Why have Chief Data Officers in Governments?

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Data is the foundation of the digital economy. Most organisations now recognise the importance of data and the need to have dedicated data steward. Capital One was the first business organisation to have a Chief Data Officer (CDO) with the appointment of Cathryne Clay Doss to the position in 2002. In 2012, just 12% of Fortune 1000 companies had a CDO. By 2018, 67.9% of surveyed firms reported having one[1].

Many governments have caught on to this trend. For example, New Zealand has a Chief Data Steward, who is also the Chief Executive of Stats NZ. Last year the US Government enacted legislation: Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018[2], which also included the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act. The OPEN Act stipulates the designation of a non-political appointee as the CDO for each government agency. Similarly, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires the appointment of a Data Protection Officer to oversee GDPR compliance[3].

Chief Data Officers (CDOs) are responsible for an organisation’s enterprise-wide data strategy, governance, policy development and exploitation of information. The CDO’s role combines accountability and responsibility for information protection and privacy, information governance, data quality, and data life cycle management, along with the exploitation of data assets to create business value.

The exploitation of data takes place through a variety of systems and services, including Business Intelligence, Data Mining, Advanced Data Analytics, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence(AI). In recognition of this aspect of their work many CDOs have the title of Chief Data and Analytics Officer e.g. Walmart, JP Morgan Chase, and Cigna.


Positioning within the organisation

The primary job of the Chief Data Officer is to use data in the service of insights for making better decisions. Appointing a CDO and setting up a dedicated data unit is, therefore not enough. What is important is to integrate the CDO function within the decision-making structures of government, build data capabilities throughout the public sector, and put in place a data-driven culture across the government. Without these elements, the office of the CDO can end up as one more siloed addition to an already burgeoning bureaucracy, with disappointing results.


Solving important problems

Ideally, the appointment of a CDO should go hand in hand with the identification of key outcomes and challenges that are important for the government. It is useful to develop and deploy data capabilities by solving concrete problems. A corollary of this approach is that the CDO should ideally be a domain expert rather than an IT professional.

It is not enough to identify just any set of outcomes and challenges to focus the energies of the CDO and the data team. The problems to be solved should be valuable in themselves and should contribute to an overall sense of purpose. A challenge worth addressing, for example, is the issue of dealing with the impending hardships and disruptions to the lives of workers on account of Automation and AI. Workers will be required to make difficult transitions from jobs becoming redundant to newer opportunities that rapidly changing technologies and business models bring in their wake. Data analytics and AI could provide insights to help workforce transitions in response to these shifts in labour markets. For example, the US government’s AI initiative also requires government agencies to help US workers to adjust to changes in the job market occasioned by automation and AI.

Utilising data combined with analytics can also contribute to policy formulation, design, implementation and monitoring. The Australian government worked with LinkedIn to identify trends and increasing demand for ICT and non-ICT workers with balanced soft skills by analysing data from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph. These insights will help policymakers to create programs to ensure that the Australian workers are equipped with the necessary skills in order to drive economic growth. Data can be effectively leveraged to better understand and forecast on specific policy issues need to be addressed.

Another illustrative area might be to provide easier access to data. Making inventories of data assets in both the public and private sector, promoting open data, facilitating data markets, preparing data maps and putting in place Data 114 services offering assistance for accessing data, might all be initiatives worth considering.


Agile squads

Next, the CDO’s team needs to be integrated and embedded within departmental teams who have the domain expertise and insights into existing processes of service delivery. When the Dutch Financial services firm ING Bank began its restructuring, it organised its 3,500 employees into autonomous multidisciplinary agile squads. The teams were empowered to define goals and make decisions with speed and flexibility. A similar approach would be worth considering for government. Pursuing a hybrid model of domain specialists and data experts working together as part of agile teams and focusing on clearly defined problems is likely to yield positive results.


Data literacy

For a data culture to take root in government, it is essential to impart data literacy to employees across the board. Airbnb established a Data University to empower every employee to make data-informed decisions. Unless employees are data literate, it is not easy for the data science team to communicate and work with them.  Governments need to train their employees in basic data literacy, much along the lines of the Government of Singapore, which has partnered with Tableau to train 1500 public officials to understand and use data.


Instituting a data culture

Training the top government decision-makers, including ministers and senior civil servants about data, is arguably even more critical than training other employees. Unless senior decision-makers regularly use data in making routine and policy decisions, it will be difficult if not impossible, to foster a culture of data.

Similarly, the role of data interlocutors is vital in bridging the worlds of data science and the sector-specific world of government agencies, ministries, and departments. Often the best interlocutors are not data scientists themselves, but sector professionals who develop a good understanding of data. These individuals are perhaps the most valuable assets in developing and fostering a culture of data.

It is also essential to democratise data access across the organisational structures of government. If access to data becomes easier, it is more likely that enterprising staff will put it to new and innovative uses.


Change management

Change management is one of the most critical factors for a successful roll-out of the CDO position. When it comes to adopting new technologies and processes in government, resistance to change is expected. New initiatives will need to be clearly explained to senior ministers along with rank-and-file employees. In addition to training staff, a common data management strategy and government enterprise architecture would need to be established. Government enterprise architecture would include business process re-engineering along with a holistic view of business functions, common data standards, and shared ICT systems and infrastructure.

