Attitudes to success and failure 'must change for Singapore to become smart nation'

(From left to right) Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, LTA Chief Executive Chew Men Leong, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and LTA Deputy Director Jonah Ong at the National lnfocomm Awards 2014 Ceremony. -- ST
(From left to right) Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, LTA Chief Executive Chew Men Leong, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and LTA Deputy Director Jonah Ong at the National lnfocomm Awards 2014 Ceremony. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - Attitudes towards success and failure in Singapore must change if the country is to succeed in becoming a smart nation, using technology to develop solutions for society's problems, said Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

In a Facebook post on Monday evening, he said Singaporeans need to overcome their fear of failure and be prepared to keep experimenting rather than give up in despair.

Dr Balakrishnan is the head of the Smart Nation Programme Office, a unit under the Prime Minister's Office that aims to create a society capitalising on the digital revolution.

At the launch, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said schools here need to imbue students with tech skills and the Silicon Valley mindset of "fail fast, learn quickly", so that they can create the technology of the future.

Building on this point, Dr Balakrishnan said: "Will we be able to overcome our fear of failure and be prepared to experiment? There will be many failed projects, but we need to learn and persevere in the face of these failures, and not give up in despair. Our attitude to success and failure must change."

Other challenges that Singapore faces in its quest to be a smart nation include ensuring that those less digitally savvy are not left behind, developing an "open-source" mindset where data and solutions are shared openly, and finding roles for local enterprises to play, he said.

He used NEWater as an example of how local companies can collaborate with global companies to find their niche on the world stage.

"We didn't invent reverse osmosis. But we refined, deployed and embedded the technology into our local ecosystem," Dr Balakrishnan said. "This is how we create competitive advantage for ourselves, not necessarily in the whole global value chain but segments of it where we have strategic needs or a head start."

The next generation of Singaporeans will also need to master a new set of "ABCs" to thrive in the digital age, said Dr Balakrishnan. This refers to "an Aesthetic sense of beauty and design, the ability to Build, and the ability to Communicate effectively".

He added: "We do not have all the answers. But I do know that there is so much to be done."