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ACCCIM and ANBOUND Co-Hosted Forum on Digital City Development in the Post-COVID Era

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After more than a year since the emergence of the Covid-19, our modern world faces unprecedented threats to our public health, economy, and society. The lockdown measure across the world to curb the spread of the virus effectively means the suspension of civic and commercial activities, yet it also poses major disruption to nearly all aspects of life. With countries rolling out mass vaccination, the pandemic will eventually end, though the impact it brought about will continue to stay with us for a long period of time. Facing such trying time, on 23 June 2021, the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) and ANBOUND Think Tank co-hosted an online forum on “Digital City Development in the Post Covid Era” with the aim of gathering a number of internationally renowned experts to share their views and insights on the opportunities and challenges in our current and future world. The forum was moderated by Dato’ Ong Chong Yi, ANBOUND Regional Chief Representative in ASEAN.

In the opening speech of His Excellency Dato’ Sri Dr. Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) in this forum, said that the diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China have strengthened, with China being Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009. He has witnessed massive transformation of China, which is at the forefront of digitalization and modern technology. Growing at a steady pace, Malaysia too is enhancing its digitalization and the development of smart cities, to offer its citizens quality job and fulfilling life. Covid-19 has accelerated Malaysians’ reliance on technology, which is particularly true in the cities, and it has redefined the way urban people work and live. This should be used as an opportunity for Malaysia to embrace change and transformation of its urban center. He noted that Chinese megacities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing are rapidly scaling up their smart city projects by heavily invested in ICT infrastructure, and they are now reaping the benefits. Malaysia, which has already outlined its plan in the digital economy blueprint can take a page from China in digitalization, which is to accelerate the roll out of smart cities. With this, Malaysian government hopes that by the year 2025, there will be at least five smart cities established in the country.

Keynote speaker Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap, President of ACCCIM believes that the current time presents us unique opportunity to rethink the role of digital technology in our lives. In this Covid-19 era, digitalization has shown great potential in terms of transferring urban activities and interactions from the physical space to digital environments. These changes are here to stay, and it is clear that facing challenges related to health, society and the environment will be crucial in the coming years to help shape the future ‘digital city’. He pointed out that businesses need to examine the balance between what appears to be a lasting shift towards remote working, and the advantages of a physical workplace. Citing real estate as an example, he noted that there is the need to determine the role of digital technology in helping bring back tenants, where new operating and business models are required. Tan Sri Ter believes it is highly likely that a hybrid model featuring being in the office for important physical meetings and remote working, will become the new ‘normal’.

Mr. Chan Kung, Founder of ANBOUND, has also presented his keynote speech, focusing on China’s urbanization experience and what the world can learn from it. He noted that much of the researches on urbanization based on the world’s experience of small-scale urbanization. In contrast, the value and position of the Chinese experience of urbanization has not been universally and sufficiently recognized and accepted by the academic community at large. On the other hand, many Chinese scholars have also not positioned the study of Chinese urbanization in a global framework. This leads to the fact that the Chinese experience of urbanization has not been widely accepted and studied to form a systematic academic theory for the world to refer to and learn from. The Chinese experience of urbanization is not only an achievement and a feat for China, but also a valuable asset for all mankind. With its many success stories and failures, China’s experience deserves to be studied in depth as an important direction and an area of public policy research.

Dr. Richard Voith, Founding Principal of Econsult Solutions, stated that Covid-19 has created fear of density, in addition to reinforcing isolation and segmentation, yet it has also created opportunities that are often productive. The future of post-pandemic urbanization, according to Dr. Richard Voith, has three possible scenarios. The first scenario sees declining density, consequently there would be diminished value of existing public infrastructure, as well as land and built asset value, yet there would be increases in value of new locations. In the second scenario, there would be the return to normal with economic recovery after mass vaccination rollout. Yet, cities are constantly changing and there is no “normal” per se, and it would be more of adjustments in multiple dimensions. The third scenario sees then expansion of policy and tech savvy cities, where remote work technology allows greater freedom of locations for both people and firms. In terms of future investment, the highest return public investment would be more concentrating on investment in high tech and high-quality transit, smart city technologies that ensure safe and high-quality urban environments as well as in education, human capital development, and affordable housing. The highest private investment return on the other hand, would be on investments to adapt existing infrastructure, highly flexible urban workspaces, logistics facilities, as well as non-innovation oriented business facilities and residential units.

