How do you use technology to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
I lead the newly-minted Government Technology Agency of Singapore or GovTech. We were set up as part of the restructuring of the erstwhile Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).
GovTech takes over IDA’s role as the Singapore government’s CIO and will also focus on developing citizen-centric digital products and services to transform public service delivery, as well as build the common infrastructure and systems to facilitate Singapore’s Smart Nation vision.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2016?
One of the most exciting areas that my team in GovTech has been working on is the advanced use of Data Analytics to improve decision making, planning and problem solving in government. To date, the team has worked on analytics that has affected social policies, detected fraud and potential wrongdoing, built data-driven platforms like Virtual Singapore, and helped to solve issues like the Circle Line train disruptions.
We also do a lot to promote the open data movement, sharing data and open APIs through our platforms such as data.gov.sg. For 2017, we are developing our machine and deep learning capabilities to do more in the area of video analytics, unstructured data and cognitive assistance with chatbots and other AI-related tools.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2017?
Artificial intelligence is going to be huge in the private and public sectors by automating knowledge work.
For example, in the government, there are still some menial processes that do not add value to the work of public officers. The use of AI in areas of work such as call centre functions and basically anything that requires keying in, rather than immediately pulling out information, will be beneficial to public officers.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2016, what would it be?
2016 was a busy year for me and my team – facilitating the smooth transition to GovTech, making sure that the Smart Nation movement continues to grow, showing value in and being prepared to disrupt public service delivery. One thing I’ve learnt is to never doubt what is possible.
Who is your hero and why?
My heroes are the many humble, hardworking and dedicated teammates I have found in the Singapore public service – including my own officers – who go about their work with a strong commitment to excellence. I am amazed at how rarely they think what they do is remarkable, even when it is.
Public officers work long hours to make our nation tick, teach our children, build our urban habitat, make sure people get to work on time, and keep crime in check. They do exercise a great deal of creativity and ingenuity to solve problems to make lives better for citizens. In their own quiet ways, public servants are the unsung heroes, forming an important pillar of Singapore’s social and economic development.
And finally, if you could recommend us one place to eat, where would it be?
I am a huge fan of UberEats, Food Panda and Deliveroo, which have used technology to successfully disrupt the F&B industry, providing more choices and better quality food, to Singaporeans, even those hosting guests at home.
This is a great example of how technology can add value to an industry that is not traditionally perceived as high-tech.