Yeo Cheow Tong, Ministry for Communications and Information Technology - Speech "Made in Singapore and Proud of I.T.!" Exhibition, Suntec Singapore

Yeo Cheow Tong, Ministry for Communications and Information Technology - Speech
"Made in Singapore and Proud of I.T.!" Exhibition, Suntec Singapore

Singapore, 21 June 2001


The slowdown in the US economy and the accompanying weakness of its technology sector has led to a subdued mood in the global economy. Occupying the headlines are reports of lower corporate profits, corporate restructuring, and from time to time, the disappearance of what were only recently, highflying companies. However, I believe that these are short-term problems, and the US economy will return to healthy growth. When that happens, our economy will rebound too.

2 In the area of infocomm technology, we are well-placed for the long term. We have a strong base of infocomm companies built on solid technological foundations and business models. They continue to do well in the current weak business environment, and our base of intellectual property is growing.

3 So in the aftermath of the meltdown, it is important that we maintain the right perspective on the future of the infocomm industry. Structurally, the economy has undergone irreversible changes. In the USA, infocomm technology has helped to introduce irreversible changes in the way business is structured, conducted and managed. Singapore too, is experiencing similar changes. Our B2B sector continues to grow. Large enterprises, both local and foreign, are developing online strategies, and in turn, are setting the example and pace for smaller enterprises. The Government is confident that Singapore companies, with sound and progressive business strategies, will ride out the current economic weakness, and come out stronger for the experience.

4 As I look around today, I am proud to see so many companies with their made-in-Singapore products and services. This is an opportunity for Singapore companies to showcase their capabilities and propel our common objective of becoming a premier Infocomm Hub in the region and a launch pad to Asia.

5 To put the companies' achievements in context, let's take a look at the growth of the Singapore infocomm industry from 1998 to 2000. In 1998 our infocomm sector was valued at S$20 billion. IDA's survey in year 2000 showed that the industry has grown by 30% to reach a value of S$26 billion. While the domestic market accounted for slightly more than half of this value, the export market is likely to overtake it by next year.

6 Another interesting survey result is that the infocomm industry's principal growth areas were e-Business and e-Commerce, Web Design and Development, IT Outsourcing, Mobile and Wireless Communications, and Customer Relationship Management.

7 Keeping this in mind, the key question is, how can we more effectively harness our potential and continue to drive forward? The answer lies in growth through both innovation and globalisation.

Sustaining Growth through Innovation

8 Indeed, infocomm innovation in Singapore is not something that is new. The Ericsson Cyberlab in Singapore, set up in 1998, developed the A4-sized touch-screen Delphipad, which lets users surf the Net, chat with each other, and send hand written messages. More recently, HP's latest Jornada series Pocket PCs were developed and are being made completely in Singapore.

9 Our local infocomm companies are also innovating rapidly. Let me give you a few examples of our home-grown companies that have succeeded through innovation. Building on its expertise in facility management solutions, Eutech Cybernetics has developed a Hospital Facilities and Operations Management System with the help of the Government's Innovation Development Scheme. The newly-developed System focuses on the smooth running and management of hospital operations, facilities and resources. Another example is EdgeMatrix, whose technologies enable business to be conducted across multiple access points of information, including WAP, SMS, pagers, the Web, and e-mail. Its product, WAPman, is one of the world's most frequently downloaded colour micro-browsers for WAP mobile phones. A third example of innovation is Cellonics. This is a spin-off from the Centre for Wireless Communications at the National University of Singapore. Its breakthrough technology, modelled on biological cell behaviour and only launched at CommunicAsia a few days ago, takes an unconventional approach to the encoding, decoding and transmission of digital information.

10 The Government recognises that innovation is the key to sustaining growth in the infocomm industry and will continue to build a conducive environment for entrepreneurial spirit to thrive. Where helpful, we will expand the menu of industry grants. One example is the recently-introduced Writing Down Allowance for approved intellectual property. This scheme encourages companies to acquire intellectual properties that will enable them to develop and create innovative products and solutions.

