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How ASEAN firms are turning data into critical assets

From enabling consumers to track their energy consumption to improving business operations, businesses in ASEAN are starting to put their data to good use

The value of data is indisputable in the digital economy, enabling businesses to monetise their data assets, speed up decision-making and improve the customer experience.

But enterprises across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are not at the same stage when it comes to turning their data into critical assets. Some are still grappling with finding out the business value of their data, while others are already using data to improve their operations.

Take the Singapore Exchange (SGX), for example. At the ConnectGov Leaders Summit in Edinburgh, the bourse’s vice-president and head of data science and visualisation, Sigrid Rouam, said that just 5% of the company’s data is being monetised, while the global average among its peers is 30-40%.

Rouam said SGX is now looking to grow that figure by providing new data services, such as data visualisation, to external customers, effectively extending the value of its data beyond internal use.

“We have data teams that use data for internal purposes, such as analysing customer behaviour as well as meeting regulatory and operational requirements,” said Rouam. “To turn data into a critical asset, we did a lot of work on the technology and legal processes.”

This includes building a centralised database with in-memory capabilities to ensure timely access to machine-readable data for data scientists. SGX has also built a logical layer to help business users understand the data, along with a data dictionary and business glossary.

At SP Digital, the digital services subsidiary of Singapore utility provider SP Group, data has always been critical to its operations, enabling it to control and manage the country’s critical energy infrastructure.

About three years ago, the company embarked on a digital transformation initiative, which, among other areas, includes building a data lake to house all its data, according to Chang Sau Sheong, CEO of SP Digital.

Meanwhile, the roll-out of smart meters and sensors across Singapore in recent years has led to the explosive growth in the volume of data collected by SP Group, which has started to harness all that data to help consumers and businesses manage their utility consumption.

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Chang said: “Through a mobile app we’ve built, we are enabling consumers to view their energy consumption every hour and drive changes in user behaviour. The data will also help businesses make changes in their consumption to reduce energy usage.”

He added that the use of smart meters and data has reduced SP Group’s operational costs by 20%.

But critical data assets are not only useful to their owners – they are also being eyed by malicious actors looking to make a quick buck, as one bank in Thailand has found out.

In August 2018, the personal data of thousands of Krung Thai Bank customers was obtained by hackers using advanced hacking techniques and put up on the dark web.

Surachai Chatchalermpun, chief information security officer at Krung Thai Bank, said the company took four hours to remove the stolen data from the dark web and has since beefed up its security measures to prevent similar incidents.

These include improving its incident detection and response capabilities, putting in place data loss prevention technology, and conducting table-top cyber security exercises, among other safeguards.

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