30 November 2009 - Speech by RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore, at Infocomm Industry Forum, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre

Speech by RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore, at Infocomm Industry Forum, 30 November 2009, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre


1. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am pleased to see so many of you here today. As we draw near to the end of what has been an eventful year, I think it's a good idea for us to come together as members of the infocomm industry for a seminar like this. I would like to thank all our industry partners for their strong support and contribution to the success of this Infocomm Industry Forum. In particular, I want to thank the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation for co-organising this event with IDA. On behalf of IDA, I would also like to take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation to Ms Tan Yen Yen, Chairman of SiTF, the past and present leadership of SiTF, and all members of the SiTF for their strong support and co-operation with IDA in all our endeavours over the years.

Fast Pace of Technological Change

2. A few months ago, I happened to see a video of the F1 Grand Prix that was held in Singapore in 1966, almost 50 years ago. The F1 cars don't seem to be that fast to us today, especially after what we see at the F1 event at Marina Bay.

3. Just as technology has enabled F1 cars to go so much faster compared to fifty years ago, we have similarly seen great progress in infocomm technology, even over the last ten years alone. From desktop computers, to portable laptops and netbooks, computing devices have become smaller and more powerful. We can say the same for mobile phones, which have evolved from simple mobile phones to smartphones today.

4. We see rapid technological change not only in infocomm products but also in consumer products. With the emergence of e-book readers, people can go from reading books made of paper to reading books off electronic screens that look like paper, in portable devices that can download and store hundreds of books each. With IPTV, we can do on the TV set in the living room whatever we can do today on the computer in the study. We won’t just watch movies passively, but we can interact with the TV to offer comments or buy related services. There are changes not just in the products, but also the way consumers consume the services. We can buy books not just from the local bookstore, but also online from any chain of stores in the world, and consider comments of other readers too before we make the purchase. We can buy music online as well, by the song, not by the album.

5. Besides changes in the consumer space, there are also changes in business and consumption models in the enterprise realm. With Grid and Cloud Computing, we can have access to the storage, computing resources and services we require. There is no need to have on-premise infrastructure or technical specialists, and almost anything can be bought as a service - Software as a Service, Storage as a Service, Platform as a Service. We can buy only what we need and what we use, leveraging economies of scale offered by shared infrastructure.

6. It is really remarkable how things have changed in a short span of time, even in the decade since the dot-com boom that all in the infocomm industry will remember.

Development of the Infocomm Industry

7. Though the dotcom bust that followed was a setback for the industry, the global industry has since recovered and advanced strongly. In Singapore too, our infocomm industry has progressed and developed very well. Infocomm revenue has grown by 90% since 2001 to $58.1 billion in 2008. Infocomm's contribution to GDP has also increased over the years to reach 7.1% of Singapore's GDP last year, outpacing growth in many other industries.

8. Infocomm adoption has also been increasing steadily. Mobile phone penetration rate has reached 134%, and 75% of our households today have broadband, making Singapore one of the most connected countries in the world.

9. To support the thriving infocomm industry, there is a strong base of highly skilled infocomm workforce in Singapore, which has grown by 35% since 2001 to reach 139,000 in 2008.

10. These developments have helped Singapore to be consistently ranked very well in various international infocomm and e-Government rankings, and we can be proud of what we have achieved together.

11. Just one year ago, we were in the midst of a deep global economic recession, said to be the worst since the Great Depression. But the economy has been recovering, and we are glad to see that our infocomm industry has held up well.

12. Today, infocomm is essential - in itself as a vertical, and as a horizontal enabler for all industry sectors. Infocomm provides opportunities for new services to be created, enabling new ways to live, work, learn and interact. There is therefore a need to focus on leveraging infocomm for innovation to be efficient and competitive, to satisfy customers, and to grow markets.

Building a Vibrant Infocomm Ecosystem

13. The Government sees the importance of infocomm as an engine of growth for the economy and will continue to advance our iN2015 vision of Singapore as an Intelligent Nation, Global City powered by infocomm. To achieve our vision and to catalyse innovation, we see that building a vibrant infocomm ecosystem is key.

14. Infocomm as an industry has multiple groups of activities that affect and are affected by other groups. Together, these groups form what we call the infocomm ecosystem. At the heart of the ecosystem are the MNCs, infocomm local enterprises or iLEs and startups that co-exist as the engine that drives industry growth.