Digital transformation should be thought of as a journey, rather than a destination. While it is critical to have a masterplan to guide long term planning, the CDO system will see an uptake only after demonstrated quick wins by implementing projects which are low hanging fruits. This will demonstrate the business value and reduce the perceived risk of creating new positions and new reporting lines that come with the CDOs office.


Perils of quantification

One word of caution needs to be advised during this transition into a data-driven government. There is a real danger that any policy aspect that cannot be quantified may be undervalued and ignored. A more data-oriented public policy may be prone to short-termism, create incentives for corruption, and give rise to chasing rankings in development indices. Measuring ministerial performance based largely on statistics may wind up being at the expense of broader, more long-term and less quantifiable development objectives. For instance, in a recent report, NYPD narcotics officers admitted to framing innocent people to meet arrest quotas. The “no child left behind” policy in the US is driving teachers to fudge test scores and teach from the point of view of tests rather than focussing on fundamental concepts. Finally, there is an endless list of corporations engaging in corrupt practices to meet their quarterly targets. Indicators, statistics, and econometrics or data-driven models are approximations that allow us to grasp aspects of a complex and nuanced reality, but they should not be confused for the truth. Sound public policy analysis would need to be a marriage between quantitative and qualitative analysis.



For CDOs to deliver results, governments will need to think carefully about the role of data in the overall organisation of government and adopt data as a core piece of their national strategies. The mere institution of a CDO office and a data analytics team residing in an isolated silo will not be enough.

This report was co-authored by Sujin (Sue) Kim, a Manager with the National IT Industry Promotion Agency of Korea – NIPA, and Randeep Sudan, Board Advisor at Ecosystm.

[1] Forbes, Rethinking the role of Chief Data Officer

[2] Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018

[3] European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Ecosystm Snapshot: Cloud Information Model vs. Open Data Initiative

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Organisations across the globe are increasingly moving their infrastructure, storage and computing capabilities on the cloud. With the adoption of different cloud models and modernisation of computing and data storage practices, cloud providers have formed their own data models and technology stacks making interoperability difficult. This brings a lot of challenges for developers to create and run applications across different cloud environments.

Establishing the Open-source models for data interoperability

To remove the hurdles of information created by different cloud providers, AWS, Genesys, and Salesforce have come together with the Linux Foundation’s joint Development Foundation (JDF) to create a Cloud Information Model (CIM). This program comes shortly after Microsoft, SAP and Adobe announced the Open Data initiative.

The operation of these two data models is quite similar. Indeed, they allow both to store data and to apply a common open model.


Cloud Information Model vs. Open Data Initiative


What’s Cloud Information Model (CIM)

Cloud Information Model (CIM) is based on open-source standards that will standardise data interoperability across cloud applications and the environment. CIM will work on MuleSoft’s open-source modeling technology which will provide various file formats to work with varying applications. The new open-source data model will reduce the existing complexities of migrating data across cloud applications. The model aims to form interoperability guidelines to improve the working of POS Systems, digital marketing platforms, Contact centres or CRM platforms.

Instead of creating custom code, developers can implement the CIM and quickly be able to create data lakes, generate analytics, train machine learning models and translate data across systems. The model will be backed by an open-source community that will assist with faster and consistent development.

What’s the Open Data Initiative?

Open Data Initiative is a common data model to eliminate costly and complex disconnected data silos. The three partners, Microsoft, Adobe and SAP will drive this by improving interoperability and data exchange amongst their platform and applications; Adobe Experience Cloud and Adobe Experience Platform, Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAP C/4HANA and S/4HANA.

Open Data Initiative Model
Source: Microsoft

The program partners can easily leverage an open and extensible data model to extend solutions. This integrated data store will let customers explore more choices on applications development, building, and deployment.

Phil Hassey, Ecosystm Principal Advisor, says “whilst every partner brings along its own expectations and capabilities, the initiatives are looking to make the connection and flow of data easier through using open source models. In theory, this will accelerate solutions for clients and enable faster business outcomes if they are executed effectively and with positive intentions”.


Two Competing Models, do we need both?

We currently have two separate models involving a competitive and closed environment, with Microsoft, Adobe and SAP supporting Open Data Initiative on one side whereas AWS, Genesys, and Salesforce backing up the Cloud Information Model (CIM) on the other end. They are both aiming to bring standardisation for data interoperability across various products. With two competing models, we can see some friction developing between these projects.

“When it comes to the crunch competitive pressures within the two models, it will not be eliminated, for example, Microsoft and SAP partner in key areas, but also have competitive overlap in CRM and analytics,” said Hassey. “It might be positive to think that open source will provide some standards, unfortunately, the reality is different. Execution is often difficult in these types of attempts partly due to the inherent nature of the Open Source community. At best, it will create two different standards, that may be a progressive step.”

The two models may bring opportunities for the developers, open source community and adopters. “The open-source community is very strong as is the developer market aligned with both platforms. If the models commit to investing in the developer community then the opportunity is very strong for positive and desired outcomes, but a lot of success is reliant on developer community investment on top of already existing investments” said Hassey.

