RADM (NS) Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence Speech - Launch of SINGAREN-VBNS Link

RADM (NS) Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence
Speech - Launch of SINGAREN-VBNS Link
Washington D.C., 7 November 1997

A High-Speed Link between the United States and Singapore

Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good Morning,

1. Let me first thank the National Science Foundation for their enthusiasm in setting up the high-speed link to Singapore, the support in bringing about this event and the hospitality extended to us while we are here.

US-Singapore Ties

2. Since our independence some thirty years ago, Singapore has enjoyed strong and close relations with the United States: relations that are economically and strategically significant despite our disparity in geographic and population size and the physical distance between us. We cooperate in international and regional fora on trade and economic issues. We welcome and facilitate the presence of United States forces in the Asia Pacific.

3. In terms of trade, the United States is our second largest source of imports accounting for US$21.5 bn of US exports in 1996; and our largest export markets. A little known fact is that Singapore is the US's 8th largest export market. Total trade between the US and Singapore is bigger than that between the US and France, Brazil or India.

4. Many US MNCs have set up their regional headquarters in Singapore, including leading companies such as Western Digital, Seagate, IBM, Motorola, Hewlett Packard and Black & Decker. Many others operating in Singapore have done well, creating innovative new products, using Singapore as a manufacturing platform and distribution hub to Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific region.

The R&D Link - A New Dimension

5. In recent years, the relationship between the US and Singapore has developed a new dimension. Strong collaboration in science and technology, and research and development, is being established. These relationships have been strengthened primarily in two areas.

6. Firstly, many American MNCs such as Motorola and Hewlett Packard have co-located their R&D activities in Singapore. These companies have identified the need to set up an R&D base in the East to position themselves to grasp the abundant opportunities in Asia. They have decided to tap on the knowledge infrastructure in Singapore. Our education system places a high emphasis on science and engineering: 48% of our university students major in these fields. They provide a ready pool of skilled engineers and scientists for industry. Companies operating in Singapore have also frequently drawn upon the researchers and facilities in our institutes to collaborate on the development of new products and processes, and to improve existing ones. This knowledge infrastructure in Singapore has helped to add value to companies operating there.

7. Secondly, many significant partnerships have also been established between research institutions and universities in both countries, such as the collaboration between Singapore's Institute of Systems Science and the world-renowned Johns Hopkins University in the area of information-enhanced medicine; between the National University of Singapore and the University of California, San Diego in the globalisation of the Data Storage Industry; between the National University of Singapore and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Coastal Engineering and the intelligent integration and brokering of information; and between the Institute of Materials Research & Engineering and Amorphous Technologies International (which has its roots in the California Institute of Technology) in the development of next generation advanced metals.

8. I am pleased to witness today another significant partnership with the US - the link of the Singapore Internet Next Generation Advanced Research and Education Network (SINGAREN) to the very high performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS) of the United States. This first ever trans-Pacific high speed broadband linkage, is a major step that will give added impetus to the collaboration between the research and education communities of the two countries. This MOU which will strengthen R&D ties between academics, scientists and engineers of both nations and provide resources to literally 'speed up' international connectivity. It will open up a new dimension for collaborative research projects.

9. We attach great importance to closer collaboration with the United States in R&D because the US is widely recognised as the global leader in R&D. You have a history punctuated by filled with many remarkable inventions and advancements that have changed and improved the world in more ways than we can imagine.

10. Nowhere has this been more so than in the field of computers and information technology. Your research scientists and engineers developed the first computer ? ENIAC, invented the semiconductor transistor, developed almost all computer languages, gave birth to the Internet, the MOSAIC browser and so on. Today, you are again at the forefront in Internet technology, breaking new ground with the implementation of the vBNS and the development of the next generation Internet 2 technology.

