With its fifth edition of SIGEF, which was staged for the first time in Asia/Singapore, Horyou aimed high and took its participants right where technology pledges inclusion and sustainability.
From its opening remarks through to its closing speeches, with keynotes and panels tackling sensitive yet most relevant themes and topics such as urban sustainability, Fintech and blockchain with a purpose, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Gender equality, MedTech for inclusive care, social impact with financial returns, and clean and synchronized future energy, SIGEF2018 was set to serve as the model forum that Millenials have been requiring for years: a practical, positive and feasible solution geared gathering of investors, civil servants, researchers, experts, civil society activists, philanthropists, NGOs and academics sharing experiences, advice and proposals, all bound to lead to a more globally beyond frontier sustainable and inclusive future for all.
Fabrice Filliez, the Swiss Ambassador to Singapore, did the opening at the Suntec Convention Centre, insisting on “Swiss and Singapore commonalities promoting peace and security through dialogue”. This message, clearly, was not meant to stop at bilateral relations but be understood as the condition of possibility of global sustainability and inclusion. Building on the example of Horyou, the social network for social good, Mr. Filliez reminded the two-hundred-and-fifty-participant floor of the role of Switzerland in promoting peace and dialogue through hosting the headquarters of major global institutions whose role and actions are precisely aimed at Shaping Better Times to Come, which was the theme of the Forum.
Filliez was followed by Kazuhiro Hisata, serial entrepreneur, marketing expert, angel investor and a Blockchain evangelist, Founder of SRS Fintech Commerce Ltd. which sponsored the event, reminded the audience that likeminded differences are assets when sharing the same goals. Tackling the particular issue of blockchain and cryptocurrencies and the fears that, in some circles, they may induce, Mr. Hisata insisted that “Money can exist without form or shape; it is a good service and is more usable to change the world“. In that regard, and stemming inspiration from HoryouToken, he affirmed that each one can spread the ideals of Horyou.
Coming next, Yonathan Parienti, founder and CEO of Horyou, the organizer of the Forum, restated the objective of SIGEF2018 as a milestone on the road to “leverage technology to induce inclusion and sustainability”. Insisting on the need to find solutions he urged the participants to show more implication: “Don’t be shy, connect and share; be concrete and your dream – our dream – will turn to reality.”
First pitch on urban sustainability, Natalie Doran, Digital Marketing Director of Timetech, a blockchain-based time exchange project, put forth the importance of global timesharing as key to a more inclusive world. She was followed by Kavita Sinha, from Silver Spring Networks and founder of an NGO that caters for children with hearing disabilities, cited the example of her own son who, thanks to a chip implanted in his brain, “is now like just another kid”, to underscore the importance of technology for inclusion.
Also on that panel, Andy Sim, a philanthropist involved in digital innovations that make giving “simple, meaningful and fun for everyone”, talked about his pursuit of ways to “go beyond smart to avoid being less human”, and advocated the need to “create solutions before technology and to always seek the meaning of life while accruing our means to live.” He was succeeded by Damian Tan, Managing Director of Vickers Venture Partners and long-time IT specialist, who is actively involved in the project of “everyone being able to choose the kind of city they would like to live in”. Commenting on the best ways to mix philanthropy with profit, he asserted that the solution is to “always look for impact.”
Thuc Vu, co-founder and CEO of OhmniLabs’, and a robotics, Artificial Intelligence and algorithms expert, advocated getting over a sense of fear regarding robots and AI, for which end he designed and set up a special open innovation platform that calls on collaborations to make robotics more accessible and human friendly and turn them into real facilitators of inclusion. He was followed by Jan Ondrus, Associate Professor at ESSEC Asia Pacific and director of research at the Center for digital excellence in business, who underscored the digital divide but only to propose way to bridge the gap. “We are not equal in terms of access to technology”, reason why his current interests cover digital business models and innovation, digital platforms and ecosystems strategy, mobile payment and Fintech, and strategy of IT, to get over the divide.