15. MNCs are important players in the industry as they perform high-value work, engage in R&D activities, and develop many innovative services for enterprises and consumers. Infocomm MNCs are not only substantial revenue contributors to our economy, but also providers of innovative platforms, and market connectors for our iLEs. Besides the many infocomm MNCs who have been in Singapore for years, we have continued to attract and anchor more infocomm MNC activities even recently, such as Equinix which has set up its Global Development Centre here and Salesforce.com which has located its first International Data Centre outside the US in Singapore. Global infocomm-user MNCs like Citibank, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Daimler, have also chosen Singapore to set up IT hubs to support their worldwide business operations. These infocomm investments generate sophisticated demand for infocomm services, and create many high value ICT jobs and business opportunities for iLEs.

16. iLEs, the homegrown infocomm companies, are important to the ecosystem, not only in meeting the infocomm needs of Singapore and but also those overseas. IDA has infocomm industry development programmes such as iLIUP and ODP which have helped create strategic partnerships between MNCs and iLEs to innovate and build local capabilities. Through these and other programmes, we have helped iLEs to develop over 200 innovative solutions over the last 3 years alone. These solutions have been deployed in diverse sectors such as education, logistics, and financial services. Our industry development efforts also extend to helping iLEs bring their innovations to the world market. One example is IDA's partnership with SiTF to establish the Infocomm Solutions Centres in Shanghai and Hangzhou, which help to showcase Singapore infocomm solutions and open up opportunities for our companies in China's growing market. Building on Singapore’s reputation in the area of e-Government, iLEs are also bringing their solutions and expertise into new markets such as the Middle East. Our IDA-International has also been making inroads in new markets globally, helping to pave the way for our companies to export their solutions and services.

17. IDA also encourages the set-up and development of start-ups as they are an important source of innovation and value creation. We seek to transform Singapore into an entrepreneurial hub for infocomm, through programmes like iStart where we nurture local infocomm start-ups, and iCentre where we have been attracting foreign startups to set up R&D and engineering centres here. In this regard, our subsidiary IIPL, has also been very active in reaching out to overseas start-ups and growth companies in the Silicon Valley and other parts of the world. As there is much interest in this area, we have organised a separate start-up track in the afternoon as part of today’s Forum, to allow more discussion on infocomm entrepreneurship.

18. We are pleased to have successful entrepreneurs share with us their lessons learnt in starting and growing companies, such as Mr Carlos Garcia of Human Network Labs, Mr Terence Swee of muvee, and Mr Michael Sha of Wikinvest. We also have with us successful venture capitalists like Mr Paul Choo of Investor Growth Capital Asia and Mr Ehud Levy of Vertex Venture Capital who will be speaking on their experiences in investing and nurturing startups. We are happy Ehud is able to join us in place of his colleague, Ms Yifat Oron, who was unable to travel here.

19. Besides the infocomm industry entities, the hard and soft infrastructure such as connectivity, security and manpower are also important in the infocomm ecosystem to support the web of activities and cycle of innovation.

20. We are currently building the Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure. The ultra-high speed Next Gen Nationwide Broadband Network that will be rolled out to all homes and businesses in Singapore by 2012 will be the backbone to support the development and deployment of innovative services. The Wireless@SG network with its 7,500 Wi-Fi hotspots and more than 1.3 million wireless broadband subscribers saw its speed recently upgraded to 1 Mbps. Access to this network will continue to be free until 2013, and we look forward to new and exciting consumer and enterprise services that will be rolled out by the industry over the network. A neutral Internet Exchange is also on track to be established by early next year to allow efficient exchange of traffic. These initiatives will collectively improve the Internet experience for all broadband users.

21. With a thriving infocomm industry, it is important to have a pool of highly skilled infocomm professionals who can innovatively use infocomm to enable the growth of our economy. The Infocomm Leadership and Development Programme or iLEAD, for example, seeks to develop infocomm professionals in new growth areas, by encouraging training in high-end infocomm manpower skills in emerging technology areas such as Cloud Computing, Green IT, Networking Engineering and Infocomm Security.

22. It is essential for IDA to engage industry players and academic institutions for our manpower development efforts to grow a pipeline of talent and continually upgrade the capabilities of our infocomm professionals. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the industry for your support and active participation towards our various initiatives - whether in talent attraction programmes such as the Youth Infocomm Week activities, the National Infocomm Scholarship, attachment opportunities for fresh graduates and infocomm professionals through iTAP, or the professional upgrading programmes such as the NICF and the enhanced CITREP. These initiatives ensure that both fresh graduates and infocomm professionals continue to gain valuable work experiences, and provide ample opportunities to upgrade their skills and capabilities in preparation for our economy's growth.

Fostering Innovation in Infocomm

23. In advancing our iN2015 masterplan, we have articulated three strategic thrusts, namely, encouraging sophisticated demand for infocomm, fostering the creation of innovative services and knowledge capital, and strengthening Singapore as an economic hub. Innovation is key to each of these thrusts, and IDA will continue to encourage innovation and seed more opportunities for the creation and adoption of innovative solutions and services.

