Singapore – Asia’s leading commodities trading hub strategically positioned to capture approximately 30% of Asia’s trading as major East and West shipping lanes converge – is on a timeless mission to be globally recognized in all fields.
The IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2019, a measure of the capacity and readiness of 63 economies to adopt and explore digital technologies as a key driver for economic transformation in business, government and wider society was unveiled this year. It is undeniable that we are living in a world of rapid technological disruptions and Singapore, having fared consistently well for the past years, is definitely in a race against the world clock to maintain and/or improve her global standing.
While at the forefront in Knowledge and Technology, Singapore may not be as future-ready as it may seem. Specifically, we fared rather poorly in “adaptive attitudes” as compared to the other factors. Putting aside rankings and numbers, what about the tech sector in Singapore? What exact industries are in the limelight in our ongoing quest to remain a stroke above the rest of countries?
In an article by Channel News Asia early this month it was commented “While intake has gone up, technology companies and industry experts CNA spoke to said it will still not be enough to meet their manpower needs, particularly in areas such as software development, cyber security and artificial intelligence. To plug the labour gap, these companies have had to hire from overseas or open offices abroad.” This is in reference to the expanded intake of students studying computing-related courses across the 6 Publicly-Funded Autonomous Universities, namely: Nanyang Technological University (NTU), National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), Singapore Management University (SMU), Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).
The focus on those areas come at no surprise as they fall within Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative which was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong back in 2014. To create tech-enabled solutions in support of Smart Nation Singapore, strategic national projects have been put in place to aid this cause. Taking the Core Operations Development Environment and eXchange (CODEX) for example, as it encompasses cyber security within the SG Tech Stack. The harrowing experience that revealed the vulnerability of SingHealth’s cyber system via the infamous data breach in 2018 must never be relived. Thus, as Singapore goes full steam ahead to be future-ready, all systems and processes must and will be secure and protected from undesirable/unexpected cyber attacks.
The demand for talents in the industries of interest will always remain as such, as supply through the local means is limited. The marginal increase in intake of the courses of interest is proportionate to the supply of needed talents. Converting existing, suitable employees through the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) – for mid-career workers to join the infocomm technology sector offered by Workforce Singapore – may also have its limitations.
Singapore is and will always be in need of foreign talents to plug the gaps that cannot be filled by the current workforce. There may come a day when we can be self-sufficient, much more ready to embrace whatever the future holds in the digital sphere and are able to create our own solutions. Till then, there remains strong reliance on external factors and human resources in order to reach that stage of progress.