Speech by Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts at the Infocomm Industry Forum 2009

30 November 2009 - Keynote Address by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts at the Infocomm Industry Forum, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre

Keynote Address by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts at the Infocomm Industry Forum, 30 November 2009, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

2. I am pleased to join you today for the Infocomm Industry Forum. This Forum was organised to bring together leaders and members of our infocomm industry to discuss the trends and opportunities for the industry, with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. I hope you have found the Forum to be a useful and rewarding one.

The Journey of Technological Innovation

3. Infocomm technology has certainly come a long way. The first computer to reach Singapore in September 1963, the IBM 1401 computer, had to be transported in bulky crates. Workmen had to hack at the third storey window to get the crates into the CPF Board Building at Anson Road, because the crates were too large to go through the front door! Thankfully, we do not have to resort to such extreme measures to get computers into our homes and offices these days.

4. From an era of punching the buttons on calculators, to the current day norm of toting laptops and mobile phones, and 'Tweeting' on the go, infocomm technology has radically transformed the way we work, live and interact.

Innovation is Key to Economic Competitiveness

5. Today, infocomm technology is an integral part of national economic strategy as a key enabler of development, modernisation and growth. Innovation in the infocomm industry drives competitiveness both at the firm level and at the national level. At the firm level, businesses which are able to innovate and differentiate their products and services have seen their revenues grow exponentially. Google, a mere start-up about 10 years ago with less than one per cent of the global market share of major search engines, is now a multi-billion-dollar company with innovative offerings even in the mobile space. At the national level, the ability to create a conducive environment for innovation gives nations the edge in attracting and developing the leading companies and top talent of tomorrow.

6. There are still many untapped opportunities and new possibilities in the infocomm industry. The global meltdown last year may have slowed the industry down somewhat, but the pace of technological advancement and innovation remains unabated. What the government can do is to help foster an environment that allows industry players to harness these opportunities. Over the past year, IDA has undertaken measures to alleviate some of the difficulties companies faced during the downturn. The SME Infocomm Package helped to support companies' adoption of infocomm for greater efficiency and competitiveness. Other initiatives, such as the Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme, or CITREP, and the Infocomm Training and Attachment Programme, or iTAP, encouraged companies to sustain and upgrade their manpower. As we emerge from the downturn, these initiatives will hopefully put our companies in a stronger position to take advantage of the opportunities that become available.

Building An Infocomm Ecosystem

7. This morning, you would have heard about how IDA works with the industry to build a vibrant and innovative infocomm ecosystem here. Singapore has been successful in attracting infocomm companies and investments, such as the setting up of global and regional IT hubs with high value CIO functions by MNCs. Examples include BNP Paribas' Global IT Hub for its International Private Bank and Daimler's Regional Shared IT Managed Services Centre. We are also seeing more infocomm companies moving their development and operations centres to Singapore, like Alcatel-Lucent's Asia-Pacific Internet Protocol Transformation Centre, which is the only one in Asia-Pacific and one of only three in the world.

8. Similarly, infocomm technology is playing an increasingly important role as an enabler in digital media management and distribution. IDA has put in place the Digital Marketplace Programme, which aims to establish Singapore as a trusted digital media management and distribution hub for Asia. We aim to grow a vibrant ecosystem of world class companies in Singapore to offer innovative and competitive digital services across the digital media value chain and reach out to the fast-growing digital consumers in Asia.

Encouraging Innovation on the Next Gen NBN

9. Pervasive high speed networks may have been considered a luxury in the past, but that is no longer the case today. An imperative for Singapore's next phase of economic growth, broadband opens up limitless possibilities in terms of accessing information, developing new services, expanding market reach and much more. We have already commenced deployment of the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network, or Next Gen NBN for short. The first home was reached in August and the rollout is making good progress.

10. Beyond broadband infrastructure, we must also encourage the industry to develop new broadband services and applications. Under the Next Gen Services Innovation Programme (NGSIP), which was launched in September, we hope to catalyse the development and deployment of innovative Next Generation services that span the public, private and people sectors.

11. For retail service providers, IDA is organising the Next Gen NBN Lighthouse Series, a suite of information-sharing and networking sessions. As for the end users, we will organise a series of briefings, workshops and events to tell them about the benefits and possibilities on Next Generation services. This series, which starts early next year, will be known as BEACON, which stands for 'Bringing Enterprises and Consumers on Next Gen NBN'.

