1 November 2008 - Keynote Address By RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore At The SCS-IDA Business Leadership Seminar At The Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium, SMU
Keynote Address By RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority Of Singapore At The SCS-IDA Business Leadership Seminar, 1 November 2008 (Saturday), 9.00am At The Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium, SMU
Mr Wilson Tan, President, Singapore Computer Society,
Distinguished guests and members of the infocomm industry,
1. IDA is most pleased to collaborate with SCS to organise this morning’s seminar to discuss the important topic of infocomm manpower. It is heartening to see so many of you here today, on a Saturday morning where you could be doing many other things. It clearly shows that you are all convinced of the importance of developing and sustaining a strong pool of high quality infocomm manpower, to meet the needs of the infocomm and all other economic sectors.
2. We thought it would be useful for IDA to update you on our regular surveys and findings on the infocomm manpower trends and developments in Singapore over the recent years, and also gain your insights on some of these statistics, so that we can all have a better understanding of our infocomm manpower needs. We’ll also take this opportunity to share with you some of the key initiatives that IDA is putting in place to enhance infocomm manpower development, and hear your thoughts and ideas on this. I must also say that I too look forward to listening to two of our industry stalwarts - Mr Saw Ken Wye and Mr KC Lee; they have had, and are still having, very distinguished careers in infocomm.
3. Let me first share some of IDA’s key observations on infocomm manpower. The number of infocomm jobs continues to experience very healthy growth. It reached 135,000 jobs in 2007, an increase of 8.9 per cent over the previous year. Slightly more than half of our infocomm professionals, about 56 per cent, work in infocomm organisations with the rest in user organisations. Infrastructure support, infocomm sales and marketing, and software development remain the top three job categories, in terms of number of infocomm professionals working in them.
4. The global financial crisis that has been unfolding since the sub-prime issue came to the fore last year will impact on other economic sectors, including that of infocomm. We will have to see how infocomm jobs in infocomm companies and user organisations will be affected. Those companies with existing projects, especially those who have recently secured contracts, can be expected to continue to hire whilst others may defer investment or recruitment plans. Two weeks ago, the Business Times reported on a survey on the banking sector conducted by an IDC company, Financial Insights. The study involved close to 70 CIOs and senior IT decision-makers of top banks across Asia-Pacific. 10 Singapore-based banks participated in the survey. The study showed that a majority of Asia-Pacific bank CIOs expect IT investment budgets to grow in 2009. Of the 10 Singapore-based banks, five said they would increase spending on technology, two said that budgets will be flat, while the remaining three said there will be decreases in technology spending. Continued investments in IT will enable the banks to ensure the availability and performance of their core technology infrastructure so as to maintain adequate service levels to their customers, as well as gain competitive advantages for market leadership.
5. While we may wonder, to what extent are the results of this survey reflective of the infocomm industry as a whole, we should not lose sight of the need to continually develop our infocomm talent, in good times and not so good times. This will enable us to ride the recovery to growth that will come after this period of uncertainty. Jobs in R&D, software, consulting & solutioning, telecoms and enterprise network design are still in demand. In the user sectors, growth will be fuelled by the need for more professionals with in-depth IT expertise and good domain knowledge. So-called “techno-strategists”, these professionals will be able to provide innovative IT solutions to meet the specialised needs of each sector.
6. Our infocomm industry has the fundamentals in place. Singapore was placed 2nd amongst 55 countries for having readily available IT skills, in IMD’s World Competitiveness Yearbook 2008. All of you have contributed to that, to making infocomm a growing and thriving industry in Singapore. You chose to study infocomm, and work in infocomm. Today, many of you hold senior technical and management positions in companies, while some of you are successful entrepreneurs. You are part of a vibrant industry which has enabled economic, business and social development.
7. IDA will continue with our efforts to develop a flow of high quality infocomm professionals, because talented human capital is critical for our industry. Since 2004, IDA has invested approximately $120 million toward this end. Over the next three to five years, IDA, together with the industry, will invest a further $70 million to ensure that we have the talent to create and capitalise on the digital opportunities ahead.
9. For infocomm professionals serving in industry, IDA and WDA have co-developed the National Infocomm Competency Framework or NICF. The NICF is a national infocomm roadmap which articulates the competency requirements of key infocomm jobs. NICF will help employers put in place staff training and development programmes, based on industry standards. Infocomm professionals can also look to the NICF to plan their personal skills upgrading and career development, and training providers can use the NICF to develop high-quality courses and certification programmes required by the industry.
