Li Hongyi

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Li Hongyi
Li Hongyi Profile.png
Born1 May 1987
EducationBachelor of Science (Computer Science), Bachelor of Science (Economics)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Li Hongyi (born 1 May 1987) is the first-born child of Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong and his second-wife, Ho Ching. As of August 2020, he is the director of Open Government Products in GovTech.[1]


Early life & family

Li Hongyi was born on 1 May 1987 to Lee Hsien Loong and Ho Ching.[2] He is the younger half-brother of Li Yipeng and Li Xiuqi, the older brother of Li Haoyi and the grandson of the late Lee Kuan Yew.[3][4][5] He is also the cousin of Li Shengwu and Li Huanwu.


Li Hongyi attended Rosyth Primary School and was enrolled in the Gifted Education Programme. He then attended Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) for his secondary education.[2] After which he was a student at Raffles Junior College from 2004 to 2006. In 2006, he attained the Lee Kuan Yew Award for Mathematics and Science, as well as a Public Service Commission (PSC) Overseas Merit Scholarship.[2][5][6] Being a recipient of this scholarship, he was allowed to disrupt his national service to pursue his university education.[7]

Tertiary studies

Li Hongyi is also an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 2007 to 2011, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in both Computer Science and Economics.[1][2] During his time at MIT, Li Hongyi was a Research Assistant to the economics professors, Parag Pathak and David Autor.[1] He conducted an empirical analysis of the short selling halt of financial stocks by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that occurred in September 2008 for Professor Pathak and simulated the effect of technology on low skilled jobs for Professor Autor.[8] When asked about how his time spent at MIT influenced his career path, Li was quoted to have said the following:

“I remember that, in my junior year, a friend encouraged me to apply for this Google internship. I’d just taken a couple of computer science classes and didn’t even have a resume - I hadn’t prepared one because I already had a job back home due to my scholarship. But my friend pushed me to do it. I tried it out, got the job, and did an internship there for a summer. The biggest thing I realised from that was that there are so many things you could do that aren’t even that hard, sometimes it’s just about taking that step of trying.”[9]

Li Hongyi was an associate product manager intern at Google from June to August 2010. He was involved in product design and market research for a prototype of Google Keep, a note-taking service available on the internet and mobile application stores.[1]

National Service

Upon completing junior college in 2006, Li Hongyi served his mandatory national service. He was commissioned as an officer at the SAFTI Military Institute.[1][10]

Li Hongyi with his parents at his commissioning parade in 2006. Photo from The Straits Times.

Platoon Commander

After being commissioned as an officer, Li Hongyi served as a platoon commander in the Signals formation, leading a 20-man platoon in several military exercises and operations. According to his LinkedIn profile, he also developed mobile applications for the automation of radio planning calculations and for fellow commanders to track locations of their soldiers on the ground.[1]


Early career

After graduating from MIT in 2011, Li Hongyi went on to work at Google USA where was the product lead for Image Search user interaction (UI). His efforts in redesigning Google's image search led to the largest ever increase in image views per day.[1] He returned to Singapore in 2013 to fulfil his government scholarship bond at the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) as a consultant, and subsequently at GovTech (Government Technology Agency of Singapore).[2][11]

GovTech - Director of Open Government Products

Li Hongyi (centre, back) with several members of his team from Open Government Products. Photo from GovTech.

In January 2018, Li Hongyi was promoted to deputy director at GovTech.[5] A year later, he founded and became the director of Open Government Products; a unit within GovTech where his team of software engineers and designers build technological products to improve the efficiency of government agencies.[12] In an interview with The Independent News, Li Hongyi shared that he does not require his team to produce weekly reports or presentations, having them note their achievements in bullet points instead.[13] Every January, he also has all his team members pause non-urgent tasks to participate in a "hackathon", an event where software engineers and computer programmers brainstorm ideas and solve problems related to technology.[14] According to Li Hongyi, its purpose is to “generate a lot of ideas that you would never have found if you just waited for instructions.”[13]

The following is a list of key products that his team has innovated and implemented over the years:

Year Product Description Refs.
2017 is a mobile application which allows Singapore drivers to pay for their parking fees online. [15]
2018 JARVIS JARVIS is a software designed to simplify information extraction for police officers in Singapore. [16]
2019 FormSG FormSG is a website and system for public officers to create digital government forms, replacing physical paper forms. [17] (2017) was launched in October 2017.[15] When asked about the difficulties of creating the product in an interview, Li Hongyi said:

“The biggest difficulty was overcoming people’s sort of apprehension about the simplicity of a digital system. Overcoming essentially particular concerns about failures - what if the server goes down, what if the app breaks, what if it doesn’t you know (work) what if this what if that... just testing this very rigorously.”[18]

JARVIS (2018)

JARVIS was unveiled at the annual workplan seminar held by the Singapore Police Force in April 2018.[16] Li Hongyi and his team optimised search speeds by mapping each letter of the keyboard to a predetermined index of relevant phrases or data points.[19] This innovation allowed police officers to examine a greater amount of results.

