“Our Digital Singapore”
Members of the MCI Family
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 Good afternoon. Let me first start by welcoming all of you to MCI’s Workplan Seminar 2019. Much has happened over the past year, and this Workplan is an opportunity to share with you on some of the things that have been happening, some of the things we want to work on, and the broad frame in which we are approaching that.
2. We have done significant work within our community. On 1 January 2019, we switched over from analogue free-to-air signals, and transitioned fully to Digital TV. This was a major outreach effort by the entire MCI family, with IMDA working with its volunteers CSA, NLB and MCI staff. The National Archives celebrated its Golden Jubilee, and we witnessed the opening of the revamped National Archives building at Canning Rise.
3. In the Digital space, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Cyber Attack on SingHealth’s Patient Database concluded its work. Its recommendations have been accepted by the Government and are in the process of being implemented. The Cybersecurity Act came into force, including a code of practice to govern the protection of Critical Information Infrastructure across 11 sectors. The Protection Against Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act was passed and we are now working towards its implementation. We also introduced Digital Defence as the sixth pillar of our overall Total Defence strategy in a digital age.
4. On the international front, we unveiled the Model AI Governance Framework at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, a framework intended to guide businesses in the adoption and use of Artificial Intelligence in their operations. We worked with our ASEAN neighbours to develop the ASEAN Framework for Digital Data Governance and also the Framework to minimise the harmful effect of fake news.
5. MCI worked with MTI to initiate trilateral talks with Chile and New Zealand on a Digital Economy Partnership Agreement to set new standards to support trade in the digital age. The National Library Board signed an MOU with the Turkish National Library and the State Archives of Turkey to facilitate cooperation in archival and heritage work. This is part of a larger effort we have in MCI to build more bridges, not just in the industry or the economy, but also to build up a larger ecosystem of friends and supporters through the work of our library and archives.
6. So it has been an eventful year. Looking ahead, two key issues loom large. First is the trade tension between US and -China. It is an issue that ebbs and flows but it is safe to say that it will remain in the background for some time to come. Second, is the rapid advancement of technology and its impact on our industries and jobs. This has been a major backdrop to a lot of the discussions we are having in MCI and in the Government.
7. We cannot predict how exactly these will pan out and affect us. What we can say with certainty is: these issues underscore the importance of focusing on our fundamentals – the skills of our workforce, the capabilities of our enterprises, and the diversification of our economy. We have to be able to respond to unanticipated twists and also seize unexpected opportunities as we move forward.
8. We are now in a digital-as-usual age. Smart Nation Innovation Week – which was very well attended by 18,000 delegates – brought home the message loud and clear – how digitalisation has disrupted governments, businesses, the workplace, and the lives of individuals.
9. Digitalisation is here to stay, and we must accept and adapt to this new reality. The MCI family plays a key role in this national effort. We are enhancing our regulations and strengthening our infrastructure to support the digital economy. We are also reaching out to every enterprise, big or small; every worker, regardless of his or her industry or technical background; every citizen, regardless of his age or education level, so that we can bring all of them into this overall national effort.
10. We want to build a digital economy where every business is digitally empowered, every worker is digitally skilled and every citizen is digitally connected. This is our overall vision for an inclusive digital Singapore that brings benefits for all Singaporeans.
11. Others are already doing this. I was in China last week to pay a visit to their tech companies, and learnt about the technological advancements they are making. I visited UBTech Robotics, a start-up tech company that has become one of the largest consumer robot makers in the world, specialising in artificial intelligence (AI) and service robots that ease the day-to-day operations of businesses and homes. I also met technopreneurs from Ehang, who invented the world’s first passenger drone, and are making waves in the Urban Aerial Mobility industry. The use of technology, and the way it is being applied in very innovative ways, is something that is rampant across the world. Others are moving fast, and we need to as well.
12. We are not new to such challenges. Singapore has been through many changes in the past, be it industrialisation, automation, internationalisation. As a small, open economy, Singapore has nurtured the instincts to be flexible, adaptable and stay relevant. Digitalisation poses fundamental and far-reaching challenges. We must bring about a quantum change in the way we do things, and not just incremental shifts, if Singapore is to successfully ride the wave of digitalisation.
13. Today I would like to speak on the work that we in the MCI family are doing, working together with our partners, to transform our economy by strengthening Singapore’s digital ecosystem. We are doing this by developing our industries; identifying new areas of growth; investing in infrastructure; enhancing our regulations; and forging international partnerships.
14. We are focused on transforming our infocomm and technology sector. We want to anchor global technology leaders, build local champions, spawn start-ups, and nurture future-ready talent in Singapore. We must build deep capabilities and stay at the forefront of global technology trends, so that we can tap into growing markets and build new solutions that are globally scalable and exportable.
