurity Law and the Data Security Law, will be the three fundamental data protection laws in China. Though no information has been provided as to a timeline for a revised or final version of the Draft, companies doing business in China are suggested to make necessary preparations wherever possible, considering the PIPL’s potentially wide-ranging impact.

Reforms, Reforms and more Reforms

“To build a new development pattern, we must build a high-level socialist market economy system, implement a high-level opening up, and promote mutual promotion of reform and opening up” is included in one of the eight key tasks in 2021. Under the framework for the overall strategy, China has announced a further opening up of its manufacturing and financial services sectors to foreign investment with the removal of seven items from its so-called “negative list” as part of an annual review.

On June 23, 2020, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Commerce (MOF) jointly issued two “negative lists”, both of which took effect on July 23, 2020. These two negative lists enumerate the industries where foreign investment will either be prohibited or restricted. This is a timely follow-up of the promise made in the 2020 Two Sessions about further relaxing market access for foreign investment.

Now, the “negative list” runs to just 33 items – down from 40 – and is even shorter in China’s designated free-trade zones.

On January 29, 2021, the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges stated that in order to improve the supporting rule system for infrastructure public offering REITs and ensure the orderly development of the pilot work, in accordance with the overall work deployment of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges have formulated and issued three major business rules.

These three major business rules are the “Publicly Offered Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Business Measures, Publicly Offered Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Rules Application Guidelines No. 1-Audit Concerns and Public Offering of Infrastructure Securities Investment Funds (REITs) Rules Application Guidelines No. 2-Offering Business. All these will be implemented on trial basis.

The official release of these three rules signifies that the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchange has made phased progress in promoting the pilot work of infrastructure public offering REITs.

The chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, Yi Huiman, mentioned the core task of “increasing the proportion of direct financing.” Infrastructure REITs are one of the direct financing tools. Shenzhen Stock Exchange currently reserves nearly 40 projects in the fields including data centers and industrial parks logistics.

Aiming to finance China’s next phase of development through digital infrastructures, including 5G, data centers, logistics centers for E-commerce, and cross-border digital trade warehouses, etc., Infrastructure REITs is regarded as an important initiative to boom digital economy. China needs innovative and structured financial instruments to share market-based risks and returns between the public and private investors.

Contrary to the Western REITs experience, China’s main goal is to support China’s digital infrastructure building. The plan specifically excluded residential and commercial real estate properties from the REITs, meaning China’s REITs are not designed to finance real estate developments and properties.

Lesson for Big Tech?

China’s antitrust enforcement remained robust in 2020 and is expected to and reach the peak in 2021. The State Administration for Market Regulation (“SAMR”) issued a flurry of new guidelines in the antitrust space that provide more guidance on its enforcement priorities and its interpretation of the law.

This could be a pivotal year.

On February 7, 2021, SAMR issued Anti-Monopoly Guidelines for the Platform Economy Sector (“Platform Guidelines”), which follows a string of actions taken by the Chinese government to regulate the internet platform sector, tightening existing restrictions faced by the country’s tech giants. Most notably, the suspension of the initial public offering by Ant Group.

Recognizing that there are difficulties and enormous discrepancy in applying traditional antitrust enforcement approaches to the platform economy sector, the Platform Guidelines come into being. It is worth mentioning that, the Platform Guidelines acknowledge the complexity of the platform economy and that a market would not necessarily be defined by reference to an undertaking’s basic services. As a result, if the platform is a distinct market or one that involves multiple related markets are took into consideration.

The state supports the innovation and development of platform enterprises, enhances international competitiveness, and supports the common development of public and non-public economies. At the same time, it is necessary to regulate development in accordance with the law and improve digital rules, and prevent the disorderly expansion of capital.

Conclusion

Every year, China’s most notable tech industry leaders are invited to the “two sessions” to help formulate a national vision for the country’s technological development. This year, new proposals from the heads of China’s biggest tech companies, including Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and Lenovo Group, seek to address issues such as upgrading digital infrastructure.