Hassey further added, “It is also interesting to see what the likes of Oracle, IBM and Google will do, do they join one of the existing groups or establish yet another branch of the overall environment.”

Both models have the potential to provide common standards and open source codes to the adopters and community thus working on methods to connect data across multiple cloud platforms and disparate systems. They might help but only time, ease of implementation, adoption and support by the community will tell the whole story.

Do you think that these two competing models will merge or only one out of both will be triumphant? Let us know in your comments below.

AI strategies to transform Singapore by 2030

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++Update: A few days after we added this story, Australia released its AI roadmap focused on future investment in AI and machine learning, and Artificial Intelligence: Australia’s Ethics Framework.

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Over the last few years, many countries have created plans to harness Artificial Intelligence (AI) for better citizen services. At this week’s SFFXSWITCH (Singapore FinTech Festival and Singapore Week of Innovation and TeCHnology), Singapore announced the next step in its Smart Nation initiative with the release of the “National AI Strategy”. The AI strategy will focus on social and economic benefits by providing modern infrastructure, intelligent services, and an excellent education system to citizens.

Commenting on Singapore’s AI adoption and implementation strategies, Ecosystm Principal Advisor, Tim Sheedy said “being a smaller country, Singapore is one of the few around the globe that can make investments into AI at a ‘country level’. Singapore has the luxury of having a progressive public sector that operates at the same speed as the private sector, and has the opportunity to become one of the leading economies in the world for both the deployment of AI in everyday services AND in ensuring the economy has the required skills.”


The key approach of the AI strategy

Singapore is aiming to position itself as a global hub for the development and implementation of AI solutions. National AI Office established under the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) will be heading Singapore’s AI initiatives.

To begin with, the SNDGO will be initially working on key high-value sectors:

  • Transport and Logistics: Intelligent Freight Planning
  • Smart Cities and Municipal Services: Infra management and smart services
  • Healthcare: Chronic Disease Prediction and Management
  • Education: Personalised Education
  • Safety and Security: Seamless border clearance operations

Speaking on AI strategies devised for transportation, smart cities, healthcare, education and safety and security in Singapore, Sheedy said “all of these investments are ones that you would make as an economy if you had the opportunity. They are all logical and will all benefit the lives of citizens and the success of the overall economy.”

National-AI-Projects- Singapore
Source: Singapore National AI Strategy document (SNDGO) Graphic by: Ecosystm

Transport and Logistics: To optimise the freight and delivery services, a common data platform will be built. The aim is to bring in efficient transportation and logistics with intelligent AI systems in place by 2022 and further AI developments will scale deployment, enable optimised delivery processes and routing of services for freight planning.


Smart Cities and Estates: The country aims to launch AI powered chatbots by 2022 to record municipal issues and allocate them to the responsible authorities. AI powered services will be introduced to better serve the residents. By 2025, efforts will be established to optimise estate maintenance through AI and sensors and by the year 2030, data driven insights will be used to improve the infrastructure and living environment in Singapore.


Healthcare: An all-new AI system known as SELENA+ will be in place to screen and detect diabetic eye disease. SELENA+ is a first artificial intelligence algorithm which performs automated retinal photo analysis to detect retinopathy and systemic complications in diabetics. In addition to this, AI capabilities will also be used to predict cardiovascular diseases and create personalised chronic risk scores. All of these will help to detect diseases and take early preventive measures by the healthcare teams for the welfare of country and betterment of the economy.

“This could detect chronic issues early, and reduce the impact of them on individuals, families and the economy. Being able to make investments at a macro level – like this happening in Singapore – will make sure everyone benefits” said Sheedy.


Education: AI in education will bring the benefits of automated marking systems for English language in primary and secondary education. Further, AI-enabled learning systems will help students on learning and mastery of topics. The government has planned to expand automated AI and adaptive learning systems to more subjects at a later stage.

Sheedy said, “with the government being able to influence and change the syllabus in schools and universities, as well as the skills in the public and private sector, Singapore is uniquely positioned to drive real economic benefit from their investment into AI.”


Safety and Security:  AI systems will help in border security and clearance procedures. AI will enhance travel experience with automated immigration clearance systems involving face and iris scans. The immigration processes will develop into seamless self-clearance systems and become faster.


“A few countries have the ability to drive this level of planning – most countries have many levels of government which make this planning – or execution of plans – difficult.” said Sheedy. “Many are also leaving the investment to the private sector, which means it will happen eventually, but may see many competing initiatives or different capabilities emerge that only benefit a single company, not an entire economy.”


Smart Nation drive

Singapore’s government is highly active in transforming the country into a smart nation. Singapore was working with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution (WEF C4IR) in order to come out with a framework for ethical and responsible AI adoption and deployment by the Asian governments.

Singapore is also set to invest US$ 360 million on AI and other digital technologies through 2020 and has invited Chinese and American companies to be a part of this.

According to Sheedy, there are many benefits of having deep investments in AI and AI capabilities in an economy.

It will make Singapore a more attractive investment location. If access to government and other services are seamless, then the barriers to entry to starting a new business or creating a new business capability will be much lower. It will mean that it is easier to build a business case for businesses to move to Singapore or start in Singapore – attracting investment funds and employment into the island state.