15. Our new Digital Industry Singapore, or DISG, office will work with companies to do this, by addressing their needs for securing talent and market access, building capabilities, and internationalising. An example would be DISG’s collaboration with SAP, one of the world’s largest providers of enterprise application software. Singapore is home to the first SAP Leonardo Centre in Southeast Asia, a digital innovation platform focusing on areas such as AI, analytics, the IOT and blockchain to help their customers to innovate and scale their businesses. Through the centre, SAP collaborates with Singapore-based small and medium ICT enterprises to develop solutions based on SAP technology which they can also scale and sell internationally,
16. DISG is working with companies to capture opportunities in areas like ride-hailing, e-commerce, fintech, cybersecurity, AI and cloud. We are taking a holistic approach in engaging the tech industry and, bringing them into Singapore to create a vibrant ICT ecosystem and exciting career possibilities for Singaporeans. We estimate that ten thousand new jobs will be created over the next three years.
17. Within the tech space, we are also identifying new areas of growth—tapping the full potential of 5G technology. 5G will enable us to build the capabilities of our industries, businesses and workers. We need to move decisively, both on the infrastructure supply side and also the industry use-case demand side, to capture opportunities in 5G applications and services.
18. I shared at Smart Nation Innovation Week the six strategic clusters which we believe have the potential to generate the most value for Singapore1. One of the cluster is the maritime sector, which IMDA is working on together with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, PSA, Singtel and M1 to conduct 5G trials for Smart Port operations. The trials will allow our ports to experiment with cutting-edge technology in areas such as remote crane operations, tele-operations of port equipment and automated ground vehicle port navigation.
19. Overall, the government has set aside $40m to grow the 5G ecosystem in Singapore. That includes developing open 5G test beds, and conducting R&D for 5G in Singapore. We are also investing significantly in R & D in frontier technologies, targeting areas like AI and cybersecurity. We have launched AI Singapore (AISG) – a public-private partnership to anchor deep national capabilities in AI, grow local talent, and build the AI ecosystem in Singapore by looking at actual use cases and application for AI.
20. We are also enhancing our digital infrastructure. One important initiative is our 5G network roll out. IMDA concluded its public consultation yesterday, and has received a good number of responses. I understand the industry welcomes IMDA’s Call for Proposal approach to assigning 5G spectrum, and they have given further suggestions on the overall policy and regulatory framework.
21. IMDA will study these suggestions and continue to engage the industry, to grow the 5G innovation ecosystem and develop policy frameworks that will maximise the value of 5G for the economy and welfare for consumers. IMDA aims to commence the 5G spectrum allocation process by the end of this year and to begin the rollout of 5G infrastructure next year. Ultimately, we want a resilient and secure 5G infrastructure which will serve as the backbone of our digital economy.
22. While the Digital Economy presents opportunities, it also creates a larger attack surface for cyber threats. Singapore will continue to be a target of more sinister threats, like cyber-attacks by Advanced Persistent Threat groups and other threat actors. The Government is working to invest and ensure that our infrastructure, systems and processes remain cyber secure.
23. That is why we set up CSA in 2015 with the objective of strengthening our national cybersecurity capabilities. The Cybersecurity Act was passed in 2018 in tandem with the Cybersecurity Code-of-Practice governing protection of Critical Information Infrastructure, or CII.
24. CSA is now developing a set of Operational Technology guidelines which will be added to the Code of Practice later this year. CII Owners are also required to submit their cybersecurity risk assessment reports and perform detailed cybersecurity audits once every two years. Following the release of the SingHealth Committee of Inquiry (COI) report, CII Owners have been instructed to conduct reviews of their cybersecurity posture against gaps identified during the COI findings, and implement all corresponding recommendations.
25. IMDA too has been working to strengthen resilience in Singapore’s telecoms ecosystem, through efforts such as the setting up of the Telecoms Cybersecurity Strategic Committee. As Singapore gears up for 5G, IMDA will establish a dedicated Telecom Cybersecurity Specialist Team.
26. The team will work closely with CSA and other government agencies, industry partners such as telecom operators and equipment providers to ensure Singapore’s 5G networks are secure by design. In other words, you start thinking about the security of the entire infrastructure ecosystem from the get-go. This is important because the nature of 5G is different—a lot more data flow, computing on-the-edge and essentially the risks are increased even as opportunities are enhanced.
