25 February 2006 - Opening Speech By Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts At the Singapore Computer Society IT Leaders Awards and Gala Dinner 2006.

Opening Speech By Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts At the Singapore Computer Society IT Leaders Awards and Gala Dinner 2006 on 25 February 2006.

President of SCS, Mr Lee Kwok Cheong,
Members of SCS,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening

1. I am delighted to join you tonight to honour outstanding IT professionals and individuals who will be receiving this year's IT Leader Awards. Coincidentally, this occasion also marks 25 years of infocomm development in Singapore since we embarked on the first national computerisation project in 1981.

Past Achievements

2. Back then there were only two mainframe computers in the whole of Government and it would have been inconceivable to envisage the extensive use of IT as an enabling tool in every home and office. After 25 years, IDA's 2005 Annual Survey of Infocomm Usage in Households and by Individuals1show that 74% of households own personal computers, with 28% owning two or more in each home. Two out of every three such households (or 66%) enjoy Internet access with 52% already on broadband. The internet has become the preferred mode of inter-personal communications in Singapore, with nine in ten (or 90%) using the internet to send or receive emails.

3. We have also developed a vibrant infocomm industry. Today, this industry contributes over 6% of Singapore's GDP. Global infocomm technology players have set up their operations here, ranging from research to product development to marketing; and serving the regional markets and beyond from Singapore. Local infocomm companies have also grown in number, size and reputation over the last two decades, winning deals in markets like China, India and even Turkey and Botswana.

4. In early 2003, IDA initiated the Connected Singapore blueprint to tap new growth opportunity. During the last three years, we have leveraged on Singapore's excellent infocomm infrastructure to build a digital exchange ecosystem which generated revenue exceeding S$500 million. The masterplan has also guided us in growing new economic activities and creating rewarding jobs in infocomm. Today we have more than 100,000 infocomm professionals. Programmes to encourage pilot projects and trials to develop innovative products and services have also been well-subscribed, bringing in S$30 million worth of work annually.

5. Indeed, our infocomm achievements over the last 25 years have been quite remarkable. Infocomm has transformed the Singapore economy, society and communications landscape dramatically. Singaporeans have embraced infocomm for work,learning and leisure. In fact infocomm is now very much a part of our lifestyle. IT professionals and entrpreneurs have energetically and creatively pursued exciting ICT possibilities with speed, commitment and passion often with surprising and rewarding outcomes. This resourceful and determined spirit, coupled with bold visioning and sound forward planning will continue to propel Singapore into our next phase of infocomm development.

Infocomm Industry Outlook

6. As you are well aware, the Singapore economy enjoyed a better than expected growth of 6.4% last year. I am pleased to inform you that the infocomm sector has done well. Early forecast from IDA estimates that the infocomm industry grew between 6 and 8 percent in 2005, garnering some S$37 billion in revenues. Looking ahead, I see a bright future for the infocomm industry. The technology sector is growing in many countries, including the United States. Businesses in manufacturing, healthcare and other sectors are continuing to invest in infocomm. In high growth markets like China and India, infocomm is also flourishing, as these countries seek to leverage on technology for socio-economic development. The emerging markets of the Middle East and Eastern Europe are also offering new opportunity. I believe that our infocomm sector is well-positioned to benefit from this global trend and is poised for another take off.

What's Next?

7. This sector is characterised by rapid technological changes. Very often we have to manage the emergence of disruptive technologies which can drastically transform the infocomm landscape. The advent of VoIP is one recent example. The very popular Skype service, means that the telcos can no longer rely on the traditional business models. Existing players will need to be more innovative and constantly re-invent themselves to stay in the competition. New revenue streams and new ways of doing business will also need to be found.

8. The disruptive nature of ICT technology has also changed the rules of the game for many industries. A good example is the travel industry. Companies such as Expedia, Zuji and Priceline are neither airlines nor travel agents but intermediaries that have sprung up to offer one-stop, personalised and customised travel services for travellers. Airlines are also using the Internet to reduce business costs by issuing electronic tickets over the internet instead of physical tickets. According to the International Air Transport Association, it is estimated that airlines can save up to US$9 per e-ticket, which amounts up to almost US$3 billion savings per year. This is a sum which would bring cheers to the airline industry with its many struggling players. The strategic use of infocomm has also levelled the playing field, and opened up avenues for new players such as budget airlines and low-cost carriers to compete with more established players in the industry.

