The opening ceremony of the “Happy Digital X: Cities, Systems, Products and Services” (HDX) program, co-hosted by the Tsinghua Southeast Asia Center (Tsinghua SEA) and the Tsinghua University Shenzhen International Graduate School (SIGS), was held online on April 24th, 2021.

In his video speech, Tsinghua University President Qiu Yong extended his sincere congratulations on the successful launch of HDX program, the first online professional education program at Tsinghua SEA, and his warm welcome to the faculty and participants of the program and the distinguished guests. He especially thanked Prof. Edward Crawley and all the faculty members engaged in the program for their extraordinary efforts and commitment.

President Qiu Yong, Tsinghua University

President Qiu was very pleased to see that the HDX program’s inaugural cohort consisted of diversified participants of city planners, system designers, product developers, entrepreneurs, and digital experts from Southeast Asian countries and beyond. With the engagement of faculty from world-class universities like Tsinghua and MIT, he believed the program would offer a fantastic learning experience to all the participants, helping them to become transformative leaders in the post-pandemic digital era.

“2021 marks the 110th anniversary of Tsinghua University. The theme of the anniversary is ‘Strive for Excellence; Innovate for the Future’, which reflects the great importance that Tsinghua has attached to self-discipline and innovation,” he said. “In striving to become a leading world-class university, Tsinghua University launched the first global strategy in its history in 2016. Tsinghua SEA is one of the four overseas physical presences under the framework of our global strategy, which serves as a platform for cooperation and exchange between China and the Southeast Asian countries. The HDX Program is a good example of Tsinghua’s global efforts in making a contribution to our common sustainable future.”

Liu Zhen, Director of Tsinghua SEA and Dean of the School of Continuing Education at Tsinghua University

As Liu Zhen, Director of Tsinghua SEA and Dean of the School of Continuing Education at Tsinghua University, mentioned in his speech, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed broad challenges to sustainable development, including public health, the natural environment, economic recovery, cultural exchange, and technological development, and the HDX program is designed to contribute to the post-pandemic economic recovery and help learners become transformative leaders in developing sustainable and happy cities in the digital era.

Gao Hong, Dean of Tsinghua SIGS

Gao Hong, Dean of Tsinghua SIGS, said that SIGS was very happy to partner with Tsinghua SEA in designing and developing the HDX program and witness the launch of the program with scholars from the world, and experts from government and industry. She believed that the HDX program would benefit young professionals in Indonesia and Southeast Asian cities, and create more opportunities for better living for more people and for the next generation and the world.

Jeffrey Sachs, Professor of Columbia University and President of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network

Jeffrey Sachs, Professor of Columbia University and President of the United Nations SDSN (Sustainable Development Solutions Network) made a keynote address on “Embracing the Role of Capacity-building and Technology for Achieving the SDGs.” According to him, capacity building is a systematic project, involving several variables like the environment, resources, organization, and many other aspects. Technology is changing the lives of ordinary people and accelerating the development of urbanization. Meanwhile, technology is also a great transformer; in order to realize its real significance, it must be carried out under the guidance of correct values. Therefore, he proposed that the values of capacity building and technological development should be based on sustainable natural resources and an ecological environment. He believed that this concept was fully integrated and reflected in the HDX program. Finally, he congratulated participants on the successful launch of the program and looked forward to its great role in achieving a sustainable urban future.

As faculty representatives, Edward Crawley, Ford Professor of Engineering of MIT, Honorary Professor of Tsinghua University and Founding Interim Provost of Tsinghua SEA, and Prof. Victor Chan, Associate Dean of Tsinghua SIGS, introduced the motivation, curriculum and challenge projects of the program. As Edward Crawley said in his introduction, the HDX program was targeted at relevant personnel in the fields of public administration, enterprise management, urban planning and product design in Indonesia, Southeast Asia and beyond. It aimed to improve their comprehensive ability in organization, leadership, data technology and smart city planning, with happiness and sustainability as bookends of the program.

Cherie Nursalim, co-founder of the United in Diversity (UID) Foundation
Sir Gordon Duff, President of the UID Foundation

Cherie Nursalim, co-founder of the UID Foundation, and Sir Gordon Duff, President of the UID Foundation, also addressed the audience, extending congratulations on the opening of the HDX program and sending their best wishes for the 110th anniversary of Tsinghua University.

Orientation sessions were conducted later as participants shared their intentions and aspirations.

Being a key component of Tsinghua University’s Global Strategy, Tsinghua SEA focuses on non-degree education and cultural exchange. Tsinghua SEA is aimed at talent training and cultural exchange in Southeast Asia and around the world, contributing to human resources training for Indonesia and Southeast Asian countries, and the objectives of the Tsinghua SEA are in line with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the realization of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The HDX program lasts for four months, consisting of six threads of lectures and one challenge project, where participants work together for implementable solutions to address practical challenges and problems in companies or organizations.

Writer: Liu Jie; Photo: Li Pai, Li Liudong

(This article originally appeared on

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