Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, at the National Infocomm Awards 2012 Gala Dinner

Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, at the National Infocomm Awards 2012 Gala Dinner on 23 October 2012, Raffles City Convention Centre, Fairmont Ballroom

Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, at the National Infocomm Awards 2012 Gala Dinner on 23 October 2012, 7.10 pm, Raffles City Convention Centre, Fairmont Ballroom

Members of the infocomm industry,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am pleased to join you this evening for the biennial National Infocomm Awards, or the NIA in short. Tonight, we celebrate the spirit of innovation in Singapore, specifically in the use of ICT in delivering products and services.

Companies Must Take the Plunge to Innovate

2. In this exciting new frontier powered by ubiquitous connectivity, computing power and software sophistication, innovation enables us to transform what only existed in science fiction in the past to modern-day reality. We have always recognised the benefits of innovation and supported it as a worthy endeavour in businesses' pursuit of excellence. Today, we stand at another evolutionary junction in infocomm where innovation has become more important than ever. To explain, allow me to borrow a quote from IT investor Marc Andreessen1: "We are in the middle of a dramatic technological and economic shift all the technology required to transform industries through software finally works and can be delivered at a global scale".

3. Today, companies can access unlimited computing power via the cloud and launch complex software services without investing millions of dollars in infrastructure; analysts can identify potential terrorists among millions of banking customers conducting billions of transactions; and a Korean rapper can become the biggest global entertainment craze overnight with over 400 million YouTube views. With an exciting world of opportunities open to us, innovation has become a fundamental requirement.

4. On the flip side, vast technology advancements can also be very disruptive for industry incumbents. IBM's Global CEO Study2 revealed that while technology can lead to the development of new industries like business analytics and cloud, it can also affect others such as Music, where CDs and DVDs were being pushed out of the market.

5. We all know the many stories of traditional players becoming obsolete. Allow me to share two important factors that companies need to be mindful of as they tackle the innovation challenge. One is the speed of innovation, best exemplified by Facebook. The social media site took six years to record its first 500 million users, but less than two years in garnering the next 500 million. Earlier this year, file-sharing company Dropbox was valued at $4 billion, as much as Expedia, the popular travel company with multi-billions in revenue3. To put things in perspective: Expedia has been around for a little over a decade; Dropbox was started only five years ago. This acceleration of speed due to global connectedness and hyper competition will inevitably require a departure from the traditional linear strategic planning processes.

6. The second factor is business model innovation. In 1996, Microsoft launched Encarta, a digital encyclopedia with professional writers and editors hired to craft articles on thousands of topics, talented managers to oversee the project, and a global distribution network. Just five years later in 2001, Wikipedia launched a free online 'encyclopedia' that is written and edited by thousands of largely anonymous, unpaid Internet volunteers. While Microsoft pulled the plug on Encarta in 2009, Wikipedia has gone on to be listed among the world's most popular websites, alongside Google and YouTube. No sensible businessman in 2001 would have bet on it, but the curious case of Wikipedia shows the need to be aware of such potential paradigm shifts and avoid relying totally on our past experiences and models for success. Instead, we should be open to new possibilities. Hence, we are celebrating innovation tonight -- to encourage the pioneers and inspire the industry.

The National Infocomm Awards - Success in Innovations

7. Past winners of the NIA have continued their pursuit of success and serve as inspiration for us all. Let's take for example, GTW Holdings, which was awarded the Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology in 2010, for its HungryGoWhere F&B portal. I'm sure most of us in this room have used HungryGoWhere at one time or another. SingTel has since acquired the company for $12 million, and its operations have been combined with lifestyle portal InSing.com, reaching at least two million customers here and in the region.

Supporting Innovation for Productivity and Competitiveness

8. This year, the number of SME submissions rose by almost two and a half fold from the last NIA. I am very pleased that more SMEs are seeing the benefits of using ICT to increase sales, increase productivity and reduce dependence on labour. For instance, Hock Seng Food Pte Ltd has implemented a real-time mobile audit system to help its store auditors track the sales performance of its products at the various supermarkets in Singapore. This mobile electronic solution provides very important market feedback on its products, reducing errors in and delays of store reports. That's what happens when auditors are less tired and less stressed out! Indeed, the steps taken by our SMEs in leveraging infocomm for business success are good examples for our SME community to follow.

9. On the public sector front, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has taken the protection of our borders to a new level with the Mobile Automated Verification and Identification System. Known in short as MAVIS, it enables ICA officers to perform real-time biometrics screening, to ascertain the identity and immigration status of individuals by their fingerprints and facial recognition. Innovations like these help to improve efficiency by reducing workloads, and saving time and resources.

10. This year's NIA nominations also underscore an often forgotten aspect of innovation: while innovation is typically associated with state-of-the-art technology, the application of established technology in a new manner can be equally impactful. I was told that members of the evaluation committee were impressed by how the Singapore Prison Service's iKiosk has been very useful for inmates. With its implementation, inmates are now able to carry out administrative activities on their own, thus inculcating a sense of personal responsibility and ownership. iKiosk functions include printing of personalised letter forms, checking of eligibility for rehabilitation programmes, as well as checking of status of requests. The timely availability of information reduces anxiety among inmates and improves overall security and management. I believe that our correctional institutions are among the first in the world to deploy such a service.


11. In conclusion, allow me to reiterate that our vision for the National Infocomm Awards is to catalyse innovation by recognising the foresight, commitment and determination of those taking on the new possibilities offered by ICT to create value and impact for our economy and society. We celebrate their success as Singapore's success and encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

12. Let me offer my congratulations once again to all the nominees and winners. I wish you a pleasant evening.

Notes to Editor

1 Marc Andreessen is the man behind early Internet browsers Mosaic and Netscape, as well as an early investor in companies like Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Pinterest, Groupon, and Zynga.

2 IBM's Global CEO Study 2012 can be found at http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/en/c-suite/ceostudy2012

3 Please see the full story Hype Hangs Over Dropbox at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303404704577307760274571178.html

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023