Monday, January 14, 2008

Integrating Science & Technology

Integrating Science & Technology into Development Policies in Singapore’s Early Days.

A Personal Perspective

This series of articles provide some information on how Science and Technology was introduced into our Development Policies and Singapore society. It aims to demonstrate the importance of how local and international cooperation in science and technology can further the numerous inter-related aspects (economic, social, environmental and political) of the development process to help Singapore become what it is today. We have many who dared to champion what we believe in and commit to it for the sake of our country. In S & T operations multidisciplinary approaches are often necessary. This requires those involved to work together to make the difference. This can be done between parties independent of the authorities. Here are some of my experiences and personal views on how some of these projects evolved and were handled.

My blog will produce articles with anecdotes to highlight what we did based on my personal experience and those of my colleagues at that time. These articles will focus on some of the approaches we took using S & T to integrate together the activities of the important parties. These parties include the Government, Commerce & Industries, Labour Unions, Professionals, Academics, Students, Consumers, Man in the Street and the International S & T communities. We did not have much funds to start with. How did we manage? We slogged, we saved, we made personal sacrifices and we got the right people to cooperate to work together. This is a unique experience which we like to preserve and continue to practice for a better future. We did what we did because we want to improve the lives of our fellowmen just as others have done for us.

Human beings are the only resource we have in our tiny island state. We focused and placed great emphasis on our human resource development. Our other resources (finance, technology, markets and experienced manpower) were limited. We did not have five or ten year development plans to start with. Fortunately we did not suffer from paralysis through excessive analysis of massive data like the types we have today. Many of us only had a mission – to survive, and a vision - to improve the lives of our fellow men. We muddled our way through with hope, faith, trust and courage. Many of our fellowmen in various parts of the world are still struggling on. I like to share with them the little experience I have so that they will not have to go through some of the difficulties and the painful experiences we went through. This is a hind sight view of what happened. Hopefully this will give others the experience we lacked during our time. Hind sight is always clearer than foresight. It gives us hope and courage to bear the harsh ridicules that cynics gave to people who dare to venture off the well beaten paths. How I wish that I had some relevant examples or some experienced person/s to guide me during those uncertain times.

Science & Technology resides only in human beings. We got our people and others to work together at all levels and in various fields, with Human Resource development policies as our main mission.
We believe in our people and what they can do if given the opportunities.
(i) We enlarged the number of people who believe in what S & T can do. By doing this we enhanced our capacity to absorb technology.
(ii) We recognized the importance of technology transfer from
human to human for peaceful growth .
(iii) We realized the need to build knowledge networks through
personal contacts. We maximized support and minimized
destructive criticisms.
(iv) We believed in the importance of synergy among those who have to work together. For a small country this is the key that opens the doors to our future.

Integration of people from various sectors of our society has been the tool we used to integrate S & T into the development policies of early Singapore. We held meetings, conferences, workshops etc with the important parties to identify specific areas that have to be attended to. These included technologies and approaches effective in improving and innovating what has to be done. This has to be done within the circumstances a developing country had to work in. This gave every participant and other interested persons an opportunity to have a say in formulating policies that affect them. We ensure that we delivered what we promised.

How did we do what we did? We enlarged existing institutions and built new ones. We introduced “new” schemes and movements to integrate important parties to work together. We built centres of excellence which became the focus around which new technologies will grow. We provided the S & T services and products that our country, especially our locally grown industries, needed. We showed what we can do with the little we had.

We put people together and make them work harmoniously with each other. For many this is the difficult part. This will always remain a challenge for all of us to maintain harmony among the various parties. It was not all smooth sailing for us either. No one single person can do all this alone. How we built the network we did is something we can share with others. We have some successes and we also learned many useful lessons where things did not work out the way we expected. The main purpose of my blog is to produce articles with first hand experience under conditions many others are still facing in other parts of the world today. My articles in this series should be viewed with that light. It is hoped that some will find my articles, views and experience useful. If you are sincere in your mission people will believe and support you.

Lee Kum Tatt

No comments: