How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
I have had the privilege to take on several roles within the Singapore public sector, from policy to governance and compliance, to enterprise development where we hit the ground and work closely with our SMEs and start-ups to build new capabilities.
Having interacted with so many local businesses in the course of my work and witnessing first-hand their passion, creativity and dedication, small businesses have a special place in my heart. Fun fact: SMEs make up 99% of all businesses and hire seven in 10 workers in Singapore. They are the backbone of our economy!
Currently, I am with the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) in Singapore, and specifically with the Government Digital Services (GDS) team. Here, our mission is to harness the power of technology to improve the lives of citizens and businesses. At GDS, we build tech for public good, and have developed a wide range of products to deliver citizen-centric government services and support Singapore’s public sector transformation.
My team looks after the Business Grants Portal (BGP), which is a Whole-of-Government platform that allows local businesses to search and apply for government business grants in one place. With the BGP, SMEs can easily access the full suite of incentives available to them, regardless of which public agency is administering it. They will be able to manage them in a common dashboard, and enjoy shorter application forms.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?
Every day here is fun-filled and exciting! We would be having interview sessions with our business users to get user experience insights on one day. The next day, we could be meeting with partner agencies to discuss plans to launch a new incentive for SMEs.
Being in the government, where we need to be responsive to the evolving needs of businesses, change is the only constant! So far, no two days have been the same!
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?
Definitely the people! I am blessed to be constantly surrounded by passionate, motivated people who are driven by purpose and love what they do! I also feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to try out different roles in my career, and to find my passion at the intersection of business, public good and tech.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“Treat it like it’s yours and someday it will be.” Translation: act like an owner of your team or business, rather than just an employee who works here, and great things will happen! This is an attitude that I try to embody, and it has served me well and powered me through hard times.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?
I am interested in predictive analytics and machine learning, specifically in introducing more of such elements into our government services.
In the context of BGP, we have now achieved our objective to improve businesses’ accessibility to government grants. What would be interesting is if we can make use of predictive analytics to nudge businesses towards certain incentives based on their past behaviours, peer benchmarking, and future strategic plans.
Likening it to what Steve Jobs used to say, “Consumers don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Similarly, we can inspire businesses too if we show them the right possibilities at the right time.
What are your priorities for 2020?
As the BGP continues to grow, my priorities for 2020 will be to ensure its long-term sustainability and relevance. This means two things. Firstly, there will always be new incentives coming on board to support our strategic objectives, and we need a way to do it cheaper, better and faster. The team is now piloting an approach that will allow us to automate this process in a low-code manner, so that new grants can be launched in a shorter turnaround time, and with minimal effort.
Secondly, as new codes are added, inefficiencies and bloat will inevitably arise and tech chores must be addressed. It is important that we keep housekeeping at top-of-mind so that our system remains efficient and clean.
On a more personal level, I would like to develop my coaching skills. Increasingly, coaching is becoming integral to the fabric of a learning culture in organisations, including GovTech. To be a good coach would be beneficial both to myself and to the people around me.
What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?
I actually graduated from business school, so I do not have any coding background. I have recently embarked on a part-time specialist diploma in web development to pick up some basic HTML, Java and Python skills. I am looking forward to graduating in 2020!
What has been your fondest memory from the past year?
That would have to be joining GovTech in January this year! It has been an exciting and fulfilling journey, and I’m looking forward to more fun times ahead. Another memory that comes close was when our team spent a day in Johor Bahru bonding, eating and playing laser tag!