Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence - Speech CommunicAsia/Broadcast Asia 2002, Singapore Expo Singapore, 18 June 2002

Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence - Speech
CommunicAsia/Broadcast Asia 2002, Singapore Expo
Singapore, 18 June 2002

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to be here this morning to officiate at the opening of CommunicAsia and BroadcastAsia 2002.Let me extend a warm welcome to all participants particularly our foreign guests who have travelled long distances to take part in the two Exhibitions. I hope that, in addition to taking part, you will have an opportunity to enjoy our city.

The global infocomm and media industries have experienced a steep roller-coaster ride in the past two years. The thrills and spills of a phenomenal rise of the market capitalisation of infocomm and media companies, followed by an equally sharp fall, are still fresh in our memory. So are the huge business losses and massive layoffs. But thankfully, all is not gloom and doom, with many industry watchers and analysts predicting that the worst is over. Many analysts and market watchers expect the recovery of the Asia-Pacific infocomm markets to begin during the second half of this year, followed by steady growth in 2003 and 2004. China, in particular, will be a strong emerging market with pent-up demand for infocomm, as China's economy continues to grow at 7-8% per annum. The Semiconductor Industry Association, which represents most US chip makers, has also recently predicted, in its midyear forecast, that worldwide semiconductor sales will increase by 3.1% this year, and jump another 23.2% next year.

Similarly, a recent survey conducted by Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority, or IDA, has shown that over 70% of infocomm companies in Singapore expect their business performances to improve or at least remain at the same level in the next quarter. This is a significant improvement as compared to the beginning of this year when only 40% had such expectations.

While the prospects for the infocomm and media industries are promising, competition will become more intense. Some of the strategies that have worked well for Singapore in the past may no longer be as effective for us in the future. Even for those that are still applicable, we must hone them to maintain, if not increase, our competitive edge. These are important questions that are being discussed by the private-sector-led ICT Working Group of the Economic Review Committee.

In an innovation-driven economy, the Government recognises that the private sector must play a more proactive role in leveraging ICT as a major engine of growth in our economy, and in developing vibrant and globally competitive infocomm and media sectors here in Singapore. The private sector's keen sense of where markets are headed will enable them to identify and exploit commercial opportunities quickly. In fact, the private sector has contributed much to the current review of the infocomm and media industry strategies through the ICT Working Group, by providing fresh perspectives and recommendations on Singapore's overall approach towards the sector's future development. The Government will certainly respond positively to these recommendations, to provide a conducive environment for infocomm and media companies and where necessary, make available the appropriate forms of assistance.

To further develop the infocomm and media industries, Singapore needs to focus on four main areas.

First, positioning Singapore as a living laboratory and testbed for ICT innovation. Today, almost one in four persons in Singapore is a broadband user, and three out of four own a mobile phone. With such pervasive use of broadband and mobile over our nation-wide broadband and wireless infrastructures, Singapore provides a conducive environment for the development and trial of innovative infocomm products and services. Last year, IDA launched the Pilot and Trial Hotspots Programme, or PATH, to encourage wireless industry players to test innovative wireless infrastructures, applications and services. To date, IDA has committed about S$22 million to co-fund more than 30 projects. IDA has also initiated a Call For Collaboration, CFC, mechanism, which is used to co-fund significant collaborative projects undertaken by consortia of industry players. For example, through IDA's CFC for Mobile Payment Solutions, the three mobile operators have come together to jointly develop and test common nation-wide mobile payment solutions. Such a win-win partnership has enabled each of the operators to accelerate its rollout plans by as much as nine to twelve months. Moving forward, the Government will continue to work on new approaches to attract both international and local infocomm companies to use Singapore as their location of choice for large and complex pilots and trials.

Second, strengthening the ICT research and development value chain.
Given our limited resources, we cannot afford to spread our R&D resources too thinly. It is important for us to identify and focus on strategic areas that will yield high paybacks to Singapore and optimise the deployment of our limited manpower resources. In consultation with the industry, IDA has developed a series of technology roadmaps that will enable us to concentrate on the key strategic areas. We will also need to bring about a closer and tighter coordination and collaboration among universities, research institutes and the industry, so that there is a seamless flow-through from research to development to productisation along the value chain.

Third, generating sophisticated demand to drive sophisticated supply.
Silicon Valley and other high-tech centres of the world abound with anecdotes of how users with sophisticated demands have spurred industry to develop innovative solutions, such as the proliferation of I-Mode in Japan. Similarly, Singapore needs to generate sophisticated demand, especially among the early adopters of technology. The Government, being one of the largest purchasers of ICT services, is already taking the lead through its demand for innovative e-Government applications. Not only had this allow citizens to access Government services more conveniently, it will also spur greater e-adoption amongst Singaporeans. The private sector can also contribute by bringing more of its new and innovative services online to better reach out to Singaporeans. Together, these efforts will lead to Singaporeans adopting more advanced services, thereby developing an e-society with ever more sophisticated demand.

Fourth, aligning the policy and regulatory environment to emerging trends. One clear market and technology trend is the convergence of IT, telecommunications, broadcasting and media. For instance, in South Korea, 3G technology now allows the viewing of World Cup footage on mobile phones.Such convergence will have implications not only on industry structures but also regulatory regimes. In Singapore, IDA oversees both IT and telecommunications. Last month, the Government announced the merger of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority, the Films and Publication Department and the Singapore Films Commission into a single statutory body, which will be called the Media Development Authority or MDA for short. MDA's comprehensive purview will allow MDA to be better equipped to tackle broadcasting and media in a more holistic manner, and be in a better position to promote the integrated growth of the broadcast and media industry, working closely with other agencies to attract investments, events and activities to Singapore.

Furthermore, with both IDA and MDA placed under the purview of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts since late last year, we can expect a coherent and consistent policy and regulatory framework for the various converging sectors. This will help remove uncertainties and inconveniences for industry players, and pave the way for the accelerated development of the new converging industries.

To conclude, the Government is committed to developing the infocomm and media sectors into a major engine of economic growth as well as exploiting ICT to boost the productivity and competitiveness of the other sectors. Faced with stiffer competition and new challenges, we must constantly rethink our policy and development strategies to stay ahead, including the partnership between Government and the private sector. While the Government will help to create the pro-business and pro-competition environment as well as facilitate access to overseas markets, companies must take the lead in driving industry development and growth, and penetrating new markets with innovative products and services.

The future of the infocomm and media industries is challenging, but exciting. I am confident that the closer partnership between Government and the private sector will achieve success for Singapore.

On this note, I am pleased to announce the opening of CommunicAsia and BroadcastAsia 2002. I wish all our overseas visitors a pleasant stay in Singapore and all the participants an enriching time over the next few days.

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023