Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Alibaba Cloud Summit

Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the Alibaba Cloud Summit

Ms Selina Yuan, President of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence International, Vice President of Alibaba Group

Mr Lancelot Guo, General Manager of Strategy and Marketing Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, Vice President of Alibaba Group

Dr Derek Wang, General Manager of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Singapore

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen, 


1. It is my pleasure to join you this morning at the Alibaba Cloud Summit.  I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Alibaba Cloud for being ranked by Gartner,  as the top cloud services provider in Asia in 2018, and third globally. This is a wonderful achievement and affirmation of the excellence Alibaba Cloud has achieved. 

Alibaba Group’s strong partnership with Singapore in our digital transformation journey

2. Alibaba Group has been a strong partner in Singapore’s digital transformation journey. Besides choosing Singapore as home to Alibaba Cloud’s International Headquarters since 2015, Alibaba Group’s presence in Singapore has also grown substantially in the past 4 years, across Ant Financial, Alibaba.com, Lazada and Redmart. Today, the Group employs more than 2,000 skilled employees in Singapore, spanning from HQ services, engineering and product development, upstream R&D to business development.
3. Alibaba Group has also contributed to building a strong pipeline of local digital talent through the launch of the Alibaba Talent Programme in Singapore, which aims to train PhD students specialising in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data science. Students will gain hands-on experience in developing and deploying their solutions across Alibaba’s systems, products and services, as well as have access to Alibaba’s global research under its Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook. 

4. As further support for our talent and ecosystem development, Alibaba Cloud is partnering our local universities in upskilling our students and our working professionals. This includes the signing of an MOU with the National University of Singapore to organise internship programmes and innovation challenges for students to use data to solve real-world problems, as well as partnering with the Singapore Management University to launch a series of courses to upskill more than 1,000 working professionals under Lifelong Learning and Skillsfuture. These courses expose working professionals to the potential of digital technologies in transforming industries, across retail, finance, logistics, healthcare and many other sectors. It is transforming lives, it is building a better future for all of us. 

Potential of digital technologies in increasing productivity and new value creation for businesses

5. The potential of digital technologies is indeed enormous. It can help businesses better access and makes sense of data, improve production processes and workflows, which in turn spark new solutions and innovation for both commercial gain and community good. One example is PatSnap, a Singapore startup that leveraged frontier technologies like AI to develop a patent search tool which guides corporates and governments in their research investments. The benefits of digital transformation similarly apply to traditional sectors like manufacturing, logistics and healthcare, where digital efforts can contribute to significant cost savings and value creation, and turn them into potential growth areas for Singapore. I just came back from an eight-day to China and Hong Kong with Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and we met many innovative technology companies in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. One of the key themes that came up through many of the meetings was the importance of innovation. One of the business leaders shared with us that even traditional sectors could be rejuvenated to become growth sectors through innovation. That is why Singapore is using technology not just to support new emerging sectors but also to help to transform traditional industries. 

6. Today, we are already seeing businesses developing new competitive advantages by using digital innovation to improve customer experience. One of them is Changi Airport Group, which established a Living Lab programme to drive innovation through automation, Internet-of-Things (IoT), security technologies and data analytics. Another example is CapitaLand, which is committed to harnessing digital technologies to improve business connectivity for retailers and also to enhance shoppers’ experiences. I am also encouraged to hear that the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has recently signed an MOU with Alibaba Group to leverage technology to deliver a more personalised experience to our visitors when they come to Singapore.  

7. While digital technologies can create new opportunities, the successful implementation of new ideas often requires close collaboration with partners.   It is not something that any one of us can do it alone by ourselves. You will need to build an ecosystem and a collaborative network of partners. Digital solution providers offer a diverse suite of solutions from supply chain management to traffic incident response, across various industries, which businesses can take advantage of to strengthen their capabilities and grow and strengthen our local ecosystem. Earlier, Mr Lancelot Guo, General Manager of Strategy and Marketing Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, Vice President of Alibaba Group, was explaining to me that many SMEs want to transform. They want to adopt digital solutions and technologies but they may not have the scale to do their own R&D and to develop their own solutions from scratch. There is no need to start from scratch. You can work with partners such as Alibaba Cloud, which will help you to have a good plug and play solution which you can then use and deploy. You know your business best, you know what changes are needed, but they know the technology very well. They can work with you to provide those technology solutions to help you to transform your businesses. I am heartened that Alibaba Cloud is committed to work with Singapore-based MNCs and SMEs on this effort.  Beyond digital transformation, Alibaba Cloud’s China Gateway Program can also be a valuable channel for Singapore companies to access China as they think abouthow to expand overseas. It is one very useful platform for you to expand your operations to Chinese markets. 

Government effort in driving digital transformation

8. The Singapore Government is also on a journey to drive digital innovation, to deliver our strategies and services more efficiently and effectively, as part of our Smart Nation efforts to improve the living environment and create economic opportunity for citizens and businesses. While we encourage our businesses to transform and improve productivity, the Government will do the same. We must also improve productivity, we must also innovate and we must also improve our policies, our rules and our processes. We will do this through the partnership with our businesses and community partners. 

9. With the Government’s continuous investments in digital technologies, smart infrastructure and workforce upgrading, we believe that these will help Singapore to remain well-positioned to ride the wave of digitalisation. In 2018, Singapore hosted the inaugural Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific (ITAP), the region’s edition of Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial fair, to reinforce our proposition as a leading advanced manufacturing hub.

10. The government is also investing in building digital capabilities in areas like AI, data analytics and cybersecurity to meet the demand for 13,000 new infocomm jobs by 2020. Hence, Singaporeans can look forward to new and exciting job opportunities in our digital sector, ranging from upstream R&D and commercial roles, to engineering and product development. It spans across different sectors and industries and different parts of the value chain. I am also very encouraged that when we were visiting Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, we met many Chinese business leaders and they are very impressed with the talent that we have in Singapore. In fact, they come to Singapore to recruit from our universities. They bring our students from our universities to work in China. This is something which I think will benefit the further enhancement of the cooperation that we have between Singapore and China; between our businesses; between our people; and I think it will also help give our students very good exposure when they work with these leading companies in China. They can bring back some of the best practices and top notched technologies that they picked up while working in China back to Singapore. This will also be very useful input for us to further enhance our ecosystem. 


11. In closing, I would like to thank Alibaba Group for your continued contributions to our digital economy. I look forward to forging an event stronger partnership in the years to come, and I wish everyone a fruitful time at the summit. Thank you very much.

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