Singapore must not be against science and tech or it will be ‘the end of us’

Singapore cannot be a society that fears and rejects and , for this will hold back progress and “be the end of us”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Jun 26).

Speaking at the Smart Nation Summit’s closing dialogue session, Mr Lee said Singapore needs to embrace science and technology and not fear it. “People must not be anti-tech or anti-science, because that would hold back progress and be the end of us.”

At the same time, people need to understand the risks of technology, be it cybersecurity, privacy or online falsehoods, he added.

The Singapore ethos, Mr Lee said, must be one centred on rationality and transparency and the ability to examine and solve problems based on these.

Embracing science and technology was one of three ingredients the Prime Minister cited in his speech as necessary for Singapore to succeed in its Smart Nation vision.

Mr Lee also highlighted the need for people with very strong engineering capabilities and a bigger pool of leaders and managers.

The country needs a strong, broad base of tech talent, said Mr Lee. This means attracting and recruiting engineers to build teams of the calibre of the best tech companies in Silicon Valley and other such popular talent hotspots.

There is some progress in this front as companies such as Google and Facebook are beginning to have engineering operations here, he pointed out.

“GO OUT AND CHANGE THE WORLD”

During a fireside chat after his speech, Mr Lee was asked specifically how Singapore’s youths and millennials can best take advantage of the fast-evolving tech sector.

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To this, Mr Lee said: “Master a trade… don’t lightly drop out of university.

“But if you’re going to be the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, then go for it.”

He also urged them to make the most of the opportunities afforded to them, including studying and working in some of these tech hotspots.

Should they one day decide to return to Singapore, Mr Lee advised: “Make the most of your jobs first, then go out and change the world.”

LEADERS WHO UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY

During his speech, Mr Lee also spoke on how Singapore needs a bigger pool of leaders and managers who understand technology – people who know what is real in the tech sector and “what’s snake oil”.

Singapore, he added, is determined to achieve its Smart Nation vision. This is essential if Singapore is to remain an “outstanding metropolis” that is up there with the rest in terms of how people live, work and play, he said.

“We are committing enormous resources, but the Government cannot do this alone,” Mr Lee said. “So we welcome the private sector to help us make this happen.”

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