The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) has launched a new “Better Cyber Safe than Sorry” national cybersecurity awareness campaign. The fourth edition of CSA’s national cybersecurity awareness campaign continues to focus on raising awareness and driving adoption of four good cybersecurity practices: use of strong passwords and enabling two-factor authentication (2FA); spotting signs of phishing; use of anti-virus software; and updating computer software. The campaign focuses on drawing parallels between these four cybersecurity practices and our everyday life. For example, the analogy of using a strong lock to secure one’s home parallels the good cybersecurity practice of using strong passwords and enabling 2FA to secure one’s online accounts.
2 To further extend the campaign’s reach, CSA will be working with Shopee, Carousell and NTUC FairPrice to publicise the campaign through the Shopee and Carousell apps, and in around 150 NTUC FairPrice stores and through FairPrice digital platforms respectively. CSA will also reach out to the public through bus stop ads and bus wraps, television advertisements and social media platforms. More details of the campaign in Annex A.
3 The “Better Cyber Safe than Sorry” campaign comes on the heels of CSA’s latest annual cybersecurity awareness survey which found that 37 per cent of respondents had reported falling victim to a cyber incident at least once in 2020 – a jump from 28 per cent in 2019 – reflecting global trends of cyber incidents becoming more prevalent. The Cybersecurity Awareness Survey 2020 found that although general awareness of cybersecurity had improved, adoption of good cyber hygiene practices – such as enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) and using cybersecurity apps – continued to be low.
More are aware of good cyber practices but adoption remains low
4 For example, perceived awareness of phishing had increased with seven in 10 respondents knowing what phishing was – a six percentage point increase from 2019. Three-quarters of respondents were able to correctly identify more than half the emails, an improvement of 12 percentage points over 2019. A slight increase was also seen in those who adopted desirable password practices: close to nine in 10 respondents used a combination of letters in upper and lower cases, numbers and symbols in their passwords. However, only slightly more than half of the respondents (56 per cent) were able to identify a strong password – unchanged from the year before. There was also a slight increase in respondents who adopted 2FA; although only about half had adopted the additional practice of enabling 2FA as an additional layer of protection for their communication, online shopping and social
media accounts. While nearly eight in 10 respondents were aware of the risks of not having cybersecurity apps, only 39 per cent of respondents had installed cybersecurity apps in their mobile devices, a drop from 47 per cent in 2019. For more details of the Cybersecurity Awareness Survey 2020 findings, please refer to Annex B.
5 “The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many more of our day-to-day activities being conducted digitally. It is important that we are all aware of and adopt good cyber hygiene to stay safe online in light of our greater digital footprint. While our survey findings showed that there has been improvement in terms of awareness, many respondents continue to believe that they would not be a target of cybercriminals. More needs to be done to increase adoption levels, and CSA is delighted to work with new partners to further extend the reach of our campaign to drive awareness and adoption of good cyber practices,” says Mr David Koh, Chief Executive, CSA.
6 “Shopee has always prided itself on providing our community of users, sellers, and brand partners with safe and enjoyable online shopping experiences. As e-commerce continues to become more integrated into our lives, we are committed to helping consumers develop a clear understanding on how to keep themselves protected from online scams, while reaping the benefits e-commerce has to offer. As such, we are excited to team up with like-minded partners such as the CSA, and look forward to a fruitful partnership that inspires and fosters better practices to help our community navigate e-commerce safely and productively,” says Mr Zhou Junjie, Chief Commercial Officer, Shopee.
7 “Online security has always been a priority for Carousell and we are proud to support CSA’s national cybersecurity awareness campaign. The online threats that we are up against today move too quickly and are constantly evolving. The only way we can stay ahead is by educating our users on how they can stay safe online and proactively inculcating awareness in addition to our ongoing investment in platform security,” says Tan Su Lin, Chief of Staff and Senior Vice President of Operations, Carousell.
Expanding outreach to 50,000 seniors
8 Running in tandem with the “Better Cyber Safe than Sorry” campaign is a new SG Cyber Safe Seniors Programme, driven by CSA with support from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). The programme aims to reach out to 50,000 seniors over two years (2021 – 2023) to raise their awareness of cybersecurity and encourage adoption of good cyber hygiene practices. CSA and its partners will cover topics – such as cyber threats, cyber scams and cyber tips – in the four national languages, through a mix of physical and online platforms. More details of the SG Cyber Safe Seniors Programme in Annex C.
