CROSS-BORDER COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE ASEAN REGION AND INDIA, UK, DENMARK & SWEDEN
May 26, 2020
On the 8th episode of the SFF Green Shoots series, we were honoured to be joined by High Commissioners and Ambassadors in Singapore representing India, UK, Denmark and Sweden. Our speakers shared insights on their startup ecosystems and opportunities for collaboration, delving into areas including government initiatives to support entrepreneurs and startups, the role digitisation will play in the recovery post COVID-19, cross-border partnership opportunities for startups, and sustainable and green finance in a post COVID-19 world. A big thank you to our speakers: Mr Jawed Ashraf, High Commissioner of India to Singapore, Ms Kara Owen CVO, British High Commissioner to the Republic of Singapore, Ms Dorte Bech Vizard, Ambassador of Denmark to Singapore and Ambassador of Denmark to Brunei (non-resident) and Mr Niclas Kvarnström, Ambassador of Sweden to Singapore. Some highlights from the session:
- Q&A with Speakers: check out our speakers’ responses to your burning questions, below.
- If you missed the session or would like a replay, view this on our YouTube channel here. Do follow us for more videos!
- Want more? Check out upcoming Green Shoots sessions on our SFF website here.
Let us get through this together and be stronger, when the green shoots start to appear.
Q&A with Speakers
IMPACT OF COVID-19
Question: Do you foresee a change in the manner in which government schemes are administered in various countries? Privacy seems to have taken a back seat now. Will initiatives like GDPR be diluted to take into account the new reality?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: I think privacy concerns will not be ignored by governments. And, there will be both judicial and societal pressure to ensure that contact tracing apps have reasonable restrictions.
Response: Ms Kara Owen: My personal view is that trust has to be increased at the same time as the digitisation agenda takes hold. Not doing so will dilute the take-up of new products and will lead to truly challenging outcomes.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Couldn’t agree more.
Question: Will increased protectionism be one of the immediate results of the pandemic? As a startup, how do you recommend we break the geography barrier and reach out potential clients in the Nordic region? We are a FinTech startup based in Mumbai India, with focus on risk management and surveillance in capital markets and have considerable traction in the region.
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Globalisation and open trade have been facing head winds for some time, including in countries that had championed it the most in the past. Pandemic will make countries look at concentration risks of the current supply chain, their vulnerabilities on sensitive and essential items and the best way to restart their economies and make them more resilient. However, trade, investment and travel will return, as they have after international crises before. However, some adjustments will be inevitable.
Response: Mr Niclas Kvarnstrom: I think that as High Commissioner Jawed said, this is the big choice we have to make, nationalism and protectionism or cooperation. Sweden is clear on choosing cooperation and partnering with others. Regarding reaching clients in the Nordics, I suggest you reach out to Business Sweden in India.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: We need international cooperation for many reasons: to find a vaccine or a cure to COVID-19, to agree on safe travel arrangements, to boost economic recovery, and to avoid increasing inequality in the world. Hope to see the international community turn towards each other – not on or against each other. If you want to know more about the Danish market and opportunities there, you can contact Invest in Denmark at our missions in India.
Question: How will demand be shaped in the new normal? What happens to real economy in developing countries?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Reviving demand and supply side response will be key to economic recovery. Developing countries face financial constraints. Within those constraints, focusing on increasing liquidity and making capital cheaper in the economy, a less conservative approach to fiscal deficit in the short term, tax relief to consumers and industry, special packages for agriculture and SME sector, providing relief and support to the poorer sections of society, and using the crisis to launch strong structural reforms and focus on new emerging sectors will be helpful in reviving the economy in developing countries. I think international coordination on fiscal and monetary policies among major countries and debt relief to the poorer countries will be needed.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Lack in demand will probably be a problem for quite a while. Hope to see Governments and businesses contribute to strengthening consumer confidence, as we come out of the crisis.
