18 February 2009 - Speech By RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore, At The SiTF 2009 ICT Business Outlook Forum, Raffles City Convention Centre

Speech By RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore, At The SiTF 2009 ICT Business Outlook Forum, On Wednesday 18 February 2009, Raffles City Convention Centre

Ms Tan Yen Yen, Chairman of Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation,
Mr Foo Jong Tong, Chairman of the Organising Committee of the SiTF 2009 ICT Business Outlook Forum,
Members of SiTF,
Friends and colleagues from the infocomm industry,

Good Morning.

1. I would like to first thank the organising committee for the invitation to speak this morning at this annual ICT Business Outlook Forum.

2. This year’s theme “ICT Business in a Flat World: Opportunities and Priorities” is apt and timely. For those familiar with his international bestseller, “The World Is Flat”, Thomas Friedman wrote of “flatteners” and how “triple convergence” acted on the “flatteners” to create a new, flatter global playing field. The events in the past year have shown how the Flat World is so interconnected and to play in this globalised market, enterprises have to continually seek ways to create value for their businesses and especially so in the current economic conditions.

3. The impact of the current economic slowdown worldwide and in Singapore will no doubt affect the infocomm industry. With the economic downturn, companies are reviewing their IT spending and rethinking their business strategies. The economic outlook for Singapore remains challenging in 2009 and similarly, the outlook for the infocomm industry.

4. In Parliament two weeks ago, Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang, announced a set of measures that will help the infocomm industry during this economic downturn. Let me take this opportunity to highlight some of them, and elaborate on the set of measures.

5. First, let me touch on the measures to assist companies in the current economic climate. One key focus area for IDA this year is that of encouraging our SMEs to continue improving their business performance despite the downturn and to be ready to take advantage of opportunities when the economy recovers. We will be working even more closely with SPRING Singapore in these endeavours, given IDA’s focus on the infocomm industry. Under the S$10million Infocomm@SME programme, IDA will enhance the SME Infocomm Package or SIP for two years from this April. The subsidy cap will be raised from the existing $1,000 to $2,000 for SMEs who wish to develop their online presence; this will cover 80% of the costs of website development, 12 months of broadband subscription charges and hosting plus maintenance of the website. The SIP was launched in June last year and to date, more than 800 SMEs have benefited from the programme.

6. In collaboration with SPRING Singapore, IDA will be administering what we call the “SME Infocomm Adoption Assistance Framework”, to make it easier and faster for SMEs to seek funding. By the first quarter of FY2009, SMEs will have a single point of contact and a single process to seek funding.

7. Infocomm SMEs in particular will be able to benefit from the Technology Innovation Programme from SPRING where $5 million has been set aside to help SMEs enhance their competitiveness. IDA works with SPRING to administer the scheme. IDA has also been partnering SPRING in the Technology Enterprise Commercialisation Scheme or TECS, aimed at supporting start-ups in overcoming their resource constraints to go past the stage of idea generation and move to product development.

8. As part of capability development, it is also important for companies to continually upgrade their manpower capabilities so that they can be ready to take advantage of opportunities when the economy recovers. In line with this, IDA will be enhancing the CITREP (Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme) which encourages infocomm professionals to acquire critical infocomm skills. These skills are articulated in the NICF (National Infocomm Competency Framework) which contains some 200 job roles and their associated competencies. The courses supported under Enhanced CITREP are developed in close reference to the NICF. The Enhanced CITREP supports the course and exam fees for training courses and certification in various infocomm segments. The fee support will be increased, from 50 per cent to 80 per cent and supporting organisations will also be eligible for Absentee Payroll at $50 per day when they sponsor their employees for full-time training. A total budget of $25 million has been set aside for the Enhanced CITREP over the next two years and this will benefit about 10,000 infocomm professionals.

9. IDA recognises the importance of graduate infocomm professionals being gainfully employed so that they can hone their skills in the industry. Therefore, IDA will work with government agencies, infocomm MNCs and local enterprises to provide skill upgrading and attachment opportunities for infocomm professionals, including fresh graduates with infocomm diplomas and degrees.

10. While we look into measures to help companies and the industry to meet current economic challenges, it is equally important to continue building a robust Infocomm Ecosystem here in Singapore to help the industry grow and develop in the longer term. At IDA, we envision a vibrant ecosystem that is thriving and networked both internally and externally, one that provides a rich environment that encourages world-class R&D of a wide range of infocomm products, services and solutions. The ecosystem helps to promote innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration, drawing on the strengths and competitive advantages of Singapore.

