How do you use tech to improve citizen’s lives? Tell us about your role or organisation
I lead the next generation infrastructure team in IMDA. My team and I look at how we can work with the industry to develop and enhance Singapore’s ICT infrastructure to bring about better connectivity for people and businesses. Some of the projects we have been working on are the nationwide broadband network, Wireless@SG, IOT networks for devices and things, and data centres and platforms.
Good connectivity infra is a key enabler for smart cities and Smart Nation, and fundamental to the deployment of tech for improving lives. It helps on a number of layers: for individuals, this would mean greater convenience and better quality of life; for businesses, connectivity could help create new economic opportunities in sectors such as media, healthcare, logistics and more; and finally, connectivity allows the Government to better manage and run the city by anticipating needs and providing improved services to the people.
Singapore has done pretty well in this area over the years. For example, we have fibre to all homes, with more than 80% of households subscribing to fibre broadband, and Singapore topped the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Index 2016. The challenge is to do better. We are thinking about how to improve coverage, bandwidth and speed, and building new networks that meet new needs.
With IOT and more devices anticipated to be connected, we are looking at how networks and technologies can be deployed to make that happen. And we want to be good partners with the industry – in both the ICT and user sectors – as the Government can’t do this alone.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2016?
Like many of my colleagues in IMDA, 2016 has been exciting because of the formation of IMDA. It has been a great opportunity to learn about a new sector from our colleagues in the media space. With ICT and media coming together as a converged sector, we see possibilities for working on new and exciting things.
For example, we are looking at how future communications infrastructure can support the growth of augmented reality and virtual reality in games and entertainment. More immediately, we have been learning about digital TV broadcast, and seeing how our ICT infra experience can augment the knowledge in the converged team. We also completed a successful HetNet pilot and started on a large expansion plan for Wireless@SG, so it has been a busy year.
On a more personal note, I am grateful to the members of my team – both old and new – for trusting and having the confidence in me as we rode through the peaks and troughs of a very eventful year together. When I look back at 2016, that is one of the highlights of my year.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2017?
With the recent explosion of fake news and misinformation circulating on the various social media platforms, wouldn’t it be great if there is a “bullshit” indicator next to every tweet, post, or piece of news?
Jokes aside, I’m curious to see what technology social media companies like Facebook will use to address this problem. More importantly, I hope users can be more discerning and media-literate when they access online content.
Closer to my area of work, for 2017, I am interested to see the deployment and greater use of LPWAN (Low-Power Wide-Area Network) technology like NB-IoT (NarrowBand IOT) and LoRa. The technology is there and it’s ready. It will make it easier to deploy sensors and collect data that will eventually help agencies and companies improve operations and deliver better services.
I’m also looking forward to working with the industry for greater adoption of IOT tech. For example, through the integration of sensors, data and analytics, buildings can become more sustainable and efficient. With so many of us spending most of our time in buildings, it is also important that they become more comfortable and convenient for us work, live and play in.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2016, what would it be?
It helps to remind ourselves, every once in a while, that we are in the public service to make a positive difference for the people and the country.
Who is your hero and why?
Different people embody different traits that inspire me.
Take my mother for instance – at a ripe old age, she picked up technology and learnt to use Google and email, and was an early adopters of the iPhone, almost 10 years ago. Today, she does her own health and travel research online, translating text from English to Chinese, and actively connects with family and friends around the world on social media. She is independent and a whole (online) world has opened up to her because she had decided to set aside her fear of tech and learn. Every time I see her on her Xiaomi or iPad, I am reminded that we should always be open to new ideas and learning something new.
And finally, if you could recommend us one place to eat, where would it be?
This is a tough one, because Singapore has lots of great food. I love local hawker food and if I have to recommend one stall, it will be a little laksa stall at Tanglin Halt market. For me, this is the best laksa in Singapore. It is what I grew up eating, so I am quite partial. Many others must like it too, since the queues can be quite long! Tanglin Halt is also a charming old HDB neighbourhood to walk around in and explore. The old flats and markets will soon be making way for redevelopment, so visit before they’re gone!