SINGAPORE - Top engineering talent is needed across the board for the new Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) to fulfil its ambitious mandate, but attracting such people will not be easy, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Dec 2).
The Government has tried hard to do this in recent years by offering scholarships, for instance, and persuading Singaporeans working in the tech sector overseas to return home, he said.
Besides attending to factors such as competitive pay, career progression and a good working environment, one other ingredient is providing a sense of purpose - employees must feel there is something worthwhile to achieve, PM Lee said at the launch of HTX at Mediapolis in one-north.
"So we are structuring engineering jobs and responsibilities to enable engineers to do valuable work and make an impact in the public service. That is something that HTX can offer them," he said.
"Protecting lives and property, maintaining law and order, and, ultimately, safeguarding Singapore through the application of science and technology - it is a noble cause, which I hope will inspire our Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) talent to join HTX."
The 1,300-strong statutory board under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will be tasked with developing customised solutions and growing organic capabilities in science and technology for Singapore's homeland security. It has plans to expand to 2,000 officers.
Its mandate includes conducting applied research in areas such as biometrics, smart sensors and robotics. HTX will also bring together capabilities, knowledge and resources from different Home Team departments.
Some 1,400 people, including government officials, foreign ambassadors, industry leaders and staff, attended the launch event on Monday.
For the agency to succeed, Home Team agencies must see tech as an integral part of their operations, he said.
"Every agency must see tech as central to their mission - not as an add-on, not something exotic, not something to be left to HTX... to manage on their own. It's a command responsibility.
"Every commander, every officer must embrace tech and welcome what HTX can do for them, even when using tech means disrupting existing routines and established ways of doing things," said PM Lee.
The Home Team has made much progress in the last decade or so, he said. For instance, by developing digital forensics capabilities, trialling unmanned surface vessels to patrol the country's waters, and automating immigration clearance processes at border checkpoints.
He expressed hope that HTX will help take the Home Team to the next level.
PM Lee added that the agency is part of a larger effort across the Government to build up tech capabilities, bridge and break down silos, use resources more efficiently, and recruit high-calibre officers who can translate operational requirements into tech solutions.
HTX can be a centre of excellence within the Government, sharing its experiences and solutions with other agencies that have similar needs, for instance, in enforcement or regulatory work.
Revealing that agencies such as the Manpower Ministry, Singapore Customs and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau have already approached HTX to work together, PM Lee said he looks forward to seeing HTX make its mark - as a key member of the Home Team, as a leading science and technology agency for homeland security, and as a force multiplier for Singapore.
"Long may you be unconventional and, indeed, as X-ceptional as your acronym," he added.
Mr Chan Tsan, who is concurrently deputy secretary (development) at MHA and chief executive of HTX, said in an earlier speech at the event that his agency's ambition is to realise a smarter, swifter and stronger Home Team - one that is "powered by HTX solutions".
To do so, the agency will harness the potential of technological advances and translate them into operational capabilities. It will also invest in and groom the next generation of talent in the science and technology field, said Mr Chan.
HTX will also work with industry and public service partners such as the Defence Science and Technology Agency and the Government Technology Agency, as well as with fellow Home Team departments.
"HTX's technologies are only meaningful when they are deployed in your operations - solving crimes, saving lives, securing our borders and protecting our public spaces. HTX will succeed only when you succeed," he added.