Speeches/Interviews

November 09, 2018

Address by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State (Ministry of Education) at the Oracle Impact Innovation Summit, Sofitel Hotel

Mr Cherian Varghese, Regional Managing Director,

Oracle ASEAN Ms Serene Sia, Managing Director, Oracle Singapore

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Harnessing Technology Strategically

2. Technological advancements are creating deep and far-reaching impact in many aspects of our lives, driving industry transformation and disrupting traditional economic models at an ever-increasing pace. It is not possible to prevent or stop such changes. Attempting to do so will be like trying to reverse the tide - you can try but the tide will win.

3. To ride these waves of change, companies and employees alike must embrace technology, and be willing to learn and unlearn the way we work. This is true for emerging and new sectors. It is also true for traditional sectors. In fact, I would argue that there is no sector that can be exempted from these forces of change. Smart application of new technology can bring about new ideas and new ways of doing things. Let me share with you some examples of products, services, and processes where technology can help transform companies, including many traditional sectors.

4. One highly traditional sector that has been around for a long time is the food manufacturing sector. Technology has now brought about not just more efficient ways of producing food, but also new types of food. How do you produce food that tastes good and is healthier? There are now new types of natural sugars that can be derived from figs, jackfruit, and corn. These can then be combined with other types of natural sweeteners to sweeten food and do not cause the same problems as normal sugars. There are companies looking actively at how they can sweeten food in a way that preserves the taste and is healthier. Another example is the mobile phone, which has changed by leap and bounds from when it first started. I remember when I first got a mobile phone, the Nokia Butterfly, in the 90s. What you have in your hands today, even if it is the cheapest phone in the market, probably has more computing power than what was available to us back then. This is how technology and innovation can bring about better and improved products for the benefit of companies and consumers alike.

5. I was at Swissotel the other day, and they demonstrated a new check-in process. The technology is similar to what we have in Changi Terminal 4 where facial recognition is used. Customer service officers can now engage customers in a more meaningful way and provide a more welcoming experience, rather than standing behind a counter and keying in data. So, technology changes the way we provide services too. This also applies to some very traditional sectors. I was at a Taoist temple the other day, and they now have technology to try and enhance the services that they provide to their clients – they have a clean burner for the burning of offerings, which filters and traps all the ash to ensure that residents in the vicinity are not affected. Clients are also able to send a message, at a fee, which allows the ancestral tablets to light up. These are traditional sectors but people are looking at using technology to do things differently.

6. For backend processes, I am sure many of you are aware that there is tremendous scope for supply chain management, HR management, and finance. At Jumbo restaurants, they are now trying new ways and systems to hire temporary staff during peak periods and are also looking at how to use Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to choose crabs that have more meat.

7. I have given you examples from mostly traditional sectors but my point is this –whether it is a new sector, whether you are talking about FinTech, cyber security or Big Data or more traditional sectors, the use of technology is necessary. All sectors need to embrace technology to be able to compete, to improve productivity, to offer better products and services to customers, and to improve efficiency of backend services. Today, many companies would be familiar with this concept of tapping on technology to support new business models and process reengineering. But I would also argue that it is not enough for a company to only apply technology or buy new equipment. The company also needs to have a skilled workforce to use these technologies and equipment effectively if it wants to improve productivity and enhance its competitiveness. Hence, investment in skills upgrading and training is a critical enabler for successful transformation.

8. Such skills development efforts can also benefit from technology-driven insights, so that investments are more targeted to help employees with the skillsets that will support business transformation. If done well, companies will be able to uplift their efficiency and capabilities, not just for themselves, but also across their entire industry, turning challenges into opportunities.

9. The Government is committed to supporting our companies in your transformation journeys. SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) has been working with multiple partners and stakeholders across the entire value chain, to help companies increase your capabilities, build up your talent pipeline, and help Singaporeans keep pace with evolving skills needs.

10. Intermediaries such as banks, accounting firms, technology companies like Oracle, Trade Association and Chambers, unions, and enterprise service providers have a critical role to play. They have an in-depth understanding of industry needs and growth opportunities, especially in understanding the needs of their customers, and are connected to extensive business networks. They are able to complement efforts by government agencies to support and reach out to a wider pool of enterprises, especially the broad middle category of SMEs. We need to uplift the capabilities of these companies to maximise the impact of our economic transformation efforts. It is not enough to only focus on MNCs and large companies; we also need to uplift this broad middle category of SMEs.

11. The intermediaries are able to play important roles in helping companies transform their operations, enhance their competitiveness and capture new growth opportunities in domestic and overseas markets. As we move into a new phase of economic development, we must continue to evolve and strengthen the partnership between Government and these intermediaries.

Collaboration between Oracle and SkillsFuture Singapore

12. A good example is the collaboration between Oracle and SSG. Today’s MoU signing represents a major step forward in fostering this partnership to help strengthen the broader skills ecosystem in Singapore.

13. By working together, SSG and Oracle will help companies to harness technology for their skills development efforts. The Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Product will be augmented with the Skills Frameworks, so that users or companies will be able to access the Skills Frameworks directly from their HCM interface.

14. This will help employers and HR practitioners refine their recruitment, talent management, and organisational learning & development practices. They will also gain better workforce insights that can help them design HR management and talent development plans.

15. This collaboration also taps on Oracle’s expertise in the areas that include Blockchain, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Cloud Platform and Application to aggregate sectoral demand for skills and level up manpower capabilities within the industry.

16. Oracle will be expanding their continuing education and training (CET) offerings through educational institutions and CET centres to support the national SkillsFuture movement, and contribute to developing the talent pipeline for the industry as a whole. Not just for Oracle, which is a very important industry player, but they are going beyond to benefit the wider industry as well.

17. I would like to encourage companies to see training and skills upgrading for your employees as an investment, like what Oracle has done. It will have a direct impact on improving your productivity and competitiveness, and it will affect whether existing and potential employees view you as a choice employer that they want to work for.

Conclusion

18. Today’s MoU signing is a strong testament to Oracle’s commitment towards building a skills-based economy in Singapore. By supporting lifelong learning and skills upgrading through the SkillsFuture movement, companies can develop the human capital they need to innovate and grow. Industry champions like Oracle are well-placed to take the lead in driving such initiatives.

19. I applaud Oracle and I thank them for adopting this progressive approach, and I hope to see many more industry partners coming forward to join us in establishing similar collaborations in their sectors.

20. I wish everyone a fruitful Summit ahead. Thank you.