security, tech, newsThis week on technology insights across Southeast Asia and India:

  • NUS develops a program to counter the facial-recognition algorithms of big technology firms.
  • APAC companies are looking to bounce back post-pandemic by adopting automation tools.
  • Employees in India have acquired high-level cybersecurity awareness during the lockdown.
  • MaGIC sees its focus centred even more on technology, while keeping a finger on the pulse of Social Entrepreneurship (SE).
  • Tonik Financial to launch its digital bank aimed at the Southeast Asian market by September this year.
  • Digi recently announced altHR, a digital tool to help Malaysian companies digitalise HR processes and cope with “new normal” practices amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Restore privacy with visual distortion

New research from the National University of Singapore (NUS) is promising to restore privacy to individuals by making their online images unrecognisable to even the most advanced facial recognition technologies. The research, which has been ongoing for more than six months, is targeted at countering the facial-recognition algorithms of big tech firms such as Facebook and Google.

Led by Professor Mohan Kankanhalli, Dean of the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore (NUS), the research team from the School’s Department of Computer Science has developed a technique that safeguards in photos by making subtle changes that are almost imperceptible to humans but render selected features undetectable by known algorithms.

The team at NUS developed a “human sensitivity map” that quantifies how humans react to visual distortion in different parts of an image across a variety of scenes. End-users can use this technology to help mask vital attributes on their photos before posting them online and there is also the possibility of social media platforms integrating this into their system by default. The team also plans to extend this technology to videos, which is another prominent type of media frequently shared on social media platforms.  


Get ready for the rise of ‘intelligent’ RPA in APAC


Technology: According to GlobalData, robotic process automation (RPA) is expected to soon boom in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region
Courtesy pix.

According to GlobalData, robotic process automation (RPA) is expected to soon boom in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, due in no small part to COVID-19 and its effects on organisations’ ability to achieve business continuity in the region. Beijing and Bangalore, in particular, are emerging as leaders in the space in APAC.

The firm’s senior technology analyst, Manish Chaurasiya, said that “to enhance operational efficiency, enterprises are leveraging RPA to automate their processes such as payroll processing, customer support, new employee onboarding, order processing, SMS and email monitoring, and CRM [customer relationship management] updates.”

“Footprint expansion in the region, partnerships with enterprises across the sector and no cost RPA licenses are set to offer a unique opportunity to RPA vendors to make their presence felt in the era of automation and AI in the APAC region,” says Chaurasiya.

The ramped-up RPA and IPA outlook comes just a day after GlobalData reported that APAC was becoming the epicenter for AI development, boosted by encouraging governmental frameworks and policies in the region.


Employees In India Have Acquired High-Level Cybersecurity Awareness During Lockdown


Technology: Trend Micro released Head in the Clouds survey results that show how remote workers address cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity image. Courtesy pix

Trend Micro released Head in the Clouds survey results that show how remote workers address cybersecurity. Nearly three quarters (72%) of remote workers say they are more conscious of their organisation’s cybersecurity policies since lockdown began, but many are breaking the rules anyway due to limited understanding or resource constraints.

The Head in the Clouds study looks into the psychology of people’s behaviour in terms of cybersecurity, including their attitudes towards risk. In India, the results indicate a high level of security awareness, with 84% of respondents claiming they take instructions from their IT team seriously, and 83% agree that cybersecurity within their organisation is partly their responsibility.

However, just because most people understand the risks does not mean they stick to the rules. 83% of respondents confess to using their work laptop for personal browsing, and only 45% of them fully restrict the sites they visit. 44% of employees admit to using a non-work application on a corporate device, and 46% of them have actually uploaded corporate data to that application. Productivity still wins out over protection for many users. 52% of respondents agree that they do not give much thought to whether the apps they use are sanctioned by IT or not, as they just want the job done. 


MaGIC, now under Mosti, focuses on building startups and social enterprises


MaGIC to hone focus on building tech startups and social entrepreneurs
MaGIC’s CEO Dzuleira Abu Bakar — Courtesy pix

The Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre’s (MaGIC) transfer to a different ministry sees its focus centred even more on technology, while keeping a finger on the pulse of Social Entrepreneurship (SE).

Its chief executive officer Dzuleira Abu Bakar said the realignment was a strategic fit as Mosti’s roles – Intellectual Property (IP) creation, market access and scalability – were already areas MaGIC covered, which had seen it collaborating closely with Mosti entities including Cradle Fund and Mimos Bhd. She listed health care and deep tech for the creation of new medical devices and data analytics as key areas of interest during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One significant change would be the extent of MaGIC’s involvement in SE initiatives – the agency had previously spearheaded Medac’s Social Enterprise Accreditation (SE.A) programme, which would now revert back to the ministry’s purview. Despite the move, MaGIC’s place in the SE ecosystem was acknowledged in the government’s Penjana economic recovery plan, which allocated it RM10mil for social enterprises under the Social Elevation (SEE) initiative.


Tonik raises $21 million to launch digital bank in the Philippines


Technology: Tonik raised $21 million in a new financing round to launch its digital bank aimed at the Southeast Asian market.
Image courtesy of Tonik

Tonik, a two-year-old startup, said it has raised US$21 million in series A funding to bankroll the launch of its digital bank in the Philippines. It aims to start commercial operations in the country in the third quarter of 2020. Having secured its banking licence earlier this year, the neobank will initially focus on retail deposits and consumer loans, targeting a $140 billion retail deposit market, and a $100 billion unsecured consumer lending opportunity.

“In the Philippines, where over 70% of the population remains unbanked, we are observing a rapid jump in consumer demand for digital banking and digital transfers since the start of the year,” Tonik CEO and founder Greg Krasnov said in a statement.

Krasnov, who has previously incubated four financial services startups in Asia, said the coronavirus pandemic has prompted people to double down on their savings and has made it apparent that the vast majority of people in the Philippines need access to a digital bank.


Digi releases HR super app, altHR to equip Malaysian companies for the new normal

Digi Technology: altHR app, a digital tool to help Malaysian companies digitalise HR processes.
Image courtesy of Digital News Asia.

altHR is a digital workforce management solution. Built with features fit for the new normal such as digital sales Kits, contactless time tracking, paperless leave and expense management, it aims to address the problem of digitalisation of company processes that is prevalent in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The launch of altHR is also in line with Digi’s aim to help more Malaysian companies go digital and to cope better with the unforeseen challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Digi’s Chief Digital Officer, Praveen Rajan says, “Digitalisation is an essential part of running a business, especially in times like these, when many SMEs have been forced to accelerate their digital adoption for recovery and growth. We’ve been fortunate to be able to use altHR ourselves at Digi for almost three years. Through countless iterations and improvements, we feel it is now the right time to share our experience with Malaysian SMEs to help their businesses to recover and grow as quickly as possible.”

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