Opening Remarks By Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, SIF Chairman, At The Young Social Entrepreneurs 2018 Fireside Chat Session At Urban Mangrove

Good afternoon. Welcome to the Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) 2018 Fireside Chat.

The world as we know it today is constantly changing, and one of the fundamental stimuli behind this is digital transformation. In recent years we have read about the public, private and people sectors increasing their investments in digital assets to enhance their digital know-how and capabilities. This is not surprising given that digital technology, through its rapid progress, has the ability to continually empower individuals and revolutionise businesses globally. Increasingly many social enterprises, and I’m certain many of you here, leverage on technology to mobilise multi-sectorial partnerships and create innovative and cost-effective solutions for meaningful change.

Take for example our YSE 2014 alumni Jugnuu, whose co-founder is our moderator for today’s Fireside Chat. Jugnuu is a social enterprise formed by Singaporean and Indian founders that developed a low-cost mobile phone solution for elementary students in India to practise their English. They have benefitted more than 30 million students from middle to lower income backgrounds via automated algorithm-based calls to their mobile phone. By leveraging on technology for good, English lessons are just a phone call away for these schoolchildren – empowering them with improved communication skills for new life opportunities. 

Another example is our YSE 2016 alumni BeBonobo. This Malaysian social enterprise uses an online social network to promote conscious consumption. Their digital platform effectively disrupts current wasteful consumption patterns by connecting individuals who want to give away items with those searching for such items. It offers consumers a more affordable and environmentally-conscious way to source for products and also repurpose unwanted but reusable goods.

Today’s topic “Block-Change: Blockchain for Social Change” explores such digitally-led transformations. The Fireside Chat discuss in depth the prospects of creating long-term social impact via blockchain technology. As blockchain has an extremely vast definition, I shall attempt to explain it in simpler terms: It is a decentralised and distributed electronic ledger technology that contains a verifiable and unchangeable record of every digital transaction. Many have argued that blockchain technology has the capability to transform how human society functions – just like the electrical motor, telephone and internet have forever changed the way we live. Blockchain specialist Mike Schwartz even goes as far as to say that blockchains are ultimately about bringing the world closer together as they break down barriers to entry and commoditise trust.

So how can we harness the potential of this pivotal technological innovation to make a positive sustainable impact and uplift lives? Our dedicated friends on the panel – industry experts and consultants from Impact Investment Exchange,, Kommerce, and ConsenSys – will share their insights shortly. The youth of today are early adopters of technology so I encourage all YSE participants to step forward and engage in this dialogue. Take this opportunity to delve into how this breakthrough technology will plausibly pervade lives, work, and culture, and ultimately influence your business plans to make the world a better place.

Here in the SIF, we recognise that social entrepreneurs are increasingly shaping global sustainability for the good of all. This is not surprising as they thrive in risk-taking and problem-solving. However for aspiring YSEs, we know that the journey of social entrepreneurship can be a challenging and lonely one. Through our YSE programme, we are here to inspire, equip and enable young changemakers to start or scale up their social enterprises in Singapore and beyond. You are now plugged into a global network of over 800 likeminded individuals, with access to over 100 institutional partners across nine international cities. This growth of the YSE programme since 2010 reflects the value of connections that have enabled collaborations for positive change. Together with our valued partners, the SIF is proud to play a significant role in a dynamic ecosystem that will hopefully unlock your potential as responsible change agents.

I shall now hand you over to our emcee to introduce the panel speakers who will lead us in a fruitful discussion. I wish you all an engaging session ahead.



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