Top government CIOs in Southeast Asia

The CIO role is more important than ever, as lines between technology and business become blurred. But who are the notable government CIOs in the ASEAN region tackling the role?

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The role of the CIO has become a pivotal one at the time of driving change and leading the digital strategy of any public administration.

Last month Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, issued a decree instructing all government agencies in the country must now appoint a Chief Information Officer (CIO) to coordinate technological agendas between different authorities.

Meet here seven top CIOs within the government sector in Southeast Asia.

Charis Yan, CIO at the Ministry of Communications and Information & Infocomm Media Development Authority, Singapore

Charis Yan’s job is not an easy one.

In 2016 she was responsible for the reorganisation of the former Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and Media Development Authority (MDA) into the government Technology Agency (GovTech) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in 2016.

Yan and her team worked relentlessly to transition the systems and ensure everyone could access the government infrastructure environment and systems on day 1 of the reorganisation.

After the challenging but successful transition, she embarked on a major endeavour in 2017 to consolidate and streamline the numerous systems while simultaneously building new ones to meet the evolving business needs.

Last year she explored different emerging technologies, from trying out the ‘virtual PA’ (an AI scheduling assistant which will take over the tedious “email ping pong” for scheduling meetings) to playing with gesture-controlled wearables that can turn any surface into interactive screens to display and interact with contents from the laptop/smartphone.

Talking to GovInsider, she cited AI, AR and VR as the technologies that most interest her in 2018.

“I am excited to push for greater adoption of technologies to positively transform education in the coming years”, she said. “I hope to see the greater use of AR/VR in the classroom to create an immersive and experiential learning adventure, to re-ignite the passion for learning, and to make learning enjoyable for the students.”

She thinks that the adoption of AI could provide instant feedback to teachers on the learning needs and skills gap of each student, enabling early intervention and customised teaching.

Napoleon C Taas - Director and CIO at the Philippine National Police

During a career in the government sector that spans over 30 years, Taas has been at the forefront of information communication technology and physical security in the Philippines.

His leadership, managerial competence, and extensive project management experience has allowed him to synchronise the efforts of the 21 involved agencies resulting to ZERO commercial flight cancellations, minimal traffic inconvenience, ZERO untoward incident and all within the budget allocated by the government of the Philippines.

He is currently the CIO of the country’s premier law enforcement agency, the Philippine National Police (PNP) - Directorate for Information and Communication Technology Management (DICTM), and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).

When the PNP began to review its systems, Taas was behind the risk assessments and security maps conducted to identify and address weaknesses.

“I had to do a serious scoping of the current state of the PNP’s information system… I have identified some aspects that are of utmost importance,” said Taas. “There are strategic efforts that the ITMS and the PNP could benefit from”.

He is behind the projects that seek to make the PNP and the Public Safety Mutual Benefit Fund Inc (PSMBFI) compliant with the National Cyber Security Plan of 2022.

As PNP CIO, he pioneered the establishment of the Enterprise Resource Platform that signals the PNP’s departure from the highly inefficient and vulnerable silos. He also drafted the PNP’s Information Assurance Policy making it the only agency in government that is compliant to the National Privacy Act.

Yeo Beng Huay, CIO at Singapore Customs

When CIO Asia spoke to Yeo in October, she shared with us some of the challenges and obstacles that she faces in her role as Chief Information Officer in an office as demanding as 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”, Yeo confessed during the interview.

But not all are downsides in the world of the CIO.

Since Yeo took her post in August 2009, she has played a vital role in helping her agency achieve its mission 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 between business-to-business (B2B) as well as 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.

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; strengthen ICT policy, standards and practice; encourage ICT acculturation in the Public Sector; and to innovate 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 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; among others.

Dr Dzazali is very keen on using technology and digitalisation to improve her fellow countrymen lives 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 [www.malaysia.gov.my]”, 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 mean to gain insights towards better decision making and policy formulation to improve citizen’s lives,” Dzazali added.

She thinks that the major challenges 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) is a challenge at the time of approaching digital transformations.

“Typical government institutions are very likely to do the thinking oon 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.”

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 our statutory boards’ cybersecurity posture to facilitate digital transformation.

Mei Leng is particularly interested in the use of AI, Data Analytics and Machine Learning in the cyber domain to comb for Indicators of Attack, Zero-Day Exploits and Abnormal Behaviours.

In an Women in GovTech Special Report 2017 she confessed how building positive relationships and communication are some of the 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

Mus’ extensive career in government includes the macro-monitoring of e-government programmes in Brunei and ensuring alignment to the e-Government Strategic Plan 2009-2014.

An ardent advocate of e-goverment, in 2008 he 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.

Amid his many specialities are 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 is at the centre of attention.

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

Prior to this role, Cheow Hoe worked in the private sector, mainly for financial institutions and consulting firms, such as Barclays and EY, on a large-scale IT systems. 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 devising the funding invested in his government’s digital strategy.

The government Technology Agency of Singapore is behind projects using new innovative services.

“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.”

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