9. What this means for Singapore and our infocomm industry is that we need to continually find innovative business models that can better adapt to the evolving competitive landscape. Small incremental changes will no longer suffice to keep us going at the forefront of the pack. We need to be bold and ready for the next big leap to stay ahead of the competition.

IN2015 Masterplan

10. As a response to these challenges, IDA has formulated iN2015, the infocomm masterplan for the next big leap. Actually that is not quite right. IDA did not formulate this masterplan on its own. iN2015 is a 3Ps effort involving the public, private and people sectors working hand in hand. IDA has been working with the ICT industry leaders since June last year to gather inputs and ideas from the public, academia and the research community. This extensive and sometimes exhausting consultation helped IDA to identify the key challenges that Singapore will face in the next decade and to chart the strategic directions for growing the industry. IDA has tapped into our collective wisdom and experience to carve out a roadmap for Singapore to stay ahead of the competition.

11. The studies and discussions so far have shown that we need to continue building on three key fundamentals, namely the development of our infocomm infrastructure, manpower and local enterprises. But before I tell you about these fundamentals,let me warn you that unlike the sumptuous dinner SCS had lined up for this evening, I would only be able to offer you appetiser only. You will have to be patient as the main course will only be served later on. Reason is because preparation of the main course is not completed yet. Some garnishing has to be added for the finishing touch.

Infocomm Infrastructure

12. Our current infocomm infrastructure has been a key to Singapore's socio-economic development. It has enabled the deployment of products and services, increasing business connectivity and efficiency as well entrenching Singapore's position as a leading global ICT hub. Going forward, we believe that high-speed networks will become the highways of the digital world. Such high speed networks will become essential factor for economic development, talent attraction, education and a host of other spin-offs. As announced by PM last week, Singapore intends to launch the development of a next-generation National Broadband Network. This will transform our perception and use of infocomm. It will affect many sectors of the economy and catalyse the growth of a creative economy. However you have to wait for my announcement of the details of this project during Parliament's debate on my Ministry’s budget within the next fortnight.


13. It is also critical to develop an innovative, entrepreneurial, globally-competitive and infocomm-savvy workforce to drive the creation and exploitation of infocomm technologies. Infocomm talent will help to power Singapore’s continued attractiveness as the choice location for the creation and exploitation of infocomm technologies. IDA will be introducing enhancements to its manpower development schemes under its 5-year Infocomm Manpower Development Roadmap, so as to attract and groom infocomm talent for the industry.

Local Enterprises

14. Industry feedback collected for the iN2015 Masterplan also indicates that the local enterprises need to grow beyond the local market. In the past year, IDA's internationalisation efforts have facilitated multi-million dollar contracts for companies. Our infocomm companies, with experience in vertical applications like e-government, finance and banking, and logistics, have been taking, and must continue to take bold steps to venture out into emerging markets in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East in the face of the intense global competition.

15. Besides strengthening our fundamentals, IDA will work with our infocomm enterprises to leverage holistically existing and next-generation infocomm technologies for the development of key economic sectors, namely: interactive and digital media, entertainment, education, financial services, government services, healthcare, tourism and manufacturing. The challenge from each of these sectors is to move from provider-centric services to user-centric services that will be tailored to individual profiles and preferences.

16. All in all, I am confident that the iN2015 masterplan will spearhead sound and substantive strategies to sharpen Singapore’s infocomm and economic competitiveness in the next decade. More details will be provided in June 2006, when we finalise and formally launch the masterplan. So once again, I have to ask you to be patient.


17. 25 years ago, we rose to the challenge of exploiting IT for its strategic value and to support economic growth. I believe that our collective experience, commitment and resourcefulness will continue to serve us well in the next 25 years.18. These same qualities and spirit are also well exemplified by the IT Leader Award winners tonight. I would like to congratulate each of the winners. Your contributions to the advancement of infocomm in Singapore and your passion and commitment have made you outstanding examples in the infocomm industry. We are proud of you and salute you for your outstanding achievements.

19. Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you an enjoyable evening.

Thank you.


1 (Annual Survey on Infocomm Usage in Households and by Individuals for 2005, conducted by IDA Singapore, February 2006.)

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Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023