Judiciously-planned policies and initiatives form the bedrock of a committed government. These government policies and initiatives cater to very diverse needs and can appear rather complex to the man on the street.
To ensure that Singapore’s citizenry is able to comprehend important government policies and initiatives, information officers from the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) examine how the government’s public communications information can be better positioned to the public through both online and offline mediums. They then deliver clear, understandable and accurate messages to the public that effectively communicate the government’s complex policies and initiatives, thereby fostering a more informed society.
Two of these dedicated officers are Benjamin Foo, Senior Manager (Translation) in the Translation Department in the Media and Research Division, and Teo Jion Chun, Executive in the Content Development Department in the Public Communications Division.
Benjamin Foo Zhi Zhong
Designation: Senior Manager (Translation), Translation Department, Media and Research Division
Studied: Master of Arts in Conference Interpreting, Merit, University of Westminster, UK
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpretation,
Bachelor of Arts in English Language,
National University of Singapore
Important announcements that are communicated to the public have to be done in Singapore’s four official languages. Benjamin facilitates communication efforts between the government and the Mandarin-speaking public by translating the government’s messages, ministers’ speeches and other official materials from English to Mandarin. He also helps the government understand the ground sentiments of the Chinese-speaking public by following mainstream Chinese media and picking out articles that touch on hot-button issues, so as to use them as tools to prompt discussion among leaders in the government.
Benjamin tells us, “I do more than just translate materials. Sometimes, translating a message too literally from English will make a message come across as stand-offish. I have to understand what the Chinese community is concerned with and how they perceive things, and tailor my message accordingly without compromising on the accuracy of the original message.”
Recent materials that the Translation Department has translated include publicity materials and information sheets pertaining to the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP). He tells us that the Pioneer Generation Package is awarded to the pioneer generation in recognition of their contributions to the nation, and features benefits such as subsidies for outpatient care and Medisave top-ups.
Fellow Information Officer Jion Chun is also involved in the marketing and publicity of the Pioneer Generation Package. As part of his work in the Content Development Department, Jion Chun often collaborates with multiple agencies to develop content across various media platforms. For the Pioneer Generation Package, he worked with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance to create videos that will resonate with the target audience.
For instance, he worked with homegrown artistes Mark Lee and Sebastian Tan to produce a Mandarin music video that was aired during primetime TV slots and subsequently uploaded on YouTube. To maximise reach to different segments of the population, he met the radio DJs on the morning programmes to inform working adults and caregivers of the benefits associated with the Pioneer Generation Package.
He explains, “We wanted working adults and caregivers to be aware of the medical benefits, so that they can share them with their older loved-ones. The YouTube video garnered much attention and has now achieved 250,000 views. It certainly feels good to be part of the team that helped to produce such an informative and entertaining video.”
Growing with the Ministry
Both Benjamin and Jion Chun have been assured the invaluable support of MCI over the years. For Benjamin, the opportunity to participate in a Translation and Interpretation Programme in Beijing, China for a year was instrumental in developing him personally and professionally.
He shares, “It was a good opportunity to step out of my core work and daily responsibilities. MCI shows its support to officers who want to develop their skills and one of the many ways it does so is by offering the Lifelong Learning Programme. In fact, under this developmental programme, I was granted partial subsidy of the cost of my Master’s degree in Conference Interpreting at the University of Westminster, UK.”
Teo Jion Chun
Designation: Executive (Content Development), Content Development Department, Public Communications Division
Studied: Bachelor of Communication Studies, Nanyang Technological University
On Jion Chun’s end, his MCI Information Service Scholarship exposed him to the diverse work of an Information Officer even before he began his career. After completing his National Service, Jion Chun was given an internship opportunity at the Communications and Public Relations division of the Singapore Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Organising Committee.
He recalls, “There was strong international interest, given that it was the inaugural YOG. I worked in the Main Media Centre where all live screening of games took place for the Singapore 2010. We facilitated the reporting of nearly 2,000 international reporters and broadcasters from big media agencies because the Games were held at different venues in Singapore. It was fulfilling to help the reporters bring the Games’ highlights to people around the world. The conclusion of this internship certainly marked a good start to my university education in communications.”
Furthermore, Jion Chun was given a second internship opportunity during his second year of university. This mid-term internship gave him the chance to work with Prime Minister (PM) Lee Hsien Loong’s group of administrators, who assist PM Lee in managing content on his social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter.
Jion Chun explains that these platforms create an avenue for netizens to offer their feedback and gave him the opportunity to better understand public sentiments. He adds, “I got to witness first-hand how PM Lee dealt with social media challenges and learnt a lot from his content management. Today, I am able to apply what I have learnt in my internship in the Content Development Department.”
At the Heart of the Communications Sector
Certainly, the work in MCI is only meant to be undertaken by those with a strong passion for government communications work. Benjamin tells us that aspiring scholars should possess a keen interest in global affairs and strong language abilities in order to excel in MCI. “It is also important to broaden your perspective and see things through the eyes of the community. I do hope to help shape the development of new colleagues by exploring their areas of difficulty and helping them improve from there,” he shares.
Jion Chun agrees, adding, “Aspiring scholars should be able to think on their feet, possess great confidence and have the ability to maintain their composure in the face of challenging situations. “It is really heartening to see my work in MCI reach the public, and to know that I play a part in keeping them educated and entertained.”