Advancing Global Dialogue on Technology
28 Jun 2019

Building on the success of the inaugural summit, DSTA organised the second Singapore Defence Technology Summit (Tech Summit) from 26 to 28 June 2019 as a platform for exchanging ideas and fostering partnerships at a time of rapid technological developments.

Centred on the theme ‘Proliferation of Technology and its Implications on Defence, Security and Society’, this year’s Tech Summit saw some 400 delegates from 23 countries, including USA, UK, France, China, Estonia, Japan, South Korea and Brunei, gather to collectively navigate and find a way forward in an increasingly complex technological landscape.

Delivering the keynote address, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean highlighted the importance of greater collaboration in dealing with a smarter, more interconnected and asymmetric future.

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Photo: Ministry of Communications and Information

He said: “While we come from diverse backgrounds, we share common goals. We want to harness the potential of technology and greater interconnectedness to do good, to improve the lives of our citizens, and to better protect our countries and peoples. But these self-same developments present new threats and dilemmas which we will have to collectively confront, particularly as technology continues to advance and pervade every aspect of our lives. Through this conference, I trust that we will be able to share our experiences, develop new ideas, form new friendships, and spawn new practical proposals for cooperation.”

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Speaking at the Tech Summit’s welcome dinner, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen urged countries to adapt to newer, non-conventional challenges, as the “militaries that will serve this generation will have to deal with traditional rivalries, as well as expanded challenges related to terrorism, cyberspace, outer space, and the forces of nature.” He added that the power of technology will increasingly be required to boost efforts and effectiveness in dealing with such challenges.

Over the course of the Tech Summit, a total of 42 speakers and moderators led a series of panel discussions exploring the opportunities and challenges afforded by domains such as artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors, as well as examined advances in neuroengineering and space.

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In a first for the summit, industry CEOs also shared their perspectives on global technology trends and how businesses are innovating in a new segment ‘Conversation with CEOs’. Furthermore, delegates had the opportunity to hear from Dr Steven Walker, Director of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), in a one-on-one dialogue session where he spoke about building an adaptive, agile and innovative organisation.

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Beyond the robust exchange across the panel discussions and sessions, the Tech Summit featured a showcase of innovative uses of emerging technologies across a myriad of applications and developments, including augmented reality, robotics and satellites.

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Technology visits to several sites were also arranged for summit delegates to generate deeper insights and ideas. These included DSTA, DSO National Laboratories, Thales’ Digital Identity and Security Solutions as well as the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s Port Operations Control Centre and Living Lab.

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Going a step further to tap the presence of the summit’s global luminaries, arrangements were made for selected delegates to engage staff and students alike. DSTA staff attended a series of talks conducted by defence and industry experts that included Amir Husain, Founder and CEO of SparkCognition; Heidi Grant, Director of US Defense Technology Security Administration; as well as Honorable Zachary J. Lemnios, IBM's Vice President of Government Programmes. Co-founder and CEO of Sparrho Dr Vivian Chan and Co-founder of SpaceIL Yonatan Winetraub also spoke to some 160 students on their entrepreneurial journey and experiences in reaching the Moon respectively.

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In turn, many delegates commended the Tech Summit as a valuable platform where technology leaders from all parts of the world can share their work and perspectives, build partnerships and have frank discussions.

Dr Brian Pierce, Office Director in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, shared: “It has been a very educational experience because you have the opportunity here to meet people from different countries, different organisations. And I think you have a tremendous range in terms of the topics – we covered AI, looked at the question of whether secure and smart can co-exist together and then of course neuroscience, space and drones. It's ambitious and I think it's important to expand that type of perspective."

Tim Hwang, Director of Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, added that it is critical for the military, industry and academia to collaborate with one another and ensure technology is accessible as it “can be applied in many different places and doing it right often requires many different types of perspectives”. He said: “DSTA is really interested in thinking long-term around the technologies, and that requires lots of perspectives. Holding the Singapore Defence Technology Summit is a far-seeing approach to think about long-term strategy, and I admire DSTA for making the investment for this event.”

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