9 Over the next few months, CSA will also roll out initiatives – for students and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – aimed at increasing awareness and encouraging the adoption of good cybersecurity practices. CSA has worked with IMDA and the Ministry of Education (MOE) to introduce a cybersecurity module for upper primary school students as part of the Code for Fun programme since January 2021. To make cybersecurity more
experiential to students, CSA will also launch the revamped Go Safe Online Pop-up – comprising motion-controlled games and information panels – and Go Safe Online Drama Skit in the third quarter of 2021, bringing both interactive content formats to more primary and secondary schools.
10 CSA has also announced a new SG Cyber Safe Programme in February 2021 to help enterprises such as SMEs improve their cybersecurity posture. As part of the programme, CSA will roll out cybersecurity toolkits for enterprise leaders, technical teams and their employees to increase their awareness of cybersecurity issues and threats, and the measures to adopt. CSA will launch the first two toolkits – targeted at enterprise leaders and employees – by the end of 2021.
About the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore
Established in 2015, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) seeks to keep Singapore’s cyberspace safe and secure to underpin our Nation Security, power a Digital Economy and protect our Digital Way of Life. It maintains oversight of national cybersecurity functions and works with sector leads to protect Singapore’s Critical Information Infrastructure. CSA also engages with various stakeholders to heighten cybersecurity awareness, build a vibrant cybersecurity ecosystem supported by a robust workforce, pursue international partnerships and drive regional cybersecurity capacity building programmes.
CSA is part of the Prime Minister’s Office and is managed by the Ministry of Communications and Information. For more news and information, please visit www.csa.gov.sg.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Senior Manager, Comms and Engagement Office
Tel: +65 6470 9940
Tan Boon Leng
Senior Assistant Director, Comms and Engagement Office
Tel: 9138 1524
The 13th Singapore-US Strategic Security Policy Dialogue (SSPD) was convened, and co-chaired by Permanent Secretary of Defence, Chan Heng Kee and United States Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Sasha Baker. This dialogue, embedded within the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement and Defence Cooperation Agreement, serves as a cornerstone for shaping the future of Singapore-US defence relations.
Beyond the traditional domains of defence, Singapore and the US are venturing into uncharted territory – cybersecurity and critical emerging technologies. This signifies a strategic shift that acknowledges the evolving nature of security threats in the digital age.
Both nations have recognised the enduring strength of their bilateral defence relationship. Singapore’s unwavering support for the U.S. regional presence, outlined in the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Regarding the U.S. use of Facilities (1990 MoU), remains a crucial pillar of their alliance. Simultaneously, the US continues to bolster the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) capabilities through overseas training and technology access. This includes the RSAF’s acquisition of the cutting-edge F-35 fighter aircraft.
The dialogue marked a significant milestone by introducing discussions on cybersecurity. In an interconnected world, where information is power, securing digital infrastructure cannot be overstated.
By engaging in collaborative efforts to enhance their cyber defences, Singapore and the US are not only safeguarding their interests but also contributing to global cybersecurity resilience. This proactive approach sets a precedent for other nations to follow suit and collectively combat cyber threats.
Also, the emphasis on critical and emerging technologies highlights the foresight of both nations. In today’s fast-paced technological landscape, advancements in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, and biotechnology can tip the scales of national security.
By pooling their expertise and resources, Singapore and the US are positioning themselves at the forefront of innovation, ensuring they are well-prepared for the security challenges of the future.
The dialogue also featured discussions on regional developments and the continued engagement of the US in the Asia-Pacific region. The ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus framework serves as a platform for constructive dialogue and cooperation among ASEAN member states and their partners. Singapore and the US both recognise the significance of this framework in promoting regional stability and security.
Regular bilateral and multilateral training exercises form another vital facet of this partnership. Exercises like Tiger Balm, Pacific Griffin, Commando Sling, Red Flag, and Super Garuda Shield serve as platforms for joint training and skill development. These exercises not only enhance the operational readiness of both armed forces but also foster greater cooperation and understanding between Singapore and the US.
One noteworthy aspect of this collaboration is the US’s support for SAF’s overseas training, exemplified by Exercise Forging Sabre. This training, conducted at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, has played a pivotal role in honing the skills of RSAF personnel.
In 2023, two RSAF detachments, Peace Carvin II (F-16 fighter aircraft) and Peace Vanguard (Apache AH-64 helicopters), marked their 30th and 20th anniversaries of training in the US, respectively. These milestones are a testament to the enduring nature of the Singapore-US defence relationship.