China has been ramping up efforts to build out and improve what it calls “new infrastructure”. The broad term applies to a variety of technologies and related areas, including 5G networks, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), high-speed rail and research institutions.

The strategy outlines how China intends to become a leading global innovation engine, catch up to the average income level of developed countries, and display world class strengths in economy, global governance and soft power, as well as green development.

To achieve its goals, China will recalibrate its reform strategy, putting greater emphasis on the quality, rather than quantity, of future growth, with technology innovation and scientific research as key.

NTT’s Bangkok data centre to become international network hub

NTT Ltd. has announced that it will make its Bangkok data centre an international network exchange hub.

Partnering with internet exchange services companies, Japan Network Access Point (JPNAP) and Bangkok Neutral Internet Exchange (BKNIX), NTT stated that it has developed “international links” with both of them.

The company has established an internet exchange linkage in JPNAP’s Tokyo data centres and installed a Point of Presence (PoP) from BKNIX in its Bangkok data centre.

This means that NTT’s Bangkok 2 Data Center will now be able to better empower Internet Service Providers, Cloud Service Providers, and educational institutions in the area, as well as function as a content and internet traffic exchange hub.

“We’re pleased to be a part of this initiative to help drive the efficiency of Internet connectivity on an international level. With connectivity being paramount to business success, we hope this will unlock greater value for partners and providers, as they capture emerging market demands in today’s digital economy,” said Sutas Kongdumrongkiat, CEO of NTT in Thailand.

Ryuich Matsuo, NTT’s Executive Vice President for the Global Data Centers division, further added that: “Leveraging strengths in network carriers and its technical integration expertise, NTT delivers premium data center platforms around the world, giving our clients the power to deploy advanced services at the right place, with the right performance and support.”

He also stated that the company will continue to expand in 2021 by building new data centres in Indonesia, the US, UK, Germany, and Spain.

India’s IFI Techsolutions expands cloud presence in Australia

Indian cloud solutions firm IFI Techsolutions, alongside Microsoft, has launched its first office in Australia.

The company has set up a new office in Hoppers Crossing, 30 minutes west from the city of Melbourne.

As a Gold Microsoft Partner, IFI Techsolutions will offer a range of next-generation tech services to help clients in their digital transformation journey. Aside from cloud solutions, their range of offerings include data center transformation, big data and analytics, DevOps, cybersecurity and compliance, and Microsoft business applications.

Citing a report by Gartner on the increase in cloud spending levels for the next 2-3 years, Ankur Garg, founder of IFI Techsolutions, explained that the current market scenario presents a huge opportunity for cloud growth and expansion.

“I am glad that we have support from a strong Microsoft ecosystem, and IFI Techsolutions is all set to expand globally,” he added.

Besides Australia, IFI Techsolutions has also launched offices in the US, UK, and United Arab Emirates.

OVHcloud creates fire testing lab for data centre, promises to share result with industry

After a fire which ravaged one of its facilities in Strasbourg, France on March 10, French cloud service provider OVHcloud has promised to establish a data centre fire research lab and share the testing results to the industry.

Europe’s largest hosting provider is working on restoring users’ data located at the burnt-out SBG2 data centre by restarting all the VPS and PCI for their customers. It will rebuild public and private cloud services based on OpenCloud and VMware at the SBG3 and SBG4 facilities, while leaving the SBG1 under scrutiny as another small fire incident happened there last Friday.

“This should be done during this week,” OVHcloud Founder and CEO Octave Klaba said in a video update on Monday, stressing the quick response of the company to compensate for the loss. The company previously announced in a tweet after the fire that they would offer free replacements for their users’ server losses due to the catastrophe.

Klaba previously attributed the devastating fire to shoddy maintenance work on some UPSes as one of the reasons, but then reaffirmed the involvement of police, insurance, and independent experts to unveil the root cause.

“It will take a few months to have the conclusion and we will share it with you,” he said.

