DPM Heng Swee Keat at NCS Impact 2024

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 11 July 2024

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at NCS Impact 2024 on 11 July 2024.


Senior Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad,


Singtel Group CEO Yuen Kuan Moon,

NCS CEO Mr Ng Kuo Pin,

Ladies and gentlemen,

A very good morning! I am happy to join you for NCS Impact 2024 and a very warm welcome to those who have flown in from the region and beyond to be here today.

Technology as a Game Changer

The theme this year - Changing the Game – speaks to the potential of technological advancements, especially in digital technology, to project our economies and our societies onto different growth trajectories.

Already, social media and instant messaging apps have changed the way we communicate. E-commerce has transformed the shopping experience, and ride-sharing apps have reshaped public transport.

The impact of technology extends to every sector – including how we keep ourselves healthy by counting our steps and tracking our heart rates.

More recently, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has captured our imagination with its capabilities in natural language processing, image recognition, and predictive analytics.

Governments, companies and social organisations everywhere are learning to make use of digital technologies and AI to fulfil their missions better.

In Singapore, our government agencies are harnessing AI to improve public services. For example, as part of Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiative, smart traffic management systems help reduce congestion, and AI-driven chatbots offer 24/7 access to Government services.

Potential breakthroughs in frontier technologies will make even bigger waves in the coming years – including in ways that we cannot predict.a. Quantum computing, and its ability to solve complex problems, will revolutionise fields such as cryptography, materials science, and pharmaceuticals.

Humanoid robots, equipped with advanced AI capabilities, could take over tasks which are dangerous or tedious for humans.

In manufacturing, they can work alongside human workers to enhance productivity and safety.

And in healthcare, they can help to care for the sick, or provide companionship and support to the elderly.

These technologies, along with many others relating to genetics, space, and renewable energy, could lead to new solutions to tackle global challenges including climate change, public health, and changing demographics.

Managing the Downside Risks of Technology

The potential of technology to improve our lives is exciting.

But for us to successfully harness technology for the good of humanity, we must manage the downside risks, while maximising the upsides.

All of us must play our roles– Government, academics, corporates, and other tech stakeholders.

One major concern is the proliferation of digital threats, such as scams and cyber-attacks.

In Singapore, over 90% of residents now communicate online, and technology adoption rates among firms have increased from 74% in 2018 to 94% in 2022.

This increase comes with increased exposure to cyber risks.

Cyber attacks are costly to enterprises. They also undermine public trust in technology. And over time create barriers to greater adoption of new and innovative solutions by businesses and the public.

Another critical issue is the ethical and safe use of AI.

Despite the promise of AI systems, they are not perfect.

AI systems are trained on data – and can produce biased or inaccurate outcomes without good training data.

Vulnerabilities in AI algorithms can also be exploited by bad actors to manipulate outcomes.

Seemingly small errors can have large consequences – especially as AI-systems are given more autonomy to make decisions in critical sectors like banking and transport.

It is therefore important to put in place the right guard rails, and create conditions to innovate safely, responsibly, and for the common good.

For example, in Singapore, we encourage organisations to better protect themselves in the digital domain through the SG Cyber Safe Programme.

Recently, we recently launched the Model Governance Framework for Gen AI in consultation with some 70 organisations, with an emphasis on principles such as transparency and accountability.

To provide a safer environment for business and citizens to use AI, we have also launched Project Moonshot, a new open-source toolkit designed to help developers and system owners evaluate large language models (LLMs) applications via benchmarking and red teaming.

So whether you are working on R&D to make AI more explainable and interpretable, or helping companies implement security measures and respond to cyber incidents or to make the best use of these AI tools, we all play an important role in managing the downsides of tech.

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate NCS on the launch of your new suite of initiatives, including the AI-Digital Resilience Matrix, or AI+DR framework.

These help organisations assess their AI and digital resilience readiness, and prepare for greater AI adoption.

I hope that such solutions will give both public and private sector organisations more confidence to accelerate their tech transformation journey.

