Opening Address by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister-Of-State, Ministry Of Communications And Information at Cyber Youth Singapore’s CYSummit’21

25 Jun 2021

Opening Address by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister-Of-State, Ministry Of Communications And Information at Cyber Youth Singapore’s CYSummit’21

Thank you very much. And thank you for inviting me here today. Good morning, everybody. It's the inaugural Cyber Youth Summit, and here in 2021, doing it online is entirely appropriate.

Congratulations to CYS Singapore for organizing this. We've had participation over the past week of more than 200 secondary and tertiary students.

The numbers is a strong achievement in and of itself, but also the wide range of activities are themselves impressive. The participants have been able to enjoy virtual Capture-The-Flag competitions, talks, live-streaming of project showcases, and gaming sessions. These all can demonstrate the potential of using digital technology and both the important productive work as well as the enjoyment that we can get out of it.

I'm also very glad that we've come together across multiple sectors, government, industry, professional communities, students, volunteer organizations, to make this summit happen. This is the ecosystem approach that we need in cybersecurity. This is the team spirit that we need in cybersecurity if we're going to get it right for each of our organizations, but more importantly, for Singapore, we need these deep and wide collaborations in order to continue to work together to safeguard cyberspace. All of us have a part to play and all of us will play our part.

The theme for this summit is the future of the cybersecurity industry, which is entirely appropriate given that it's targeted at our youth. Because you are the future of the cybersecurity industry, we are hoping that you'll be interested in this as a career, as a source not just of a job, but also personal fulfillment, inspiration and interest, but you have a passion for this. Our youth have always been a key stakeholder for the cybersecurity agenda. Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore, and partners like Cyber Youth Singapore, have worked together for the past few years to engage young people in a career in cybersecurity and the issues of cybersecurity as it applies to all kinds of other professional realms. This summit is just one part of a much larger effort to identify, engage, develop and create opportunities for young people with a talent in cybersecurity who are in Singapore.

And this is very important for two reasons. First, you are digital natives, you use digital technologies without thinking about too much without wondering if the world was ever different. And so you need to understand the risks that such technologies pose and how to mitigate these, especially as they are very much part of every moment of your life. And having that understanding, and that confidence will allow you then to navigate the digital spaces safely and securely.

Secondly, the future is digital, and you are our future. Cybersecurity is an important component of that digital future and that digital way of life. So having you participate in the development of the cybersecurity profession is a key outcome that we want to achieve.

With the pandemic still going on and all the travel restrictions in place, it can be hard to see any silver linings. And these clouds that surround us and many of us are feeling "pandemic fatigue". Some of you maybe have been upset because of the effect of the school holidays happening under tightened restrictions. Me and my family, we do feel similarly and indeed, we are feeling a little bit fatigued, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we do have a lot to look forward to.

PM announced about a month ago, that we can expect everyone who is eligible for vaccination and who wants one can get their first jab by National Day - that's just a couple of months away. Some of you may have already gotten your vaccinations over the school holidays, and I hope all of you have at least booked for your vaccinations even if you haven't received it yet. And getting that level of vaccination up is going to be key to then coming out of these restrictions and trying to restore some normality to our lives. And as you recently heard in the news, the number of vaccinations per day that we're going to do is going to ramp up quite significantly. So we hope to be able to cover as many people in as short a time as possible. But all this rests on people signing up. So please do make that appointment, tell your friends, tell your family and help them understand the importance of vaccinations.

But beyond the challenges of vaccinations and the pandemic, you can see new opportunities that Singapore, you, us, the young people, the not-so-young people, how we can capitalize on these new opportunities. One of which is how COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of digitalization. Imagine how we would have had to cope if we didn't have all of this technology and all of this technology infrastructure that we have spent years building up. What if we didn't trust the security of the technological solutions that we're all availing ourselves of? What if we didn't have that confidence in the various platforms that we use to have conversations that interact with each other? I think things would have been a lot tougher.

And this secure technology and the confidence in the secure technology has allowed our schools, our businesses, and also our social interactions to continue. Our Zoom calls, the food delivery platforms, as well as how we carry our TraceTogether tokens or apps, these have all become a regular part of our lives, and they have facilitated our confidence in each other in the contact tracing process and in our public health response. And of course, the vaccinations that I just talked about, you would have to book online using one of our digital tools.

So the future is going to be based on a technological platform, and digital natives like yourselves growing up with the internet at your fingertips, are well placed to participate in and lead the next phase of Singapore’s digital journey.

There are many career options available to in this space, in particular, of course, cybersecurity. And it's a key enabler. It's a dynamic field that has diverse and rewarding career paths. And cybersecurity professionals will be in increasing demand going forward, because maintaining that cybersecurity, that confidence, that trust is a critical enabler for digitalization. Cybersecurity professionals are crucial in preparing industries of all types to maximize their opportunities in the digital economy.

So no surprise that despite the global economic contraction due to COVID-19, there are significant expectations that the cybersecurity market globally will grow from abourt US$170 billion  in 2020 to US$270 billion in 2026. So, as long as technology remains a significant part of our lives, a career in cybersecurity will be in high demand.

But I know that you also want a job that is meaningful, and interesting, beyond the economic opportunities, and cybersecurity jobs and roles can offer that too. Your mission in this space will be to safeguard digital trust to protect the vulnerable amongst us, whether they're big organizations, small businesses, or individuals like ourselves. That's the meaningful cause - maintaining trust and confidence of the public in a public space, defending the nation against threats, helping organizations achieve their mission, making sure the vulnerable have access to the best that technology can offer. These are meaningful tasks and a cause worth getting behind.

It's also exciting there's not a dull day in the life of cybersecurity professionals, new technologies are coming along, upending the way we think about the tools that we use, meaning that you have to be on the cutting edge learning from each other, learning new skills, understanding the community of practice, technologies, like artificial intelligence, 5G communications, Internet of Things, quantum computing, all of these are moving rapidly, advancing rapidly. And if you work in this space, you will have the opportunity to learn rapidly, you'll need to learn rapidly and keep up to date. So it's not going to stay still, there will be new opportunities being created. But at the same time, your adversaries, cybercriminals are also constantly evolving their tradecraft, that tactics to take advantage of these shifts. And so you need to continually strive not just to keep up with the knowledge but to strive to be better than your adversaries. And this will keep you engaged professionally, throughout your journey in this space.

These opportunities are for everyone, regardless of your gender, your background, whether you already have the technical skills or not. And there are many different roles for which you can learn and train for. Roles like security architects, designing and securing systems for organizations, digital forensics experts to investigate, analyze, reconstruct cyber attacks, ethical hackers conducting attacks and stress testing systems and networks to uncover vulnerabilities, strategy, planning, R&D, development, and many, many more. There's something out there to fit people of all interests, backgrounds and skillsets.

Very few of these roles or opportunities existed 10 or 20 years ago. That's how quickly these this space is developing together with the technology.

And as a small country, we are also affected not just by the rapid pace of technological advancements, but by geopolitical and economic shifts, Singapore and Singaporeans have to remain adaptable so that we can maintain our relevance to the world among amidst these global developments.

Even as you deepen your understanding of cybersecurity, I would encourage you to just be aware of the news out there, these global developments will impact what you do in your security and professional space. Look at what our ASEAN neighbors are doing. Read about the latest industry innovations from global tech giants. Stay curious and keep an eye on what's happening in the world as you defend against these threats.

I've seen energy, creativity and resilience amongst you. And so I'm confident that Singapore is on the right track. And I hope you will join me in creating a bright and secure future for Singapore.

Thank you very much.