A JOB IS YOURS
WHEN YOU DO IT

At the age of seven, Ms Teh Shi-Hua saw a broken doorknob
and decided to take it apart to fix it. After completing a
bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,
she did a Master’s in Management Science and Engineering.

Now with the Smart Nation Programme Office (SNPO), she
continues to pursue the promise of technology.

Innovation is all about putting yourself in the shoes of others. Before joining SNPO, I served for eight years with the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), and during my time there, I did a lot of listening, interviewing and observing before moving on to the design and creation stages. Building command-and control systems is very user-centric – at the end of the day, it’s people who will use them in real situations, so it’s important to place them at the centre of things. vocation.

Technology is an area where you feel a sense of ownership. You use it to build your own creation, and you influence the system the way you want. It’s a very satisfying process. When designing these systems, I also asked if I can push the boundaries – can I help the operator complete a task even faster?

SNPO is in its infancy, which makes it exciting. We were launched in November 2014. We’re a coordinating outfit that works with various agencies to drive the Smart Nation movement, ensuring policies and capabilities come together coherently. Our vision is all about people. Science, engineering and technology are just enablers.

I want to make science and engineering cool. What makes these subjects evergreen is that they can solve real problems – they can work for people. And that’s what Smart Nation is about – harnessing technology, networks and data to improve lives, create more opportunities and build stronger communities.

Smart Nation will approach technology in ways where the outcome is very real to citizens. One important area is making healthcare more convenient and easy for our elderly and their families. Our society is ageing – we have one in nine people who is over 65. We could use technology, for instance, and integrate tele-rehabilitation solutions with our public housing infrastructure and national healthcare system so that patients can have follow-up physiotherapy sessions in the comfort of their own homes.

At the same time, we want to encourage play and invention. At a recent Smart Mobility data hackathon, we saw many fun proposals come from the public. Singaporeans are creating apps to make public transport for the elderly more convenient. We’re also brainstorming on sensors in buses to provide real-time information to commuters. In the future, thanks to these ideas, we’ll enjoy a more seamless transport network, allowing people to plan their journeys better.

I’ve come to appreciate Singapore even more over the years. A friend from the United States once said that the thing he misses most about Singapore is how things here get done. He said that if there’s a pothole on a street here, it’ll certainly get patched up quickly!

My father once told me, “A job is yours when you do it.” What he meant was that if there’s a problem, don’t wait for someone else to attend to it. If you can solve it, then do so, even if the problem isn’t within your scope of work. This means going beyond one’s duty and taking ownership. I’ve always embraced this in my work.

Being citizen-centric, Smart Nation’s solutions are sometimes non-technological in nature. If a problem needs a good non-technological solution, why not? We’re here to make lives better. That’s the bottom line.