Confessions of an INK Speaker: Aaron Maniam and his love for poetry and policy

Aaron Maniam is not only a Director at the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore, but also an eloquent speaker and poet! Today he talks of his experiences at different INK gatherings, and gives us a peek into the policies and innovations that are taking place in the “Smart Nation” – Singapore.

1You’ve been a speaker at INK Asia 2016 and at the SingularityU India Summit 2017. What was the highlight for you?

I loved speaking about poetry and policy at INK Asia 2016. The two things are not usually connected, so it was lovely to speak to an audience of polymaths who understood how they might be linked. I also enjoyed being interviewed by Lakshmi at the SingularityU Summit in 2017 – she’s a force of nature and I knew she would find interesting directions in which to steer the conversation.

Listen to Aaron Maniam and Lakshmi Pratury’s conversation from SingularityU India Summit 2017 below:

2Did you meet anyone during these conferences that lead to an interesting future collaboration or idea?

There have been a few – a businessman from Mumbai who wants to set up a textile headquarter in Singapore, for instance. The nice thing about the breadth of my work is that there are all sorts of connections to unearth – if not in government, then usually in in one of our universities or community groups.

3The GST law was recently enforced in India. As someone who works closely with the Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore, tell us about some of the different innovations the Singaporean Government has put into place.

Singapore is always innovating – in a lot of ways our very existence, as a small open economy in the heart of Southeast Asia, is an innovation on traditional ideas of nation-states with clear economic hinterlands. Our government is always looking for new ways to operate, and to harness the potential of emerging trends and technology. Recently, we’ve embarked on an effort to be a “Smart Nation” that harnesses data, digitisation and disruptive technology to transform our economy, society and government systems. This means working with a whole host of innovations – automation, driverless cars, smart manufacturing, to name a few.

4. Right now, what is the thing closest to your heart that you would speak about on stage?

Policy is one of my first loves; as is poetry, and I think my INK Asia talk in 2016 only explored the surface of the links between them. So I’d love to delve into that more deeply. I am also interested in exploring the role of meditation, silence and contemplation in a world where we are increasingly bombarded by noise and information. I think there is huge scope in meditative practices, across different faith traditions, to prepare us for a disruptive and disrupted world.

5. The theme of our upcoming INK2017 is ‘Slingshot’, a mindset which can propel our legacy systems to greater altitudes of innovation and modernity. What is your take on it, keeping in mind the Asian ecosystem?

My favourite thing about this theme is that it refers to a non-linear phenomenon; slingshots work by transcending and bypassing the obvious paths, and find new parabolas and directions to explore. I think that is one of the great challenges of our time – to move beyond incremental linear innovations, and truly transform our systems in fundamental ways. INK2017 can be the catalyst for this to happen among all its participants!

Explore More Blogs