Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam—The YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam (hereinafter the YSEALI Academy) officially announced the launch of its Technology and Innovation Seminar titled “The Digitization of Trust”. This seminar is now open for applications until April 7, 2022.

Launched in 2020, the YSEALI Academy’s main mission is to build capacity and enhance leadership skills for young professionals ages 25-40 from across Southeast Asia and Timor-Leste. Each year, the YSEALI Academy offers four seminars on Public Policy, Technology & Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The 2022 Technology and Innovation Seminar on Digitization of Trust is geared towards young leaders who are interested in learning how their decisions are affected by A.I. technologies that facilitate trust between people and machines.

Over the course of two weeks, the fellows will learn about A.I. technologies that redefine our concept of “trust” and how they are changing our society both beneficially and negatively.  The fellows will acquire skills to critique and carefully adopt current A.I. technologies as well as the ones they will encounter in the future. The YSEALI Academy will be inviting high-profile speakers and panelists who are shaping these A.I. technologies or are in the frontlines of the societal disruptions caused by technologies.  Besides lectures, leadership skill workshops will provide the fellows useful knowledge and sharpen up their abilities in making decisions and solving dilemmas as new A.I. technologies present incredible benefits but start to disrupt their organization.  The seminar will culminate in an awards ceremony followed by the graduation of the YSEALI Academy fellows. The major topics include:

  • Understanding the Bias of A.I. and Its Influence on Decision Making
  • The Rise of Synthetic and Manipulated Media
  • Blockchain and the Automation of Trust
  • Legal Implications of A.I. Decisions

The Technology and Innovation Seminar on “The Digitization of Trust” will be opened to 35 YSEALI Academy fellows who are young professionals between the ages of 25-40, highly qualified and motivated, from all 10 ASEAN member countries and Timor-Leste. Once selected, all participants will be fully funded by the U.S. Department of State to attend the seminar. The lectures, panels and teamwork sessions of the seminar will be mainly conducted in the afternoon and evening (GMT +7) with the expected participating time of 48 hours.

Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, this seminar will be conducted online.

Seminar schedule:

  • Enrollment: March 7 – April 7, 2022
  • Announcement of Result: 29 April, 2022
  • Seminar dates: May 30 – June 10, 2022 (two weeks, ten working days)

To find out more about the seminar program: https://yseali.fulbright.edu.vn/en/seminars/technology-and-innovation/

To apply: https://yseali.fulbright.edu.vn/apply/

“New technologies, particularly those related to A.I., have the incredible ability to affect our decisions.  As the youth of Southeast Asia rapidly embrace new technologies, the young leaders need to be at the forefront of critiquing these new tools, maximizing their benefits for their organizations while mitigating the risks.” Vladimir Y. Mariano, PhD – Lead Faculty for Technology and Innovation at the YSEALI Academy.

Being a proud representative of Brunei, the country that chaired the ASEAN Summit 2021 with a focus on digital transformation, Marlina Ahmad shared that her journey with YSEALI and the YSEALI Academy’s flagship seminar on Technology and Innovation had been rather “unconventional”. Her profile is not one we usually envision when we think of a fellow leading in tech, yet her engagement on the topic is unparalleled. Marlina believes that digitalization is improving our way of life and our ways of working, regardless of what industry one sits in.

Tackling digitalization from a different angle

Marlina Ahmad is currently a Communications Advisor at Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP), an energy company with more than 90 years of history employing 4000 professionals with over 20,000 business partners. Her position although intersects multiple industries is still far from what we usually think of when we hear technology and innovation.

Marlina (middle) at Brunei Shell Petroleum’s Digi/Tech Week

When the buzzword digital transformation pops up, most people would envision cool technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning, those that help businesses run faster and smoother. But these technologies do more than enhance productivity. They also change how people communicate with each other, how businesses keep in touch with their customers, and how teams work with one another.

Digitalization has an opportunity to improve our ways of working does not matter what industry you sit in. I already do not fit the [tech innovation] profile in terms of industry, I do not even fit the profile in terms of expertise. But I firmly believe that having data-backed communications is very important.” – Marlina assessed.

While ‘Content is king’ has been a proven approach in communications for years, ‘Data is king’ has been gradually gaining traction and becoming a new rival trend. “You can spend weeks cultivating this seemingly perfect message but if it does not reach the right audience, all of that work can go down the drain.” Data is a measurement of success. It is a measurement for negotiation, especially in formulating KPIs for various deliverables.