Maximising the Potential of Technology

While we take action to manage the potential risks of new technology, we must also take a proactive approach to maximise the benefits of technology. In this way, we can reap its full potential to improve the lives of people and protect our planet.

We can start with focusing on practical use cases and applications.

For example, AI is already widely used in the financial sector to automate routine tasks like data entry. It is also used to augment human capabilities in more complex processes such as code writing, portfolio asset allocation, and anti-money laundering detection.

Similarly, in the agricultural sector, high tech precision farming techniques are used to optimise yields and reduce the consumption of resources like water and energy.

Singapore has also developed ASEAN’s first AI LLM called SEA-LION, which is trained in local and regional languages such as Bahasa Melayu, Tamil, Thai and Vietnamese. These can be used to build multi-language AI tools like chat bots, coding assistants and meeting summarisers for use in the region.

Such specific use-cases allow us to learn more about the strengths of technology, and how different technologies can be applied together for maximum impact.

To effectively harness the potential of technology, we need to combine the best expertise and experience across different fields – for example, in different areas of technology and in business operations.

Partnerships among tech companies and businesses across different domains can more effectively drive transformation.

So I applaud NCS’s new strategic collaborations with Amazon Web Services, Dell Technologies, Schneider Electric, and Income Insurance. These can better drive innovation in service delivery, enterprise innovation, sustainability, and digital insurance.

Congratulations to NCS and your partners. I hope that many of you here today will find Singapore’s vibrant innovation ecosystem useful as you develop, testbed, and scale up new solutions for the region and beyond.

These new technologies can boost economic growth. But ultimately, we must remember that we are promoting economic growth not for growth’s sake or to achieve certain growth numbers. The real value is in how growth benefits our workers and our peoples, in Singapore and around the world.

We must therefore build up the capacity of our firms and our workers to use, and benefit, from technology.

For example, in Singapore, we recently launched the five-year Digital Enterprise Blueprint to help our Small and Medium Enterprises or SMEs leverage data and AI in their operations.

We have also launched the Information & Communications Job Transformation Map (I&C JTM), which aims to upskill and reskill 18,000 tech professionals in areas such as AI and analytics, software engineering and cloud, through courses offered by our JTM Training Partners.

We will continue to support our workforce in Singapore on this journey of upskilling. Fresh graduates and mid-career professionals alike can tap on the suite of programmes under the TechSkills Accelerator or TeSA initiative, offered in partnership with the National Trades Union Congress and our industry partners.

I am heartened that NCS is a member of the TechSkills Accelerator or TESA for ITE and Polytechnics (TIP) Alliance, and has offered apprenticeships via their NCS Fusion and Ignite programmes. These equip Polytechnic and ITE graduates respectively with relevant tech skills, and enable them to attain ICT-related degrees and diplomas.

Kuo Pin’s earlier announcement to develop an AI-enabled workforce is a valuable initiative to develop talent in Singapore and across the Asia Pacific to ride the coming wave of change.

In line with the Government’s ambitions to strengthen Singapore’s AI ecosystem, IMDA will work with NCS to develop AI talent through various reskilling and upskilling programmes under the Information & Communications Job Transformation Map and the Tech Skills Accelerator initiative.

We welcome more partners to work with us as we prepare companies and workers in Singapore for the future economy, and welcome collaborations with talent networks in the region and beyond.


Let me conclude. There is immense potential for technology to shape our economies and our lives for the better. It is critical that we harness this potential to serve the common good.

To do so, we must manage the downsides of technology by mobilising all stakeholders to guard against digital risks.

We need to erect guardrails and create conditions for technology innovation to take place safely and responsibly.

While managing the risks, we must maximise the upsides of technology by deploying it to solve real-world problems, and bringing our companies and workers along this journey.

To achieve this ambitious agenda, we must bring together technology experts, providers and users – to explore and innovate together.

Forums such as NCS Impact help strengthen this ecosystem, and I congratulate NCS once again for bringing together tech stakeholders from the public, private, and people sector in the region and beyond.

I hope that you will also find time to build new partnerships within the Singapore ecosystem.

Have an impactful forum ahead. Thank you!