29 October 2020

Singapore and Indonesia Explore Ways to Leverage Digital Technology to Better People-to-People Ties in the New Normal at the first SIF eConnects!

We brought together SIF Chairman Ambassador Ong Keng Yong and Governor of West Java and SIF-ASEAN Fellow Mr Ridwan Kamil to exchange insights in a panel discussion at the SIF eConnects! Indonesia 2020.

SIF eConnects Indonesia


On 17 October 2020, over 125 participants gathered at the SIF eConnects! Indonesia 2020 – the first virtual edition of SIF Connects!. Held in partnership with the Indonesia Bright Foundation (IBF), this reunion event marked 28 years of friendship between the SIF and the Indonesian community. The event was also graced by Mr Anil Kumar Nayar, Singapore Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia and Mr Suryopratomo, Indonesian Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore.

The highlight of the event was a panel discussion between Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, SIF Chairman and former Secretary-General of ASEAN, and Mr Ridwan Kamil, Governor of West Java and SIF-ASEAN Fellow. Themed “The Digital Transformation of People-To-People Connectivity”, the dialogue explored the role of technology as an enabler and catalyst for people-to-people collaboration, particularly in the era of COVID-19.

“In many ways, this COVID-19 situation has given us an opportunity to strengthen our digitalisation processes in Indonesia, Singapore, ASEAN, and the rest of the world,” said Ambassador Ong.

Ambassador Ong added that the pandemic crisis had accelerated the pace of digital innovations. This, coupled with the rapid penetration of smartphones and digital adoption by businesses, will continue to fuel the steady growth of ASEAN’s economy, and enhance its people-to-people connectivity across borders.

On the flip side, accelerated digitalisation also posed the potential of a larger digital divide. Ambassador Ong pointed out that ASEAN member states still have their work cut out for them as many citizens, particularly the elderly population, are still without access to the Internet and other forms of Information Technology (IT). He remarked that it is vital for more people with the knowledge and provision of infrastructure to help those at a disadvantage.

Governor Ridwan concurred and shared how he had been encouraged by the strong display of international solidarity across communities during these times – from international donations of personal protective equipment to continuous cross-border collaborations to uplift lives.

“I am heartened that there are more people who are willing to step up and provide help the past year. As a proud alumnus of the SIF, I have learnt the importance of international solidarity and I applaud the SIF for its work to uplift lives around the world during these times,” he said.

Governor Ridwan also elaborated on his vision of “Digital West Java”. This comprised the Desa Digital or Digital Village initiative which aimed to empower villagers through the implementation of the Internet and IT in their respective villages to improve their livelihood and well-being. This initiative had already seen the distribution of 50,000 mobile phones to villages, embedded with applications for communicating directly with policy makers in the province.

SIF eConnects Indonesia
(from left, top row) Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director; Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, SIF Chairman; Mr Reuben Kwan, SIF Division Director, Strategic Management; (from left, second row) Ms Dian Mashari, SIF Representative and IBF Chairperson; Mr Suryopratomo, Indonesian Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore; Mr Ridwan Kamil, Governor of West Java and SIF-ASEAN Fellow; and (bottom row) Mr Anil Kumar Nayar, Singapore Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia celebrated the warm friendships between Singapore and Indonesia at the SIF eConnects! Indonesia 2020.

Indonesian participant, Mr Ubaidillah Nugraha from the IBF, said, “The dialogue was very insightful, and the event shed light on meaningful initiatives from both Singapore and Indonesia in response to the pandemic. It is important for communities in the region to remain united and to collectively work on solutions to address global challenges. I hope the enduring friendship between IBF and the SIF will continue to bring about positive, sustainable impact for our respective communities.”

Guests had the chance to learn about the SIF’s work in Indonesia at the virtual Exhibition Hall, which highlighted the positive impact of the longstanding partnership between both communities. The multimedia exhibit showcased various SIF programmes, including the initiatives that have pivoted online this year due to travel restrictions.

Mr Souffi Radzi, a participant from Malaysia shared, “Reconnecting with friends across ASEAN brings back good memories of our time in Singapore and at SIF events. I left the session feeling optimistic and energised after seeing how partnerships among communities have grown stronger by leveraging on digital technology. While we are still living with the threats of the pandemic, we remain socially connected and individually empowered to support our governments through crowdsourcing of ideas and resources to build a better sustainable future.”

Since 2010, SIF Connects! has served as a platform to reconnect and renew relationships with the SIF’s global programme alumni, partners, and friends. It has been held annually in 16 cities, including Jakarta and Bandung, Indonesia. This year's virtual platform offered various engagement opportunities for guests to connect and explore collaborations, from the Dialogue in the Auditorium, to video-enabled rooms in the Networking Lounge and a chat function in the Exhibition Hall.