Speech by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister in Charge of the Civil Service, at 2017 PSC Scholarships Award Ceremony

12 July 2017

ADDRESS BY MR TEO CHEE HEAN, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, COORDINATING MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AND MINISTER IN CHARGE OF THE CIVIL SERVICE AT THE 2017 PSC SCHOLARSHIPS AWARD CEREMONY ON 12 JULY 2017, AT 1700 HRS, GRAND COPTHORNE WATERFRONT HOTEL, SINGAPORE

“Building a future-ready Public Service to serve Singapore and Singaporeans”

Mr Eddie Teo, Chairman of the Public Service Commission,
Members of the PSC,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.      Good evening to all of you. I am happy to join you at the 2017 Public Service Commission Scholarships Award Ceremony.  First of all, congratulations to all our 71 scholarship recipients this year. I would also like to thank the families, principals, and teachers who have put in much effort to nurture, guide and support our scholarship recipients.

2.      Please join me in also giving our scholarship recipients, their parents, families, principals, and teachers another round of applause.

New challenges in the new global environment

3.      We face many uncertainties in today’s global environment and Singapore faces many new challenges. Many drivers that have brought global growth and prosperity – free trade, openness to talent and immigration and a safe and secure operating environment – are no longer taken for granted in many developed countries. Governments worldwide are seeking new pathways for success and new sources of growth.  

4.      At the same time, rapid advances in technology such as artificial intelligence and robotics are disrupting existing ways of doing things and can be a source of anxiety for many workers and in fact, people in many countries. But these disruptive technologies can also provide new opportunities for growth for Singapore-based companies and workers and provide an opportunity for Singapore to stay ahead, if we can master them and organise our society to take full advantage of them.

5.      So to continue to harness these opportunities, Singaporeans need to deepen our skills and have a positive and innovative mindset to constantly upgrade ourselves to be future-ready. This applies to the Public Service as a whole and to our public officers.

Deepening Skills

6.      First, deepening our skills. By encouraging our officers to acquire technical skills in engineering, digital and related fields, the Government is sending a strong signal on the skills required to help Singaporeans prepare for the future. We are developing a stronger engineering core in the Public Service. We also need more public officers with expertise in areas such as digital technology, who are constantly exploring ways to make lives better for our people by leveraging new technology. For instance, to succeed in our vision of a Smart Nation, officers skilled in data and cybersecurity can help our agencies to better address the threats from cyber-attacks, and also put in place policies and measures to help Singaporeans benefit from advances in digital technology.

7.      To nurture the next generation of leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and strengthen Singapore’s engineering leadership pipeline, the Public Service Commission introduced the new PSC Scholarship (Engineering) last year. This scholarship aims to attract talented and passionate young Singaporeans who are keen to pursue a career in engineering and related fields within the Public Service.

8.      To develop them into specialist leaders, the PSC Scholarship (Engineering) holders will undertake stretch postings in one of three engineering clusters in (i) the Defence & Security cluster, (ii) the Information & Communications Technology and Smart Systems cluster, or (iii) the Infrastructure and Environment cluster. The technical demands of their postings will sharpen their domain skills and groom them into experts in their selected engineering field. This will add valuable, high-technology expertise to the Public Service and advance our capabilities to address complex challenges in defence technology, Smart Nation, climate change and scientific skills. Their analytical and technical skills will also be very useful when they apply them in broader jobs which are applicable all across the Public Service, and not just in their engineering specialties.

Developing an Innovative, Bold and Creative Mindset

9.      Second, developing an innovative, bold and creative mindset. Knowledge and hard skills need to be complemented by a spirit of innovation, boldness and creativity. We did not get here by simply following what others did. We were daring. We were bold. We were prepared to experiment, and we were prepared to adapt what others had done elsewhere to our own environment in creative and innovative ways. In our constantly evolving operating environment, we must update our policy assumptions, and challenge the status quo. Our officers must also help spot “pattern-breaks” early so that we can adjust our policies, act fast and put in place the necessary measures to test new ideas, and scale up good solutions for the benefit of Singapore and Singaporeans.

10.      We are committed to making the Public Service a conducive place for innovation. We are looking into streamlining processes such as procurement. We are also encouraging pilot projects, and creating new spaces for experimentation. The introduction of “regulatory sandboxes” in our government agencies will allow officers to experiment with new regulatory methods before making changes to existing regulations or laws on a wider scale.

11.      For instance, we have been testing autonomous vehicles in one-north and Cleantech park since 2015. As autonomous vehicle technologies are evolving rapidly, we need to have adaptive rules as well. The Road Traffic Act was amended earlier this year so that the Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority can better support innovations in the transport sector, while safeguarding commuters’ interest. These changes will support the trials of autonomous vehicles on our public roads so that we can reap the benefits as technology advances. This will also create a vibrant ecosystem of companies skilled in autonomous technologies which can be used in other sectors such as healthcare and service delivery.

12.      I visited our hospital and healthcare clusters recently and the innovations that they are putting in place in healthcare are quite ground-breaking - from the way they do imaging and use data analytics, to the work that our nurses and our doctors do at the bedside at the hospitals and with patients. All these are remarkable innovations which we are putting in place to deliver better healthcare in a cost-effective way to Singaporeans. And we hope that such ongoing efforts will spread all across the public sector in the Public Service and encourage greater innovation.

13.      Our public officers will be supported in formulating new solutions. Bold, creative, and innovative mind, together with deep skills, will enable our public officers to better serve Singapore and Singaporeans in this new global environment. We must continue to have the boldness, innovativeness and creativity, and dare to break new grounds to take Singapore further. The Public Service must be at the forefront of this.

Conclusion

14.      To our scholarship recipients, I commend you for taking this first step. By accepting the PSC scholarship, you have taken on a commitment to serve Singapore through a Public Service career. In the next few years, make the best of your education. Use the opportunities wisely to deepen your skills, make new friends, learn with an open mind.

15.      When you return, I am certain that you will have opportunities to work on exciting issues and projects. At the same time, remember to live up to the Public Service values of integrity, service and excellence, and develop policies and programmes that will serve Singapore and our people well into the future.

16.      Once again, my congratulations to all of you! I wish you all the very best as you embark on your studies and your career to serve Singapore and Singaporeans.
Thank you.