First batch of cyber warriors selected to drive Singapore's Smart Nation efforts

Scholarship recipients take a wefie with Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan and VIPs at the end of the Smart Nation Scholarship Award Ceremony, on Aug 17. 2018.
Scholarship recipients take a wefie with Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan and VIPs at the end of the Smart Nation Scholarship Award Ceremony, on Aug 17. 2018.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Smart Nation scholars Pun Shu Fen and Lee Wei Jie at the Smart Nation Scholarship Award Ceremony 2018, held at Conrad Centennial Singapore, on Aug 17, 2018.
Smart Nation scholars Pun Shu Fen and Lee Wei Jie at the Smart Nation Scholarship Award Ceremony 2018, held at Conrad Centennial Singapore, on Aug 17, 2018.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

SINGAPORE - She may not be sleeping in a military bunk or applying combat tactics in the jungle. But Ms Pun Shu Fen is training to be one of the first cyber warriors in Singapore, defending the nation's critical information infrastructure.

Ms Pun, 22, is among the pioneer batch of nine Smart Nation Scholarship holders. The two women and seven men were selected from 233 applicants to be groomed to drive Singapore's Smart Nation and digitalisation efforts.

Presenting the inaugural awards at a ceremony on Friday (Aug 17), Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said that the Government had outsourced too much technology projects in the past, but this has changed.

"It is absolutely essential for us (now) to attract a strong pool of top engineering talent to lead and drive our digital transformation... Training manpower cannot be done overnight; it is a long-term investment," he said.

Whether it is artificial intelligence or data analytics, cutting-edge technologies are shaping modern living, Dr Balakrishnan said at the event held at Conrad Centennial Singapore. "At the same time, we are moving into an era of increasingly complex cyber threats."

He cited the spread of the WannaCry ransomware in May last year (2017) that crippled hospitals, government agencies and railway operations around the world, and SingHealth's massive breach of the private data of 1.5 million patients.

"As recent events have demonstrated, cyber security is an essential part of our Smart Nation journey. We cannot be a Smart Nation if our systems are open and vulnerable," he said.

Launched in March this year (2018), the Smart Nation Scholarship is aimed at Singaporean students who have completed their junior college or polytechnic studies.

 
 
 

It is offered by the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Ms Pun is currently pursuing a double degree in Economics and Computer Science at Nanyang Technological University. She will be graduating in 2020 and will be specialising in cyber security.

Her passion is in digital forensics and malware analysis, and she aspires to be a white-hat hacker to counteract the offensive moves of Singapore's cyber enemies.

"There have been a number of attacks recently. Singapore needs to have a strong ecosystem and I would like to play a part," said Ms Pun, a former Hwa Chong Institution student.

The nine scholarship holders were selected based on their academic merits and leadership qualities. They also aced aptitude tests, management interviews and agency-specific assessments.

The other scholarship holders are Mr Yin Yi De, 23, Ms Ong Jing Yin, 21, Mr Chester Sng Yu Feng, 22, Mr Marcus Ho Kan Jie, 21, Mr Howard Yang, 21, Mr Lee Wei Jie, 19, Mr Yong Ming Yang, 20, and Mr Alan Low Cheong Wah, 20.

Their undergraduate studies at local and overseas universities are in infocomm technology-related disciplines, such as computer science, information security and mathematics. After graduation, they will start their careers with the CSA, GovTech or IMDA.