The Chinese government is a strong advocator of the digital city initiative to resolve those critical issues due to rapid urbanization. Ms. Yi Wang of ANBOUND noted that China’s urban planning legislation is based on its five-year plans, where the government supports are needed for cities. Chinese smart city projects are characterized by the overall objectives, supporting city management, providing public services to citizens, promoting well-being and economic growth. So far, most successful practices concentrate on transportation, public safety, education, healthcare, and environmental protection. At the same time, the large population base is a good reason for technologies widely applied in China. Ms. Yi Wang cited three examples of smart cities in China. The first being Shenzhen, generally considered to be the leader in China’s smart city movement. Shenzhen’s transformation is equipped with a digital brain; Shanghai creates 15 minute “life circle” in building livable community; Suzhou focuses on digital manufacturing and industry community. The development of smart cities requires right vision, strategy, plans, and resources that are in place, as urban planning is a comprehensive policy issue which integrates economics, industry, space, sociology and other disciplines. Importantly, people-oriented development should be part of smart city design, as serving people’s needs allows us to better address many problems in real world.

In answering the question on Malaysia’s smart city development in the post-Covid era during question and answer session, Dr. Richard Voith stressed that smart city designers need to understand the need of the people, and it is crucial to have the technology, funding, and diverse talents.

On the question of digitalization of government services, Mr. Chan Kung shared China’s experience, in which digitalization of technology in smart city is mostly by the government, where larger proportion belonged to government services and investment scale, and show obvious results. Other parts of digitalization are focusing on services provided to the citizens, which are harder to evaluate. Concerning the question of human interaction and technology. Mr. Chan Kung stated that there are certain interactions and relations that can only be done face-to-face, particularly family and community interactions that require human touch and cannot be replaced by technology, though digitalization can provide convenience in this aspect. There should be a fundamental line that digitalization cannot cross in the human-to-human interactions, and this is also China’s urbanization experience. On the opportunities brought about by digitalization, Mr. Chan Kung noted that fuel cell is a promising sector developing countries and regions like China and ASEAN. He also noted that parts production and development, and those of automobile is a classical example, and these sectors provide opportunities that developing countries should grasp.

Concerning the acceleration of post-pandemic smart city development, Ms. Yi Wang stated that China has 20 years of smart city development experience that other countries can learn from, though she cautioned that every city has its own characteristics and resource allocations, and the lesson provided by China should be adjusted and modified based on the need of the city.

With the imminent and permanent changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic to the global economic landscape will be long lasting, yet they also present us with new opportunities and new lessons, making it crucial for institutions and individuals to grasp these changes, so as to navigate through the waves of uncertainties and to build a better post-pandemic world.

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Satya Nadella Says AI Golden Age Is Here and ‘It’s Good for Humanity’

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The cutting-edge chatbot ChatGPT is capturing the world’s imagination. The new artificial intelligence site amassed 1 million users in just five days after its recent launch. It is but one of a dozen AI-driven so-called “killer apps” that will transform human productivity and the future of work.

ChatGPT answers complex questions via short prompts on a vast array of topics, and even writes lyrics and poetry. Underpinned by generative models such as GPT-3 and GPT-3.5, it is the most conspicuous example of technology dubbed generative AI.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft Chairman and CEO, in a session at the Annual Meeting, told Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, that a golden age of AI is under way and will redefine work as we know it.

“The future of work is not just about technology and tools,” he said. It’s about new management practices and sensibilities to the workplace.”

“Technology will provide more and more ways to bring people together,” he said. Public-private cooperation itself is moving virtual. The Forum’s Global Collaboration Village, for example, harnesses the power of the metaverse as a platform for collaborative, inclusive and effective international action.