The company decided to conduct research and see how the fire could go in the different kinds of rooms and find the best way to extinguish the fire. All the activities will be performed at their newly established fire laboratory in an effort to evolve standards for fire handling in data centres.

“I want to share the conclusion of this lab with all the industry, because nobody wants to have this kind of incident,” Klaba said, underlining that the company and the industry should be more vigilant regardless of the different standards in fire prevention and suppression among countries. “We decided to over secure all our data centres.”

As an industry’s norm, most organisations have a three to five-level contingency plan, ranging from pre-pandemic operations, to taking reasonable precautions, through lights-out operation and, in worst cases, a complete site shutdown with transfer of critical applications and operations to backup sites, noted Hideaki Fujimaki, CEO, Spiralgroup.biz Ltd.

OVHcloud is also willing to share to the industry its new “water cooling” technique that sends water to racks, replacing the previous “free cooling” measure which circulates water outside air. The sole purpose of data centre cooling technology is to maintain environmental conditions suitable for information technology equipment operation.

As the event held up the company’s plan for an initial public offering (IPO) in Paris, it is important for OVHcloud to get back on its feet faster to prevent investors’ skeptical attitudes toward the situation, said an analyst from an India-based brokerage firm.

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Bharti Airtel to acquire additional 3.3% in Avaada MHBuldhana

Bharti Airtel is set to acquire an additional 3.3 per cent stake in Special Purpose Vehicle Avaada MHBuldhana.

The SPV has been formed for owning and operating a captive power plant.

The Sunil Bharti Mittal-led firm had earlier acquired 5.2 per cent stake in Avaada MHBuldhana for for $45 million in an all-cash deal.

“We wish to inform you that the company has further agreed on March 22, 2021 for acquisition of additional 2,914,100 equity shares, approximately 3.33 per cent in Avaada MHBuldhan Private Limited, a special purpose vehicle formed for the purpose of owning and operating captive power plant, in terms of the regulatory requirement for captive power consumption under electricity laws,” Airtel said in a filing to the stock exchanges in India.

The transaction is expected to be completed by April 30, the filing said.

https://w.media/sunseap-to-form-jv-with-tenaga-nasional-bhd-tnb-for-importing-clean-energy/

Avaada MHBuldhana Private Limited, is a Group Company of Avaada Energy Private Limited (AEPL), a player in the Indian solar industry. An early entrant, through its associate companies, the organization had developed a portfolio of over 1 GW solar and wind projects across the country and the first Independent Power producer (IPP) to cross 1GW installed capacity milestone in India, according to regulatory filings.

Avaada MHBuldhana Private Limited is a newly formed company and developing captive generating solar power plant in Maharashtra which will become operational by March 2021. It has attracted investors into renewable portfolio from the likes of ADB, FMO – France, Proparco -Netherlands and DEG -Germany.

 

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How India is using tech to monitor Covid-19 vaccine distribution

A former Indian Prime Minister had an interesting take on social welfare schemes.

For every dollar spent on welfare schemes, only 15 cents reach the beneficiary. So, when COVID-19 vaccination rollouts were announced, many people in the county had similar doubts.

Would there be cases of vacciantion for some and not for others?

As COVID-19 cases surge in India, technology is being used to monitor effective vaccine delivery in India. The second largest country, with 1.3 billion people, India over the past 3 months have vaccinated around 35 million people.

India’s vaccination drive has so far been done in two phases. In Phase I, healthcare and other essential workers were administered the vaacine. In Phase II- people aged 60 and above, as well as those who are above 45 (with co-morbidities) are undergoing vaccination.

India has a federal structure of governance, similar to the UK and US. It is here that Central and State governments have to work in conjunction with each other, to ensure that the vaccination drive is efficient.

Distribution efficiencies

Take the case of Bengaluru-based Intugine Technologies. The startup has partnered with the Government of Andra Pradesh to ensure safe and efficient distribution of Covid-19 vaccine across the state.

Intugine is a logistics technology company and provides real time tracking and supply chain optimization solutions to the likes of Walmart-owned Flipkart, Philips, Mahindra Logistics and Arvind Fashion.

