Members of the Digital Readiness Council and the Digital Readiness Network,

Mr Wong Wai Meng, Chairman of SG Tech,

Mr Saw Ken Wye, Immediate Past Chairman of SG Tech,

Partners from the industry,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

         A very good evening to all of you. First let me say that I am very happy to join you this evening at this annual tech industry event to recognise the achievements and contributions of our companies. This is my second year of attending this event, and I am always very struck by the strong support and the level of energy that is always at this gathering. The tech industry is at the forefront of our national effort to digitally transform our economy and to enhance the way we do business. From borderless transactions to more personalised services, digital technology has the potential to enrich our lives and unlock new opportunities to propel our economy.

2          It is therefore significant that tonight we are celebrating both the tech industry trailblazers who challenge the limits of what is possible through the use of technology, as well as those organisations who have been committed to creating a digitally inclusive Smart Nation. Our Smart Nation vision has three important pillars: Digital Government, Digital Economy and a Digital Society, and we need all three to be strong in order to succeed our overall ambition. For the first time, we will be presenting the Digital Participation Pledge Awards to recognise those who champion digital readiness, as well as the Student Techblazer Awards to recognise the next generation of innovators.  Indeed, I understand that our youngest finalists tonight are just 15 years-old! That is a remarkable achievement, well done.

3          I am told that there were many excellent submissions for the Awards this year from businesses of all sizes, across different sectors and stages of digitalisation.  That is indeed how it should be, because we want to be able to galvanise the entire breadth and depth of our economy in this larger effort. What tonight’s winners have in common is their pursuit of solutions and services that benefit society.  Innovation is not an end in itself. It is a means to enable our businesses and people to seize opportunities, benefit from the digital economy, and ultimately improve all our lives.

Purposeful Innovation

4          BioMind’s use of deep learning technology to analyse a large range of MRI and CT images is an example of how purposeful applications of Artificial Intelligence can significantly improve service delivery and precision across industries.  On average, doctors require about an hour to analyse and diagnose neurological conditions.  By going through and providing a report and recommended diagnosis within seconds, Biomind’s use of AI provides diagnostic accuracy and saves precious time for both doctors and patients.

5          Innovative technology can also improve our lived environment.  NParks’ digital database of all our trees, which includes information such as tree health, allows for the use of analytics and modelling to support in managing the over two million trees in our nature reserves and parks.  This means a safer and more pleasant Garden City for us to enjoy.

6          This drive for purposeful innovation extends also to our young tech entrepreneurs.  One project stood out for me.  Instead of using AI to create an end product, students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design created a data platform, Bifrost, which allows AI engineers to create and access high-quality artificial datasets to train autonomous vehicles, robots and drones. This directly addresses the most time-consuming and expensive step in building AI solutions – collecting real data.

7          As recipients of the Techblazer Awards, all the award winners challenge conventional thinking to bring digital solutions to their customers and stakeholders.  You have been rigorously assessed by the judging panel, and this national-level award is an affirmation of the strides that you have made.  I am glad that last year’s winners also are doing well, boosted by the endorsement from their Techblazer awards.  You will hear later about how two of our 2018 winners are now collaborating on a joint project, and we would like to nurture and catalyse more of such collaborations.

8          I would also like to acknowledge our partners in SGTech and other trade associations and chambers (TAC).  Building a digital Singapore is a whole-of-nation effort and you are important catalysts for our innovation efforts.  The partnership between Government, our TAC partners and companies is invaluable in shaping the ecosystem and supporting our home grown businesses.  Through your networks, the sharing of best practices and expertise has helped our companies gain a strong footing from which to build their efforts to scale and internationalise.  We thank you for your contributions and look forward to many more years of fruitful collaborations.

Inclusive Digitalisation

9          To be truly purposeful, digitalisation and innovation must be inclusive.  It must reach out to all segments of society.  Even as we look ahead to innovative solutions that benefit society, we can only advance as a nation if every citizen is able and confident to participate in a digital Singapore, regardless of their education, age and background.  It falls upon all of us, especially those with the know-how, to make sure that every Singaporean is digitally equipped to enjoy the benefits of technology.  One of the most memorable experiences I have had is watching students from our Polytechnics and Institutes of Technical Education conduct one on one clinics with older Singaporeans, literally running a Digital Clinic.  I could see that our older generation of Singaporeans were very keen to learn, and our younger generation feel very empowered.

10          As we move forward on this digitalisation journey, we do risk leaving some people behind.   As employers, providers of goods and services, and community support groups, you are well-positioned to contribute and make a difference.  This is why we launched the Digital Participation Pledge this year, with a goal of having the collective strength of 3,000 organisations by 2021 committed to building an inclusive digital society.  I believe that this is achievable because of the strong support we have from the Singapore Business Federation and the various TACs, the National Council of Social Services and the public agencies, who are all strong advocates of this movement.  I think if we unleash this collective potential, we can truly have a profound impact in our society, even as we seek to make a difference in our economy.

11          Today we already have a very diverse group of close to 900 organisations on board. Our tech organisations, banks and businesses have stepped forward, and I am heartened to see social service organisations, too, committing to the pledge. Organisations such as YMCA,Fei Yue and TOUCH Community Services have taken meaningful steps to help their beneficiaries become more digitally ready.  It is also encouraging that community partners like Radin Mas and Tanjong Pagar Community Clubs have joined in and are reaching out to the community, especially those who are less familiar with technology and may be left behind in the digital movement.  From workshops to well-designed apps – such as one that allows seniors to consult a doctor remotely – I thank all who have joined the movement, made a contribution and made a difference.  This commitment of the people, private and public sectors is a promising start to this important journey.  Every effort, big or small, is significant and I want to encourage more organisations to come forward and take on the Digital Participation Pledge.

12          It is apt, at this juncture, that I recognise the organisations that have taken exemplary steps towards fulfilling their pledges.  The Digital Participation Pledge Awards nominees have run digital literacy programmes for employees and customers, developed digital services with differently abled users in mind, and provided digital non-natives with the confidence and impetus to go digital through community activities, among other initiatives.  Their efforts have brought many from the side-lines into the mainstream of our national digitalisation journey.

13          Let me again extend hearty congratulations to all of tonight’s award recipients.  Whether it is in the business domain, the social domain, or an interaction of the two, I think you have all made a major contribution. I hope many more will step forward and join us in this important effort, and that your accomplishments inspire others to innovate and empower the rest of society to participate, shape and benefit from our digital future, together. Thank you.