“Microsoft is opening up access to new AI tools like ChatGPT,” said Nadella. “I see these technologies acting as a co-pilot, helping people do more with less.”

He provided two anecdotes of recent use cases of GPT technology. The first is an expert coder from Silicon Valley who improved their productivity by 80% by using the model to help write better code faster. The second was an Indian farmer who was able to use a GPT interface to access an opaque government programme via the internet, despite only speaking a local dialect.

“AI is just at the beginning of the S-curve,” said Nadella. The near-term and long-term opportunities are enormous, he added.

Looking ahead, he said Microsoft intends to lead on quantum computing. Microsoft has all the building blocks for a next-generation quantum computer. He said: “Microsoft will achieve quantum supremacy and aims to build a general-purpose quantum computer.”

On safety and security, Nadella said the operating principle for protecting critical infrastructure should be to assume the worst – “have zero trust”. “Safety and security needs to be included right at the design stage,” he said.

Sustainability is at the core of the business. “By 2050 Microsoft aims to not just be carbon-neutral but carbon-negative.” Last year the tech giant released “Cloud for Sustainability”, bringing together a growing set of environmental, social and governance (ESG) capabilities across the Microsoft cloud portfolio plus solutions from the firm’s global ecosystem.

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Cybercrime Initiative to Boost Coordination between Private Sector and Law Enforcement

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In an effort to tackle rising cybercrime levels, the World Economic Forum launched today at the Annual Meeting 2023 an initiative to map cybercriminal activities and identify joint public and private sector responses.

Building on the expertise of the Forum’s Partnership against Cybercrime, the Cybercrime Atlas initiative will provide a platform for leading cybercrime investigators, national and international law enforcement agencies, and global businesses to share knowledge, generate policy recommendations and identify opportunities for coordinated action to fight cyberthreats.

“The Cybercrime Atlas is a collaborative research initiative that gathers and collates information about the cybercriminal ecosystem and major threat actors operating today,” said Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director, World Economic Forum. “The insights generated will help promote opportunities for greater cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement to address cybercrime.”

Cybercrime, such as the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in May 2021 that caused US President Joe Biden to declare a state of emergency, is a threat to national security, public organizations and businesses of all sizes. Despite the amount of digital data collected on cybercriminal activities worldwide, the effort to fight it is often uncoordinated, disjointed and dispersed. The Cybercrime Atlas aims to map the cybercrime landscape, covering criminal operations, structures and networks.

First announced at San Francisco’s RSA Conference in June 2022, the Cybercrime Atlas has benefited from a year of pro bono analysis of 13 criminal groups by cybercrime investigators. Their approach and findings have been welcomed by law enforcement agencies.

“This initiative underlines the need for an enhanced multi-sector approach to combat the increasing cybercrime threat,” said Jürgen Stock, Secretary-General, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). “A global solution must include private sector insights to enable law enforcement to prevent, detect, investigate and disrupt cybercrime.”

The secretariat for the Cybercrime Atlas initiative will be hosted by the World Economic Forum for the next 2-3 years, with the support of Fortinet, Microsoft, PayPal and Santander, until it is sufficiently established to become an independent platform.

“The Cybercrime Atlas is an important initiative that will aid industry, law enforcement, and government agencies by providing a first-of-its-kind visibility to disrupt cybercriminals across their ecosystem and infrastructure,” said Ken Xie, Chief Executive Officer, Fortinet. “A global and unified effort will make it easier to get beyond the obstacles that shield cybercriminals.”

The Forum’s Partnership against Cybercrime initiative brings together a dedicated community to drive momentum for a public-private partnership to combat cybercrime.

“Cybercriminals work in the shadows and exploit vulnerabilities to inflict devastating attacks. The Cybercrime Atlas provides an important forum that brings the public and private sectors together to share actionable information and leverage cross-sector data, capabilities and expertise, crucial to disrupting cybercrime quickly, and at scale,” said Brad Smith, Vice-Chair and President, Microsoft.