24. We have been working with industry to set up Next Gen Innovation Centres to allow major corporations to use Singapore as a test bed for new products, services and business models to meet the emerging needs of enterprises and consumers. Two such NGICs have been supported over the past year and we look forward to more of them, and to seeing our companies here tapping on these Centres for the development and delivery of their solutions and services.

25. With the Next Gen NBN being rolled out, we are encouraging the industry to develop innovative services and applications for consumers and businesses that can be offered through this ultra high-speed network. A series of 4 fora and 14 workshops called the Next Gen NBN Lighthouse Series has been organised to develop retail service providers or RSPs and broaden their capabilities. In view of the strong interest and positive feedback, IDA will continue the Lighthouse Series. We also plan to invite industry leaders to what we call a Lighthouse Executive Conference scheduled to be held in the first quarter of next year, where they can share their experiences and provide valuable insights to potential RSPs.

26. Last September, IDA launched a Call-For-Proposal exercise, called the Next Gen Services Innovation Programme or NGSIP, to support RSPs who want to launch Next Gen services and applications over the Next Gen NBN. We have received a wide range of interesting proposals at the close of the call 2 weeks ago, from High-Definition Video Conferencing to Cloud-based Thin Clients to Interactive Video Services. The second round of Call for Proposals will be launched in the middle of next year and we look forward to even more ideas for innovative services then.

27. Besides Next Gen broadband services, IDA is also working towards transforming various vertical sectors of the economy through pioneering the innovative use of technology, defining standards and building sectoral platforms and infrastructure.

28. Under our E-Payment programme, we will be accelerating the adoption of e-payment by both merchants and consumers through having more contactless point-of-sales terminals and top-up stations island-wide. With e-payment and less reliance on cash, there can be more opportunities for innovative services.

29. In the area of trade and logistics, we are working with several Government agencies to improve the capabilities of TradeXchange, a neutral and trusted IT platform that facilitates the flow of information and goods between companies in the trade and logistics industry. Presently, TradeXchange offers services such as overseas customs linkages and a title registry service to facilitate the electronic transfer of the title of goods. With the improved TradeXchange as a multi-party collaboration platform, companies will be able to integrate their systems and processes, and enjoy greater operational efficiencies, clearer supply chain visibility, faster shipment, and increased productivity. We expect to award the CFC launched recently, to industry consortia for integration of marine cargo insurance, freight management and trade financing by early next year.

30. The Digital Concierge programme was introduced by IDA to encourage the growth of mobile services in the retail, food and beverage sectors. This is to encourage the proliferation of location-based and personalised services that will enhance the retail experience of consumers and also allow businesses to reach out to consumers more effectively. The recent CFC generated a significant amount of interest from the industry. We received more than 50 proposals offering innovative services such as location-based searches, mobile advertising and social networking, and we expect to award the CFC in a couple of months' time.

31. Infocomm plays a major role in transforming the way media is produced, processed, distributed and consumed. To capture the opportunities in the Digital Media sector, IDA has put in place the Digital Marketplace Programme, which aims to establish Singapore as Asia's trusted hub for managing and distributing digital content, by attracting key media service providers, content owners, and aggregators to hub their services in Singapore. As a result, we hope to grow a vibrant ecosystem of world class companies that will use Singapore as their base to develop their services and to reach out to the fast growing market in Asia. Since the launch of the programme last year, four Industry Roundtables have been held with some 24 companies, to collaborate on digital media best practices. An example of a project developed through this initiative is the Interactive On-Demand Screening Platform or i-Screener for short, introduced as the first digital extension of the Asia Television Forum or ATF last December. Through it, buyers and sellers of broadcast and video programmes were able to screen materials online, removing the need for organisers to set up physical screening libraries to manage tapes and DVDs. At the upcoming ATF 2009 this week, a new version of i-Screener with enhanced capabilities will be introduced.

32. We are also seeing more innovative services from iLEs. An example is ANTLabs' Securite solution, which employs the latest security technologies to bridge the gaps left by traditional anti-virus software, offering a solution to ensure secure online transactions. Another example is BuzzCity's myGamma, a community-based mobile advertising network. This is a community on the mobile platform where people worldwide can exchange ideas, connect with friends, and where merchants and advertisers can reach out to their target audience based on their demographics and locations.

33. An example of a successful startup offering innovative services is Brandtology. This fairly new company provides customers with "Business and Brand Online Intelligence" to listen to online conversations concerning their brands, services, and products, thereby allowing companies to make timely and strategic decisions and differentiate themselves from their competitors. In a short span of a year, Brandtology has set up its North Asian headquarters in China. One thing all these companies have in common - they recognise innovation as an important differentiator.