FormSG (2019)

The idea for FormSG was conceptualised after Li Hongyi’s team observed many government agencies facing difficulties working with paper forms.[1][20][21]

Media coverage (2021)

According to Li Hongyi’s Facebook post on 23 October 2021, this map was “a fun side project”.[22] True to its name, the interactive map includes descriptions of each ice cream place, reviews as well as personal recommendations from Li Hongyi himself.[23]

Interview with Lianhe Zaobao (2022)

On 21st March 2022, local Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao conducted an interview with Li Hongyi, asking questions about him entering politics, as well as regarding attracting tech talents to work in public service.[24] According to him, the main issue he is trying to solve is to get the “best people to work on the most important problems”.[24]

When asked about who he considers to be the “best people”, Li Hongyi highlighted that his judgement goes beyond intelligence, and he considers a more holistic approach to assessing potential talents.[24] He explained that:

"The main resource constraint in the world is what good people do. And when I say good, I don't mean smart. I mean like yes, intelligence is a part of it, but also your communication, your ability to work with other people, your initiative, your values and whether or not you care about the right things, and I think we live in a world right now where all the best people don't work on very important things.”[24]

In his opinion, many highly-talented tech professionals work in the entertainment and shopping industries. While acknowledging the hard work that goes into these industries, Li Hongyi notes that these talents should also fill the gaps within industries such as healthcare and education, where there are lots of administrative work that are not yet automated by technology. He opines that:

"Finite resources in the world is not energy or oil or minerals or diamonds etc. But it is good people. And if we have all of our best people solving (problems) in terms of shopping and entertainment (industries), but not government, (then) we are in trouble."[24]

The Silicon Valley Podcast (2022)

Li Hongyi on The Silicon Valley Podcast in 2022.

In an episode of The Silicon Valley Podcast with Shawn Flynn, Li Hongyi talks about his early career in Google USA and his role as a director in GovTech, as well as how technology helps government efficiency.[25]

Other newsworthy incidents

Breach of chain of command (2007)

In 2007, Li Hongyi, then a Second Lieutenant in the Singapore Armed Forces, made the news when he sent out a complaint via email to then-Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean and other senior military personnel about a colleague who had been absent without leave (AWOL) on several occasions.[26][27][28] By doing so, he disobeyed the General Orders of the Singapore Armed Forces Act and was formally reprimanded and charged following a summary trial.[6][29]

Lee Kuan Yew's Funeral (2015)

Li Hongyi (far right) pictured with his late grandfather, Lee Kuan Yew. Photo from Asia One.

At his grandfather's funeral in 2015, Li Hongyi personally chose the portrait to be presented at the wake.[5] He was also one of the family members to deliver a eulogy where he told a story of the only gift he received from his grandfather:

“Some years ago when I was preparing to go to university, Yeye (Chinese for grandfather) gave me a camera. This was the first and only time he ever gave me a present. Over the next few years, I got deeply into photography and took thousands of photos of my time in college. After I graduated I got a book printed with my favourite ones. I presented it to him as a thank you for his gift and hopefully to show him I had done something good with it.”[30]

Allegations about entering politics (2017)

In June 2017, Li Hongyi’s aunt, Lee Wei Ling and his uncle, Lee Hsien Yang released a joint statement accusing Lee Hsien Loong and Ho Ching of bearing political ambitions for Hongyi.[31] Lee Hsien Loong refuted the claim, saying that it was “absurd”.[32] On 15 June 2017, Li Hongyi released a statement on Facebook, confirming that: “For what it is worth, I really have no interest in politics.”[33]

