Not many people know that the Parking.sg application, that allows drivers in Singapore to pay for parking digitally, was developed by the son of the nation’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Li Hongyi.
The son of Lee and state-owned wealth fund Temasek’s CEO Ho Ching, Hongyi presently serves as deputy director of product and engineering at the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech).
Having previously been employed at Google, the MIT graduate has been with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore for over 4 years, since December 2013. According to his LinkedIn profile, Hongyi is now in charge of increasing interest in computer science education in Singapore, redesigning and reimplementing data.gov.sg, and improving the transport network using sensors and optimisation algorithms.
Last month, Hongyi spoke to audience at the Public Sector Infocomm Seminar 2018, detailing how Parking.sg went from prototype to production. Parking.sg was launched in October last year, barely two months after his father PM Lee announced during his National Day Rally speech last year that Singapore will focus on being a ‘Smart Nation’ and try to harness IT to improve the economy and society.
Hongyi echoed his father’s sentiments at the Seminar on 20 March, when he said: “We’re trying to help improve the lives of citizens. It’s not about getting the project launched, or even about celebrating technology; it’s about using technology as one of myriad ways of helping to improve the public service.”
Hongyi rose to fame, alongside his cousin Li Shengwu, when he delivered a eulogy at his grandfather – founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral over two years ago. Hongyi, who was once described as “very close” with Shengwu is reportedly no longer on speaking terms with his cousin although the pair remain Facebook friends.
32-year-old Shengwu, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew’s youngest child Lee Hsien Yang, revealed this to Hong Kong–based Chinese-language digital news outlet Initium Media last December. Initium Media reported that Shengwu wore a “bitter smile” as he said: “We are no longer on speaking terms, but he is still among my Facebook friends, I did not remove him.”
The cousins were both in the west coast of the United States at one point as Shengwu was pursuing his PhD at Stanford University and Hongyi was working at Google in Silicon Valley. The rift between the pair possibly occurred around the time the Oxley Road dispute broke out between Lee Kuan Yew’s children, following his passing.
The fued, over whether the Lee family home at 38 Oxley Road should be preserved or demolished, spilled into the public domain when Lee Kuan Yew’s younger children Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang made allegations that their elder brother is abusing his power as head of government to preserve their family home, against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house, in order to bolster his grip on power.
Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang also alleged that Lee Hsien Loong used state organs against him and that he was moulding his son, Hongyi, to enter politics.
Hongyi had responded in a Facebook post then and said, “For what it is worth, I really have no interest in politics.”
Shengwu told Initium Media that Hongyi’s comments on a potential entry into Singapore politics is “vague” and added: “He only said he has no interest in politics, but my uncle Lee Hsien Loong also once said he wasn’t interested in politics when he was in his 20s. These words can easily be taken back.”
Shengwu himself openly declared that he will “never go into politics” in the past and asserted that he is “completely unsuitable” for politics. Besides avowing his love for mathematics, Shengwu also said that he is not willing to lie about his beliefs, which he believes he will inevitably have to do if he becomes a politician:
“I believe I can become a top economist, my second love is mathematics, that’s where my interests are.
“As a politician, you will inevitably have to lie, I am not willing to lie about my beliefs, I am not up to it.”
Shengwu further said that the Singapore government is still using his grandfather’s name or political “halo” to increase their clout and asserted that Singapore no longer needs a leader from the Lee fold:
“I believe Singaporeans and the Singapore government should not constantly bring up Lee Kuan Yew, the institution should be larger than an individual.
“Singapore no longer needs someone from the Lee family as a leader, no matter which side.”