11. Within the ecosystem are various constituents in a value chain of activities, which interact and affect each other. For example, infocomm forerunners in the universities and research institutes pave the way for innovation, and other constituents like Government agencies and venture capitalists help the infocomm industry players to transform these innovative ideas into viable market products and applications. With the products and applications in service with consumers and enterprises, the customer response generated leads to a new cycle of innovation within the ecosystem.

12. Underpinning this chain of activities and cycle of innovation are the hard and soft infrastructure. The hard infrastructure made up of essentials like utilities and connectivity, and the soft infrastructure such as infocomm policies and manpower development, is fundamental in supporting the ecosystem.

13. To ensure that Singapore has a robust infocomm ecosystem that will help the infocomm industry to grow, we need to firstly, encourage sophisticated demand for infocomm; secondly, to develop innovative services and build knowledge capital; and thirdly to strengthen Singapore as an economic hub.

14. Encouraging sophisticated demand for infocomm will open up opportunities for the infocomm industry to drive the innovation process across the ecosystem. There is already a relatively high level of infocomm adoption in Singapore where enterprises and users are fairly well equipped with infocomm products and services. From IDA’s 2008 survey, we see that today, about 80 per cent of households in Singapore have access to at least one computer at home and 76 per cent of households have access to the Internet.

15. Similarly, we see a rise in infocomm usage among enterprises in Singapore - 36 per cent of them have a web presence, up from 33 per cent in 2007. There is also a good increase of 7 per cent in e-Government dealings by enterprises, from 77 per cent to 84 per cent.

16. To enhance the level of sophistication, IDA plans to roll-out programmes in key economic sectors through Calls-For-Collaboration or CFCs to encourage pilots and trials. We have allocated $70 million for the co-development of infocomm business solutions with industry. Let me now highlight some areas where we look forward to industry participation and collaboration in the year ahead.

17. In catalysing business transformation and operational excellence in the port community through the use of innovative infocomm technologies, IDA and MPA (Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore) launched the Infocomm@SeaPort programme in 2007. The Wireless-broadband-access for Seaport or WISEPORT was the first project launched under this programme. In 2009, we will be deploying the BunkerNet, a system that connects all parties in the Singapore bunker community and supports the world’s busiest bunker fuel operations. There are also two new sector-wide initiatives. One will enhance the efficiency and security of seaport operations using biometric and mobile technologies. Another aims to automate the conventional and bulk cargo operations by integrating the business processes of the terminal operator, shipper, consignees and haulier communities.

18. Many of you would be familiar with the TradeXchange® programme that was launched in October 2007 to provide a neutral and trusted IT platform that enables the exchange of information among shippers, freight forwarders, carriers and government agencies in the logistics sector. In addition to the current suite of B2B services, we will seek to further streamline the B2B logistic processes by encouraging software providers and logistic services providers to integrate their ICT systems, processes and data through TradeXchange®. These integrated chains will result in efficiency savings for the logistics community. We will be announcing a CFC for the implementation of these integrated chains in the next couple of months.

19. In 2007, IDA launched the Digital Concierge Programme Pilot with the aim of helping businesses to reach out to visitors to Singapore using mobile technologies through innovative mobile services and content. This year, the programme will be extended to other sectors, focusing on the retail and F&B sectors for a start. IDA will partner infocomm companies to develop the necessary shared infrastructure and enablers so that location-based services and mobile commerce applications can be easily deployed.

20. In the mobile space, IDA is working with the industry to look into the potential of Near Field Communication or NFC as an enabling technology to create new applications and services that provide convenience and greater interactivity for businesses and consumers. To this end, an industry roundtable comprising 15 representatives from telcos, banks, payment service providers and government agencies was formed last year to work towards achieving an interoperable, standard-based deployment of NFC mobile payments through a Trusted Third Party (TTP) model. With this interoperability model, subscribers of all three telcos can access the full range of NFC service offerings in the market. This will enable businesses investing in the NFC infrastructure and services to reach out to more NFC-enabled consumers and merchants.

21. IDA will also be looking into enriching the people sector to help people in Singapore leverage infocomm technology for a vibrant digital lifestyle. IDA will build on existing efforts to conduct a broad-based outreach programme to educate them about infocomm. Going beyond imparting basic knowledge such as how to connect to the Internet and use email, the programme will cover more advanced uses like using Web 2.0 tools and collaborating over the Internet. This will be in line with the explosive growth of applications and services available through IT and the Internet, which provide great opportunities for growth, fun and fulfilment for our young and old alike. For this outreach programme, IDA will collaborate with partners in the people sector, including non-profit and grassroots organisations such as the NTUC with its 500,000 members.

