Smart Nation Fellowship aims to woo top S'porean IT talent home

PM Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (far right) with Singaporeans working at Facebook in California last month. PM Lee encouraged Singaporeans working in the US to maintain their links and return one day.
PM Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (far right) with Singaporeans working at Facebook in California last month. PM Lee encouraged Singaporeans working in the US to maintain their links and return one day.PHOTO: MCI

They will work for up to six months with IDA crack team; those based here may apply too

The call for top data scientists, technologists and engineers abroad to come back to Singapore to work on smart nation projects has grown louder.

Yesterday, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) rolled out Singapore's first Smart Nation Fellowship Programme, which is targeted primarily at Singaporeans working overseas.

IDA managing director Jacqueline Poh said: "Building a smart nation requires all hands on deck."

Successful fellowship applicants will work on stints of three to six months alongside software engineers from a crack team at IDA, dubbed Government Digital Services (GDS).

This team is behind the myResponder app, which directs qualified volunteers to suspected heart attack cases, to attend to them until emergency services arrive.

Another GDS app, called Beeline, allows office workers to book rides from private bus operators.

It is hoped that an inaugural batch of four to eight fellows will be appointed by the year end. They will each receive a stipend.

TAPPING ALL AVAILABLE TALENT

Building a smart nation requires all hands on deck.

MS JACQUELINE POH, IDA managing director

Through this fellowship, IDA also hopes to establish a global resource network that the Singapore Government can continually tap.

The fellowship is also open to Singaporeans working in the private sector or academia in Singapore.

Its launch comes after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit last month to San Francisco, where he encouraged Singaporeans working there to maintain their links and return one day.

While the crack team of more than 90 Singapore government data scientists and software engineers is already banging out codes and designing solutions to address the needs of a smart nation - such as in transport and healthcare - there is also a need for skills transfer from the best and the brightest.

"The Government must continually engage with and learn from these technology experts globally to actively create technology applications that have the potential to change lives in Singapore," said Ms Poh. She urged Singaporean technologists abroad to contribute time here to make a difference to Singapore's smart nation vision and inspire the next generation of technologists.

Ms Shirley Wong, chairman of the Singapore infocomm Technology Federation, said the programme is a clever way to ensure that much-needed resources are within easy reach.

"A short stint is tenable for those who still prefer to work in their current jobs," she added.

Mr Aloysius Cheang, the Asia- Pacific managing director of global computing security association Cloud Security Alliance, said: "Before trying to tap (the skills of) fellow Singaporeans overseas, more efforts should be spent to connect to the experts located within Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Smart Nation Fellowship aims to woo top S'porean IT talent home'. Print Edition | Subscribe