The best crew I have flown with

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Today is the eve of the lunar Chinese New Year (27th January 2017), and it is time to recall the things that happened over the course of the last 365 days. Despite the tragedy, the faces of the crew members and the helping and concerned passengers warms my heart till today.

I sent the below email to Xiamen International Airline email contact today (27th January 2017).

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To: et@xiamenair.comCCsin@xiamenair.com

Today at 10:30

Hi,

I am a passenger on MF855 from Tianjin to Singapore on 9th December 2016 with stop-over at Xiamen International airport.

After the flight took off from Xiamen International airport and shortly after dinner was served on board which is about 7pm, a passenger near the emergency row had problem and needed medical attention which the crew quickly responded and took turns giving CPR. Announcements were made to all passengers to seek for medical expertise but no one is clearly available.

The crew gave CPR non-stop until the airplane touched down around 11pm and the medical doctor from Singapore Changi Airport is on board. While the passenger not gaining consiousness and passed away, the effort of the well trained and responsive crew members are all to be commended. Besides family members of the passenger-in-distress, two other passengers also rendered help and the crew members expressed their gratitude to them.

I am proud to have seem the great professionalism, dedication, and warmth of the crew of Xiamen International airline MF855 that night.

Please forward this letter to the crew with my gratitude.

I apologise for taking so long to write this note.

With best regards,

SOH/SK

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Just to add, all the passengers on board co-operated to wait patiently and quietly, as the crew had announced to let the doctor from the airport to get on board quickly to assist the passenger-in-distress. We disembark the plane at around 11:45pm.

The best crew I have flown with

Some thoughts on Smart Cities and Nations

Having spent time working and living overseas, there are instances where ease of living in places that are worse off or better off than Singapore.

After the world ranking of ICT countries that has been popular for the last 15 or so years, it is now smart cities that many city governments that given the scope and span of control is more within their reach, so to speak. But by which yard stick or umbrella of categories do one city get ahead of another city? There is no apparent consensus and it will probably be debated for some years before a global organization like World Economic Forum or a reputable university will have one that is more acceptable by most stakeholders.

It is difficult to define smart that everyone agrees to. The measure of human intelligence has IQ test? Can EQ be tested? EQ defers from one culture to another. Let us leave it to the scholars and researchers to work it out what constitutes a smart city.

My understanding is when something is considered smart, be it a thing or a system, it has to exhibit human intelligence in anticipating and giving delight.

While lots of sensors can be deployed, where they previously were not due to cost and other reasons, are connected to deliver data (the fundamental use of Internet of Things) to systems, and people build applications or uses data analytics to makes use of the data, it is the people that gives the smart behaviour to the entire system.

Singapore has employed use of technology to build the intelligent nation based on building e-government platform and systems, and enabling use of technology that is pushed out to the masses at a speed and scale that matches the best out there (e.g. ICT @ Schools, wireless @ SG). While the roll out of pilot driverless taxi service has put Singapore in the limelight, this innovative use of technology in transport sector is still an extension and progressive trend that has been undergoing trials in lots of places.

Key Pillars

The Key pillars of smart city are public (infrastructure), private, and citizens in ways that will go beyond what has been done before. A smart city will enable businesses and individuals to go about their daily business and lives with ease that we should not feel the technology at work. Now that is a tall order even in the most futuristic science fiction books/movies.

A key enabler in smart city/nation is an public service that is ICT enabled and data sharing at least across the public sector. You cannot imagine a smart city that requires you to repeatedly enter your personal information in public hospital admission in the same city or state/province but it is still happening in every city in China. What has been done so far in lots of countries and in what I saw in China has been about building broadband infrastructure, cloud technology and community/personal health areas which is not built upon strong foundation of an efficient e-government platform and data services. China is still working hard to cut red tape and make its government services more friendly and relevant and only recently cancelled the need for citizen to go to the police for certain number of identity confirmation (see reference 8) and also a health system that does not allow its citizen to enjoy healthcare service away from where they are born (see reference 9). China do have lots of innovation in the e-commerce area which Singapore has lacked. Breaking down silo walls and thinking in the shoes of the citizens so that it is seamless and easy to transact should be what every public facing service should strive to achieve.

