Closing Address By Prof Cheong Hee Kiat At The STEP Sociovation 2022

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Closing Address by Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University of Social Sciences, at the STEP Sociovation 2022, 10 June 2022


Distinguished guests, colleagues, partners and students from Singapore and ASEAN.

Good Morning to all of you as we come together for the final segment of this year’s STEP Sociovation Forum 2022.

Let me first thank our partners, Temasek Foundation, Air Amber, Google, TikTok, Meta and Cyber Youth Singapore for supporting this meaningful initiative, and for investing your time to inspire our students.

The Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme (or STEP) Sociovation Forum 2022 reflects SUSS’s focus on producing and furthering social impact. Here, we endeavour to form attitudes, mindsets and behaviour in our students that prepare them to serve others after graduation, through our 3H education philosophy.  The 3H’s stand for Head (Knowledge with practical application), Heart (Social conscience) and Habit (Self-directed lifelong learning habits). Each is good on its own already but, when combined, will have a transformative impact on our students and their life orientation and priorities.  You see, ‘Head’ - our minds, our knowledge, our practice - can be put to solve problems, innovate, design best solutions and advance our physical world, but we will need ‘Heart’ to direct these efforts with people at the centre, to make life better for society.  And, we must do this consistently, without wavering, learning to be better, doing this as a way of work and life – that’s Habit.

In this Sociovation Forum, you, our participants, would have learnt many things.  Let me name three that I hope you have gained:

  1. Realised the social challenges in the region that emerge from the prevalence of social media, such as Internet Fraud, Fake News, and Hate Speech, as well as how social media can be both a powerful force for social good or for social harm. Social media is a double-edged sword and it needs to be handled with care. You can drive positive social change in the region through the effective use of social media campaigns, but used with ill intentions, social media can also sow division, fear, disinformation and bring real financial and material loss.
  2. Caught a bit of the 3H mindset and approach in dealing with complex issues affecting many people and our societies in a holistic, people-oriented and sustained way.
  3. Conclude that we cannot tackle these issues alone, either individually, as a community or even as a country. Social media is open, boundary-less, pervasive, difficult to manage, and so is its impact. We need to bring peoples together, regionally, internationally, to work on the solutions. We need to build strong cross-cultural connections and understanding, and trust. And that is why we have gathered students from the region to participate in this forum.

The challenge we have with social media has been around for quite a while.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of a global digital culture, communities in ASEAN have grown far more reliant on the Internet to work, communicate and entertain themselves as they stay indoors due to virus fears. So many have mobile phones now and use social media that an alarming pattern of problems have emerged that can no longer be ignored. These complex challenges permeate all areas, such as financial scams and identity theft targeted at vulnerable groups, fake news clouding pandemic battles and hate speech dividing communities.  Just take scams alone – it is now a ‘business’, millions of dollars are stolen, and you know what, many victims are senior folks who lose their life savings.  The social media theme of Sociovation 2022 is indeed a very worthwhile one.

While the Sociovation Forum is coming to an end for you, it is just the beginning in your journey as young change makers. The friendships that you have formed today are no ordinary ones. You started the programme as strangers, but you emerge connected in a network of young ASEAN change makers. One day, that friendship may well facilitate and spur the collaboration needed to solve wicked problems of the time.  Remember to persevere despite the problems faced, and remember to keep on learning, for there’s so much more to learn about using social media for social good.

Take care and thank you.

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