Tan Gek Khiang, Deputy Director (Enterprise Architecture), Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore
Women in GovTech Special Report 2016.
How do you use technology to improve citizen's lives. Tell us about your role or organisation.
During my 17 years in public sector, I have taken on different roles and projects. I had the privilege to join IDA (now GovTech) when Singapore was driving e-government transformation to improve services to citizens and businesses and better integration between government agencies' systems. I was part of the team that designed and developed supporting application platforms that help agencies build e-services.
My current governance and architecture role in the Ministry of Home Affairs gives me the opportunity to contribute indirectly to homeland security. The supporting technological capabilities that we build will form the foundation towards a safer Singapore.
As my role requires me to move within different government agencies, it enables me to contribute to improving citizens’ lives in different ways. This gives me a tremendous sense of purpose and meaning in my job, knowing that one way or another, the citizens will benefit from it.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2016?
With so much hype on digitalisation and the transformational opportunities it can bring about, a few colleagues and I put together a tool for others take advantage of digital services. We put together different strategies into a reference model for digital government to help fellow colleagues understand and find digitalisation opportunities for their respective agencies.
The subject itself is an interesting but very broad one as digital transformation can happen anywhere, with different technologies from big data, analytics, IoT to even machine learning and AI.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2017?
The design thinking process is particularly important in identifying and designing user-centric services. Technology would fail its purpose, if not aptly applied to serve its intended audience in a way that is intuitive to them. Traditionally, the government adopted an inside-out approach of providing services to its citizens; the design thinking process challenges existing thinking and complements it with an outside-in approach.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2016, what would it be?
Be open, adaptive and constantly learning. The technology landscape is changing ever so quickly, and only with an open mind and an eagerness to unlearn, learn and relearn, will we be able to continue to stay relevant, especially in this digital economy, and find new opportunities to make a difference.
Who is your hero and why?
Throughout my career, I have worked with and learnt greatly from different bosses who also influenced the way I am today. They taught me that you need to see far, and not be afraid to challenge the status quo or be the first to venture into a new area.
The public sector is perceived to be laden with bureaucracy, and it takes great courage and effort to attempt to change the status quo. Having passion in your work is the key to staying motivated to reach your goals and come to work everyday.
Another important trait I learnt is to be nurturing and to trust your team. No one can ever accomplish something great alone; you will need to develop your team and encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and rise up to the challenge. When your team grows, you will also grow as a leader and as a person, too.
In terms of continuous learning, there is no better person to mention than my mother. She is 66 years old and is not afraid to learn how to use new technologies. Despite being Chinese-educated and having little command of the English language, she has learnt to use a smartphone and is an active user of social media like Facebook. She now has a tablet to surf the internet and has also learnt to operate a MacBook to copy and back up her files. She truly embodies the spirit of lifelong learning!
And finally, if you could recommend us one place to eat, where would it be?
I am not a fussy eater, and most places would be able to meet my taste buds. However, when it comes to cakes, I would surely recommend Pine Garden which is a family-owned bakery located in Ang Mo Kio.
My favourite is their Lychee Martini cake which even my 95-year-old grandmother loves. The owner also runs a small eatery called Next Door Deli (now relocated to Sengkang) which offers local and Western food. Highly recommended is their signature dish, the dried mee siam served with fried chicken wings, prawns and fish cake. I almost always order extra chicken wings!