by Cristina Lago

Top government CIOs in Southeast Asia

Jul 04, 2019
Government ITTechnology Industry

The CIO role is more important than ever in the public sector, as lines between technology, services and business become blurred

Government building with greek columns
Credit: Thinkstock

The role of a government CIO has become a pivotal one in these times of rapid changes in public administration.

Last November, Indonesian President Joko Widodo issued a decree mandating all government agencies in the country to appoint a CIO to coordinate technological agendas between different authorities.

Public sector IT leaders can improve government systems by implementing the right technologies and through innovative business strategies.

Here we have gathered the profiles of five top CIOs within the government sector in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

Yeo Beng Huay, CIO at Singapore Customs

When CIO ASEAN spoke to Yeo in October 2018, she shared some of the challenges and obstacles that she faces in her role as CIO in the demanding office of the customs authority.

“We are constantly challenged with persistent cybersecurity threats, limited resources, and the race against time to stay relevant in the fast-changing world,” said Yeo.

Since Yeo took her post in August 2009, she has played a vital role in helping her agency achieve its objectives through the strategic use of IT.

That includes the development of the last phases of the Networked Trade Platform (NTP), which will serve as the trade ecosystem that enables the secure exchange and reuse of digital data in business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) across the value chain.

Yeo also spoke about cases where Singapore Customs is making use of disruptive technologies as part of its digital strategy:

“We are exploring the use of machine learning to draw new insights; chatbots to improve our customer service; and automated tools to eliminate repetitive administrative work,” she said.

“We are also reviewing our internal applications, to move some of the applications to take advantage of the cloud technology for resiliency and scalability, while keeping the cost optimal. Traditionally, all applications used by the government are housed on government premises,” the CIO added.

Tham Mei Leng, Chief Information Security Officer, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Singapore

As the Singapore’s Ministry’s Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Tham Mei Leng had to engage various stakeholders to establish the Ministry’s overall ICT security strategy and ensure it aligned with agencies’ business needs.

She was also in charge of implementing new cybersecurity measures and responsible for developing progressive and pragmatic policies to strengthen the Ministry and ensuring that the statutory boards’ cybersecurity posture would facilitate digital transformation.

Mei Leng is particularly interested in using artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and machine learning in the cyber domain to find indicators of attack, zero-day exploits and abnormal behaviours.

In the Women in GovTech Special Report 2017, she confessed that building positive relationships and communication are some of the greatest challenges of her role.

“For a newcomer to the Ministry, I had to quickly nurture good relationships with stakeholders – from the rank-and-file to senior management – so as to garner their support for ‘perceived’ unpopular cybersecurity measures”, she explained. “I am glad that everyone was very supportive in recognising the importance of cybersecurity to our daily operations.”

Mohidin Mus, CIO at the Prime Minister’s Office of Brunei Darussalam

Mohidin Mus’ extensive career in government has included the macro-monitoring of e-government programmes in Brunei and ensuring alignment with the e-Government Strategic Plan 2009-2014.

An ardent advocate of e-goverment, in 2008 Mus authored a paper on the importance of its implementation in the country.

Mus holds a BTEC HND in Computer Studies from the Institut Teknologi Brunei, a BSc(Hons) in Computer Science and Information System from Salford University (UK), an MBA from the Universiti Brunei Darussalam and an MSc in Multimedia Technologies for ecommerce from the Sheffield Hallam University (UK), among other qualifications.

His many specialities include system analysis, GIS, web development, e-government, e-citizen and e-services.

Chan Cheow Hoe, Government CIO, Singapore

In a country which is heavily investing in the tech sector, Chan Cheow Hoe’s role has attracted much attention.

Since April 2014 he has been the government’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Assistant Chief Executive (government Chief Information Office) of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

Prior to this role, Cheow Hoe worked in the private sector, mainly on the large-scale IT systems of financial institutions and consulting firms, such as Barclays and EY. He has over two decades of experience in overseeing organisation-wide IT development and a strong track record of leading IT professionals in global companies and large corporations to deliver effective IT systems and solutions.

Today, Cheow Hoe is responsible for overseeing Singapore’s central IT systems, infrastructure, and the innovative public services on offer for citizens and businesses. He also helps in allocating the funding invested in his government’s digital strategy.

“We are exploring new ways to enhance the delivery of digital government services so they anticipate citizens’ needs at key moments in their lives, such as child birth, children starting school, buying a home, etc.” said Cheow How. “The government Digital Services unit is also working with other government agencies and GovTech units to build digital platforms that support Singapore’s Smart Nation mission.”

Dr Suhazimah Dzazali, GCIO, MAMPU, Malaysia

Dr Dzazali is the Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO) at the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU).

Her role consists of acting as a change agent; strengthening ICT policy, standards and practice; encouraging ICT acculturation in the Public Sector; and innovating in electronic government applications, infrastructure and ICT security.

In 2017 she was part of the team that developed the plan for consolidation and optimisation of ICT services for the whole Federal government Public Sector mainly through centralising all ICT personnel under MAMPU.

She was also responsible for the development of the government’s Service Delivery Digitalisation Plan, which covers six strategic areas, including the optimisation of the Key digital service delivery system; the implementation and integration of an inclusive and secure digital service; and the whole rebranding, publicity and promotion of the government’s digital service.

Dr Dzazali is very keen on using technology and digitalisation to improve the lives of her compatriots through MAMPU.

“The advent of cloud computing, Internet and web services together with mobile technologies has enabled MAMPU to provide key public service deliveries through multiple channels from a single gateway []”, she said.

“Big data analytics has also been leveraged to provide better insights on which area of public service deliveries can be further improved from the citizen’s perspective. Data analytics has gained traction with top stakeholders as a means to gain insights towards better decision making and policy formulation to improve citizen’s lives,” Dzazali added.

She thinks that the major challenge facing governments is understanding citizens’ changing needs. The advent of new technologies like cloud computing, big data, 3D printing, cognitive computing and internet of things (IoT) are also playing a big role in digital transformation strategies.

“Typical government institutions are very likely to do the thinking on behalf of the citizens, yet aligning it with their static vision, missions and client charters”, she said in an interview with GovInsider. “As a result, what is being delivered, is not what is expected by the citizens. Hence, investments made will not be bringing value for money.”

Are you a government CIO in Southeast Asia or you know a CIO we should include in this list? Let us know here.