Wong Wen Si, Deputy Director, Workplace Infrastructure Programme, GovTech, Singapore
Women in GovTech Special Report 2016.
How do you use technology to improve citizens' lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
My work primarily focuses on the management of Whole-of-Government (WOG) programmes such as the implementation of infocomm and security initiatives. One example is the recent policy implementation on the Internet surfing separation for public officers. Though not directly impacting citizens’ lives, such WOG initiatives help to enhance the governance and security posture at public agencies, which in turn enable the agencies to deliver world-class services to the citizens.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2016?
I was tasked to undertake the role of a policy developer for one of the IM8 policies this year. It actually came as a surprise to me as policy writing has never been my cup of tea. I recalled when I was with Media Development Authority (MDA), my only impression about the Instruction Manual (IM) was that it could be better written. Now that I had a chance to get my hands on it, I felt somewhat excited that I could finally get to “bend the rules” for once. What I did not realise was the responsibility that came with the appointment. What seems easy on paper (takes minutes to craft a clause) could take agencies months to comply. And if the policies are not well formulated, there will be major downstream impact to the agencies and their users. It was then that I realised the hefty responsibility of being a policy maker. I truly salute those heroes behind the scenes who have worked or are working hard to ensure the governance in Government.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2017?
People may have this impression that everyone in GovTech should be a techie. I must admit that I am not a gadget person. But something that struck me recently is the use of robotics technology in the healthcare sector. I believe there are immense opportunities for robotics to be used in many areas, especially in countries with growing ageing populations. In time to come, there are possibilities of caretakers being replaced or complemented by robots. Some countries like China and Japan have already piloted robots at healthcare centres to attend to the elderly. I am excited to see how this technology will evolve and become an integral part of our lives in the near future.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2016, what would it be?
The older generation always says “No pain, no gain”. There is truth to this. I believe that success is commensurate with the efforts you put in. I recall working on an office relocation project. It involved setting up a new office and moving a few offices to a single location, and at the same time relocating two data centres to a new hosting environment. Though the events took place over two weekends, the efforts of planning and preparation took a year! As a “by-product” of the relocation, I also successfully shook off 10kg in weight! One could imagine the number of forgone meals to bring about the 10kg weight loss. This is just one of my ways of demonstrating the “no pain, no gain” philosophy. As I always believe, determination and the desire to want to do it well are key factors for success.
Who is your hero and why?
Like many others, I used to idolise movie heroes. But when I grew up, I realised that heroes should be those whom you know (and know you) and affect your daily life. It’s not easy to come across a person who possesses all the traits that you call a hero. I have three people who have greatly affected my life. A hero, if I ever meet one, would have been a person with a combination of these traits.
First is none other than my dad. Like many other dads who provided their kids with a shelter and sponsored their education, my dad has given me a happy family. Despite his busy work schedule, he would always set aside Sunday (what we called family day) to bring the family out for leisure. He would always give his best to my brother and me. My dad is a man of great perseverance. If he had set his mind on something, he would ensure it happened and it always did. He would wake up early every morning to prepare breakfast for me, and bring me to and back from school throughout my six years in primary school, be it rain or shine.
Next, my former superior in the MDA. He was bold enough to hire me for a job that I had nil experience in. He always had trust and faith in me that I could do well. Even if I made mistakes, he was always reassuring. To him, no risk means no gain. He truly believes that one will grow stronger and wiser with every mistake. Naturally, he became a good mentor and guided me in most of my difficult decisions. Any problem I went to consult him would miraculously find a solution. Coincidentally, he shares the same birthday as my dad!
Last but not least, my ex-CEO in MDA. For those who know him, he is definitely a tough nut to crack. I see him as a man of high integrity. He will fight fearlessly for every decision that he thinks is right for the Government and will not settle for any substandard option. Not many leaders will risk taking unpopular decisions but he did. For that, I respect him. He is my role model, one who inspires, motivates and keeps me going in the civil service.
And finally, if you could recommend us one place to eat, where would it be?
I’ve been to many countries and places for makan but there is no place like home. There is no menu, but there your favourite dishes are always served without having to order. I make it a point to drop by my parents’ place for dinner once a week no matter how busy I am. Oftentimes, it is not about the food that makes a dinner perfect, but rather the company you have. It is always a joy to be able to find time with my parents, and listen to their nagging and complaints. So if you ask me to recommend one place to eat, it will be H.O.M.E.!