How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
I have been with IHiS for the last decade and lead the 700-strong Infrastructure team in Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS). As the tech agency for public healthcare, we provide technology enablement services to our public healthcare institutions in Singapore.
The infrastructure group comprises a core team in the HQ and various teams that are spread across multiple public healthcare institutions and data centres in Singapore. We provide the enterprise computing services, end user computing services, cloud services, network servers and security services to the end users within the public healthcare in supporting their IT needs. Our mission is to provide the best infrastructure in terms of availability, reliability and performance securely so that our healthcare partners can continue to deliver care 24/7. My team is also the First Line of Defence for our cyber network, and we implement and manage over 120 security measures or controls to shore up the multi-layer cyber defence capabilities of our network over the last 2 years.
The work of our infrastructure team is often not very visible. In fact, we strive to make it so. It will be ideal if the users are not aware that any of our scheduled or adhoc operational activities took place, be it maintenance or upgrading work. Our aim is to provide stable, reliable and resilient services so that patient care services can continue smoothly and medical data is safeguarded.
What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?
Our entire organisation has been focusing a lot of efforts on strengthening our cyber defence capabilities in the past few years to ramp up our defence posture. Given the varied and complex ecosystem within the public healthcare sector, the projects we have been working on have been challenging, especially since we insource a significant portion of it. Several of the measures are also new to the industry and some solutions are also not yet mature, and we need to work with our partners to further enhance the solutions to ensure safe deployment in our public healthcare environment that is “live” 24/7 for minimal disturbance to care delivery.
For instance, I have a team which keeps a close eye on the data exchange between Singapore’s 14 public hospitals using the database activity monitoring technology (DAM) which constantly audits and immediately blocks suspicious activities or unauthorised accesses. In the past two years, DAM has been implemented to more than 200+ databases of public healthcare’s mission-critical systems. With this technology, my team can focus on critical high-risk alerts and respond swiftly in case of any cyber incidents.
What is one unexpected learning from 2020?
Covid-19 has been an unexpected event for everybody. In the early days of the pandemic, I had to pull resources from different teams to support the healthcare operations in various institutions. My teams had to make adjustments fast – from supporting urgent business needs to setting up IT infrastructure, even in carparks, as our healthcare partners had to be creative in availing space to cope with increased demand in screening for the disease.
At the same time, operations were also gathering pace at the Community Care Facilities (CCFs). During the circuit breaker, resources were scarce but demand for healthcare services at the CCFs was rapidly growing. When we needed more computers-on-wheels, I called up my contacts to borrow what I could, moved them into the CCFs and completed the setup within very tight timelines. Intense support for Covid-19 was provided while ensuring that our normal operations were not compromised. Everyone in the team sacrificed their time, working 14-16 hour days, including many nights and weekends, to deliver the rapid increase in demand on our infrastructure, that grew in tandem with the demand on healthcare services and telecommuting needs.
My learning from fighting the Covid-19 war this year is that my team is very resilient. When it comes to a crisis, everyone would pull up their sleeves and work together as one team. We are all in healthcare, and I am proud that no one shied away from the challenges. Together with the frontliners, we provided support behind-the-scenes and put the nation first.
Healthcare is a 365-days and 24/7 operation that never sleeps, and my job is to support it. One needs lots of passion, perseverance and purpose to thrive in this environment, but it is a meaningful role that supports the entire nation.
Personally, I have also learnt to be more resilient at work in 2020. Going through this pandemic has also reminded me to be more people-oriented. I have a big team and this year gave me good opportunities to get to know some of my staff better through conversations on the job since we are spending a lot more time together – I want to empower and grow them where I see opportunities. I also try to engage stakeholders and co-workers more so that we get to know each other better.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?
As technology progresses, I am keen to introduce more automation tools for maintenance works and use artificial intelligence to enhance predictive maintenance capabilities. We have started to automate some processes which include using robotic process automation (RPA) to perform some of our ID administration tasks as well as using tools to execute some of the more mundane server administration tasks. More can be done. Technology is advancing such that it might be able for us to achieve “zero maintenance downtime” in the future – an analogy for it would be to change a plane part while the plane is still in flight – with the necessary safety precautions and redundancies in place. I am keeping a close watch on the developments in this area to see how we can leverage these technologies to improve our productivity in future.
What are your priorities for 2021?
We will continue on our journey to shore up our cyber defences, cloud services and continue to improve our services in 2021 so as to provide cost effective and reliable services to our healthcare clusters. With the infrastructure progressively being enhanced, my focus is to ensure that I have people with the right skills to run and support these systems. I would also reinforce the principle to my team to always “design with failures in mind and put our patient first”. Ensure that there are sufficient redundancies in the systems, and from the risk management point of view, to remember to put our eggs in different baskets.
What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in government technology?
Information Technology is ever changing, you must always have the passion to learn new things, keep yourself updated with the technology and understand the context of the environment you are working in. Build a good support system at work. Communicate with your family so that they understand your nature of work and provide the necessary support.
Write a message for your future self.
In healthcare, whatever I helped to build will not only be creating an impact today – it will also help me in the future. It gives me great satisfaction to see the systems I work on benefit the patients in hospitals. I have been lucky to have the opportunities to work with great bosses and teams throughout my career – do continue to have the passion, reciprocate the kindness and contribute to the One Team that makes up the excellent healthcare system in Singapore.