In the private sector area of smart city, it is the weakest chain for Singapore. While we have 30,000 small and medium enterprises, the ICT usage within each industry is low as we rely on a few key industries like financial service, pharmaceutical, electronics, chemical and oil, which are mainly centred on foreign multinationals. To build a plethora of smart apps and systems, we need to train and attract talents. I think the recent re-organization of infocomm and media authorities and the re-tasking of workforce development authority are necessary moves by the Singapore government to focus on supporting the ICT capability building capacity and developing the talent pools.

I like the way that Singapore has adopted in embracing changes in some industries such as the personal transport sector with driverless taxi and Uber. However, I think the breaking up of bus routes into multiple bus operators will dilute the investment in technology.

At the citizen and community level. I think the citizen sector will need a strong lead by the government linked corporations that deals with the citizens. The public hospital groups and the private healthcare groups and health technology companies should form an eco-system that will make healthcare much more personable and near-as-needed basis as possible. The retail sector should have a lead company or two (e.g. NTUC, ShengSiong, Cold Storage/Guardian) working together with delivery and physical dropbox companies to make working professionals’ lives so much easier. China has the scale and business size for JD.com and 1HaoDian to take order before 11am and deliver groceries to the door by 5pm, there is no reason why a city that is so well connected in Singapore cannot do the same or better. The identification of leading corporations should not be limited to government linked corporation if there is no suitable candidates.

Talent

We need more smarts and this is only achievable when people apply their smarts. I read an author who wrote that, let us put the intelligence into the Internet of Things (“IoT”). IoT is a tool and it is the human that we need to focus on, not the things. IoT is a tool and it is the human that we need to focus on, not the things.

Attracting and growing the talent pool that are needed to create innovative and smarter systems is the key. Things like whether IoTs will be used is secondary.

References:

  1. https://www.atkearney.com/documents/10192/8178456/Global+Cities+2016.pdf/8139cd44-c760-4a93-ad7d-11c5d347451a
  2. http://www.juniperresearch.com/press/press-releases/singapore-named-global-smart-city-2016
  3. http://www.juniperresearch.com/researchstore/key-vertical-markets/smart-cities/market-trends-competitive-landscape
  4. https://www.fastcoexist.com/1679127/the-top-10-smart-cities-on-the-planet
  5. http://www.ssgkc.com/
  6. Internet of Things: Promise and Peril for the RFID Industry http://www.rfidjournal.com/articles/view?12471
  7. https://www.ida.gov.sg/Tech-Scene-News/Smart-Nation-Vision
  8. http://www.businessinsider.com/iot-ecosystem-internet-of-things-forecasts-and-business-opportunities-2016-2?IR=T&r=US&IR=T
  9. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/1852171/chinese-police-join-fight-against-ridiculous-red-tape
Some thoughts on Smart Cities and Nations

Charity Giving – a humbling experience

Published 15 August 2016

In 1989, the famous Project Hope was created by China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF).  CYDF collaborate with China Government youth arm to manage the project and Deng XiaoPing penned down the name in Chinese calligraphy style “希望”, it came after 1988 which China allowed the creation of private charity organizations for specific purpose (China regulates all NGOs and requires registration). China government had so much to do on its proverbial plate that it looks to private individuals and corporations to help fund the building of schools in rural areas in China. China has come a long way and in 2005 the government announced the scheme of education subsidy (“两免一补”) whereby each school going children from poor family (9 years – 6 years of primary school and 3 years of lower secondary school) are not required to pay for text book, school fees and receive an allowance to cover for any school hostel costs. This has lessened the need for Project Hope and CYDF has turned to the software aspect of the schools.

There were controversies with Project Hope, both with CYDF and also the way the money that was supposed to go to build schools were handled by local officials or local officials raising education fund on its own in the name of Project Hope. Nevertheless, it is the only official channel in China to give to education to benefit the poorer regions’ children.

Even after the 2005 measures by the Chinese government to free the financial burden of school going families in rural area, the vastness of China and the reach and speed of getting central and local government help to cover all the rural areas still have a big gap to fill.

Furthermore, some of the local counties are so poor given that most of the adults are working in the richer provinces and thus are not paying local taxes. The families themselves are not in good situations given that the remained behind family members cannot work the farm fully and sometimes children have to help out doing farm and household work that they cannot go to school.

