Smart Nation Scholarship Award Ceremony on 17 August 2018
Speech By Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the Inaugural Smart Nation Scholarship Award Ceremony
17 Aug 2018
Chief Executives of GovTech and IMDA,
Deputy Chief Executive of CSA,
Firstly, a warm welcome to all of you to the inaugural Smart Nation Scholarship Award Ceremony this morning. My heartiest congratulations to the recipients who will be receiving the scholarship today, and of course, to the proud parents as well.
Launch of the Smart Nation Scholarship
Today marks a significant milestone, as this is the first ever award ceremony for the Smart Nation Scholarship.
There were hundreds of applications. Nine outstanding candidates were eventually selected, and will form the pioneer batch of Smart Nation scholars.
Smart Nation is essential for Singapore’s future
As this is the inaugural award ceremony, let me first start by explaining what the term Smart Nation means, and why it is so important to Singapore.
We all know that there is a digital revolution going on. We are now witnessing the simultaneous explosion of artificial intelligence, big data, and robotics. All these platform technologies are building on and amplifying one another. These advancements in digital technologies are transforming the way we live, work and play.
At the same time, we are moving into an era of increasingly complex cyber threats, and these affect every facet of our increasingly digital lives. Recent high-profile incidents, such as the global ransomware attacks and the SingHealth data breach, have illustrated just how significant and real the impact of cyber threats can be.
The key challenge for every society, including Singapore, is how we can successfully ride on these rapid technology changes, to adapt and transform itself, to avoid being left behind. This is why we are driving the Smart Nation initiative, and why it is so crucial for Singapore’s future.
Singapore’s vision of a Smart Nation is aimed at enhancing a vibrant competitive economy with many new job opportunities, an inclusive society with a high quality of life and innovative responsive government services.
We need a strong pool of engineering talent in Government to build a Smart Nation
Building a Smart Nation is an ambitious goal. It is absolutely essential for us to attract top talent with deep digital skills for us to fulfil our Smart Nation ambitions. We will invest in our long-term engineering capabilities, to ensure that we have a core group of passionate innovators to lead and drive technology change, both within the civil service and to engage the private sector.
Why is engineering talent more important than ever today? What has changed? More than a decade ago, software development was seen as a commodity service that was left to the low cost countries to provide, and our local graduates aspired to become project managers or system integrators of large IT projects. Government then also outsourced much of its IT projects to the private sector, believing that we could reap savings from a competitive market for commoditised IT services.
Today, that has all changed. Computer Science, Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Software Development are some of the hottest skills today, and many top graduates aspire to be software engineers at big name tech companies.
The global competition for tech talent has never been higher. In our globalised world, we are competing not just with local companies, but with tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon to ensure we get a fair share of engineering talent.
I usually make it a point to meet Singaporeans working at Google HQ at Mountain View whenever I visit. When asked why they were happy to work there, they told me “I am proud to be an engineer; and this is a company that values engineers”.
The bright young engineers coming out of school are not just motivated by pay, which by the way is very attractive in the tech sector. They are motivated by the opportunity to work on the most challenging projects that can build a better home and society for all of us, and transform the world. And that is especially what Government can offer each of you today: The opportunity to use technology to resolve the most challenging problems in society.
The pioneer batch of Smart Nation scholars will be the future architects and technology leaders of our Smart Nation
The Smart Nation Scholarship is one of the longer-term initiatives we have put in place to strengthen Government’s technical capabilities. We expect you to be the vanguard of digital transformation in Singapore. You will be able to create digital solutions to help Government better serve our citizens, defend our systems from the ever-changing cyber threat, and help our companies seize the opportunities of the digital revolution.
This requires that our scholars go beyond typical book smarts. I am happy to observe that our first batch of scholars have been carefully selected, not just based on academic results but also your often self-taught technical skills and passion to create digital solutions to make a difference in the lives of others.
Wei Jie, Yi De and Howard, you will be starting your careers with GovTech, where you will have the opportunity to be at the forefront of improving citizens’ lives through technology. In fact, many recent impactful projects, such as the Moments of Life, parking.sg and MyResponder apps, were built by young and dynamic GovTech officers seeking to make a difference in the lives of their fellow Singaporeans. Through these apps, GovTech officers are making their impact felt. For example, as of June this year, there were more than 13,500 responses from volunteers to potential cardiac arrest cases through the MyResponder app. As you embark on your studies, I encourage you to constantly pursue opportunities for development and learning. Continue to push tech boundaries and dream up innovative solutions that can better the lives of all Singaporeans.
Alan, Jing Yin, Shu Fen and Chester will be starting your careers with the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore. As recent events have demonstrated, cybersecurity is an essential part of our Smart Nation journey. We cannot be a Smart Nation if our systems are open and vulnerable. We must be vigilant against threats to our systems and data, and we need talented cybersecurity professionals to shape, transform and safeguard our cyber landscape. You will be learning from the best, and when you return, all of you will be invaluable to our efforts in building an open, resilient and trusted cyberspace.
Marcus and Ming Yang, you will be starting your careers with the Infocomm Media Development Authority. As the lead agency championing Singapore’s digital transformation across industries and the industry regulator for the infocomm and media sector, IMDA drives Singapore’s efforts to build a dynamic Digital Economy and a cohesive Digital Society. You will have the opportunity to develop and shape the infocomm and media ecosystem, and prepare businesses and workers for the immense possibilities brought about by a Digital Economy. As you begin your studies, I encourage you to constantly be on the lookout for new ideas and opportunities, and to build ties and networks with engineers from across the world.
Your journey as a Smart Nation Scholar has just begun. As you embark on your studies, I encourage you to make the most of your education, whether in Singapore or abroad. Stay open and inquisitive, learn as much as you can, and have fun while doing so. Your best years are ahead of you.
Once again, congratulations to all of you. I wish you every success in your studies and look forward to your future contributions to building our Smart Nation.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
Minister-In-Charge Of The Smart Nation Initiative