It will boost export capabilities – both for the skills that will be in demand through technology and business service providers and for the intelligent products and services that will likely emerge from the early AI investments. If Singapore can make more of the products and services that they produce “smart” – then these products and services will see increased demand – both locally and outside of Singapore.

It will make Singapore a better place to live and visit. With seamless government services, easier travel into and out of the country, and a government that anticipates the needs of its citizens, the quality of life for residents will increase.

The country can get ahead of the challenges and downsides of AI – and legislate or plan for these challenges, to ensure these challenges are understood and managed before they become problems.

In the escalating initiatives to become an AI superpower, Singapore has clearly indicated they are fully committed to leveraging AI to drive growth and citizen services.

An AI roadmap report was published by the Australian Government in November 2019, co-developed by CSIRO’s Data61 and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. The report identifies the opportunities and benefits of AI that Australia could capture.
The report classifies the strategies to help develop AI capabilities to boost the productivity of industry, generate jobs, bring economic growth, and enhance the quality of citizens’ life. To drive this, Australia has identified 3 key areas where it has the best opportunity to create new value-

Health, Ageing, and Disability – To develop AI to improve healthcare, aged care, and disability services while reducing healthcare costs.

Cities, Towns, and Infrastructure – To develop an AI system for the cities and infrastructure to provide better services, safety efficiency in a smart and cost-effective way.

Natural resource and environment management – Develop AI for better natural resource management and improve the productivity of agriculture, mining, fisheries, forestry, and environmental management.

Automation will require Retraining and Reskilling
Automation will require Retraining and Reskilling

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As technology continues to permeate all aspects of business and influence how employees execute their roles, there is a growing need for more technologically proficient employees to quickly become future-ready. To enable this, organisations need to develop strategies and support parameters to reskill and upskill their workers.

Why the Need to Retrain and Reskill

Retraining and reskilling are nothing new, and industries have witnessed it several times in the past. The Industrial Revolution replaced many workers with mechanised tools and machinery. Workers who embraced change, and learned how to use the machines, replaced those who did not or could not. It is true that every new technology creates its own turbulence. What is unique this time is that the shift is happening faster as technology advances exponentially. So, people need to retrain and upskill quicker if they are to keep pace with the changing technology landscape.

Both manual and cognitive tasks are being empowered by machines and AI algorithms.  There is also a shortage of a skilled workforce with the right technical training.  Here is why the need for technological skills has increased exponentially over the last few years:

Productivity. Organisations are looking for ways to increase productivity and are spending time on identifying technologies that can help them compete in the future. The introduction of AI and automation is replacing legacy systems and displacing positions such as junior executives, administrative staff, customer service executives and so on. Chatbots and novel interactive robotic companions are offering better productivity with an ability to work 24×7 without taking breaks and can be updated and taught new skills with some minor changes in their algorithm. To understand and to work on AI and chatbot queries, employees require special training and skills. For instance, in a customer care team, if a chatbot is not able to respond to a query it can then be passed to a customer service executive who is able to work in tandem with the AI tool to solve the query.

Profitability. The primary reason why organisations look to technology-driven automation is to create an impact on their profit margin. While making the investment in the technology often requires an upfront cost, once the systems are in place there is a positive impact on productivity and hence more profits. Organisations should ideally invest part of the profits to implement more advanced technology and upskilling their current employees. The lower productivity workers often add up to the costs and reskilling them can save money and lead to more seamless workforce integration. For instance, Fintech is being used increasingly to automate decisions such as instant loan approval, KYC, fraud detection and other financial crimes.  This does not remove the need for subject matter experts and those that have experience and expertise in the domain – they can train those automated systems by feeding queries, analysing outputs and helping the organisation improve their automated process.

Avoiding being Obsolete. In this digital era, even individuals possessing decades of work experience might get outdated if they do not keep pace with an evolving landscape. Lacking an ability to understand and empathise with technology is often a consequence of improper training. Employees require training at regular intervals – if they do not have the expertise and cannot give the right feedback to these automated systems, there might be serious consequences.  As an example, most organisations planning to procure software will also evaluate SaaS solutions. This requires employees to be flexible to adapt to the Cloud environment and to look beyond the legacy systems that they are comfortable with.

Mergers and Acquisitions. In today’s competitive market, we witness mergers and acquisitions almost on a daily basis, with organisations wanting to gain skills, services,  technology and ultimately market share.  When a company is bought or merges with another, along with a change in leadership and organisational culture, there is also a change in technology used. If organisations want to retain the expertise of the newly acquired firm, retraining becomes essential. In these new set-ups, what will matter more than seniority is the ability of the employees to adapt to and learn the new technologies.

Being Competitive. Technology is seen as an enabler for business differentiation. Increasingly the twin focus areas for all organisations are customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) – how to retain and win both customers and employees.  When it comes to outperforming the competition, the technology used for the eCommerce platform, point-of-sale solution, back-office operations – virtually every part of the operation, can be a key component of the overall competitive edge. Having workers that are properly trained in the technology they use, and those who buy into the organisational culture will be a crucial advantage in this competitive world.


