Elizabeth Tan, Deputy Director, International Cyber Policy Office, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore, Singapore

By Yun Xuan Poon

Women in GovTech Special Report 2021.

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

I oversee the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore’s (CSA) international engagements with foreign partners, including those in government, international organisations, and think-tanks. One of my key focus areas is to coordinate and develop a whole-of-government approach to support Singapore’s participation in the United Nations (UN) international cyber policy discussions under the First Committee (1C). This is an exciting time for such international cyber discussions given the accelerated pace of digitalisation arising from Covid-19, which has seen an increase in the cyber threats and corresponding awareness on the importance of cyber security.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?

A key project was the successful conclusion of the two complementary processes of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) under the UN1C in the first half of 2021, culminating in the issuance of their consensus reports. This is a significant milestone for several reasons.

Firstly, the previous iteration of the GGE from 2016 to 2017 did not issue a consensus report due to disagreements amongst the cyber experts; supporting CSA’s chief executive as Singapore’s representative to the GGE and where Singapore was a member of the GGE for the first time, and seeing the process come to fruition after intense discussions from 2019 to 2021, was very fulfilling.

Secondly, the OEWG saw, for the first time, participation by all 193 UN member states in international cyber discussions. Being able to secure consensus amongst the 193 member states was no easy feat, and I am glad for the opportunity to be able to drive the thinking that supported the Singapore delegation’s participation in the OEWG.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021?

Having the right and positive attitude will get you through the difficult times, whether it is due to stress from work, or coping with the pandemic situation.

What’s your favourite memory from the past year?

Visiting Washington D.C. again, as it was my first official trip upon the establishment of the Vaccinated Travel Lane, and being back to the Pentagon after more than a decade.

What are your priorities for 2022?

Work wise, to resume overseas duty safely for my team. International collaboration is a key part of my job; while Zoom meetings are good stop-gap measures to keep up the engagements with our foreign counterparts, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting and soaking in the culture and ground dynamics when we travel to meet these key international partners.

Personally, to work on maintaining a zen state of mind – which will be important to help to cope with the increasing tempo at work, and keep good relationships with family, friends, and colleagues.

Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you?

Former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. He personifies what a good leader means to me – intellectual and well-read, humble and down-to-earth, and who believes in doing the right thing for the nation.

What gets you up in the morning?

The excitement of not knowing what new issues might crop up at work today, given the unique nature of cyberspace, which requires cross-sectoral, cross-boundary, and multi stakeholder collaboration.