12. IDA is also supporting the establishment of Next Generation Innovation Centres which bring different infocomm players together to co-create innovative solutions. Under this initiative, major corporations can use Singapore as a test bed for new products, services and business models. Take for instance, the recently announced Oracle's Enterprise Fusion Innovation Centre, or E-FIT for short. E-FIT is a platform for developing innovative solutions to support the growth of strategic industry clusters such as the digital media, healthcare, education and government sectors. These centres serve as an avenue for SMEs, start-ups, local and foreign enterprises to tap on the expertise of big industry players, not to mention promoting entrepreneurship and innovation within the industry.

Calls for Collaboration to Develop Innovative Solutions

13. Calls for Collaboration, or CFCs, constitute another method to facilitate the development of new, impactful services by companies through more sophisticated use of technology. One example is IDA's CFC for what it calls i-Singapore, which encourages the creation of innovative applications through the use of Web 2.0 technologies to harness geospatial data.

14. Let's say an entrepreneur wants to start a childcare centre. Although he has a particular location for that in mind, he needs to first find out where his potential competitors are located. He may also want to assess the market potential by knowing the number of children under the age of five living around the area. And, what about potential business partners such as transport companies within the vicinity to help him ferry the children? Through the Business Competitive Intelligence Service of i-Singapore, he will be able to assess how suitable the identified location is, by analysing demographic information presented on a map, viewed through his mobile phone or computer screen.

15. The i-Singapore project rides on the current trend of pervasive social interactions, including active contribution of user-generated content online. IDA has already awarded four consortia to develop services in the transport, business and lifestyle sectors, and they will be ready by the first quarter of 2010 for a six-month pilot.

16. Another example of a CFC that will support the development of further innovative services down the road is the Contactless Point-of-Sale Terminals CFC, which is part of the Next Generation e-Payments Programme that aims to encourage widespread e-payment adoption in selected merchant segments.

17. Awarded to five companies with a joint IDA and industry investment of $16 million, this CFC will more than quadruple the number of contactless terminals, from about 5,000 to more than 24,000 in just two years' time. When fully deployed by 2011, these terminals are expected to generate over 94 million transactions per year, converting a significant number of cash-based payments to e-payments. This CFC will also lead to a 15 to 50 per cent reduction in merchant fees, compared to prevailing fees charged for CEPAS payments, which is an important factor of lowering the barrier to adoption of e-payment by merchants.

18. This network of terminals will also constitute a key supporting infrastructure for the deployment of innovative services enabled by Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. In the near future, consumers can look forward to using their NFC-enabled phones to make payments at restaurants, purchase mobile tickets, redeem mobile coupons and even open doors by tapping their NFC-enabled phones on contactless readers. Businesses can also create interactive posters with embedded NFC chips to allow the delivery of real-time personalised information to consumers. There is tremendous promise for NFC to become an enabling technology to create new innovative services that provide greater convenience and interactivity for consumers.

Talent Development to Meet the Future Needs of Industry

19. No infocomm ecosystem is complete without talent. The size of the infocomm workforce in Singapore has increased by more than 35 per cent since 2001, from about 102,000 to 139,000 infocomm professionals today. It is paramount that we continue to build our pipeline of talent to meet the future needs of the infocomm industry. These are the reasons why IDA is investing in talent development programmes such as the National Infocomm Scholarships (NIS), Integrated Infocomm Scholarships (IIS) and Infocomm Leadership and Development Programme, or iLEAD. In particular, iLEAD was launched in the middle of this year to develop talent for key infocomm areas such as infocomm security, network engineering and application development, which will likely have a considerable impact on how businesses operate in the future. Under this programme, a ready pool of infocomm professionals will undergo local and overseas attachments, specialised courses and certification to build up their capabilities.

20. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our industry partners for their strong support for our manpower development initiatives, such as the various scholarship programmes, the National Infocomm Competition and the recent Youth Infocomm Week, which allow students to gain a deeper insight into infocomm. And, what better way to show these students the fascinating world of infocomm than enabling them to get up close with leading infocomm professionals, and also see and touch the many strong capabilities and products that infocomm companies have here.


21. In conclusion, the rapid pace of technological developments means we have to constantly look ahead, be nimble and seize the opportunities before us. To meet these challenges, we need strong government-industry partnership. Our infocomm industry will continue to innovate, develop interesting services and create new solutions to meet the sophisticated demand for infocomm by enterprises and consumers alike, locally and overseas. The Government will continue to maintain a pro-business environment, provide support for, and promote close collaboration with the industry, so as to foster a vibrant infocomm ecosystem in Singapore.

22. Thank you.