16 August 2007 - Speech By Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and The Arts At the 11th Infocomm Commerce Conference 2007, Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Speech By Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister For Information, Communications And The Arts At Singapore Chinese Chamber Of Commerce And Industry's 11th Infocomm Commerce Conference, 16 August 2007, Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Mr Chua Thian Poh,
President of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning.

1. Let me begin by congratulating the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry for organising the 11th Infocomm Commerce Conference. The Chamber's effort to promote understanding and utilisation of infocomm technology is most admirable and relevant to Singapore businesses.

Tapping on the Power of Infocomm Technology

2. The Singapore economy has done well in recent years. This year we can again expect strong growth notwithstanding the appearance of some dark clouds over the horizons. The healthy economic backdrop and growth in every business sector, from manufacturing, to commerce to construction, may prompt some businessmen to take it easy for a change after the tough times many faced until a few years ago.

3. But I am sure you will agree with me that in today's fiercely competitive economy, there is no room for complacency. In bad times, we need to tighten our belts and work harder to survive. Now that business is good, we need to sharpen our competitive edge, refine our business model and explore new opportunities.

4. In fact, this is the best time to begin to examine how your business can be taken to a new level in terms of efficiency, productivity, customer service, market development and other strategic areas. This is where infocomm technology should be seriously considered for your business development. Today, infocomm technology is no longer a luxury, but an essential part of every business's operation. It can enable you to remain competitive, for example, through virtual storefronts for brand promotion and market development or raise efficiency of back-end processes with digital solutions. Infocomm-empowered businesses offer ease and convenience to both enterprises and customers. Companies that incorporate infocomm technology in their business model are well positioned to achieve a win-win outcome for themselves and customers.

5. There are many examples of how Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been able to leverage infocomm technology to increase efficiency, productivity and reach out widely to local and foreign customers. Such companies were able to gain easy access to updated information, automate labour-intensive operations and streamline business processes.

6. Let me share with you an example of how one SME had successfully deployed infocomm technology to give itself an extra edge in the competitive local market. This is the Ma Kuang Healthcare Group, a chain of Traditional Chinese Medicine clinics. Ma Kuang Healthcare Group was an early adopter of infocomm technology. Since 1999 it had been using infocomm technology to support its island-wide operation. It has linked up the operations of its 23 clinics around Singapore. The company network enabled Ma Kuang Headquarters to have a consolidated view of its clinics operations and performance in a timely fashion. Patients' records, inventory system for Chinese medicine and prescriptions are now easily accessed online. Data entry errors are drastically reduced. New branches can be set up quickly since the essential supporting infrastructure is already in place. Ma Kuang's operational efficiency and service quality has improved by 20%, since the introduction and use of infocomm technology.

7. There are many more such examples. In fact, many businesses had grown and gained from their deployment of infocomm technology. There are ample opportunities for businesses to leverage infocomm to enjoy cost-efficiencies and compete in the local as well as the global market place. However a recent IDA survey on Business Infocomm Usage showed that while the Internet continues to be a valuable tool for companies to reach their customers, many smaller companies are still not taking advantage of infocomm technology to upgrade their business model. The survey further revealed that infocomm usage and adoption is lower for organisations with fewer employees. Today, about 7 in 10 businesses with less than 200 employees do not have a web presence. This indicates that many SMEs are still not taking advantage of available web-based technology to enhance their business model and outreach.

SME Infocomm Resource Centre

8. IDA would like to help these SMEs migrate to the digital age. We are aiming to have 80% of SMEs adopt both broadband usage and establish online presence by 2010. To achieve these targets, IDA had launched the SME Infocomm Resource Centre (SIRC) at the Singapore Polytechnic in June this year. This IDA-led initiative will help SMEs gain an insight into how infocomm technology can benefit their business and assist them to adopt digital technology for their application. The SIRC focuses on areas such as IT security, productivity tools, content development, and Web 2.0 and mobile applications. It is open to serve all SMEs.

9. The SIRC also organises workshops and seminars on commonly used software for businesses such as Email, IP telephony, Anti-Spyware and Anti-Virus software and technology updates. A demonstration centre has been set up with technology labs in IT security, mobile applications, wireless services, open source resources, music and games. This demonstration centre enables SMEs to try out new infocomm systems and solutions in these labs before making a decision to implement similar solutions customised for their businesses.

10. However the SIRC is not just a technology showcase. It has been set up to provide consulting services including feasibility studies, technical evaluations, proof-of-concept prototypes, project scoping and management analysis to ensure that the introduction and implementation of infocomm in SMEs would be affordable, smooth and successful.

11. Since its launch, the SIRC has generated keen interest among SMEs, especially those with little or no IT support. SIRC has been assisting companies who had approached them with advisory services. However, more needs to be done to increase the SMEs' awareness of the SIRC and its range of services. I hope that the SCCCI will play an active role to promote the centre and its services to all your members and other SMEs.

One-Stop Infocomm Solution for SMEs

12. IDA will also be undertaking another initiative for SMEs this year. It will conduct a Call-For-Collaboration or CFC by end of this year, for infocomm companies to develop packages that are customised as a one-stop infocomm solution for SMEs. They will include entry-level infocomm needs such as hardware, internet connectivity, basic web development and office productivity software. Depending on the proposals received, value-added infocomm products and services such as Point-of-Sale and Customer Relationship Management solutions may also be included to fulfil specific business needs. In addition, non-ICT packages such as company stamps, logo design and letterheads may also be offered.

13. By April next year, SMEs should be able to benefit from this technology partnership. Hence, I would like to urge infocomm companies to look out for this CFC as well as to start forging partnerships with other players to develop SME-specific solutions for our businesses. Trade associations with plans to promote the use of infocomm to their members can also work with IDA on their requirements.

14. IDA also has in place other initiatives to help SMEs. For example, the Infocomm@SME programme aims to help companies that have already embraced infocomm technology to become more sophisticated users as well as to continue their innovation. To help SMEs establish their web-presence right from the start, it will offer them discount for their first registration for a domain name. We hope that more SMEs will take up such discounted offer to venture into cyberspace. Furthermore, IDA and SPRING have jointly set aside $5 million from the Technology Innovation Programme to help SMEs grow their business through infocomm. This fund will be used to defray up to 70% of the qualifying costs in manpower, hardware and software for each SME's infocomm innovation project, depending on whether the project benefits solely the SME or have a wider industry impact.


15. Let me conclude by urging all SMEs to take full advantage of the numerous initiatives that we have implemented to help you innovate and grow your businesses. All these initiatives underscore our aim to raise infocomm adoption and lower infocomm-related costs to encourage more SMEs to leverage the benefits that infocomm can offer. SMEs can go through the SCCCI and or other trade associations, or even form your own group to enjoy economies of scale, learn from your peers, and initiate sectoral innovation projects together with IDA. I welcome you to join us to plug into the power of digital technology to drive your businesses, achieve our collective vision of Intelligent Nation 2015 and contribute towards enhancing the global competitiveness of the Singapore economy.

16. Thank you and may I wish you all a fruitful conference.