Singapore plans wearable virus contact tracing device for all

Singapore plans wearable virus contact tracing device for all
Singaporeans expect to receive contact-tracing technology. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 June 2020

Singapore plans wearable virus contact tracing device for all

Singapore plans wearable virus contact tracing device for all
  • The small device can be worn on the end of a lanyard or carried in a handbag

SINGAPORE: Singapore plans to give a wearable device that will identify people who had interacted with carriers of coronavirus to all of its 5.7 million residents, in what could become one of the most comprehensive contact tracing efforts globally.

The small device, which can be worn on the end of a lanyard or carried in a handbag, follows glitches with an earlier smartphone-based bluetooth system which limited take up of the technology.

Singapore, a tiny city-state with one of the highest COVID-19 caseloads in Asia, is one of many countries trying to develop technology that will allow them to exit lockdowns and safely restart their economies.

“We are developing and will soon roll out a portable wearable device that will ... not depend on possession of a smartphone,” said Vivian Balakrishnan, the minister in charge of the city-state’s smart nation initiative said on Friday.

“If this portable device works, we may then distribute it to everyone in Singapore.”

The government did not specify whether carrying the device would be mandatory.

The government’s earlier TraceTogether app was downloaded by around 1.5 million users, but has encountered problems especially on Apple devices where its operating system suspends Bluetooth scanning when the app runs in the background.

“We’ve had repeated discussions both at the technical and policy level with Apple, but we have not yet been able to find a satisfactory solution,” Balakrishnan said.

The pivot to wearables is a signal that Singapore has no immediate plans to adopt contact tracing technology from Apple and Alphabet Inc’s Google rolled out last month, which has several restrictions designed to protect users’ privacy.

Singapore has not provided details on the technology that will be used in the new wearable devices.

But analysts say the new technology could face similar adoption challenges to its predecessor.

“The government would likely have to mandate the use of such a device for the system to work, which is something that few countries have done so far,” said Frederic Giron, a Singapore-based analyst with market research firm Forrester.

Many experts have raised privacy concerns about contact tracing devices. Singapore has said data collected though its earlier app is encrypted and stored locally in the user’s phone, and will only be transferred to authorities if the individual is confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.


Egypt aims to double funding for green projects

Egypt aims to double funding for green projects
Updated 37 min 39 sec ago

Egypt aims to double funding for green projects

Egypt aims to double funding for green projects

CAIRO: Egypt is planning to double the state’s funding for green projects to 30 percent of its overall investment plan during the fiscal year 2021/2022 and to raise it to 50 percent by 2024/2025.

Sherif Daoud, deputy head of the Sustainable Development Unit at the Egyptian Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, said green projects currently represent 15 percent of the state’s investment plan during the current fiscal year 2020/2021.

Daoud said green projects focus on the transport, housing, and electricity sectors. 

He said the government is preparing a package of incentives to encourage the private sector to participate more in the green economy. He said the first national report on financing sustainable development projects is also being prepared. 


AlUla awards $14m housing complex contract

AlUla awards $14m housing complex contract
Updated 16 June 2021

AlUla awards $14m housing complex contract

AlUla awards $14m housing complex contract
  • The project, which consists of 150 modular, high-quality and furnished units, is scheduled to be completed in three months

RIYADH: Red Sea International Co. said it won a SR52.9 million ($14.1 million) contract to design and build a housing complex in AlUla, northwest Saudi Arabia.

The contract for 150 “modular, high-quality and fully furnished accommodation units” was awarded by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and is expected to be complete in three months, Red Sea International said in a filing to the Tadawul stock exchange on Wednesday.

AlUla is home to the archeological site of Dadan, which is being developed into a cultural tourist destination.

Dadan, a civilization that dates back more than 2,700 years and pre-dates the Nabataean civilization as well as the Roman presence in the Arabian Peninsula, was once the capital for the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms and is considered to be one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula.

In April, Amr AlMadani, CEO of the RCU, the entity set up by the Saudi Ministry of Finance in July 2017 to manage the development of the site, told Arab News the commission has invested $2 billion in initial seed funding for the initial development of the historical development area. A further $3.2 billion, which will come from public-private partnerships, has also been earmarked for spending on priority infrastructure ahead of the completion of phase one of the project in 2023.