The 13th Singapore-US Strategic Security Policy Dialogue not only reaffirmed the steadfast commitment of both nations to their long-standing defence partnership but also showcased their readiness to adapt to the evolving security landscape.
As reports cited the inclusion of cybersecurity and critical emerging technologies in the discussions reflects the forward-thinking approach to safeguarding the national interests of both nations. As they continue to train together, exchange knowledge, and invest in cutting-edge technologies, Singapore and the US are poised to navigate the complex challenges of the future, hand in hand.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) announced the initiation of the Green Fintech Competition, which will serve as a pivotal step towards promoting the integration of innovative green fintech solutions within the Hong Kong banking sector. The primary objective of this initiative is to bolster the resilience of the banking industry against the looming climate risks.
The competition is a call to action for both local green fintech companies and their international counterparts. It invites these innovative firms to participate and demonstrate how their technological solutions can be harnessed effectively within the banking industry. The competition centres around four key themes, each addressing a crucial aspect of sustainable finance:
- Net-zero Transition or Transition Planning: This theme emphasises the pivotal role of fintech in facilitating the transition towards a net-zero economy. It aims to uncover innovative solutions that can assist banks in their journey towards carbon neutrality.
- Climate Risk Management: Climate risks have become a central concern in the financial sector. Fintech solutions are sought to help banks better understand, assess, and manage these risks effectively.
- Green and Sustainable Finance: The theme of green and sustainable finance underscores the importance of fintech in enabling financial institutions to channel their resources towards environmentally responsible investments.
- Sustainability or Climate-related Disclosure and Reporting: Transparency and disclosure are critical components of sustainable finance. Fintech solutions that enhance the disclosure and reporting of sustainability and climate-related information are in high demand.
These themes were carefully crafted in response to industry feedback, reflecting the pressing challenges faced by the Hong Kong banking sector. The competition encourages participating firms to develop market-ready solutions that align with at least one of these themes. Detailed problem statements for each theme can be found on the official competition website, offering valuable guidance for prospective participants. Firms are also free to propose alternative problem statements that they believe are relevant to the overarching themes.
A panel of judges will evaluate the submitted solutions, comprising representatives from the public and private sectors. This panel includes experts from the banking and technology sectors, professional associations, and academia. The winners of the competition will be granted a unique opportunity to fast-track their entry into the Cyberport Incubation Program. This program is designed to provide comprehensive business support, aiding in the development and growth of green fintech solutions.
Finalists will be invited to participate in and host exhibition booths at the HKMA’s “Green and Sustainable Banking Conference,” scheduled for December 2023, offering a platform for in-depth exchanges with industry professionals and an opportunity to showcase their solutions. It also serves as a valuable forum for exploring potential collaborations with key stakeholders in the financial sector.
In addition to these benefits, participants will have access to tailored consultation services provided by InvestHK. These services are designed to offer further insights into the Hong Kong market, ensuring that their fintech solutions are finely tuned to meet the specific needs and demands of this dynamic financial hub.
The initiative represents a significant step forward in embracing innovative fintech solutions to address critical environmental and sustainability challenges. By inviting participation from both local and global green fintech firms, the competition aims to harness the collective power of technology and finance to build a more sustainable future for the banking industry in Hong Kong and beyond.
Previously, OpenGov Asia reported on the recent bilateral meeting between the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) holds great significance for the Green Fintech Competition initiated by the HKMA. During the meeting, the central banks agreed to strengthen collaboration in key areas including financial infrastructure, financial market connectivity, and virtual asset regulations, all of which align with the competition’s objectives.
This collaboration, along with the establishment of a joint working group and knowledge-sharing initiatives, is set to amplify the impact of initiatives like the Green Fintech Competition by creating a more interconnected and sustainable global financial ecosystem.
The Centre for Memory Studies at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has introduced the ‘MovingMemory’ application, which harnesses both augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies to capture diverse moving models of memory through digital reconstruction. It was designed to enhance the tourist experience at cultural and heritage sites. It offers virtual tours of famous places in India.
The app’s features allow users to choose their preferred avatar and navigate through three-dimensional spaces. According to a statement from IIT-Madras, it is embedded with additional layers of video, audio, 3D images, and interactive elements which may be used as models for sustainable and heritage-oriented pedagogic and research approaches.
Once the app becomes available to the public, MovingMemory can be accessed from both Android and iOS devices, as well as through browser-based platforms, setting it apart as a uniquely inclusive application. It is a spatial app created with the capability to exist within the metaverse realm.
