Friday, 28 June 2019

PM Lee Hsien Loong's dialogue at the Smart Nation Summit on 26 Jun 2019

3 ingredients necessary to succeed in smart nation vision: PM Lee Hsien Loong
Strength in engineering, leaders who understand tech, a society that doesn't fear science or tech
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Jun 2019

It is no secret that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is a techie.

Yesterday, he revealed that he puts his tech skills to good use as a mystery shopper on government websites, in a bid to help the Government improve its online services.

"Our mystery shoppers to government websites are kept busy, and once in a while, I join them myself," he quipped, to laughter. "It is not just improving the software, but rethinking and streamlining the underlying processes to focus on the essential requirements, and deliver the services in a customer-oriented way."

PM Lee was speaking at yesterday's Smart Nation Summit about what the Government has done so far to realise Singapore's Smart Nation vision outlined five years ago.

While the country has a strong base to become a Smart Nation - a technologically literate population, good IT infrastructure, and the Government taking the lead - there are areas in which it can do better, he said.

He cited three ingredients he said were necessary for Singapore to succeed in its vision to use technology to improve the quality of life for all.

First, Singapore must have very strong engineering capabilities, and must be able to attract and recruit engineers of the same calibre as those working in the best tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, he said.

Second, Singapore will also need more leaders and managers who know "what is real, what is snake oil, what is a buzzword and what is a promising solution", both in the Government and in the private sector.

Third, said PM Lee, society needs to embrace science and technology, and not fear it.

"The Singapore ethos of our society has to be rational and transparent, able to examine and solve any problem rationally, be prepared to apply solutions which work even if they are unconventional and use new approaches," he added.

"People have to understand the risks of technology, whether it's cyber security, whether it's privacy, or online falsehoods. But our people must not be anti-tech or anti-science, because that would hold back progress and it will be the end of us."

He cited the Digital Readiness Blueprint launched by the Ministry of Communications and Information last year to improve Singaporeans' access to technology and help them learn how to use digital technology safely.

Singapore's Smart Nation push, said PM Lee, is not about flaunting glitzy technology.

"It is applying technology to solve real problems that will make a difference to people's lives, across the whole of society," he added at the event at Sands Expo and Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands.

To this end, the Government has been building the basic infrastructure on which applications and services can be developed, such as the National Digital Identity, which will allow people to log in securely to access government services online.

The Government has also launched projects to address concrete problems, and started experimental projects for Singapore to learn quickly about whether novel technology, such as artificial intelligence, will fail or succeed here.

Noting the popularity of services such as online passport applications and tax payments, PM Lee said: "But we can do much better, certainly for government services."

While the Government was an early adopter and was one of the first governments in the world to computerise, digitise its data and move services online, it now has many legacy systems that need to be upgraded, PM Lee said.

He added that the Government also has to keep up with technology to transform how it develops applications and delivers services, for instance by using cloud services or centralising development, instead of having every agency build its own website or system at great expense.

PM Lee called on the private sector to play its part, adding that there are many opportunities, especially in the financial services sector.

Wrapping up his speech, he said: "We are determined to achieve our Smart Nation vision. It is an essential strategy if Singapore is to remain an outstanding metropolis, abreast of the other centres of human creativity and enterprise."

In a dialogue after his speech, in response to a question on how the Government will ensure no one is left behind, he stressed the importance of helping older Singaporeans access services online. "We have to make a big effort to carry them along, make sure that they feel they get the help they need and they don't feel they are left behind."

Asked what young Singaporeans can do to capitalise on the growing tech sector, PM Lee advised them to take advantage of the educational opportunities available before they "go out and change the world".

"First, master a trade, don't lightly drop out of university. I mean, if you're going to be Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, by all means... if not, master a skill, make the most of it. At some stage, if you want to start something, I say go for it," he said, referring to the founders of Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, respectively, who cut short their education to start their companies.

Singapore has to constantly reinvent - and even cannibalise itself: PM Lee Hsien Loong
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Jun 2019

It is important for Singapore to keep reinventing itself, and for its leaders to be prepared to do so, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday as he spoke about what he would teach his younger self after having gone through many transitions in his career.

He was answering a question from Mr Dominic Barton, the global managing partner emeritus of consulting firm McKinsey & Co, who was moderating the closing dialogue at the Smart Nation Summit.

Mr Barton had asked PM Lee what leadership skills he would want to have, with the world on the brink of a technological revolution.

PM Lee said: "It's the non-tech part of it which is difficult, which is to be able to accept the new way of doing things and to be able to change our organisations and our processes in order to take full advantage of what has now become possible. That is very, very hard."

Citing the example of Microsoft, which he said is one of the "best companies in the world", PM Lee said that it first made computers using MS-DOS systems, then moved on to Microsoft Windows, and later reinvented itself as an Internet company.

Even then, Microsoft "didn't capture all the apples on the tree", and missed the opportunity to make its phone operating system the standard non-Apple phone platform, he added, referring to recent remarks by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who lamented losing the mobile phone operating system market to Google's Android platform.

Going back to Singapore, he said: "In our case, if we don't reinvent ourselves and somebody else comes along and takes the apple off our tree, we won't have lunch.

"I think that's a lesson which... we ourselves, not just the population, need to know and to remind ourselves every morning that we have to keep on being prepared to reinvent ourselves, and sometimes to cannibalise ourselves, because otherwise somebody else will do it."

During the session, the Prime Minister was also asked by an audience member if the country's regulations would support a diverse workforce, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people, with the annual pro-LGBTQ Pink Dot rally happening on Saturday.

"On inclusiveness, I think we are open," he answered. "You know our rules in Singapore, whatever your sexual orientation, you're welcome to come and work in Singapore."

He acknowledged that for some people, Section 377A of the Penal Code, which penalises sex between men, is an issue.

