Each new advance in AI and machine learning coincides with speculation about the future of the workplace and the potential for displaced workers. But Tan Kiat How, CEO of Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), chooses to be optimistic, saying: “every worker will be empowered by technology.”
He remembers typing pools, which seem positively Palaeolithic in comparison to the technology we have at our disposal now. But those workers weren’t displaced when their tools evolved; rather, businesses use technology in a sensible and practical way that helps to scale the capability of their workforce. And that is how Tan Kiat How sees the role of digital transformation in Singapore.
“Technology is not just a means to an end,” he says, “it’s about ensuring the values we founded our companies on continue to be reinforced and anchored.” In order to scale this empowerment, he wants every citizen in Singapore to be a connected citizen, believing it to be “the key to an inclusive society.”
When it comes to the roadmap for digital transformation, the IMDA is in the process of creating industry digital plans for every sector, starting with retail and logistics and focusing on how to meet the aspirations of the sector and the needs of the consumer using the technologies at their disposal. “Every business needs to be a digital business, not just applying digital technologies cosmetically to existing processes,” he says.
The digital transformation of Singapore hinges on four critical tech domains: data, AI and machine learning, cyber security, and IoT. With these in mind, the IMDA has launched a series of initiatives, such as the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), and creating sandboxes in which new technologies like FinTech can flourish, enabling pro-innovative ecosystems while retaining security and trust.
“Trust is a valuable asset… difficult to build up but is highly fragile and easily demolished,” says Tan. He believes that Singapore’s economic foundation can be built on trust, and having consistency in approach, being pro-business, having a secure ecosystem and encouraging innovation.
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