Marlina shared that her main goal was to learn how to utilize data and technology to make communications more effective. Although she does not come in with a conventional motivation, it is still a very highly applicable motivation. In fact, in just a few months after the Digital Transformation seminar at YSEALI Academy, the fellow confessed that she found herself saying “I have learned [this] in [the YSEALI] seminar, maybe we can try doing [that]” on multiple occasions.

From a makeshift change to a sustainable digital adoption

Brunei Shell Petroleum is currently undergoing a digital transformation journey to address business problems by bringing greater efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace. The business modernization process was still ongoing when the pandemic hit, which prompted activities to be accelerated. Aside from new entrance passes for essential workers and extended bandwidth for work-from-home staff, communications were also shifted to a new platform.

One of the simplest examples is moving the notice board in the office to a makeshift notice board online, which may sound like a modest change, but it brings on so much more perks to all parties. From Marlina’s side, she can now generate data reading on headcounts, unique user account reached, and then identify trends for each news so that she can send out more relevant materials for the company.

In mere weeks, the company’s systems were upgraded to adapt to the new ways of working with a greater emphasis on going digital. Marlina was surprised by how people just naturally accepted digitalization ever since the pandemic. “We upgraded the system before this but did not fully embrace the transformation. Sometimes it is not about having the system, but rather about knowing how to work it. You are very dependent on who knows what to do with the data or realize that there are opportunities and data for us to grab on it.”

There is more than the technology and the infrastructure that powers digital transformation: more than anything else, mindset and the human capacity to handle such technologies are what matter most. “It is more important than ever to cultivate knowledge for digitalization and technology because we want to upskill our people and we’ve got to know how to do that,” Marlina stressed. Next year, the fellow will be moving to a new position involving even a wider range of stakeholders, and she is excited to integrate more concrete data-backed communications.

A holistic view with diverse schools of thoughts

While the technical lectures were greatly informative and applicable to her work, Marlina also found incredible value from the diverse schools of thoughts. “Technology and research can be read online anytime I want but encounters with different ways of thinking and exchanges of opinions are hard to find. Getting the right people in for a discussion and being exposed to new ways of looking at things, those are different, and those bears incredible value to me.”

She believes that information should be disseminated by practitioners. The fellow expressed immense satisfaction when she spoke about various interactive sessions in the seminar, especially ones that were paneled by leading industry experts, bringing in a very realistic and well-rounded pool of different perspectives and approaches.

Marlina at the launch of her published books: The BSP’s Energy Series

In addition to the rigorous schedule of lectures and panels, Marlina was particularly impressed with the YSEALI’s signature leadership workshops. Being a young professional in a large corporation, she reflected that sometimes it can be hard to acclimatize to certain ideas, like the traditional way of working or the corporate culture itself, and especially to leadership. Henceforth, the workshops were of tremendous help for Marlina to build her own style of leading.

“And most importantly, having so many representatives and young professionals within Southeast Asia also participating in the seminar was a brilliant experience! We get to meet people with different backgrounds and different skill sets, and we get to exchange a lot of information and knowledge.”

Marlina shared that although each country is on a unique track and each fellow joining the seminar is on their own way of becoming a regional leader, “rather than fixating on what makes us different, we decided to see what similarities we share”. The fellows all have a lot of aspirations, and they have a lot of drive, and “by learning with [them] and from [them], the seminar changed the way I view things and change the way I tackle different things at work.” Marlina is hopeful about a future where they can continue to collaborate with these newfound friends in a regional project and she cannot wait to explore all the amazing possibilities for her YSEALI fellows and for herself.

Bảo Trâm

The past six years have seen a doubling in the number of active users on social media platforms across the world, from 2.07 billion people to 4.66 billion. The pandemic has dramatically accelerated this adoption of digital platforms. In Southeast Asia, it is estimated that the user base of Facebook has grown fivefold from less than 100 million in 2010 to almost half a billion in 2021. As old and new social media users roam the internet, they leave behind trails of “electronic breadcrumbs” of their information. Scientific efforts to trace and make sense of these digital footprints have unlocked nothing short of a pandora’s box.

“Big Data has become such a mainstream buzzword, yet not many recognize its omnipresence and omnipotence in our daily lives. It turns out that our digital footprints can yield surprisingly crisp insights into our psychology”, says Dr. Sandra Matz at a distinguished lecture in YSEALI Academy’s Technology and Innovation flagship seminar.

Venturing out into this uncharted water of wreathed acumen from psychologists and data scientists, we are tapping into the nascent field of computational psychology, where Sandra is pushing the frontiers through her research and public engagement.

