DPM Heng Swee Keat at the SGTech 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 1 September 2022

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the SGTech 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner on 1 September 2022.


Mr Wong Wai Meng, Chairman of SGTech


Ladies and Gentlemen,

In reflecting on the stages of life, Confucius famously said that at the age of 40, you are free of perplexities. 四十而不惑 (huo4)。You develop a clarity of purpose.  

Today we celebrate 40 years of SGTech.  Against the backdrop of complex technological developments, I am not sure that SGTech is free of perplexities. But you have certainly kept a clear focus on your mission of fostering a thriving tech ecosystem. Your name may have evolved over the years – from Singapore Federation of the Computing Industry in the early years, to the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation, and now SGTech. As SGTech, you have developed three clear strategic thrusts – first, to position Singapore as a global node for digital and data, built on trust. Second, to take collective action and be part of the solution on sustainability in Singapore and the world. Third, to develop tech talent. I commend you on the clarity of the three thrusts. SGTech has also grown from strength to strength. Today you are the largest trade association for the tech industry in Singapore, with more than 1,000 enterprise members.  

Through the years, what is also remarkable is how SGTech has kept pace with the developments of the tech industry. The tech landscape is fast-moving, with an ever-accelerating clock speed. Disruptions are relentless. In 1982, when SGTech was first founded,  Time Magazine broke with its tradition of naming a “Person of the Year”. In that year, they  named a non-human for the first time – the Personal Computer. At that time, PCs were still a rarity, but today they are everywhere and have transformed our working and personal lives. To remain effective, SGTech had to respond to the evolving needs and demands of the industry, or face disruption. Let me speak about 3 such areas today, in which SGTech continuously kept pace with new developments, and supported companies in staying ahead of the game. 

Catching New Waves of Growth

The first area is partnering industry to catch new waves of growth. COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation – from online meetings, remote work, to even learning online. Beyond COVID, there is also a wave of technologies that can transform industries and our lives – quantum computing, AI, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and other advancements. These technologies will transform the economy – across every sector – from manufacturing to construction to the services sector. 

The media industry has been facing this disruption for some time now. Emerging disruptive developments in FinTech, InsureTech and EdTech will reshape the way we learn and spend. Beyond the economy, the government and social sectors will also be transformed. To ride on these new waves, the National Research Foundation is investing $25 billion over five years to catalyse R&D across various fields, including digital technologies and advanced manufacturing.  

I am glad that SGTech is always looking to the future, and helping your members respond. You now have a range of chapters and committees that touch on various strategic areas. Including AI, Cloud, digital transformation, cybersecurity, sustainability, and many others. 

Today, I am happy to launch SGTech’s latest initiative – Transformlife.sg. This is a new interactive, multi-media publication, that will serve as a “living” forum for discourse and engagement between tech leaders and other stakeholders, to collectively develop a richer understanding of future trends, including in digital trust and sustainability. I encourage you to build on this project as it continues to evolve. 

To catch the future waves of growth, it is also important to look beyond our shores to foster international collaboration. At the government level, we have pioneered Digital Economy Agreements with like-minded partners, including with the UK. To take full advantage of such agreements, industry will need to develop the use cases. So I am glad that to see that SGTech has signed a MOU with TechUK on digital trade facilitation, cyber security and digital identities cooperation. I encourage SGTech to further strengthen international partnerships and strengthen our network of collaborations. 

At the same time, even as we catch the waves of growth, we must be mindful of the digital divide. While digital future holds great potential, we must ensure that we progress together as a society. I am glad that SGTech has been doing your part. For example, through your Tech4Community initiative, which distributes pre-used laptops to children and seniors who need them. 

Harnessing Full Potential of Tech

The second area where SGTech has evolved in supporting the industry, is your push to make a bigger ecosystem impact.  When SGTech started out, it served primarily as a vertical trade association. The focus was squarely on the ICT sector, and advocating for ICT enterprises.  

But it is now clearer than ever that tech is not just for ICT enterprises. Prior to COVID, digitalisation was already reshaping entire industries and the pandemic has given this a turbocharge. There is urgency to support the technological needs of a broader base of companies. I am glad that through your transformation roadmap which Wai Meng spoke about, SGTech aims to increase your membership to 2,000 members by 2025 and the change of your name from SITF to SGTech also reflects this broader focus. 