How to incorporate retraining and reskilling in your Transformation Journey

Organisations should follow best practices when embarking on reskilling initiatives, in order to rapidly drive ROI. It is always a good idea to invest in people who are invested in your organisation. Amit Gupta, CEO, Ecosystm interviewed Parry Singh, Chief Commercial & Digital Officer, Mediacorp where they discussed how emerging technologies such as AI,  are impacting the media industry, how to carry an organisation through the digital transformation journey and how to upskill employees for the future. The key takeaways for organisations looking to retain their valuable staff are:

  • Realise that learning is a continuous process. Companies should analyse technologies that will impact their business and their industry. But should also be aware that these technologies will evolve continually. To handle this learning should also be continuous. Walmart, for instance, has set up more than 100 “academies” in the US that provide continual classroom and hands-on training for various positions. Having the right talent in place is critical to the prospects of any organisation.
  • Make arrangements for just-in-time learning. Learning works best when people can apply their new-found knowledge and skills almost immediately. Organisations should identify the skills that employees will need in their immediate role. This also helps employees appreciate the value of the training and be open to future upskilling. NUS Business School offers a 3-day course, Leveraging Fintech for Business aimed at leaders and managers, to explore the business impact of Fintech – aimed at entrepreneurs and mid-career financial professionals who wish to upskill and those who are impacted by Fintech. Organisations can provide employees with on-demand learning tools and resources. Tools like mobile apps and online courses can help employees to learn and grow and allow them to engage with the program at their convenience and at their own pace instead of forcing them to adhere to a pre-planned schedule.
  • Partner if you do not have the right training process. An organisation cannot always be expected to have the right training resources available in-house – it might also prove to be expensive in the long run. Organisations that lack expertise or do not have enough resources to train and reskill employees, should partner with technology providers and dedicated external training programs. SkillsFuture in Singapore has partnered with IBM to train 2,500 Singaporeans on AI skills within the next three years, in a bid to help them apply AI in areas such as human resources, supply chain management, and media.


Technology-enabled automation will displace some workers while at the same time provide a platform for them to grow their careers and play a larger part in the success of the organisations. Companies can enable this transition through investments in training and education and provide a platform for workers to transition to new jobs. With the right tools, companies can continue to forge a long-term and mutually beneficial association with their employees in the face of rapid and increasing digital transformation.

Ecosystm Snapshot Europe’s Cloud Independence in the making
Ecosystm Snapshot: Europe’s Cloud Independence in the making

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The global cloud market is dominated by AWS, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and Alibaba, all of whom are strengthening their grip on the global market. Their continued dominance means that over time, organisations reliance on them will rise.

In order to reduce the dependency on American and Chinese cloud providers, and to counteract mounting data security and privacy concerns, France and Germany are drawing plans to strengthen Europe’s data infrastructure.

The countries announced a proposal to boost Europe’s cloud computing sector in the form of a homegrown, and government-backed, data infrastructure project to establish a safe and sovereign European data infrastructure.

Last month, France recruited tech companies Dassault Systemes – a French software company and OVH – a privately held French cloud computing company to provide plans to break the dominance of U.S. cloud companies.

To serve as an alternative to American and Chinese cloud providers and enable innovative business models, Germany and France have collaborated on developing the core concepts of the European cloud network, called Gaia-X, before trying to get other European countries to join early next year. As a part of Gaia-X, the cloud participants will be required to certify their customers’ information security – e.g. where it is stored and how it is processed. Germany has formed a broad alliance of associations and companies, including Siemens, SAP, Deutsche Bank and Deutsche Telekom for the European cloud project. Claus Mortensen, Principal Advisor at Ecosystm said, “the project is focusing on security at its core and the idea of certifying customers could further help ensure data security and data privacy.”

Mortensen continued, “so far, cloud uptake in Europe has trailed other regions – especially North America and a number of countries in Asia. Whether or not these projects will succeed depends on several factors: the political will behind the project, whether the process becomes overly complicated and lengthy and whether the different companies involved can cooperate when needed.”

Mortensen added, “there is nothing wrong with countries in the EU building cloud infrastructure and issuing tenders for private companies to build this infrastructure – as long as the tenders have followed EU rules and they provide non-discriminatory access to this infrastructure. In the end, it will come down to how the infrastructure is managed and who owns it.”

French and German government officials are set to meet this month, where other interested companies will be invited to provide their inputs. The aim is to create a governance structure for the initiative before the end of the year.

Another goal of pushing homegrown cloud platforms is to support European companies in their development of AI and algorithms and to help them protect against the marketplace which is becoming the domain of a few big vendors.

“The existing cloud giants have technical know-how and readiness, so competing with them will not be easy unless the project can differentiate in ways other than the typical selling points such as price, scalability, granularity, etc. The political backers of this project may be relying on the ‘Made in Europe’ case, but I doubt that will be enough to persuade the bulk of future potential customers” said Mortensen. “More choice is always good for customers and if an objective of this project is to increase cloud uptake in Europe, this would certainly help.”

Enabling Digital Transformation The Cloud
Enabling Digital Transformation: The Cloud

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Emerging technology adoption (at least the intention to adopt) has never been higher. This has forced organisations to dedicate more budget towards technology to support innovation and transformation programmes. While Cloud technology became popular because of its attractive payment model and for scalable infrastructure, it has emerged as an enabler of digital transformation. Here we look at how Cloud is helping businesses to achieve their goals, as well as contributing to the larger economy.