The second session, dedicated to Fintech and blockchain, allowed for a second keynote contribution from Kazuhiro Hisata who described the ways Fintech and Blockchain technology are changing the world & lifestyles. “It is good service”, he asserted, insisting on “the opportunity that it offers to revolutionize humanity”. Also keynote speaker for that session, Yonathan Parienti insisted on the difficulty to get funding for all workers for social good but only to unveil effective ways to “make social good doers visible and sustainable, and help them expand.” “Everyone can be a force for good, everyone can share inspiration and be an agent of change” he added, before introducing HoryouToken, a cryptocurrency based on a Blockchain with a purpose, that “is not about speculation but about a cryptocurrency with real value for society that supports constructive initiatives aimed at promoting sustainability and inclusion.”
On the panel, Karen New, an ICO advisor and author of the first book on cryptocurrency, explicated ways of bridging “the gap in understanding technology of cryptocurrency in the general population”, a major obstacle hindering it’s going mainstream. She confirmed that “regulations are coming into space that will stabilize the market in terms of investment and speculation”, while admitting that “there’s always a risk because it takes time – easily a year or two.” Going in the same direction of how to turn cryptocurrency into mainstream substitute money, Kenneth Bok, director of Singapore-based Blocks, insisted that, beyond the issue of speculation, it is “important to talk about money and how the role of money is changing; talk about who issues and controls money, and how to be smart with fiat money”. Convinced that “decentralization will allow local communities to come together”, because “Blockchain is not just about money but about information.”
Chan Sik Ahn, a legal advisor and partner at HMP Law, explored the tricky ground of legal vs. illegal technology, reminding us of how we sometimes promote and sometimes prohibit technology. Reviewing ways of reconciling law and technology, which aims at the protection of the general public “because Blockchain has the same impact as the Internet”, he insisted on the importance of transparency and the need to make a difference among the many players that are coming up. “You have to look into them and find out about their project”, he advised.
Moving into SIGEF’s session 3 dedicated to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and how to help a quick implementation of their main dispositions, which was complemented with a panel on gender equality, was the occasion for keynote speaker Myriam Feiler, co-founder of bizzi.co, a collaboration platform for the world’s small business owners whose goal is to “enable collaborations that solve the world’s greatest challenges”. To that end, Miriam was looking to meet with individuals and organizations that are addressing the SDGs, as well as those that are committed to helping small businesses overcome their challenges to growth.
On the SDG panel was Mikkel Larsen, managing director at DBS, who assigned himself the mission to strengthen his bank’s sustainability agenda in various ways. In July 2017, for instance, DBS was the first financial institution in Singapore to issue a green bond to support the financing of green assets. “What does a bank to do with sustainability? Seek impact in all SDG areas, including gender equality.” “Money is at the core of everything”, he reminded candidly and “we look into a mix of social and environmental issues and we see the SDGs as investment opportunities.”
Looking into the perennial issue of which SDG should come first, Noriko Mitsui, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and Horyou’s ambassador in Japan, said that while all 17 SDGs are important and “Horyou supports all SDGs”, “for me hunger is my objective; my conviction and mission is that everybody has the right to live happily.” A conviction that was shared by Prasanna Da Silva, World Vision International’s (WVI) Senior Director of Operations/COO for APAC, whose motto is “work together”. Showcasing his unique experience in and excellent understanding of poor and marginalized communities, he underscored the importance of skills in community mobilization, capability building, and interfaith harmonization to successfully implement the SDGs. Da Silva also strongly promoted “the importance of partnerships and close collaboration with local government agencies and other community development actors.”
Da Silva was succeeded by Simon JD Schillebeeckx, Assistant Professor of Strategy & Innovation at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business of Singapore Management University (SMU), who urged all stakeholders for a clear prioritization of the SDGs, putting environmental issues and climate change at the very top, when Arndt Huar, Deputy Director at the UN Development Program (UNDP) Global Centre for Public Service Excellence (GCPSE), reminded panelists and participants alike that “SDG is a complex framework and complicated to measure while it reflects the complexity of reality”. Reflecting on the role of governments, he offered his vision whereby “governments are facilitators and not administrators of change.”