Government’s jab with tech

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken a proactive step towards minimising transit times through real-time visibility and exception response. Intugine will use portable GPS devices to facilitate real time tracking of vaccines in transit.

Intugine’s CEO Harshit Shrivastava pointed out that vaccine distribution is a temperature critical process and therefore transit times have to be controlled.

Vaccine supply chain, across the globe, is expected to face theft and counterfeiting risks. The Government of Andhra Pradesh aims to build protective safeguards against such risks.

Mission Director, NHM, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Bhaskar Katamneni, IAS said: “We wanted to establish control over long distance movement of vaccines from the state storage centre to different district storage centers. We wanted to monitor this movement in real time and ensure a timely response in case of any unforeseen exceptions.”

Intugine’s end to end visibility platform facilitates route planning & vehicle allocation, digital indenting, in-warehouse tracking, in-transit tracking, digital invoicing and data driven planning.

The company is in talks with several other Indian states to implement a similar real time visibility solution for vaccine distribution.

Intugine Technologies had previously played an important role in containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Intugine had repurposed their real time visibility solution to help the Indian states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Goa, Meghalaya and Madhya Pradesh among other states are using this to monitor home quarantined individuals and ensure social distancing.

“Last year we facilitated the monitoring of over 600,000 home quarantined individuals without flouting any privacy considerations. This year we aim to facilitate efficient distribution of vaccines across the country.” said Ayush Agrawal, Cofounder, Intugine Technologies.

Blockchain connect

Similar to Intiguine, is Pluss Advanced Technologies, a Tata Capital-backed energy storage company has developed a Phase Change Materials (PCMs) solution, called Celsure. PCM technology has the ability to absorb, store and release large amounts of latent heat over a defined temperature range and can act as a thermal barrier which keeps the vaccine stable. “PCMs are ideal for thermal energy storage as they are highly cost effective, stable, environment friendly and maintain desired temperature without the need for external source of energy,” said Vineet Chadha, Partner, Tata Capital Innovations Fund, which is a part of Tata Capital. Tata Capital is a part of the the $100 billion Tata Group.

Typically, vaccines are stored in low temperature freezers and doses are better planned in cases such as polio. In the case of Covid-19, the numbers are daunting. According to WHO estimates, more than 50 per cent of vaccines may be wasted globally every year because of temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues.

StaTwig, a Hyderabad-based company has come up with a COVID-19 vaccine distribution platform through blockchain. In the case of pharma companies, there is visibility in extended supply chain, the location, distribution of products and how long they stay in the warehouses. This information is useful to generate actionable insights, to ensure quality and safety and helps in building a blockchain solution.

More enhancements needed

So far, the Indian government has done a commendable job, by not allowing black marketers from taking over vaccine distribution.

However, industry watchers feel, more can be done, especially in wider monitoring and a co-ordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The government can use this opportunity to pilot new technologies at scale and open up vaccine distribution to other stakeholders,” said Ankit Jhanwar, Vice President- Strategy, Pluss Advanced Technologies. Having said that, it is a commendable job by the government, which has to oversee a country with a billion people, added Jhanwar.

Well begun is half done. As cases of COVID-19 has risen in the past two weeks, governments across the Asian continent which represents almost of the earth’s population, must be hoping that the same technology, which has been labelled as ‘evil’, can also do some ‘good’.

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Fanuc to spend $240m to grow its Shanghai robot plant five-fold

Japanese robot maker Fanuc is planning to spend $240 million to grow its Shanghai plant.

Ahead of China’s factory automation boom, Fanuc seeks to fortify its leading market share of 12 per cent by deploying a 26-billion-yen ($240 million) project to expand its Shanghai’s plant five-fold, according to a Nikkei Asia report.

The venture is jointly invested by Fanuc and local player Shanghai Electric Group over the next three years. It aims to tap into the heightening demand for robots in China’s manufacturing sector during the post-pandemic recovery.