Singapore's Information Technology Initiatives

11. Singapore shares your 'passion' for Information Technology. Allow me to elaborate with two examples.

12. First, computers in education. I have followed with great interest and excitement the efforts in the United States to bring computers and the Internet into every classroom. In Singapore we have also recognised the importance of equipping every one of our citizens with computer skills so that they can live, learn and operate comfortably in the new era of information technology. We see widespread computer literacy as fundamental to maintaining our competitiveness in the 21st Century.

13. To achieve this goal, we launched in April this year a US$1.5 billion (about S$2 billion) programme to implement an Information Technology Masterplan for Education over a period of 5 years. This will build upon our experiments with IT-based teaching and learning conducted over the past few years. Our objective is for all schools in Singapore to use Information Technology in 30% of their course curriculum time by the year 2002. The US$1.5 billion will be used to train teachers, develop software, wire up the schools, and provide every school with enough computers so that there will be one computer for every two students. We will also provide subsidies for teachers to buy their own computers, and enough notebooks in schools for teachers to have ready and frequent electronic access to computers both during and after formal teaching hours.

14. Our second major initiative is Singapore ONE (One Network for Everyone). The name stands for Singapore: One Network for Everyone. Singapore ONE is a nation-wide initiative to link the whole of Singapore electronically as one. It is the world's first nationwide broadband network that can deliver high-speed multimedia services to homes, schools and offices.

15. Launched in June 1997, some 85 service providers have already committed to or are providing applications on Singapore ONE. New applications and services are continually being added and Singapore ONE has attracted investments from many of the world's leading companies in this field. Applications range from government transactions, to leisure and entertainment, electronic commerce, health information, services for businesses, and education and distance learning. These services appeal to users of all ages and backgrounds from children and their parents to working professionals.

16. By more than the end of this year 5000 applications households from the public will have access to the network. By the end of next year, all businesses and practically all 800,000 households in Singapore will be Singapore ONE ready either through cable modem or ADSL. Home ownership of computers stands at 35% and we expect this to rise rapidly. In the meantime, The Pilot phase, being implemented now, is on track to reach a target of 5000 homes and businesses by the end of the year. Singapore ONE is also being made available at public places for easy public access and to benefit those who do not yet own PCs.

17. Widespread computer literacy and widespread information access are the key building blocks to realise our vision of Singapore as an intelligent island? Where information technology will be an integral part of everyday life, and accessible from offices, factories, schools, libraries, hospitals, community centres, shopping malls and homes, thus enabling people in Singapore to work, study, play, and transact - anytime, anywhere. We welcome US companies to take part in these programmes and to use Singapore ONE as a test-bed for their products and services.

Communities Connected By High-Speed Links

18. We look forward to a future where communities throughout the world can be brought closer together through high-speed electronic networks. Here again, the research and development community in the United States is playing a leading role. Just as the US R&D community paved the way for the world-wide Internet community, you are showing the way to the future through vBNS. In parallel to SingOne, a High Speed Testbed has been set up a few years ago to allow providers of broadband network equipment and services to test new technologies and standards before putting them onto the operational environment. We are currently entering into the second phase of the High Speed Test Bed, which will be oriented towards providing technical support services for Singapore ONE, stimulating R&D in broadband networking technology, products and services and manpower training in relevant fields.

19. Singapore is honoured to be the first country in the world, outside of North America, to be linked to the vBNS. The link is a major milestone in Singapore's IT development and is a further demonstration of our commitment to implementing IT in our country. The SINGAREN-vBNS link will open new information pathways between the US and Singapore. This connection will spawn new collaborative research activities.

20. I am confident that the collaborative programmes that we are embarking on in tele-medicine, tele-manufacturing, tele-education, and tele-architecture are a but a start and that they will be joined by many more in the future.

21. I would like to thank the National Science Foundation again for making this link possible allowing us to be a , and in your strong tradition of networking innovation and research that pushes the capability of network. I look forward to strengthening and deepening our partnership in other areas.

Thank you.

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023