Welcome to this Summer School on Web Science and Data Analytics, co-organised by NUS and University of Southampton, with support from the Science and Innovation team at the British High Commission.
I am particularly delighted to welcome Professor Dame Wendy Hall back to Singapore especially as I missed her last visit in late October, during which she gave an extremely well received seminar at my residence. I am very much looking forward to hearing her talk this morning.
For my part I am not a web scientist, or even a scientist (I studied history), but like most people, and certainly those of future generations my life and my work is increasingly defined by the internet and the wider web.
There are three things I want quickly to highlight to put today’s event in context as to why I am here and why the High Commission is supporting and encouraging it and others like it.
The first is the drive in the UK to define and create an economy that can sustain and enhance our future prosperity. In the last few years we have set out an industrial strategy that forms the building blocks of that future.
Two of the eleven strategies cover international education and the information economy. Both have greater significance than just within their own fields because they are in many ways the key enablers of the broader economic approach.
Because it is through maintaining the world leading status of our universities and continuing to attract the very best to study with us at home and abroad we will be able to create and exploit the intellectual capital that will make us competitive in the global race.
And through ensuring that we are at the leading edge of the information economy we will be able to make best use of technology to transform almost every business sector and every scientific discipline.
The whole strategy is underpinned by what we call the eight great technologies, one of which is big data. By exploiting that we can gain new insights into consumer needs, the development of new products and services, including crucially from my point of view the delivery of public services.
And by that I don’t just mean creating apps to get you to a bus on time, or to get a new driving licence online, I also mean generating public policy, connecting with the people on whose behalf I and others conduct diplomacy at home and abroad, or who consume public services at home.
The UK government is investing considerable amounts in this, including in last week’s Autumn statement £113 million in big data at Hartree, Daresbury and the £42 million Alan Turing Centre, which will undertake new research into ways of collecting, organising and analysing big data, to be located in London.
And of course, in Wendy Hall, we have one of the founders of the study of Web Science, along with her colleagues at Southampton, the internet pioneers Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt. In large part, it is thanks to Wendy and her academic colleagues that UK is a world leader in web science and the UK government is determined to maintain that position and to make the most of the data revolution, manage and make best use of the “internet of things” that is going to define our future in every way.
But we are not alone, which takes me to my second point, the importance of international partnerships.
Two weeks ago I listened to Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong set out his vision of a smart nation. Exploiting the power of technology to run efficient public services that people need and increasingly demand to allow them to live their lives to the full.
Creating the smart cities of the future, with services that work together, are energy efficient, and places that are fun to live and work in. This is not a luxury it is an imperative.
And, again, because of the power of technology, if we don’t get it right our people will tell us through social media, and if we still don’t get it right they won’t just stop, they’ll say it again, and louder!
This sense of shared, global challenges also offers the opportunity for collaboration and partnership, particularly with like minded countries like the UK and Singapore.
Which is why I am particularly pleased that this event is happening so soon after the announcement of a new UK-Singapore Innovation and Research Partnership, signed by the two PMs during the recent State Visit to the UK by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.
Indeed, I know that Wendy spoke at the joint UK/Singapore “Innovating Together” event at the Royal Society during the Visit in October which was itself a really good example of the way in which our two countries can work together to develop and apply new areas of science, building on the excellent connections developed during the decade long “UK-Singapore Partners in Science” programme. I am afraid I missed that speech, too!
This new agreement is a genuine partnership that will not only help sustain the long term science and research relationship between UK and Singapore, but also enable both nations to innovate by which I mean using that shared research to form public policy and create ec economic activity through which we can both respond effectively to future challenges, increase competitiveness and improve standards of living for all our people.
My third and final point is an extended thanks to the teams from the NExT Search Centre at NUS and the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton, who have worked tirelessly to pull together such a packed and exciting week-long programme, featuring a mix of keynote lectures and tutorials as well as group projects by students.
If I may say, given the importance for both our countries of generating international collaborations, I think it is wonderfully foresighted of them to open this event, free of charge, to the public as well as students from all over the world.
I understand that we have participants today from Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam, South Korea, China, India, France, Thailand and the US.
You have a seriously impressive line up of speakers from the various Centres of Excellence that they represent including NUS, Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation, Singapore Management University, Tsinghua University, Pulse Lab Jakarta, KAIST, University of California Irvine, Northwestern University.
But in closing I particularly want to thank Wendy and her colleagues from the Southampton, Oxford, Cardiff, Imperial College London, London School of Economics, University College London and Goldsmiths College who have come from the UK for this event.
I hope you all have a wonderful few days and I look forward to hearing how we can help you turn the ideas you generate into reality, and further strengthen the UK/Singapore partnership in the future.