References/ Citations

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Hongyi Li”. LinkedIn. n.d. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Yeo, Melissa. “12 Li Hongyi Facts That You Never Knew About PM Lee’s Second Son”. MustShare News. April 13, 2015. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  3. Lee, Philip. “I remember — by Col Lee”. The Straits Times. November 1, 1982. Accessed on 21 August 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  4. Shudderuddin, Shuli. “PM Lee attends OCC parade”. The Straits Times. December 13, 2008. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Stolarchuk, Jewel. “Five facts you may not have known about PM Lee’s son, Li Hongyi”. The Independent News. January 26, 2020. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Lee U-Wen. "SAF acts after email complaint". TODAY. July 13, 2007. Accessed on 27 August 2020.
  7. Parents’ Guide to National Service Liability in Singapore”. Singapore Legal Advice. December 5, 2018. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  8. Hongyi Li. “Experience”. LinkedIn. n.d. Accessed on 26 September 2022.
  9. Er, Joyce and Mock, Yi Jun. “Conversations with Li Hongyi”. Advisory. September 3, 2018. Accessed on 24 August 2020.
  10. SAFTI Military Institute”. Ministry of Defence. n.d. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  11. GovTech (Government Technology Agency of Singapore). Facebook. December 22, 2016. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  12. Poon, Yun Xuan. “Exclusive: Inside Singapore’s GovTech Rapid Deployment Unit”. GovInsider. November 22, 2019. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Stolarchuk, Jewel. “Li Hongyi has founded a new unit within GovTech, with its own branding and style”. The Independent News. December 3, 2019. Accessed on 24 August 2020.
  14. Tauberer, Joshua. "How to run a successful Hackathon”. Hackathon Guide. n.d. Accessed on 24 August 2020.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Tan, Guan Zhen. “ app is a project by GovTech team led by PM Lee's son, Li Hongyi”. Mothership. April 15, 2018. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Koh, Fabian. “More police quick response teams to boost Singapore's counter-terrorism efforts”. The Straits Times. April 11, 2019. Accessed on 24 August 2020.
  17. Lim, Min Zhang. “GovTech team makes filling online government forms a breeze”. The Straits Times. June 24, 2019. Accessed on 24 August 2020.
  18. Successpedia Asia. “Singapore: Meet Li Hongyi Deputy Director, Open Government Products, GovTech”. YouTube. April 19, 2019. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  19. Meet the GovTech team that built the Singapore Police Force’s JARVIS”. GovTech. June 21, 2019. Accessed on 24 August 2020.
  20. FormSG”. Govtech Singapore. n.d. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  21. Open Government Products: Changing The Way We Work With Tech”. Public Service Division. March 10, 2020. Accessed on 24 August 2020.
  22. Hongyi Li”. Facebook. October 23, 2021. Accessed on 26 September 2022.
  23. Chua, Nigel. “Li Hongyi creates ice cream website featuring reviews & map of places worth trying in S'pore”. Mothership. October 25, 2021. Accessed on 26 September 2022.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 Zheng, Zhangxin. “Li Hongyi hopes to attract more tech talents to work on important matters like healthcare & education: ZaobaoMothership. March 21, 2022. Accessed on 24 March 2022.
  25. The Silicon Valley Podcast. “Tech and Government with HONGYI LI | Singapore Open Government Products - The Silicon Valley Podcast”. YouTube. July 7, 2022. Accessed on 26 September 2022.
  26. Khor Chin Puang. "2LT Li Hongyi had the courage to speak up". TODAY. July 16, 2007. Accessed on 27 August 2020. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  27. Huang Shoou Chyuan. "Reprimand not right". TODAY. July 16, 2007. Accessed on 27 August 2020.
  28. Davie, Sandra. “PM Lee's son in NS reprimanded by SAF”. AsiaOne. July 13, 2007. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  29. Singapore Armed Forces Act”. Singapore Statutes Online. June 15, 1972. Accessed on 21 August 2020.
  30. Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore. “Mr Li Hongyi's eulogy for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew”. YouTube. March 30, 2015. Accessed on 25 August 2020.
  31. Teng, Kuan Yung. “4 Biggest Allegations In Lee Wei Ling & Lee Hsien Yang’s Letter Against PM Lee Hsien Loong”. MustShare News. June 14, 2017. Accessed on 25 August 2020.
  32. Tham, Yuen-C. “PM Lee Hsien Loong's son Li Hongyi says he is not interested in politics”. The Straits Times. June 15, 2017. Accessed on 25 August 2020.
  33. Hongyi Li. “For what it is worth, I really have no interest in politics”. Facebook. June 15, 2017. Accessed on 25 August 2020.