How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
I oversee the Sector Transformation Group in the Infocomm Media and Development Authority, where we aim to accelerate digitalisation across industries and businesses, to grow Singapore’s digital economy.
We work across an incredibly diverse range of industry clusters such as modern services, trade and connectivity, lifestyle and the built environment. We also provide step-by-step support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) under the SMEs Go Digital Programme. In turn, this creates new demand-side opportunities for our tech companies. One Minister called us the “Chief Digital Officer for businesses” and I think this sums up very well how we see ourselves as a partner who works closely with businesses, government agencies and unions.
A good example of a partnership we have built, is the Locker Alliance for Singapore. We just launched the pilot on 7 December in Punggol and Bukit Panjang, so that HDB residents living in these areas can get their parcels delivered to a locker that is within 250m of their apartment or at MRT stations along their commute. This takes away the inconvenience of missing a parcel or having to wait at home for it. It makes logistics deliveries more efficient and improves the job for delivery workers. To enable this, we created an interoperable digital platform that enables different locker networks, e-commerce websites and logistics service providers to connect together so that we do not have duplicate locker infrastructure.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2018?
In late 2018, IMDA launched Services 4.0 – a new vision for how we see the future of services for Singapore, as the services sector accounts for more than 70% of our GDP and workforce. This was the result of a refreshed technology roadmap which identified key shifts in the technology landscape in the next 3 to 5 years. Going beyond efficient self-service models, we envision that Singapore can take the lead in delivering next-generation services that are end-to-end, frictionless, empathic and anticipatory to customers’ needs.
It is about putting people at the centre – how do we harness technology for more fulfilling work; how can we enable businesses to innovate more nimbly; and how can we deliver superior experiences for customers and citizens?
A key shift that we see for the technology ecosystem is towards Cloud Native Architecture. This will provide easier access to emerging technologies that make it more cost-effective and scalable for companies, and meet customers’ needs in a more agile manner. It is also aligned with GovTech’s roadmap for the Singapore Government TechStack. We are just at the beginning of this journey and we look forward to co-creating and making Services 4.0 a reality in the next few years.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2018, what would it be?
I joined IMDA in June, so this advice is about navigating new organisations. Look out for people who can be your advisors and mentors to share about organisation and people dynamics, as it can be very helpful for understanding why things are currently the way they are.
“Look out for people who can be your advisors and mentors.”
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2019?
Human-machine collaboration is an area that I will be exploring further, because it is about how organisations can re-engineer business processes and re-invent how they are structured. Technology is here to augment people. With good deployment of technology, we can bring together the best of human ingenuity, social skills and teamwork, with the speed, scale, and quantitative processing capabilities of machines.
This is part and parcel of the Services 4.0 journey. For instance, one company showed us that they have equipped many of their employees including those with a non-technical background, with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) skills, so that they can develop simple bots to take away a lot of the more manual and repetitive processes. Then they integrated these “bot-colleagues” into their organisational chart so that human managers also have organisational accountability for training the bots, knowing what they do and keeping them updated.
What are your priorities for 2019?
A priority is how we can further digitalise our business ecosystem, especially B2B processes. We started this in 2018 with e-invoicing, on how we can remove these paper transactions and enable companies to transact electronically with a common standard. While it seems mundane, the benefits for business productivity and the environment are huge. One large company told us that they process 6 million paper invoices annually – which works out to 200 metres of paper!
We will also look at enhancing the SMEs Go Digital programme and make going digital even easier for companies. One target group is companies which are just starting up, so that they can go digital from day one and scale more rapidly. With more businesses in our ecosystem being more digital, this will make it easier for all businesses to work with one another and for new technology solutions to spread rapidly.
What is one skill that has helped you the most throughout the course of your career?
Begin with the end in mind, and be flexible about how to get there. This merges two sayings that I took on board early on in my career.
The first on “begin with the end in mind” is one of the seven habits in Stephen Covey’s bestseller 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This was the first course that I attended in my first job, and I’ve found it very helpful to get everyone to think about what we are trying to achieve together and be clear on what the common goal is. It is also useful to extend thinking beyond innovative pilots to figuring out what has to be done at scale in order to achieve real impact for the economy and society.
While the end destination may be clear, one should not be overly fixated on the path to get there, especially when operating in a complex, ambiguous space with rapid changes in technology. The analogy one of my former bosses gave is that about firing at a target. If the target is clear in broad daylight, you can aim and fire. However, if it is dark in a foggy night, you may want to fire a tracer bullet first; see where it is going, and then aim and keep adjusting.
What advancements do you predict will happen in your field in the next ten years?
The IMDA Services and Digital Economy Technology Roadmap has a list of 9 technology trends. These include pervasive AI adoption, empathic and cognitive AI, man-machine collaborations, natural technological interfaces, codeless development tools, seamless services enabled by XaaS, matured cloud deployment, blockchain and the API economy.
Coffee, yoga, music… what powers you through your day?
I like to start the day off with a cup of coffee, and end it at night with a short walk with my husband around our neighbourhood, after the kids have gone to bed.