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Speech By Mr Howie Lau At The Singapore University Of Social Sciences Convocation 2018

Speech By Mr Howie Lau, President, Singapore Computer Society, And Chief Industry Development Officer, Info-communications Media Development Authority, At The Singapore University Of Social Sciences Convocation 2018 On Oct 11 2018, 9.30 a.m., The Grand Hall, Block A, Level 4, SUSS

Mr Stephen Lee, Chancellor, Singapore University of Social Sciences; 
Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University of Social Sciences; 
Distinguished Guests; 
Ladies and Gentlemen;


  1. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity and honour to share this momentous day with all of you.
  1. Let me start with some well-deserved congratulations. Congratulations to SUSS, faculty, lecturers and tutors – 2,268 Graduands with 495 from School for Science & Technology. Congratulations to the family and friends who played a strong role of support and encouragement during the past few years. Finally, heartiest congratulations to the graduating class! Not just for the well-earned degree but also for the friendships, the good experiences, the bad experiences, learning experiences from falls that you’ve made and successes you’ve achieved. These experiences would, one way or the other, help to shape who you are.
  1. I’m sure you’d be closing this chapter with celebrations as you prepare to embark on the next leg of your life journey. I’m very excited for you as the world presents so many opportunities and experiences for you.
Three Irreversible Trends, Four Cs and Two Poems

  1. I hope by the end of this speech, I’ve shared with you 3 irreversible trends, 4 Cs and 2 poems. Let’s start with the 3 irreversible trends.
Technology will Become Invisible

  1. First, technology will become invisible as it’ll become an integral part of everything that we do. It wasn’t that long ago that there was excitement that Singapore bought our first IBM mainframe back in 1962. Now almost every company has at least 1 computer with more processing power than the mainframe of the 60s. Tech used to be a vertical industry and now it’s a horizontal. Whether you’re in retail, in logistics, in healthcare, in finance, tech plays an integral role.
  1. The iPhone was launched in 2007 which started the world of smart phones. YouTube was founded in 2005, Facebook in 2004, Google in 1998, WhatsApp in 2009. Today in Singapore we’ve about 148% phone penetration, that’s about 1.5 phones per Singaporean. And I believe many of us would be using at least one or more of the apps every day? Tech will become invisible as it’ll be a crucial element of everything we do.
Fast will become faster

  1. Secondly, the speed of change and speed of new developments will continue to accelerate as technology has enabled to acceleration of everything. The slowest we’ll ever be is yesterday.
  1. It took the traditional telephone 50 years to achieve 50 million users. TV took 22 years, the PC took 14 years, the internet 7 years, YouTube took 4 years, Twitter took 2 years. Pokémon Go took 19 days. And recently we saw a new YouTube sensation to hit 50 million viewers in 24 hours = Chewbacca Mum.
Value comes from Connecting Dots as Information is Democratised

  1. Third, in our hyperconnected world where everyone, every business and every data set or information is connected, value creation will come from connecting the dots as everyone has pretty much same access to information and data – information is democratised.
  1. Value is no longer created from finding information but by finding innovative ways to connect the dots to create new value propositions, to solve problems.
  1. Ride hailing apps are basically connecting the spare capacities of cars on roads with GPS technology to match demand and supply of rides. AirBnB is based on same concept.
  1. CrystalKnows provides users with personality related information about the people that you’re interested in by searching the web for articles written about and by the person.
  1. These 3 irreversible trends have created a tremendous platform or a launchpad for anyone and any company to become gamechangers using technology.
  1. Am sure everyone here will have different dreams and aspirations. Whatever those aspirations may be and whatever you may choose to next pursue, I hope that you’ll leverage the connected global stage to create the most beautiful stories, the most impactful projects, the most outrageous experiences for yourselves as you write your next chapter.
  1. Some of you might be thinking of going into Startups, if you are, I’d encourage you to think BIG and go BIG. Singapore is already home to the 5 Unicorns (worth 1B valuation) – Razer, Lazada, Grab, Trax and SEA. Am confident we can grow more next generation world beaters out of Singapore.
  1. Some of you might be looking to join MNCs or corporates, Singapore is regional HQ for almost all major global technology companies from IBM, Apple, Google, Facebook, Oracle etc.
  1. Whichever path you choose, I’m hopeful that more Singaporeans would punch above our weight class and become leaders on the global stage. The global doors have been opened wider than before because of technology, am confident that Singaporeans will find ways to leverage these trends to do our little red dot proud in which ever fields you choose to pursue.
4 Cs to close

  1. Like to leave you with 4 Cs for you to consider as you embark on your next paths.
  1. Curious – Make Curiosity a habit, curious on latest tech trends, business trends, arts, science, philosophy, entertainment. Curiosity opens to our minds to see perhaps new dots connecting where it’s not done before.
  1. Competent – Make staying competent an obsession. Competence in what you do today and what you plan to do tomorrow. Not easy but exceptionally important as speed of change is faster than before. Learning new skills and capabilities is a lifelong play. For tech professionals, SCS plays a part to help expose members to new technology as well as training programmes. Staying competent is easier than before as information is available everywhere. (If time permits, will share personal anecdote on how I’m trying to learn piano).
  1. Confidence – Make confidence your hallmark. During SCS meetings with many students from IHLs and young professionals, we often hear that some find it difficult to know what to pursue. Poet Robert Frost has a famous poem: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveller, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth.”
  1. This poem is called The Road Not Taken and the poet shares that whichever path you choose, make the best of it as you’d never know what the other path (that you didn’t choose) would lead to.
  1. Whichever path you choose, charge ahead with confidence and make the best of it. Whichever path you choose, be confident that you can make a difference and make a mark on global stage, not just Singapore. If need be, bite off more than you can chew... and then chew it.
  1. Contribute – Lastly, make contributing and giving back a part of your life. Many have contributed to your success today and many others would have laid the foundations for the paths that we take in life. I’m hopeful that you’d find ways to actively contribute and make a difference to someone or something. It doesn’t matter if it’s contributing or doing something nice for your school, your communities, your family, your friends.
  1. Do google this poem by Edgar Guest – called Have You Earned your Tomorrow. Here is the last paragraph: “Did you waste the day, or lose it, was it well or sorely spent? Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent? As you close your eyes in slumber do you think that God would say, You have earned one more tomorrow by the work you did today?”

  1. In summary, heartiest congratulations on this milestone and more importantly for your new paths that you’d take. I’m confident that with the foundation that SUSS has provided, you’d create waves (big and small waves) in the worlds that you play in. I’m also hopeful that you’d stay Curious, constantly stay Competent, be Confident and find ways to Contribute. All the best!
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