Speech by Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State, Ministry of Education, for the Virtual Closing Ceremony for Cyberthon

Published Date: 08 May 2021 05:00 PM

News Speeches

Mr Goh Wei Boon, Chief Executive, Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies;

Mr Pang Choon How, Principal, Hwa Chong Institution;

Teachers and Students;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for inviting me to join you in celebrating with our budding talents in cybersecurity in this year’s Cyberthon.

2. I understand this is the third year that we are organising this competition. The number of participants has grown over the years, and quality of the talent has also grown over time. Well done everyone! I understand that there’s also a new element in this year’s challenge – there are two teams of teachers from Hwa Chong Institution and one team of teachers from Millennia Institute. I am very happy to see that our teachers are also upskilling and pitting their skills against the students in this exciting Cyberthon. So, well done to the teachers!

3. Fortifying our cyber defence is one of our national priorities. As many people would know, modern warfare is very different from what it used to be in the past. Some of you might have heard of hybrid warfare, which is a combination of conventional operations and non-conventional operations. In non-conventional operations, very often, the activities are in the cyberspace and in the infospace. What you are doing now and the skills that you are picking up will become useful building blocks as Singapore builds up our national capability in cybersecurity.

4. Many of you will also know that cyber threats and cyberattacks are very real indeed. Some of you would have heard about SolarWinds. It’s a major US company, which recently also suffered a cyberattack. Their system was infiltrated and there was data breach. Some of their clients were major ones, like Microsoft, Cisco and the Government.

5. Closer to home, Singtel was also recently targeted. About 100,000 customers' personal data was stolen during the data breach. Whether it’s overseas or local, cyberattacks are becoming more and more real. While so far it has been affecting more commercial businesses, there is no doubt to us that the Government and the state could also be targeted in peacetime and perhaps, in hybrid warfare, that I’ve mentioned earlier on.

6. Thus, it is actually very important that we nurture our own home-grown cybersecurity talents and develop strong capabilities to safeguard our nation. This is especially so as businesses, products and services become more and more digitalised. Cybersecurity, increasingly, will become a prerequisite as we embark on our Smart Nation journey, and we see more and more digitalisation in our daily lives.

7. All of us have a role to play in building up our national security. It is for this reason that some years ago, in Total Defence, the Sixth Pillar - the Pillar of Digital Defence, was introduced. This is our nation’s way of reminding everyone – in the Government, private sector and in civil society that everyone has a part to play in Digital Defence too.

8. Given the importance of building a pipeline of talent, the Ministry of Education is very eager to support the learning and development of talent in our schools. You would have heard about the National Digital Literacy Programme, all our upper primary students learn computational thinking and also some simple coding.

9. For our secondary and pre-university students, we seek to broaden the students’ exposure to computational thinking through CCAs and academic programmes, and we even have Computing as an O-Level subject. When I was in secondary school many years ago, we didn’t have that. This reflects the knowledge and skills that our students and workforce need, really have evolved.

10. I am heartened that HCI, the co-organisers today, has taken very active steps in nurturing the pipeline of ICT talents in Singapore. It introduced its school-based Computing Talent Programme, for students from Sec 3 to JC2, to provide some enriched curriculum and research opportunities in ICT. I was talking to your Principal and your Teacher-in-charge, Mr Ng Say Tiong, earlier on and I was made aware that this is a very promising and popular programme amongst the students in HCI. So, well done!

11. HCI also encourages students to apply digital solutions to real-life problems. For example, last year, in the thick of COVID, I heard some students in HCI developed an app to help the teachers analyse and observe patterns of social and safe distancing in the canteen. So really, these skills that you have picked up can help save lives, even in your school.

12. I would like to thank CSIT as well, for co-organising Cyberthon. The participating students from the 17 schools, about 288 students and the 12 teachers, have greatly benefited from the rigorous month-long online training and also the masterclasses. Most of all, being able to learn from some of Singapore’s best cybersecurity and data science engineers from CSIT must have been a real treat.

13. In Singapore, students who are interested and passionate in this space have many opportunities. CSIT offers undergraduate scholarships, and in MINDEF, when boys are enlisted, there is also the Cyber Specialist scheme, where you will be trained further in this area in our Institutes of Higher Learning. You will be deployed in cyber defence roles to do real operational work, and most importantly, the mission then is to safeguard Singapore’s cyberspace. When you grow up and are ready to join the workforce, you will find there is an abundance of job opportunities in IT, ICT, AI, and so on. In fact, we are so short of our own talent that we continue to need foreign workforce to complement our local workforce in this space. I really hope that more and more Singaporeans will step up and pick up skills in this area.

14. I want to convey my sincere thanks to HCI, CSIT and Defence Cyber Organisation for working hard to host this annual competition. The takeaway for me is that, while winning is important, what is more important is the learning experience. I hope that whether you win or not, you will take with you the valuable experience and the learning that you have gained through this journey.

15. Finally, I hope that everybody will have enjoyed an enriching and fruitful experience. For those who are celebrating Mother’s Day tomorrow, Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you.

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