27. This team will develop testbeds to perform cybersecurity vulnerability assessment, cyber exercises and experiment with new and emerging technologies for 5G, all geared towards understanding and strengthening 5G infrastructure. IMDA will also review our other fixed and wireless networks as part of this overall effort, to ensure these are secure, resilient and fit for purpose to support Singapore’s Digital Economy.
28. The part I would like to emphasise is that the Government is also adapting our regulations to keep pace with the changing landscape. In particular, it is about dealing with cross-border data flows and the growth of digital technologies like AI. We need future-ready regulations, a way to understand what these trends mean for us and how can we work with the industry to accommodate them.
29. For example, we are reviewing the Personal Data Protection Act. We are trying to find the balance—where on the one hand, to allow enterprises to harness data so that they can use it legitimately to innovate and produce high quality services. On the other hand, we want to ensure that there are appropriate safeguards and accountability measures. So this is a balance that needs to be struck, and it is a dynamic one. As technology changes and societal expectations change, we will have to adapt to this.
30. There can be a lot of questions and uncertainties about AI. So we are adopting a balanced and pragmatic approach towards AI, with the idea being that we need people to appreciate the potential of AI, demonstrate its application value, but also work on things like the ethical use of AI. How do you demystify AI for the average citizen? So these are some of the efforts that we are working on in parallel.
31. Finally, digital is truly borderless, so we do need to work with partners from around the world. Singapore has led several regional and international initiatives, both in the telecommunications and information spaces, to raise awareness of and build consensus on the rules of responsible State behaviour in cyberspace.
32. In the telecommunications space, we developed an ASEAN Framework for Digital Data Governance in 2018, endorsed at the 18th ASEAN Telecommunications and Information Technology Ministers Meeting in December 2018. This will provide business certainty on digital adoption and innovation. By creating this larger ecosystem within ASEAN, we want to create this possibility where it is not just individual countries but ASEAN collectively, which offers a strong value proposition for digital businesses.
33. In the information space, the ASEAN Ministers have agreed on a framework to minimise the harmful effects of fake news, and adopted a set of core values on digital literacy, at the Fourteenth Conference of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information in May 2018.
34. Internationally, the United Nations has – since 2004 – convened five working groups, called the United Nations Groups of Governmental Experts, or UNGGE, to move cyber discussions forward, and build a multilateral international rules-based order for cyberspace. The UN will be convening the 2019 UNGGE to deliberate on cybersecurity issues and propose norms on responsible State behaviour in cyberspace.
35. I am happy to announce that Singapore is one of seven representatives from the Asia-Pacific that has been invited to participate in the upcoming 25-member UNGGE. So it is a small group of countries involved and that Singapore has been invited to participate speaks to the work that our CSA is doing on the international front. It is also the recognition that is being accorded to what we are doing at the systems level.
36. These concerted efforts are helping our economy to remain connected and competitive, and overall our efforts are being recognised internationally. We emerged as the top digital society in the 2019 Dentsu Aegis Network Digital Society Index study2. It reassures us that we are on the right track even as we recognize that there is much more work to be done.
Why Digital Transformation?
37. But what is the purpose of this Digital Transformation?
38. We want to create more interesting careers and job possibilities for Singaporeans, and exciting opportunities for our businesses big or small.
39. We want this digital transformation to be inclusive. It is not just about digitalising our economy, but making sure our enterprises, our work-force, and all our citizens are able to reap the benefits. We have to ensure that all individuals and companies are well-equipped to participate in and benefit from Singapore’s digital transformation.
40. We will accelerate the digitalisation of our companies, especially our small and medium enterprises (SMEs). SMEs account for 50% of GDP, two-thirds of our workforce, 99% of enterprises and are re an important part of our economy. The work we do with the SMEs will move the needle for the overall economy.
41. We want to make going digital simple for SMEs, through Industry Digital Plans, Pre-Approved Solutions and Digital Consultancies. Earlier this year at Budget, we announced that 4,000 SMEs had digitalised under the SMEs Go Digital programme. These efforts have gained strong momentum. Within 6 months, the number has grown more than 2-fold to 10,000 SMEs, and it continues to rise as more SMEs embrace the idea of digitalisation and come on board. Interestingly, among the SMEs who have recently digitalised, 4,000 are new to digitalisation.
42. Part of this is due to the take up of the Start Digital packs. curated by IMDA and Enterprise Singapore under the SMEs Go Digital programme, to help newly incorporated companies as well as slightly more established ones.
43. The Start Digital programme has been strongly supported by the telcos and the banking industry. This has made a very big difference because telco or financial services are important touch-points for companies as they set-up.