Question: Do you see deglobalisation as an unavoidable outcome of this crisis? How can externally dependent economies like Singapore and Sweden maintain its relevance in this new world?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: A number of factors were already in play. Geopolitics, U.S.-China trade and technology friction, the last global financial crisis, discontent in major economies among sections that feels disadvantaged by globalisation were already contributing to generating negative sentiments on globalisation. The pandemic will add to it. There will be adjustments, some decoupling, reshoring, nearshoring, diversification, self-reliance. However, trade, investments, etc. will resume. The greater challenge will be from the geopolitical and structural economic factors.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: We will likely see a change in supply chains for many reasons, including due to cost of labour as well as added risk related to existing supply chains. Shorter, more flexible supply chains are likely to emerge. For countries like Denmark, a maritime nation with a large merchant navy, and regional hubs like Singapore, this will require careful consideration going forward.
Question: 1st Part: How are regulators in your respective markets, easing some of the burden financial institutes and corporates face - for the next 6-12 months? 2nd part: For the common man, we have not seen so far any economy waiving one of the biggest pinch they face - personal income tax. I agree, this is critical pool to get money back in to the government kitty for respective economies - Isn’t a populist gesture and action like this not more relevant for citizens than all kinds of new "monetization"/ rebate schemes, which may or may not reach the common man in your countries, in spite of best nationalist back bone in place?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Responses have been pretty standard: more liquidity, cheaper credit, deferment on loan and tax payments, government guarantees on loans, deferment on contract enforcement, wage support to keep businesses going, etc. You have a point about personal income tax. It’s a good way to boost consumption demand and provide relief. In India, we have recently announced tax reductions for corporate and personal income tax payers. So, another doze of reduction would not have been possible.
Response: Ms Kara Owen: The UK financial regulators (the Bank of England and FCA) are renowned globally for innovative and agile regulation. To ease the burden on firms during the crisis, the UK is piloting a ‘Grid’ which sets out the regulatory pipeline and helps firms understand the decisions being made to create breathing room for financial institutions. This enables our financial sector to deploy more liquidity to smaller firms and keeps the UK at the forefront of global financial regulation.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Many countries, including Denmark, have offered up large-scale support packages to see their populations and their economies through the crisis. In each country, these measures have to be weighed up against the potential long-term damage done by incurring public debt and neglecting other priorities. Not an easy balance to strike, and no one-size fits all.
Question: H.E.s: given the uncertainty of COVID globally, education has moved offline to online; not just schools but colleges and higher education. e-Learning seems to be more applicable to the higher age group and /or professional education. How do you see this impacting the respective countries given the cultural background of the societies in the countries that you represent?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: In India, adaption rate for online learning is very good across all sections of society. The key challenge is enabling access to e-learning tools for everyone, irrespective of income levels. As I said in the panel discussion, in addition to several business initiatives, we have a few schemes that are doing well, including Diksha, which provides e-content and QR-coded energised textbooks for all grades in schools. That has had 610 million hits since the lockdown in India began on March 24. For us, given the geography and resource constraint, e-learning has been a policy goal. The fact that we are building a broadband network through optic fibre cable network to connect 250,000 village councils will help.
Response: Ms Kara Owen: As the most popular destination for international students in the world after the US, British institutions are swiftly adapting to the growing online ‘new normal’ for education and are already implementing online or blended learning for students. Training providers in the financial services space that I’ve spoken to, including the London Institute of Banking and Finance, have described the crisis as a catalyst for their already growing online presence. Given the agility of the sector and the enduring appeal of a British education – be it higher education or continuous development – I’m confident that the sector will endure in the long-term.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Online education (e-learning) and blended learning is already part of the curriculum at schools and institutes of higher learning in Denmark. However, it is important to remember that vulnerable students and students with less parental support at home might benefit less from home-based learning.