22. As IDA works with the different sectors to leverage infocomm enabled products and services to meet their needs, business opportunities are being identified for the infocomm industry. The challenge is for the industry to develop more sophisticated infocomm services, or what we term Next Generation services, to meet the various sectoral demands.

23. IDA supports initiatives to create opportunities for iLEs (infocomm local enterprises), and leading industry companies to collaborate and innovate. The ODP (Overseas Development Programme) and iLIUP (infocomm Local Industry Upgrading Programme) that you are all familiar with are examples. Under these programmes, MNCs partner iLEs to develop solutions and build up new capabilities in innovative emerging technologies quickly, and also allow iLEs to access their global marketing and distribution networks.

24. These partnerships have helped iLEs generate their own IP (intellectual property) which they can bring to the world market. Currently there are 14 MNCs participating in these two programmes. Since 2002, iLIUP has helped iLEs develop more than 500 new or enhanced products and solutions, trained more than 1,600 infocomm manpower and gained more than S$180million in revenue. ODP has helped iLEs grow more than S$100 million in export revenue.

25. IDA will be working with the industry to build Next Generation Innovation Centres or NGICs, that will help companies develop and deliver Next Gen services that meet market needs. By going to such centres, local companies can get technical and business guidance to conceptualise, develop and prototype next generation services. The first of such centres, Enabling Platform Innovation Centre or EPIC, was launched by Cisco here in Singapore last December.

26. IDA, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd, is also engaging VC-backed start-ups to establish R&D centres in Singapore. This adds to the diversity of the Singapore infocomm ecosystem, while creating high value jobs and attracting talent who relocate to Singapore for the R&D work. We have already attracted two start-ups to build such R&D centres.  Wikinvest, which brings user-generated content via a Web 2.0 wiki to the financial and investment space, will be building a suite of tools to serve the needs of financial bloggers worldwide. Emotive Communications, which provides real-time interactive multimedia products and services, will be furthering the development of its push-media product for mobile networks.

27. Another initiative to develop next gen services is the Next Gen Services innovation Programme, or Next Gen SIP. This programme will support the development and deployment of innovative Next Gen services, especially those that can take advantage of the Next Generation National Broadband Network or NGNBN that we are building. The Next Gen SIP will rally the constituents of the infocomm ecosystem to provide meaningful solutions to meet the needs of consumers and businesses, as well as motivate local and foreign Retail Service Providers or RSPs to use Singapore as their centre of excellence for Next Gen services. IDA will be organising what we call a Pilot Run, which will see companies come together to test their solutions on a designated test-bed for integration with the NGNBN. Please look out for details soon on the Pilot Run, and find out how you can participate.

28. In addition, IDA is calling a RFP (Request for Proposal) for interested parties to design, build, operate and manage a Next Gen Services Experience Centre. We envisage this Centre to be a hub of innovation of the infocomm technologies and applications made possible by an ultra high-speed nationwide broadband fibre-to-the-home network. It will also be an exciting showcase of interactive and immersive Next Gen services, at which enterprises and consumers can benefit from early hands-on experience. This will in turn help to drive greater adoption and demand for Next Gen services. The Experience Centre will be jointly developed as a public and private sector collaboration, and we look forward to receiving innovative proposals and solutions from you for RFP which will close on the 9th of April.

29. Earlier this month, IDA also called an RFI (Request for Information) to invite companies to propose ideas to develop new innovative services enabled by the Mashup of Geospatial Content. The emergence of Web 2.0 tools has allowed people to come together to use, re-use, create and distribute information in new ways. When such information is imposed on a geospatial or map platform, the possibilities of new uses and insights are tremendous. The RFI aims to gather feedback and commercial interest in the development of services that can be enabled by mashup of geospatial contents from the public, private and people sectors. This afternoon (Wed 18 Feb), IDA is organising an industry networking session at Suntec Convention Centre Room 301, for interested parties to showcase possibilities and interact with other industry players. You are all welcome to attend.

30. To support the creation of innovative services, knowledge capital and level-up the sophistication of demand, IDA will ensure that Singapore’s infocomm infrastructure and links with the world are comprehensive and robust. In other words, we want to strengthen Singapore as an economic hub.

31. A key initiative that will strengthen our hub capabilities is of course the Next Gen NBN. This nationwide ultra-high speed broadband network capable of speeds of up to 1Gbps and beyond, with its Effective Open Access will ensure a competitive and vibrant retail services market that will benefit businesses and consumers.

32. The OpenNet Consortium was selected last September to be the NetCo (Network Company) to design, build and operate the passive infrastructure. Existing ducts and other underlying infrastructure will be used, minimising disruption to the public and enabling the network to reach 95% of homes and buildings nationwide by 2012. IDA is now evaluating the OpCo RFP proposals.