Keynote speaker on gender equality, Josie Ho, multiple award-winning actress, rock star, fashion icon and producer from Hong Kong, drew a list of some of the complications and hindrances relating to gender that an actress is bound to endure on any set but that, nevertheless, her positive and gamey vision of a life revolving around fire, ice and bliss, makes it easier on her to overcome and work to change through dialogue. On that panel, Hayden Majajas, head of diversity and inclusion at Bloomberg APAC, presented his strategy to deliver a measurable improvement in diverse workforce representation and work environment inclusion insisting on the propensity that many have in creating barriers and how to bring those barriers down via an institutional culture of inclusion. He was succeeded by Pia Bruce, soft-spoken and nevertheless very active former Executive Director of the Singapore Committee for UN Women (formerly UNIFEM), drew a compelling picture of her involvement in multiple initiatives that provide women and girls with access to education, economic independence and a life free of violence and abuse. Some of her contributions include supporting women led social enterprises in the region or being on the founding team of Aidha, a micro-business school for foreign domestic workers in Singapore, preparing migrant women to start small successful businesses in their home countries to support their families.
Also on that panel, Stephanie Dickson who assigned herself a “mission to make sustainability mainstream and sexy” as Director Blocks at Green is the new black, which she has founded and is “Asia’s first conscious festival and media platform for people who want to #LiveMoreConsciously by improving the way they think, work and consume while doing more good in the world”, through the organization of international events and experiences where fun and social responsibility go hand in hand.
The session was followed by a musical interlude that served as an introduction to the session on Medtech. The interlude was piloted by Emerson Gale, a violinist and international music education entrepreneur who specializes in soundscape Eco therapy. While doing his pitch, Gale introduced his strategy of building intergenerational communities via the arts and outdoor education in the U.S., U.K., and China. He has produced the Youtube channel Crypto Musical to offer educational information about blockchain for social good projects.
The interlude allowed for the MedTech session to get off to a flying start with a sixteen-year-old panelist who created an application to provide easy education for children with problems. Ondrej Vrabel, a true wonder boy, is indeed the author of the Innovative Project Pinf Hry (www.pinfhry.com), which was featured at SIGEF 2015, and the youngest holder of the Slovak Crystal Wing Award for Philanthropy. Project Pinf Hry helps children with special needs and learning difficulties with color recognition, reading, writing, logical thinking and other important skills which healthy people take for granted.
Ondrej was succeeded by Dr. Prem Pillay, now senior consultant at the Singapore Brain-Spine-Nerves Center at Mt Elizabeth Medical Center and Hospital and at the Advanced Spine Center at Mt Elizabeth Novena Medical Center and Hospital in Singapore. An award-winning and pioneering Neurosurgeon in the areas of less invasive Brain and Spine treatments/surgery, Dr. Prem Pillay predicts and militates for a programmed obsolescence of hospitals in favor of proximity technology that is both more humane and more efficient, whereby patients would be diagnosed and medicated at home thanks to adapted robotics.
Also on the panel, Maria Guzman, a psychologist, writer and life coach is also a survivor who went through a process of rebirth after a coma due to chemotherapy gone wrong. Her teaching/coaching, which she extensively presented at the conference, focuses on the meaning and importance of life and source of life., to close the gap between technology and humanity, and thus paved the way for Dr. Lindsay Wu, Chief Scientific Advisor and co-founder of Life Biosciences, whose work aims to control the ageing process to significantly extend lifespan while maintaining health and fertility late into life.
Then came the much-awaited session on impact investment with an opening keynote speech from Steve Leonard, founder and CEO of Singapore-based SGInnovate, a private limited company wholly owned by the Singapore Government who has chartered Mr. Leonard to lead a program that builds ‘deep-tech’ companies. Capitalizing on the science and technology research for which, he reminded, that Singapore has gained a global reputation, his team has worked with local and international partners, including universities, venture capitalists, and major corporations, to help technical founders imagine, start and scale globally-relevant early-stage technology companies from Singapore. Most notably, he has focused on people with no legal identity and consequently worked on providing legal identity to all and promoted Blockchain and donation to attain his goals. He also supported the revival of declining industries and cited, in that regard, the example of the support he provided to 750,000 people in Cambodia involved in reviving the silk painting industry.