“To mitigate and disrupt global cybercrime in today’s interconnected world, we need robust platforms to share intelligence and facilitate more meaningful institutional collaboration,” added Assaf Keren, Chief Information Security Officer and Vice-President, Enterprise Cyber Security, PayPal. “The Cybercrime Atlas represents a key next step in this work and an opportunity to unite global businesses, law enforcement and experts around concrete opportunities to protect the world’s citizens and their safety.”

“Given the global nature of cyberthreats, increasingly public-private collaboration is the best way to combat cybercrime,” said Dirk Marzluf, Group Chief Operating and Technology Officer, Banco Santander. “Organizations must look beyond their perimeter and combine efforts and resources with businesses, law enforcement and government.”

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Landmark Reports on Future of Metaverse Focus on Interoperability and Value Creation

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The Defining and Building the Metaverse initiative, launched by the World Economic Forum in May 2022, has released initial findings in two briefing papers – the first research of its kind on the metaverse. The initiative combines the expertise of more than 150 individuals in diverse sectors from the public and private sectors to understand and guide the future of the metaverse to become safe, interoperable and inclusive.

The governance briefing paper, Interoperability in the Metaverse, emphasizes the importance of removing friction for users. Interoperability is one strategy for allowing users to move across and between the physical and digital world with their relevant data, digital assets and identities. It can facilitate the free circulation of data and the secure exchange of information across systems.

The value creation report, Demystifying the Consumer Metaverse, focuses on consumer applications, foundational technologies and potential pathways to economic value and growth. The metaverse will require a diverse range of organizations to redefine their brands and change the way they monetize products and services to generate consumer value. The immersive, interactive nature of the metaverse will require businesses to move further away from the one-way delivery of products and services to becoming metaverse participants and providers. As consumer organizations experiment and incubate new business models for the metaverse, their work can inspire others and demonstrate the possibility of change in other industries.

The metaverse – an immersive, interoperable and synchronous digital world – represents the next era in the internet’s development. While its precise definition is still being debated, the metaverse is already forecast to become an $800 billion market in 2024. Unlocking the potential of this new field requires coordination of technology developers, corporations, governments and civil society. The World Economic Forum has convened experts from a broad range of fields to focus on two workstreams related to the future of the metaverse: governance and value creation.

Future workstreams will focus on two additional governance-related themes: privacy, safety and security; and identity. The value-creation track will issue additional outputs focused on other industries and the social implications of the metaverse.

“The metaverse is the next version of the internet and it is critical that it’s built by all, and for all. These two outputs reflect premier work on the metaverse involving such an extensive set of stakeholders and leaders, demonstrating the unique value of public-private partnership in metaverse development,” said Cathy Li, Head of Media, Entertainment and Sport, World Economic Forum.

Huda Al Hashimi, Deputy Minister of Cabinet Affairs for Strategic Affairs, Office of the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, said: “Making the most of the metaverse will require governments to be proactive in understanding both the opportunities and the challenges that a persistent and interconnected virtual environment offers. This will also require developing new capabilities and importantly a different approach to regulation, informed by agile principles. This briefing paper clearly lays out a framework that can help governments gain a better understanding of the opportunity presented by the metaverse and makes a strong case for investing now in creating the conditions that will allow to generate public value from it, whilst protecting the public.”

Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap, Inc., said: “At Magic Leap, what excites us about augmented reality is the two-way bridge it creates between our digital and physical worlds, taking information from 2D screens into 3D spaces, where it is far more intuitive and engaging. We’re at a pivotal moment for this technology, and it is critical that we have a shared set of principles that support further innovation, ensure accessibility and promote interoperability between platforms.”

Yat Siu, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Animoca Brands, said: “The metaverse initiative is focusing on highly relevant topics to the metaverse, like interoperability – which is fundamental to digital assets. How do we ensure true ownership of assets? How do we improve the frameworks from those used in Web2.0? These are the complicated issues this initiative is taking on and finding answers to.”

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