Over the course of three weeks, 70 teenagers bonded over hybrid programming and coding workshops, and toured J.P. Morgan’s Global Command Center that responds to cyber and IT issues from around the world. They also took part in a competition to develop innovative solutions for some of the world’s most pressing sustainability issues.
Sharing a love for coding, the teenage girls, aged between 13 and 17, from 26 schools across Singapore, are participants in J.P. Morgan’s flagship youth programme GenerationTech. In groups of five, the teenage girls were mentored by 30 technologists from J.P. Morgan as they brainstormed technology solutions for one of three United Nations Sustainable Goals, including Climate Action, Clean Water & Sanitation, and Sustainable Cities & Communities. Three winning teams were selected based on design and the quality of their ideas, depth of technical solution and the quality of presentations, with each member taking home an Apple iPad.
Speaking at GenerationTech’s closing ceremony on Aug 5, Minister of State for Social and Family Development and Home Affairs Sun Xueling said: “It is important for students to go beyond their classrooms to gain exposure to real-life application of technology. For instance, many young girls are passionate about causes like climate action and applying technology solutions to uplift the vulnerable.”
One winning team, for example, came up with a new app to connect jobseekers, including ex-offenders, to potential employers, thereby building a more inclusive and sustainable society.
“Sustainable cities are about people, safety, and making sure no one is left behind. So when you work on a solution, it has to start with people,” said 15-year-old Xinyi Pay, from Cedar Girls Secondary School.
Launched globally in 2016, GenerationTech is a youth programme that brings together youth to do social good by designing tech solutions. The programme debuted in Singapore last year, with the aim of addressing the gender gap in technology and inspiring tomorrow’s women to work in technology from an early stage. This year, the programme is supported by Singapore Women in Tech (SGWiT) – an initiative driven by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and supported by community and industry partners.
Mr Ed Bizaoui, J.P. Morgan’s Chief Information Officer for Asia Pacific, who was also at the ceremony, said: “At J.P. Morgan, we strongly believe that initiatives such as GenerationTech can instil a love for technology in girls from an early stage. A diverse and inclusive workforce helps encourage broader thought and innovative outcomes, especially when it comes to adopting newer technologies.”
Learning beyond the classroom
According to Boston Consulting Group, four in 10 tech positions in Singapore are held by women, a proportion higher than in the US, Britain and Australia.
Females, however, make up only 21 per cent of the city-state’s engineering graduates and 28 per cent of information technology graduates, a STEM Gender Gap report by Nanyang Technological University shows.
Further, in 2021, only 58 per cent of girls who graduated with STEM degrees went on to have related careers.
Ms Sun, who presented prizes to the teams with the best ideas, said more effort would be needed to attract women to STEM education and jobs.
“The range of jobs and entry points for women in tech is much wider than most think. Hence, an important part of the initiative to inspire girls to join tech is to share with them the many varied opportunities available and tackle stereotypes around gender and jobs,” she said.
Corporates play an important part in this process, she said, calling on companies to leverage their resources and tap on their networks to develop meaningful programmes like J.P. Morgan’s GenerationTech.
As part of the GenerationTech programme, participants were taken on a rare tour of
J.P. Morgan’s corporate centre at One@Changi where they got to see how the bank applied technology across different functions. The Singapore Corporate Center also houses one of its four Global Incident Command Centers that monitors and resolves technology issues for clients, as well as operates one of three global Cybersecurity Operations Centers in the world that provides 24-hour defence from day-to-day cyber threats.
Female role models in tech
J.P. Morgan’s Singapore Technology Center Manager Ms Irene Lim spoke about the importance of inspiring interest in technology from a young age.
“Programmes such as GenerationTech never existed when I was a student. I hope this experience inspired our female students to look at being a technologist in the future,” said Ms Lim.
As a mentor, Ms Lim finds time to personally provide career coaching for the youth and has actively been involved in sponsoring women to advance their careers. She has also shown extraordinary dedication towards building a diverse workforce and an inclusive community of support for women technologists, thus inspiring others around her.
Sixteen-year-old Aadya Nishtha from Singapore American School said the three-week programme gave her a better idea of the wide range of STEM-related job opportunities in the working world. She plans to pursue a STEM course in university, probably in software engineering.
Ms Lim, who was also one of the judges for the GenerationTech programme, said she was impressed by the students’ knowledge and skills. For instance, the teams demonstrated a deep understanding of app development – a multi-faceted process that includes developing easy-to-use interfaces and ensuring users remained engaged through games, community pages, chatbots and helplines manned by volunteers.
Fifteen-year-old Larene Koh from Cedar Girls Secondary School said the activities taught her how technology can be used to tackle urgent issues such as cutting carbon emissions. She was part of the winning team that developed an app called Conserve@SG, which uses gamification to motivate people to track and lower their electricity usage.
Three winning solutions from GenerationTech to create a better and more sustainable future
Protecting water quality
“Water Savers” is an app designed to teach people in Singapore how they can save water while going about their daily activities. The app also highlights different initiatives to collect and treat water, and can be used to track water purity levels in different parts of Singapore. Members of the team had the idea of developing a small device that can measure water purity by testing a few drops of water, similar to how ART (antigen rapid test) kits are used to detect the Covid-19 virus.
Gaming meets sustainability
Another winning effort was “Conserve@SG”, which allows users to track their energy consumption and compete with friends to see who can save the most electricity. By “gamifying” electricity consumption, the team hopes more people will be motivated to lower their electricity usage. Other gaming elements within the app include a quiz section that rewards people with the correct answers. Looking ahead, the team hope the app can be further developed to encourage the use of reusable plastics.
Dignity of work for all
Building sustainable cities and communities must be about people, which is why a team came up with “Jobify” to connect jobseekers, especially those with criminal records, to potential employers.
Fifteen-year-old Xinyi Pay, a student at Cedar Girls Secondary School and a member of the team that developed Jobify, said the app provides an additional channel for people who are trying to integrate back into society. Besides job listings, Jobify will also provide users with job counselling and training opportunities.