“We are well into executing phase one. This includes the upgrade of the airport, which has been completed. We will start our low-carbon tram development infrastructure as well. And, so far, our visitor experience centers in the heritage and nature site are being upgraded,” AlMadani said.

The “Journey Through Time Masterplan” was recently announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Upon completion in 2035, the development project aims to create 38,000 new jobs, attract 2 million visitors a year, expand the population of the area to 130,000, and contribute $32 billion to the Kingdom’s economy.


Dubai-based Luxury Closet raises $14m for thrifty lovers of luxury

Dubai-based Luxury Closet raises $14m for thrifty lovers of luxury
Updated 16 June 2021

Dubai-based Luxury Closet raises $14m for thrifty lovers of luxury

Dubai-based Luxury Closet raises $14m for thrifty lovers of luxury

RIYADH: The Luxury Closet, an online platform for buying and selling used high-end goods, secured fresh financing worth $14 million to bankroll the company’s expansion outside the UAE, Bloomberg reported.
The Dubai-based startup is raising funds for international expansion by marrying luxury with thrift.
The financing is led by GMP Capital, alongside international and local investors including Huda Beauty Investment.
“Re-sale is the future of shopping,” said Kunal Kapoor, chief executive and founder of The Luxury Closet. 
“We expect one in six transactions to be pre-owned by the end of the decade,” he added.
Gulf spending on the resale market was among the highest before the pandemic,according to Bain & Co.
But spending on the local luxury market fell by 17 percent afterward.


Egypt, UK discuss cooperation in electricity sector

Egypt, UK discuss cooperation in electricity sector
Updated 16 June 2021

Egypt, UK discuss cooperation in electricity sector

Egypt, UK discuss cooperation in electricity sector
  • Trevelyan is on her first visit to Egypt since assuming her post
  • During their meeting, Shaker praised cooperation between his ministry and British firms

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker met with Anne-Marie Trevelyan, British minister of state for business, energy and clean growth.
They discussed how the two countries can enhance cooperation in the electricity and renewable energy sector.
Trevelyan, who is also UK representative for the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference, is on her first visit to Egypt since assuming her post. She will discuss preparations for the conference, set to be held in Glasgow in November.
During their meeting, Shaker praised cooperation between his ministry and British firms, saying they are trusted partners who play a huge role in the electricity sector and in helping achieve the goals of the Egyptian Energy Strategy 2035.


Saudi Arabia co-chairs meeting on restructuring Chad’s debts

Saudi Arabia co-chairs meeting on restructuring Chad’s debts
Updated 16 June 2021

Saudi Arabia co-chairs meeting on restructuring Chad’s debts

Saudi Arabia co-chairs meeting on restructuring Chad’s debts
  • Chad is the first country to request the restructuring under the new Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the Debt Service Suspension Initiative

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has co-chaired the fourth creditor committee meeting to help Chad restructure its debts under a new G20 framework.

The African state requested the restructuring in January as it struggled with a high debt burden exacerbated by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Chad is the first country to request the restructuring under the new Common Framework for Debt Treatments beyond the Debt Service Suspension Initiative. The framework was agreed in November by the G20 under Saudi Arabia’s presidency and the committee held its first meeting in April this year.

Saudi Arabia co-chaired the June 10 virtual meeting with France. The other committee members also included China and India, while representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were also present as observers.

“The creditor committee supports Chad’s envisaged IMF upper credit tranche program and its swift adoption by the IMF Executive Board to address Chad’s urgent financing needs. The creditor committee encourages Multilateral Development Banks to maximize their support for Chad to meet its long-term financial needs,” the committee said in a press statement.

The statement added that committee members “are committed” to negotiate with Chad to restructure its debts.

The committee highlighted that it was important that private sector creditors be offered “debt treatments on terms at least as favorable as those being considered by the creditor committee, in line with the comparability of treatment principle.”

The IMF in January completed initial talks with Chad on a new medium-term financing program worth about $560 million. According to the IMF, Chad’s total debt amounted to $2.8 billion, or 25.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), at the end of 2019. China is its largest official bilateral creditor, according to a report by Reuters.