Question: How geared are the most reputed educational institutes/ universities from your respective economies - ride the wave to shape and come up with virtual "leading" graduation and post graduation programs to define foundation of curriculum which are as reputed in the new world, as it were in the old world? Will such virtual programs have same uptick with corporates and welcome talent pool via this route? Can the new Harvard/ MIT/ Oxford come from economies outside of US - virtually?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: This is something Government of India has been considering for some time, to move away from “bricks-and-mortar” higher education institutions. It is not easy to replicate the university system experience easily. But, we have set up a national e-Knowledge Network and extended it to some of our neighbouring countries. As part of our new reforms, we have permitted our top 100 universities to offer online education. It has to be seen how it develops. Changing the tools is no substitute for intellectual capital that universities need to build and nurture. Ultimately, content will matter.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Too early to say, I guess. For more information on edutech in Denmark, you can have a look at www.edtechdenmark.dk
Question: I am wondering if China and EU business relations would worsen given that there are overwhelming concerns about China government reluctance for an independent investigation into the pandemic?
Response: Mr Niclas Kvarnstrom: As mentioned by the top EU leaders recently, the relationship between the EU and China needs to be based on trust and reciprocity. If China does not recognise this, business could suffer in the long run especially as the economic law of comparative advantage offers a lot of other markets and manufacturing countries.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Agree.
Question: Do you go forward or backward post COVID-19?
Response: Ms Kara Owen: I’m optimistic that we will move forward. The Covid-19 impact is causing us in the UK Government to reflect on the trends and trajectory of the digitisation of the economy, and we are excited to see where technology can play a greater role and adapt accordingly. The virus has been a catalyst for an already structural trend towards further digitisation of the economy (particularly financial services). We expect this trend to continue at pace, as new habits are formed and a “new normal” of increased reliance on digital services emerges. As supply chains and open trade comes under threat of nationalisation, it is more crucial than ever that we partner with key economies to get this right (e.g. the FTA negotiation with Japan announced in past two weeks). Countries who get this right are going to see the benefits into the medium to long term, so international partnerships are essential.
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: History suggests that we will move forward. The path and the destination will depend on how well countries work together.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: I’m reminded of the old 80’ies hit “The Only Way Is Up”.
Question: With examples from your respective countries, how can the respective FinTech hubs foster collaboration with one another? Will there be grants and other reliefs given to eligible FinTechs to set up offices in your respective nations?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: India is very welcoming of startups and FinTech companies. There are funding support and liberal tax incentives. And, India and Singapore have taken pioneering initiatives for collaboration, which also includes a broader horizon of ASEAN and beyond. I detailed some of these in the panel discussion.
Response: Ms Kara Owen: I think we can work together to minimise market access barriers as much as we can and also to explore how clear (and shared) regulatory standards can facilitate collaboration and growth. We are working within this region, using UK funding, to support this kind of discussion with ASEAN. For our own companies, we are also offering export support, including to guarantee trade credit insurance.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Similar situation in Denmark. Support schemes are in place for companies already set up in Denmark, including matching funding and innovation fund support. But reach out to Invest in Denmark or to copenhagenfintech.dk and hear more about how you can enter the Nordics.
Question: How are your respective countries planning to forge stronger partnership through private investments into ASEAN countries, and more specifically in Singapore? Which industry sector areas are at the top of the list of your respective countries?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Singapore is a leading destination for Indian overseas investments, accounting for around 18% of all overseas investments from India over the past couple of decades. Some of this investment is also destined for ASEAN. From India, trade, information technology, manufacturing, extractive industries are the key sectors.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: I see growing interest in private investments from Denmark into SEA, especially institutional investors looking for sustainable infrastructure investments, but also VCs and family offices looking for tech stars. We work with ESG, SGInnovate, Singapore Fintech Association and many other partners to ensure we connect the dots.
Question: Thank you for sharing how your economies are opening up. To each panellist, could you share one idea that you would like to see Singapore adopting as we open up that will benefit both Singapore and her partners?
