“The Tech.Pass scheme is aimed at highly accomplished tech talent, the movers and shakers of the tech world – people who usually play different roles at once: founder, investor, employee, consultant, academic. People who can contribute to multiple parts of the ecosystem with their capital, their networks, their knowledge,” PM Lee said.
Through the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), the Government is building up its own IT engineering capabilities. At the same time it is developing the entire tech eco-system and digital industry.
“Many major tech companies are now based here and they are doing engineering work, not just sales and marketing,” he said. Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon are here. This has created a vibrant industry cluster and good jobs for Singaporeans, PM Lee said.
Singapore has a tech-literate population.
Our universities and polytechnics are producing graduates who are in demand. There is good infrastructure such as high-speed nationwide broadband network.
Talent is key
“So the pieces are all gradually coming into place but the key thing which makes it all work is talent,” said Mr Lee.
“We need more tech talent to grow the industry and to tackle the urgent problems that we have and that tech can help us to solve,” PM Lee said.
While local universities and polytechnics are producing more graduates who are in demand, PM Lee noted that companies also need to bring in overseas professionals at higher levels who are in short supply here.
Such high level professionals will help create a “virtuous cycle” by expanding Singapore’s talent pool, raising standards, and strengthening the tech ecosystem here, said Mr Lee.
Attracting highly accomplished professionals with Tech.Pass
PM Lee said the Tech.Pass hopes to help the country attract “highly accomplished” individuals in this field.
Unlike the Employment Pass that is tied to a particular job or employer, the new Tech.Pass “will be personal to the holder”. It gives them flexibility to move between roles and employers, PM Lee said.
PM Lee also expressed hope that this will ‘make people sit up and take notice, and will help us to attract talent to Singapore’.
PM Lee acknowledged that social frictions can arise especially when there is a large concentration of talent from a single source or during an economic downturn. Such tensions, however, are not unique to Singapore. The Government will do their best to address them.
Foreigners must make the effort to fit in here. At the same time, Singaporeans must not feel they are being discriminated against.
On their part, Singaporeans have to be able to understand that this is how new jobs and more jobs will be created in Singapore, and have to feel assured that they will be fairly treated and not be discriminated against, he said.
“They have got to see the tech companies as bringing in expertise and experience, (and) building up the industry and capabilities, so that our own people can learn from them, upgrade themselves and eventually build up our own talent pool,” PM Lee said.
In the past, Singapore has done so with the petrochemical, biomedical and semiconductor industries, he added.