How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

Singapore has been an early adopter of technology in making trade easier for our businesses. Our national single window, TradeNet, was launched some 30 years ago in 1989 and it was the world’s first. In 2007, TradeXchange was launched to house commercial trade services under one roof.

With the trade ecosystem being increasingly digitalised, we needed a new trade platform that can synergise and streamline both trade-related business-to-business and business-to-government processes to help our businesses improve productivity, boost competitiveness and create opportunities. This was how the Networked Trade Platform (NTP) was born.

The NTP is a transformational platform. It is built as a one-stop trade and logistics ecosystem to support digitalisation efforts and connect players across the trade value chain – in Singapore and abroad. It aims to provide the foundation for Singapore to be a leading trade, supply chain and trade financing hub.

As the Director of the Networked Trade Platform Office, I am on a mission to drive change, help build digital trade, and grow the international trade ecosystem.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2018?

The most exciting highlight of 2018 for me has to be the Official Launch of NTP on 26 September 2018, not the event itself per se but what it represents. The NTP is a culmination of four years of co-creating and innovating with our various partners – government agencies, industry players, and the trading and banking communities. Since 2014, the team engaged with more than 400 individuals and 200 organisations across multiple industries to listen to their business needs and pain points. It was with this feedback that the team started out to build the NTP to digitalise the trade process.

Today, a single trade can involve over 25 parties, generating 30 to 40 documents, and up to 70% of the information needs to be manually re-entered at least once. There is immense value in stitching together these disparate “digital islands” – traders can have a complete view of their transactions, and achieve greater productivity and efficiency gains.

As an open innovation platform, the NTP brings together different stakeholders across the trade and logistics supply chain to help traders uplift their capabilities. To date, about 25 value-added services (VAS) are available on the NTP and we are actively growing the community of VAS providers. Our team continues to seek feedback and work with our partners to co-create solutions, such as the development of a multi-bank trade finance application portal that will be launched next year.

Trade is inherently cross-border and we are enhancing our digital linkages to support cross-border trade. For instance, we are working with China Customs to link up our single window systems to facilitate trade declarations and smoothen trade flow for businesses, and the Customs Administration of the Netherlands on a proof of concept to achieve greater connectivity in trade regulatory processes by leveraging on technology.

Going forward, we are working towards greater and more seamless connectivity with business platforms and our trading partners around the world. Our vision is for the NTP to be a truly global network to enable the efficient and secure flow of goods and services.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2018, what would it be?

My number one piece of advice is to “Be Open, Collaborate, and Innovate”. In this new digital economy, we will become irrelevant if we remain risk-averse and do not get out of our comfort zone to try new ways of doing things. Sector boundaries are blurring as new cross-cutting business models arise. Companies and government agencies need to leverage technologies, experiment, and get out there to provide cross-cutting solutions to better serve the needs of the trading community.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2019?

We have seen a rise in tech buzzwords – Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Internet of Things (IOT), Big Data, Predictive Analytics, and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). My interest is in how these technologies will converge to deliver new value creations and how they will affect the nature of our work. In particular, I am keen to see how DLT, coupled with AI and IOT, can deliver new opportunities for the trade and trade finance sectors. The challenge for us is how can we keep ourselves updated and use these technologies to our advantage.

What are your priorities for 2019?

Now that we have launched the NTP with over 1,100 user companies, our immediate priority is to quickly help them deepen their usage of the various VAS so that they can stay competitive and uplift their capabilities. We are also looking forward to acquire a group of like-minded partners to identify new opportunities and enhance the NTP’s value proposition. This will be an ongoing journey of digitalisation.

What is one skill that has helped you the most throughout the course of your career? How have your previous experiences helped you in your current role?

Throughout my career, I have taken on a variety of roles in areas that ranged from policy-making and regulatory functions, to industry development in the trade and logistics sectors and advisory to foreign governments on digital transformation strategies. I am glad that these roles have equipped me with a wide spectrum of skill sets and experiences that are applicable to my current role.

What advancements do you predict will happen in your field in the next ten years?

International trade and finance flows have characterised the economy of the 20th century. In recent years, these flows have flat-lined or even declined, while cross-border data flows around the world soared. The growth of data flows has been enabled by a slew of technological advancements, which allowed data and information to flow rapidly across borders.

People transact and communicate in near-real time regardless of where they are. Businesses draw on these data to gain exposure to trends, ideas, research, technologies, and best practices that enhance their competitiveness, innovation and efficiency.

Looking forward, I believe that data flows will continue to increase, and this is where digitalisation and digital data will power the new economy.

Coffee, yoga, music… what powers you through your day?

There is nothing as refreshing and relaxing as a cup of hot tea. It is my favourite drink by a long way and I look forward to having one every day. Stopping for a minute to sip a cup of hot tea helps clear my mind. My best times at home are bonding with my family over a cup of tea and a piece of matcha chiffon cake.