Keynote Address by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, at the GSDI 12 WorldConference Opening Ceremony, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre

19 October 2010 - Keynote Address By Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister For Information, Communications and the Arts, at the GSDI 12 WorldConference Opening Ceremony, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, Theatre

Keynote Address by Mr Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts at the GSDI 12 WorldConference Opening Ceremony, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre, Theatre, 19 October, 2pm

Associate Professor Abbas Rajabifard,
President, GSDI Association

Dr Hiroshi Murakami,
Vice President, PCGIAP

Mr Vincent Hoong,
Chief Executive, Singapore Land Authority

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Afternoon

A maturing geospatial environment

If you ever had a chance to look at very old maps - maps that showed Singapore in the days of the Colonial maritime powers, you would be able to get a sense of how surveyors and cartographers back then perceived geography.

2. As time progressed, these maps became richer in content. The military used better terrain and relief maps to plan operations, and scientists produced thematic maps of rainfall distribution and soil types for research and education.  Moving into the 21st century, people started to develop even richer content.  We see reality mimicked to a greater extent through the use of satellite imagery or aerial photography.  Perhaps the most famous example would be Google Earth.  This technology burst into the scene in 2005 and has since gone 3-D with street views. Other groups worked on providing live information feeds combining several data sets.  Common examples include live traffic feeds and weather alerts.  In fact, some cities have embarked on 3-Dimensional city modeling. Such 3-D city models have the potential to enhance urban planning, provide more targeted security planning and open up new ways to market real estate.  I am hopeful that all these would happen pervasively, not very far from now, in cities that strongly leverage on geospatial technology.

Inter-agency initiatives

3. Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that a whole-of-government approach would be needed to better harness the potential of geospatial information.  Through a coordinated approach, we would be able to map out the various policies, technologies, and industry development issues and tackle them in turn.

4. Singapore's own journey with geospatial technology began with the creation of an inter-agency effort called SG-SPACE. Spearheaded by MinLaw, MICA, the Singapore Land Authority, and the Infocomm Development Authority in 2008, this national initiative aims to create an environment in which the public and private sectors, and the community can collaborate and create a wide range of innovative applications and services using geospatial or map-based information. Today, we have on board 23 agencies and in excess of 300 layers of data.

5. We reached a milestone in 2010 with the nationwide public launch of OneMap, a web-based geospatial information service to the public.  This interactive map system sets out to share regularly updated location-based information and services with public agencies, industry players and the public. If you go to the website today, you will see the beginnings of a platform that has started to host a number of citizen-centric spatial information services. Companies, organizations and individuals have also tapped on OneMap's advanced web-mapping technology to create value-added services within their own websites, such as volunteering opportunities based on location and interests, and even hot spots for bird watching.

6. The next few years promise to be exciting for us. We are putting in place a Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network. This is a new ultra-high speed optical fibre network capable of delivering speeds of 1Giga bits per second and beyond to all physical addresses in Singapore, including homes, schools, businesses and hospitals. It is 10 to 100 times faster than today's existing networks. This creates a conducive environment for bandwidth-guzzling geospatial applications, which would otherwise not have been possible, because they would simply have taken too long to upload and download.

Policy Implications for Governments

Developing Standards

7. These developments in geospatial technologies and applications raise significant policy questions for governments in numerous areas. First, it may necessitate a review of common standards of record keeping by government agencies. Some may record geospatial information in terms of postal codes and postal addresses, while others may collect them in terms of land or property lot identifiers.  Imagine a world where the military, civil defence and health care service fail to co-ordinate efficiently because their individual geospatial information cannot be easily displayed over each other's system for crisis management and we start to understand how inefficient things can get.

Encouraging Industry Development

8. Second, the Government needs to look at how to incubate and stimulate industry development in the geospatial arena. Governments can encourage the growth of the private sector through development of platforms that aggregate demographic, business, or other information. This will encourage private companies to develop geospatial applications.  The Singapore Government started on this journey through a programme called the "Image of Singapore" or "i-Singapore". Under this initiative, the Government's geospatial data is meshed with the private sector's business data to co-create higher value for the citizens and other businesses.  The desired outcome delivers better decision making tools and opportunities for citizens to contribute content. 

Improving Productivity and Quality of Life

9. Third, the use of geospatial information and business analytics can be exploited to increase productivity and even improve our quality of life. Geospatial information can provide up-to-date information to optimise resources of companies in both the private and public sector for maximum output. With the data collected over a period of time, business analytics may supplement the decision makers with sophisticated tools to deduce and predict business operational outcomes. Similarly, citizens can go about their individual lives with greater efficiency with maps and info-services. Today, bus arrivals to specific bus stops are available in real time updates. You can also find the nearest 24 hours medical clinic closest to your home on your mobile device.

Planning National Infrastructure

10. There is also opportunity for the use of geospatial information in cross-border international issues.  Whether it is tsunami modeling or volcanic eruptions, academics, governments and industrialists would no doubt be interested in how these events, which respect no national borders, can affect them. One area of interest is climate change. Weather patterns may create situations where countries have to make preparations if storms are more severe, droughts longer and floods much more dramatic. Drainage, water storage or power generation infrastructure in countries may have to be recalibrated for new baselines so as not to be overwhelmed by these climatic changes. Certainly, crisis response capabilities would also have to be enhanced, not only domestically, but also across borders. 

Privacy of Data

11. Lastly, although geospatial developments have the potential to raise the quality of life for citizens, it also raises the question of privacy. Human beings are visual creatures. If information can be displayed visually and spatially for decision making, we not only make decisions faster but could potentially make better informed decisions. A mother can select a day care center between her home and her work place at a price range that she can afford. A young entrepreneur can pick a suitable site to set up a day care center using spatially coded demographic data overlaid with location information of competitors and complementary businesses. Over time, more and more information will become available to citizens, businesses and government planners. This would also mean that we have to be sensitive in the handling of citizen, business and government data. Currently, the Government Instruction Manual requires that public sector agencies put in place processes and procedures to ensure that data is properly managed and protected.


A Collaborative Effort

12. A successful geospatial environment can only be fostered if there are skilled professionals contributing to the development of the industry, be it in government developing the infrastructure or in the private sector developing applications. To cultivate the next generation of geospatial professionals, we have organised competitions for school students and provided scholarship opportunities to help grow our pool of industry professionals. But there is still room for improvement to ensure that we have the necessary human resource capability to develop this fast-growing industry.


13. Many cities and nations in the world will eventually be spatially enabled and we will get there at different speeds and no doubt with different killer applications. Conferences such as this one will allow us to share where we are in our respective journeys, to share what has worked for us and what has not.  With that, I wish you all a fruitful conference ahead.

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023