Speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Health at The Digital Academy Virtual Launch Symposium

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Speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Health at The Digital Academy Virtual Launch Symposium
on 21 June 2021

1.    Good morning everyone. It’s a pleasure to be with you today for the official launch of The Digital Academy.

2.    This is an important milestone that will help us to accelerate public sector digitalisation, as part of the Smart Nation agenda.

3.    In setting up The Digital Academy, we hope to offer something for all of you, whether you are in a tech role or not.

4.    A capable and innovative Digital Government is an important pillar for our Smart Nation vision. What is more important than any hardware, software or cloud system is our ability to continually learn about digital technologies and our commitment to apply this knowledge to solve problems for our citizens, businesses and our nation.

5.    As we can see from our COVID-19 responses, building the public sector’s strength in digital capabilities, developing our infrastructure, and fostering an agility in adapting digital tools to meet needs have paid off. From digital contact tracing to home-based learning, there are many examples which we are living through every day.

6.    Even as we continue to grapple with COVID19, we are embarking on new ways of working and serving the public good. We can’t slow down building a Digital Government.  All our roles in Public Service require us to achieve at least a foundational level of digital literacy. For public service leaders, myself included, we have to be familiar with the issues to identify priorities and standards in the public sector’s digital transformation. For the ICT professionals at work amongst us, it’s more than that. It means deepening your expertise while expanding and updating the skills and tools you are familiar with.

7.    The half-life of skills is about five years in general. For tech skills, they to be refreshed about every 18 months. We have to keep learning to stay relevant. While we do have access to a wide range of resources available within our agencies and Public Service, there are even more opportunities on external learning platforms.

8.    This Digital Academy that we launch today has a unique value proposition. It is a ‘Practitioner for Practitioner’ academy. Its curriculum is curated and contextualised for the public sector, combining expert knowledge from tech practice leads in GovTech and industry partners that bring reputation and expertise reputable industry partners. Programmes are designed and delivered in an Agile way to address the fast-changing tech landscape, for direct application in the business of government. The Digital Academy offers blended learning and also emphasises applied learning.

9.    There are three outcomes that the Digital Academy seeks to achieve – First, deepening capabilities amongst ICT professionals in the Public Service. Second, ensuring a foundational level of digital knowledge and appreciation amongst all public officers. And finally, increasing confidence among our public sector leaders to lead the necessary digital transformation in our agencies.

10. For public sector ICT officers, The Digital Academy will become their primary platform for deepening their technical knowledge and their capabilities. Since the launch of the Digital Government Blueprint in 2018, we have taken concrete steps towards improving the ability of the public sector to attract, develop, and retain officers with digital skills. We have implemented the ICT Competency Framework for public officers in technical roles to identify development opportunities, help them gain new skills, take on a different role, and share with peers within the same functional cluster. We have also used and developed assessment tools to help us along the digitalisation journey. Examples include the Digital Maturity Index and Ministry Family Digitalisation Plan.

11. The success of the Digital Academy will also rest on partnerships with leaders in industry, academia and government. Our ICT professionals will enhance their learning through an open platform that combines the latest knowledge with practical insights into public sector applications. To date, the Academy has signed Memorandums of Understanding with nine industry thought leaders as Content Partners, namely Amazon Web Services, Coursera, Google, Microsoft, QlikTech, Secure Code Warrior, SingTel TrustWave, Tableau and ThoughtWorks.

12. By working with the capability centres within GovTech in areas such as digital infrastructure, data science and AI, and cybersecurity, The Digital Academy will become a community for practitioners by practitioners to share experiences and expertise, lessons and insights across all our ICT officers. Our estimate is that that over 6,600 ICT officers can benefit from advanced Digital Academy courses that are already available, ranging from building large-scale cloud systems, to data visualisation, and secure coding practices.

13. Building a digitally capable Public Service can be traced back 40 years ago to the establishment of the National Computer Board in 1981. One of the goals at that time was to implement the computerisation of the Civil Service, by teaching public officers basic computer literacy and automating government services. In shifting our reliance from paper documents and fax machines towards email and the Internet, the Public Service not only became more efficient, but was also better equipped to evaluate, lead, and implement subsequent digitalisation efforts.

14. The context of today is different from 1981, but the challenge to understand digital technologies and apply them in the public sector remains similar. The Digital Academy - in collaboration with the Public Service Division and the Civil Service College (CSC) - will help equip you with a foundational set of digital skills that are increasingly indispensable, such as data analytics and cybersecurity. The skillsets and mindsets developed through these courses will contribute towards the larger goal of Public Sector Transformation in order to keep the Public Service relevant and agile in an increasingly digital-first environment.

15. The Digital Academy will also support learning for our public sector leaders, providing them with tech knowledge and skills to lead digital transformation in the government. Data security, Agile development, and machine learning are increasingly part of the language used in the Public Service, and the leadership need to be familiar with these issues.

16. We hope that public officers from all backgrounds and positions will be able to benefit from The Digital Academy. Please sign up for one or more of the 95 programmes available by end of March 2022. And then actively apply the knowledge or skills gained in your daily work and better still, teach and transfer what you have learned to others in your team.

17. Finally, congratulations to GovTech and The Digital Academy team, the Academy’s Operations Partner, the Institute of Systems Science at the National University of Singapore. We are grateful for their enthusiastic partnership and support, as well as that of the nine Content Partners onboard, for today’s official launch. To everyone, I hope that you will participate actively in the learning festival taking place from this afternoon until the end of this week. Have a great week and take care! 

Last updated on 27 Jul 2021