Response: Ms Kara Owen: Two areas spring to mind – both linked to trade. As a fellow open and trade focused economy, Singapore can play an active role in shaping the rules and standards around digitised trade. As the nature and structure of supply chains change in the future, this should be achieved in partnership with the UK and other like-minded members. These sorts of discussions are already happening, but the crisis injects further momentum to preserve global connectivity. With regards to FinTech, there’s a role for Singapore (with the UK) as FinTech hubs to support and facilitate cross-border partnerships to support trade and investment flows. How can we support business virtually? How can companies expand into new markets when they can’t do so physically at the moment? I see these sorts of areas as ripe for collective support through our FinTech Bridge.
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: It is important to remain open, not just to trade and investments, but also to skills and talent.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Hope to see Singapore stay open and outward-looking.
Question: Dear all, can you specifically list sectors and companies that would not be allowed to be acquired by foreign capital? A clarity on this will be helpful for investments.
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: India has a liberal investment regime. Currently, there are no plans to add any industries to restricted or prohibited list.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: In general, Denmark strongly encourages foreign investments into the Danish market. Foreign-owned companies account for around 20 percent of all private sector jobs in Denmark. So I’d say that there are many opportunities for entering the Danish market through acquisitions. In a few instances, concerns related to critical infrastructure can limit options for foreign investors.
Question: Are there any start ups in Sweden or Denmark looking at scaling in Asia in areas of: (1) financial inclusion, (2) AgriTech & Food Security and (3) cyber safety?
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: We are in touch with several Danish companies in those sectors who are eyeing the Asian markets. Get in touch with us, if you have specific ideas or requests for collaboration.
Question: Given that 10% of the Singaporean population is of Indian origin, how can India leverage this link or are you already doing this?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: We are already leveraging them in diverse ways, including through joint forums and platforms set up by the High Commission. More can be done, including by the Government of Singapore, to leverage the diaspora to strengthen cooperation. Singapore is also blessed to have one of the best Indian professional diaspora in the world - highly qualified, professionally accomplished and deeply connected to India.
Question: As you know, COVID-19 has affected all businesses globally. Can we create a global platform in collaboration with all governments across continents to facilitate technology to track and give data on people traveling across globe after flight services start? It will give a lease of life to the aviation industry.
Response: Jawed Ashraf: Some form of data sharing began after 9/11 to facilitate travel while taking care of security concerns. Something of that nature will evolve and will be helpful. Questions about data privacy, security and consent, especially in a cross-border context, will have to be addressed. It will also involve mutual assurance on testing standards used by different countries.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: I don’t know, but such a solution would probably give rise to major privacy concerns.
FINTECH & FINANCIAL SERVICES
Question: Are you hoping for the FinTech community to come out stronger from COVID-19? Are you seeing more acquisitions and integration between FinTech community in to traditional financial institutions?
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: I hope to see many smart, new solutions to the world’s problems come out the FinTech Community and to see more collaboration between the incumbents and the newcomers.
Response: Ms Kara Owen: Yes – I see positive momentum in the FinTech sector. From my discussions with UK FinTechs based in Singapore and the region, I’m inspired by their optimism about the opportunities for continued growth in Asia, and their agility to pivot their business model and products to fit with new approaches to financial services. Not all will survive, and international partnerships will be essential to their success. In particular, I see RegTech (as compliance needs continue and can be digitised), SME lending (to fill gaps not met by banks and help distribute government funds quickly) and payments (given shift to digital) as three high growth segments of the UK FinTech ecosystem going forward. I’m happy to connect you with my team if you’d like to discuss this further.
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Yes, FinTech will come out stronger. We are already seeing strong activity in India, including in fund raising and acquisitions. I see strong opportunities for FinTech in supporting traditional banks move more into remote services, in serving the needs of SME sector, offering individual and households a variety of financial solutions and, of course, in e-Commerce.