They plan to expand its existing plant to an area of 340,000 sq. meters, where the assembly and configuration of robotic arms are completed and tailored for specific customer applications. The new facility will also deploy the latest manufacturing processes, including machine learning, digital and collaborative solutions.

Fanuc’s headquarters in Japan will keep manufacturing the high-quality main parts of robots and export them to Shanghai. According to the International Federation of Robotics, new robots are still mainly imported to China from foreign suppliers, representing 71 per cent of the total new units.

In 2019, IFR recorded the installation of about 783,000 industrial robot units in China, placed 1st among the 15 largest markets in the world. Though insiders are witnessing a decline in new robot adoption compared to 2017 and 2018, China is likely to be one of the first countries to receive large-scale orders coming up this year. The bouncing back of the two main customers industries, automotive and electrical/electronics, to the “new normal” this year is the main driver for the promising outlook. The global market also expects to return to its pre-crisis level in 2022 or 2023.

China’s robot-to-person ratio in factories is still trailing behind Japan by half, offering big manufacturers opportunities to conquer the market. Rising local labour cost also adds to the big picture. FANUC Chairman Yoshiharu Inaba underlined in his statement that Fanuc has developed “by leaps and bounds” to be ahead of this trend.

Though Fanuc has a significant market share in China, its archrivals, ABB and Yaskawa Electric, are also gearing up to fortify their presence in the country. The Chinese government also triggers the fierce competition as it plans to cultivate local players to take up 70 per cent of the market share by 2025, Nikkei Asia reported.

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Software Technology Parks of India launches Blockchain CoE

Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) has launched Apiary, a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Blockchain at STPI incubation centre in Gurugram, along with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of Haryana, Government Blockchain Association, companies and top-tier academic institutions.

STPI Apiary would revolutionise the Blockchain incubation ecosystem by fostering R&D innovation and entrepreneurship while nurturing start-ups to build indigenous products. Blockchain dramatically reduces the possibilities of a data breach.

With all the fraud-resistant features, blockchain technology holds the potential to revolutionise various business sectors and make processes more intelligent, secure, transparent, and more efficient compared to traditional business processes.

At the launch of the CoE, Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & IT, Govt. of India said, “Apiary is taking shape by bringing together all stakeholders. We can put India Stack in blockchain. Let’s seek those use cases where we can provide the solutions. 2020 is the time to become ambitious; it’s time for us to change.”

Jyoti Arora, Special Secretary & Financial Adviser, MeitY, Govt. of India, underscored, “We have a lot of expectations from this CoE. We have to bring the young people to the fore and empower them to create path-breaking solutions in blockchain.”

Dr Omkar Rai, Director General, STPI, said, “The kind of leadership we have for Apiary can help us to achieve the mandate of this CoE and succeed by translating the ideas of start-ups into world-class blockchain products. Our programmes will disperse the tech start-up ecosystem to Tier- II/III cities, and we are trying to reach the unreached and facilitating support for democratising product innovation.”

The 7,000 sq. ft. Apiary -CoE, at STPI-Gurugram, targets 100 start-ups in the coming five years. The centre aims to provide blockchain as a service and allow all stakeholders to benefit from shared learning, experiences, and resources.

The start-ups will be mentored by a group of accomplished industry and academic pioneers, led by the Chief Mentor Pankaj Thakar, CoE & Founder Padup and aided by a Governing Council (GC) & Project Management Group (PMG) consisting of top technology industrialists, investors, and academicians.

Several corporate and academic partners have already come on board, including IBM, Intel, Padup Venture, Indian Angel Network, Vintners Angel Group, Padup Syndicate and Venture Catalyst. Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer, FITT- IIT Delhi/Sonepat Campus, will participate as an academic partner.

The first Cohort of Apiary

STPI APIARY invited applications from start-ups and entrepreneurs for ‘Idea Challenge Program in Blockchain Technology’ in domains like Supply Chain, Agriculture, Finance and e-governance use cases about Land Records, Public Health, Labour, Service Record, Pension Delivery and Law Enforcement & Evidence Management. Ten best start-ups are onboarded, selected from 100+ applications received, in the first Cohort of Apiary.

