5 March 2005 - Opening Speech By Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts At Singapore Computer Society (SCS), IT Leader Awards & Gala Dinner, Swissotel The Stamford.
Opening Speech By Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts At Singapore Computer Society (SCS), IT Leader Awards & Gala Dinner on 5 March 2005, Swissotel The Stamford.
President of SCS, Mr Lee Kwok Cheong,
Members of SCS,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It gives me great pleasure to join you tonight at this Gala Dinner, as it is one of the major events in the infocomm industry. It also serves to kick-off 2005 on a high note. This event is also important as it honours our infocomm professionals who have contributed to the success and development of this industry.
2. Tonight, I am pleased to say that Singapore's infocomm industry has emerged stronger than ever from the difficult patch over the past few years. Growth for Singapore's infocomm industry remains optimistic and is on an upward trend. The revenue for the overall infocomm industry (for domestic and export) was S$32.8 billion1 in 2003. According to a recent report by International Data Corporation (IDC), spending on IT is set to increase across the entire Asia Pacific region, outside of Japan. In Singapore, we will see an estimated US$3.7 billion on overall IT spending in 2005, slightly higher than the US$3.5 billion seen in 20042.
3. The ICT employment scene is also rosy. At the recent Career 2005 fair held at Suntec Singapore, it was reported that IT jobs in the private sector topped the chart with 2,000 vacancies. This indeed bodes well for our infocomm graduates.
4. Recently, Singapore has also been named by the Intelligent Community Forum as one of the top seven intelligent communities achieving excellence in the use of broadband communications, as well as in government efforts to spur growth and innovation3.
Overview of the Infocomm industry
5. To help our local ICT industry consolidate this recovery and to help spur technological and business innovations in the sector, the Government, through IDA, had undertaken various initiatives over the past few years under the Connected Singapore Masterplan launched in 2003. These measures, often in collaboration with industry partners, have invigorated the ICT community. I will now share with you some of the measures which had made an impact.
Enhancing ICT Connectivity
6. In terms of enhancing the connectivity of our infocomm infrastructure at the national level, our international capacity for submarine cable has increased by a significant 25% between 2002 and 2004, bringing our international capacity for submarine cable to 26.7 Tbps (terabits per second).This has helped to strengthen Singapore's position as a regional telecoms hub, enabling international and local companies based in Singapore to enjoy more competitive international prices for telecommunication services.
7. Our mobile penetration rate is one of the highest in the world at 92.2%. Broadband penetration among households has almost doubled from 24% in 2002 to 42% in 2004.
8. There have also been significant developments in the way infocomm technologies have been deployed towards improving our lifestyles and the way we work. To date, we have seen the setting up of more than 600 public wireless LAN hotspots in cafes, libraries and fast food outlets island-wide. This translates into practically one wireless hotspot per square kilometre, allowing us convenient access to stay connected even away from our homes and offices.
9. To promote the deployment and adoption of wireless and mobile technology, IDA has recently increased the power output limits for frequency bands to facilitate the deployment of wireless LAN and wireless broadband systems respectively. In doing so, companies can achieve WLAN coverage over a wide area using fewer equipment. This makes it cheaper and easier for companies to set up their wireless enterprise networks.
10. Also, to encourage trials and deployment, the 2.3 GHz and 2.5 GHz frequency bands have been earmarked for wireless broadband. A market trial framework has also been made available to companies who want to commercially test out various innovative business models and new technologies.
Enabling Economic Sectors
11. The infocomm capabilities built over the years have helped to contribute to the development of key economic sectors in Singapore. Technology is now an intricate part of the transformation seen in sectors such as transport, finance and banking, logistics, hi-tech manufacturing and telecommunications. IDA has been helping these sectors to be more efficient and competitive through the use of infocomm technology, which in turn would generate new business opportunities and jobs for the industry.
12. In the area of logistics, to make Singapore more competitive as a world-class port and logistic hub, the government has committed to invest up to S$50 million over five years to develop an integrated IT platform to facilitate exchange of trade documents. IDA has also unveiled the Collaborative High-Tech Manufacturing plan that will save the industry up to S$700 million a year through increased efficiency and generate additional revenues of S$2 billion from higher value-added activities. Once implemented, the plan will also stimulate approximately S$40 million worth of ICT spending.
Radio Frequency Identification
13. A new and emerging technology which may potentially transform the logistics industry is Radio Frequency Identification or RFID, as most of you know it. As an agent of change, IDA has devised a three-year S$10 million plan to spur this growth. To date, the industry has responded positively with commitments to invest more than S$12 million towards RFID projects and they span across sectors like retail, logistics, manufacturing, and aviation. YCH, for example, a leading home-grown logistics and supply chain management company is implementing RFID to manage its bonded warehouse.
14. Foreign players have also been attracted to Singapore as a result of our promotion of RFID. In the aviation sector, Airbus has chosen Singapore as the first Airbus Centre outside of Europe to implement RFID to keep track of the tools loaned out to aircraft maintenance centres. On the whole, ICT spending of S$50 million is expected to stem from the development and adoption of RFID over the next three years.
15. On the healthcare front, the Healthcare.NET initiative sees Alexandra Hospital, IDA, Microsoft and various industry partners coming together to pilot and test the use of ICT in developing a hassle-free hospital, with improved efficiency in service provision and greater convenience for patients.
