Jeanette Kwek, Deputy Director, Strategic Futures, Ministry of Defence, Singapore

Women in GovTech Special Report 2019.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizen lives? Tell us about your role or organisation. As part of the strategic foresight team at the Ministry of Defence, my job is to spot emerging global trends and challenges, and help the ministry prepare for disruptions ahead. What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019? Diving deep into the conversation about ethics and regulation in the development and deployment of AI, in both the private and public sector, and thinking about some implications for AI’s use in the military domain. What is the best thing you have experienced in your career? Wow, can I have a top ten list? The best thing is being able to work with a group of truly exceptional public officers who are wholly committed to a better future for Singapore. The second best thing was being able to participate in two large-scale, inter-agency scenario exercises during my time at the Centre for Strategic Futures. If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be? Stick to your goals – both at the level of grand strategy, and also in your personal life. Slow and steady does sometimes win the race, after all. I was particularly inspired by some young – and female! – futurists I met in Europe earlier this year. They have all done amazing things by sticking to their goals. What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020? It has become a trope to say we are at an inflexion point in history. I’m particularly keen to look beneath the surface hype, understand how we got to where we are, and use that to understand where we might be going in 2020 and beyond. What are your priorities for 2020? Read more history. To misquote Winston Churchill, the further back I look, the further forward I hope to see. I find I know just about enough about the past to recognise when there might be echoes of it in the future, but not enough to see what those echoes may be. I hope to change that in 2020! What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020? Professionally, I am looking at how to more closely integrate foresight work with strategy and policy, within the Ministry of Defence but also more broadly in public service. I tend to think of the practice of foresight as spotting the next “what”, and thinking through the “so whats”. However, working on foresight in MINDEF has also taught me the value of developing the “now whats”, to spur action in response to insights drawn from foresight work. What has been your fondest memory from the past year? Having my first experience of Primary One as a parent in the rear-view mirror! But seriously, the highlight of 2019 has to be the Foresight Conference held by the Centre for Strategic Futures in July 2019, and the celebration of its tenth anniversary on the sidelines. It was a wonderful opportunity for many good friends among the local and international foresight community to reconnect.