14 November 2005 - Speech By Mr Chan Yeng Kit, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore At The Plenary Session of the NLB Conference on "Celebrating Knowledge: The Power and Potential", Intercontinental Hotel.

Speech By Mr Chan Yeng Kit, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore At The Plenary Session of the NLB Conference on "Celebrating Knowledge: The Power and Potential" on 14 November 2005, Intercontinental Hotel.

Good afternoon, Dr Varaprasad,
Distinguished Guests,

Welcome to the plenary session on "The Potential of Convergence".

Libraries have dated back thousands of years. Although it's time-immemorial goal of providing knowledge to the masses remains, it used to have its set of challenges, including search and access. But technology has helped to overcome these challenges.

With convergence, users can search for information about books from the internet even before they lay their hands on them; the numerous e-services provided by the libraries such as online reservations and membership registration and others have made the library users' experience much more pleasant and convenient. Even the onerous task of tracking books is now a breeze with the use of technology.

All these show that convergence is a driving force in our world - the physical with the digital, the television with the computer. It has happened so quickly today. In fact,mobile phones, PDAs (personal data assistants), cameras and the Internet are now all contained in a single product that is readily available and affordable.

The potential of convergence is quite limitless.

It also because of convergence that we can digitise almost everything including text, sound, speech, film, graphics, animation and music. Whatever that have been digitised can be presented on a computer and transmitted over the Internet.

Media is now more easily created, manipulated, processed and managed than ever before. Perhaps most significantly, the technical barriers and practical prerequisites for content production have been dramatically reduced in recent years.

Here lies the power of infocomm. With digital convergence brought about by Infocomm, it has leveled the playing field for all. Everyone is now able to access knowledge on an equal footing.

With all this digital convergence going on, what does it mean for our libraries? They will evolve from traditional form to beyond mere digitised collections. What we can expect is that they will have a series of activities that brings together collections, services, and people in support of the full life cycle of creation, dissemination, use, and preservation of data, information, and knowledge.

Bringing the potential of convergence even further, Google surprised the world late last year by announcing their very ambitious "Google Print Library" project to make the full text of all the world's printed books searchable by anyone. If the project turns out well over the next 5-10 years, we would see an online digital library with as many as 30 million books.

By moving digital materials onto the Internet,people no longer have to be together, at the same time and in the same place, to share information and knowledge. This will inevitably mean that information and knowledge will then be available for use at much shorter interval resulting in greater efficiency for all.

Equally important, the same digital material can be reorganised and presented in different ways to suit different audiences.

Without the limitations of physical space, we can maintain a substantial archive of work with multiple revisions that might become important in the future.

The potential and opportunities of convergence is therefore for us to optimise.

In this afternoon plenary session, we have with us three distinguished knowledge professionals to share with us their convergence experiences. They are Professor Howard Besser from the New York University, Dr Zhan Furui from the National Library of China, and Mr Doug Johnson from the Media and Technology for Mankato Public Schools.

I will leave it to the emcee to introduce each of the speakers.

Thank you.

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023