What does Singapore need in order to realise the country’s Smart Nation vision? According to Nominated Member of Parliament and SUTD Professor Lim Sun Sun, it is increasing Singaporeans’ literacy in cross-culture, digital skills, and ethics.

Cross-cultural literacy is the ability to effectively understand and interact across cultures, to be sensitive to differences, and respectful of diversity. This needs to be nurtured through facilitation and creating more spaces and opportunities for gaining deeper understanding of other cultures, she posits. Failing to inculcate this sensitivity may lead to weaker social ties that are vulnerable to threats such as online fake news aimed at sowing inter-ethnic discord.

Digital literacy is more than just being able to provide access to digital devices and services, something which Singapore has been relatively progressive in. More attention now needs to be given to segments of population who may be less able to benefit from the digitalisation of the economy, and who find themselves being left behind.

With more complex changes in society, we would also face increasing ethical dilemmas. The workforce will need to understand and subscribe to a set of common ethical standards to ensure that technologies are deployed in the best interests of society.

Read the full article on Channel NewsAsia: Commentary: Three literacies to level up Singapore’s disruption game


As the pace and extent of change in our society increase, people will find themselves having to keep up with the times to remain relevant. The commentator lays out relevant gaps that we need to fill. However, an extension of her arguments would be to increase the mental health literacy of the public.

As the economy grows towards more knowledge-based work, and less labour-intensive manual jobs, the human mind is the asset of a knowledge worker. Mental health literacy is important now and in the future more than ever, as much as how physical health and safety have been the focus of education and at workplaces. It is not enough to protect workers from just the physical risks. Singapore had the highest rate of depression in the region according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study in 2015.

For our future workforce to rise up to inevitable challenges and curveballs given the disruptiveness of innovative technologies, mental health is a key component to a holistically healthy labour force.

Questions for further personal evaluation:

  1. What else do you think will be needed for workers to succeed in the future economy?
  2. How confident are you about being prepared for the work of the future, given the current trajectory you are in?

Useful vocabulary:

  1. ‘essentialist’: a doctrine that certain traditional concepts, ideals, and skills are essential to society and should be taught methodically to all students, regardless of individual ability, need, etc
  2. ‘undergirded’: provided support for
  3. ‘bulwark: a person or thing that acts as a defence
  4. ‘deluge’: a great quantity of something arriving at the same time

Picture credits:https://pixabay.com/photos/artificial-trees-singapore-945387/