The selected start-ups represent multiple industries, including Financial Services, Healthcare, Government, Travel and Hospitality & Retail. TraceFood, Jal Jaivik Bazzar & SATV Emerging Technology Private Limited are from the food supply chain domain, Swapnet Pvt Ltd & Trustless Capital are from the fintech domain, Calculus & Sofocle Innovation Labs Pvt are into eGovernance & Digital Records, Sofexsto Technologies and Procure+ are working in Healthcare sector and CredibleMe Pvt Ltd (A subsidiary of Snapper Future Tech) is from Education & Banking domain.

These start-ups are mentored by technocrats and domain experts. India will soon realise the massive potential of this technology and drive a new wave of decentralised applications, officials said.

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Around 50% exporters have gone online post COVID-19: Hong Kong Trade Development Council survey

In the aftermath of COVID-19, around 50 per cent of exporters have gone digital.

Nearly half of the exporters surveyed planned to develop other product categories (45.7%) or build up online sales channels (45.4%) in 2021, according to the survey conducted by Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).

The HKTDC conducts the Export Index survey every quarter, interviewing 500 local exporters from six major industries including machinery, electronics, jewellery, watches and clocks, toys and clothing, to gauge business confidence in near-term export prospects. The Index indicates an optimistic or pessimistic outlook, with 50 as the dividing line.

Industries embracing digital

The most popular channels for those going online included proprietary websites/applications/social commerce (77.3%) and third-party e-commerce platforms (64.9%). Some respondents also indicated they used online sourcing platforms (36.1%) or online exhibitions (19.1%), the survey said.

However, many exporters encountered difficulties when developing online sales, including intense competition in the e-commerce market (56.7%) and ineffective digital market strategies (52.6%), while some were not ready to take small orders (37.6%) or establish long-term relationships with buyers on a virtual basis (32.0%). Other commonly identified issues included potential cybersecurity risks (26.3%) and the need to train e-commerce staff (25.3%).

HKTDC Director of Research Nicholas Kwan said that many companies now offer a basket of value-added services as a way to stay competitive in the market. The most common free service offered is product design and development (67.9%), followed by preparing trade documentation (56.6%), logistics arrangement (56.6%), facilitating the attainment of quality-certification or product-testing reports (56.6%), and managing production including outward processing and quality control (52.8%).

Biz rebound in major industries

HKTDC Economist Samantha Yim said export confidence improved across all major industries. The strongest rebound was in jewellery (42.2) and toys (44.7), which jumped 9.2 and 8.8 points respectively.

Among major markets, Hong Kong exporters were relatively more confident in the United States (46.1, up 1.7 points), while Mainland China (48.0) and Japan (47.3) were on par with the last quarter. The outlook for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (45.2) and the European Union (42.9) was less promising, falling 2 and 1.1 points respectively.

“The improving export sentiment is further evident in an upward trend in the subsidiary indexes including the Trade Value Index [46.3, up 9.8 points] and Employment Index [43.2, up 1.7 points], yet the Procurement Index [33.6, down 1 point] remained subdued, suggesting exporters are worrying orders might drop in the near future,” Ms Yim said.

The HKTDC’s Research Department also conducted a series of company interviews to explore how technologies have promoted smart-city development and helped local enterprises ride out the COVID-19 challenges.

Evolving retail

HKTDC Economist Melissa Ho said the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the retail industry. Technological solutions such as data analytics, the Internet of Things and sensors have played a pivotal role in enabling more effective retail management and providing better shopping experiences for consumers. Self-services/self-checkout kiosks, “try-before-you-buy” experiences powered by augmented reality (AR) technology, and the use of sensors for consumption-pattern analysis have become the “new normal” in the retail industry.

“Technology improves operational efficiency and enhances shopping experiences. It is important for retailers to keep up with the fast-paced change in customer needs and expectations by enhancing their capabilities and competitiveness through digital enablers,” she said.

Local companies need to upgrade and transform in four key areas amid the pandemic: developing new products, expanding sales channels, innovating marketing solutions and optimising work processes. HKTDC Assistant Principal Economist (Global Research) Louis Chan said that medical and healthcare products as well as tech-related (including 5G, artificial intelligence, and AR) products emerged with the rise of “stay-at-home” economy, while the online-to-offline business model continued to grow with cross-border e-commerce becoming a new focus.

“Content marketing on social media as well as more precise and personalised marketing backed by data analysis will become the new normal. Mobile technology-aided game marketing can help companies win support from the new generation of consumers,” said Chan.

He noted work optimisation can be achieved by applying various technologies, citing the example that automated systems supported by robots can enhance warehouse efficiency and delivery accuracy. Cloud database, remote and machine learning technology can also help optimise logistics efficiency, improve production management and reduce risks, added Chan.

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Aiming for sky high growth, AirTrunk opens 2nd Sydney hyperscale DC

Hyperscale data centre specialist AirTrunk has opened its second Sydney hyperscale data centre.

AirTrunk, which is owned by a consortium led by Macquarie Asia Infrastructure Fund 2 (MAIF2), Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments), along with CEO Robin Khuda, is a best-in-class provider for large enterprise customers in the Asia-Pacific region. MAIF2 is managed by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, one of the world’s leading alternative asset managers and part of the ASX-listed Macquarie Group Limited.

Fuelling growth

Industry watchers opine that the opening of its second Sydney data centre in the city’s north, AirTrunk SYD2, could have significant ramifications in the region. Fuelled by accelerated cloud adoption, SYD2 demonstrates the continued customer demand for AirTrunk’s digital infrastructure by the world’s largest technology companies. It would give further support to the growth of cloud customers, in the region.

Clean energy push

This growth will be managed through clean energy, the company said.

SYD2, with more than 110-megawatts (MW) of capacity, will be one of the largest single-campus data centres in the Asia-Pacific region, along with sister facilities in Western Sydney (130+MW) and Melbourne (130+MW). This takes AirTrunk’s total capacity in Australia to over 370 MW.

Adding to its expanding Asia-Pacific hyperscale data centre platform, the opening of the SYD2 campus follows the company’s dual data centre launch in Hong Kong and Singapore in December 2020. Since its first data centre opened in September 2017, AirTrunk now operates five data centres offering a Asia-Pacific platform with unmatched scale, speed, efficiency and reliability to all major global public cloud customers, the company said.

When its Tokyo data centre is set to be unveiled later this year, the total capacity of the platform will grow to over 750MW across five tier-one markets.

Founder and CEO of AirTrunk, Robin Khuda, said today’s opening is yet another milestone for the company and would allow unprecedented scale for AirTrunk’s customers in the Sydney market.

“Throughout the Asia-Pacific region we’re delivering hyperscale data centre campuses at accelerated speed to enable the growth of the digital economy,” said Khuda.

Strategically located in major cloud availability zones and well connected to telecommunications infrastructure, SYD2 will offer cloud service providers customised and scalable capacity in the northern suburbs of Sydney. Powered by a dedicated 200MVA 132kV substation – one of the largest substations in the state of New South Wales – the reliable power infrastructure will deliver 100 per cent availability and cost-effectiveness for customers.

“SYD2 has all the hallmarks of AirTrunk’s state-of-the-art data centres, and we are well-positioned to offer the scale and service that our global customers need now and into the future,” said Khuda.

Nestled into the landscape across 3.95ha of land, AirTrunk has created a sustainable environment, ensuring the protection of the unique and sensitive local environment while accommodating this significant development opportunity.

 

 

SYD2 has been designed to an industry-low power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.15. To deliver this efficiency, AirTrunk developed a range of innovations including an industry-first cooling solution that optimises efficiency using real-time weather data analysis. This cooling solution is AirTrunk’s most energy-efficient deployment to date and also consumes 90% less water annually than traditional cooling solutions.