Leonard was succeeded by Decentro Janukta, founder of Decentro Media New Zealand. In his talk, Decentro communicated to the floor his passion about the Education and Poverty aspects of the UN Sustainability Goals in particular, through a game changing truth regarding humanity and how we relate with Mathematics. With his mind challenging title of “Teaching Math to Goldfish”, he elaborated on his discovery and its importance to global social development and our decentralized future.
The panel that followed was comprised of Leonard and Decentro who were joined by Jenni Risku, a social impact entrepreneur and founder of the Women in Tech Conference in Asia. Jenni has been promoting cross-boarder investments between China and Europe until she launched Women in Tech, an annual technology conference that is organized in association with Singapore’s technology and innovation week SWITCH. Women in Tech, she explained, showcases female role models in tech and science, and provides various activities for career development in the industry. Its latest event at the MBS Expo in September, as she underscored, gathered over 1,500 people from 25 countries, had over 60 partner organizations and was sponsored by top industry influencers such as Accenture, Google, Facebook, CA Technologies, Amazon and others, and has attracted top policy makers, startups, corporate and SME leadership, students and media. Also on that panel were Marc Lansonneur, Robert Kraybill and Brian Wilson.
Lansonneur, Managing Director, Head of Managed Solutions and Investment Governance at DBS Singapore where he assigned himself the mission to source and distribute investment products and build an offer in social investment. Insisting on the need to avoid confusion between philanthropy and impact investing, he underscored the need to pick projects with a reasonable promise of guaranteed return on investment. As for Robert Kraybill, Managing Director, Portfolio Management of Impact Investment Exchange (IIX), has been instrumental in restructuring the Women’s Livelihood Bond, a first-of-its-kind listed impact investment bond designed to bring sustainable livelihoods to over 385,000 women in Southeast Asia.
Last but not least, Brian Wilson who defines himself as a Blockchain and cryptocurrency evangelist, has been focusing on Blockchain, cryptocurrency and mining to solve hunger. Based in Japan, he advocated transparency and cited his country of residence as an example of openness. In line with his philosophy, Wilson has started a cryptocurrency bar where he teaches cryptocurrency mining and the importance of this technology to the world. A firm believer in Horyou’s mission statement, he has opted to promote HoryouToken and has become an active ambassador of Horyou in Japan.
The final session on Future Energy kicked off with a keynote speech and two pitches that paved the way for a lively panel on the pivotal question of production standards and synchronized distribution during the transition towards the provision of cleaner energy. In his keynote, Leopold Feiler, a German serial entrepreneur in the fields of strategic marketing, media and communications, and Blockchain enthusiast, presented a revolutionary yet scalable and safe energy storage system that he designed and to which he finds potential to disrupt the future energy market. The pitch of Rowan Logie, an advisor to Swytch, a blockchain renewable energy verification and incentive project designed to create a trustless global market for smart carbon off-setting, presented various ways and devices based on solar energy. As for Vincent Bakker, co-founder and CFO of Positive Energy, he exposed ways and means to simplify the financing of smaller renewable energy projects that are meant to enable a sustainable electrification of the APAC region.
The panel that followed, was comprised of Feiler, Logie and Bakker who were joined by Assaad Razzouk, a Lebanese-British clean energy entrepreneur, investor and commentator, and Ryan Merrill, adjunct professor in sustainability, strategy and innovation at Singapore Management University. The animated discussions tackled the sensitive issue of realistic approaches to a smooth transition toward a wide scale production, storage and distribution of clean energy in the wake of the planned obsolescence – and death, in Mr. Razzouk’s words “Fossil fuels are dead, finished”, he affirmed -, of fossil fuels. Absolute as it was, though put into perspective by the other panelists, Mr. Razzouk’s statement was nevertheless an indication that the future of clean energy seems to be clearing out. That, at least, was the “reason to believe and be optimistic” conclusion of the panel.
Reason(s) to be optimistic was also the closing remark of SIGEF2018’s MC, Teymoor Nabili, as well as its chairman, Yonathan Parienti, both of whom reminded the participants that the forum’s primary aim was to nurture inspiration and positive action, while promoting the adoption of technology and innovation for sustainability and inclusion as the right way to start shaping better times to come. An appointment was made for everyone to gather again at SIGEF 2019.