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IMDA shares vision to build a community of innovation in Singapore at emerging tech conference

IMDA shares vision to build a community of innovation in Singapore at emerging tech conference

Mr
Zee Kin Yeong, Assistant Chief Executive of Personal Data Protection Commission
(PDPC) of Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) kickstarted
the two-day EmTech Asia conference 2018, by
sharing Singapore’s vision in building a community of innovation.

Mr
Yeong admitted that although technology advancement imposes challenges to
governments and regulators, technology remains a solution to emerging
challenges, such as aging population and urbanisation, and their implications
on healthcare, transport, food and energy.

In
his speech on the role of IMDA in encouraging innovation and supporting the
ecosystem, Mr Yeong outlined three key elements that Singapore has to offer:
(1) Space, (2) Room, and (3) Opportunity.

Space for
collaborations of the like-minded

According
to Mr Yeong, Singapore has a good history and track record in building hubs.
The island-state is a maritime hub. A chemical logistics hub was created with
the reclamation of the Jurong Island in the 1990s, followed by the development
of the biomedical research hub at Biopolis in the 2000s and the subsequent
Fusionopolis and Mediapolis. These hubs have developed into vibrant communities
that serve targeted industries and attracted renowned companies to the
island-state.

Just
last week, as reported
earlier, IMDA announced the masterplan for Punggol Digital District (PDD) which
aims to create a new home for digital economy in Singapore. The PDD will see
the co-sharing of Punggol between IT companies, cybersecurity firms and a
Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) campus that nurtures IT talents.

Mr
Yeong believes that these synergetic relationships between innovators and
entrepreneurs will in turn encourage the formation of start-ups. Acknowledging
that innovators mutually benefit from exchange of ideas and their needs for
mentorship and access to resources, IMDA has been building hubs for start-ups
across the island. He cited the examples of the newly-created Fintech start-up
hub, Lattice 80 (now renamed
80RR
) and the well-known Block 71 as
some of the initiatives supported by IMDA.

Other
IMDA facilities that encourage collaborations of the like-minded include Pixel Lab
and Pixel Studio which are innovation spaces that provide innovators opportunities
to work together with corporate partners.

Room to push
boundaries and to experiment

Mr
Yeong noted that data is being generated and used in many new ways and for many
purposes. As such, he highlighted the role of IMDA in both protecting and
building confidence among citizens, as well as encouraging innovations and
companies that use data to benefit the public.

Protecting
individuals was named one of many uses of data. Using an example of bank
alerts, he explained that monitoring of credit card use could help detect and
prevent fraud. Using DBS as an example, he shared that data analytics could
help improve client experience. For example, understanding that Singaporeans
prefer to use mint notes for the auspicious practice of giving red packets, or
ang baos, during Chinese New Year, DBS would tap on its data analytics
capabilities to stock up bank notes at branches or ATM machines with the
highest foot traffic, to alleviate high demand and long waiting time.

As
the Assistant Chief Executive of IMDA and Deputy Commissioner of PDPC [1],
Mr Yeong also revealed the organisation’s work in reviewing
the Personal Data Protection Act
(PDPA). It is understood that consultation
has started. Although the PDPA was only introduced 5 years ago, Mr Yeong stated
that the Act must be kept updated to ensure that citizens and their personal
data are sufficiently protected. This is because of the change in landscape, as
today personal data is not just ‘declared’ data given by people consciously.
Personal data also includes data generated through mobile activity, from
sensors.

Opportunity for
innovators to meet and learn

The
availability and access to talents is among the top priority of businesses. In
creating a pool of IT professionals, IMDA has been supporting initiatives such
as: (1) the establishment
of AI Singapore
which aims at unlocking the potential of AI experts and
talents who currently reside in various research institutes for industrial
applications, (2) TechSkills
Accelerator
, a SkillsFuture programme to upskill local workforce to meet
the challenges of a fast-moving digital landscape, and (3) the AI
Apprenticeship Programme
which aims to nurture 200 IT professionals in 3
years through apprenticeships at established IT corporations.

All
these measures seek to build a pool of IT professionals in Singapore. In the
long run, Singapore aims to provide fertile ground for established corporates from
all over the world, while at the same time, upskilling local talents.

When
asked about the development of industrial clusters in Singapore, including
those for start-ups and digital economy, Mr Yeong believes that it illustrates
the close partnership between the Singapore Government and businesses, as the
two sectors collaborate to identify gaps and support each other’s development
needs. Such phenomenon is also a result of Singapore’s natural limitation as a
small city-state with limited space.

Addressing
the concerns about whether AI will take jobs or create jobs, Mr Yeong saw AI as
an engine of growth, as well as a continuum of business intelligence. He
believed that the technology can be used for good by improving services,
improving the way we work, integrating and adding new features to products.

On
the issue of privacy, it was noted that age groups differ in their perceptions
towards privacy and data protection; the older generation seems to be more
concerned about data protection, while the millennials are open to providing
data in exchange of access to free or new technological products or services. Mr
Yeong remarked that Singapore citizens tend to trust the Government more in
data protection, as compared to their trust in the private sector. This is
partly because Singapore is constantly improving its data protection practice.
He re-iterated that the current review of the PDPA is to deal with new ways of
data generation and use. The updated PDPA will improve data protection as well
as facilitate companies that use data for good purposes that benefit the
consumers.

IMDA
is a host partner of EmTech Asia 2018 in Singapore. EmTech Asia is an annual
conference that features emerging technology. This year’s themes include smart
cities, artificial intelligence, biomedicine, quantum computing, space and
aerospace innovations.

[1] Last year, OpenGov interviewed
Mr Yeong in his capacity as Deputy Commissioner of PDPC to learn how PDPC is strengthening the data protection ecosystem in
Singapore.

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