Gwenda Fong, Assistant Chief Executive, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), Singapore

By Yun Xuan Poon

Women in GovTech Special Report 2020.

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

In my role as the Assistant Chief Executive of the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) in Singapore, I oversee Singapore’s domestic cybersecurity strategy, our international cyber diplomacy, as well as the corporate functions within CSA.
CSA was set up in April 2015, and our core mission is to keep Singapore’s cyberspace safe and secure to underpin our National Security, power a Digital Economy, and protect our Digital Way of Life. As Singapore harnesses technology to improve lives and livelihoods for all, it is critical that our plans are built on a strong foundation of cybersecurity, so that we can reap the benefits of digitalisation while protecting ourselves from the multitude of threats that lurk in cyberspace.

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

One of the more publicly visible initiatives that I worked on this year is the Safer Cyberspace Masterplan that was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on the sidelines of the Singapore International Cyber Week in early-October 2020. This is a significant blueprint that outlines how we plan to raise the general level of cybersecurity of enterprises, organisations, communities and individuals in Singapore.

What is one unexpected learning from 2020?

Always be prepared to question long-held assumptions, because they can change much more quickly than we think! 2020 has been a year that has upended so many long-held beliefs of how the world operates and how we need to organise ourselves to live, work, learn and play.

Also, when we find that our assumptions about the world no longer hold true, we need to quickly adapt to the changing environment. This year has been a crazy one on so many counts, but it has also truly shown that we are more resilient than we might have thought. A silver lining to this year has been witnessing all the different forms of innovation that have arisen in the face of adversity.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?

I am interested in exploring a policy approach to securing emerging technologies such as Internet of Things, Cloud, and Artificial Intelligence. As these technologies become much more prevalent in our smart nation and digital economy, it will be important for us to have a handle on how to better protect our enterprises and individual end users as they adopt these technologies.

What are your priorities for 2021?

I hope to spend more time doing more horizon scanning and foresight work. This is especially important given that we are at an inflexion point in history. How will the global order change over time, and what will be the impact on the tech domain? Cybersecurity is not merely a technical issue and in fact sits at the intersection of geopolitics and technology. In view that both these domains are rapidly changing in this day and age, it is imperative for us to keep our fingers on the pulse of these rapidly evolving domains, so that we can sharpen our own thinking regarding how to keep Singapore cyber secure.

What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in GovTech?

Don’t be afraid! Just follow your passion and interest and somehow your career will find you. 😊

When the opportunity to join CSA first presented itself, I was apprehensive since I don’t have a cybersecurity degree. (When I was in university, cybersecurity was not even a field of study. I studied Electrical Engineering because of a love for math and physics.) But my worries turned out to be unfounded. Since cybersecurity is about keeping technologies safe, we have to constantly learn, un-learn and re-learn to keep pace with technological developments.
So don’t be afraid to take the first step. Just be prepared for a journey of lifelong learning.

Write a message for your future self.

Dear Future Self, do you remember the year 2020? Of course you would. That was the year when many aspects of human activity ground to a halt when Covid-19 spread mercilessly across the globe. In an attempt to contain the pandemic, countries closed their borders, airplanes were grounded, millions around the world were ordered to stay home, and wearing of masks became mandatory in many countries.

Yet, during these unprecedented times, there were things to be thankful about – quality family time, good health, more time for a fitness and exercise routine, more opportunities to discover beautiful pockets of nature right in my backyard.
So whatever challenges you may be going through now, take time to go outside, enjoy nature, look up, breathe in, hug someone you love. There will always be things that are worth being thankful for.