Dr. Sandra Matz, an award-winning professor at Columbia University

Blurring boundaries of the cyberspace

The Internet of Things connects us all, “but there is also cost to it as we transitioned to the digital world: suddenly we are just numbers in the system,” Sandra points out. We can collect data about someone, but our understanding is still essentially very numeric. Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence can interpret us in a gazillion dimensions, but that is not how we think about each other. Humans are not just numerical data points, humans are much more holistic: we have emotions that are usually momentary, we have personalities that tend to be more stable, and we behave differently in different social contexts.

As technology advances, there grows this disconnection between our curated identity online, on the Big Data pool, and what happens in the offline world. Often time, we equate the digital economy with things that happen online, but “it is really an economy that is based on digital computing” – Dr. Matz explicates. This is where her expertise in psychological profiling comes in to close the gap, to translate the digital footprints of data points into human interpretable profiles that operate on the psychological level.  Rather than inviting people in for in-depth surveys to understand their wiring like the traditional approach, computational psychologists like Sandra can observe consumer behaviors from electronic breadcrumbs to make inferences about their personal and psychological identities.

In 2015, a group at Cambridge University where Sandra did her Ph.D. discovered that an algorithm analyzing the pattern of our Facebook likes can predict major aspects of our personality. Using the well-established OCEAN theory, where personality is categorized in five dimensions (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism), the scientists showed that with only 10 likes, the algorithm can predict these personality traits as well as a co-worker can. Given 70 likes, the algorithm was able to predict as accurately as a friend. With 300, it was more successful than the person’s spouse.

This study was done six years ago with the average Facebook likes being 230 per test subject. But when it comes to digital footprints, social media is only half of the pie.

Replicating offline connections in an online world

What we post and how we interact on Facebook are usually the versions of ourselves that we want to put out there, to express ourselves, to create this identity that reflect partly who we are and partly how we want to be perceived. Beyond social media, there are myriad other traces of our behavioral residue, those that were not intentionally put out there but still capture aspects of our lives, e.g. credit cards, smartphones, digital wearables, and location tracking. Now, combining all of these can make up billions of data points about each person, and the computer can easily make sense of that and outperform everyone in our immediate circle in psychoanalyzing us, predicting our next move.

One of the most fascinating topics that Dr. Matz touched on was the incredible capability of Big Data in tracing people’s digital footprints to cultivate customer centricity experience and enhance customer satisfaction. If in the 1700s, all transactions were personal because they all had to be done face to face and most likely limited with the same people in town, nowadays, the picture is completely flipped. Even with the worldwide social distancing restricting almost all personal interactions between the sellers and the buyers, we still have access to goods and services from across the world.

The questions then arise: “How can we provide small-scale service [like the 1700s] in a large-scale economy [with e-commerce]? How can we replicate some of the personal touchpoints to make the customers feel like there is someone on the other side of the screen who really understands them, yet does not require constant checking up on one another? The answer will not be very surprising – it really lies in data.”

Sandra teamed up with a beauty retailer in the United Kingdom to test the efficiency of personality-targeted ads in engaging and converting casual internet browsers into loyal customers. Essentially, they created different ads for the same product, with tailored messages and images to fit better with the extraversion and openness of the consumers.

The result was astonishing: there was a 50% uptick in the number of purchases from customers who saw matched ads in comparison to the mismatched ones, and more than just a boost in sales, it also increased the consumers’ happiness and satisfaction level. Another application is to advertise different products based on the customers’ psychological appeal, and as expected, the model also performed with statistical precision. This was the academic breakthrough that put Dr. Sandra Matz’s name in the world’s leading scientific journals and major news outlets around the world (e.g. Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, and the World Economic Forum).

Dr. Sandra Matz’s research showed a significant yield in conversion rate for personality traits’ matched ads compared to the mismatched ones.

Limiting the limitless possibilities of utilizations

Digital transformation comes with great advantages because now everything can be easily catered to us at our fingertips, it becomes incredibly convenient to find everything on the first page rather than having to look through the enormous amount of information on the internet. Dr. Matz believes that the infinite possibility of utilizations “can be incredibly powerful and used as a source for good. For me, this is only the beginning.”

