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DTA Exclusive Interview Series: Five for Five With Singapore’s First CIO
May 7, 2021 News


The CxO Five for Five is Disruptive Tech Asean’s (DTA) exclusive interview series where we ask Chief Executives around the ASEAN region to answer rapid-fire questions on everything technology-related.

This time we interviewed Prof Alex Siow, Singapore’s first CIO. Prof Alex is the first person in Singapore to carry the title CIO when he was part of Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB). He oversaw the transformation of technologies in the organisation even before the internet was available in most parts of Singapore. Prof Alex has also been on the advisory board of several agencies both in the government and private sector.

Now, he is a professor and director of the Advanced Computing for Executives Centre at the National University of Singapore. In this portfolio, he conducts executive education courses for IT leaders to equip them with the latest technological know-how for the digital age. Here’s his take on our questions.

1 – (Crystal Ball) – Top technology that you think will transform your business in the coming years?

Prof Alex: Technology that transforms business processes. For example, how we reach out to customers, payment systems, etc. Augmented Reality is becoming reality for some organisations.

2 – (Out to Pasture) – Technology that you think you will phase out of your business?

Prof Alex: Robotics. Many people fear that robots will replace their job. The bad news is yes, they will take over their jobs. However, the good news is we can always reinvent ourselves. Whenever there is something that can be replaced by robots, yes, it is needed. Why do we need to do jobs that machines can do? We can do work of higher value. As a whole, everyone can benefit. We should not fear change as it will come. But businesses can reinvent themselves and embrace the change.

3 – (Chatter Box) – Best collaboration tool? 

Prof Alex: We use Google G-Suite for most of our work. I am not advertising for Google, but as the tools are free, we use it.

4 – (Be Safe) – Biggest cybersecurity concern?

Prof Alex: How the simplest things in life can end up causing the most problems. In this case, the weakest link, which is us. For example, I have taken all sorts of precautions in cybersecurity. However, my personal WhatsApp was hacked recently. It happened in the wee hours of the morning when I was asleep. A hacker requested my banking OTP (banks in Singapore send OTPs via text first followed by automated voice calls). As I was asleep, the call went into voicemail and the hacker was able to retrieve it as I had never set up a password for my voicemail account. I was able to recover my account, but my point is, the biggest nightmare for everyone is that is there something else we have not done yet? In this case, my voicemail was the weakest link. These are the simplest things that can cause all sorts of complications.

5 – (When I Grow Up) – If you hadn’t gone into tech, what would you do instead?

Prof Alex: I never imagined I would be a CIO. I was a structural engineer and experimenting on ways to improve construction productivity in HDB. I was seeing how I can implement technology in buildings. Perhaps I would end up a user champion in technology if I was not a CIO.