Why do Organisations Consider Cloud?

Cloud has emerged as the enabler of information utility by acting as a central source of the database, network, and computing. The real innovation is happening because Cloud is allowing businesses to achieve efficiency. The scalability of resources also allows sourcing as and when the applications and services require it.

The ‘as-a-service’ model has become ubiquitous, irrespective of Cloud adoption.  Organisations are being driven to adopt not only ‘Infrastructure-as-a-Service’ (IaaS) to bring more efficiency to their storage, network and compute requirements, but also ‘Platform-as-a-Service’ (PaaS) for development, testing, and deployment of the multiple applications that allow information utility. Even non-traditional Cloud vendors and vendors with on-premise offerings are experimenting with ‘Anything-as-a-Service’ (XaaS).

Cloud introduced the ability to deploy infrastructure, run applications and scale on the basis of varying business needs.  Another benefit that has emerged with Cloud adoption is remote access – enabling applications and information to be hosted across and run from various remote locations or data centres.

Prior to Cloud, setting up an on-premise infrastructure involved upfront investments on infrastructure, software licenses, and workforce to maintain applications and infrastructure. Cloud brought infrastructure hosted collectively in a zone comprising hundreds of servers, communication devices, networking equipment and software stack setup in a data centre environment thus eliminating the need to hire staff, maintain infrastructure and manage IT resources.



While the pay-per-use model in which the users pay only for the provisioned resources and software components is what attracted most organisations to a Cloud deployment, the key benefits today are in realising efficiency, collaboration and agility.


The Emergence of the Hybrid Cloud

Cloud has regained its popularity as organisations become clear on how to deploy Cloud – not all Cloud deployment models will work for every type of business. Organisations take several criteria into consideration such as security, cost, business continuity, control over hardware/virtual server, and SLA management before choosing a Cloud model.

Public Cloud. A public cloud deployment model consists of the cloud resources provided by a cloud provider in a shared hosting environment. Infrastructure and services are managed and hosted in a remote location off-premises. Typically, users can provision or de-provision resources as per their convenience on a pay-per-use model. In this model, the organisations are not responsible for monitoring and maintaining the infrastructure, being completely taken care of by the service provider.

Private Cloud.  In a private cloud environment, infrastructure and resources are provisioned and hosted in a dedicated environment. The resources are completely allocated to the organisation and are generally managed by the user itself or with the help of a managed service provider. A private cloud can be hosted on-premise or by a third party. A private cloud enables greater control over the hardware, database and compliance aspects of an organisation.

Hybrid Cloud. The hybrid cloud is best of both worlds and is fast becoming the model of choice in industries where compliance requirements disallows certain information to be hosted in public cloud. Sometimes, organisations use the public cloud for workloads that are seasonal or unpredictable – high/peak load can be better handled by the public cloud. Although the Hybrid cloud seems to be the best option, it can be a challenging task to architect and maintain a hybrid cloud environment.

While the real benefits of a Cloud deployment will be delivered by the public cloud deployment, the hybrid cloud has emerged as a viable option for organisations in heavily mandated industries.




Not all Cloud deployment models will work for every type of business. Organisations consider criteria such as security, cost, business continuity, control over hardware/virtual server, and SLA management before choosing a Cloud model.

There is still some hesitance in using Cloud infrastructure. While security concerns top the challenges of Cloud deployment, the real challenge is actually managing the cost. Several organisations have found out the hard way that the pay-per-use model may turn out to be more expensive than on-premise options and licenses.

However, it is undisputed that Cloud is the true enabler of Digital Transformation and will see an increased uptake as organisations aim to derive real-time insights leveraging AI and other emerging technologies.

Let us know how Cloud has transformed your organisation in the comments section.

Singapore 5G
Singapore readies for 5G rollout by 2020

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Singapore’s digital economy vision where every citizen tech and business is connected by a world-class infrastructure will be empowered by the introduction of 5G in 2020. In June this year, Singapore’s telecommunication regulator, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) unveiled plans to set aside SG$40 million to build up the supporting ecosystem to fuel 5G innovation, focusing on six key verticals including smart estates, urban mobility, and maritime.

Gearing up for 5G and in order to deliver the greatest value to the economy, (IMDA) recently called for 5G proposals from Singapore’s Mobile Network Operators.

Commenting on the rollout of 5G, Ecosystm Principal Advisor – Telecommunication, Peter Wise said “5G promises much faster, more reliable wireless connectivity that will bring applications such as augmented reality, higher quality video and eventually smart cars, to life. Moreover, IoT will also be enriched by the increased data carrying capacity that 5G enables.”


Singapore pushing for four 5G networks instead of two

Instead of the two initially planned networks for 5G, there are now four networks proposed to be rolled out. Two networks will be used for full-fledged 5G networks whereas the other two will be smaller ones that will provide limited coverage. The two smaller networks of 800MHz will leverage on Millimetre Airwaves and will be used in small ports and factories and be Singapore’s most immediate use of 5G technology. “More networks would likely bring more competition and deeper coverage. The designation of some spectrum for port usage appears to enable applications to get up and running quickly and not have to wait for a wider rollout” said Wise.