In particular, I am encouraged to see SGTech building capabilities for the broaderbase of SMEs. Many SMEs have not fully harnessed the full potential of technology. The pandemic has provided a window of opportunity to transform so that our companies can thrive in the post-COVID world. 
To harness the full potential of tech, another important aspect is to tap on network effects. So, I am happy that SGTech will launch the SGTech Alumni Leaders Network today. This is an excellent effort to build up the network of tech leaders here, to share ideas, and provide mentorship. I hope that this network will continue to grow and expand.  

Building Human Capital

The third aspect where SGTech has supported the industry goes back to the original challenge that SGTech faced – the shortage of tech talent. This was a core issue when SGTech started 40 years ago, with our relatively shallow pool of manpower. While our human capital has deepened over time, talent shortage remains severe, given our limited population size and the promise of tech. It is a shortage not just in Singapore, but all over the world. This is why we have introduced the new OnePass, which we hope will be useful in bringing in global talent to complement our workforce. At the same time, we must continue to do all we can to deepen our local human capital. 

To meet our human capital needs, it is critical that companies grow the pie. It is easy to see each other only as competitors. But if companies only look to hire or poach from one another, this becomes a zero sum game. On the other hand, if you come together to set common standards and skills requirements, with larger companies taking the lead to train in excess of their needs for the industry, the industry as a whole will thrive, more workers will benefit, and all members are better off. 

This is where I must commend SGTech and the rest of the ICT industry. Take TeSA for instance. I still remember introducing TeSA in my first Budget Speech as Finance Minister in 2016.This came out after my consultation with the industry. The idea was to involve the ICT industry in developing our talent pool. SGTech, or SITF as you were known back then, and your team led at that time by Shirley, was very supportive. I am glad that you have taken up the challenge to partner government and other stakeholders, including the Singapore Computer Society, in driving the TeSA programme. So far, TeSA has placed and trained more than 12,000 individuals into tech jobs and upskilled more than 160,000 through tech courses. So thank you very much. There is still much more to be done.  

I am delighted to announce that the industry has worked with IMDA to set up the TeSA for ITE and Polytechnic Alliance, or TIP Alliance. ITE and Polytechnic graduates are an important source of talent for our tech sector. They account for more than half of graduates from tech courses every year. With the new TIP Alliance, ITE and Poly students and grads will benefit from end-to-end support in kickstarting their careers in the tech sector, through high quality internships, on-the-job training via apprenticeships, as well as opportunities to obtain further education and industry-recognised certifications. Over the next 3 years, ITE and Poly student and grads will have access to 1,000 job openings created by companies on the TIP Alliance. I am glad that 12 inaugural companies have come onboard, and I hope more will join in the future. I hope that this initiative will contribute to the shift of hiring practices from qualification-based to skills-based, giving capable jobseekers equal opportunities to succeed, regardless of their starting point or educational background. I am glad that this Alliance will be industry-led, with Mr Wong Wai Meng, Chairman of SGTech and Mr Sam Liew, President of Singapore Computer Society as co-chairs, and SMS Tan Kiat How serving as Advisor.

Even more needs to be done. As you have rightly stated on your website, underpinning your various strategic pillars, and all your business activities, is ultimately talent. Talent will continue to be the greatest limiting factor to our companies’ ambitions. So on SGTech’s 40th anniversary, I have a special birthday challenge for you! Given the urgency and scale of our tech manpower challenge, I urge SGTech to double down on two areas.  

The first is to keep abreast of the latest tech developments and its impact on skills. Earlier, I spoke about exciting new developments – from AI to quantum computing, and their applications to a range of industries. We must update our skills map, and prepare our people well for new, potentially more demanding needs across these emerging areas. We must not be behind the skills curve. The second is to do more to bring onboard more business leaders from across the 23 ITM sectors to ensure that technology is embedded in every transformation effort in every industry, and across companies big and small, in the industry. We must make sure tech is pervasive not just in the ICT sector, but across the 23 ITM sectors and in every part of our economy, and society. If we can do these well, the opportunities in the next 40 years will be boundless. 


Let me conclude. Over the last 40 years, SGTech has evolved in tandem with the industry. You have kept pace with the dramatic changes in the tech landscape, even as you matured as an organisation. Today, SGTech is just as relevant as 40 years ago, if not more. The vibrancy of our tech sector today owes much to SGTech’s contributions over the years. And to all of you who are present here. 

I started my speech with Confucius’s saying that one gains clarity at the age of 40. I know many of you are looking ahead. You are thinking about the next 40 years, or maybe even your 100th anniversary! I have every confidence that so long as we continue to maintain a clear vision and work together, the tech industry here will continue to thrive. Congratulations on your 40th anniversary, and I look forward to SGTech playing an even bigger role in the years ahead. 

Have a good evening ahead.