MovingMemory was introduced at the second annual conference of the Indian Network for Memory Studies, titled ‘Memory, Ecology, and Sustainability.’ It was organised jointly by the Indian Network for Memory Studies and the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT- Madras. It covers a wide range of human-centred technologies and policies related to cultural memory and sustainable development goals, both within India and on a global scale.
At the inaugural event, IIT-Madras Director, V. Kamakoti, said, “It is crucial that we foreground the urgent need to incorporate collective memory in our understanding and ability to anticipate policies related to ecological issues such as climate change. Human as well as non-human forms of memory (such as the memory of water and the memory of nature) such as the Spanish Flu and the 2015 Chennai floods may be studied through interdisciplinary and collaborative formats in order to further memory studies as a discipline.”
The conference aims to connect rituals of remembering and experiencing the environment to systems of sustainability, which assume material, cultural, and technological dimensions through significant events like disasters and floods and long-term processes of change.
The international conference attracted approximately 100 presenters and more than 500 attendees from across India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Morocco, Canada, Sweden, Bangladesh, and other countries.
An official at the event said that the conference, like all other research activities at the Centre for Memory Studies at IIT-Madras, seeks to bridge technology studies and humanities. Its purpose is to provide a more complex model of engaging with memory, ecology, and sustainability, while also connecting to issues such as disaster studies, anticipatory governance, and durability.
Another expert from IIT-Madras noted the importance of reexamining pre-modern modes of memory and resilience and integrating those with the post-modern modes through which ecology and sustainability practices may receive a more nuanced understanding. These interdisciplinary practices have triggered a paradigm shift in both humanities education and research.
IIT-Madras has undertaken several initiatives in the field of AR/VR. In April, it announced it was developing instructional and educational models that use AR/VR technologies, aimed at assisting secondary schools in rural regions of the country. As OpenGov Asia reported, the initiative provides students with unique opportunities to engage in immersive and experiential learning through VR-enabled technology. Subjects like social science, history, sciences, and languages can be effectively taught using AR/VR world-building, digital storytelling, and educational games. An inaugural AR-based mobile app was launched to capture the history of the transnational Anglo-Indian community across 500 years.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi highlighted the digital dimension in the country’s counter-terrorism strategies during her recent address at the Ministerial Plenary Meeting of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) in New York.
Minister Retno emphasised the significance of comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration (R&R) efforts within Indonesia. Notably, these efforts extend beyond former terrorist inmates, encompassing strengthening communities and the environments that receive them. The focus on digital aspects of R&R is evident in Indonesia’s approach.
Indonesia has adopted a multifaceted strategy to counter extremism, as outlined in its National Action Plan for Prevention and Countering Extremism. This strategy underscores the “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approaches, highlighting the collaborative roles of the government and civil society. Combining hard and soft approaches, Indonesia actively engages communities and fosters international cooperation in its counter-terrorism efforts.
The digital dimension is also prominent in Indonesia’s second pillar of counter-terrorism strategy, which aims to harness technological advancements while ensuring they are not misused for extremist purposes. The rapid evolution of technology has created opportunities for disseminating extremist ideas, demanding constant vigilance. In response, Indonesia introduced the “Pusat Pengetahuan Indonesia (I-KHub),” or the Indonesian Knowledge Hub.
I-KHub is not merely a digital repository of information but a dynamic platform that actively contributes to Indonesia’s counter-terrorism endeavours. Integrating data systems and facilitating evidence-based decision-making empowers policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and community leaders with actionable insights.
One of the critical features of I-KHub is its ability to analyse trends and patterns in extremist activities. Leveraging advanced data analytics, it can identify emerging threats and hotspots, allowing for proactive measures to be taken. This early warning system is instrumental in preventing extremist ideologies from taking hold in vulnerable communities.
Moreover, I-KHub is a collaborative space where experts, researchers, and stakeholders from various sectors can share knowledge and best practices. This collective intelligence enriches the understanding of extremist narratives and recruitment tactics and facilitates the development of effective counter-narratives.
The platform’s outreach extends to educational institutions, where it supports curriculum development aimed at countering extremism. I-KHub is vital in promoting digital literacy and critical thinking among students by providing educators with relevant resources and insights. This proactive approach helps inoculate young minds against the allure of extremist ideologies.
In the digital realm, I-KHub monitors online spaces where extremist content proliferates. It can promptly identify and report such content through advanced algorithms and data analysis. This collaborative effort with tech companies and social media platforms contributes to removing extremist material from the internet, disrupting the digital recruitment efforts of extremist groups.
