Skillsfuture Festival X Smart Nation Event 2019
SMS Janil’s Speech for SkillsFuture Festival x Smart Nation Event
03 Aug 2019
Good morning everybody and thank you for joining us today.
Today is a special day in the sense that it marks the start of a very important series of collaborations. Why do we need to go through this, why do we need this type of partnership, and what are we hoping to get out of it?
Our Smart Nation ambitions are not entirely new. Since 1965, at the centre of our national spirit has been the idea that we will look ahead to the future and re-invent ourselves, for the challenges that we face today, and in the future.
Smart Nation is no different in this sense. It is about re-inventing and transforming Singapore through technology. What are we hoping to transform? We need to transform the way we govern. We need to transform the way we do business and create opportunities for Singaporeans. In order to do so, we also need to transform how we do inclusion. That idea of a digitally ready society needs to be refreshed for 2019 and going forward.
The difference for Smart Nation and our digital transformation is that the pace and extent of change is much faster. Jobs will go, but jobs will be recreated. Business opportunities will go, but new ones will be created.
There are many things that we need to do in order to get ourselves ready for these challenges. One of the key things is going to be the skills that we can develop in ourselves, in Government, in society and in business. Skills, for the challenges and opportunities that are being created today, and an approach to skills development so that we are ready for the future, both for the next wave of disruption and digital transformation.
We have started to do so within Government. We have committed to training at least 20,000 public sector officers in a whole variety of skills by 2023. Cyber security analytics, the understanding of Internet of Things, how to use AI products, and most importantly, how to deploy these ideas, tools and technologies to serve Singapore and Singaporeans better. We have started, and we will do more.
SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) has likewise committed to doing a lot in the digital arena. There are already courses, programmes, and partners, because many of the things that people are asking for, are about how do I survive in today’s world, in this fast changing, technology driven world. They already have quite a lot of digitally focused skills, but the partnership between Smart Nation and SSG will bring these two organisations together, so that the skills, abilities and capabilities of Singaporeans will be focused on what we hope to be the opportunities of tomorrow.
That work has already started, and today is one of the ways in which we are showing that the work is going to pay off. But the partnership cannot just be between two different government organisations. It is important, but it is nowhere near enough. We need to bring on board other partners like Microsoft, a large company with its own ecosystem. The engagement with a company like Microsoft is about that company, but it is also about that company’s partners. A large company has vendors and suppliers that has business ideas, business partners, and it will do more going forward. Microsoft is committed to a very important partnership in association with SSG.
What does that partnership and the MOU that we’re signing today signify and what will it enable us to do? It will allow us to train together collaboratively 5000 individuals over three years and engage with 100 companies. A curated list of courses that Microsoft has endorsed will now appear on the MySkillsFuture portal as a curated list. The partnership will also enable our SkillsFuture and Smart Nation team to make sure that we leverage on the best and most progressive ideas around those areas where we are lacking – cyber security, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, data analytics – leveraging on the tools, techniques, and ideas that are prevalent in business today.
In addition, Microsoft will, through this process, work with our Institutes of Higher Learning to co-develop industry relevant curriculum for specific programmes, such as the SkillsFuture Work-Study programmes, building on a talent pipeline that has already started to enlarge, very significantly. Increasing numbers of young people are going into this industry, they see the opportunity, they see the excitement, and we need to make sure we create the process for them to extract as much value out of their learning and out of their internships in partnership with industry. But we also hope that through this process, we will have the opportunity to work with Microsoft as an intermediary, looking at workplace learning practices within its organisation, as well as with its partner SMEs, tapping on its network of companies, and allowing government and SSG to reach out to many more companies in their digitalisation efforts. What are we trying to do? We’re trying to build a digitally confident population. To the companies and businesses, we want you to create opportunities for this digitally confident population that we have here in Singapore.
Think of business ideas that can take advantage of the deep scientific, technical and digital skills the Singaporean population has, and one of the new opportunities that can be created. So these ideas have to then come out of Smart Nation office, SSG, and the partnership with Microsoft, and they have to become a whole of nation effort.
One of the many ways that we’re trying to do this is by making digital defence, the sixth pillar of total defence. A national issue that we have worked with organisations like Nexus, National Library Board, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, to try to get people to think of digital issues as a matter of national importance. Digital security is a pillar of that, and it is an opportunity for people to think of these things on a national basis. What does this mean not just for my education as a young person, for my first job as a young adult, for my second, third, or fifth job as a working adult, but for our whole country, and our whole society. It has to be a whole of nation effort.
In truth, many of these things that we’re going to do have already started and we are making good progress. In the companies, in the Government here in Singapore. The reason why we have to come together and make it a special effort – bringing together government agencies, bringing together government with businesses, and bringing together people with these opportunities – is that we must do so in a way that includes every Singaporean, and the whole of Singapore. We must make a special effort so this brings along and creates opportunity for all. It is this bit that requires us to take this extra series of steps and not just leave it to market, leave it to time and leave it to hope that everything will be all right. It will for most people, but we have to make this extra effort to make sure it is so for everybody. And then we’ll be able to engage in this wave of transformation for Smart Nation to deliver that vision for the Singapore of tomorrow, for the next generation Singaporeans.
Thank you all for coming here to join us today at this event. Thank you to all our partners, Smart Nation and Digital Government Group staff, SSG staff, as well as Microsoft for putting together this event and this partnership. Thank you very much.
Dr Janil Puthucheary
Senior Minister of State
Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Health
Minister-in-Charge of GovTech