Question: Will the COVID crisis accelerate the adoption of automation/ technologies in financial services (we are certainly seeing significant pick up in interest from banks) and how do you feel Governments will deal with the fall-out in terms of raised unemployment?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Automation is ongoing process that will accelerate. The nature of jobs and roles will change. There will be some reduction in employment. However, as financial sector grows and fintech space expands, new jobs will be created. We have to be sure that we reskill people for new jobs and the changing nature of roles. And, where necessary, facilitate their inter-industry move.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: In Denmark, net-banking and mobile payment is already pervasive (I have not used cash or visited a bank in Denmark in years). More AI and machine learning is maybe the next step in financial services in Denmark, but here there are also ethical and transparency concerns that need to be addressed.
Question: What programmes do you have to successfully transition employees, especially the older ones, from traditional financial institutions into the FinTech industry? Also, what do you think the impact of COVID-19 will be on the FinTech sector over the next two to three years?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: The FinTech sector in India will see a strong growth as a result of demand for solutions and innovation from banks, SMEs, trade, consumers and green financing. Transitioning older employees into the FinTech industry will not be easy. It is not just about skills, but also attitudes, institutional culture and working environment. Age is also a cultural issue in India, which tends to get equated to hierarchy.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: We have focused on life-long-learning for many years in Denmark and there is a high-level of mobility in our labour market. This also goes for the financial services sector, and we have already gone through substantial down-sizing due to e-services and changing consumer preferences.
Question: is COVID 19 a boon for the FinTech sector in India?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: In the short term, everyone will be affected by the economic consequences of the health crisis, including FinTech companies. They will face challenges of revenue, cash reserves and fund raising. However, many are doing well, fund raising for FinTech companies have increased 40% year-on-year in the first quarter, and I see big investments coming into major platforms in India. In short, COVID 19 will accelerate the shifts that have made FinTech such an attractive proposition in India.
Question: Is India considering the privacy and security in the Fintech sector given the complexity of the market?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Yes. India has drafted a comprehensive Data Protection Bill, which will apply to all sectors of the economy. It should be enacted soon. In addition, RBI guidelines on data security and privacy will also apply.
Question: How are the FinTech associations in your country functioning? What is your view of the key role of these associations?
Response: Ms Kara Owen: As the world’s second largest financial centre, London has a strong cohort of industry associations which pull together many sub sectors. Innovate Finance is the primary FinTech association, and plays a key role in growing the global FinTech sector from the UK. Given the pool of financial institutions headquartered in the UK, others such as The Investment Association or UK Finance have engagement strands focused on FinTech. And it’s not just London – FinTech Scotland and FinTech North link closely into the banking and asset management sectors. They all play a valuable role in welcoming new entrants to the market and we are happy to introduce you.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Copenhagen Fintech is a central player in the Danish eco-system connecting the start-ups, the corporates, the banks, the investors and the professional services organisations. CphFintech employs a unique partnership model focusing on collaboration rather than competition between the incumbents and the newcomers in financial services. Copenhagen is not the largest FinTech hub in the world, but Copenhagen Fintech is probably the best networked with international collaboration with all key markets, including Singapore.
Question: Relevance of central bank digital currencies - post COVID - as you see it? We see many central banks putting framework and drafts in place. Is this now more relevant, as we all continue to frame the new normal in the future?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Like all central banks, RBI, as also the government looks carefully at all aspects of new technologies and products. Currently, we do not recognise digital currencies.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: I am not sure that COVID-19 will have an impact on the rate at which countries consider digital currencies going forward.
Question: The digital currency should be considered seriously, given the worries we had while using physical currency during COVID-19. Please share your views on how CBDC is progressing in your countries and can this be given a higher priority considering the new normal?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Our current focus is on creating a more “less cash” economy and promoting digitalisation in transactions and payments, including contactless payment, virtual cards, QR-based payments, etc.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Digital banking does not require a digital currency, I suppose, so I don’t think COVID-19 will accelerate considerations for digital currencies.