The third aspect of Indonesia’s counter-terrorism strategy focuses on creating a secure environment to counter extremism. This includes digital-driven educational programmes targeting women and children. Minister Retno highlighted that extremist ideologies thrive in environments rife with hatred, emphasising the role of digital tools in promoting understanding, tolerance, and peace.
In her closing, Minister Retno expressed that GCTF member countries would firmly commit to ensuring the inclusive implementation of the R&R strategy. The Global Counter-Terrorism Forum is a vital international platform for global cooperation and information exchange on counter-terrorism and violence-based extremism.
Indonesia underscores the country’s commitment to harnessing technology for a safer and more peaceful society. Indonesia’s multifaceted counter-terrorism approach, particularly its emphasis on digital knowledge sharing through I-KHub, reflects its dedication to addressing the global challenge of extremism with modern tools and strategies.
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing emphasised China’s resolve to promote high-level openness in the digital sphere at a time when global digital cooperation was at a turning point. This announcement was made during the second high-level digital conversation between China and the EU which Zhang and Vera Jourova, Vice President of the European Commission, co-chaired.
The meeting was a big step forward in the ongoing conversation between China and the EU. They talked in depth about many important issues in the digital world. The growing field of artificial intelligence (AI), communication technology standards, the moving of data across borders, and the safety of non-food items were some of the topics that people were interested in.
These discussions had positive results, highlighting the possibility of cooperation and understanding between these two significant figures on the international scene. The recognition of China and the EU’s complementary roles in the digital sphere and their common interests was a recurring subject in the talks.
To support the expansion of the digital economy, both parties were unwavering in their resolve to cultivate a cooperative spirit, further improve exchanges, and create an environment that is open, inclusive, impartial, fair, and non-discriminatory. This concerted effort has the ability to not only spearhead the global digital transformation but also make a major contribution to the ongoing global economic recovery process.
At the heart of this cooperative spirit is Zhang’s call to businesses everywhere, particularly those in Europe, to take advantage of the growing prospects China’s digital economy offers. This invitation highlights China’s willingness to interact with other countries and signals a new era in which win-win scenarios and cooperative relationships are not only welcomed but actively pursued.
Vera emphasised the solid basis and promising future of cooperation between China and the European Union in the digital domain affirming that the EU is keen to engage in practical cooperation with China in a range of pertinent topics, to facilitate more thorough interactions, and to expand conversation. A forward-thinking strategy that crosses boundaries and capitalises on the combined strengths of nations is exemplified by the reciprocal readiness to investigate opportunities for collaboration.
This conversation has far wider implications than just the meeting space. It represents a coming together of interests and an understanding of how interwoven the world’s digital landscape is. Partnerships like these have the power to influence the course of innovation and development in an era where digital technologies drive economies, industries, and communities.
China has led the way in developing cutting-edge technology and promoting digital transformation domestically. It expands its boundaries and enhances the global digital ecosystem by reaching out to international stakeholders and offering cooperation.
On the other hand, the EU is proud of its own innovation and knowledge pools. By working together, the EU can take advantage of the vitality of the Chinese digital economy and open up new markets. This conversation also reflects a larger trend: the realisation that digital cooperation is becoming a requirement rather than just a question of choice.
In a time where digital data is growing exponentially, AI is pervasive, and technological sectors are converging more and more, countries need to work across borders to solve problems and take advantage of possibilities. The two nations are eager that they can build a more affluent and connected digital future through communication and cooperation, instead of giving in to protectionism and divisive narratives.
The technology landscape constantly seeks high-power, energy-efficient devices. 3D-stacked electronics offer exciting potential, but overheating is a challenge due to their compact design. Excess heat can cause performance issues and damage. Thankfully, a new solution involving magnetic fields and innovative materials has emerged to address this challenge, ensuring these devices remain cool and efficient.
At the forefront of this breakthrough is a team of scientists led by Assistant Professor Hortense Le Ferrand of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore – School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. They have embarked on a journey to tame the heat generated by 3D-stacked electronics and ensure they operate at peak performance.
The key to their innovation lies in a material called hexagonal boron nitride (BN), known for its exceptional heat-dissipating properties. To make BN responsive to their needs, the researchers coated microscopic BN particles with iron oxide. This strategic move rendered the particles magnetic, paving the way for precise control.
Next, they suspended these coated particles in a solvent and brought magnetic fields into play. The magic happened as the magnetic fields aligned the BN particles in various orientations. This alignment turned out to be the key to effective heat management.
