Singapore can be a place for progressive minds to contest ideas and share perspectives, and it should play this small but useful role to advance peace and humanity, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.
Citing a recent decision to host denuclearisation talks between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month, Dr Ng hopes Singapore can provide a "safe physical and intellectual haven" for new paths to be forged.
"We do not seek only to gather people who agree," Dr Ng said in his welcome address to 400 delegates of the inaugural Singapore Defence Technology Summit at the Shangri-La Hotel in Orchard.
Dr Ng noted that Singapore did not set out to be a venue for historic meetings, given its humble beginnings. Even as Singapore developed, it did not proffer itself for other prominent summits that eventually took place here, such as those between the Chinese and Taiwanese leaders in 1993 and last year.
"But if we can play that small role to advance the cause of peace and enable the progress of humanity, then Singapore ought to do it, and do it well," said Dr Ng.
The minister hopes the Singapore Defence Technology Summit can help countries deal with technological disruption's blessings and challenges. Measures must be taken, for example, to ensure that new and useful technologies such as cloud-based services and data analytics do not undermine security.
Organisers, led by the Singapore Defence Science and Technology Agency, did "much soul-searching before deciding to hold one more" summit, Dr Ng said, noting the already overcrowded landscape of meetings and conventions.
Furthermore, it is not intuitive for leaders of security and defence technology to meet, he added. "After all, would not the expected default be to advance your own domain expertise, hide your secrets and steal a march on your competitors?"
But the enthusiastic response across 17 countries affirms the organisers' belief in promoting defence technology for society's benefit, Dr Ng said, noting that attendees' diversity will contribute to delegates' learning.
"No single group will be effective to provide solutions," he said.
Policymakers, academics and industry experts are among this year's attendees for the three-day summit, which comprises breakout and panel sessions, and site visits.
Topics such as cyber security, unmanned autonomous vehicles and big data will be on the agenda.
Exhibitors such as Chinese firm SenseTime, South Korean company Samsung and ST Engineering will showcase a range of technologies from robotics to patent analytics.
Some of the industry's top minds will also be speaking at the summit. For example, retired general Keith Alexander, who founded information technology firm IronNet Cybersecurity, will be discussing the importance of a new cyber security paradigm. He is the former director of the US National Security Agency and founding commander of the US Cyber Command.
"Currently, attacks are known after they happen. We need to learn how to stop the attacks before damage is done," he said, adding that the summit is a good platform to emphasise the importance of catching threats before they cause harm.
Dr Kira Radinsky, who is online consumer giant eBay's chief scientist and data science director, will share how to look for terrorist threats in data.
Both experts are looking to work with the Singapore Government on ways to ward off cyber security threats and use predictive algorithms to improve military functions such as human resources.