11 IDA administers several other sector-specific incentive schemes, such as the Wired With Wireless programme that will drive the proliferation of wireless pilot projects and develop Singapore into a living lab and launch pad for wireless developments. The e-Business Industry Development Scheme, or eBIDS, will also support companies in adopting e-Business capabilities and developing electronic transactions as an imperative for business. It will contribute to local enterprises' knowledge acquisition, business process optimisation, and e-Business value creation.

12 In addition, Government tenders have been revised to allow companies to co-own selected intellectual property developed from some government projects. Last, but not least, there will be more Government-industry collaborations to engage the industry in developing infocomm innovations, such as the ASP Competency Centre, which was jointly established by IDA, Nanyang Technological University and Sun Microsystems to assist ASPs and Internet Data Centres by providing test beds to start-ups, as well as consultancy, auditing and certification services.

Moving beyond Singapore

13 As our companies innovate and develop their products and solutions, they must also have the vision and foresight to globalise, to spread their roots beyond the limits of our small domestic market. Long-term growth of the industry hinges on the use of Singapore as an ideal test-bed and launch pad for our products and services to Asia and the world.

14 System Access is a good example of a local company that has done us proud internationally. Its flagship software product, netSymbols, powers front-to-back applications and comprehensive information infrastructures for the banking industry, and the company has successfully marketed the product in more than 20 countries around the world through channel partners. SQL View and PeridotHealth Systems are also examples of Singaporean entrepreneurship going regional. SQL View built on its experience in constructing the Electronic Registry System for the Ministry of Finance to develop the Knowledge Repository Information System, and has established a Hong Kong office to spearhead its regional expansion. On the other hand, PeridotHealth Systems has successfully marketed its H.careOne product to provide fully integrated medical information systems to healthcare professionals in overseas markets.

15 The successful merger of AceFusion and Savi Technology is an example of a local company gaining global inroads by merging with a strong global player. This marriage leverages each company's domain knowledge, market presence, operating and sales infrastructure in logistics solutions to cross-penetrate the US and Asia Pacific markets. A further example of globalisation is Ecquaria Technologies leveraging its technology partnership with Sun Microsystems to showcase its flagship product, Ecquaria Service-Oriented Platform, at the Sun iForce Ready Center in California earlier this month. The product has been implemented for the Singapore Government Public e-Services Infrastructure.

16 These are only some of the examples of made-in-Singapore companies who are taking advantage of the possibilities available beyond the Singapore market.

17 To support such globalisation efforts, the Government has been aggressively creating platforms from which our local companies can reach regional and global markets. On its part, IDA has fostered a strong working relationship with local infocomm industry associations like the SITF and co-operate on a wide array of issues and projects, which include creating invaluable links with IT industry associations in other countries such as India. IDA has also initiated a small but significant presence in key markets overseas to promote Singapore's vibrant infocomm industry, and to help local companies form alliances with infocomm companies in these locations. Early last year, IDA opened its first marketing outpost in the United States. Just last month, IDA registered an office in Bangalore, to foster strategic alliances with key overseas infocomm companies, trade associations and research institutes in India. There are also plans to open a similar office in China later this year. IDA has been laying the groundwork by leading a group of Singapore infocomm companies in a successful trade mission to Shanghai and Beijing last month.

Made in Singapore and Proud of I.T! - The Event

18 Today's exhibition is a milestone event in the local Infocomm scene. It marks the first time that so many local IT companies are coming together to showcase their impressive range of innovative products and services. Going forward, innovation and globalisation will be the key to sustaining growth in the infocomm industry.

19 On that note, I wish to congratulate the SITF and all the participating companies for contributing to the development of our infocomm industry. In particular, I am pleased that the SITF has started the Singapore Enterprises Chapter to promote Singapore IT enterprises. I wish you every success in reaping the rewards from the many exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023