The IMDA has called for proposals from the interested operators rather than going for an airwave auction. Proposals will be assessed on telcos’ financial capability, as well as network security design.

The introduction of 5G will be a costly and time-consuming activity in order to set up the infrastructure and provide customers with sufficient coverage. “Some existing 4G cell sites will be able to be upgraded to 5G through software or card swap outs, which are comparatively cheaper than acquiring and building whole new cell sites. However, over time, 5G will require a denser network of smaller cell sites, and there may need to be infrastructure sharing arrangements between MNO’s for acquiring these new sites for practical and economic reasons,” said Wise.


Only half of Singapore will have 5G coverage initially

IMDA announced that at least 50% of Singapore will be covered with a standalone 5G network by the end of 2022 and full island-wide coverage by 2025. “Many users may not initially notice whether they are on 4G or 5G speeds. 4G is still more than adequate for most of today’s applications, including video” said Wise. “However, over time as heavy data applications are introduced or very high definition video becomes more mainstream the benefits of 5G will become more apparent.”

A standalone network will use 5G-specific technologies for developing newer applications around IoT, smart factories, and autonomous vehicles. “Another fascinating development will be whether any operators use 5G to compete with fibre” said Wise. “Singapore is well served by high-speed fibre broadband so while the Singapore population is high in density (making 5G economics better), it may be that having 5G as a competitor to fixed broadband is more successful in other countries where most fixed broadband is still provided over older, slower copper-based technology.”


5G is still in the early phase of its lifecycle and is at the centre of an ongoing telco development, we are yet to see how it may become crucial to economic growth.

Southeast Asia’s US$100 billion Internet economy to Boost Fintech Growth
Ecosystm Snapshot: Southeast Asia’s US$100 billion Internet economy to Boost Fintech Growth

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According to a recently-released report, e-Conomy Southeast Asia 2019 by Google, Temasek Holdings Pte and Bain & Co., Southeast Asia’s Internet economy could exceed US$100 billion this year (a 39% increase from 2018) and will touch US$300 billion by 2025. The report states that Southeast Asian’s are ‘the most engaged mobile Internet users in the world’, and the region is becoming one of the world’s fastest-growing areas for Internet users – fueled by 360 million existing online users.

Analysing the current and future potential of the Southeast Asian Internet economy across its six largest markets – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – it has been a momentous time for online travel services, online media, ride-hailing services, eCommerce, and digital financial services to leverage digital tools.

Southeast Asia’s Internet Economy is expected to grow

Southeast Asia’s fundamental changes in consumer behaviour and engagement with mobile internet have grown demand for eCommerce and Ride-Hailing services.

eCommerce is the largest and fastest-growing sector with more than 150 million Southeast Asians engaged in online shopping, and this is indicative of the fundamental changes in the way people consume eCommerce services.

Growth of digital financial services

Currently, Southeast Asia lacks adequate financial services as out of nearly 400 million adults in the region an estimated 98 million are underbanked and 198 million are unbanked.

Commenting on the expanding Internet economy, Ecosystm Principal Advisor – Growth & Expansion, Paul Gestro said “Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia will be the markets that could benefit the most from the US$100 billion Internet economy. This is primarily because a large percentage of the population in these markets is unbanked. With the growth and access to some form of banking (traditional or virtual) and the ability to transact a payment, this will have a huge influence on Fintech solutions.”

Another key trend is the growth of digital payment and financial services in the region. The growth of digital financial services will make the Internet economy more wide-ranging and consumers will enjoy greater access to Digital Payments and eCommerce.

Gestro added, “Insurance, payments and investment services will add to what we do now with ride-sharing and food delivery services. We will instantly make decisions on insurance and investment products and deals backed up by seamless payment mechanisms and different forms of payment.”

Source: SEA Consumer Payments, e-Conomy SEA Report 2019


While most Digital Financial Services are still nascent, Digital Payments are expected to cross US$1 trillion by 2025 and this could open investment opportunities.

“The open investment opportunities for investors in Southeast Asia’s internet economy will be investing in applications that are mobile-ready. There will be a growth in mobile transactions and services, and companies that take a mobile-first approach will be the investors’ target,” said Gestro.

The report advises governments of Southeast Asian countries to align digital financial service regulations across the region to facilitate the development of regional business models and help channel resources towards investments in world-class tech and talent.

Despite the growing Internet economy, talent constraints remain a pressing concern as the Internet economy expands. Gestro said, “programmes in schools are required to promote a digital understanding and offer clear pathways to build knowledge and skills required for an Internet economy. This also includes companies who should be offering internships and working closely with universities to make sure the courses match where talent is needed.”

The use of mobile phones and mobile applications will connect consumers to a raft of services they previously lacked, and allow business owners and leaders to reach a whole new population of customers that was previously under-served. There’s still a lot of work to be done to ensure Southeast Asia’s Internet economy reaches its potential.

Poly: Accelerating Partnerships and Product Innovation

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Poly’s CEO Joe Burton was in Sydney recently to meet with staff, customers and partners. I had the privilege of interviewing him about the roadmap ahead for the company. Plantronics acquired Polycom for $2 billion at the end of March 2018 and earlier this year at Enterprise Connect, Poly was unveiled as the new brand  – the coming together of Plantronics and Polycom. The company prides themselves on the strong engineering heritage they have across their product portfolio. Poly is playing in a large addressable market and these segments include unified communications (UC), video, headsets and contact centres.

