The panel discussion on 'Staying Relevant in the Digital Age' at the SCS Tech3 Forum, moderated by Prof Annie Koh from Singapore Management University. (SMU). (Photo: SCS)
Mr Howie Lau: "It's not about the sword, but the swordsman." (Photo: SCS)
By Francis Kan
“It’s not about the sword, but the swordsman.”
These were the wise words by the Singapore Computer Society (SCS) President Howie Lau in his opening remarks at the Tech3 (pronounced “Tech Cubed”) forum held on 12 July 2018.
Tech3 is an annual event organised by the SCS to advocate for professional and career development of ICT professionals.
“Technology and people cannot be divorced,” explained Mr Lau.
“The Tech3 platform is for industry experts to share their thoughts and points of view. It is a forum for members and non-technology professionals to share their views and network.”
Mr Charlie Ang, Founder of Everything 4.0. (Photo: SCS)
The close link between technology and workers was a key theme explored at the forum, highlighting how the pace of change brought about by technological advancements will have a significant impact on the type of skills and talent needed in a digital economy.
In a speech on preparing for the disruption of work, futurist Charlie Ang gave his take on the technologies that will have the biggest impact on the workplace.
“The speed of change is accelerating. In the next 10 years, manufacturing industries will change more than in the last 100 years,” said Mr Ang, who is the founder of Everything 4.0, an agency that helps companies prepare for a disruptive future.
He said that the most disruptive consumer technology in the next five years is likely to be artificial intelligence (AI)-powered voice assistants.
He likened the technology, which is currently in its infancy in products such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, to having a real personal assistant with you at all times on your mobile device.
“In the next five years, these AI assistants will get to know you and your external world very well. It will know how you make decisions – what to eat, what movies to watch, and who to date,” he said.
This level of intimacy will have huge ramifications on a number of industries.
Ms Lai Shanru, Co-founder of Shopback. (Photo: SCS)
For instance, consumers will now make decisions based on the advice of their AI assistants, rendering advertising and media irrelevant in the purchasing decision, explained Mr Ang.
In terms of talent, the coming digital transformation of business will require workers who can be “entrepreneurial leaders and technology innovators” within their organisations, he added.
Staying relevant in the digital age
A panel of entrepreneurs then took the stage to share their views on what it takes for businesses to survive the digital revolution. No surprises, given that the panel discussion theme was 'Staying Relevant in the Digital Age'.
Ms Lai Shanru, co-founder of retail platform ShopBack, spoke about how the start-up used digital platforms and content to attract talent.
“We used these platforms to tell people what life at ShopBack is like and our company values, which promotes innovation,” she said.
Ms Lai Shanru, Mr Toby Koh and Mr Arthur Chua were on the panel discussion. (Photo: SCS)
The need for businesses in traditional industries to transform was discussed by Mr Toby Koh, group managing director of Ademco Security Group.
In the past five years, the company has embraced new technology, such as smart cameras and sensors to complement their flesh-and-blood security officers.
“By putting in place technology, we can drive efficiency, and so the costs to the client comes down. We can then re-train our officers to handle higher value-added activities and pay them more,” he explained.
Likewise, Mr Arthur Chua, CEO of the Goldbell Group, is investing in new technology to expand beyond the company’s core vehicle leasing and distribution business to stay relevant.
Two years ago, he co-founded the start-up Ministry of Movement, which is currently trialling a system that dynamically matches bus shuttles with people who request for rides.
“The idea is for one central command system to tell vehicles where to move. The goal is to have the speed like a taxi but priced like a bus,” he said.