16. Similarly in education, exploring new technologies to enhance the way we teach and learn is one key objective for setting up the BackPack.NET Centre. Established through a strategic collaboration between IDA, Microsoft and National Institute of Education with the support of the Ministry of Education, the centre prepares teachers on how technology is expected to influence pedagogical methods and improve the education environment for both teachers and future generations of students, not only in Singapore schools but also globally.
17. For homeland security, IDA has been working with the Ministry of Home Affairs to develop standards for biometric passport, (for US visa waiver countries). The initial implementation in the Fully Automated Seamless Travel system (FAST) at Changi Airport has been identified by the Harvard Business Review as one of the breakthrough ideas for 2005.
18. In the digital arena, Singapore's digital cinema industry achieved a world's first when Eng Wah Organisation deployed the 2K digital cinema in a five-screen multiplex theatre. In addition, tapping a vast opportunity, IDA launched the Digital Exchange initiative to position Singapore as a hub for the management, processing and distribution of digital assets in the Asia Pacific. To boost Singapore's standing as an ideal location for hosting and management of digital gaming, IDA launched the "Games Bazaar" in March last year. This 'pay-as-you-use' regional hosting platform allows games companies, publishers and distributors to more quickly deploy their game titles regionally.
Promoting Overseas Market Access
19. In the face of increasing competition, Singapore needs to innovative, collaborate and internationalise. Local infocomm companies must continually collaborate with each other to tap on the many opportunities in overseas markets such as China, India, Middle East and South East Asia. To assist companies making inroads into China, IDA and the Singapore infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) has jointly set up the Singapore Solutions Centre (SSC) in Shanghai. In addition, we also have our centre directors in some of these countries to assist our local companies in penetrating these markets. Quite a number of you, I am sure, have also benefited from trade mission trips that have been made to these countries.
Supporting Capability Development
20. The importance of upgrading of our skills to remain relevant, and of attracting the brightest talents to the infocomm industry cannot be over emphasized. To address this, IDA is working with the Singapore Computer Society and Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) on a national infocomm competency model and a career progression roadmap to identify the education profile, skills gaps, training and certification required for key infocomm jobs.
21. We need to maintain our efforts to attract the best and the brightest so that our industry will continue to benefit from top talent. IDA's National Infocomm Scholarship campaign works with forward thinking industry partners like yourselves, to offer bright students, mentorship and attachment at their overseas offices. This is to allow these scholars first hand experience working with leading infocomm companies and hopefully by doing so; further encourage and inspire them to do greater things for our industry. I urge all of you here to work with IDA to support this scholarship so that we continue to attract and develop future infocomm professionals.
Creating the Future
22. The ICT leadership position which Singapore enjoys today is the result of a sustained effort of ICT investment and emphasis over the past few decades. Through a series of national level ICT masterplans such as the Infocomm 21 and the current "Connected Singapre" Masterplan, the Government had helped to catalyse the growth and development of strategic clusters and capabilities within the ICT sector over the years. These initiatives have placed Singapore on the world map in terms of ICT connectivity and e-readiness, equipping our citizens and industries with the necessary expertise to meet new challenges and seize opportunities in the fast-changing knowledge environment.
23. The contest for leadership on the global ICT scene is relentless. While much progressed has been made, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Moving forward, Singapore needs to embark on our next visioning exercise to ensure that we stay ahead of the curve. IDA will lead a national effort to develop a long range plan to identify new possibilities for Singapore's economy, industries and society through the innovative use of the new and emerging technologies.
24. The Masterplan, named iN2015 (Intelligent Nation 2015) will be looking 10 years into the future to examine key areas of focus which may give Singapore a competitive advantage. The areas under study include the development of a national infocomm infrastructure of the future, the long-term development of the infocomm industry and its capabilities, as well as intelligent systems that will transform the way we live, learn, work and play.
25. One key input to this master planning effort is the IDA Infocomm Technology Roadmap which IDA intends to release in the coming weeks. This roadmap will chart technology evolutions and identify possible opportunities arising from the confluence of infocomm, nano and bio-technologies for Singapore as we go forward towards the Year 2015.
26. As with previous masterplans, the Government cannot achieve the desired outcomes alone. Over the next year, IDA will work with the infocomm industry, key economic sectors, research institutes, and public and civic organisations to discuss the issues and challenges we will face. As Singapore's next national ICT vision, iN2015 will shape strategic developments affecting many aspects of our lives in the future. Therefore, I strongly encourage all stakeholders of the ICT sector to play an active role in the master-planning process that will follow in the months ahead. Only when there is strong support and shared ownership for iN2015 by key stakeholders can we turn the desired vision into reality.
27. Finally, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to the seven winners of this year's IT Leader Awards - your passion, determination and effort have certainly made you outstanding pillars of the infocomm industry.
28. I wish you all a very enjoyable evening. Thank you.
1 Source: Economic Survey of Singapore 2004 - published by Ministry of Trade & Industry (MTI)
2 Source: The Business Times article: IDC'S Top 10 tech trends in 2005 (December 30, 2004)
3 Source: Intelligent Community Forum (January 19, 2005)