But he said the clause "remains on our legislation, and it will for some time", adding that it has not prevented LGBTQ people from living here, or prevented the annual Pink Dot event from taking place.

"We are not like San Francisco, neither are we like certain countries in the Middle East," he added.

"It's something in between. It's the way this society is. And I think in this framework, it is completely possible for us to have a vibrant tech and cultural scene."

Digital Industry Singapore (DISG): New government office to help grow tech sector; 10,000 new tech-related jobs expected over 3 years
Managed by 3 govt agencies, it will encourage public-private tie-ups to help firms digitise
By Hariz Baharudin, The Straits Times, 27 Jun 2019

An estimated 10,000 new tech-related jobs are expected in the private sector over the next three years, thanks to a new government office that will encourage public-private partnerships to help companies digitise and keep up with the rapid pace of technology.

The Digital Industry Singapore (DISG) office, announced by Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran yesterday, is the "first stop" for companies to seek help in matters related to the sector. They can work with it to secure talent and market access, build capabilities and expand overseas.

The DISG office has already begun its work, said the minister, pointing out that it supported the establishment of Grab's new headquarters here. The headquarters will house up to 3,000 employees.

Speaking at the opening of this year's Smart Nation Summit at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands, Mr Iswaran added: "There are several other similar projects in the DISG pipeline, which will also bring broader benefits for Singapore's digital ecosystem, including the creation of an estimated 10,000 new jobs over the next three years."

The chief digital industry officer of DISG, Mr Kiren Kumar, told The Straits Times that these jobs will be a subset of the 16,000 new jobs that will be created by next year under the Industry Transformation Map (ITM) for infocomm media.

The ITMs for 23 sectors were launched in Budget 2016 as part of a $4.5 billion industry transformation package. In response to ST queries, Mr Kiren said: "The ITM's goal is still 2020. Ours is really over the next three years so it goes beyond that, but it will be a subset of it."

The new office is managed by the Economic Development Board, Enterprise Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), and brings together 45 existing officers from these three agencies.

In a joint statement, they said the 10,000 new technology sector jobs to be created will be the result of the DISG's efforts, including the creation of new policies and guiding government investments in areas such as data, talent, trade and digital infrastructure. The agencies added: "Beyond technology roles in engineering, software and product development, DISG expects that jobs in other functions, such as finance, human resources, innovation and business development, will also be created."

In order to prepare citizens for these new jobs, DISG will work with IMDA, the industry and local education institutions to implement training programmes and on-the-job training. Training will focus on areas like artificial intelligence, cyber security, data science, network engineering, software development, user experience design and product management.

DISG will also seek to build up two aspects of the technology ecosystem: consumer technology and enterprise technology.

On the consumer technology front, it will assist companies to tap the growing Asian market to capture opportunities in areas such as ride hailing, e-commerce, fintech and new media.

In enterprise technology, DISG will digitalise Singapore's economy to help firms build new solutions in areas like cyber security, artificial intelligence, payments and cloud computing, and expand globally.

According to Mr Iswaran, the work of DISG will be to create public-private partnerships by pooling together resources and sharing knowledge.

Later, in a separate dialogue at the summit, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cited three ingredients that Singapore needs to have to succeed in its vision to use technology to improve the quality of life for its citizens.

These are: strong engineering capabilities, more leaders and managers who understand enough about technology, and a society that embraces science and technology - not fear it, said Mr Lee.

The Smart Nation Summit is the flagship event of the Smart Nation Innovations Week, which is being held until tomorrow.

More than 15,000 local and international guests are attending the events during the week, which include the Straits Digital Exchange, the Digital Government Exchange and Innovfest Unbound.

$40 million fund set up for 5G trials to fuel Singapore's goal of leading in digital economy
Aim is for Singapore to be at the forefront of exporting innovative uses of the technology
By Irene Tham, Tech Editor, The Straits Times, 28 Jun 2019

A $40 million fund has been set up to accelerate the development of next-frontier 5G applications to support Singapore's ambition to lead in the global digital economy.

One of the key uses of 5G here is in smart port management, where an operator can remotely control driverless cranes and trucks to load and unload containers, or remotely inspect machines using pilotless drones.

Port operator PSA International has appointed Singtel and M1 to conduct trials, and the telcos are the first to have received a grant from the $40 million budget to be given out over one year.

Announcing this yesterday, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said: "We want to be at the forefront of exporting such innovative use cases."

Describing 5G networks as "a key digital infrastructure of tomorrow", he highlighted six strategic clusters where 5G applications are expected to generate the most value for Singapore in global export.

They are: maritime operations, urban mobility, smart estate management, smart manufacturing, as well as government and consumer applications.

5G applications - such as driverless cars and remotely operated cranes - require constant connection without lag which only 5G networks are capable of delivering.

Mr Iswaran was speaking at the opening of the fifth annual Innovfest Unbound, the anchor event of the Smart Nation Innovations Week held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Trials by PSA are expected to start in the third quarter of this year. They will explore the remote operation of equipment and the use of driverless vehicles to move shipping containers round the clock between the quay side and the container yard.

"5G is expected to play a key role in Singapore's digital transformation and is aligned with PSA's strategy... to boost productivity in our current terminals and the future container port in Tuas," said Mr Ong Kim Pong, regional chief executive officer of PSA International in South-east Asia.

Besides backing 5G experiments to boost productivity, the one-year fund will also cover the set-up of the first open centre in Singapore to support the testing of consumer-type 5G applications like electronic gaming and immersive media.

The open centre, which will be ready by June next year, will be at the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) existing Pixel facility in one-north.

The grant will also cover research on cyber-security solutions to keep 5G networks safe. Details will be announced later.

The National Research Foundation and IMDA are behind the fund.

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