Question: Which institutions in each of your countries are keen on investing and promoting development in South Asian countries? What agendas do they have specifically to note for us here... Is funding green development here becoming important for European governments since Asian economies continue to emit more carbon to be able to offer their people the growth and basic livelihoods.. We are seeing Canadian institutions already do a lot more.
Response: Ms Kara Owen: We are very much interested at a government level - and so are our private institutions - in expanding the amount of funding available for green projects. I think that in the next period we may see countries doubling down on their green growth plans. We host COP next year and we have a priority focus on green finance. Interested to hear what you think the role of Fintech is in accelerating this transition…
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: I think, I responded to this during the webinar. The green transition is top of the political agenda in Denmark, despite covid-19, and businesses and investors seem to support the ambitious plans. For South East Asia, green finance is becoming available for sustainable infrastructure, and in February, during a visit to Singapore by the Danish minister for the Environment, we signed an agreement between Singapore’s Infrastructure Asia Office and Danida Sustainable Business Finance to further promote this development.
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Green financing has assumed great importance in India, as we pursue an ambitious agenda of sustainability, clean energy and climate change goals. After China, India is the second largest issuer of green bonds among emerging markets. Much of this was raised in London. In India, RBI and SEBI are working on framework for green financing. Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) is also playing a role. Development of a strong bond market, standardisation of definition of green investment terminology, corporate transparency in reporting and removing asymmetry of information between investor and recipient are important for the development of green financing business. Technology can play a huge role in the transition, including through identification and evaluation of projects, monitoring, reporting and auditing and by creating platforms for fund raising.
Question: How do we ensure that the impacts of the pandemic and the oil price collapse do not hinder continued progress in the renewable energy space and addressing climate change more broadly?....this is a global issue which requires global solutions.
Response: Ms Kara Owen: This is a top priority this year, and I don’t want to see this crucial agenda derailed. I see a green recovery as highly complementary to our economic recovery post-COVID. As the incoming COP26 Presidency we are committed to increasing climate ambition – particularly the transformation of green finance and adaptation & resilience. There is still a gap between the worlds of FinTech and green finance, and I’d like to see more collaboration between these two sectors to better mobilise global finance, assess risk, and encourage consumers to make greener financial choices. I’m keen to hear from firms who are looking at or in the ‘green FinTech’ space, as it is something we are keen to see more of and we can help promote your efforts in the lead up to COP.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Hopefully many countries will apply the long-beam and continue or accelerate green growth plans.
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Relative prices do affect investor choices. However, India intends to remain committed to its goals, targets and international commitments under the Paris Accord. Indeed, the pace of expansion of renewable energy in India is likely to exceed our domestic target for 2022 and we are revising our domestic target for 2030, too, which will likely take us beyond our Paris commitments on contribution of non-fossil fuel of 40% in the cumulative energy capacity in that year.
COUNTRY SPOTLIGHT – INDIA, UK, DENMARK, SWEDEN
Question: How is India gearing up to become the backbone for global Pharma supply chain - as and when a Vaccine has been researched and found to be effective for the world economy?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: India is already a major producer and exporter of pharmaceuticals. During the COVID crisis, we have supplied huge quantities of medicines, both as grant assistance and sales, to countries around the world. Like many other countries, India is also trying to develop a vaccine for this coronavirus. Indian companies are also collaborating with foreign companies on research, development and testing. We already see agreements for joint production of medicines for the virus, whenever that starts.
Question: To H.E. Jawed Ashraf: In the US-China trade war, there is a real possibility that China departs from diplomacy and cut ties. Where does India see itself in this (in my view) eventuality?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Cuts ties with the U.S.? I don’t see that possibility. In any case, we work with all countries and deal with each on the basis of our interests and the merits of the relationship. I don’t see that changing.
