Pairing emerging tech with sustainability and inclusivity

By Huawei

Participants of Huawei’s annual Tech4City competition visited Enabling Village to learn how to empower people with disabilities through innovative tech solutions that are inclusive and accessible.

This year's Huawei Tech4City competition focuses on empowering youths to tackle issues such as sustainability and inclusion. Image: Huawei

A cutting-edge technology, such as artificial intelligence, can also be a double-edged sword.

Alvin Tan, Assistant Director for Independent Living and Caregiver Support Division at SG Enable, shared this advice as he spoke to youths on 21 May at the Huawei Tech4City Dialogue 2024.

Held at Enabling Village, the first inclusive community space in Singapore dedicated to integrating persons with disabilities in society, the dialogue session themed “Empowerment with tech” featured speakers from SG Enable, Singapore Management University (SMU) and Singapore International Foundation (SIF).

“As with all technologies, [AI] can be viewed as a double-edged sword – it can be used for good, it can be used for bad,” said Tan.

“We’re starting to see different applications that are leveraging on AI, however it is very much dependent on the data sets. And these data sets tend to be catered to the majority of people, hence there are inherent biases.”

Developing inclusive, sustainable solutions

The dialogue session was held in conjunction with the third edition of the Huawei Tech4City competition, launched in March, and welcomed participants to consider inclusivity, accessibility and sustainability in the solutions they are developing.

Maxi Wang, Chief Executive Officer of Huawei International, calls the Tech4City competition “a platform for young talents to unleash their creativity and innovation, driving positive change and contributing to Singapore’s digital transformation journey.”

During his presentation, Tan shared that SG Enable, one of the key partners for this year’s Tech4City competition, is the focal agency and first stop for disability and inclusion in Singapore.

It was set up in 2013 and has published resources such as a design playbook for inclusive spaces and an e-accessibility playbook to promote digital inclusion.

Tan also shared that Enabling Village, managed by SG Enable, showcased how universal design, infocomm technology and assistive technology can help enable persons with disabilities to lead fulfilling lives.

He shared the example of Tech Able, which is sited in Enabling Village. It showcases assistive and infocomm technologies, promotes their adoption, and seeks more training and employment opportunities through tech for persons with disabilities.

Collaboration, communication and community

Also speaking at the dialogue was Winston Chow, a Professor of Urban Climate from SMU, who shared his experience of studying climate change and how technology can enable governments to better implement solutions to reduce climate hazard exposure.

Offering his advice to the audience, he highlighted three Cs – collaboration, communication and community – as being keys to success.

In terms of collaboration, he urged the youths to take advantage of the skills sets and knowledge of fellow team members, and to thus utilise the “collective wisdom” of each group.

The Tech4City competition is open to youths aged 18 to 35 in groups of three to six members. This year, it is offering a Grand Prize of SGD20,000 as participants have been invited to ideate and develop solutions under the themes of “AI for Inclusivity” and “AI for Sustainability”.

“This collaboration should also involve other stakeholders outside of your team. Speak to professors like myself, speak to people from the public sector, speak to other people from the private sector … this will be helpful in making sure that the product that you're trying to develop does speak to sustainability to as many people as possible.”

In addition to effective communication, Professor Chow said that “when we talk about solutions we need to make sure that they are… for people, and not technology for technology’s sake. Make sure they resonate with and connect people across different communities.”

Digital upskilling, with sustainability and inclusion

The third speaker of the day was Willoughby Niki Lee, SIF’s lead volunteer for its digital upskilling initiative, DigiLabs.

Noting that most of the youths in the audience are growing up as digital natives at a time when AI is on the rise, he asked how this generation of learners will be able to not only harness digital skills, but also what he called “green” and “care” skills.

“The questions here are, ‘How do we develop these [AI] tools?’ and ‘How do we learn the skills to develop AI solutions which are linked to things like social impact, sustainability, as well as accessibility?’”

Lee said that DigiLabs upskills and prepares youths as well as working professionals for the digital economy. At the same time, it aims to transform learners across Asia from merely digital consumers into active digital creators and multipliers to effect positive change.

“Volunteerism is one way we promote this and we also go through some of these ethical scenarios [in the DigiLabs programme], and get people to think in groups about how they can actually tackle these.”

Touring Enabling Village

The second half of the dialogue session included walking tours of Enabling Village for Tech4City participants, which were led by persons with disabilities.

During the tours, the youths were able to observe the village’s many firsts, including the first inclusive preschool in Singapore and the first inclusive gym.

They also got hands-on experience of some assistive technologies on display at Tech Able, interacted with and were inspired by people of various abilities, and could observe how businesses benefited from the employment of persons with disabilities.

Registration for Tech4City 2024 closes on 9 June. Learn more about Tech4City and register at