This post was submitted by Navjeev Singh, IVLP alum from Singapore.
When I first found out that I was invited to an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), I was chuffed. After all, a quick Google search tells you it is the U.S. State Department’s premier professional exchange program. It is invite-only. It has been around for over 80 years. Over 500 current or former Chiefs of State or Heads of Government had attended an IVLP. My expectations for this program were set very high as a result.
I was invited to represent Singapore at the IVLP on Advancing an Open, Reliable, and Secure Digital Economy. This project had ambitious goals set for the three-week immersive program: to engage with the public and private ICT stakeholders across four U.S. cities; to learn about efforts to advance an open internet while maintaining cybersecurity; to learn about collaborative tools to fight cybercrime; and to understand how state/federal laws and regulations affect the digital economy.
Landing in the U.S. after 20+ hours on an airplane, I was exhausted and excited to meet my program mates. Our program featured ten additional brilliant participants from various countries worldwide: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Chile, Egypt, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Philippines, Poland, Senegal, and Suriname. As a group, diversity was personified with representation across geographies, cultures, and genders, and how our professional interests intersected with the digital economy.
Over three weeks, we traveled to four U.S. cities (Washington DC, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Dallas) for our intensive program. We ate, shopped, and explored the touristy sites together.
Correspondingly, one of my biggest takeaways from the IVLP was not just a cultural immersion in the U.S. but also a cultural introduction to the rest of the world.
This cultural awareness made discussing ways to advance and secure the digital economy fascinating since we brought our very local perspectives on a global topic. My other top takeaways include:
- Blockchain, Crypto & the future of the digital economy. It was apparent from our engagements that the next frontier of the digital economy would involve blockchain in some form. However, the winning use cases and protocols are still a big question mark, especially with the level of fraudulent activity currently associated with crypto and the current crypto winter dampening enthusiasm in the sector.
- U.S. Law Enforcement Interagency efforts. From our meetings with the FBI, Secret Service, Dept of Homeland Security, and the State Department, we learned about the impressive interagency work in the U.S. to fight cybercrime (especially in the crypto era) and to align on a coordinated position on the development of digital assets following U.S. President Joesph Biden’s executive order on the issue.
- Industry efforts to develop the blockchain economy. With new technologies come new opportunities. We heard directly from established and new businesses about how they were either experimenting with blockchain technology to disrupt their existing business models or spinning off new companies that focus on securing the blockchain economy – equally important in building broader trust step-by-step in this nascent area.
- Digital Inclusion & Equity at the core of the digital economy. The digital economy must provide equity in opportunities to prevent worsening long-term inequality. It was heartening to see various state and city efforts working together to improve the lives of their people, using technology as an enabler. It cannot be assumed that people will automatically keep up with technology. Instead, resources and system-wide efforts should be in place to ensure that no one gets left behind.
My most profound appreciation goes to the U.S. Department of State, Meridian International Center, and the U.S. Embassy in Singapore for this incredible opportunity that expanded my cultural and intellectual horizons. I advise anyone if you get a professional development opportunity that pushes you beyond your comfort zone and connects your everyday work to the bigger, global picture — grab it! You won’t regret it.