The team conducted rigorous tests to gauge the heat-dissipating capabilities of these precisely oriented BN particles. What they discovered was nothing short of revolutionary: when the particles were aligned vertically, they proved incredibly efficient at channelling heat away from their source. This breakthrough alone promised a significant leap forward in the cooling technology of high-power devices.
But the innovation didn’t stop there. The orientation of the particles could also be tailored to direct heat in different directions, a flexibility that opens a world of possibilities. For instance, when these particles find themselves sandwiched between two heat-emitting electronic components, they can be configured to direct heat sideways, ensuring optimal thermal management.
Assist Prof Hortense believes this novel approach to aligning and orienting BN particles offers exciting new prospects for managing heat in high-power electronic devices. It’s a promising development that could pave the way for the widespread adoption of 3D-stacked electronics, ushering in an era of high-performance, energy-efficient devices without the nagging concern of overheating.
Preventing high-power devices ensures sustained performance. Overheating can cause these devices to throttle their performance or even shut down altogether. This can have a significant impact on productivity and functionality, especially in critical applications.
Further, managing heat is crucial for the longevity of these devices. Excessive heat can damage internal components over time, leading to a shorter lifespan. This, in turn, can result in frequent replacements, which can be costly for both consumers and manufacturers.
Besides, there are safety concerns associated with overheating. In extreme cases, it can pose a fire hazard or create electrical safety risks. Proper heat management is vital to mitigate these dangers and ensure the safe operation of high-power devices.
Efficient cooling also contributes to energy efficiency. When devices operate within their optimal temperature range, they consume less power. This not only reduces energy costs but also lessens the environmental impact.
Also, reliable operation is paramount for high-power devices, particularly in critical applications like medical equipment and aerospace technology. Overheating can lead to system failures, which may have severe consequences; hence, effective heat management is crucial to maintain the reliability of these devices.
The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-Madras) has revealed that its scientists creating a portable, point-of-use device for identifying heavy metals in both soil and water. Research from the Ministry of Jal Shakti shows that over 36,000 rural habitations in India are grappling with issues related to contamination from fluoride, arsenic, and heavy metals in their drinking water sources.
According to a statement from IIT-Madras, the primary aim of the research is to package the technology into an engineered device, which will be programmed to deliver a user-friendly, non-technical read-out value of the soil quality index on a mobile phone-like application.
Currently, there are no field-usable or point-of-use solutions available for laypeople to use for detecting heavy metals in soil. The presence of heavy metals in soil also impacts soil quality by contributing to soil salinity. This can have a detrimental impact on global food security due to decreased agricultural yields and potential adverse effects on human health.
Sophisticated methods, such as the Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) technique, are not accessible or user-friendly for laypeople and farmers because they involve complex and time-consuming procedures and heavily depend on advanced laboratory facilities. A portable, user-friendly device that can be operated by non-experts holds significant advantages from both social and economic standpoints.
Emphasising the potential impact of this technology, IIT-Madras Professor Sreeram K Kalpathy stated that given the heavy reliance of the Indian population on agriculture, there is an urgent need for technological solutions to detect and measure heavy metal concentrations. This would empower farmers with the information necessary to make informed decisions about which crops to cultivate and when to make interventions.
Current research efforts are focused on achieving higher resolution detection capabilities for copper, lead, and cadmium (in parts per million levels), as well as attaining the selective detection of specific metals.
The team is presently in the process of conducting tests on real soil and water samples to validate the concept. In this regard, with the assistance of the Rural Technology Action Group at IIT-Madras (RUTAG-IITM), they have also analysed water quality and the presence of heavy metals in water samples gathered from various temple tanks in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. The aim is to have the technology validated and demonstrated in a field environment over the next 3-5 years.
The government has committed to rejuvenating 75 water bodies in each district of the country. Last month, the Meghalaya state government announced plans to deploy an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robotic boat to clean Umiam Lake, which is polluted with plastic waste.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the Umkharh and Umshyrpi rivers course through Shillong, the state capital, carrying substantial quantities of plastic waste daily and depositing it into the southern portion of the lake. This area is only accessible by boat.
As part of the Smart Village Movement, a non-profit collaborating with the state government on various initiatives, a Hong Kong company was selected to showcase its cleaning technology. The small boat brought by the company can swiftly remove 200-400 kg of waste each day, allowing for a speedy cleanup of all the waste within the next few months if the larger boat is put into operation. Currently, the company has boats that clean waste in Varanasi and Bengaluru.