Question: H.E. Mr. Ashraf, you mentioned that EdTech in Q1 20 grew by 26%. What segment of EdTech is seeing growth? Is it online education, learning management platforms or education through platforms like Zoom, Microsoft teams?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: I was talking fundamentally about companies that deliver online education content.
Question: HE Kara Owen - In many circles, BREXIT has been regarded as a desire on UK's part to exit the international arena to a certain extent. Do you see a shift with the current pandemic and a possible need to open up again to supplement the local market?
Response: Ms Kara Owen: On the contrary, I think we are showing the level of our ambition on trade, opening negotiations with both the US and Japan in recent months, focusing on transitioning EU trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam and demonstrating a clear ambition around other multilateral arrangements such as CPTPP. WE have also just published our global trade tariffs designed to retain our position as one of the most open economies.
CYBER SECURITY & TECHNOLOGY
Question: Is Cyber Security a priority sector for Denmark, UK and Sweden and would you be providing relaxed visa norms for promoters to establish business in your country?
Response: Ms Kara Owen: Absolutely. We have very strong cyber security sector not only in London but also Belfast - one of the top tech capitals in Europe. We have a global talent visa initiative that we can share details on precisely to ensure that we have access to the best thinkers and developers.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Denmark welcomes foreign talent, also within cyber security. Check-out our scale-up Denmark visa scheme.
Question: H.E. India: Can you share how India and Singapore can collaborate in cyber security space?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: India and Singapore are already collaborating on cyber security in multiple ways. We have government to government operational cooperation through an agreement between CERT-IN and Singapore CERT. In addition, RBI and MAS also discuss cyber security issues in the financial sector. The two governments are fostering private sector cooperation in developing cyber security solutions. The High Commission of India has launched a platform, InSpreneur (India-Singapore Entrepreneurship Bridge) in 2018 to foster collaboration in startups, technology and innovation between India and Singapore. Cyber Security is a key area for this platform. Incidentally, the Data Security Council of India has a chapter in Singapore, the first it established abroad.
Question: What are the drivers for technology in the sustainable development goals?
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: A marriage of societal necessity and business opportunity.
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: Technology provides unprecedented opportunities for achieving many of the SDGs, from inclusive economic development to education to sustainability. In India, the creation of the world’s largest public digital infrastructure, anchored in Aadhar biometric identity, broadband network and mobile phones, has generated enormous set of applications covering governance, delivery of public services and welfare benefits, remote delivery of health and education, access to banking, insurance and pension for the poorest, the largest healthcare insurance programme in the world, easy access to credit for micro, small and medium enterprise, and new opportunities for green financing.
Question: Do you see Blockchain platforms playing bigger roles in supporting global supply chain disruptions?
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: Blockchain (applied beyond digital currencies) seems to become a mainstream technology and will probably in many instances play a role in improved supply chain efficiency and management.
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: It holds great promise and its use is growing, but challenges remain to be addressed.
Question: What challenges can be seen with continued growth in digitized transactions across the world? Does cryptocurrency has a future or is it a going to be short lived fad?
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: I mostly see opportunities and gains. Cyber security, preventing frauds, infrastructure resilience, data security and privacy, issues of data ownership and localisation will be issues to address. We haven’t thought much about crypto-currency.
Response: Ms Dorte Bech Vizard: I think the jury is out.
Question: What is the potential of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in two areas: 1. Cyber Security for startups in each of the 5 countries, 2. What is the approach of Governments towards the use of ML-AI in medical research to come up with lifesaving drugs faster than it takes usually, e.g. COVID Vaccine. (Still many are under clinical trials).
Response: Mr Jawed Ashraf: I think that the use of ML-AI can significantly improve predictive ability and identification of deviations to improve cyber security. Many of our startups are working on that. Government encourages use of ML-AI for achieving social and economic goals. We are also conscious of the ethical issues involved in the use of ML-AI. Government has issued a national strategy on the use of AI.