Which critical issues are keeping government planners and policymakers up at night? Hindering many of them from catching their ZZZs are pressing concerns about future readiness, underpinned by the SSSSSs: smart cities, startups, skilling, sustainability, and security.

As public- and private-sector players take on all five of those socioeconomic challenges, a common factor in their success is their ability to collect, manage, and analyze massive amount of data—safely, responsibly, and to maximum effect. Let’s take a closer look at all five.

Smart cities: My home base of Singapore is at the forefront of confronting all of those data-driven priorities under the framework of its world-renowned Smart Nation initiative, applying a “digital first” mandate to healthcare, transportation, safety, financing, career-assistance, and other public services.

The new Oracle cloud region in Singapore—our ninth in Asia Pacific—not only supports the government’s Smart Nation ambitions, but also reinforces the city-state’s status as a regional hub for a variety of cloud-centric businesses. One such company, Singapore-based APL Logistics, is building its business across the region on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), giving it and its supply chain partners and customers visibility into every stage of a shipment’s journey, from order to delivery. Elsewhere in Asia Pacific, in Philippines the city of Baguio built a registration system and mobile application on OCI to track residents and inter-state visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting the health of almost 360,000 people while supporting the reopening of the local economy.

The main goal of such public-private initiatives is to enhance the quality, efficiency, and accessibility of a range of services, boosting economic growth and improving the quality of people’s lives.

Startups: Our second S, startups, are the seedlings of vibrant growth, fundamental to building a resilient economy. Startups keep established players on their toes, while the savviest ones turn into tomorrow’s market leaders and large-scale employers.

Government planners and policymakers play an important role in fertilizing that soil. In the Asia Pacific region, the latest World Bank rankings put New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea at Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 5 worldwide when it comes to setting regulations favorable to starting and operating businesses. In fact, across the Asia Pacific region, enrollment by companies in our Oracle for Startups program has more than doubled in the past year.

To promote innovation even further and build collective resilience, as part of our cloud region launch in Singapore , Oracle is increasing its investment in the city-state’s startup ecosystem, offering 100 startups US$30,000 each in Oracle Cloud credits over the next two years.

Skilling. Half of all current workers worldwide will need to be reskilled by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020. Nowhere is that need more acute than in the Asia Pacific region, which faces a shortage of almost 50 million STEM and other workers across all sectors.

Garrett Ilg

The onus is on companies to train workers and on governments to expand their education programs. That imperative is especially critical now that economies are starting to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed digitalization and automation forward at a more rapid pace, creating an unprecedented reliance on digital skills.

One leading corporate program is our own Oracle University, which provides professional training courses and accreditations, at all levels, for the entire Oracle Cloud product portfolio. At its heart, this comprehensive technology initiative builds cloud proficiency and increases employability. Under one recent Oracle University initiative, aligned with Singapore’s SkillsFuture program, we’re providing free OCI training and certifications until March 31, 2022, to help deepen the city-state’s IT talent pool.

Sustainability: Taken as a whole, environmental sustainability is the biggest socioeconomic challenge of our time. It is everyone’s business—governments, companies, and individuals working together, one initiative at a time.

We as a planetary collective are starting to make progress, with the help of a variety of advanced data technologies. Consider Okinawa Electric Power, one of several utilities across Japan using AI-based software to provide hundreds of thousands of customers with timely data on how to reduce their energy usage, helping the country reach its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by 2030. Startup AgroScout has developed machine learning software that analyzes images taken by drones flying over crop fields, letting farmers identify diseases and pests so they can treat the problems quickly—or avoid spraying chemicals where there isn’t a problem. Indian cooperative IFFCO analyzes massive amount of data in developing its eco-friendly “nano-technology” fertilizer, capable of cutting use of conventional chemical fertilizers in half while raising crop outputs.

Starting to bring accountability to people’s and institutions’ best intentions are chief sustainability officers (CSOs), now a fixture at most major corporations and federal, state, and municipal governments. Under the leadership of my colleague Jon S. Chorley, Oracle’s CSO, our company is well on its way to power all Oracle Cloud regions worldwide with 100% renewable energy by 2025

But as Chorley reminded readers in a recent Forbes column: “Changing a system that has worked so well for so long for so many will not be easy, and there will not be a single answer. It will require behavior change, policy and regulatory change, business model change, and technological change.”

Security. One of the most sleep-depriving concerns of every government and private-sector leader I talk with is our fifth S, security. Information security is now a top national defense and board-level priority, not just an IT organization one, as reports of state-sponsored and profit-motivated breaches dominate the headlines.

On a recent panel discussion, former US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called cybersecurity “the battlefield of the future,” adding: “It also happens to be the battlefield of the present.”

If your institution’s most important data remains in your own data centers rather than in the cloud regions of one or more third-party providers, there’s little chance you’ll be able to keep up with the well-financed nation states and profiteers that are after those valuable assets. That is, unless you’re prepared to hire some of the world’s most astute security pros and devote considerable financial resources to that massive DIY project—something very few companies and even governments can do. Leave information security to the experts.

I am immensely proud of Oracle’s commitment—working closely with governments, customers, and partners—to advancing all five Ss. That’s not just in Singapore, where we are investing hundreds of miillions of dollars in people, companies, and infrastructure, but also across the region and globe. With the strong partnership between the public and private sectors, we are starting to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

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