10. The development of the NICF is guided by the NICF Steering Committee, currently chaired by Mr Foong Sew Bun, CTO of IBM and co-chaired by IDA and WDA. It aims to set the direction and goals for NICF as well as drive its implementation and adoption strategies. I am happy to announce that the enhanced version of the NICF will be available in early 2009, which will have competencies identified for more than 200 job roles, up from the current 31. Competencies for infocomm jobs in two user sectors, namely, financial services and healthcare, will also be included.
11. To meet the growing demand for infocomm professionals who are well-versed in both infocomm knowledge and sector-specific domain knowledge, IDA has launched the Techno-Strategist Programme. This programme aims to equip 1,000 middle-tier professionals with domain knowledge in the healthcare, retail, finance and banking sectors over the next two years. Infocomm professionals will be able to acquire a deeper understanding of these domains through workshops and customised courses, which will enable them to better tailor infocomm solutions to meet sophisticated needs of these sectors. To date, several training courses and workshops have been rolled out in healthcare and financial services, and professionals from both IT and the domains have participated. Feedback from the participants has been very positive. Many of them have benefited from understanding how organisations use IT to create business solutions for competitive advantage.
12. IDA has been working closely with industry and the educational institutions to get their views and ideas which go a long way to shaping our manpower development programmes and initiatives, and I take this opportunity to thank the many infocomm professionals for so willingly giving of their time and energy in these endeavours. One such example of a collaborative forum is the Infocomm Manpower Council or IMC which IDA convened in July this year. I am happy to co-chair this IMC with Mr Noel Hon, Chairman of e-Cop. The 21-member IMC aims to recommend further manpower strategies and approaches to strengthen our infocomm manpower, and position Singapore to respond effectively to evolving industry needs.
13. Before I end, allow me, if I may, to highlight four characteristics pertaining to the infocomm profession. First, the infocomm industry is a growing and thriving one. Many of you were already in the industry during the dot-com bust at the start of this decade. It did not take long to recover, and the infocomm industry revenue and value-added contribution to GDP have since seen more than 12 per cent and 6 per cent average annual growth respectively. The infocomm industry is resilient, for infocomm technology is at the core of most innovation today, constantly spinning off new business areas and bringing disruptive innovation to established sectors. Products and solutions will be created as more and more interactions, transactions and processes are being done through the cyberspace medium.
14. Second, infocomm makes a real difference in the world. It drives modern science, businesses and society. For example, computer science is at the core of significant interdisciplinary applications, spanning diverse areas such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals, security, energy and so on. The golfers among us will appreciate that the advancement in golf club and golf ball technologies would not have been possible without the powers of computing. Unfortunately, my experience has been that more than just infocomm technology is needed to play good golf.
15. Third, infocomm learning and education is intellectually stimulating. An infocomm education provides strong analytical, problem solving and logical thinking skills which are invaluable professional and life skills. Creating an infocomm solution requires a combination of left and right brain activity. You need creative thinking to design the system or software architecture, understand various technologies, deploy the best technical know-how, and maintain a high-level vision of how all the parts fit together. And because infocomm professionals have to work in teams, leveraging on various competencies of others, you also need soft skills such as EQ and communication abilities.
16. Last but not least, a career in infocomm is a rewarding one. The vast opportunities present in an infocomm career provide different paths of fulfilment. A network engineer derives satisfaction in planning and ensuring the network is run optimally to enable fast and efficient data transmission. A CIO or CTO relishes the challenge of being both a technical expert and a business leader, having to keep abreast of new technologies and also performing strategic and investment decisions. And for those who aspire to be entrepreneurs, there is great satisfaction in creating a product or service used globally to improve lives and businesses, and there are many who have made a name for themselves through their successes.
17. Let me close by thanking SCS and all of you for the opportunity to address our infocomm professionals. You have the passion for the profession, and you can be proud of your capabilities and achievements. You are also good role models for our younger ones, both those still in school who may be thinking of an infocomm education, and those who are newer in the industry, IDA looks forward to working with all of you, to further develop our infocomm manpower, and together bring our infocomm industry to even greater heights. Thank you.