44. With these simple tools, SMEs are able to better manage their business and realise the benefits fully, in terms of productivity and efficiency. One of the example is the San Ho General Cleaning Service Company that is part of UOB’s Start Digital pack effort. San Ho’s owner, Ms Ang Hwee Keng, was thus able to auto-generate her payroll 5 times faster than before, and issue payslips and salary payments a lot faster. She has saved about 4 man days or about 48 hours per month.
45. Regardless of which sector you are in, be it cleaning services or logistics, I think that there is something that will benefit all. We want people to have the requisite skills to take full advantage of the new jobs that are being created. We are working with our industry partners to enhance training and placement opportunities for ICT jobs across the economy. Interest in our TechSkills Accelerator, or TeSA, has been very encouraging. Since April 2016, over 74,000 training places have been taken up or committed.
46. Under the Company Led Training (or CLT) component of TeSA, 39 companies have committed to train across various domains3. MasterCard’s CLT programme enabled Ms Stacey Han, a mother returning to the workforce, to successfully secure a position as a permanent staff after completing 6 months of on-the-job training. The programme helped Ms Han acquire skills as an Analyst in MasterCard under the Product Delivery division, and re-enter the workforce.
47. Other programmes under TeSA have also been successful. Tech Immersion and Placement Programme has seen over 90% of job-seeking trainees find jobs in companies, ranging from start-ups to large enterprises. Many of the courses offered as part of TeSA’s Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme Plus, are in frontier tech areas like AI and Cyber Security. So we are training up our workers to respond to these opportunities to complement what we are doing with the companies as well.
48. We will expand our talent efforts beyond the ICT sector in the coming months. IMDA is collaborating with the Singapore Computer Society to reach out to non-ICT Trade Associations and Chambers to equip their businesses with digital skills and prepare them for a digital economy. For a start, IMDA and SCS are working with TACs in the Legal, Accountancy and Manufacturing sectors on an action plan to upskill professionals in these sectors with digital capabilities.
49. IMDA will also partner SGTech (another TAC) to reach out to local enterprises on TeSA initiatives that can assist them, and make the programme adoption process easier. Leveraging on its strong industry networks, SGTech will also help to foster talent engagements between local hirers and tech talents to meet talent needs and build a vibrant tech community.
50. We must also excite young Singaporeans about the new opportunities in the digital economy. For a start, we are exposing them to the skillsets that are needed. All upper primary school students will go through a 10-hour programme, to develop an appreciation of the core computational thinking and coding concepts through simple visual programming-based lessons co-developed by MOE and IMDA. They will also be exposed to emerging technologies such as AI as part of the programme.
51. CSA will also be launching the Singapore Cyber Youth Programme (or SG Cyber Youth), in collaboration with partners from the cybersecurity industry and academia. The programme will expose secondary to tertiary level students to cybersecurity technical knowledge as well as soft skills, and enable them to explore cybersecurity as their future careers. CSA will reach out to 10,000 youths over the next three years, through training boot camps, competitions, learning journeys and career mentoring sessions.
52. A key initiative will be the Youth Cyber Exploration Programme (YCEP) boot camp, which CSA started with Singapore Polytechnic in 2018. This year, all five local polytechnics have come on board, attracting an excellent response of 400 students from over 30 secondary schools coming together to learn about cybersecurity.
53. More details on SG Cyber Youth will be announced by the end of the year. We have to imbue in our young female students the interest, the energy and confidence that they can do well in cybersecurity. The students that I met at SGD Wonderland were very inspired, and very excited about what we are doing. If that is a measure of what is to come, I think that CSA should be prepared for a lot more women in the workforce!
54. Ultimately, we want our digital economy to make a real difference and impact on our people and the quality of their lives. But how prepared are Singaporeans for the digital future, and are they excited about it? Let’s find out. This video conveys the broader message that we are all at different levels of digital readiness.
55. Digitalisation must be pursued in tandem with efforts to nurture the digital readiness of Singaporeans. Hence, we are launching the Digital Media and Information Literacy Framework, to guide and unify public education efforts in building information and media literacy among Singaporeans. This Framework complements a larger suite of measures aimed at making the digital media and information space safer.
56. Through the Framework and the support of our partners, we want to empower Singaporeans with the know-how to use technology safely and responsibly, and to be discerning producers and consumers of information.
57. For example, one of our partners Mr James Tan, CEO of TOUCH Community Services, says the Framework is a useful reference point for owners of digital literacy programmes, as this will inform the way they curate their programmes in order to reach different segments of society. It covers a broad range of topics that TOUCH can adapt and incorporate in its training programmes.