Damien Spillane, Chief Technology Officer added, “AirTrunk is committed to championing sustainability and our team are constantly innovating to improve data centre efficiency. We’re designing hyperscale data centres, like SYD2, that are significantly more energy efficient than traditional on-premise data centres, reducing total emissions and the impact on the environment.”

The first of SYD2’s four phases opened today, and AirTrunk is ready to scale out the data centre to over 110MW of total capacity to support customer growth. Built in just 35 weeks, record time despite COVID-19 impacts, the construction of Phase One involved over 2,800 people and 400,000 work hours. AirTrunk’s continued emphasis on ensuring the safety of its people, customers and partners has resulted in no lost time injuries during the project.

The significant investment in critical digital infrastructure has brought material benefits to the local economy including hundreds of jobs during construction and on-going operations.

A ceremony was held at SYD2 with a Welcome to Country by Yvonne Weldon, Chairperson of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council Sydney and the data centre was officially opened by The Hon. Anthony Roberts MP, Member for Lane Cove.

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Abu Dhabi launches a Digital Programme for government employees

As a part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the department of Government Support which is represented by the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA) & Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG) collaborate with the Abu Dhabi Global Market Academy (ADGMA) to launch the Abu Dhabi Digital Programme.

This programme aims at providing government employees with the latest digital skills that will help in transforming the Abu Dhabi government and economy into a digital leader. The MoU was signed in November 2020.

The ADGMA, ADDA and the ADSG will invite the government employees to be a part of this programme. The programme comprises three levels awareness, application and strategic phases. Each phase is meant to educate the participants on various digital technologies and concepts which include Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Data Sciences and fintech.

“Digital Literacy is no longer a simple matter of adding value to existing systems, but rather, because of the rapid growth of digitisation in today’s fast-moving world, it has become a staple requirement for all government employees who wish to be the next generation of digitally-aware and technology-driven young professionals,” said H.E. Mansoor Mohamed Al Marzooqi, Executive Director- Strategic Planning Sector, ADDA.

The participants will receive a Foundations of Digital Transformation Certification on successful completion of the programme, which will equip the employees with the required skills for the jobs in demand.

“ADDA, as the body entrusted with leading the digital future of Abu Dhabi, is delighted to be an integral part of the process of achieving the goals of Abu Dhabi’s digital literacy strategy, collaborating with the Abu Dhabi Global Market Academy and the Abu Dhabi School of Government to develop and deliver this series of carefully curated programmes specifically designed to enable, promote and stimulate Abu Dhabi’s journey of digital transformation,” added H.E Mansoor Mohamed Al Marzooqi.

H.E Mansoor Mohamed Al Marzooqi also mentioned that with this programme the young talented Emiratis will play a very important role in reshaping the society for the future by delivering innovative digital solutions for the needs of the businesses and citizens.

“Our launch of the Abu Dhabi Digital Programme comes at a timely juncture as emerging and disruptive technologies continue to shape the regional and global public and private sectors. The ADGMA is pleased to be leveraging its synergies with ADDA and ADSG in taking this landmark initiative forward as we collectively contribute to Abu Dhabi’s digital ambitions. Through the programme, we look to equip eager, capable government employees with the necessary insights and knowledge to utilize and navigate pertinent digital technologies and concepts such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and fintech. Underpinned by a world-class curriculum and expert specialists, we are confident that this programme will be instrumental in Abu Dhabi’s ongoing efforts to develop a knowledge-based economy, in service of the emirate’s continued growth,” said Hamad Sayah Al Mazrouei, COO, ADGM & Managing Director, ADGMA.

The participants will first begin the programme with the Awareness Level which is designed for government employees with basic digital skills and experience in emerging technologies. Next comes the Application Level where they can specialise in the areas of AI, data science, cybersecurity or fintech. Last comes the Strategic Level where they can join any one of the three digital leadership tracks which include, the Future Digital Leader Program, the Young Digital Leader Program and the Executive Digital Leadership Program.