Opening Address by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of Centre for Computing for Social Good and Philanthropy on 29 June 2021.
Professor Tan Eng Chye,
President, National University of Singapore
Professor Lee Wee Sun,
Acting Dean, School of Computing
Mr Keith Chua,
Trustee, Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund
Ms Deanna Ong,
Chief People Officer, GIC
Professor Ben Leong,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good morning to all of you. I am delighted to join you this morning, for the launch of the Centre for Computing for Social Good and Philanthropy.
Progressing together as a Smart Nation
Since the onset of the pandemic, we have seen a global shift to digital as people went online for their needs, to stay in touch with loved ones and to conduct business meetings. The pandemic has also quickened the pace of digitalisation and Industry 4.0. While COVID-19 has certainly accelerated this shift, the digital revolution was well underway even before the virus struck, powering breakthroughs in finance, healthcare, engineering, and many other fields. I am glad that in Singapore, we embarked on our journey to be a Smart Nation early. We wanted every person and business not only to have access to technology, but be empowered to use technology to create value and improve the world around us. We have made good progress since we started out in 2014. With COVID-19 accelerating the pace of digital disruptions, we must build on our progress, and speed up our pace. We can and must do more to inspire a new wave of innovators, the young and not-so-young, to harness digital technologies to make an impact, and to build a digitally inclusive society, where we progress together as one. In the spirit of Singapore Together, each and every one of us can do our part. I am heartened that since the start of the crisis, many individuals, community partners and companies have stepped forward, to contribute time and resources to helping others on this digital journey.
The NUS School of Computing has taken the lead in using technology to serve the community. This started more than a decade ago when you embarked on the “Computing for Voluntary Welfare Organisations” programme, where student volunteers helped to build and maintain IT system for our social service agencies. Since 2017, your students have also been working with community partners in Ulu Pandan to teach computing skills to children from underprivileged families. When COVID-19 struck, a group of your students worked with the SAF to build a web application for our contact tracing efforts. The team developed new features in just 3 months, which sped up the time taken and reduced the manpower needed for contact tracing. NUS Computing is taking this one step further – to strengthen the spirit of partnership and to inculcate in your students a stronger sense of public service.
Launch of the Centre for Computing for Social Good and Philanthropy
I am therefore delighted to launch the new Centre for Computing for Social Good and Philanthropy today. The Centre will be led by Professor Ben Leong, whom I know well. Ben is a dedicated teacher, well-liked by his students. He has been a source of motivation, and more importantly, he walks the talk when it comes to public service. Ben also had a big hand in helping to conceptualise and kickstart the development of the Student Learning Space, which provided a student-centric online learning platform for teaching and learning in our schools. During this pandemic, the portal has been invaluable in enabling our students to continue learning from home. The Centre for Computing for Social Good and Philanthropy that we are launching today will offer an experiential learning programme to help students learn the principles of service leadership in a formal setting. Studies have shown that organisations practicing service-leadership experience higher levels of employee engagement and better organisation outcomes. Programme participants will have the opportunity to apply these principles through various community projects. They will also be coached to develop self-awareness, and develop their leadership and personal development plans.
The Centre will also launch a new Fellowship Programme where students can undertake community projects to make a difference to the lives of others. I encourage your alumni from the School of Computing to volunteer their time to mentor these students. More broadly, what the Centre seeks to accomplish is what we seek to achieve with the Singapore Together movement, where we pull together our expertise and energy to build a better and brighter future for everyone.
Let me take this opportunity to thank those who made the Centre possible. A big thank you to the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund for your $1.5million donation to fund the operating expenditure of the Centre. Mr and Mrs Lee Choon Guan were one of Singapore’s earliest philanthropists. Mr Keith Chua, their great grandson and one of the trustees, has been continuing his family legacy of giving. Thank you very much, Keith! I would also like to thank GIC for supporting the “Computing for VWO” programme over the years, and for making a $500,000 donation to expand student participation.
The momentum of digital disruptions is gaining pace. As we harness the power of digital technology to create new opportunities, we must also ensure that this does not result in a digital divide. Enabling everyone to progress together in a more digital future, requires all of us to play a part. This new Centre will groom a new generation of technology leaders to make a difference to the lives of those around them. As we become more advanced as an economy and develop as a society, we can also become a more caring and inclusive society. This spirit of solidarity and unity, at a time when the world is becoming more uncertain and complex, will enable us to thrive in a more digital post-COVID-19 world.
I wish the Centre for Computing for Social Good and Philanthropy – and all faculty and students of NUS Computing – every success. Thank you.
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