My Experience with Sponsoring a Guanxi boy of 9 years of age

There are many smaller charity organizations and I found one through wechat, and scrutinized their actual set-up. They run charity car boot sale monthly and managed to get a sponsor to let them have a free permanent space to sell members donated goods. They specifically look for a poor mountainous region in Guanxi province to sponsor about 200 primary and lower secondary pupils with the criteria of i) orphan or single parent only, ii) household income below a certain level, and iii) above average results. These children are from 7 to 8 schools in the region and walking to visit the schools, the children in their home with their guardian took the better part of a 11-14 days visit and the charity organization full-time employees (I believe there are two) and sponsors who wants to visit the children they sponsor goes along. The sponsor donate half year worth of money, which is about USD 250, which is disperse to the children’s guardian personal during the half yearly visit, of which one of the visit date is not pre-announced.

I sponsored a then 9 year old child (let’s call him X) for a year and a half. Another sponsor has since took over from mid 2016 from the second half of primary 4 level education need of X.

 

Misconceptions of Sponsors/city folks

The about 200+ sponsors have a wechat group that talks about the charity, the sponsored children, and the school situation. We, the city-born sponsors, given our growing up in cities, are not familiar with the situation in the Guanxi rural area. We have proposed following ideas and ways of helping the children:

  1. Give the school computers
  2. Give the children ipad with 3G data SIM
  3. Give the children phone
  4. Write the children often, like once a week or once a fortnight
  5. Give them books

The ideas were shot down or heavily modified:

  1. Give the school computers – there is no electricity in the school. There is no qualified teacher to teach using computer even if there are electricity.
  2. Give the children ipad with 3G data SIM – there is no cell tower in and around the villages / schools, no electricity in most village homes to charge ipad
  3. Give the children phone – there is no cell tower in and around the villages / schools, no electricity in most village homes to charge ipad
  4. Write the children often, like once a week or once a fortnight. See comment after number 5.
  5. Give them books

The schools are in rural areas, some of them on hills and such and are far from post office. There are no postman in those small nearby towns that has a post office. People in those places go to the post office, no one deliver mail. The post office calls to the village head who passed along the message to the school principal to go into town (which can be a 5-10km walk in non-paved rocky pathway) to collect the mail. Imagine the workload we place on the poor principal who one school principal has worked 20+ years in poor village school from his youth to his 50s has to do to help collect sponsors’ letters. The charity organization moderated the request number 4 and 5 to bring whatever they and hired helpers can carry to each school. They managed to have a winter jacket and a school bag for every of the 200 children. Photos taken of the sponsored children when presented with the items and money together with their guardian.

In early 2015, a family of three older girls and a young boy, of age 7-14 who live with their grandma whereby the father has died in a road accident and the mother is working in GuangDong and hardly has money to travel back to the village for three years, where the eldest is thinking of stopping her lower secondary two studies to go into nearby county town to work and support her siblings to work. When the charity organizer used wechat to ask the sponsor group to sponsor the eldest girl and obliged, the girl is so happy. The girl has graduated this summer and we don’t know yet if she continues onto higher secondary but I believe her sponsors have decided to help her if she wanted to continue her study.

What the above taught me is give what is needed, and give them the help to get them along. The charity organization’s strict criteria of above average results of the children spurs the children to focus on their studies with dual aim of shifting their mind from their current situation while also wanting the children to know that sponsorship that they get is a form of reward for their results, which promotes a good circle of motivate-hardwork-results-motivate.

The Selfless Givers

There are a generations of past and present group of selfless givers and volunteers. They are the principal and teachers in those rural area.

One example is a quiet German, and he said he is just one of the many people from China and other countries that can help. Eckart Löwe went beyond teaching the subjects, he leads as an example and listening to the virtual orphan going about in their daily lives and many of them have grown to be nice adults.

There are other groups that help education in other poorer part of the world, I am not endorsing any but you should investigate further whether they are transparent and meet your expectations. One such well known group is Room to Read.

There are other ways technology can help, one is the solar-powered reading light which is good for the situation given that electricity is hard to come by for the rural villages. Another problem area is clean water which portable water filtration system will help. Last but not least, hopefully mobile data reaches such places and solar powered notepads will help the rural area school children connect to the world of knowledge.

 

Reference (some of these links are in Chinese):

  1. http://edu.people.com.cn/n/2015/1128/c1006-27867112.html
  2. Eckart Löwe – http://english.cri.cn/4406/2010/03/19/1981s557832.htm
  1. http://www.eco-business.com/news/a-light-of-hope-for-chinas-rural-children/

 

Charity Giving – a humbling experience