Singapore’s Smart Nation Fellowship Programme was rolled out in March this year, and had received almost 300 overseas and local applicants.
In the end, it was 34-year-old California-based Arun Kishore who was the first overseas Singaporean applicant to get selected. Prior to his return, Kishore was working as a YouTube data science product analyst.
The analyst who had been away from Singapore since 2007, was a computer engineering graduate from Nanyang Technological University (NTU). And despite his comfortable lifestyle in the US, he resolved to return to the little red dot as soon as he heard about Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative.
Said Kishore in his interview in The Straits Times, “I felt I could contribute. It is an opportunity to provide public service and experience something different, something with a wider impact.”
When asked why he decided to return, Kishore explained that the Smart Nation initiative was a great opportunity for him to work on solving problems in a field completely different from his day-to-day job at YouTube.
Furthermore, what he would be doing would directly impact the lives of millions of Singaporeans.
“I was impressed by existing initiatives that the data science team at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) had undertaken like Beeline and data.gov.sg, and was excited to contribute towards these projects.”
“I was also interested in connecting with other data science professionals in GovTech and other companies in Singapore, through the programme’s community-building efforts,” he says.
From Government Data To Apps For Singaporeans
As a Smart Nation Fellow, Kishore’s main project involved building a visualisation tool for data.gov.sg (the Singapore government’s open data portal) that enables users to quickly explore different datasets. He also created animated charts of time series data and charts combining datasets from different agencies.
In addition to this project, he also worked on Beeline, an app that pre-books seats on shuttle buses. During his time with Beeline, he helped the team design and implement key metrics for measuring acquisition, retention and engagement of users.
“I also advised other teams within GovTech regarding challenges facing their ongoing projects. Going forward, I am planning to get involved in promoting the Smart Nation Fellowship to future fellows and be a contributor towards the growing community of fellows and GovTech employees,” he says.
Smart Nations Are Crucial
When asked if he thought a Smart Nation is crucial in Singapore, Kishore asserted that it is.
“At its core, a successful government is one that addresses the needs of its citizens, and the Smart Nation initiative is designed to empower the government in applying technology for understanding needs of its citizens and building solutions to address them.”
Kishore explains that traditionally, governments are prone to be slow in adopting new technologies and innovations compared to the tech industry.
However, with the Smart Nation initiative in place, the Singapore government will be able to provide services to citizens at rates comparable to those from top-tier tech companies.
Singapore’s Still Short Of Data Analysts
As a Youtube data analyst, Kishore analyses how consumers interact with YouTube, and uses those findings to recommend changes to improve the product.
“This involves researching user behaviour through controlled experiments and surveys, applying predictive models, building data infrastructure and visualisations, and measuring key product metrics.”
“Currently I am the lead analyst on YouTube’s standalone Music app, and I also work on projects related to YouTube Red subscription service,” he explains.
However, Kishore mentions that there’s a sore lack of analysts like himself in Singapore.
“In recent years, rapid improvements in technology have resulted in widespread availability of large scale datasets and the processing power required to analyse them.”
“However, the skill set required for these analyses are limited to a small number of professionals who have experience in many fields, including computer science, statistics and social sciences.”
When asked if he had any solutions that could be implemented to address the problem, his answer was to train more professionals in those fields with specialised courses combining those disciplines.
“I also think there could be more standardisation, collaboration and sharing of best practices among companies and academia. [This] will help new professionals entering the field in learning relevant tools and techniques faster,” he says.
Singapore is moving rapidly towards a Smart Nation, and it’s only a matter of time that roles like Kishore’s would be needed.
So perhaps it would be a good idea that the government and companies start training their workers now.
Feature Image Credit: Arun Kishore’s Facebook