33. To further strengthen our economic hub, IDA is working with industry to implement a neutral Singapore Internet Exchange or SGIX that will enable the efficient exchange of local and international internet protocol traffic. SGIX aims to deploy Internet exchange infrastructure in two to four different physical locations around Singapore, enabling service and content providers at different locations to interconnect directly through the common SGIX infrastructure and exchange traffic. This will help to improve the efficiency of Internet traffic exchange in Singapore by enabling providers to interconnect locally and at lower cost.

34. The other component of the Next Gen National Infocomm Infrastructure is Wireless@SG. This has seen the roll-out of 7,500 hotspots and more than one million subscribers since the launch of this free service two years ago. We will be enabling enhancements to the Wireless@SG network, and we invite industry to continue developing innovative mobile services for deployment on this network.

35. Another infrastructure investment is the National Grid. Singapore is one of the first in the world to embark on such a national effort that draws together commercial grid service providers to offer pay-per-use access to compute, storage and software facilities. Three national Grid Service Providers have been providing grid services since November. Apart from Compute-as-a-service, Software-as-a-service enablement has also become a reality. We aim to have more than 80 SaaS Independent Software Providers offering their software via the National Grid by 2011. Businesses can look forward to obtaining their software such as productivity and publishing tools through on-demand pricing from SaaS providers on this Grid.

36. A key aspect of the soft infrastructure of the infocomm ecosystem is manpower development. To ensure a sustainable pipeline of talent to meet the future manpower needs of the infocomm industry, we need to take a forward-looking perspective to build manpower capabilities. In line with this, IDA's talent attraction and development efforts will receive a further boost with an additional $30 million for capability development, bringing the total investment in scholarship-related programmes to $64 million.

37. The National Infocomm Scholarship or NIS programme launched in 2004, has seen 155 awards made so far. We will continue to offer this programme over the next few years, working with the 26 partner infocomm and user companies we have today. We hope to see more partner organisations come onboard this programme to grow our top infocomm talent.

38. In addition to the NIS, IDA has just launched the Integrated Infocomm Scholarship or IIS programme. This scholarship is to enable outstanding 'O' level students to pursue infocomm-related diploma and degree courses from polytechnic right through to university, with valuable industry experience locally or overseas for up to six months during their studies. This initiative will help us to develop our young Polytechnic students for infocomm, which is an important source of our infocomm talent.

39. In addition to these programmes, to strengthen Singapore as an economic hub, IDA will continue to build relationships with foreign governments and agencies. For example, IDA recently signed an MOU with the Caribbean state of Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Public Administration to foster co-operation in ICT development.

40. Besides the MOUs, we are already seeing projects, undertaken by our iLEs, being implemented in countries such as Kuwait, Oman, Brunei and China. With the increasing international interest in Singapore’s experience and expertise in public service infocomm, IDA established a wholly owned subsidiary of IDA, called IDA International Pte Ltd that was launched yesterday. IDA-I will serve as the execution arm for public service infocomm partnerships between Singapore and other countries, and in the process also facilitate our iLE’s presence and growth in international markets.

41. During imbX (Infocomm Media Business Xchange) in June this year, there will be two significant events that IDA will be involved in. The first is the inaugural iGov Global Exchange organised by IDA and our Ministry of Finance in collaboration with Singapore Exhibition Services or SES. The event will bring together policy makers, practitioners and developers to share experiences and best practices in building successful e-Government infrastructure and applications to better serve the needs of citizens in the Digital Age. The second event is the Next Generation Broadband Forum where the industry and regulators will gather to discuss Next Gen broadband development as well as explore the possibilities of Next Gen broadband services and solutions. I would like to encourage you to participate in the two conferences as well as in the exhibitions to showcase your organisation’s capabilities and expertise in eGov and infocomm solutions. Please do look for the details that will be coming your way soon.

42. In conclusion, we at IDA are working on quite a number of initiatives to help the infocomm industry to not only meet the challenges of the current downturn, but also prepare ourselves for the opportunities when the economy recovers. We started 2009 with much caution. While we are not able to predict how things will trend exactly, we believe in the strong fundamentals of the Singapore infocomm industry and we urge you to continue to persevere, to innovate, and work towards strengthening the infocomm ecosystem here. The world may be flat, but I believe together we can seek out the many opportunities that are there, to create value and grow our companies as well as the infocomm ecosystem in Singapore. We look forward to working closely with you, and on behalf of IDA, I extend our very best wishes to you and your companies for the year that lies ahead.

43. Thank you.