Digital footprints elevated with psychological profiling unlock the door to endless potential. More than just businesses’ targeted ads, psychological profiling can be applied to education and healthcare to predict symptoms and offer preventive action plans. On the other hand, Big Data collection also brings up a host of ethical and privacy challenges. Recalling the US Presidential Election in 2016, we have witnessed one of the biggest data privacy breaches: Cambridge Analytica harvested over 50 million Facebook profiles of US voters to predict their political ideologies and send targeted ads to influence their choices at the ballot box.

These breaches emerge from the ease of amassing data and pose immense threats to privacy and self-determination. Right now, it is merely no cost to collect the data so companies tend to crawl all they can and save for potential future uses. Sandra points out the need for novel data governance policies to address these ethical concerns. For example, if there were a tax on every data point collected, it could force tech giants to think carefully about their prospective products and their improvement towards consumer benefits.

Kranzberg’s First Law states that “Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral.” Technology does not determine cultural and social outcomes, but it can also propagate disparate results. There are so many technologies out there that have the potential to do amazing things, to change the lives of individuals, to accelerate business, and to make society better. “At the same time, there are a lot of questions around privacy abuse, and in which direction we take this technology truly depends on leadership, essentially, on you,” Dr. Sandra Matz entrusts this upon YSEALI Fellows. How to govern Big Data in a more accountable manner is still a tough question that has yet to find a conclusive answer. “With great power comes great responsibility. We have infinite opportunities with Big Data, and the future is in the way we implement it.”

***Sandra Matz is the David W. Zalaznick Associate Professor of Business at Columbia Business School. Obtained her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Cambridge, she is an expert in analyzing human behavior using a combination of Big Data analytics and experimental methods. As a prolific researcher, Matz has more than 1,700 Google Scholar citations. Her research has made a massive impact both in academia and society and has garnered media coverage from major publications like Forbes, BBC, and Inc among others. She has won numerous awards, including Data IQ’s most influential people in data-driven marketing, Pacific Standard’s 30 top thinkers under 30,  Accenture Innovation Award, and Poets and Quants 40 under 40 best business school professors.

Dr. Hoàng Hà Thi – Hoàng Bảo Trâm

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam— The YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam (Fulbright) officially announced the launch of its second seminar in 2021. The seminar is under the theme of Technology and Innovation and will focus on Digital Transformation Challenges and Opportunities in Post-COVID-19. The application period is now open until July 15, 2021.

Launched in 2020 by the U.S. Department of State, the YSEALI Academy at FUV’s main mission is to build the capacity for young professionals, aged 25-40 from across Southeast Asia (Fellow). In 2021, the YSEALI Academy at FUV plans to offer three flagship seminars addressing challenging issues facing the region such as energy economics and policy, digital transformation challenges and opportunities, and fundamentals of startup investing in Southeast Asia.

The aim of the virtual two-week Technology and Innovation seminar on Digital Transformation Challenges and Opportunities in Post-COVID-19 is to provide training on an overview of digital transformation in Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on technology readiness, firm and consumer behavior, and regulatory aspects of fintech, e-commerce, digital finance, telecommuting/teleworking, data privacy, and cybersecurity. Through the course, Fellows can understand how companies across industry accelerate digitalization to increase resilience during and post-COVID-19. The seminar combines theoretical and experiential learning and includes high-impact practical experiences relating to maximize the engagement of participants.

The seminar will be offered by affiliate faculty from the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, practitioners from the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Fulbright, international and regional scholars and industry experts to develop and deliver learning materials and activities that are academically rigorous and practical to young professionals in ASEAN.

The Technology and Innovation seminar on Digital Transformation will select 25 fellows who are young professionals between the ages of 25-40, highly qualified and motivated, from all 10 ASEAN member states and Timor-Leste. Once selected, all seminar costs will be fully funded by the U.S. Department of State.

Seminar schedule:

  • Enrollment: June 15–July 15, 2021
  • Participant selection announced: August 09, 2021
  • Seminar dates: September 13–24, 2021 (two weeks virtual, ten working days, Monday – Friday)

To find out more about the seminar program at HERE

To apply: https://yseali.fulbright.edu.vn/apply/

“We hope to inspire young leaders, those who want to build their leadership competencies and be the resilient leaders of the new normal world post COVID-19 pandemic, through the seminar series at YSEALI Academy,” emphasized Dr. Le Vu Quan, Director of YSEALI Academy. “The virtual seminar is a testimony of Fulbright’s commitment to digital transformation in higher education to provide knowledge across national borders,” he added.

Similar to the Public Policy Seminar, this Technology and Innovation Seminar will be offered online. Starting in 2022, YSEALI Academy will offer face-to-face seminars in Vietnam.