At the United Nations Conference Centre With M5
On October 16th, I was thrilled to be invited to speak at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok. GovInsider had organised a conference on innovation. My role was to discuss being future-ready in the healthcare industry.
Feeling a little nervous, I brought a posse with me for support, comprising of two interns & my daughter. Simply going through the gantry of the United Nations building was thrilling. Security was tight and we all had our passports & bags checked before being issued passes. Even little M5 had her own pass and went through without a hitch, although her balloon was denied entry. The guard explained it was in case it should pop and set off undue alarm. However he kindly kept it for her and asked that she retrieve it on her way out.
Once in, we milled around excitedly. We toured the exhibition displaying facial recognition systems and chatted with sponsors like Amazon Web Services. Although we were rubbing shoulders with government officials & captains of industry, M5 coolly held her own. While the grown-ups lined up for coffee and discussed world affairs, she filled her cup with milk and took in her surroundings. When the time came to take our places at the table, she drew pictures of what she saw, quietly leaving me to do what I had to do.
Who Said What
Tough Questions From the United Nations ESCAP
Starting the conference off on a strong note was Jonathan Wong. He is the Chief of Technology & Innovation for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific. Unafraid to ask tough questions, he challenged us to consider a few things. For instance, with innovation, we might win the battle but lose the war, specifically with respect to CO2 emissions. He also took stock of Asia as a region, comprising of both the most innovative and yet most tech-deprived countries at the same time. Listening to him, I had a sense of urgency to do more. For example, look outside our country and grow with others in the region. In fact, we should collaborate internationally with a view to have more sustainable solutions for the planet.
Building A Government That Innovates
H.E. Huda Al Hashimi, Assistant Director-General for Strategy & Innovation from the Prime Minister’s Office at the United Arab Emirates shared about building a government that innovates. I was so grateful to hear this presentation as many of the steps outlined are relevant to the success of any national project. For instance, starting with a clear vision for the future, shifting mindsets and measuring progress. Next, providing a space to experiment and making sure regulation keeps up. These shed light about how to guide my team that’s teaching bystanders in Singapore about CPR & AED using our Dare To Save A Life app.
My interns & I were incredibly proud of Singapore’s Li Hongyi for sharing about building an open digital government. I was impressed by how the government has changed by thinking like Silicon Valley innovators rather than just administrators. Both M5 & I were in awe of Her Royal Highness Princess Sikhanyiso, Principal Princess of the Kingdom of Eswatini, who swept into the room in a floor length gold sequinned gown. Subsequently, she eloquently shared her thoughts on the future of digital government. I thought what a great role model she was for M5.
Future Skills & Future Leaders
During the break-out sessions, I followed the tracks on education and leadership. In particular, M5 was delighted to hear top educators speak out against excessive book-learning & exams. When she didn’t understand the talks on policies surrounding how to build an agile government, she took lots of photos of the colorful slides with tables & diagrams.
My Panel On Future-Readiness
Later in the afternoon, I met my fellow panellists for the first time. I enjoyed hearing the perspectives of these gentlemen who hailed from Malaysia, China and Turkey.
Looking Ahead With Innovations In Healthcare
As for me, I shared about being future-ready as Singapore’s healthcare industry evolves. With respect to innovation, I discussed the systems that we use in healthcare to share patient information across institutions securely. In fact, soon we will be launching a system that includes the pre-hospital teams as well. Potentially this gives in-hospital teams vital information about patients before they arrive for time-critical cases.
Looking Out For Humans In Healthcare
When asked about what I hoped we could do better in the next 15 years, I thought about our current model of patient-centric care. I suggested that human-centric care might be important, acknowledging that other than patients, healthcare professionals ail too. Specifically, I hope we can do more to address staff burnout. Currently, not enough attention is given to mental wellness, in both patients and healthcare professionals. As our industries include more technology & innovation, we have to focus even more on humans rather than neglect them.
Learning Points From The United Nations Conference
Building Smart Cities
Since most of the conferences I speak at are medical conferences, this was an eye-opener. I enjoyed the conference on innovation and its socio-economic impact, learning about the internet of things and sustainable development goals. In particular, it was encouraging to meet so many diplomats from various countries fighting the same good fight on the innovation front. Although many are from the public sector, this is a global fight, especially as we inhabit the same ailing planet.
Building Smart Villages
Finally, I was so glad I brought M5 with me. One of the biggest awards at the conference went to the governor of West Java, for bringing tech to the villages. Through tech, fishermen and farmers were able to expand their businesses and profit. Tech isn’t just for smart cities but for villages too. In fact, the team from West Java won several awards for their work and M5 clapped loudly for them. We discussed many of the issues she heard about that day. Now M5 is more aware about inclusiveness and enabling others, yet not at the expense of the planet.
Although nothing she learnt is likely to add to her grades in school, I know that these lessons will enrich her life. I know because they have enriched mine.