58. Likewise, Mr Mohammad Faiz Selamat, Executive Director at Mendaki Sense, and Ms Porsche Poh, Executive Director of Silver Ribbon, think that the Framework will be useful for the development of training programmes. We will continue to work closely with programme owners to refresh the Framework, and continue to have this implementation on an ongoing basis.
59. To supplement existing efforts to help the Merdeka Generation be more digitally ready, IMDA will work with the People’s Association to organise 100 Merdeka Generation Digital Clinics island-wide, starting in September 2019, to benefit about 10,000 seniors. These Digital Clinics are part of larger digital inclusion efforts targeted at seniors, and will focus on providing them with foundational digital skills and equipping them with the knowledge to protect themselves from online risks. They will also receive one-on-one assistance on their digital needs where required. The Digital Clinics will complement broad-based initiatives under the Merdeka Generation programmes by incorporating customised initiatives based on the needs of seniors in that locality.
60. There is also an inter-generational transfer element in this. IMDA is also involving youths from the Youth Corp Singapore, ITE and other organisations to volunteer at the Merdeka Generation roadshows to share cybersecurity tips on online safety and other foundational digital skills.
61. Our libraries also play a key role in educating and engaging our citizens to become digitally literate through their wide range of programmes and by harnessing the ideas and energies of our people to help one another. Many of the programmes undertaken by NLB and the team have been quite active and effective in reaching out to the population.
62. NLB is working with corporate and PMET volunteers to help citizens with tech adoption. For instance, as part of the Seniors Tech and Read (STAR) program, volunteers from Standard Chartered Bank have been providing one-to-one assistance to seniors for their library-related info-tech enquiries at Bedok Public Library.
63. Other corporate and student volunteers, as well as officers from public agencies are also stepping forward to lend a helping hand at our Digital Clinics, to assist citizens who come to the libraries with their digital-related queries. The key point is people are coming from different backgrounds and walks of life to participate and contribute.
64. Besides these, PMETs from the community have been coming forward to share their knowledge with the community. Volunteers from Credit Suisse have been conducting monthly workshops on coding in their personal capacity. Also, a 3D Printing and Modelling interest group was initiated and organised by digitally-savvy volunteers from their respective tech industries at our library’s PIXEL Labs.
65. As part of a collaboration between NLB, and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, more than 90 NLB volunteers have been trained to double-up as Smart Nation Ambassadors in June 2019. This is part of our outreach efforts to gear our libraries to be an effective advocate of digitalisation and the movement to learn and acquire skills. Between 29 June 2019 and 28 July 2019, these volunteers will guide and coach the Merdeka Generation on eight whole-of-Government digital apps through a series of “Smart Ah Ma Top Picks” Roadshows.
66. We have been engaging in a whole range of collaborative efforts in our digitalisation journey. We have been working with industry partners, community partners, and various other volunteer groups. All of them have made an important impact in the way we communicate the message of digitalisation. These initiatives are emblematic of the spirit of SG Together where Government goes beyond working for Singaporeans, to working with Singaporeans.
67. Many Singaporeans are now better educated, technologically savvy, and globally-connected. They can contribute and want to contribute to our country. By pooling our resources and capabilities, we can do more and expand our possibilities.
68. At the end of the day, “Our Digital Singapore” must be a Whole-of-Singapore effort. MCI will continue to work closely with our partners, tap on their knowledge, expertise, and influence, to ensure that all citizens fully benefit from the opportunities that the digital economy offers.
69. At this point I want to recognise the support from all our industry and community partners, and our statutory boards, who play a critical role in representing their communities and advancing our shared interests. Strong industry partnerships, and an engaged citizenry are the bedrock of what we are trying to achieve, so as to successfully navigate this transition from where we are today to being plugged into a digital economy. We thank you and look forward to continue working closely together.
70. As we commemorate our Bicentennial this year, it is an opportunity to reflect on how Singapore has navigated the ups and down over the decades and centuries. Each time, we have been able to overcome them and prevail. The reason for that is because there has been a clarity of vision, a shared sense of purpose, and the collective will of all our people to achieve the vision and make it succeed.
71. This time is no different. Digitalisation is a new type of challenge, but the same vision, the same shared sense of purpose, and the same collective will is what I think will make the difference, and gives me the confidence that we can navigate this successfully. Glad that many of you have been able to join us today and I encourage you to share your thoughts and suggestions on how you think MCI can partner you more effectively, enabling our nation to truly thrive in this digital age.
72. Thank you.
1 These are: maritime operations; urban mobility; smart estates; Industry 4.0; Government applications; and consumer applications.
2 Cumulative DSI scores were awarded on three dimensions of dynamism, inclusion and trust.
3 E.g. Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, Cyber Security, Internet of Things, Network & Infrastructure and Software Development.