Big news last week – Poly and Zoom partnership

At Zoomtopia last week, Zoom announced purpose-built appliances for their Zoom Rooms conference room system. These appliances are custom developed hardware that lets users gather room intelligence and analytics and will simplify installation and management of large-scale conference room deployments.  One of the major partnerships for this was with Poly. Joe Burton was on stage with Eric Yuan the CEO of Zoom to unveil the Poly Studio X Series – The X30 (for smaller rooms) and the X50 (for midsize conference rooms).

What is promising about this offering is that the whole concept of launching a meeting by connecting to a screen has become simple. In a world where user experience is everything, simplicity and quality are what end-users expect. The Poly Studio X Series are all-in-one video bars  that will simplify the Zoom Rooms experience and will feature Poly Meeting AI capabilities. Some of the features include advanced noise suppression to make it easier to hear human voices while simultaneously blocking out background noise.

For Poly, this is a great partnership given Zoom’s good growth in the Asia Pacific region. Poly is also increasingly deepening their relationships with other major players in the Video and UC market including Microsoft.

Flexible Workspaces and Contact Centres drives the headset market in Asia Pacific 

According to JLL, the flexible space sector in Asia Pacific is expanding rapidly. From 2014 to 2017, flexible space stock across the region recorded a CAGR of 35.7% in Asia Pacific – much higher than in the United States (25.7%) and Europe (21.6%) over the same period. When you consider the changes in the modern workplace which include the rise of open flexible workplaces, remote and home working and the rise of freelancers, providing a seamless experience for the office worker will be important – it should be the same for a contractor as it is for full-time staff.  As we move into more mobile and agile work practices and with the rise of open offices, headsets will play an important role for the office worker. More organisations across Asia are investing in headsets and whilst it may sound simple to just buy the headsets, it is more sophisticated than that. There is no one-size-fits-all headset and IT managers will have to invest in headsets to suit the persona of employees taking into account the role, workload, use of voice and video services and ultimately their comfort level. Vendors in the headset space are heavily investing in easy-to-use features, more automation, deep workflow integration and machine learning to deliver that experience. The opportunity for headsets does not stop there. In the contact centre space as agents spend long hours on calls, designing the right headset with feature rich AI capabilities will go a long way especially for training and coaching.

The one area Burton emphasised on is how AI and analytics is transforming this market and Poly investing in building these features into the headsets.  Some of these examples include:

  • Tracking conversations by using analytics to gain insights into long pauses of silence and “overtalking”. The analytics generated from these insights can help for training and coaching.
  • AI can help track user behaviour patterns related to noise, volume and mute functions. These patterns can be used to detect problems during the call and could lead to possible training sessions for the agents. It is a great mechanism for supervisors to understand and work through where agents are struggling during the call.

Partnerships to expand their reach into the contact centre markets in the Asia Pacific region will be important. The market for contact centres is seeing a big shift and new entrants are making their presence felt in the Asia Pacific region. Poly will need to capitalise on this and expand their partnerships beyond the traditional vendors to expand their footprints across the contact centre markets.

Asia Pacific – an important growth theatre

Poly continues to win and have some large-scale deployments in Japan, China, India, and ANZ. They have also made several strides to develop what is best fit for the local market in terms of user requirements. With a deep understanding of the Chinese market, Poly released the Poly G200 in September this year which is tailor-made for the Chinese users with easy to use and collaborate solutions. The Poly G200 is the first and significant customised product launched in China, after Poly announced their ‘In China, for China’ strategy. This is a logical move given China is an important market and one that presents its own unique business dynamics.


The shift to mobility and the cloud has changed everything and is driving a new level of user experience. The ability to offer the same and frictionless experience when on the desktop, mobile device as well as other applications is what is driving fierce competition in the market. Users get frustrated when they cannot launch a video session instantly or when there is poor quality in audio. These may sound simple but addressing these frustrations are critical. Vendors in the UC, Collaboration and Video space are working hard to make sure that the experience is seamless when they are inside the office, out of the office and when they are working in open plan offices. Ultimately users want their daily office communication and collaboration solutions to work seamlessly and to integrate well into the various workflows such as Microsoft Teams.

On the contact centre front, Digital and AI initiatives are taking centre stage in nearly every conversation I have had with end-users. Company-wide CX strategy and customer journey mapping and analytics are what CX decision makers are talking about most. Poly is addressing that segment of the market by providing quality headsets coupled with AI to help in coaching and training by identifying trends and bridging the training gaps. There are new vendors starting to disrupt the status quo of some of the more traditional vendors in the contact centre market and hence deepening the partnerships with these new vendors in the contact centre space will be important.

Poly has a good addressable market to go after in  unified communications and collaboration with their headsets and extensive range of video solutions. The most important part will be deepening the partnerships with the wide range of vendors in this space and engineering their products to be tightly integrated with their partner ecosystems’. The release of the Studio X series at Zoomtopia is a good example.  I am confident that the road ahead for Poly is promising given the deep engineering capabilities the company invests in and how they are taking their partnerships seriously.