Emerging Trends & Opportunities for Innovation

34. Indeed, innovation is a key enabler and competitive advantage, especially in infocomm where technology and trends move rapidly. Despite the rapid changes that we have witnessed over the years, we can be sure that the pace will get even faster.

35. As a result, we need to constantly think of how infocomm is evolving, how infocomm industry and other industries are developing, and what opportunities there are going forward. Through engagements with industry thought leaders, we are seeing a few examples of areas where innovation and infocomm can play an important role in overcoming the challenges that the world faces.

36. An example is in the area of urban solutions. The world is experiencing rapid urbanisation and urban population is expected to double to 6.4 billion in 2050. City planners around the world will face problems such as pollution, traffic congestion and resource shortages. Infocomm can play an integral role in creating smart urban solutions to overcome these problems. For example, infocomm can enable smart energy grids to save energy, reduce costs, and improve reliability, and also create smart transport and logistics systems to manage the flow of people, goods and information. You may have noticed that the word "smart" is mentioned a lot. Yes, the key contribution of infocomm in urban solutions is in enabling smart systems to optimise resources and understand the needs of end-users.

37. Another promising growth area is healthcare and wellness. The global ageing population is expected to triple to nearly 2 billion in 2050 and Asia is the world's most rapidly ageing region. With this trend, there is global demand for ageing, healthcare and wellness solutions. In meeting the needs of the ageing population, the role of infocomm is important. Infocomm-enabled healthcare solutions can range from digestible pills with monitoring capabilities, to wearable sensors, to telemedicine, and biomedical informatics. A robust health informatics system can enable health professionals to detect, track and mitigate health problems easily.

38. There is also growth potential for the use of infocomm to enhance consumer experience. We are seeing an affluent middle class that is projected to grow steadily through 2050 and more than half of them are expected to live in Asia. With this trend, there will be growing demand for products and services that are consumer-centric and personalised. Infocomm will continue to create better devices and enable more user-friendly interfaces. Infocomm also enables services to be centred on consumers - afterall, businesses always say that Customer is King. Services will sense where the users are, support them on the move, know what they need, or even tell them what they need.

39. Underpinning these growth areas is knowledge. Data flowing through the Internet of Machines and Internet of People needs to be transmitted, collected and integrated. It can reside in the cloud and analysed to create knowledge, the key ingredient of the Internet of Services. Hence, we see Cloud Computing and Business Analytics as two areas which will be even more important going forward.

40. I have only cited a few examples of some emerging trends and opportunities for innovation. But we are most privileged today to have a whole line-up of speakers who can share with us their expertise and experience in those areas and more. Following this, we have Ms Tan Yen Yen speak to us on the role of innovation for the infocomm industry. In the area of urban solutions, Mr Klaus Heidinger from Siemens will share its experience with smart cities, Mr Peter Lacy from Accenture will discuss green and sustainable technology, while Mr James Loo from YCH Group and Mrs Rosina Howe-Teo from our Land Transport Authority will talk about smart logistics and transport systems.

41. In the area of consumer-centric services and solutions, Dr Mark Randolph from Motorola will share his views on IPTV and Next Gen multimedia while Mr Mike Gotta from the Burton Group will talk about the use of social media. Both of them have many years of research experience on media and it will be very enlightening to hear their insights.

42. Given the great interest in cloud computing today, we are most happy to have Mr Doug Farber from Google share with us how cloud computing services can transform an enterprise.

43. Recognising that innovation should not only be in products and services alone, we look forward to Professor Goran Roos from the Helskinki School of Economics speaking to us about innovation in business models. Towards the end of the day, we are pleased to have Mr Robert Chew, who is Chairman of Singapore's IT Standards Committee among his other roles, host a panel comprising government and industry stakeholders to discuss ways to bring about innovation in the industry.

44. On behalf of the event organisers, I would like to thank all our speakers for sharing their insights and perspectives today. I know some of them flew to Singapore specially to participate in this event. Thank you very much.


45. In conclusion, the infocomm industry has been very exciting, especially with the fast pace of technological change we have seen and the significant progress we have made together. It has also been an eventful year with the financial crisis and I would like to congratulate our companies for their fine achievements despite the economic downturn. The years ahead promise to be most interesting as more opportunities emerge with innovation. IDA looks forward to working with the industry to foster innovation in a vibrant ecosystem.

46. I hope you will enjoy the rest of the programme today, and I wish all of you happy holidays and a good year ahead.  Thank you.